The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 37

I tried to get up off the bench but it came with me. Clyde slowly circled, not looking at me directly, but I could tell he was watching, studying, plotting. I had a moment to do some studying of my own. He was just an average size chicken but there was some unusual aspects to his physique. His shoulders were amplified for a poultry specimen, almost muscular as if he worked out on a regular basis. And his yellow claws had impressively sharp talons. I imagined him sharpening them with one of Clayton’s sanding stones. His gate was also unusual for a barnyard animal. He strutted slowly, purposefully. It lent him an intelligent air. He stopped behind me and moved something. I tried to turn around and see what he was doing but being stuck to the bench hindered my effort. Some sort of power tool whirred up to speed. It sounded like a band saw.

I felt a rope go around my ankles. I tried to slip out of the loop that had been made but it was too late. The rope was snugged up tight before I could react and I was halfway to being hog tied.  I tried to stand up again and pry the bench off of my butt. The other end of the rope got tossed over a beam above. Then Clyde tied it to a come-along and started ratcheting. I fell backwards as the line tightened and I was strung upside down with a picnic bench hanging off of my backside. The belt saw screached like a siren as lightening lit up the windows and thunder pummeled the Town. I wished I was outside in the safety of the summer storm.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 36

I went outside to Jim’s yard and saw that his faded eggplant color Accord was still where we had left it last night. The air was humid and a very dark cloud was headed my way from out beyond the bay. Seagulls were flying erratically and squawking excitedly at each other. Next door Mrs. Yablonski was urgently pulling her clothes off the line. I felt my stomach tighten and a lump of acid rose in my throat. Something bad was about to happen.

The wind was picking up and playing with Jim’s front door. I pushed it shut and then walked around the house to see if he or Shorty were around back. Nothing but a swarm of fat bumble bees having their way with a white flowering bush of some kind. I went over to Mrs. Yablonski and asked her if she had seen Jim or my little schnauzer. I startled her. Her eyes were wide and she shook her head no as she continued tossing sheets and pillowcases into a wicker laundry basket. “No! I haven’t seen anything. But you better get yourself under cover before this storm hits!” Then she picked up her laundry and ran into her little green house.

The sky was turning a very dark grey now and a thunderous warning was followed by several lightening jags. I ran back to Jim’s house but I couldn’t get in. The door locked itself when I pushed it shut. Cold rain started pouring in earnest. Huge puddles instantly formed in Jim’s yard and a a small river ran down his street towards the bay. I ran over to Mrs. Yablonski’s house and knocked on her back door. She looked terrified as she peered out the window at me. Then she shook her head’ ‘no, and pulled the shade down. I ran back to Jim’s and tried the garage side door. It was open. I went in and sat at one of the benches of Jim’s new redwood picnic table. I remembered that he had said he was going to polyurethane it before putting it out in the yard.

Then I saw the open can of clear satin polyurethane and the wet brush. I felt the bench seat. It was still wet. I was stuck to the bench. The side door opened and Clyde walked in, his head bobbing and a glint of evil in his beady little eyes.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 35

Officer Mooney did some investigating up on the cliff and discovered a crow bar and a sock full of chicken feed. I called Bubbles and told her what was going on. She told me to come home. I told her I would if things got worse. I still had much to do on the cottage if we really did want to sell it.

When I got back to the cottage, before I even got the door open, Jim pulled up in his old Honda and invited me over for dinner and a movie. I didn’t need to think about it.

“Does dinner come with a tall gin and tonic?”

“I think I can manage that. I even have fresh limes.”

I got Shorty from the cottage and the three of us went up to Jim’s.

Fifteen minutes later I was in my rocking chair with a cold beverage and catching Jim up on the latest chain of events. Jim listened, nodding now and then while he sliced vegetables and heated up his wok. A plastic tub of scallops waited patiently to be added to the mix. The troubles of the day seemed to dissipate as I looked out the bay window at the pretty yard of wildflowers. Jim had a new American primitive framed on his wall. It was an idyllic print of summertime in Maine. Lighthouses, simple barns, people on rocky beaches having picnics – it was all such a carefree contrast to the havoc Clyde was wreaking.

Jim’s bookcases spoke volumes about his keen interest in psychotherapy. There were no summertime trash novels in the mix. Even his movies were serious and intellectual. Maybe that’s why we got along. My John Candy movies balanced out his Felini and Orson Welles.

