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Steven P. Marini

Steven P. Marini, Author ot Connections










Steve Marini holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Boston University and a B.A. in Business Administration from New England College and has spent over thirty years in the Education/Training field, including posts in higher education and the federal government.

Although he describes himself as a “card carrying New Englander,” he lived for twenty-six years in Maryland while pursuing a career spanning four federal agencies. His background has enabled him to serve as a project manager at the National Security Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Academy and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he worked with teams of experts in various fields to develop state-of-the-art training for both classrooms and distance learning technologies.

A “Baby Boomer,” Steve has taken up fiction writing as he moved into his career final frontier. Married for thirty-six years, a father of three and a grandfather, Steve and his wife Louise own a home on Cape Cod that will serve as his private writer’s colony for the years ahead.

BLOG: http://babyboomerspm.blogspot.com/
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/StevenPMarini

Congratulations to Steve for being in the 2013 Preditors and Editors top ten Mystery Category for Aberration and in the 2014 top ten Mystery Category for Calculation
                 Top Ten 2013 Mystery Category P&E Readers Poll 2014 Mystery Category top ten

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Connections by Steven P. Marini Aberration by Steven P. Marini Calculation by Steven P. Marini Schmuel's Journey bySteven P. Marini
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Connections by Steven P. Marini
 










Some people seek out connections. Jack Contino does it for a living. A cop knows how to link people and events. Maria Falcone connects people and places: the city of Boston, a rural New Hampshire college town, a Boston hit man, a college professor . . .

Jack Contino is a veteran cop with the Metropolitan District Commission Police Department. He often works with the FBI; a gangland massacre puts him in pursuit of a killer, but the trail takes an unexpected turn.

Maria connects by leading a double life: college coed during the week; high priced call girl on weekends. A professor loves her. A mobster uses her. Her future depends on one of them.

Ben Secani learned to kill for his country in Vietnam and finds opportunity in the Boston Mob.

The action puts these people on a collision course, and the result changes their lives forever.

                                                                               
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Connections by Steven P. Marini


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Aberration by Steven P. Marini 


Jack Contino moves to Cape Cod, takes a job on the Dennis Police Department planning to live life in the slow lane, but things speed up when a black man is murdered. It’s similar to a killing in Needham, but the trail leads to a South Shore white supremacist group.

DeeDee O’Hare and Judy Black are twenty-somethings sharing a summer rental in Dennis. DeeDee worked in a restaurant with the victim and has a boyfriend, Jared Wilkes, a local bartender with a roving eye…for Judy. Jack checks them out and learns that Jared has a checkered past calling for close scrutiny. He finds that Jared and the hate group have a link.

Mob figure Tommy Shea, Jack’s old nemesis, is in the mix, but how is he involved? Jack has to find out. It’s hard to solve a local murder when the Boston Mob has it in for you.
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Aberration by Steven P. Marini

 
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Calculation by Steven P. Marini







Is there a serial killer on the loose on Cape Cod?

Multiple, bizarre murders are taking place in Dennis, MA, Detective Jack Contino’s new town. But they all have different signatures. One looks like a MOB execution, another is a brutal knifing, yet another is the shooting of a businessman. The killer evens has his sights on Jack’s wife, Natalie. Somehow MOB boss Tommy Shea, Jack’s longtime nemesis, comes into the picture. He often does. What is his link to these events?

Jack can’t get rattled, but his nerves are getting frayed. He’s never had so much at stake in a case. He and his colleagues, including old pal Leo Barbado, get on the trail and must put the pieces of this puzzle together.

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Calculation by Steven P. Marini Order the Calculation Print Book (ISBN: 978-1-61950-201-7) today, HERE!
   
Schmuel's Journey by Steven P. Marini




From a death camp to a college.

Over thirty years, Schmuel’s journey takes him from Auschwitz to New Hampshire. But not all who leave the Holocaust are survivors. Some are criminals. And even a small New Hampshire town, where everybody knows everybody, can have dirty secrets. Schmuel, now Sam Miller, is a forty year old divorcee seeking the quiet life away from his boyhood horrors. But a call from a fellow Auschwitz survivor drags his past back in front of him. Is there a Nazi war criminal hiding in plain sight? Sam becomes a hunter, but may also be the hunted. Martha becomes his partner, despite his love for another. They find themselves in a fight for survival.

