The make-believe events in my crime novel BLOODY POINT 1976 took place 40 years ago this weekend, and I’m currently working on the follow-up, LOVE POINT 1938.
In honor of all the generations of watermen who have always made a big part of any Eastern Shore 4th of July celebration complete, I’d like to share with you a little excerpt from BLOODY POINT 1976
First lay is all about identifying that edge between shallow and deep.
Tooey dropped a scrapped crankshaft into the water. Attached to that anchor was a mile of rope and a five-foot chain for weight. A marker buoy of three empty plastic bleach bottles set the trotline’s starting point.
Moviestar let the baited line out of the barrel with deft hands. In two-foot intervals along the main length were chunks of bull-lip tied to the end of drop lines. Sometimes the professional crabbers used eel, but bull-lip cost less. The amateurs, the chicken-neckers, they used expensive poultry as bait.
No matter how carefully the line is stored, it’s not always easy to keep kinks and tangles from starting the day off badly. Moviestar never had any problems with the line, not even with his arthritis.
Tooey steered the boat. The line tautened as it sank. There was no need for the sounding pole. The Walters been working the spot for days and knew precisely where they wanted to be.
At the end of the trotline Tooey dropped a second crankshaft anchor into Eastern Bay. Except for a searchlight beaming out five feet ahead of the Miss Ruth, there was nothing to see. Everything was done by sense of touch.
They went deeper on the second lay.
“What do you think, Sonny-boy?” Moviestar asked.
“I say thirteen.”
This man was a bay captain. He needed no electronic finder to catch rock and bluefish, and knew by heart where all the best oyster beds were from Crab Alley Lumps to Starvation Hill. He was a mechanic, welder, carpenter, weatherman, and astronomer. His favorite foods included fried eel, muskrat, and Ruth’s “turkle” soup. As is the waterman tradition, Moviestar wore no watch, but always knew what time it was.
For luck, he carried a pouch of salt in his pocket everywhere he went.
“Hey, Pops,” Tooey said, “did Ma tell you Harris Bradnox called?”
“Yessir.” Moviestar’s voice was some lost thing from the past, all prohibition-era Canadian whiskey poured over shellfish midden. Moviestar always told his grandson that his accent was a result of the Eastern Shore’s generations of tight knit isolation, and wasn’t much different than their ancestors and distant cousins on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Moviestar called oysters arsters, hogs hoags, and water wooder.
Tooey waited for his grandfather to ask more about Harris Bradnox but he knew he wouldn’t.
“He wanted to talk to me about maybe coming to work for him.”
“I don’t know doing what,” Tooey said. “He wasn’t too specific. He knows I don’t have much experience with anything. I guess he might have something he thinks I’d be good at and is willing to train me. Real estate maybe?”
Tooey caught jumbo jimmies, those dark and hefty male crabs, on his next seven dips. “Look at that’n,” Moviestar said. “Fat as Buck Jones’ pony.”
Tooey went on, “Mr. Bradnox has got a job he wants me to do this weekend. You remember his daughter Delores? Went to school with me?”
Moviestar was all business. “That chock is all catybiased,” he said, pointing. It was off a smidgen. Tooey toed it into place before his grandfather answered the question. “I recall a sweet little girl,” Moviestar said, “well mannered. Bright.”
“I know you’ve heard some of the stories about her since.”
Moviestar laughed. “I’m too grizzled for stories, cap’n. What they say about people’s neither here nor there and the truth’s usually a whole ‘nother story. You know that.”
Tooey was getting nowhere. Sometimes it was like pulling clam’s teeth.
“Dee’s on The Block,” Tooey said. “Mr. Bradnox wants me to drive to Bal-, to Baltimore tonight and bring her home.”
“That don’t sound too hard. Don’t sound like a full time job, but don’t sound too hard,” Moviestar said.
Turns out it is kinda’ hard.
Tooey Walter is hired to retrieve the local big-wheel’s rebellious daughter from The Block, Baltimore city’s grimy and notoriously dangerous red-light district.
Thrown into a menacing world of vice and violence, BLOODY POINT 1976 is a coming-of-age crime adventure mixed with an epic quest and garnished with a funky slice of Bicentennial Americana. It’s racy, rowdy and told by characters trying to navigate their survival in a changing time and space.
BLOODY POINT 1976 is available at such local outlets as STEVENSVILLE ANTIQUES, BAKER’S LIQUOR STORE & THE EASTON NEWS CENTER, along with my nonfiction books REMEMEBRING KENT ISLAND: STORIES FROM THE CHESAPEAKE and THE HISTORY OF THE KENT ISAND VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT, and on AMAZON, where a good review is always appreciated.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!