Dark Tiger (Stoney Calhoun Series#3)by William G. Tapply
Seven years ago, Stoney Calhoun woke up in a VA hospital with no memories and a series of unexplained talents (language ability, weapons expertise, etc.). Since then he’s been living quietly, working as a part time fishing guide and co-owner of a local bait shop—with an unnamed visitor coming around occasionally to see if he’s regained any
Seven years ago, Stoney Calhoun woke up in a VA hospital with no memories and a series of unexplained talents (language ability, weapons expertise, etc.). Since then he’s been living quietly, working as a part time fishing guide and co-owner of a local bait shop—with an unnamed visitor coming around occasionally to see if he’s regained any memories.
But this time, the visitor shows up looking for his help—and creating potential mayhem in Stoney’s life to prove he’s serious. In exchange for making those problems go away, Stoney must go to the far corner of Maine, sign on as a guide at a high end fishing lodge, and look into a couple of suspicious deaths. A govern ment ‘operative’ was found shot dead in a staged murder/suicide pact involving a local sixteen year old girl. Now Stoney has to uncover what the dead agent was investigating and got him killed—without being killed by the very same people.
Read an Excerpt
A Stoney Calhoun Novel
By William G. Tapply
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 William G. Tapply
All rights reserved.
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" — fishing and hunting, never mind trapping — so 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 uncontroversial — the 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.
"So who died?" said Calhoun.
Noah shook his head quickly. "Far as I know," he said, "nobody we know has died lately. It isn't good news, though, Stoney. Seems like I should be telling you and Kate together, but I got an appointment in twenty minutes."
"Sounds like some kind of real estate news," said Calhoun.
Noah Moulton nodded. "Yes, sir. It is. Seems that Mr. Camby, who owns this place, as you know, he's got somebody wants to buy it."
"So you came here to see if Kate and I want to put in a bid for the place? Give us first refusal? That it?"
"Not even," said Noah. "It looks like a done deal, Stoney. You and all your inventory's gotta be out of here at the end of your lease."
Calhoun shook his head. "You aren't serious."
Noah nodded. "Afraid I am."
Calhoun shook his head. "That just ain't right. We've been here — hell, Kate started renting this place about ten years ago. You can't just ..." He flapped his hand in the air. "It's not right, that's all."
Noah shrugged. "It's spelled out right there in your lease. Mr. Camby's obliged to give you two months' notice. Your lease is up the end of July, and here we are, just the middle of May."
"It still ain't right." Calhoun glared at Noah Moulton. "Whose side're you on, anyway?"
"Sometimes I find myself on both sides," Noah said.
"I expect it can get damned awkward for you," said Calhoun.
Noah looked up and smiled quickly, indicating that he had caught the sarcasm. He picked up his mug of coffee, then put it down. "Don't shoot the messenger, Stoney." He twisted his baseball cap back onto his head, then stood up and shrugged into his rain slicker. "You'll tell Kate, then?"
"Supposing we talked with Mr. Camby?" said Calhoun.
"Mr. Camby wouldn't take kindly to being threatened," said Noah, "if that's what you've got in mind."
"I thought we could appeal to his good nature," said Calhoun. "Kate and I, we might like to buy the place ourselves, since it's up for sale."
"You can try, I guess," said Noah. "On the assumption that Mr. Eldon Camby has a good nature to appeal to. Or you could convey an offer through me, if you want, since that's more or less my job and what I'm good at. But I'm pretty sure that Mr. Camby's not going to be receptive to offers, any more than he would be to threats." Noah shook his head sadly. "He's already shaken hands and signed papers on a deal." He reached down and touched Calhoun's shoulder. "I'm sorry as hell about this, Stoney. You want, I'll keep an eye out for another place for you. Who knows? This might turn out to be a good thing. Find you a bigger shop, better location, more agreeable landlord?"
Calhoun looked at him for a minute. Then he stood and headed for the front of the store, leaving Noah Moulton no choice but to follow along. When they got to the door, Calhoun turned and held out his hand.
Noah hesitated, then shook Calhoun's hand. "You want me to start looking around for you, then?" he said.
"Can't stop you from looking," said Calhoun, "but I gotta talk to Kate, see what she wants to do and who she wants to deal with from here on."
Noah shook his head. "This isn't my fault, Stoney."
Calhoun patted Noah's shoulder. "Don't worry about it. Things'll work out. Thanks for dropping by." He reached for the knob and pushed the door open.
After Noah Moulton left, Calhoun gave Ralph a whistle, and the two of them went out to the front porch of the shop. Calhoun stayed under the roof and out of the rain, which had started in the morning as a steady wind-driven downpour but now, in the afternoon, had turned into a soft, misty drizzle, though it was still damp and chilly and unpleasant. He kept looking up and down the street, wondering where the hell Kate was.
