�� �Nathan had done his best to avoid prolonged conversation with the man who had given him a ride from Bar Harbour, turning his head aside to look out of the side window as if interested in the scenery that flashed by. The driver was a chatty kind of fellow who talked more or less endlessly about everything from his Mother-in-law to the newly elected President, Bill Clinton. He had soon discovered that the man he was travelling with just loved the sound of his own voice and his own opinions and a mumbled grunt here and there was all that was needed to keep him happy. When he pulled over to let Nathan out he said, "I sure enjoyed taking to you fellah, damn shame you're not going as far as I am. You have a good day now!". Nathan replied much the same and watched the car drive away. It was another ten miles to the town he really wanted, a pleasant walk on a bright Spring day.
�� �There are pretty coastal towns all the way along the New England coast, but the best of them are hidden away in Maine, like precious stones waiting to be discovered. Camden is one of the more valuable gems along the Maine coastline but Nathan was not drawn to the town for its beauty. Camden was the location he had be given� for the third American that he sought, Corey Young. For a lot of the time over the winter months, Nathan had wondered about the other mission he has set himself, to find out who his biological parents had been, what kind of people they were ? No matter how he thought about it, Tyler and Caroline would always be his real parents, and he would always mourn them as such. It had been a terrible revelation to discover that they were not his natural parents, but that did not matter. He loved them now as much as he always had. After he finished his business in Camden he knew he needed to go to Europe, time enough then to look into his birth and his French ancestry.
�� �A couple of miles outside Camden there is a small motel. It comprises a number of clean and tidy rooms, quite close to the entrance to Mount Battie National Park. Nathan ambled on in because it was fairly out of the way, and was the kind of place he would look for. The woman at the desk looked him up and down with a long look that said everything that she was thinking. "Can I help you ?", she said at last, deciding after all, business was business. She was pleasantly surprised at the smooth polite voice that replied, scolding herself for judging him by his long hair and scraggly beard. "Can I please get a room for a few nights ma'am?".
�� �"Will you be paying by cash or charge?"
�� �"Oh cash if that's okay. Could I pay up front in case I decide to leave early ?"
She warmed to that idea, "well you can, but we won't be able to forward a refund if you do."
�� �"That's fine ma'am. Very nice looking place you have here. I may stay three or four days so how will it be if I pay you for say, five, and then see how we go from there ?"
�� �"You're lucky. Its only the start of the season, so that will be just fine. I'll put you in room eight. Out of here, go around back, and its the second one in from the end."
�� �"Thank you kindly. I guess you won't see much of me, I need to get out and try to write".
�� �"Oh", she said with interest, "you are an author".
�� �"Kind of, ma'am. Rock songs".
�� �"Ah", she said, not quite Byron or Shelley then, "well enjoy your stay with us".
�� �"I surely will ma'am", said Nathan.
�� �Nathan checked out his room which was spotless and fresh and there was even an air conditioner, which was pretty good at the room rate he had been charged. Satisfied with the room, Nathan carried on down the road towards Camden. When he reached the town he saw the picturesque main street that he imagined full of tourists and coaches in just a few weeks time, but that wasn't what he wanted. Wandering down Main Street he soon came to the piers and jetties that jut out all around a bay, which is where Camden is located. In the last few weeks before business really takes off, boat owners were out on force. Many were working on weather beaten decks, sanding and varnishing. Others scraped flaking paint from the side of timber hulls, and on a Schooner, one man sat sewing a sail. Another was working the end of a heavy rope, plaiting the ends to keep it from fraying. On another jetty an old lobsterman was repairing his pots, deftly fixing their damaged sides with nimble fingers that were knarled with age. If you could shut out the sound of the traffic then it was like a journey back in time to the days when the sailing ship ruled the seas. Despite his dark mission, Nathan had to admit that the place had a certain magic about it, but that feeling was snubbed out like a candle wick between thumb and forefinger when his roving gaze fell upon Corey Young.
