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Chapter Nine

Nine

Thursday, April 20

The wind was blowing up from the south, directly into our faces as we headed toward Kinney Harbor. I shivered and buttoned my jacket, more conscious than I liked of Borgan turning his head to look down at me, a puzzled set to his shoulders.

"Cold?" he asked, voice shaded with disbelief. I sighed.

"My blood got thin, Away. All right? Just pretend I'm a tourist."

"Don't believe I can do that," he answered, and there was silence between us for a while as we walked along the edge of the quiet sea. The tide was going out, and Borgan walked on my right, courteously ceding me the firmer sand nearest the water.

"What did you do," he asked suddenly. "All that time Away?"

Not the direction I had expected the conversation to take, but maybe Borgan needed a round of small talk to warm him up to the advertised topic. Whatever. I shrugged. "Went to university, got a degree in computer science. Wound up working for a start-up with its tail on fire."

"You did OK, then?" he persisted. "Out there in the dry lands?"

"I did all right," I allowed. "'Til it all went to hell." I looked out across the dusky water, shivered again, and tucked my hands into my pockets, knuckles nestled against the rough fabric of the work gloves.

"The dot com bust," Borgan said wisely. "I read about that. Lose your shirt?"

"Nah, I was just out of work, with a whole bunch of useless stock certificates to show for my time." I sighed. "After, I got some gigs here and there -- contract work. Enough to keep heart and mind together." While the dying took its course, I finished silently.

I slid a glance in his direction, but he was looking over my head -- at the sky, maybe, or the early stars.

"You're not interested in what I did Away."

He looked down at me, black eyes glinting. "Actually, I am," he said, and he sounded serious. Worse, he looked serious.

Trenvay, I reminded myself, and sighed.

"I thought you wanted to bring me up to speed on all the changes since I've been gone," I said.

"I did want to do that," he acknowledged, and then didn't say anything more. Ahead of us, the Pier was a stern shadow against the dusk, the beach beneath it as black as one of those painted tunnels you see in Roadrunner cartoons.

"Your gran might've told you about the city trade coming up the coast?"

I shrugged, hands deep in my pockets. "I didn't exactly keep in close contact." In fact, all the contact-keeping had been on Gran's side. When she stopped calling, I'd just thought she'd finally realized that I wasn't worth her trouble. Until the overdue notice from Fun Country arrived in the mail.

"Well," Borgan said.

We went under the Pier, and walked silent through the shadow. A gull shouted overhead as we came out on the far side, turned on a wing-tip and sped away over Fun Country, on a heading for Heath Hill.

"So," I prodded my companion. "Drugs are coming up-coast from Boston, are they?"

"Boston -- and other places, too," Borgan agreed. "That fella bought the Rogers' land's got a piece of it. You'll want to sail wide of him."

It was just like me, I thought resignedly, to first off run into the biggest trouble in town -- and piss him off, too.

"Day late and a dollar short," I told Borgan, and he flicked me a glance.

"What happened?"

I sighed. "He didn't like my suggestion that he honor our property lines. I lost my temper and a couple feet of grass in the disputed territory fried and died. Henry had a call in to Mr. Nemeier's Boston lawyer yesterday. I haven't heard back, but he didn't seem to think there was going to be a problem."

"Might not be, so long as it's kept between lawyers," Borgan allowed. "Still, he's not a man to cross. Don't provoke him."

I shrugged. "He doesn't provoke me, I don't provoke him. Win-win."

Borgan stopped walking, so I did, too, wondering if we'd reached the end of what he'd wanted to tell me, and if I could go home now. I was aching all over, and cold, not to mention light-headed and drifty. The wine must've been more potent than I'd thought.

"Kate." Borgan raised a hand like he was going to touch my shoulder, then thought better of it. "Joe Nemeier and his crew're running loads of never-you-mind up through the town, and the so-called abandoned places."

It wouldn't be the first time; Archers Beach has a long association with smuggling. Seven miles of sand beach, a long shelf, and a fair number of little inlets giving on to unpeopled land make it attractive to those who aren't particularly interested in calling attention to themselves or their work.

Problem being that trenvay live in and care for most of those so-called abandoned places. And trenvay, like most Mainers, don't much care for having strangers on their land.

"You'll want to be careful, if you've got any understanding of the word, and not only of the man himself," Borgan said. "His crew's no better than it should be, and the town's on edge. You need to be watchful and on guard, like you never had to be careful on the Beach, years back."