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Excerpts
Connections

Prologue

Jack Contino was a natural cop. It never bothered him to face a dangerous situation. He had size, strength and brains; good elements for police work. He was a combat vet from World War II, and he saw hell in the Pacific theater. If you’ve been to hell once, it toughens you up for future visits. Cops visit hell often.

It was 1945 and Jack was in his second year with the Metropolitan District Commission Police, often called the METS, walking foot patrol on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Nantasket Beach with another young officer, Leo Barbado.

“Summer is upon us, big fellow,” said Leo. “This place can get crazy if the crowds get too big.”

“That’s why we’re here, to protect the people from themselves, especially at the amusement park.”

“Why would anybody want to ride that rickety looking old roller coaster?”

“A lot of reasons, I guess, but some folks just need a thrill.”

“Not me. This job will provide plenty of thrills for years to come, I’m sure.”

“Is that why you became a cop, Leo, for the thrills?”

“Yeah, and the money. Don’t forget the money. Why did you become a cop, Jack?”

“Well, I actually enjoyed the army life when I first went in; the discipline, the order, the authority to enforce the rules. I think law enforcement offers much of that.”

“Authority, aka power, and carrying a gun. Just kidding, Jack.”

“Hey, I believe a lot of our colleagues go into police work for those very reasons. Not me. If that’s all you got going for you, it’s not going to mean much to you in the long run. Leo, after Pearl, I wanted to protect America, like everybody else. But while overseas, I saw that the Asian people needed help, too. There was a lot of poverty, disease, starvation, you name it, among the people we were supposed to hate. They struggled just to get by every day. I realized people here at home have daily struggles, too.”

“Yes, I know. I’m struggling to get somewhere with that waitress I’ve been dating.”

“You’re a bundle of laughs, buddy boy. I’m not trying to get preachy, but I mean it. We can help people work through the tough times at home by helping to keep some order in this little universe. Most of the people at this place today are here to have fun and forget their troubles. But you know there are some jerks who want to cause trouble: pickpockets, drunks, tough guys showing off. That’s why we’re here, too.”

“I guess you’re right, Jack. I just hope those bastards will give us a break today. Maybe they’ll hold off until the night shift comes on.”

“That’s fine by me, cowboy, but don’t count on it.”

As Jack finished his words, they heard the sound of glass shattering. The cops looked at each other without speaking. It could be a dropped bottle by a tired worker at the food tent. It could be a drunken guy making a public nuisance. It could be a lot of things, but whatever, it needed the police to check it out.

Chapter One
September 1974

Jack Contino always walked into a bar like he owned the place. He sucked in his gut as best he could before entering, keeping his six-foot four inch, two-hundred and thirty pound frame as erect as a fifty-four-year-old veteran cop could. Despite his size, Jack had a lot of spring in his step. It was late afternoon in Boston, the right time to catch one of the parking spots vacated by the daily commuter students, who gobbled them up by seven in the morning. Jack worked his way onto an open stool at the far end of the bar and casually surveyed the room.

The Bullpen entrance was two steps down at the end of a short sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue across from Boston University. Its patrons were both working class and B.U. students, mostly the older ones taking classes through the Metropolitan College. Some classes started as early as four-thirty. Winter was over, but people still wore warm clothing. Some liked to get ready for class with a cold one. A long, L-shaped oak bar took up the left side of the room. Tables with four chairs each were scattered along the right, leaving a small passage to the bar. The lighting was dim and got dimmer toward the back.

The first two tables were occupied by a small group of university employees, a young mix of males and females. They were a bit loud and seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were five men at the bar. Two looked like groundskeepers, with their heavy work boots and cuffed work pants and the others might be faculty or grad students. The working men looked to be about forty plus while the others were probably in their late twenties. Casual conversation swirled among the three faculty/grad types. Jack couldn’t make out what the working men were saying to each other. He noticed a lone figure sitting at a table in the back corner, a man about his own age. The man was wearing a shiny Red Sox jacket and a blue baseball cap with a big red B on the front above the visor. A hamburger plate with fries sat in front of him, but he was looking around more than eating. His beer bottle was half empty. He knew Jack had spotted him.

