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"That your girl?" Emma asked the woman standing beside her.
Karen Knight grinned and waved. "Abigail Chingwe Night Horse, soon to be Dr. Night Horse. Sounds pretentious, doesn't it?"
"Chingwe. It means bobcat in the Lenape. Her grandfather named her. He still spoke a little of the old language. He's dead now, but he was insistent that she carry his mother's name."
"Why is she Night Horse and you're Knight with a K?"
"Long story." Karen hurried forward to give her daughter a hug. "We expected you an hour ago."
The young woman removed her glasses. "Indian time, Ànati."
"That's Lenape for Mom," Karen explained. She was shorter than herdaughter by a head, but it was easy to tell they were blood kin. They shared the same dark hair and eyes, copper skin, and high cheek bones. At least Emma supposed that Karen's hair had once been as glossy black as the girl's. Now, age had seasoned Karen's with feathers of pure white. Her daughter's tan was darker, but Emma knew she'd just gotten back from three months in Phaistos, in Crete, where she'd been working on an archaeological dig.
"Welcome to Tawes, Abigail." Emma offered a callused hand. "I'm Emma Parks. You two will be staying with me while you investigate the Indian burial ground on the far side of the island."
The young woman's serious expression dissolved into a genuine smile. Her teeth were white and even, as perfect as any movie star's. "Please, call me Abbie."
The young woman's hand was lean and strong, and she looked Emma in the eyes. Emma liked that. She never trusted a creature that wouldn't look you straight on, neither human nor animal. These two seemed like good folks, even if they were from the mainland. And they were Bailey's friends. Emma put a heap of faith in Bailey's good sense.
"The site is an ideal spot for archaic hunter-gatherers to make camp. Possibly early Algonquin." Karen said. "Bailey Tawes took me out there yesterday."
"I can't wait to see it," Abbie answered.
Emma shrugged. "Just as well you weren't here yesterday." Karen shot her a warning look. "Later," she mouthed behind Abbie's back, and then asked, "How's your dad?" as the three of them walked away from the red helicopter toward the pasture fence.
"Same as always. Excited over a new Andalusian mare he just bought from Spain. Feathers ruffled that I wouldn't stay for the powwow."
"You could have. I could have managed for a few days."
Abbie shook her head. "It's not until next weekend, and if I agreed to stay, he would have wanted me to dance. He always wants me to dance. The last time I wore that regalia, my buckskins were too tight."
Emma arched a graying eyebrow. To her way of thinking, Karen's girl Abbie was thin as a rail and needed feeding. Karen said she didn't have a beau, and it was no wonder. Most men would rather have something soft to cuddle up to on a cold night than hug a broom stick. "I can't tell you how much it means to all of us on the island, your being here. Volunteering to see what's out there in the marsh. We wanted to get the state archaeological people in, but you know what dealing with bureaucracy is like."
Karen laughed. "Don't we just."
"Glad to help," Abbie said.
"Abbie's been in Crete this summer," Karen explained. "What with my project in Canyon de Chelly, we haven't seen much of each other this year."
"I hope you both like chicken and dumplings," Emma said. "I've got fresh corn on the cob, and my mother-everybody calls her Aunt Birdy-sent over a blueberry pie."
Karen groaned. "I warned you. Emma's meals are to die for, but I'll be twice my size in a week."
"You look great, Ànati. If anything, you've slimmed down since you were in Athens."
"Right. Isn't that what your father's been saying for twenty years?" Karen rolled her eyes.
"So, maybe it's true. I like you fine, just the way you are."
Emma climbed over the split-rail fence and motioned for them to follow. "There's a gate up near Mama's house, but this is quicker."
"Obviously, there's no airstrip on Tawes," Abbie said.
Emma chuckled. "No stop signs, no cars, no traffic lights or taverns, and not much in the way of roads. I bought myself a four-wheel 'gator last fall, but most folks walk or go by water."
"And Bailey offered us the use of her horses," Karen said. "After walking that marsh trail, I'm ready to saddle up."