Ralph wandered over to the side parking area. He gave all the shrubs a leisurely sniff and a quick squirt and decided there were no partridges or quail out there, so he trotted back up onto the porch and poked his nose at the front door.
They went inside. Calhoun went back to his office and checked his phone to see if Kate had called while he was outside, but there were no messages.
He wasn't exactly looking forward to telling her that their lease had been terminated by Mr. Burger King, but he was a little concerned that she still hadn't returned from her meeting at Walter's rehab place. It wasn't like Kate not to call if something came up.CHAPTER 2
It was a little after four thirty when Calhoun heard Kate's Toyota truck pull into the side lot. He recognized the distinctive voice of the Toyota's engine. To him, the sounds that engines made were just as individual and distinct as people's voices. Calhoun guessed that back in the time before a lightning bolt slammed into the back of his shoulder and obliterated his memory, he'd been trained to identify vehicles by the sounds of their engines. He wasn't sure how much good this talent would do him now, but it did enable him to know when Kate had arrived without having to look out the window.
Ten thousand volts of electricity had wiped out Stoney Calhoun's memories of his entire previous life, which, he figured, was a mixed blessing, at least. As well as he could tell, though, getting zapped by lightning hadn't affected his talents and abilities. The last seven years — his new life, and the only one he knew — had turned out to be a great adventure in self-discovery. He'd learned that he could cast a fly and speak French, repair an outboard motor and shoot a jump shot. He could recite several Robert Frost poems and sing the entire Revolver album and cook venison chili without a recipe, and he understood, without thinking about it, how to kiss and touch a woman — Kate Balaban, to be specific — in ways that seemed to give her as much pleasure as him.
That bolt of lightning had left him deaf in one ear and absolutely intolerant of alcohol, neither of which had proved to be much of handicap.
A couple of minutes after the sound of the Toyota's engine fell silent, the bell over the door dinged, and then Kate came in, stomping mud off her boots.
Calhoun, who was sitting at the fly-tying bench toward the rear of the shop turning out a batch of Dark Edson Tiger buck-tails, watched her and smiled. All these years they'd been together, and he still had to swallow hard whenever he first saw Kate Balaban after not seeing her for a while. She was tall and broad-shouldered and slim-hipped, with the regal nose and high cheekbones and strong jaw that betrayed her half-Penobscot-Indian genes. She had long black hair, which she usually wore in pigtails or a braid, but today, because of her meeting with the doctors and nurses and therapists at Walter's rehab facility, she'd pulled it back and pinned it up in a kind of bun that somehow emphasized those amazing cheekbones and gave her an elegant, more formal appearance. Downright glamorous, in Calhoun's opinion.
Today she'd dressed for the occasion — tailored gray pinstriped slacks and matching jacket over a bone-colored silk blouse, thin gold chain at her throat, black high-heeled boots. Calhoun's breath caught in his chest. He liked best of all the way she looked in a pair of fish-slimed cutoffs and a ratty old Grateful Dead T-shirt and the pink fishing cap with her braid sticking out the back, but it was always a surprise how good she could look when she went for elegance, too.
He tried not to think about Kate lying naked and asleep in his bed with her hair loose and splashed over the pillow and the sheet only half-covering her.
Stonewall Jackson Calhoun and Katherine Balaban were business partners, best friends, and off-and-on lovers. Lately, the loving had been mostly off. Kate had pretty much stopped coming to Calhoun's cabin for steaks and sleepovers. Even so, there was no doubt that they continued to love each other.
Walter, Kate's husband, was the issue. Or, more accurately, the issue was the guilt that both Kate and Calhoun felt about him. Walter knew about their relationship and insisted that he was all for it, but now that his multiple sclerosis had advanced to this new, more ominous stage, they didn't feel right about enjoying the pleasures their own healthy bodies gave each other.
It seemed to Calhoun that they were waiting for Walter to die, but he and Kate never talked about it that way.
She hung her jacket on the peg by the door, unpinned her hair and shook the dampness out, and then came over to the bench where Calhoun was tying flies. She stood behind him, and he could smell the clean, flower-and-rain scent of her hair. She touched the back of his neck and gave his shoulder a quick squeeze. "Nice flies," she said. "Remind me what they're called?"
"These are Dark Edson Tigers, honey," he said without looking up at her. "Invented by Mr. William Edson, who lived right here in Portland, back in 1929. He invented the Light Tiger, too, but I much prefer the dark version. Dark Tigers imitate smelt. Good on the lakes for both salmon and trout right after the ice goes out."
She leaned over Calhoun so that her breast pressed against the back of his shoulder and took one of the Dark Tigers from the batch that he'd tied. "It's quite pretty," she said, "but it doesn't look much like a smelt to me."
"What it looks like to you don't really count," said Calhoun, "inasmuch as last time I checked, you weren't a landlocked salmon. Your pectoral fins ain't the right shape, thank God."