“Give me two bottles of Miller,” said Jack, as the bartender approached. She was a middle aged woman wearing a white blouse buttoned up to the neck and black slacks. About five-foot six, she cut a nice figure, her long brown hair in a ponytail.
Back to Connections
 
Aberration

                                                                Prologue

I needed a stiff drink.

Cape Cod, the premier vacation spot in New England, was my new home. I was supposed to be able to relax here, live life in the slow lane and not get shot again. My days as a Boston cop were over. Leave the Winter Hill boys and the Boston Mob to younger men. Join the Dennis Police. With my pension from the Metropolitan District Commission Police, known as the METS, and a full salary from Dennis, I nearly doubled my income. Nat’s salary as a nurse was gravy. We could slide.

I was the Chief of Detectives on the Dennis, Massachusetts PD, but I was the only detective on the Dennis PD, so I didn’t catch any crap from subordinates. I told Natalie I’d have to work late, checking on a housebreak in Dennis. Told her not to make dinner for me, that I’d grab a bite someplace. It took over an hour to wrap things up at the crime scene. Afterward, I needed some time to myself.

I stopped at a little place near home in Yarmouth at about eight o’clock, and parked a few rows back in the lot. No need to have my car easily spotted near the door. Just a precaution. As you entered, Goodfellows was a sports bar on the left side, a diner on the right. It was a hole in the wall, but the food was great. You could get as good a steak or prime rib here as any of the big name restaurants in the mid-Cape region.

So why did I feel so uptight? The belly wound that almost killed me a couple of years before gave me some pain once in a while, but after, was it three years?—hell, I could handle it. It wasn’t the pain. It was the memory. That scum Secani put a round into me before I could react. Was I getting too old, too slow?

Maybe Nat was right. Maybe I should give up police work. But I just couldn’t. Too many bastards out there just had to break the law. They needed to be stopped. Too many assholes making life harder for innocent people. Too many shits like Tommy Shea, who needed to have their luck run out. But on the Cape it was supposed to be easier. I was supposed to be able to take it slow, and I was trying to. So why did I get so damned wound up sometimes?

I navigated my way to a stool away from the door, on the far left and just around the bar’s corner. From there, I could see the door and the whole room, left and right. Perfect.

“Jim Beam, rocks,” I said when the bartender came around.

“Got it. Name’s Jack, right? I’ve seen you in here before. We chatted a little. You’re with the Dennis PD, right?”

“Right.”

He looked at me, eye to eye, then he shifted his gaze to my sport coat.

“So, Jack, you’re carrying now, right?” he said.

I sat up straight. “That’s procedure. I’m on my way home.”

“No problem, Jack,” he said. “I just figured, you know?”

There was a full house on the diner side, a few couples and some guys my age wearing ballplayer’s uniforms. Senior Softball league guys. Pretty cool, those old bastards still playing a boys’ game and running around the bases. Still drinking pitchers of beer after a game. Good for them. Better to get a strained hamstring than a bullet.

The bartender brought me the bourbon, setting it down on a napkin in front of me.

“What’s your name again?” I asked.

“Barry. Barry Morgan.” He smiled.

Barry was in his mid-forties, I’d guess. He was about six feet and had a decent build, fairly strong and not much gut. His hair was brown and thick, no signs of gray yet.

“Enjoy your drink, Jack,” he said and walked away.

I enjoyed it all right. Then I enjoyed another.

After two good ones, it was time to go home.

I pulled into the driveway around eight-thirty. A guy my size has a tough time entering the house quietly, so I didn’t try. But I’m not a door slammer, either.

Nat was reading in the living room, sitting in a recliner near a floor light. I strode up to her, bent down and gave her a smooch on the cheek, stumbling a little and grabbing the back of her chair for balance.

“Hi, hon, you okay?” she said.

“Yeah, yeah, I just lost my balance.”

“You ate, I guess.”

“Yes, I grabbed a bite on the way home.”

“And some bourbon, I guess.”

“I had a couple with dinner, that’s all.”

Nat didn’t respond to that. She just got up from the chair, folded her book and laid it on the table beside her chair. “I’m going to bed, Jack.” She started to walk to the stairs but stopped, turned and came up to me. “Was it a bad day, Jack?”