"You'd be welcome to borrow my skiff," Emma offered, "but the water's shallow in that marsh. Takes a flat-bottomed pram or a little aluminum to get through the guts and into the beach. I've got one of those, but I need it to check my crab traps every day."
"You're a crabber?" Abbie asked.
"Used to call myself one. Started on my daddy's workboat when I was knee-high to a duck. Time I was fourteen, I had thirty pots of my own. Used to tend them before school. But it's a hard life, scratching a life out of the bay. Up at four, out on the water by five, rain or shine. Some days you come back loaded with jimmies; other days, you don't catch enough to pay for gas." Emma grimaced. "Too old and not enough ambition to do it anymore."
"I'd assumed we'd rent a boat here on Tawes to go back and forth to the dig. If there's no good place to set the R22 down near there, we could reach it by water."
"Bailey has open pasturage," Karen said. "We hiked in to the site from her house yesterday. There's a Mr. Williams who lives closer. I met him yesterday, but I don't know if any of his property is clear enough to land safely."
Emma frowned. "George has let the place get overrun with trees. Used to be good farmland, but George is getting long in the tooth. Now he mostly crabs. Elizabeth's"-she corrected herself-"Bailey's, that's your closest access. And nobody on Tawes rents out their boats. You might find a skiff in Crisfield by the week. Won't come cheap, though."
"How do people get back and forth to the mainland? To Annapolis? Or to Maryland's Eastern Shore? Isn't there a ferry?"
Emma shook her head. "During the school year, there's one that carries the kids to high school in Crisfield. Some folks take it to do their dealin' at one of the big supermarkets. But, it don't run in summer."
"And you fussed when I said I was bringing the helicopter?" Abbie threw her mother an I told you so look.
"What's the cost of fuel for that thing?" Karen countered.
"Dad offered, and I took him up on it. It will come in handy for flying to Philly."
"You know I worry about you in small planes."
"Safer than driving to the airport."
"I know. You've told me that often enough."
"I want to warn you, Abbie. You can't always depend on phones here on the island. Half the time there's no signal."
"That's the truth," Karen agreed. "Yesterday, when Bailey and I ..." She trailed off. "Let's just say that when we needed the cell phone to work, it was as dead as a log." Emma's mother's farm wasn't far from the village. A ten-minute walk took them down a dusty lane and past a cluster of tidy nineteenth century homes, interspersed with large two-story farmhouses. Most had barns and carriage houses, picket fences, and brick chimneys.
"You won't get lost in Tawes, once you get your bearings." Emma pointed. "Up there's the main street. Hang a left, you pass the church. Keep walking, you come to the town dock. Turn right, you'll see Dori's, the town's only market. There used to be more stores when the oyster shucking house and the canning factory were open."
"Reminds me of Cape May," Abbie said. "That green house is definitely early Victorian, and the mustard-colored one on the other side of the street is a Greek Revival."
"Closer to the dock is the old part of town. A few homes stood here since before the Revolution. Wait until you see Forest McCready's mansion."
"I never expected to find anything like this on the East Coast," Abbie said. "Rural charm without commercialization."
"Things don't change much on Tawes. Folks like it that way. We Parkses have been here since the 1600s."
Karen admired a grape arbor that arched over a log bench in the nearest yard. "So a lot of the old families must be related."
"True enough," Emma said. "I've got so many cousins and cousins twice-removed livin' on this island, I never rightly counted them all. As a matter of fact, you might say we're woodpile cousins."
"How's that?" Abbie asked.
"According to Mama, her grandmother on her daddy's side was pure Nanticoke. We sure all got the dark hair. Leastways, mine was black when I was a sprout."
"I'm familiar with the Nanticoke tribe," Karen said. "One of the grad students at Penn was from Lewes, Delaware, and she said she was Nanticoke."
"Mama always said the Nanticokes and the Powhatan were cousins to the Lenape over on Delaware Bay. Used to speak the same talk."
"I wonder," Abbie said, "why it was always Grandmom who was an Indian and not Grandpop."
