Title: A LONG WAYS FROM HOME
Author: Mike Martin
Publisher: Friesen Press
A weekend visit to picturesque Newfoundland by a large crew of outlaw bikers leaves behind another mess for Sgt. Windflower to clean up. This time he’s facing violence, murder, mystery and intrigue. This adventure has Windflower questioning everything he thought he knew. There are troubles on the home front, cutbacks in the policing budget, old friends leaving and new ones not quite here yet. Windflower is seeking to find answers in territory that is both dangerous and unfamiliar.
A Long Ways from Home explores more than just homicides or the dirty dealings of outlaw bikers. It’s also about some old and some very new challenges and hard choices facing an uncertain future in small communities all over this part of the world.
Windflower relies on his friends and allies, sometimes four-legged ones, to help him find the answers. Sometimes those answers will find us, and like Windflower, we discover that we are never really alone, even if we are a long ways from home.
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He drove the short distance to Sheila’s, and by the time he pulled up at her house he was certifiably starving. When he opened the door and smelled the roast beef he felt his knees go weak.
“Hi, Sheila,” he called out as he took off his hat and coat and hung them on a hook in the hallway. “That smells fabulous.”
Sheila came out of the kitchen with her apron on and went to Windflower to meet his embrace. “I’m glad you’re home.” She hugged him closely.
“Me too. Dinner smells delicious.”
“I could probably have come out here naked and you would have still talked about dinner,” said Sheila with a laugh.
“No, I might have asked for my dessert first though,” Windflower said
“Go get cleaned up. Dinner is almost ready.”
Windflower gave her another squeeze and went to the small bathroom in the hall to wash up for dinner. By the time he got back, Sheila had placed two bowls of vegetables on the table along with a small, perfectly-browned roast. She handed him the carving knife and fork and went back to the stove to pour the gravy into a serving dish.
The sharp knife slid smoothly through the peppered crust of the meat revealing a ring of growing pink towards the middle. Windflower tried to keep from drooling as the room filled with the aroma of the meat and the newly released juices. He placed a large slice on each of their plates, which Sheila had already prepared with scoops of mashed potatoes and steaming vegetables. She poured a ladle full of gravy over the meat and smiled at Windflower.
But he was long gone to meat heaven and for a few minutes all Sheila got in return was the murmured sighs of her hungry man. Finally, the muted Windflower awoke and raised his plate to Sheila for another slice of meat. “This is so good, Sheila,” he said as she handed him back his refilled plate. “What did you use for spices?”
“Nothing special. Some black and white pepper, salt, thyme, garlic powder and onion powder. Plus, my secret ingredient.”
“Secret ingredient?” mumbled Windflower with a mouth full of beef.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” said Sheila. But by now Windflower had drifted back into his food, and she knew all conversation with Windflower would be one-sided and futile until he was done.
Once Windflower’s appetite had been satiated he gave Sheila his undivided attention. She gave him an update on the latest plans for the wedding, including who had confirmed they would attend and those sending their regrets. One of the positive replies was from Guy Simard, who sent along a little note saying he and the missus would happily be attending the festivities.
“And by the way my cousin, Carol, is coming to visit,” Sheila said. “She’s a bit of an outlaw in the family. Rides a big motorcycle. Has never been married. She lives up north in Ontario now but every couple of years takes a big trip on her Harley. This year she is heading down our way. I was expecting to see her show up by now.”
“What does she look like?” asked Windflower.
“She’s tall, pretty. The last time I saw her she had long blond hair. Liked to wear it up in a ponytail.”
“That’s interesting. I might have seen her at Goobies. Or someone fitting that description anyway. But I didn’t see her on the way down. Maybe she stopped off in Marystown along the way.”
“Maybe,” said Sheila.
Then Windflower remembered the motorcycle and trailer he’d seen parked along the highway. That might have been her bike, he thought. But he didn’t want to alarm Sheila. Not yet anyway. Instead he said, “I’ll get Tizzard to start looking out for her.”
“Thanks,” said Sheila. “Any word on Eddie yet?”
“I haven’t heard anything new, but I’ll ask him about it when I see him tomorrow.”
“We’re all going to miss him,” Sheila said. Windflower just nodded at this last remark. It was still a little too painful for him to talk about. Sheila reached out and took his hand in hers.
“What’s new at the Council?” asked Windflower, trying to move the conversation to safer and less emotional grounds.
“Well, Francis Tibbo made it official today. He’s going to run for the mayor’s job again!”
“That officious little prig,” started Windflower, but Sheila cut him off.
“Stay out of the politics, Sergeant,” she cautioned. “The RCMP has to stay neutral in this race. You have to work with whoever gets elected.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion.”
“I appreciate the support, but I can fight my own political battles, thank you very much,” said Sheila. “I’m not worried about Francis Tibbo. I’m not even worried about getting elected again. We’ve already got things moving in the right direction.”
This time Windflower simply nodded his agreement. It was clear from the coat of fresh paint on the aging properties on the wharf to the popular new programming at the museum that things were headed in the right direction.
Sheila got up. “If you really want to help, you can do the dishes while I make us some tea.”
“Finally something I’m allowed to do.” Windflower smiled. Sheila laughed and threw a dishcloth at him while she put on the kettle to boil.
“Let’s watch a movie tonight,” she said as she went to the fridge to look for something.
“Okay.” Windflower had his hands in a sink full of soapy water and his eyes firmly fixed on her activities. When she pulled a small cardboard box out of the refrigerator he almost started to glow.
Sheila pretended to ignore him as she took their dessert out of the box, cut it into two pieces and put it along with her tea pot onto a small tray. “See you in the living room.”
Windflower finished the chore in record time and was soon sitting next to Sheila on the couch with half of his dessert, the fabulous chocolate peanut butter cheesecake from the Mug-Up Café, already gone. He barely breathed as he finished it off. “Mmmmmm,” was his only response.
Sheila laughed at his post-meal antics as she looked for a movie on T.V. “Let’s watch ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’,” she said. “I just picked up the new Harper Lee book and I’d like to see the old movie before I dig into the new story.”
“That would be great. “I love that movie. Atticus Finch has always been a hero of mine.”
“I love Scout,” said Sheila. “This was one of my favourite books growing up.”
“Me too. Although I hear the new story is a bit more revealing of the racist attitudes that existed back then.”
“That was always the reality. In some ways, the new book may be closer to the truth. I’m glad we had a kinder version of that truth when we were kids. It doesn’t make it any easier to take, just the same.”
“Let’s just enjoy the movie. It’s been a long week. We both deserve a break. And it’s good to know that at least in the movies there’s a possibility of a happy ending.”
The pair snuggled up on the couch and totally enjoyed both the classic film and their time together. When the movie was over Windflower went back to his house for the final walk of the evening with Lady. Once again she was very pleased to see him and bounded out the door when he held it open for her. They did the extended loop that led them down near the brook where Lady had a good, long drink and then they darted around the perimeter of the wharf.
About the Author
Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a longtime freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.
The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home.
A Long Ways from Home was shortlisted for the 2017 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web is the newest book in the series.
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