Lute motioned with his head down the street. “Half a block, little place called the Harbor Inn. We’ll get a coffee there and sit out on the back deck; it will be private.”
They walked into the Harbor Inn; a local motel with a coffee shop, a cozy place oozing with New England coastal charm. No one occupied the front desk, but in the attached dinning room a couple sat across a table from each other.
Lute glanced back at Niles as they entered the dinning area. “They’re the owners. Nice folks. Let me introduce you.”
“Hey, Lute,” a short attractive woman said standing from her seat with a smile that raised her cheeks. Her dark hair with strands of gray pulled tight into a pony tail. She seemed to bounce as she moved happily to greet them.
“Want ya to meet an old Army body,” Lute said. “Niles Quinn, he’s going to be around for a few days. This is Shelly and the bump on the log is Charley.”
Charley smiled broadly and stood, taking long strides toward them; a physical man, ruggedly handsome who looked like he’d rather swing a hammer than write a thank you card, but neat; pressed flannel shirt and jeans, clean face, and a strong grip.
“Does your friend need a room?” Shelly said.
“No, he’ll be at my place,” Lute said, “but we could use a cup of coffee.”
“Sure help yourself,” Shelly said.
A counter against the dinning room wall was stacked with cups and a coffeemaker. Lute poured the coffee.
“We’re going out on the deck,” Lute said to Charley.
“It’s not the best view,” Charley said. “The tide is out, but you can see what the harbor looks like to the fish.”
They walked through the door leading to the deck hunging over the harbor and sat at a table.
“I’d like to see this when the tide is in,” Niles said.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” Lute said, “Very quaint.”
They sipped their coffee.
Lute breathed deeply the harbor air. “Two years ago, before Charley and Shelley got here, me and Sam Petit were running against each other for Mayor. One afternoon the tide goes out and Sam’s body is on the harbor floor attached to an anchor. I’m the Mayor, unopposed.”
“You a suspect?” Niles said.
“Nah,” Lute said, “Nobody would believe I’d kill a guy over a $5,000 a year crap job. Mildred takes in five times that.”
“Who investigated?” Niles said.
“Technically it fell under the jurisdiction of the harbor master,” Lute said. “Then the county came out and after that the state. The county asked some questions around town, four or five people. Everybody loved Sam, so that was it. The state just made sure the paperwork was in order.”
“Autopsy?” Niles said.
“Said he was dead before he hit the water,” Lute said. “Cause of death undetermined.”
“Who was your chief then?” Niles asked.
“Kevin Nelson, young buck, who had an associate’s degree in law enforcement,” Lute said. “That’s who you’re replacing.”
“Where is he now?” Niles said.
“He applied for the Portland Police and got it.” Lute said. “Good kid.”
“Did he do any investigating?” Niles asked.
“Well, he didn’t see a need,” Lute said. “It was all outside our jurisdiction technically.”
“Is that what he said?” Niles said.
“He’s the one with the degree in law enforcement,” Lute said.
“The only crime committed in the harbor was dumping a corpse,” Niles said. “The murder occurred elsewhere. The closest elsewhere is Kevin the cadet’s jurisdiction. So much for an associate’s degree.”
“That make us look like…”
Niles interrupted, “Good people who thought the were doing the right thing and following procedures.”
“We aren’t sophisticated in the same way New York is,” Lute said.
“And I hope you never are,” Niles said. “but murder is murder, it ain’t complicated or sophisticated. A life ends. No other species but us has a multitude of reasons for justifying and committing murder. Society and the courts try to mitigate it. Law enforcement just solves the crime and delivers it to the court. We take the sophistication out of it. No homicide detective says, oh the guy had a few bad breaks, let’s drop the investigation. Our job is just and simple, bring in the murderer; the nun or the scum, it’s all the same to me.”
“That’s why I called you,” Lute said.
“I’ll tell you a funny story,” Niles said. “You know those vans that show up after a crime. It has Crime Scene Unit plastered on the side. One of the detectives rolls up in his van one day. On the side was a sign, Mobile Operational Justice Unit. The whole thing looked official. You opened up the back and there’s an electric chair. He pulls out one of those big switches and says, the next perp gets a seat and who wants to throw the switch to see if it works?”
“Funny,” Lute said.
“Yeah,” Niles said. “If we didn’t have funny we’d be shooting some of ‘em on the spot.”
“Do you think you can handle it anymore,” Lute said.
“It is a part of me,” Niles said. “A farmer has to walk through a lot of crap to milk the cow, it’s his job and he likes to handle tits also.”
They finished their coffees and walked back into the dinning room and placed the cups in a plastic bin.
They said goodbyes to Charley and Shelly and walked back toward the town hall.
“Nice folks,” Niles said.
“The best,” Lute added.