“I’ve had worse and I’ve had better,” I said. “Thanks for asking.” I took Nat in my arms and gave her a big hug, lifting her off her feet. She felt great in my arms. I held her like that for a few seconds, then let her down slowly. “Don’t worry, hon, tomorrow will be better, I’m sure. It’ll be Friday. Things get better for everybody on Friday. You wait and see.”
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Calculation

                                                             Chapter One

I hate these damn, freakin’ places, condos, condos, condos. The Cape is supposed to have quaint little cottages in quaint little villages, here and there. La,la,la. Saw the wife and kiddie leave, so now it’s just you and me, booze man.

I’d seen death like this before. Thirty plus years of police work in Boston gave me plenty of experience. Now I was with the police department in Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, the place Patti Page sang about, Old Cape Cod, quaint and quiet, with salt air everywhere. It was the late 1970s and I was still a cop, only now I was trying to take it slow and ease my way into retirement soon. This had all the markings of a Mob hit. They don’t get creative. When the Mob wants to execute somebody, they don’t have time to make a ceremony out of it. They usually have someone the victim trusts and lets the killer get close. Then, the killer turns the tables on the target, the ultimate betrayal of trust. This one fit the profile.

The guy took a single bullet to the back of the head in his West Dennis townhouse, shattering the peaceful October Sunday afternoon he was enjoying while his wife and small daughter were out. His body lay on the kitchen floor by the counter. It was a small kitchen, with yellow appliances against a light green wall. A guy could stand at the range and spin around to be at the sink. There was a bottle of Scotch and two glasses with ice on the counter near him, spoiled by blood spatter.

I got the call while off duty at home with my wife, Natalie. We were cleaning house when Sergeant Jim Pearson called me. My home is in West Yarmouth, so it took me about fifteen minutes to get to the scene. I looked around the kitchen and surrounding area with Jim while the forensic techs did their thing. Pearson was my right hand on the Dennis PD, a smart twenty-year man. He was about six foot-two and built like a linebacker, a good man to have beside you if things got rough.

“What have you got on him, Jim?”

“He’s Robert Schroeder, thirty-three years old, owner of West Dennis Liquors on Main Street. I’ve been in there myself and chatted with him a little. He’s owned the store outright for a couple of years, after buying out his partner. That’s what he told me once. His wife was out when it happened. She and her little girl came home and found him. Fortunately, she was able to block her daughter from seeing this. She’s with a neighbor next door. Mom is in the master bedroom with Officer Karen Orlando.”

“Speaking of neighbors . . .”

“Some officers are questioning people now,” said Pearson.

“Good. I’ll talk to the wife, if she’s up to it.”

“She’s okay with that, Jack. I spoke to her briefly and told her she’d have to talk to you, too.”

“Fine. While I see her, check on the officers canvassing the neighbors.”

“Got it.”

Anne Schroeder was sitting on the bed when I came in. She held a handkerchief to help her wipe back tears. I asked Officer Orlando to remain.

“Hello, Mrs. Schroeder, I’m Detective Jack Contino. I’m in charge of the investigation.”

She looked to be in her early thirties, a very good looking woman, and was well composed, considering what had just happened. She seemed small and frail, but when she spoke, there was strength in her surprisingly deep voice.

“Yes, Detective, Sergeant Pearson said you’d need to talk to me. I understand. I want to help any way I can to catch whoever did this.”

“I’m very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Schroeder. I know this must be very hard for you, but I need to get as much information as I can quickly. If, however, you need some time, I understand.”

“No. That’s okay, Detective. Go ahead.”

I don’t know how people in her situation can do it. Somehow they pull it together, for a while, anyway.

“Did your husband have any enemies that you know of?”

Mrs. Schroeder took a breath and paused a moment before speaking. She looked at me, then diverted her eyes, gazing toward the window across the large bedroom. The room was nicely decorated with a king size bed and matching cherry wood dressers, all new. The tan wall-to-wall carpet felt like a cushion under my big feet.

“Detective, my husband had a partner when they bought the liquor store five years ago. He was an old high school friend of Bob’s. Bob worked very hard to make his business a success, since it was always his dream to own his own business. Well, George, that’s his friend, George Brady, didn’t have the same energy for work and they didn’t see eye to eye about how to grow the business. Bob wanted to open another store after a few years, but George didn’t want to do that. He just wanted to enjoy the profits from the current store and live like he was on a permanent vacation. I guess you could say they had a falling out.”

