Death in Vineyard Waters

Free Death in Vineyard Waters by Philip Craig

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Authors: Philip Craig
in Edgartown saved me the long drive out to Cape Pogue and then back down the elbow to the gut—twenty minutes by boat versus an hour by Landcruiser.
    Then, for two days, I went up island, a place I rarely go, and fished Squibnocket and Lobsterville. I don’t like to go to Gay Head, the island’s westernmost town, because I dislike their politics and their tourist practices: pay toilets, overpriced parking lots, and not only No Parking signs but No Pausing signs on their roads. When I’m king of the world, I’m going to ban pay toilets on religious grounds as an abomination in the eyes of God. Until then, I avoid Gay Head except to fish. I do roam Gay Head’s fishing grounds when I can find a place to park, since there are few better places to cast a line, especially for bass.
    And when I wasn’t fishing up island, during late mornings or afternoons I worked the shellfishing grounds in Edgartown, digging clams or raking for quahogs at the south end of Katama Bay. I had a market for littlenecks and sold most of what I got, but my clamming was done mostly for me; I love them steamed, fried, chowdered, any way at allexcept raw. Why not raw? I wondered. After all, I ate raw littlenecks and raw oysters and raw scallops; why not raw soft-shell clams? Because they looked yucky?
    And I worked in my garden, weeding it more than I’d ever weeded it before, more than it needed to be weeded.
    And I cooked complicated things that required much chopping and sorting and different stages of preparation; and I ate many-coursed meals with more than one wine. Alone.
    And finally the weather changed. A west wind blew in a steady all-night rain from New York and I slept soundly and decided I was getting better.
    The evening of the following day I opened the Vineyard Gazette, which was now coming out in its twice-a-week summer editions, and saw that Marjorie Summerharp’s body had been brought up in the nets of a trawler fishing off South Beach south of Katama Bay. Three or four of them had been working off the beach most of the summer, their spreaders making them look like great water birds opening their wings as they swam. When the Mary Pachico had hauled in her catch at noon the previous day, Marjorie Summerharp, clad in her old-fashioned black bathing suit and white bathing cap, was there among the fish, quite dead.
    I had a sudden sense of guilt, remembering the last time I’d seen her, thinking of the warnings I’d suggested be given to her but that I’d not given myself when we’d spoken that last morning, remembering the sight of her out in the blue waves, swimming effortlessly, her wiry arms rising and falling in a steady rhythm, remembering the wink she’d once given me and the dry, ironic voice and the tough, wrinkled face and cool eyes and her surprising laughter and frankness and how I’d liked her for no reason I could name.
    What had happened to her? I read the article through. According to Ian McGregor, she had left the farm to take her morning swim just as he was starting his morning run, so he’d ridden with her to South Beach and run home from there. She had not come back at her usual time, but he hadbeen working and had not thought much about it. Toward midmorning, when she still hadn’t returned, he had phoned a friend, Mrs. Zeolinda Madieras, expressing concern, and the two of them had driven to South Beach and found Dr. Summerharp’s car at the end of the Katama Road, still parked where it had been when he’d left her that morning. The lifeguard had seen nothing of the missing woman since coming on duty. McGregor had then contacted the police, who in turn contacted the coast guard. A couple of hours later, the Mary Pachico had hauled in the body from a point a mile straight offshore from where the victim’s car was parked. There was sea water in her lungs, and every indication was that she had drowned.
    I had been fishing up at Lobsterville that

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