The ferry docked at Gibbons Island twelve minutes ahead of schedule, thanks to a stiff wind blowing against the stern. But the same wind that had hastened along the voyage from Boston Harbor would now prevent the ferry from making the return trip that evening. It was not uncommon for the ferry to dock, stranding tourists on the island, or islanders on the mainland. On this particular October evening, however, the only inconvenienced traveler was the ferry’s captain; but only slightly, as the Transit Authority provided a bunk and a shower at the station for such occasions. The lone passenger who left the ferry was fortunate to have made the trip home at all, given the weather warnings. Normally the captain would not have left the harbor with only one paying fare, when the gale warnings were so high.
As Logan left the ramp he extended his hand to the captain. “Thanks for the lift, Lyle.”
Lyle took Logan’s hand with a grin. “My pleasure.” He gestured toward the gate where a young woman wearing a long dark rain coat stood leaning against the fence. “Tough luck for me. Looks like I’m stuck for the night. Darn.”
Logan chuckled. “Yes, tough luck indeed. And I hear there’s more bad weather tomorrow. You poor man. You could be stuck here tomorrow night as well. That was quite noble of you to risk the crossing just for me.”
“I’m a man bound by duty, Logan.” He gave the girl at the gate a quick wave.
“Give my regards to your duty. But don’t keep her out late, please. She’s got a test in the morning.” He gave Lyle a clap on the shoulder and walked off toward the gate, greeting the young woman with a polite tip of his head. “Watch out for that one, Gertie. He’s a sailor, you know.”
“Professor Logan! Oh he’s not…that is, I’m not…he my cousin!” Gertie protested, while carefully pulling the coat closed by wrapping her arms tightly around her own waist. As she did, the lower flap caught the wind and billowed up, revealing a shapely fish-netted leg. “I’m just picking him up to bring him home to have dinner with my aunt and I.”
Logan leaned close, bringing his index finger up as if to make a point. “Gertie, I’m only going to warn you about this once…”
She backed away, affecting an innocent-looking, though nervous smile. “Yes, Professor?”
He leaned in again. “Lyle Cabbot is nearly twice your age, and has only half your wit. And you have a history test in the morning.”
“I’m nearly twenty-one, and I’ve studied, Professor. I can take care of myself.”
Logan smiled, and took a step backwards straightening up. “Good then. See you in class. Good night.”
“Good night,” Gertie called as Logan walked away. “Oh, Professor Logan?”
He stopped and turned. “Yes?”
“Thanks for caring.”
He smiled and tipped his forehead as if wearing an invisible hat then turned on his heel and hurried out through the gate.
The sun was just about down below the horizon by the time he’d make the twenty minute walk into town. The wind was picking up, and dark clouds were rolling in from the west, swallowing the remainder of the sunset, making the onset of night seem darker than normal. He glanced toward the east to see only the outer shadow of the moon, barely holding its own against the clouds.
He pulled his jacket closed and zipped it up to the collar. The little box he’d gotten from Todd, pressed against his chest, still safely tucked away in his breast pocket. He gave it a pat, as if to comfort it and assure it that it was protected from the coming storm—at least he hoped it was.
“Logan? Is that you?” A woman’s voice startled him from his thoughts. He looked up, surprised to find he had walked the length of Ocean Street and was standing in front of Nettie’s Dinette and General Store. Nettie herself stood on the front porch, broom in one hand, rag in the other as she peered into the darkened street. “Logan?”
“Yes, Nettie, it’s me.”
“Land’s sake, what are you doing out walking around? Don’t you know a gale’s comin’ in?”
“I was just on my way home. I was in Boston. Oh—” he reached into his outer jacket pocket and retrieved a small paper sack. “I’ve got your peanuts. Straight from Fenway, I swear.”
Nettie grinned and stepped off the porch. The steps creaked in protest at her ample girth. “Were they hot when you got ’em?” She asked extracting one perfect goober from the sack.
“Absolutely. Fresh off the roaster.”
“Boy, these take me back. Last time I had ’em hot. . . I was a kid. Carl Yastrzemski hit a homer that day, and the ball landed right in my lap.” She shucked a peanut with one hand and dropped the nut in her mouth, spitting out a shell. “Mmm nothing like ’em.”
“That must have been exciting. Did you keep the ball?”
“Hmm? Naah, threw it back onto the field.”
“You did? Why on Earth would you do that?”
She cracked another peanut and grinned. “Because the damned thing landed right on my sack of peanuts and scattered them all over the bleachers. I was pissed.”
Logan laughed, watching her savor the peanuts. “You know, Nettie, you can have those delivered. I’m sure they would fit on the mail boat. After all, they are not hot by the time I bring them.”
“Nope, it’s not the hot part. They just gotta come straight from the park. Gotta be in the sack.” She folded the top of the paper sack and carefully tucked the remainder of her prize into the pocket of her apron. “It’s the principle of it.”
“How do you know I didn’t just get them from any old street vender?” He asked, a mischievous lift to his brow.
“Because you’re a purest, same as me.”
He bowed, his hand upon his chest. “Guilty. You’re right as always.”
A sudden gust blew down the street, sending Nettie’s apron a flutter. Logan escorted her back onto the porch. “You best get back inside, Nettie. Storm’s comin’ in fast.”
“What about you? Don’t tell me you plan to walk all the way back to the lighthouse. It’s pitch black and that wind is wicked.”
“It’s not far now. I know the way. Even in the da— ”
As if to prove her right, the wind whipped around, roaring against their ears. Logan had to steady himself against porch railing to keep his footing. When the gust passed, Nettie grabbed Logan’s sleeve, but looked beyond his shoulder and pointed. “Oh my god! Logan, look.”
He turned to look up toward the end of the street, to where Nettie was pointing and Standish Lighthouse presided over the cliffs. A flash of lightning illuminated the clouds for only an instant behind the tower, as if to confirm the structure was still there, then faded leaving it black against the sky. The lighthouse had gone dark.