“Did it ever get violent?”

“No, but they had some real shouting matches. I thought once that they were going to fight, but George slammed his fist against a wall at the store and walked out. The only solution was to buy George out, which Bob did two years ago. It meant selling the ranch house we had to get the money, but as soon as we sold it, Bob did the buyout. It drained our savings almost to nothing, but it was the only way. It was worth it, though. Bob hired an assistant to help him and a couple of part timers. I work there, too, part time when Janie, that’s our daughter, is in school. It’s been paying off and we moved into this condo unit seven months ago.”

“Who was working the store today, the assistant?”

“Yes. My God, he doesn’t know what’s happened. I didn’t think to call him. I’d better do that now.”

“Relax, Mrs. Schroeder, I’ll have some officers go over there and tell him to close up. Does he lock up the cash in a safe?”

“Yes. There’s one in the back room.”

“We’ll have him do that and tell him you’ll have to close the store for a while.”

“Thank you, Detective.”

She gave me the name of the assistant and I passed that on to Pearson, who sent an officer to the store.

“Mrs. Schroeder, do you have George Brady’s address and phone number?”

“I have that information in our address book, but I don’t know if he still lives there. He was in Harwich.”

She started to get up, but I suggested that I could get that information in a minute. I wanted to keep her talking.

“Did Mr. Schroeder ever have any other business dealings with people who he didn’t see eye to eye with?”

“No. He got along fine with the owner of the building and everyone else I know of.”

“I’d like to get the building owner’s name and information, too. Did your husband have any hobbies or activities that might have involved large sums of money?”

“You mean, like gambling, Detective? It’s a fair question. I’m not offended that you asked. No, he didn’t gamble. His whole life was his family and the store.”

I didn’t mean to insult her and was relieved by her response. “Of course, Mrs. Schroeder. I didn’t mean to imply anything.” I took a breath. “Is there anything else that you can tell me? Is there anybody else who might have a grudge of some sort against your husband?”

She shook her head, holding it high as she spoke, despite the tears.

“No, Detective. Bob was a fine man. He was kind and gracious to everyone.”

“Okay, Mrs. Schroeder, you understand that you can’t stay here now. We have to secure the crime scene, probably for a few days. Is there anyone you can stay with? If not, we’ll take you and your daughter to a motel at the town’s expense.”

“My sister lives in Sandwich. I’ve already called her, and she’s on her way.”

“Fine. Pack some things. Officer Orlando will help you. Your sister won’t be able to enter, so we’ll let you know when she arrives.”

“That’s all right, Detective.”

She eased her petite body off the bed and walked over to a closet and started collecting clothes. She wore tan Capri pants and a pale blue T-shirt. With white tennis shoes, she seemed to float across the floor. She turned back toward me and I saw her beautiful blue eyes, now tinged with sadness.
Back to Calculation
 
Schmuel's Journey

Chapter Two

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1974. HENNIKER, N.H.

There were worse ways to start employment at a college. Sam had been on the job since June, but this September afternoon was the kickoff for the academic calendar. A cocktail party put the entire faculty and staff in a good mood.

Sam poured himself a glass of red wine at the makeshift bar set up in the lobby of the administration building, also called The Inn. The old wooden structure, like something out of a Rockwell painting, was set on the north side of Main Street in the center of town. It had once been a New Hampshire country inn before it was rescued from demolition by the New Sussex College in 1946, its inaugural year. The vast lobby and its colonial décor was a perfect setting for college president Seth Walpole to use for a welcoming cocktail reception for faculty and staff at the end of the first Monday of the semester. The white wainscoting adorned every wall and provided nice contrast to the blue wallpaper above it. White crown molding ran along each wall at the ceiling.

There were worse ways, indeed.

It didn’t take long for the room to fill with college employees, many of whom worked in this fine building. Sam knew many colleges had reputations for partying, rather than academics, but that reputation usually focused on student behavior. Employees didn’t waste time getting to a party at this institution.

“Sam, let me introduce you to Arthur Vasile and his wife, Carol. Arthur is a Biology professor, and Carol works in the business office,” said Bob Hill, the Director of the Danton Library, and Sam’s new boss.