A speech, forsooth -- all said out as solemn and firm as could be. Which wasn't much like trenvay. I looked up into his face and saw no shred of mischief; only an earnestness that matched his tone.

"All right," I said, keeping my own voice serious. "But if Mr. Nemeier and his crew are running illegal substances up into Archers Beach, then that's a job for the police, or the Coast Guard."

"Yeah, well." He sighed. "Comes about the Coasties can't even see 'em. The trenvay who belongs to the rocks at the Notch got tired of all those strange feet traipsing through his living room, and tried to put a stop to it himself."

Not unreasonable, I thought. A trenvay in his own territory was formidable. Not quite invincible, but more than a match for a mere man, no matter how --

"Damn' near got himself unmade," Borgan interrupted my comfy train of thought. "Told Nerazi the only thing saved him was that he was standing on his own stones. Never did lay a hand on 'em, though the same couldn't be said for them."

I frowned. "That's -- funny."

"If you got a certain sense of humor," he agreed. "Anyways, it turns out we can see 'em fine, but not one of us can touch 'em -- and I'm counting me and Nerazi among those who've tried."

Oh, really? I thought, but Borgan was going on.

"We're thinking maybe they've got some downcoast help. Nerazi sent a couple of hers to ask around. In the meantime, we're watching, and keeping as secret as can."

"You can't touch them," I said slowly, as the idea took shape. "But what about the goods?"

"Now, then. . ." Borgan shifted his gaze. Silence stretched while he considered the sea over my left shoulder. At least, I thought he was looking at the sea, though it could've been the sky again, or the ragged blotches of Blunt and Stafford islands -- or a fleet of Viking ships. It was impossible to tell which -- or any -- from his expression, though I told myself I'd hear an invading fleet of Vikings.

The wind gusted, spraying sand against the side of my face, and I shivered again in the sudden burst of chill. Borgan blinked, and sent a sharp look down into my face.

"Here I invite a girl to walk out with me, then keep her standing 'round to freeze," he said wryly. He turned and continued down the beach, keeping his stride short, so I didn't have any trouble pacing him. He didn't say anything else, which didn't bother me as much as it maybe should have. I kept on walking at his side, still feeling a trifle drifty, though warmer, with the walking; comfortable in and comforted by the ordinary sounds of the shore.

Fun Country was well behind us now. Ahead, a shimmer of rippling reds and oranges pulsed against the deepening sky, like the Northern Lights, but much, much too close to the earth.

Googin Rock.

You have to be sensitive to. . .magic. . .to feel the pale, hot colors coming off the Rock like they do, and hear the way the sea sizzles and boils around it. You don't have to be anything but human, though, to see the pockets and the edges along that jagged surface phosphoring in the dark, and know deep in your gut that it's no good place to be.

I caught glimpses and glimmers out the sides of my eyes, enough to notice that the fell-fire over the Rock brightened as we approached, and to see how the outgoing waves struck the surface hard, unlike any other place on the beach. Beside me, Borgan shook himself, and looked over to it.

"Irritable this evening," he commented, and I nodded agreement. The water spat as we passed by.

Beyond the Rock, the beach curved hard 'round the foot of Heath Hill. The persistent breeze brought me the creak of lines and the splash of water against hull; the sounds of Kinney Harbor, where the working boats of Archers Beach put in to sleep.

Sand gave way to rock underfoot -- a portion of the old jetty. To the right was the harbor with its drowsing boats; and a two-master tied up at the dock, lantern glowing over the wheelhouse and her sails rolled tight. I stopped at the foot of the pier, the better to take her in.

"Come aboard and let me give you a cup of coffee, Kate; warm you right up."

"Aboard?" I blinked, and turned to look up at my companion. "Yours?" I asked. "She's a beauty."

"Got 'er from family up to Halifax," he said, easing onto the dock. "Been up on blocks since Uncle Veleg died, and needed a touch of work. Happened I had a couple minutes on my hands. . ." He let the rest drift off.

I couldn't say how much work it had taken to refurb the boat, though I imagined, from the over-dry tone, that it had been considerable. Let it stand that she was a beauty; a classic Tancook Schooner, deck gleaming and paint sharp. Gray she was on the dark water; a fine, fresh-looking lady, with just the right amount of sass and salt to her.

I sighed, letting my eyes rest on the smooth lines of her, drifty and unfocused, feeling myself slip sideways, the boat softening in my sight -- until I didn't see anything at all.

* * *

Carousel Tides copyright 2010 by Sharon Lee

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