Nantucket Five-spot

Nantucket Five-spot

by Steven Axelrod

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"Axelrod crafts an enjoyable, fast-paced read." —Publishers Weekly

Henry Kennis, Nantucket island's poetry-writing police chief who will remind readers of Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone and Spenser, works a second challenging case in Nantucket Five-spot.

At the height of the summer tourist season, a threat to bomb the annual Boston Pops Concert could destroy the island's economy, along with its cachet as a safe, if mostly summertime, haven for America's ruling class. The threat of terrorism brings The Department of Homeland Security to the island, along with prospects for a rekindled love affair—Henry's lost love works for the DHS now.

The "terrorism" aspects of the attack prove to be a red herring. The truth lies much closer to home. At first suspicion falls on local carpenter Billy Delavane, but Henry investigates the case and proves that Billy is being framed. Then it turns out that Henry's new suspect is also being framed—for the bizarre and almost undetectable crime of framing someone else. Every piece of evidence works three ways in the investigation of a crime rooted in betrayed friendship, infidelity, and the quiet poisonous feuds of small town life. Henry traces the origin of the attacks back almost twenty years and uncovers an obsessive revenge conspiracy that he must unravel—now alone, discredited and on the run—before further disaster strikes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781464203459
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Series: Henry Kennis Nantucket Mysteries , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 329,896
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Steven Axelrod holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and remains a member of the WGA despite a long absence from Hollywood. His work has been featured on various websites, including the literary e-zine Numéro Cinq, where he is on the masthead;; and The Good Men Project; as well as the magazines Pulp Modern and Big Pulp.

A father of two, he lives on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where he paints houses and writes.

Steven Axelrod holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and remains a member of the WGA despite a long absence from Hollywood. His work has been featured on various websites, including the literary e-zine Numéro Cinq, where he is on the masthead;; and The Good Men Project; as well as the magazines Pulp Modern and Big Pulp.

A father of two, he lives on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where he paints houses and writes.

Read an Excerpt

Nantucket Five-Spot

A Henry Kennis Mystery

By Steven Axelrod

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2015 Steven Axelrod
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0345-9



Finally, I was having dinner alone with Franny Tate. It was a mild summer night, we were dining at Cru, overlooking Nantucket harbor. I was leaning across the table to kiss her when the first bomb went off.

A hole punched into the air, a muffled thump that bypassed my ears and smacked straight into my stomach, like those ominous fireworks that flash once and leave no sparks. The blast wave hit a second later, shaking tables and knocking over glasses, rattling windows in their frames. Franny mouthed the word 'bomb,' her lips parting in silence and pressing together again, not wanting to say the word aloud, or thinking I couldn't hear her through the veil of trembling air.

I pushed my chair back, pointing toward the Steamboat Wharf.

We ran out into a night tattered by running feet and sirens. Our romantic evening lay across the stained tablecloth behind us, tipped over and shattered with the restaurant stemware.

Something bad had arrived on my little island, an evil alert, a violation and a threat like a dog with its throat cut dropped on a front parlor rug. It was up to me and my officers to answer that threat, to make sense of it and set things right.

I didn't explain this to Franny. I didn't need to.

She was running right beside me.

* * *

At that point, I thought it all began with the first bomb threat, two weeks earlier, but I wasn't even close. It takes a long time to make a bomb from scratch. Lighting the fuse is the quick part.

I can tell you the exact moment when the match touched the cord, though.

It was a bright humid morning in June. An eleven-year-old girl named Deborah Garrison stepped off the boat from Hyannis and skipped ahead of her mother down into the crowded seaside streets. As it happened, I was at the Steamship Authority that morning, picking up my assistant chief, Haden Krakauer. We actually saw Debbie in her pony tails and Justin Bieber t-shirt. She didn't seem special, just another adorable little girl on a holiday island crowded with them.

And Debbie didn't actually do anything. Nothing that happened later was her fault. The simple, irreducible fact of her presence was enough. Even years later, the consequences and implications of Debbie's arrival seem bizarre and implausible, far too weighty to balance on those thin sunburned shoulders.

It was like setting off an avalanche with a sigh.

The next time I saw Debbie, it was a week later and she was holding hands with my friend Billy Delavane when he came to the station to report a stolen wallet. She'd been tagging along with him everywhere, since the day she came to Nantucket. They had met in the surf at Madaket when he pulled her out of the white water after a bad wipeout.

"She'd launch on anything, but she kept slipping," Billy told me later. "She couldn't figure it out. No one told her she had to wax the board."