�� �While Nathan was discreetly observing Corey, he could not help but think of� the other two members of the hit team that he had already dealt with. Mickey Garcia had been clearly out of shape, his muscles already turning to fat revealing his abandonment of any exercise regime. The broken red veins on his nose and cheeks, and the beginnings of a pot-belly that tested a wide leather belt with a fancy silver buckle revealed a man who probably drank as much as the patrons of his seedy bar. Then there was Benny Stone, a man who had looked a few pounds overweight when Nathan first pictured him, but the last time he saw him, Benny was more than a few pounds overweight. It was obvious then from his heavy jowls and a paunch that was straining the buttons of his tight shirt that Benny had more than a passing acquaintance with the local 'Dunkin' Doughnuts' franchise. Now he was looking at Corey, who looked in pretty good shape still. He was about the same height and build as Nathan, but with thick black hair, long but not so long as to reach more than a half inch below his neck. His face was tanned and weather beaten - a sailor's face, and his arms were thick and well muscled. Corey's eyes smiled when he spoke to would be customers but beneath that veneer they were cold and calculating, the eyes of a killer which they surely were. The thought disturbed Nathan for if he judged these men to be ruthless killers, what did that make him ? Then he reviewed the images of that last night on The Island, and he too grew cold, his eyes became vengeful, his resolve unchanged.
�� �"Hi there", said Nathan, snapping out of his reverie.
�� �"Hi yourself", Corey replied amiably.
�� �"Nice boat you have here".
Corey looked up from the deck at Nathan, summed him up with a glance and decided he was safe, some kind of bum passing the time of day, "yeah, she sure is."
�� �"If you don't mind my asking, because I am kind of interested, what is it, a hundred grand for a boat like this ?"
�� �"Yeah, easy. To tell you the truth though, that ain't what I paid for it", said Corey with a sly conspiratorial wink.
�� �"Oh, how come ?", asked Nathan with feigned interest.
�� �"Well the guy that sold it me was going belly up. He was desperate for some cash so when I laid down forty grand in bills he damn near bit my hand off", he said laughing now.
�� �"You don't say. Well now listen, you're Corey, am I right ?"
Corey looked again. Was this an undercover cop, or customs maybe? But no, he could see that this guy was none of those. "Who wants to know ?", he asked suspiciously.
�� �"Mickey said to look you up", Nathan replied, going out on a wing, gambling that the men, the animals that destroyed his world had some kind of bond.
�� �"Mickey ? Do I know a Mickey ?", he said, his eyes narrowed now and cautious.
�� �"Yeah, you do. Mickey Garcia from Texas. I was drinking in his bar not so long ago. How about that ? Me and Mickey go way back."
Corey smiled at that. "He bought his bar ? Good for him. That's exactly what he said he was gonna do. Okay my friend, so what can I do for you ?"
Nathan pointed to an island that was about a mile away in the bay. "I need to get over to that island."
�� �"Over there ? No problem, hop aboard."
�� �"No, not right now. I have a package I need to take there, but it would be best if nobody saw me make the drop. Are you with me ?"
�� �"Yeah, I get the idea. When did you figure on going ?"
�� �"How about late tonight? Is that a good time around here ?"
�� �This time of year ? Yeah, it all goes quiet around midnight. But it'll cost mind."
�� �"How much ?"
�� �"A grand", said Corey seeing no reason not to push a bit.
�� �"Fine by me. See you later", said Nathan and he ambled away.
�� �At midnight, Nathan climbed on board Corey's boat. It was a sleek craft with a fibre glass hull, a cabin that could sleep four and a pair of powerful outboard motors. Corey fired up one of the motors explaining to Nathan, "that's all we need to get over to your island, and one is a lot quieter." He eyed the package under Nathan's arm but did not ask what it contained. The boat chugged out of the harbour on the still sea, crossing to the island in almost no time at all. Sound carries for miles on still nights such as these and Nathan said softly, "take it around the back", which Corey did, putting them out of sight of the land.
�� �"This is fine", said Nathan, unwrapping his package. He withdrew his automatic and a pair of handcuffs that he had purchases from a hardware store that carried all kinds of interesting items, including the last object in the package which was a small axe. He tossed the handcuffs to Corey who caught them by reflex and then said, "what the....?", puzzled by the object.
�� �"Put them on Corey. One on your wrist, one around the boat rail.", said Nathan with his automatic held in a rock steady hand that pointed at Corey.
�� �"The fuck I will!", said Corey angrily. "What are you, Cop ?"
�� �"Nope. Put the cuffs on. I won't ask you again."
�� �"Got to hell! If you are gonna use that piece, do it", said Corey, calling the bluff, he thought.
�� �In the still night the crack was worryingly loud, but Corey's scream as his kneecap shattered was much louder. "You bastard! You ruined my leg", he yelled, still angry but with no fear.
�� �"You still have the other one, for now. Put the cuffs on", said Nathan again, impassively.
�� �"Okay, okay! I'll put the fucking thing on. There, its done", said Corey as he closed the clasp on his wrist. "So now what big shot ?", he said and then moaned as he nursed his shattered knee.