Kate laughed softly, put the fly back, then went around and sat on the stool on the other side of the bench from where Calhoun was sitting.
He looked up at her and caught something in her eyes that suggested it might not be a good time to tell her about Noah Moulton's visit. "Everything okay, honey?" he said.
She shook her head. "You want to know the truth, I'm so mad I could spit."
"What's going on?" he said. "What can I do?"
She gave him a small, unconvincing smile. "It's not your problem, Stoney."
"Don't tell me it's not my problem," he said. "That just hurts my feelings. You and I are way past that. You got a problem, it means I got a problem. That's what loving each other is all about."
She smiled. "That's not the only thing it's about."
"You better tell me what's going on with Walter."
Excerpted from Dark Tiger by William G. Tapply. Copyright © 2009 William G. Tapply. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Meet the Author
William G. Tapply was a contributing editor to Field & Stream and the author of numerous books on fishing and wildlife, as well as more than twenty novels, including his books featuring "Stoney" Calhoun. He lived in Hancock, New Hampshire.
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This author's plots are tightly woven but not so complicated that you have trouble keeping track of things; his characters are strong and easy to relate to. This is my first Stoney Calhoun novel and I now think I will go back and read the others. For many years I have enjoyed the Brady Coyne character and also this author's co-authoring efforts with Phillip Craig. I mourn Mr. Craigs passing and the fact that there will be no further collaborations of this kind. I look forward to this author's next offering, whichever character he chooses to write about.
"Dark Tiger" is William Tapply's latest installment in the Stoney Calhoun series and unfortunately, will be one of his last due to Mr. Tapply's recent passing. Stoney is trying to live his life out peacefully as a co-owner of a bait and tackle shop just outside Portland, Maine. He has no recollection of his former life since waking up in a VA hospital seven years prior. He is often visited by the "Man in the Suit" who checks to see if Stoney has regained any of his memories and also has "jobs" for him to complete. If Stoney does not comply, the mysterious government official threatens to make life difficult. In Dark Tiger, Stoney is asked to solve the murder of a federal agent and a local girl at a remote fishing resort in upper Maine. Along with his sidekick Ralph, his faithful Brittany Spaniel, Stoney takes on the role of a fishing guide and searches for the answers to the mysterious deaths. Tapply's vast knowledge of fly-fishing and the Maine wilderness inspires the outdoor adventurer in us all but with a limited number of characters; the ending was not very surprising or revealing and left us wanting for more mystery and less details of the fishing trips. www.suspensemagazine.com
True to his own writing William Tapply has never disappointed me. Whether it is Stoney Calhoun or the beloved Brady Coyne, Mr. Tapply was always true to the character and storyline. He also co-wrote with Phillip Craig. Now within less than 18 months we have lost both authors. The readers will miss both authors. Tapply takes Stoney from the Maine bait shop to the dark side of his personality that he has no recollection - his past. His past was FBI or CIA and although he has no recollection of this past he knows he must help the secretive men that contact him from time to time. This case weaves Tapply's love for the outdoors and fishing into the latest mystery. The story is complicated, yet simple. There is murder, suicide, and complex characters that will unravel through the investigation. A couple of twists that are easy to follow. Sit back and enjoy as there will be no more from this very talented man. Rest in Peace as I will go back and read again your two series along with the three books published with Phillip Craig.
Several years have gone by since Stoney Calhoun awakened in a Virginia VA hospital with total amnesia. He opened up a Portland, Maine bait shop owner with Kate Balaban and is a fishing guide and does occasional work for the cops and for "the Man in the Suit" who shows up periodically with an assignment that Stoney has the skills to accomplice. Although his memory remains erased from before the awakening Stoney still has the skills with weapons for instance before he went comatose. The Suit offers Stoney a deal he cannot refuse. Instead of the usual tidbits about the past, he says he will insure they keep the bait shop potentially being sold to another buyer and keep Kate's loved one covered by health insurance being challenged. Not even knowing the case Stoney agrees to the terms because he would do anything for Kate. The Suit arranges for a Mr. Brecia to meet with Stoney. Mr. Brecia directs Stoney to investigate the deaths of operative McNulty and the underage teen townie Millie Gautier in what looked like a murder-suicide at St. Cecilia on the Canadian border. Mr. Brecia wants Stoney to find out what their agent was doing there with a sixteen year old. He suggests going undercover at the nearby exclusive Loon Lake Lodge as that is the only place in the vicinity of any known significance. The third Stonewall Jackson Calhoun tale (see B**CH CREEK and GRAY GHOST) is a super whodunit with obvious overtones to Ludlam's Bourne, but with the late William Tapply's distinct New England take. The story line is fast-paced starting with the Suit showing what he can do to insure Stoney cooperates and never slows down. Fans will enjoy the hero's activity in northern Maine as his in dubiously presence increases the homicide count considerably. DARK TIGER pay homage to Mr. Tapply who died in late July. Harriet Klausner