She was happy to let Billy get everything organized and push her into some smaller waves and even happier to share a cup of hot chocolate with a few other kids at Billy's beach shack when hypothermia set in.

They'd been inseparable ever since.

Barnaby Toll took Billy's stolen property report and then buzzed my office. He knew I'd be pleased that Billy had shown up at "Valhalla" as he liked to call it. Billy had been one of the more vocal opponents of the new police station, dragging himself to several Town Meetings and fidgeting through all the boring warrant articles to take his stand against the giant new facility on Fairgrounds Road.

I understood his point. I had been against the construction myself, initially. But, like driving in a luxury car or eating at good restaurants, I adapted to the change shockingly fast. Now I couldn't imagine working in the cramped crumbling building on South Water Street.

I found the two downstairs in the administration conference room.

Billy tilted his head as I walked in. "Nice place. Lots of parking. In America, where nothing else matters."

I ignored him, looking down. "Who's this?"

Debbie spoke up without waiting for him. I liked that. "Debbie Garrison." She extended her hand and I tipped down a little to shake it.

"Police Chief Henry Kennis."

"Glad to meet you, Chief Kennis. Can I have a tour? I think this place is awesome."

"Absolutely. How old are you?"

"Eleven," Billy volunteered.

"I'll be twelve in September," Debbie corrected him.

"That's my son's age," I said. "You should meet him."

"Most eleven-year-old boys are extremely immature."

I let that one go and offered Debbie my arm. "Shall we?"

"Yay!" She grabbed my hand and led me into the corridor. "Can we see the jail cells?"


The place was buzzing on a June morning. We had Girl Scouts gathering in the selectman's meeting room and people milling in the front lobby, complaining about the neighbors' noise violations and picking up over-sand stickers. Last night's DUIs, the unlicensed, uninsured, or unregistered drivers (a couple of them always hit the trifecta).

On the way down to the booking room I asked Debbie what she thought so far.

"Well, the upstairs where we came in reminds me of a mall. That hole in the ceiling where you can see up to the second floor? I was like—is there a GAP store up there? This part is more like my school. But nicer."

"Well, it's new."

"New is good," she announced decisively and I thought, you've come to the right place.

"So are you spending a lot of time with Billy?" We pushed through into the booking room. It was crowded, phones were ringing. A bald geezer who looked like he was constructed out of sinew and tattoo ink was being hustled inside from the garage. Debbie stared at him. He was obviously sloshed out of his mind at ten in the morning.

I took her hand and led her around the big horseshoe-shaped desk toward the holding cells. "Debbie?"


"Billy? You're spending a lot of time with him?"

"That guy is creepy."

"He's sad. His kid was killed in Afghanistan. He drinks a lot, that's all."

"Ugh. Those tattoos."

"They're bad." She'd probably have one herself by the time she was sixteen, but you can always hope.

She moved on. "Billy's great." Then, "What's behind that door?"

I followed her gaze to the corner. "That's our padded cell."

"For crazy people?"

"Well ... for people who might try to hurt themselves."

"Cool! Can I see it?"


We went inside. "Padded" is a slight exaggeration—the beige walls and floor have the consistency of a pencil eraser. "Billy's not like I expected." She pushed the walls, bouncing tentatively on the balls of her feet. "I mean, he's not crazy or dangerous or anything."

"Who told you he was dangerous?"

"Oh, I don't know ... just—people."

"They were probably talking about his brother, Ed, who actually is crazy. And dangerous. But he's going to be in jail for a long, long time. So I wouldn't worry about him."

"Billy is so the opposite of that. He wouldn't hurt anyone. I mean, he's sad about all the changes here, but he knows he can't stop them. He's not like some kind of terrorist or anything."

I put a hand on her shoulder to stop the bouncing. "Debbie." She looked up at me. "Someone's been calling Billy Delavane a terrorist?"

"I don't know. I guess so. It's just—people talk. People say stupid stuff all the time. Gossip and stuff."

"I guess. But you've only been here a week, and you're already hearing hardcore gossip about Billy Delavane? I don't see how that's possible. Are the kids talking about him?"

"The kids love him."

"Then who? Your mother? Your mother's friends?"

"Yeah, right."

The idea of her talking to her mother's friends was obviously so crazy only a clueless grown-up could entertain it.

We went to the jail cells next, three for the women and six for the men, simple rooms with built-in stainless steel sinks and toilets and a blue cement slab bed. The men's side was full, so I walked her into the women's block which was empty for the moment.