I had another gin and tonic with dinner and then a glass of wine afterwards. Ten minutes in to Eye of the Needle I was snoring. Jim threw a magazine at me and told me to spend the night in his guest room. I didn’t need my arm twisted.

I slept soundly until after nine the next morning. I stumbled out into the hallway, rubbing my eyes and yelling hello to the house. Nobody answered. Shorty and Jim were gone. My mind raced with evil possibilities.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 34

I made a quick call to Paul Fallon on the way to Bucksport to tell him about Clyde’s attempt on my life the previous night. Paul said there wasn’t a lot we could do about that right now. It was police business. He did tell me to do my best to stay out of Clyde’s reach, if that was possible. I thanked him for his concern and thought to myself that I wasn’t about to go into hiding over a chicken. I don’t care how smart he is.

Next I called my brother to ask him if I should take the job if offered. He had a highly developed analytical mind and a gift for cutting through vague feelings of uncertainty and skewering the essence of a life choice to the wall, laying bare the most important considerations, dangers, and benefits. He was out of the office so I left a message.

I imagined the ride to Bucksport as my daily commute should I get the job. Route one follows the Penobscot River and the views of this impressive waterway are something to see. The river is wide and fast moving where it meets the bay and bumpy mountains rise up from the shoreline on the other side. A seacoast haze lends the panorama a moody, almost foreboding atmosphere. The new suspension bridge crossing over to Verona Island signaled that I was almost there. The old bridge still sits alongside, in an eery and patient silence. Rust covers much of it now yet the superstructure and supporting cables remain working as they have for many years, holding up the heavy span of bridge over the narrows. I hope they don’t tear it down.

I made a left on Route fifteen and drove slowly through town looking for Bay City Graphics. I found the small stand-alone building on the edge of town just before the road dropped down to the big paper mill. I had broken the inside door handle off on my truck in my haste to get out after Clyde had cut my brake lines so I had to roll my window down and open the door from the outside. I grabbed my briefcase and went in.

Four people worked at long tables laid out with white canvas and printed graphics. They were arranging the graphic elements on the material and then ironing them on. One of the workers looked up and asked if she could help me. I told her I had an appointment with Kyle. She led me back to an office and announced me to her boss. He called out for me to come in.

Kyle was a tall greying guy with a pleasant smile. He was probably younger than me, early forties maybe. He invited me to sit and launched right into a familiar speech describing his company. They created exhibits and point of purchase banners for retailers and corporate accounts. He was in the process of buying a four color Heidleberg press and wanted to add printing to his list of services. He was looking for someone he could train to put together banners, take care of the equipment, deal with customers and vendors, do some computer graphic creation, run the new printing press, and make coffee. He needed a self-starter who didn’t require close supervision but he couldn’t pay more than ten dollars an hour. I told him I was his man.

He took a quick glance at my resume. “It looks like you supervised a graphics department and you did everything from concept development to advertising design, technical illustration, and video.”

“Yes. But don’t assume I’m overqualified.”

“It looks to me like you’re way overqualified.”

At this point he deviated from his usual interview speech and we chatted about the real issues we were both facing. He said he had a lot of people interested in the job. He would likely go with more of an entry level person which meant much younger than me, a person he could train and keep for short money. I understood that.

We talked another twenty minutes about me and how I should market my skills. He suggested I go to Bangor and hit the Chamber of Commerce for a mailing list. It was a good suggestion.

I left with mixed feelings. I was dissappointed I was leaving without a job but I was also glad I had made the business contact. I crossed back over the bridge at Fort Knox and a boulder as big as a washing machine rolled off the cliff above and missed my old Ford by six inches.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 33

After Officer Mooney left I spent some time setting up my animation shell for the Skowhegan Construction presentation, but it was a warm, sunny day and I felt restless inside so I decided to do some house painting after a while. I had already painted everywhere I could reach without going up a ladder. It was time to face that fear of heights demon and leave the comforting reassurance of earth beneath my feet. I set the forty-foot ladder up in the front of the cottage.

I took my time opening the can of canary yellow and making sure it was completely mixed. It was virtually homogenized when I was done. Then I tied my sneakers, adjusted my nether regions, weeded the garden, and picked at a nagging hangnail. A film was starting to form on the paint so I got down to it and climbed the ladder.

