Authors: William G. Tapply
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
ALSO BY WILLIAM G. TAPPLY
The Brady Coyne Novels
Shadow of Death
A Fine Line
Close to the Bone
The Seventh Enemy
The Snake Eater
The Spotted Cats
A Void in Hearts
The Vulgar Boatman
The Marine Corpse
Follow the Sharks
The Dutch Blue Error
Death at Charity's Point
The Stoney Calhoun Novels
Thicker Than Water
The Fly Casters â 1946 â1996
Bass Bug Fishing
A Fly-Fishing Life
The Elements of Mystery Fiction
Opening Day and Other Neuroses
Those Hours Spent Outdoors
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
. Copyright Â© 2009 by William G. Tapply. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tapply, William G.
Dark tiger : a Stoney Calhoun novel / William G. Tapply.â1st ed.
Â Â Â Â p. cm.
1. Calhoun, Stoney (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. Government investigatorsâCrimes againstâFiction. 3. Fishing guidesâFiction. 4. AmnesiaâFiction. 5. MaineâFiction. I. Title.
First Edition: October 2009
10Â Â Â 9Â Â Â 8Â Â Â 7Â Â Â 6Â Â Â 5Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 1
For John and Kim Brady
Sometimes it's about more than just writing a book. The kinds of help and support and encouragement and care that I've received over the past two years have enabled me to keep writing, and sometimes to write stuff that pleases me, at least. But it's about more than writing. It's deeper, more heartfelt, more, well, supportive. It's taken the form of visits, of cakes and pies and casseroles, of dump trips and supermarket trips, of animal-sitting and driveway plowing, of phone conversations and e-mails and funny cards.
So I need to thank the following people for their help and support, for their good wishes, for their karma, and, incidentally, for helping me to keep working on this book:
Vicki, my dear wife, Superwoman, who did it all, and is still doing it;
Our amazing kids, near and farâMike, Melissa, Blake, Sarah, and Ben;
Our Hancock, New Hampshire friends and neighbors, and especially Cindy's Knitters, and my Friday-night poker crew,
and Kim and John Brady, and Chris and Diane and Katie Streeter, and Sy Montgomery;
Dr. Steven Larmon and Dr. Marc Gautier and Anna Schaal;
My colleagues at Clark University, especially SunHee Kim Gertz and Ginger Vaughan;
My students at Clark;
My mother, Muriel, and my sister, Martha;
My cherished friends, including my college roommates from way back then; my very oldest pals from high school days; my Boston fly-fishing, head-shrinking, poker-playing buddies; and, all the guides and writers and editors and fellow fanatics from our happy world of fly fishing;
And my editor, Keith Kahla, and Fred Morris, my agent, whose flexibility and support and caring have made all the difference.
Hancock, New Hampshire
Stonewall Jackson Calhoun was sweeping the floor around the display of chest waders and hip boots when the bell dinged over the door, signaling that somebody had come into Kate's Bait, Tackle, and Woolly Buggers shop. Calhoun glanced at the clock on the wall. It was nearly two o'clock on this drizzly-gray Tuesday afternoon in the middle of May.
He looked toward the front of the store, where he expected to see Kate shaking the rain out of her hair. She'd told him she'd be back by noon at the latest from her monthly meeting with the people at the rehab place in Scarborough, where Walter, her husband, was living. Dying, actually.
Turned out it was Noah Moulton, not Kate Balaban, standing inside the doorway. Noah was a veritable flower garden of color in his blue Portland Sea Dogs cap, maroon corduroy pants, green cotton shirt, black rubber boots, and yellow rain slicker. He was pretending to study the rack of fly rods against the wall next to the counter.
Calhoun continued to sweep the scarred pine-plank floor. He happened to know that Noah Moulton disapproved of what
he called the “blood sports”âfishing and hunting, never mind trappingâso it was unlikely he'd come into the shop to buy anything. Nor was Noah more than passing friendly with either Kate Balaban or Stoney Calhoun, who co-owned the shop, so this probably wasn't some kind of social visit.