Debbie pointed at one of the slabs. "How can anyone sleep on that?"

"We have special bedding, but people don't usually stay here overnight."

"What's that for?" She was looking at the stainless steel rail than ran along the length of the slab, eight inches off the floor.

"That's called a Murphy bar—it's for handcuffing people."

"Oooo." She shuddered.

"We don't use them much."

"That's good. That would be scary, being handcuffed in there. Is that a phone? It looks like a phone."

It was—we have a metal plate set into the wall with touch tone buttons and a speaker, so prisoners can have their mandated phone call without any complications. It might seem like an unnecessary luxury, but it beats trying to wrestle a cell phone away from a two-hundred-fifty-pound PCP addict at four in the morning. Someone inevitably gets hurt and the town can only absorb so many seven figure lawsuits.

Debbie was fascinated with the phone. "That is so cool. It almost makes up for the handcuffs. Can you call long distance?"

"No. Local calls only."

"So you take people's cell phones away?"

"Oh yeah. We take their iPods, too. And their PlayStation portables."

"That's so mean."

"Actually most criminals don't have PlayStation portables."

"Billy hates cell phones. He refuses to text me. He was watching me yesterday and he said, everything is opposite now. In the old days being 'all thumbs' was a bad thing."

I smiled and she pounced. "See? He's really funny. I've never heard of a terrorist with a sense of humor, have you?"

"No, I guess not."

We walked to the last cell and turned around. "So—you have no idea who's saying this stuff about Billy?"

"No, but if I hear anything else, I can tell you. Plus I can snoop around. Like an informant."

I led her back out to the lobby where Billy was waiting. On the way I asked her what else she planned to do on the island this summer—she couldn't spy for the police full time.

She shrugged. "Nothing. I guess I'll go to that stupid whaling museum, or the oldest house or whatever, or just sit on the beach."

I had an idea. "You should tell your mom about Murray Camp. It's fun. My kids go."

"Really?" She sounded dubious.

"It's great. You meet all the island kids and there are kids from all over the world whose parents stay here for the summer. They have tennis and kayaking and windsurfing and biking and cook-outs, and ... I don't know. You name it. They explore the island. You really learn about this place. My kids love it."

"Okay." I could see she wasn't convinced. I made a mental note to call her mother.

I said my good-byes and went back up to my office. Two big windows showed a view across the parking lot to Fairgrounds Road and beyond. It was a big improvement over the sub-street-level closet I'd worked out of for my first few years on the island.

I hooked my chair and sat down.

* * *

The arrest reports on my desk were a standard summertime array. The fat Midwestern couples who insisted on riding mopeds down Wauwinet Road, taking blind turns side by side. The tradesmen who ran them into the bushes after too many beers for lunch at the Chicken Box. The girl caught stealing earrings from The Souk. The boy caught stealing a sweater from Murray's. I had no leads on the oxycodone suppliers plaguing the island, and nothing new on the underground prostitution ring I'd been hearing rumors about. For the moment all I had was the strong suspicion, developed through too many years of too many after-work drinks with the hardened cynics of Administrative Vice in L.A., that the two were connected somehow.

Then there were the angry yuppies to deal with. For instance, one Tyler Gibson, who bullied himself into my office a few minutes later, brandishing a handful of parking tickets like a magician starting a card trick.

"What am I supposed to do with these?"

I stood up. "Good morning. I'm Chief of Police Henry Kennis. I don't believe we've had the pleasure."

He was a slender man with lots of well-groomed blond hair framing his hawkish face, blue eyes set tight together, sharp nose, thin lips clenched around his indignation, sucking it like a sourball. He spoke with a slight southern accent. I stuck my hand out as I walked around my desk.

He shook it. "Tyler Gibson."

"Good to meet you, Mr. Gibson. Why don't you sit down and tell me the problem."

We settled ourselves and then he launched. "I'm not going to pay these tickets. It's outrageous."

"Well ... all the streets are marked, Mr. Gibson. If you keep your car in a thirty minute spot for an hour, someone will probably ticket you."

He stared at me, features pinched in the effort to control his temper. "I am a resident of this island until Labor Day, Chief Kennis, and I am paying dearly for the privilege."

"I appreciate that, but—"

"So I demand to know why I wasn't given a resident parking sticker."

"Where are you living? What's the address?"

"On Deacon's Way. 10 Deacon's Way. Off Cliff Road."

I shrugged. "There you go. Those stickers are issued to homeowners within the core historic district. There's a big sign in the lobby explaining the rules. Take a look at it on your way out."