Nathan didn't answer him. He took the axe out of its wrapping and quite calmly began to hack at the boat's hull.
�� �"Hey, watch it you dumb jerk"! shouted Corey in alarm.
�� �"You know, when you opened the sea valves on my dad's boat, you really should've made sure that it sank", said Nathan.
�� �"Opened what ?", cried Corey in disbelief.
�� �"My dad's boat. I watched you."
�� �"Your father ? Who the fuck is you father ?"
�� �"Who the fuck WAS my father ? You don't even know who he was, do you ?"
The water was gushing in now through the hole that Nathan had made. "Who it was that you went to kill on the island ?"
And then Corey understood at last. "The Island ! Hey, I can explain that man. Just unlock this cuff you crazy bastard."
Nathan just sat there as the boat sank lower in the water. Very quickly the water had risen almost to the point where the boat had to sink. The water was cold, much colder than Nathan had thought it would be, but in a straight line, not back to the harbour, the nearest land was less than half a mile away.
�� �"Who are you ? At least tell me that!", demanded Corey.
Nathan smiled, a dark humourless smile. "Why sure. It was my mother and father you murdered on that island, and maybe the girl I was going to marry too. My name is Nathan King."
�� �As the boast sank beneath the water, Nathan was making powerful strokes towards the shore. It was mind numbingly cold. With every stroke it seemed that he could feel his body temperature falling. Every time he brought his arm out of the water for the next stroke it felt heavier than before, as if a lead weight were being added to it whenever his arm entered the water. Nathan knew that if his core temperature fell too much he would die of the cold anyway. He gritted his teeth and swam one, picturing in his mind the swim from Grand Augusta to the other green island - the distance was about the same. The cold sapped his strength, bit by bit, an insidious creeping thing that was trying to drag him to his death, beneath the sea, but still he managed another stroke. It seemed to him that every stroke was weaker than the one before, that he was slowly losing ground to the freezing monster that was waiting for him, but he refused to surrender; another stroke, a few feet nearer to land. His head began to feel light and Nathan understood that he did not have much time left as he struck out again, and then, quite unexpectedly, he crashed into something solid.
�� �At first Nathan thought he had hit a moored boat or maybe something else that was floating half submerged in the bay, but as he scrabbled for a hold he realised that it was the bank he had been trying to reach. With his last reserves of fast failing strength, he hauled himself out of the water and onto land. He lay there, cold and shivering, his teeth chattering, for some time - too long, and felt his eyes beginning to close as his brain wanted to shut down. He willed himself to stay awake because if he fell asleep now he knew he would never wake up again. Getting to his feet he searched around until he found the tree root inside of which was his bag. He stripped of his wet clothes and used the outside of the dry jacket in his bag to dry his skin and rub it hard, setting his circulation going again. Despite the bitter cold of the water, the evening air was several degrees warmer and as he dried himself he felt the warmth come back to his body, felt his mind wake up again, until he was fully alert once more.
�� �Nathan dressed in the dry clothes he had hidden, and with great difficulty, used a disposable razor to remove his beard and moustache. He cut back his hair as best he could with one of his hunting knives. That done, he packed everything back in the bag, his wet clothes, the razor, his two knives and his automatic pistol. All he kept back was the waterproof money belt which he still wore. After weighting the bag with some of the rocks that lay around, he hurled it as far as he could, out into the bay, where it� sank quickly to the bottom. The rest of his task lay in countries far removed from the United States. He had been to Europe many times in the private jets of� Crown Inc, but even in those he was aware that it would be very difficult and dangerous to attempt to carry the kind of weapons he used, so he would have to travel empty handed. How he was going to arm himself later, he had no idea, but he wasn't too concerned. If there was no other way he knew that he could finish the job with his bare hands, and he might well do that anyway. He had executed three men so far, but still he felt nothing, no guilt, no remorse, no relief from the overwhelming grief that was locked away deep in his psyche and would stay locked away until the day came that he was ready to release it.
�� �He walked away from Camden, away down Route 1 towards Rockland , Brunswick and eventually Portland. It was not a busy road and at that time of night, nothing passed him. By dawn, Nathan had walked thirty miles, and was well on the way to Brunswick when he got a ride. He was picked up by a trucker who was making a run all the way down to New York, but Portland was fine for Nathan and the trucker dropped him off at a slip road the led directly to a large shopping Mall. Nathan had told the trucker that he had been walking for most of the night, which was true, and fell asleep in the warm cab. The trucker did not mind, just glad to help a guy out who, with his bad haircut and ragged shave that revealed a few nasty razor cuts, seemed to be a bit down on his luck. Well he could see that the guy was clean and tidy and doing his best to look after himself - he looked in pretty good shape as a matter of fact, so the least he could do was to give a fellow American a ride, and to wish him good luck.
