Love is energy of life.
~ Robert Browning ~
Dead Down East is a fictional murder mystery written in the first person, narrated by Jesse Thorpe. The novel is finished, fully edited and 90,000 words long.
Jesse’s vacation in a cabin on a lake is cut short on Sunday morning when he receives a mysterious call from a former client, Cynthia Dumais. She needs to be rescued from an island south of Brunswick, within a mile of where the governor of Maine had been murdered the night before. She has secretly been the governor’s mistress for the past year. She witnessed the murder and fears for her life. The FBI knows nothing about Cynthia, and she hopes to keep it that way.
Two days later, her ex-husband, Travis Perkins, a state trooper assigned to protect the governor, is arrested as a material witness. Ballistic tests determine that his service weapon was used in the murder. Travis hires Jesse to find the killer. He claims that a “Justin Cook,” who represented himself as a feature writer for Police Magazine, stole his weapon on the day of the murder. Jesse has only one clue to work with. While on a fishing trip together, Justin cut his finger and accidentally swiped his hand across Travis’ shirt, leaving a smear of his blood.
An aide to the governor informs Jesse that Governor Lavoilette had had six other mistresses over the previous five years. Jesse determines it might help to obtain traces of DNA from a number of them. One by one he interviews the women and surreptitiously collects hair or saliva samples. He palms the straw from a gin sling that Tina Woodbury drinks with him at lunch. He retrieves a cigarette butt that Lori Trumbull deposits in an ashtray in her home. He offers a cappuccino to Susan St. Claire when he interviews her in a park and retrieves her empty cup as they part ways. He extracts hair from a brush in the bathroom of Michelle Jackson’s home.
The case breaks wide open unexpectedly when DNA analysis determines that “Justin Cook” and Susan St. Claire are brother and sister. An Internet search matches Justin’s face with that of Susan’s brother, Mark Prichard. Jesse then concocts a plan to coerce Mark into turning states evidence against his sister and her boyfriend, Aaron Miller—the triggerman.
Jesse drives to Mark’s home in Pennsylvania, and, posing as a Maine State Trooper, he shows him photographs that have been digitally altered which depict Mark stealing Travis Perkins’ gun from his home. Jesse also spells out in detail how and why the crime was committed. In the end, Mark agrees to Jesse’s terms, and Jesse drives him back to Maine.
Just outside of Augusta, Jesse hands over his prisoner to one of his friends, a genuine Maine Trooper, who takes Pritchard into custody.
Five months later, the case is resolved when Susan St. Claire and Aaron Miller accept a plea agreement sparing them from a possible death sentence. Jesse receives a large cash reward for bringing the criminals to justice, and he knows exactly how to spend it. He and his girlfriend, Angele Boucher, fly off to Kauai for a vacation in paradise.
Apologies and compliments are two remarkably effective devices for disarming adversaries in life and hecklers in bars. If you consider the socially adept people you know, you’ll see that they use these two conversational tools frequently and with ease. I remember the first time it fully dawned on me how valuable they could be.
Angele and I had been dating for a couple of weeks. Our next planned event was scheduled for Saturday night. So I was a bit surprised when she arrived unexpectedly at my place on Tuesday evening. I guess she decided that there was something that couldn’t wait until the weekend. The moment she walked through the front door, I began to suspect what that “something” was. She had a gleam in her eyes that seared me from the inside of my nimble imagination right down to my insteps. I surmised that she was either ovulating, or she had a sudden urge for a tour of the Thorpe habitat. I began to mentally review the floor plan of the house. “Now, where is my bedroom?” I thought. “I know it was here this morning.”
Angele relieved me of that particular anxiety by leading me right to it. She emits some kind of bedroom-seeking sonar through her vocal chords. The sound is extraordinary. I’ll try to describe it.
For starters, it resembles a deep hum. Angele’s voice is naturally low and earthy. If she were a singer, she’d be a contralto. But this hum is very low-pitched, even below her normal register. I guess you could call it a sustained breathy murmur. Around here, it came to be known as the “Fugue for Two Bassoons in B Flat Minor,” or simply “The Fugue.” Whatever The Fugue is, it’s capable of finding the path of least resistance to the bedroom, and it also makes standard foreplay obsolete. The Fugue serves as a perfect bridge from what we call “everyday life” to what I call the “Island of the Floating Spirits,” which is my own personal euphemism for the afterglow when that rush of endorphins makes its way into the cerebral-spinal fluid.
On that particular Tuesday evening, with a mutual anticipation of the “Island of the Floating Spirits,” The Fugue got us down the hallway, through the bedroom door, and onto my king sized bed. That’s when Angele spotted a lacy bra lying about ten feet from the foot of the bed. It was wedged along the side of the dresser, propped up against the baseboard.
“What is that?” she growled. The Fugue had suddenly stopped playing. In its place was her three-word question in a totally different register.
Instantly, I tried to recall the two devices that disarm adversaries and extract us from dicey social situations: apologies and compliments.
Unfortunately, I was a little rattled and couldn’t think of either one, so I opted for the more standard male approach: lying.