Sam extended his hand toward the man, who sported a salt and pepper goatee and was a husky six-footer with a full head of graying hair. “Nice to meet you, Professor Vasile, and you, too, Carol,” said Sam. The woman looked much younger than her husband.

“Oh please, call me Arthur. We’re usually very informal here and don’t bother with academic titles. I think they’re a bit stuffy, don’t you agree, Carol?” The man’s accent was European, but Sam couldn’t place it.

“Absolutely,” his wife replied. She reached out to Sam, who took her hand gently, giving it a slight squeeze without shaking it. Something about her face anchored his eyes on her, as if a flash of light had gone off. He scanned her figure as rapidly as possible, trying not to be noticed. He didn’t know much about perfume, but whatever it was she was wearing, he liked it. Her light brown hair was long and straight, reaching well below her shoulders. He liked that, too.

“Sam runs our Educational Technology Department on the second floor of the library. He has a wonderful collection of films and other teaching aids,” said Hill. “What we don’t have, he can rent for you, but you know that, Arthur.”

“Yes, I do. Thank goodness, Sam, for Time Life Films,” said Arthur. “I make my selection of films to rent. You type up the requisition and bring it to Carol and she processes the order. Very neat and tidy. It’s a process that will enable the three of us to get to know each other, one of the benefits of working at a small college. It’s a rather intimate setting, not like those diploma factories in Boston.”

Sam listened to Arthur, but his eyes fixed on Carol. He figured her to be in her mid-thirties. Her light blue dress was simple, but fit her well in the right places, stopping a few inches above the knee, flattering her beautiful legs. She looked at Arthur as he spoke, but her expression was empty.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend, Carol?” The voice came from behind Sam at the same time he felt an arm encircle his. She stood between Carol and Sam, smiling as if she’d won a prize. “Hi, I’m Martha Sanborn. I’m also on the library staff and I’ve seen you around, but the boss didn’t bother to introduce us.” She shot a scowl at Bob.

“Hi, Martha,” said Sam, unpleasantly surprised by the grab on his arm, despite the obvious pressure of her full breast against him. He noticed Arthur and Carol making disapproving expressions simultaneously. Bob Hill simply walked away. “I’m Sam Miller. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, as she inched closer to him.

“The pleasure is mine,” she replied. “Where’s your wife, Sam?” asked Martha.

The real intent of her question was obvious to Sam and the others. The Vasiles shrugged and Sam looked at his feet, avoiding eye contact with Martha. “She’s where she likes to be,” said Sam, “in the arms of another man. I’m divorced.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, but I understand,” she said. “I’m divorced myself, twice, in fact. Oh, it was a long time ago. I married young, too young. But that’s a boring story. I’d rather talk about you, Sam. I couldn’t help notice that you have a slight limp. What’s that, an old football injury?” she laughed.

“Actually, I was about to ask Prof . . . Arthur, about his homeland.” Sam shifted his head to meet the professor’s gaze. “I can’t place the accent.”

“I’m originally from Romania, Sam, but I’ve been in the United States for nearly thirty years. The war caused many of us to flee Europe, you know. I had started medical school, but wasn’t able to finish my studies. When I arrived here I had no money, but I worked my way through a Ph. D. program at Boston University and began my academic career. It’s been most rewarding.” Arthur glanced at Carol as he said rewarding, a move not lost on Sam.

Sam knew all too well about fleeing Europe because of the war. He hoped to avoid lengthy conversations about it.

“Oh, Sam, look at this,” said Martha. “My wine glass is empty. Would you get me a refill, white, please?”

“Ah, sure, Martha.” Sam took the empty plastic party glass and wove his way through the crowd to the bar. A tall, heavyset man stood there, plopping ice cubes into a glass while eyeballing the bourbon bottle on the table. “Going for the strong stuff, eh, Ian?”

Ian Barnstead was a History professor whom Sam had met several days earlier. He was a pleasant, jovial man with a strong voice and a broad smile, the kind of guy who you felt you’d known for years. “Oh hi, Sam. Yeah, time for the heavy artillery. I get to sneak one or two of these when the wife’s not around. Fortunately for me, she’s at home.” He followed his comments with a hearty laugh. “I see you’ve met the Vasiles,” said Ian. “Something about Arthur, though. Maybe it’s the cultural difference, I don’t know, but whenever I’ve tried to talk to him about the war in Europe, strictly from a historic perspective, mind you, he usually talks about Germany’s positive contributions, technologically. He’s from Romania, so why such cheerleading for Germany? I don’t know.”