Karen wrinkled her nose and gave Abbie that secret look that mothers do when they want their daughters to hush up, but Emma didn't take offense.
"Can't say about folks in other parts," Emma said, "but here on the Chesapeake, when the first settlers came from the old country, white men outnumbered the white women twenty to one for more than a hundred years. Guess it was natural some would take Indian wives. And who would make a better partner than a girl who was used to living off the land?"
"I think you're right," Karen agreed.
Emma quickened her step. "There's my boardinghouse on the left. The white two-story with the blue shutters." She stopped and shaded her eyes with a broad hand. "Unless my sight's goin' the way of my knees, I believe that's our new police chief."
A tall, sandy-haired man in his late thirties rose from the porch swing and ambled down the front steps. "Afternoon, ladies."
"Is this a social visit, or is it official?" Emma asked.
"I needed to ask Dr. Knight a few more questions."
"Certainly, Chief Davis," Karen said. "I hope you haven't been waiting long. My daughter just flew in from Philadelphia to assist with the preliminary site evaluation. She's a doctorate student at the University of Pennsylvania."
The girl introduced herself. "Abbie Night Horse."
"Is that Miss or Mrs.?"
"Single, if that's what you want to know."
He nodded. "Ms. Night Horse. Pleased to meet you."
Emma could hardly hide her amusement. Abbie was inspecting the police chief with the appetite of a starving woman who'd just stumbled onto a hot chicken-and-dumpling dinner, and the Davis boy was eyeing her with equal enthusiasm.
"Hmmm." Emma cleared her throat. "It was Karen you came to question, wasn't it, Chief? Abbie hasn't been on Tawes twenty minutes."
His grin widened as his eyes sparked mischief. "It was, Miss Emma. Thank you for reminding me." He nodded to Abbie again. "A pleasure, ma'am." His wit was sharp, but his words were slow and lazy, his voice laced with the island way of talking. Emma was glad that all those years in Delaware hadn't made him sound like a mainlander.
"You already said that." Abbie's gaze lingered on the width of his shoulders, then moved down over his tight gray T-shirt to his flat stomach. She stared-just a few seconds too long for good manners-at his jeans-clad hips and then took in his worn cowboy boots. "You ride, Chief Davis?"
"Any chance I get."
Emma had the distinct feeling they were not talking about horses. It was heating up fast on this porch. "I'll just put some ice in the glasses and get that chicken on the table," she said. "Buck? You're not too busy to eat, I hope." Emma glanced at Karen. "He's been staying with his brother Nate, but Nate's wife Faith isn't the best cook on Tawes."
"Will you be staying for dinner, Ms. Night Horse?" Buck asked.
"'Course, she will," Emma said. "She and Karen are rooming with me here while they poke around the Indian site. Where else would they eat?"
"I see." He took a pen and notepad out of his back pocket. "And are these your only guests at present?"
"Yep," Emma said. "Just the two of them."
"So you still have that room vacant you mentioned last week?"
"Hasn't been used since Christmas when Daniel left."
"Would it suit you if I moved in tomorrow? Nate's house is getting a little crowded for the six of us."
"Suits me fine." Emma put her hand on the screen door. "I could use some help in the kitchen. Abbie?"
"Certainly. But I'm curious. My mother's only been here two days, Chief Davis. What's she done that merits police interrogation?"
"I was waiting to tell you when you got here," Karen explained. "Bailey and I discovered a drowning victim out at the site. It was pretty gruesome."
"You found a body?"
Yesterday morning. One that had been in the water awhile. We attempted to call the authorities, but I couldn't get a signal on my cell. We went to Mr. Williams's house and he was kind enough to help." Karen looked at Buck. "Has the victim been identified?"
"Not officially, but-"
"Roger Gilbert's boy, Sean," Emma said, "from over on Deal Island."
"That's not public information yet," Buck interjected.