So unless he'd just stepped in to get out of the rain, that left a business reason. Noah was the real estate broker who had arranged Kate's and Calhoun's rental of this space for their shop. Their lease was up at the end of July. Calhoun guessed that their landlord, a man from Augusta named Eldon Camby who'd made his fortune on an empire of Burger King franchises, intended to jack up their rent again, and Noah, who profited from the commission, had been delegated to deliver the news.
“Be with you in a minute, Noah,” called Calhoun. “I gotta finish up what I'm doing here. You should take a look at those new Loomis rods. The nine-foot six-weight is particularly sweet.”
Noah waved his hand without turning around. “Take your time, Stoney.”
Calhoun swept the pile of dust and dried mud and rooster feathers and dog hair and bits of tinsel into a dustpan and dumped it into a wastebasket. He leaned his broom in the corner and went to the front of the shop, where Noah Moulton was standing with his hands clasped behind his back, gazing out the side window toward the parking area.
“Kinda pissy out there,” said Calhoun.
“May used to be my favorite month,” Noah said without turning around. “Flowers, sunshine, baby birds. Those were the good old days. Lately, I don't know, climate change, global warming, whatever it is, you can get thunderstorms, nor'easters in May. Snow, sleet, hail. You never know. Remember a couple years ago we had that blizzard on Mother's Day, dumped a foot of snow on folks' newly planted tomato vines?”
Calhoun nodded. He wondered what was really on Noah's mind. He guessed it wasn't the weather.
“So you're sweeping your own floors, huh?” said Noah.
Calhoun shrugged. “It ain't hard work, and I seem to be pretty good at it.” He laid on the Downeast accent, which always seemed to annoy native Mainers like Noah Moulton. Calhoun guessed they thought he was mocking them. The truth was, talking like a Mainer came naturally to him, even if, as he'd been told, he did grow up in South Carolina. He didn't mind annoying men like Noah Moulton, either.
“I was hoping to catch you and Kate together,” said Noah. He continued to look out the window, and if Calhoun had irritated him, he didn't show it. The shop's parking lot was empty except for Calhoun's battered Ford pickup and a new-looking pewter-colored four-door sedan, which Calhoun figured belonged to Noah. It looked solid and uncontroversialâthe kind of vehicle a real estate man would drive.
“How about some coffee?” said Calhoun.
Noah turned and looked at him. “I wouldn't mind. Just black would be good.”
“Pot's in the back. Why'n't you come on, we can sit and talk back there. Or were you interested in buying a fly rod?”
“I got all the fly rods I can use,” said Noah.
Which, Calhoun guessed, was none.
Calhoun led the way to the back office, where he and Kate each had a desk, and Ralph, Calhoun's Brittany, had his dog bed and water dish. A computer sat on Kate's desk, along with a printer and a telephone and a fax machine. Otherwise, Kate kept her desktop clear and neat.
Besides his own computer, which he hardly ever used, and a telephone, Calhoun's desk was piled with catalogs and magazines and plastic boxes of flies and fly-rod tips and broken
reels and snarls of fly line and hackle necks and dyed buck-tails.
When Calhoun and Noah Moulton walked into the office, Ralph lifted his head, looked at the two men, yawned and sighed, tucked his nose back under his stubby tail, and resumed sleeping.
Calhoun poured two mugs of coffee from the stainless-steel urn in the corner and put them on his desk. He pointed Noah at one of the spare wooden chairs, then sat in his own desk chair.
Noah shrugged out of his yellow slicker. He folded it a couple of times, then pulled a chair over to the side of Calhoun's desk and sat on it. He laid his folded-up slicker on his lap, set his baseball cap on his knee, and combed his fingers through his thick white hair. He opened his mouth as if he were about to say something important. Then he closed it. He reached for his coffee mug, lifted it to his lips with both hands, and took a sip. He swallowed, put the mug back on the desk, glanced at his watch, cleared his throat, looked up at Calhoun. Smiled and shrugged.
Noah Moulton was narrow in the chest and wide in the hips. Shaped like a lightbulb.