�� �Nathan hadn't realised it until now, but he was tired. There was a constant strain attached to his quest for the men who murdered his family, and for the past year that invisible pressure had always been there, subtly eating away at him.� He decided that he could rest up for a while, gather his thoughts maybe, and then resume his merciless task. His information sources were still reachable, so he could get an update from them in case there was any change. So far he had been pretty lucky. The three Americans were exactly where he was told they would be. Expensive information it had been, but good too.
�� �The first thing Nathan did at the Mall was to find a barber's shop where he had a decent shave, and had his scraggly hair cut into a smart modern style. Just that alone made him feel renewed. Next, he went on a shopping spree. He bought a small suitcase, a new soft bag, casual clothes and trainers, and finally, the best suit he could find together will all the accessories. He spread his purchases right through the three floors of the Mall, careful not too attract attention by buying everything that he wanted (as he easily could), in one place. The salesman was a little surprised when he proffered cash for the more expensive items, but the purchases went by without comment. As he shopped, he had placed his purchases in the suitcase, which was getting quite full and heavy by the time he added underwear, toiletries, and a dozen other things that he thought of, but its weight was no problem for Nathan. When he figured that he had everything he needed, he stopped at place that listed holiday lets. After studying what was on offer in the pictures posted in the window, he found exactly what he wanted. It was a very picturesque log cabin, isolated on its own small island and reachable only by boat. The island was one of many scattered around the bay between Portland and Brunswick, and was available for a long let. That meant that if he asked to rent it for an extended time, it would raise no curiosity. Deciding that this time he would be a fiction writer seeking seclusion for his latest novel, he went inside to make the arrangements.
�� �There was the expected polite enquiry about his writing which Nathan brushed aside, and he emerged thirty minutes later with a map giving him directions, and a set of keys. He had used the rest room in the letting agency to extract six months rental from his money belt, and assured the agency that he would be in touch in four month's time to let then know if he was going to need more time. That done, he paused at a sporting store to buy a couple of fishing rods and the bare essentials that he needed to go fishing. He used his real name when he took the cabin, showing his passport to prove who he was. There was no alert out for a 'Nathan King', and certainly he was not the only man of that name in the United States. The famous man who shared that name was known to have perished with his family in any event, and there were hardly any photos available that could be used to check that Nathan King - so closely did the King family protect their privacy, when they were alive.
�� �Still using his true identity, Nathan rented a smart pick-up truck, again from a rental desk at the Mall, and finally spent some time in the Wal-Mart buying provisions of every kind that he fancied. By the time he loaded the last of his shopping spree into the truck he was almost beginning to feel that he really was taking a vacation, but the slight euphoria soon passed when he thought about what he was really living for. Sure that he had overlooked nothing, he headed North out of Portland, heading� for� Passamaquoddy Island, so named because of the Indian artefacts that were discovered there by the Pilgrim Fathers who were the first Europeans to set foot on the island. The island was everything that the flyer he read, claimed it to be. The cabin was all but hidden in the middle of the trees that almost carpeted the entire island which was no bigger than a quarter of a mile in any dimension. Much bigger than he expected, Nathan found the cabin to be very spacious with a sun deck that ran right around it, and a small jetty for mooring the only link to the land - the boat. The boat was not much more than a row boat with an outboard motor, but it did the job, and Nathan had to make several trips to ferry his supplies across. His truck remained parked on the mainland, but he could see it clearly from the upper floor of the cabin. In any event, the only reason for coming down the unmade track that led off Route 1, was to reach the Island by boat, so nobody every came down that far. The mailman left the mail in a box at the top of the track and in Summer the entrance to the track grew over, only to be pushed aside by visitors like Nathan. He missed it twice when he first arrived, only finding it in the end, by the colourful mailbox. An added bonus in the cabin was that one of the keys he was given unlocked a gun cabinet, and inside there was an old looking shotgun, a slightly newer rifle (with no telescope), and a few boxes of shells for both weapons. A note asked renters to replace any shells they used and to please leave the guns clean.