"His uncle's boat." Emma rested her palm on the door frame. "The dead boy's the right age, and Sean's been missing. He's a midshipman at the Academy in Annapolis, second year. Was," she corrected. "His parents called the undertaker, and neighbors are bringing funeral hams. It's Sean Gilbert, right enough."
"Thanks, Miss Emma. I can finish this up without your help."
She pursed her mouth. "Just stating facts. Wish it was some stranger instead of a Deal boy." Emma motioned to Abbie. "We may as well get the food on, since it's obvious we're in the way here."
Abbie stepped into the entrance hall; Emma followed and let the door bang behind her. A fat tabby cat mewed a welcome from the wide staircase. "You can go up and get unpacked if you want. Mind you don't tread on Linus there. He's a good mouser, but he's always underfoot. The doors are all marked. I put you in the Carolina Wren room. Your mother's in the Robin's Nest, across the hall. There's just one bathroom upstairs for the guests."
"It will be fine. You should see the conditions on some of the sites I've worked at in the Greek Islands." Abbie slipped her backpack off her shoulder. "So Mom and Bailey found a body yesterday?"
"That they did. Best let her tell you about it. Crabs had been at the boy."
Abbie shuddered. "I think I'm glad I stayed in Oklahoma a few days longer."
"Yeah, it was a sight folks are better off not seeing. For certain, something Bailey didn't need to see." Emma lowered her voice. "I think she's in the family way. She's not said anything to Daniel-he's her intended.... Or to me, for that matter. But Bailey's fillin' out, and she's got that shine about her. I'd be willing to lay hard money that Daniel will be bouncing a baby on his knee by the first of next year."
"I hope it works out for them. Mom and Bailey have been friends for years. She's always been good to me."
"Good to everybody. Good blood in her. She's got the Tawes eyes, you know. Just like her Uncle Will. Daniel's lucky to have her."
Abbie carried her backpack up the stairs, and Emma continued on into the parlor. She'd already set the table in the dining room, so all she had to do was bring the food out of the kitchen. All the windows were open and there was a nice breeze off the bay, making the downstairs cool despite the July heat. Outside on the porch, Emma heard Buck ask about the exact time the two women had discovered Sean's body. Emma moved a little closer to the window, not really eavesdropping, but curious. Karen's reply was too low to catch.
"Is there time for me to take a shower?" Abbie called down.
"Sure," Emma answered. That would give her a few minutes to get the food on the table. She hurried into the kitchen to mix up the batch of iced tea she'd started earlier.
Everything she'd put together for Abbie's first dinner on the island looked good. There was a fresh-baked blueberry pie for dessert, and she had her first ripe garden tomato to add to the salad. But something kept gnawing at the corners of her mind like an eel chewing a chicken neck.
Excerpted from Blood Ties by Judith E. French Copyright © 2007 by Judith E. French. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 18, 2007
After reading Blood Kin, I was thrilled to find out that Judith French had written another book about the little Island of Tawes in the Chesapeake Bay. I bought it the first day it came out and read it in 2 days. I love the characters in this author's book and her books are creepy without being too gory. Great story. A must read. I wonder if there will be another book about Tawes Island?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
When Archeologist Abbie Chingwe Night Horse travels to Tawes Island in Chesapeake Bay County, she combines work and pleasure. The trip enables her to spend time with her mom while also investigating a Native American burial ground in which several artifacts have been recently found.----------------- However, not long after the drowning death of a boy, someone murders Abbie¿s mother. Police Chief Buck Davis investigates the homicide and the drowning. He struggles to find a motive, in the murder, but has begun to have doubts about the lad¿s death being an accident. While the townsfolk insist it is the curse, Buck falls in love with Abbie, but knows he is an islander and she is a mainlander. However solving the case comes first.------------ This romantic suspense police procedural will grip the audience from the moment that Abbie¿s mother is killed and never slows down until the final confrontation. The fast-paced story line keeps readers somewhat off balance as the curse of disturbing a Native American burial ground begins to look more like the cause behind the deaths instead of a mortal killer. Though the killer seems a stretch, readers will appreciate this terrific tense thriller.-------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.