Six feet off the ground was no problem. I was bolstered by fresh confidence. I could do this. I was overblowing it in my mind, making it more of a source of anxiety than it really was. Twelve feet off the ground my shoulders tensed and my knees went a bit rubbery. I clung more tightly to the ladder and pushed away thoughts of what would happen if I fell from this height. I thought about stories of people in the news who had survived falling several miles when their parachutes didn’t open. This was only twelve feet, insignificant in comparison. I climbed another couple of rungs.

My knees were on very shaky ground now. My feet were tiring from the tension of clenching and a slight light-headedness was setting in. I looked across the street at Roy’s house and that had me reeling. Then I was saved. Roy came over and asked me if I could help him get his lawn mower going.

“Yep, sure thing, Roy!” I climbed down much faster than I had gone up.

Roy’s red Toro was locked up. The pull cord wouldn’t budge the motor. I disconnected the spark plug and turned the whole mower on its side. Roy told me about what he was planting in his garden while I looked things over.

“Beets, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers.”

I tried to turn the mower blade with a stick. It resisted at first and then spun freely.

“The lettuce was a disappointment last year but we were lousy with tomatoes. The only thing was they were spongy on account of all that rain we had early in the summer.”

I set the mower back down on the ground where all things belong and returned the spark plug wire to the white tip. It clicked reassuringly into place. I grabbed the handle and gave the pull cord a good tug. The mower coughed and went back to sleep. I gave it another tug and it sputtered and smoked and then cleared itself out and roared happily away. Roy asked me what was wrong with it.

“I dunno, Roy, I think it was just stuck.”

“Thanks Ken!”

Roy happily launched in to his mow. It was time to go back up the ladder. I was about ten feet up this time and experiencing the same increasing discomforts when I heard a tiny voice at the base of the ladder. I rested the paint can on a rung and looked down. It was Ali from next door. I climbed down again.

“Hi Ali, what’s up?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, Ken, but I was wondering if you could help me with something.”

“Of course. What’s the problem?

“I just switched to Direct Satellite TV and I can’t get my VCR to play.”

“Let’s have a look.”

Me and Shorty followed our pretty white-haired neighbor into her little Cape Cod house. I pushed the green button on the VCR/DVD player once so it toggled to the VCR side of controls. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ came up on the screen.

“My word, what did you do, Ken?”

“It’s this button, here, Ali. It switches between VHS and DVD functions. That’s all.”

“I have been trying to get this movie to play for three days. I feel so silly. I hate this technical stuff.”

“It can be frustrating. Anything else?”

On my way out through the kitchen, Ali called my attention to a newspaper on the counter. At the bottom of the page was an ad for a Graphics Assembler. I called the number right there and I got Kyle, the owner of the company. I asked him if I could come in and talk to him about a job. He told me to come straight away.

I put the lid back on the paint can and hammered it closed. Then I washed up, put on my lucky red plaid tie, and drove to Bucksport.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 32

A lot more folks came in to the Sly Fox that night and they were in the mood to eat, drink, and have a good time. Vic set up the karaoke machine in the bar and some of the patrons paraded around in a Beefalo costume someone had made from a shag carpet remnant and elk horns taken off of a wall. The cash register was ringing all night and Vic gifted me and the waitresses with bonuses. I was beat when I got to my truck sometime after one-thirty. I started it up and noticed a Reeses peanut butter cup on the dash. I didn’t remember buying one but I must have. A delicious reward of chocolate and peanut butter suddenly seemed like a pretty good idea so I unwrapped the little beauties and popped one in my mouth.

I got up to speed and was heading by Moosehead Campground doing the legal limit of 55. I felt woozy and figured it was fatigue from the long night. The brake light on the dash illuminated and a truck came up fast behind me with its bright lights on. The wooziness was getting worse and I put my blinker on to pull over, gently hitting the brake. Nothing. The pedal went to the floor. The truck behind me moved up closer, tapping my bumper. I struggled to fight the dizziness and blurred vision and downshifted to 3rd. The engine raced as I head in to the long descent to the harbor basin. I tried to make out what make and model was ramming me from behind. It was ugly and older. I figured it to be a Dodge from the late seventies. 