"This is absurd. You're telling me I have to pay these tickets?"

"I'm sure you can afford it."

He jumped to his feet and brandished the tickets at me. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to sue this town, and the Board of Selectmen, and you personally. You're going to lose and you're going be giving back all the money you've extorted from people like me for decades. It's going to be expensive and I'm going make a point of seeing that a good chunk of it comes out of your pay check. Maybe then you'll think twice about biting the hand that feeds you!"

I didn't offer any of the obvious responses to this petulant tirade. I was more or less under orders not to gratuitously alienate people who were paying in excess of two thousand dollars a week to rent a vacation home, and spending twice that on jewelry and restaurants. I never got a chance to answer him anyway, because that was the moment when Chief Selectman Dan Taylor showed up.

I heard him first. "I'm seeing Chief Kennis right now and you can't stop me!"

I had arrested Dan's younger son Bruce the night before, at a rowdy beach party in Madaket, but that was no excuse for this confrontation. I had also saved his older son Mason from killing himself, but that was more than six months ago, and Dan's memory was short. One thing for sure—I needed to tighten up the security downstairs. It was turning into Grand Central station around here.

"Dan, come on in. Mr. Gibson here was just leaving."

I brushed past Gibson, stepping out into the hall to greet the burly Selectman. Gibson lingered behind me. "You'll be hearing from my lawyer," he said.

"I need you to go."

I turned around. He was standing at my desk, looking for something actionable, no doubt—some memo about harassing summer visitors.

"Now," I said.


He strode past us. Dan hadn't even noticed him. He was glaring at me, a squat pugnacious troll, balding with a fringe of gray hair and a big square face designed for temper tantrums. He filled my office, incongruously sporty in Nantucket red shorts and a Lacoste t-shirt.

"What do you think you're doing, Kennis? What the hell kind of—"

"Sit down, Dan. Take a deep breath and—"

"I will not sit down! I have no intention of sitting down! How dare you patronize me! You threw an innocent boy in jail while real crimes were happening on this island—my lawyer will be checking the 911 logs! The only question is—who was paying you to do it?"

I spoke quietly, not so much to calm him as to underline the difference between my professional demeanor and his absurd hysterics. "Your son was caught performing a sexual act on a minor, Dan. There were roughly fifty witnesses. He had enough weed on him to get all of them high, and he took a swing at me when I pulled him off the girl. He's in serious trouble. You have to calm down and start dealing with the situation."

"The situation? You want me to deal with the situation? I'll tell you the situation, Kennis. This nonsense is going away like it never happened. I'm taking Bruce out of this station with me. Right now. You're signing the necessary papers and clearing all the bureaucratic bullshit and walking us to the door with a big grin on your face and waving bye-bye as we drive away. Or I will make your life a living hell here. I will ruin you. I will destroy you in this town!"

It was a flimsy blizzard of words thrown like confetti at a wedding, filling the air for a second but falling immediately, bluster as litter, scattered on the floor.

"How's Mason doing? I saw one of his poems inLiterati a couple of months ago."

"I don't know what happened in that room, I don't know what you said to him, but—"

"He had a gun that should have been locked away in your gun safe, Dan. We could have prosecuted you for that. I wanted to, but you have important friends, and they went to bat for you. Nice lesson for your kids, by the way."

"That's the way the world works Chief. That's how you get ahead. Not by writing fag poems for some socialist school magazine."

"I don't know. He's dating the prettiest girl in school, and last I heard, he was planning to get an MBA. That doesn't sound like a socialist fag to me. Just the opposite. Not that I care either way. One of my best friends fits that definition. So do most of my favorite writers. I'm rereading Gore Vidal right now. Great stuff. You should check him out."

I sat down, settled my feet on my desk and leaned back into a bar of dusty summer sunlight. "Let's cut to the chase, Dan. The bail hearing is set for one o'clock. Bring a lawyer. And be on your best behavior. Or I will happily throw you in jail right next to your son."

Barnaby Toll stuck his head in the door, belatedly. He must have heard the shouting.


Excerpted from Nantucket Five-Spot by Steven Axelrod. Copyright © 2015 Steven Axelrod. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Nantucket Five-spot,
Part One: Rock Blunts Scissors,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Years Ago,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Months Ago,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Weeks Ago,
Part Two: Scissors Cut Paper,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Days Ago,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Hours Ago,
Part Three: Paper Covers Rock,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Minutes Ago,
Ezekiel Beaumont: Ten Seconds Ago,
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