�� �Nathan soon settled himself in and as the warm summer months came, he spent many hours sitting in the small boat with a fishing line and a book. There was a TV in the cabin but he rarely watched it. In a sense he was finding himself anew. Some of the things he found, he did not like, and the grim task he had set himself upon was never far from his mind. There was never any self-pity and he had long passed the point of tears, but the grief still tore him apart. He was sitting on the sundeck, just looking at the amazing colours in the trees in late September when he heard an engine coming down the track, its sound carrying easily to the cabin. Nathan had swum once or twice, over to his truck, but even on the hottest of summer days he had not found the water warm, but at least it was nowhere near the freezing cold he had endured in the spring, up in Camden. Nathan walked through the trees to see who his visitor was, and saw a� Police Cruiser drawing up beside his truck. At first he felt a wave of panic but then reasoned that he always knew that this day could happen, so now was as good a time as any to see just how well he had covered his tracks. One thing he was sure of, if ever he was caught he would put no lawman in danger. With that thought in mind, he got into the boat, started the engine, and crossed to the mainland.
�� �"Hi there!", Nathan called up to the Policeman who was now standing in front of his car.
�� �"Good morning sir. Sorry to trouble you. I have been visiting all of you good folks, up and down the coast a piece."
�� �"Oh ? Well how can I help you ? Why don't you come on over and I'll get some coffee going ?"
�� �"Thank you most kindly, Sir", said the man who Nathan could now see wore a Sheriff's badge as he stepped into the boat.
�� �"You on vacation Sir ?", asked the Sheriff as the tiny outboard chugged away.
�� �"Not really. I'm trying to write a book, but I seem to have hit a blank wall right now."
�� �"Oh really ? We get a lot of writers up here, they seem to like the peace."
�� �"Yeah, that's for sure. It is real peaceful around here."
�� �"How long you staying for ?"
�� �"I haven't really made up my mind. If I can get started, well who knows ?", answered Nathan with an easy smile as they reached his jetty, his nerves not as steady as he had hoped they would be. They left the boat and Nathan invited the Sheriff to sit on the sun deck while he rustled up some coffee.
�� �"You make real fine coffee Sir", said the Sheriff a few minutes later, "you would be Mister King right, Nathan King ?" He could see at once that the man across from his was surprised, "oh don't worry Sir. I got all the holiday let details from the Chamber of Commerce. They all get recorded there."
�� �"Ah, I see. Yes, Nathan King is correct."
�� �"So, Mister King, I see that you arrived here in the Spring ?"
�� �"Yes, nice time of year."
�� �"Not so pretty as now though", the Sheriff observed.
�� �"Very true", Nathan agreed, aware that the Sheriff was casually but carefully looking around with a practised professional eye.
�� �"So Sir, where did you travel from, I mean I can tell you are not from New England ?"
�� �"No, I'm not. To be honest I am not from anywhere. My parents travelled a lot before they died, so I come from all over."
�� �"Your parents are dead ? Sorry to hear that. So you came from...?", he pressed gently.
�� �"Sorry Sheriff, I hitched up from Florida".
�� �"Hitched ? That a fact ?", said the Sheriff who had not missed the newness of everything he could see, including the fishing rod standing by the cabin wall.
�� �"Yeah. You get to meet a lot of interesting people that way, and then I can use that information to base my characters on. Hitching is like research to me."
�� �"Ah, I see. Yeah, clever idea. You been up the coast at all, say up to Camden maybe?" The Sheriff was watching carefully and he was sure that he saw a flicker of concern pass over Nathan's eyes.
�� �"Camden ? No Sheriff. Just been here fishing and thinking."
�� �"Well Sir, the thing is we recently fished a body, or what was left of one, out of the bay up in Camden. The guy had been shot in the knee and handcuffed to his own boat, which was then sunk - it had a damn great hole smashed out of the hull. We have a rough description of a long haired hippy looking guy, or a bum maybe, seen talking to the dead man. The man we're looking for is a mite shorter than you, by the report we have, and a good few pounds lighter too. If you don't mind my saying Sir, you look in damn fine shape."
�� �"I look after myself, we only get one life Sheriff. So this body you found, I guess you assume its murder?."
�� �"It don't pan out no other way to me."
�� �"Well I'm sorry I can't help you anymore this time", said Nathan.
�� �"That's okay Sir. I have to check out everybody in any case. Be sure to let us know when you plan to move on, if you would be so kind."
�� �"I surely will Sheriff", said Nathan smiling and rising to take the Sheriff back to his car.
The Sheriff drove away and his long time gut instinct nagged at him about this man and his name. Nathan King - he knew that name but where from ? Aw hell, it would come to him in time.