He was pushing me hard which made it difficult to go down to second but I managed it. The old Ford was screaming at over 3000 rpm but at least I wasn’t picking up more speed. I saw a cruiser ahead parked in the Tee-Shirt Factory parking lot. I flashed my lights at him. The truck behind me disengaged and swung up Old Searsport Road and out of sight. The cruiser pulled out behind me and followed as I slowed through town and came to rest at the top of the hill in front of Bangor Savings.

Officer Mooney got out of the cruiser and asked me what happened. He took me to the hospital and then home after they found out what particular drug I had been given. My truck was towed to East End Garage.

I slept until noon the next day. Officer Mooney dropped by while I was having a second cup of coffee on the deck. He told me a 1978 Dodge Power Wagon had been stolen last night from Ethan Starns out near Swan Lake. He also told me he had gone back to the Sly Fox and checked for evidence in the parking lot. Chicken’s feet prints were found in a big puddle of brake fluid.

Clyde was coming after me and he wasn’t messing around.

The Searsport Chicken Murders – Webisode 31

The next morning I checked in on  Paul Fallon, Clayton’s attorney, who was recuperating at his 1825 farmhouse in Knox. I dropped by with some fresh fishing magazines and a veal parm sub from Captain Shorty’s. He said he was making progess on Clayton’s defense. Sitting at his big oak desk in a beautiful pine paneled study, he told me he would be calling a surprise witness to the stand, a witness who would be crucial to our case, but he couldn’t tell me who it was yet. I thanked him for his hard work and we promised to meet again in a few days.

I made it to the Sly Fox just as the lunch crowd was arriving in big numbers. Vic hailed me a hearty hello when I walked in. Flames shot up from the Jenn-Aire grill and pots of sauce bubbled around him. It was barely noon and he already looked hot, sweaty, and overwhelmed. I grabbed an apron off the hook and started right in rinsing dishes.

Things never let up until after two. I bussed tables when I could to help out the waitresses and did set-ups and filled water glasses too. We all crashed in the kitchen at two-thirty for a break. Lorraine and Moira poured some cold cokes and Vic made us a platter of sandwiches. I grabbed half a chicken salad. It was good. Vic loaded all white meat chicken, walnuts, and cranberries on a crusty hard roll. After we all got through a few bites we got to talking. Lorraine asked me how the cottage sale was going.

“No showings except for the realtor caravan last week. I’m taking that as a sign that a miracle will happen, I’ll get a great paying job, and be able to keep it.”

Vic chuckled. “A miracle, huh. Don’t hold your breath, my friend. There’s no such thing. Life is a steady stream of disappointments and heartaches and then we die.”

Moira scolded him. “What’s wrong with miracles, or even just a bit of luck. Ken has marketable skills. He’ll get a good paying job, I know he will.”

Vis surprised me with his next comment. “Let me understand this. You’re a middle age guy who has lost his job, you have to sell your cottage, a rare real estate treasure you have poured your heart and soul into, you’re living away from your wife and family, and the best job you can find is washing dishes at a mediocre Italian restaurant. You are circling the drain, Ken! Can’t you hear the flushing sound? Everything you have worked so hard for your whole life is going down the toilet! You’re done! It’s over, stick a fork in him, pull the covers over your head, the fat lady has sung!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Moira and Lorraine tore into Vic. I quickly made an attempt to switch topics. “So you think we’ll have a good crowd tonight? I mean because of the Beefalo celebration?”

Vic answered enthusiastically with a mouth full of crabmeat. “Hell yes! Folks are so relieved that nasty beast has finally been captured. They want to celebrate.”

Lorraine was not as convinced. “It’s so stupid. It’s just a cow, for crying out loud. What’s the big deal.”

“It’s half steer and half bison. And bisons are mean! He’s been terrorizing the town for three months, chewing through cars, houses, clothes on the line, scaring children, I heard he even ate a poodle.”

Lorraine was growing impatient. “Vic! He did not eat a poodle. He’s a grazing animal. They eat grass.”

The front door opened and a big noisy party came in. “Hello! Is this the place where we’re celebrating the Beefalo capture?”

I jumped up first. “I’ll seat them. Finish your sandwiches. It’s gonna be an interesting night.” I seated the happy folks and tried not to think about what Vic had said. Things weren’t so bad. I was having a wonderful summer on the coast of Maine. What could be better than that. I thought about something my sweet grandmother used to say. “Kenny, don’t be good or the devil will be after you.”

I’m not sure how that applied here but it made me feel better. Nana was a hoot.