Pleasantly sculpted into on the seaward rocky tip of Bellamy Island on Maine’s down east coast Brewster Harbor rests hidden and protected from the brutal Atlantic by a labyrinth of small off shore rocks and islands. It sits calm like a sleepy eye casting its gaze over a great sea harvest of lobster.
The island road wound through the heavily wooded island of pine and maple, meandering past several clusters of common homes, many with lobster pots stacked in their yards. Niles slowed as he descended a steep decline, suddenly placing him on the main street of Brewster Harbor.
It was near idyllic, quaint, and charming; ruggedly functional and handsome homes braced against the steep sloop overlooking the harbor above the main street. Businesses lined both sides of Maine Street. Stately structured homes likely built by noble seamen who knew only how to build good sturdy vessels that could withstand the fury of the seas. Proudly gracing the harbor’s edge many buildings erected at least a century postured well-tended and sturdy, exhibiting without pretense the scares of harsh weather like bandages from a triumphant battle. Painted wooden signs hung from business, neon had not yet earned its place nor even considered the trend for this hearty town.
A simple unspoiled purity, charm and dignity stained each crevice. A layer of false sophistication possessed neither claim nor deception. There abides no toleration for anything other than honesty in its most benevolent and natural form.
Rich sensed immediately there would be no allowance for hypocrisy in his own being. And that settled good with him. Just as the structures stood, it would be likewise of the souls who occupied this bastion of courage who challenges the sea and endured.
The businesses on the waterfront side of the street rested flush against the harbor. Parking lined both sides of the street and two traffic lanes competed in the middle.
On the land side of main street stood a stately three story white building. In the front yard a wooden sign swayed from an easterly breeze, it read “Town Hall.”
Niles parked and walked inside.
A desk sat in the middle of a wooden floor lobby The floorboards creaked as Niles stepped to the desk. Behind it sat a woman near 70. Her face wrinkled and weather treated smiled only enough to show her natural teeth.
“What can we help you with today, sir,” she said smuggly.
“I’d like to see the mayor,” Niles said. “Luther Hampton.”
“Would he be expecting you?” she said.
“Maybe,” Peter said. “I’m an old Army buddy of his, Niles Quinn.”
The unmistakable squeak from an un-oiled desk chair echoed from a side room and into the lobby.
“Hey, Lute!” Niles said.
A stout man with a trimmed gray full beard burst from the side office. They gave each other a manly clutch and slapped each other heartily on the back.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming,” Lute said. “I mean, we just talked a couple of days ago. You said nothing about coming.”
“I haven’t had time off in two or three years.” Niles said. “And I wanted to surprise you.”
“What did you expect, I’d be wandering around in my pajamas?” Lute said.
“I’ve seen you in less,” Niles said.
“Careful boys, I’m old school Methodist. We aren’t even supposed to think such things.”
They turned to the woman behind the desk and all laughed.
“Fist of all, this here young lady is Mildred,” Lute said. “She’s the one who really runs things around here.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Mildred,” Niles said.
“Likewise,” Mildred said, “as long as you aren’t thinking about our fair mayor in his skivvies.”
“Or worse,” Lut joked. “Step in my office before Mildred gets overheated.” Lute gestured to Niles to enter his office.
“Nice meeting you, Mildred,” Niles said.
“And you,” Mildred said.
Lute pulled a chair up to his desk for Niles and shut the office door.
The office was small. The smallness was more due to wooden file cabinets on one side of the room and barrister bookcases on the other. Behind the desk a bookshelf rose all the way to the ceiling.
Lute leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk. “I take it this visit has everything to do with our conversation.”
“Yeah,” Niles said. “It hit me like a bolt of lightening.”
“Maybe you should give it some time,” Lute said. “Just putter around and enjoy yourself.”
“I stopped to see my dad before coming here,” Niles said. “It’s time.”
“It may be time, but is this the place?” Lute said.
“That’s why I’m here,” Niles said. “And it sounds as if you’re all the sudden trying to talk me out of it.”
“Like I told you on the phone, this is a three man force,” Lute said. “It’s two right now. The gal in the lobby is your secretary. Domestic violence, public intoxication, traffic violations, petty theft, and that about covers it. A lot of the times we don’t even have an officer on duty. Frankly when I called, I envisioned you retiring as a uniformed policeman. Neither one of us seemed to have a lot of ambition when we were in the Army, but you seemed to have risen in the ranks. After we hung up, I figured you would have more prestigious offers.”
“I’ve had the offers,” Niles said. “but what’s that thing about the road less traveled? I’m not a guy comfortable in a fifteen hundred dollar suit and manicured nails, I’m a cop.”
“You got an office and lockup?” Niles said.
“Side of the building,” Lute said. “Almost reminds you of one of those western jails; two six by eight cells, desk, couple chairs, file cabinet, potbelly stove and a coffeemaker.”
“Is there a checker board?” Niles said.
“We have two cars,” Lute chuckled. “One of ‘em is on loan from Mayberry.”
“Give me a ride around town,” Niles said.
“Let’s go,” Lute said.
They climbed into Lute’s pickup and started the tour of Brewster Harbor.
“Everyone here are lobster fishermen or related to one,” Lute said.
“What about you?” Niles said.
“My dad was the last in the family to own a lobster boat,” Lute said. “My brother owns a shop that repairs marine engines just down the street. My sister married a lobster fisherman, and I got an insurance agency.”
“How many people live here?” Niles said.
“A little over 1,100,” Lute said.
‘We got apartments in my precinct with more,” Niles quipped.
“We assist the country with the whole island,” Lute said. “They seldom came out here, so they send us a $1,000 a month to keep the peace. I can’t remember the last time the county has been here. The state drives through about once a month for a cup of coffee and a review.”
“What’s the review consist of?” Niles said.
“You buy the coffee,” Lute said.
“Sounds lay-back,” Niles said. “So why do you need a guy with detective experience from New York City?”
“Let’s get that coffee,” Lute said.