Not many people in Tinker's Cove, Maine, knew Old Dan Malone. The grizzled barkeep's social circle was limited to the rough-hewn lobstermen and other assorted toughs that frequented his bar, a derelict main street dive called, appropriately, the Bilge. But when his body is found bobbing in the town's icy harbor, Lucy Stone, ace reporter for the Pennysaver newspaper, makes getting to know more about Old Dan a priority. And apparently, there's lots to learn.
Like the fact that local musician Dave Reilly insists Old Dan conned a winning lottery ticket worth five grand from him. And that handyman Brian Donohue claims that Old Dan stiffed him for repair work he'd done at the bar. There are even whispers about some connection to the Irish Republican Army. The confusion surrounding the death is only compounded by the arrival of actor Dylan Malone, Old Dan's brother and a prominent, if fading, attraction of the Dublin stage. Dylan has come to direct the production of "Finian's Rainbow," the featured event at Our Lady of Hope's annual St. Patrick's Day extravaganza. He's also come to help his brother renovate the Bilge, turning the dingy tavern into an authentic—if decidedly upscale—Irish pub.
Was Old Dan killed by someone he'd cheated, someone he'd loved, or someone who just couldn't stand the idea of losing their favorite watering hole? While Lucy can't be sure, one thing is abundantly clear—the stage is set for a murder mystery with a killer ending!Prologue
The last customer hadn’t left the bar until nearly two
a.m.—well past the eleven p.m. closing time mandated by the town bylaws in Tinker’s Cove, Maine—but
that didn’t bother Old Dan very much. He’d never been
one to fuss about rules and regulations. No, he was one
who took the inch and made it a mile. If they wanted him
to close at eleven, well, they could jolly well send over a
cop or two or ten and make him. Though he’d be willing
to wager that wouldn’t go down well with the clientele. He
chuckled and scratched his chin, with its week’s worth of
grizzled whiskers. That crowd, mostly rough and ready
fishermen, didn’t have a high regard for the law, or for the
cops who enforced it, either. No, close the Bilge before the
customers were ready to call it a night, and there’d be a
And, anyway, he didn’t sleep well these days, so there
was no sense tossing out some poor soul before he was
ready to go, because, truth be told, he didn’t mind a bit of
company in the wee hours. He knew that if he went home
and to bed, he’d only be twisting and turning in the sheets,
unable to calm his thoughts enough to sleep.
That’s why he’d started tidying the bar at night instead
of leaving it for the morning. The rhythmic tasks soothed
him. Rinsing and drying the glasses, rubbing down the bar.
Wiping the tables, giving the floor a bit of a sweep. That’s
what he was doing, shuffling along behind a push broom
to clear away all the dropped cigarette butts and matches
and dirt carried in on cleated winter boots. He braced
himself for the blast of cold and opened the door to sweep
it all out, back where it belonged. But it wasn’t the cold
that took his breath away. It was a bird, a big crow, and it
walked right in.
“And what do you think you’re doing?” he demanded,
feeling a large hollowness growing inside him.
“You know quite well, don’t you?” replied the crow,
hopping up onto the bar with a neat flap of his wings. The
bird cocked his head and looked him in the eye. “Don’t
tell me an Irishman like you, born and bred in the old
country, has forgotten the tale of Cú Chulainn?”
He’d not forgotten. He’d heard the story often as a boy,
long ago in Ireland, where his mother dished up the old
stories with his morning bowl of oats. “Eat up,” she’d say,
“so you’ll be as strong as Cú Chulainn.”
He found his mind wandering and followed it down the
dark paths of memory. Had it really been that long? Sixty
odd years? More than half a century? It seemed like yesterday that he was tagging along behind his ma when she
made the monthly trek to the post office to pay the bills.
“ ’Tisn’t the sort of thing you can forget,” he told the crow.
“Especially that statue in the Dublin General Post Office.
A handsome piece of work that is, illustrating how Cú
Chulainn knew death was near and tied himself to a post
so he could die standing upright, like the hero he was.”
“Cú Chulainn was a hero indeed,” admitted the crow.
“And his enemies couldn’t kill him until the Morrighan lit
on his shoulder, stealing his strength, weakening him. . . .”
“Right you are. The Morrighan,” he said. The very
thought of that fearsome warrior goddess, with her crimson cloak and chariot, set his heart to pounding in his
bony old chest.
“And what form did the Morrighan take, might I ask?”
inquired the bird.
“A crow,” he said, feeling a great trembling overtake
him. “So is that it? Are you the Morrighan come for me?”
“What do you think, Daniel Malone?” replied the crow,
stretching out its wings with a snap and a flap and growing larger, until its great immensity blocked out the light—
first the amber glow of the neon Guinness sign, then the
yellow light from the spotted ceiling fixture, the greenish
light from the streetlamp outside, and finally, even the silvery light from the moon—and all was darkness.