“Well, he’s a science-oriented guy, maybe that’s why,” said Sam. “Maybe that’s what he thinks of instinctively.”

“Well yeah, Sam, but I don’t know. If you talk about the air attacks on London, you know, with V2 rockets, he starts telling you how important those rockets were in contributing to our space program. Oh, and he can’t say enough about the Autobahn and how it’s the model for our interstate highways. I don’t know.” Ian shook his head and eased some bourbon into his mouth. “I guess he’s got a point. The Germans were technological innovators, for sure. I once read somewhere that the American and Russian space race was all about which country had the best German scientists. I don’t know.”

“That’s one way to look at it, Ian. What about his wife, Carol? What’s she like?”

“She’s a top shelf gal. I guess he met her at Boston University about ten years ago. They got married and moved up here a few years later. They both like the things most of us like about this place: small, quiet, out of the way, no hustle and bustle. She’s very bright and likeable. But he’s a bit stiff. They seem like an odd fit to me. I don’t know.” Ian swigged his drink again.

Sam peered in her direction, but his gaze was interrupted by Martha looking back at him, raising her hand to her mouth as if drinking. He came back to Earth, recalling his mission, and reached for the white wine.

“I see you’ve met Martha,” said Ian. “She’s a trip.”

“How so?” asked Sam.

“She gets along with everyone, especially the guys. The life-of-the-party kind of gal, she is. She flirts with anything with a dick and has been known to get pretty schnockered at social engagements. But I guess she’s harmless. I don’t know.”

Sam delivered a freshly poured glass of wine to Martha, who eased both hands around it as if cradling a baby bird. “Thanks, Sam. I was afraid you were going to let me die of thirst.”

“I’m sure that would never happen, Martha,” said Arthur. His remark struck her sharply and her smile vanished. “If you will please excuse me, I’ve made my obligatory appearance and now must go home to assume my role as kitchen slave.”

“Oh, yes,” interjected Carol. “Soon I hope to have him doing the laundry and scrubbing the floors. Cooking has become one of Arthur’s hobbies, and I’m happy to yield the kitchen when he offers to cook dinner, such as tonight.”

Arthur smiled. “Actually, tonight looks like a good night for using the outdoor grill. I just love to build a fire.” He laughed and nodded to the group, a light clicking sound emanating from his shoes as his heels touched quickly.

“I think I need a refill, myself,” said Sam, and he scurried over to the bar. As he finished refreshing his drink, he looked back to see an unknown man trying to start a conversation with Martha. It seemed like a great opportunity to make his way to the front door and step out onto the vast porch that ran the entire length of the building. He found an inviting bench to his left and settled onto it. He sipped from his glass after exhaling a sigh of relief. He wasn’t in the mood for Martha.

“Nice move, Houdini.” A woman’s voice surprised him. It was Carol Vasile, emerging through the door. “That’s the slickest escape I’ve seen in a long time.”

“Oh, please, I didn’t mean to be rude to you,” said Sam.

“Don’t apologize. I saw the predicament you were in. She comes on pretty strong sometimes, not very subtle. Of course, I could be insulted. First my husband abandons me and then you do a disappearing act. Swoosh, the men are gone.”
Sam peeked at Carol with guilty eyes.

“Maybe I should go inside,” she said.

“No, no, don’t do that. Please, have a seat,” he said, motioning to one half of the bench.

“Okay, Mr. Houdini, but no vanishing act this time.” Carol slid onto the bench, folded her bare arms across her chest and crossed her legs, causing her skirt to rise up a bit further on her thighs. She looked straight ahead onto Main Street, nearly the entire commercial center within view. “This is really a pretty little town, Sam. I believe you’ll like it. We’re all country mice up here, each and every one of us turning away from city life, except an occasional trip to Boston or New York for the Pops or a Broadway play. We’re not altogether without culture, after all.”

Sam focused on her as she continued to gaze upon the small town’s Main Street. She was a class act, alright, with subtle beauty, bright blue eyes; she was intelligent and well spoken. He felt at ease in her presence, a sharp contrast to Martha.
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