seemingly undisturbed by the driving rain, the frantic rocking of the boat, and the near-gale force winds.

'Bracing, isn't it?' Winnie said, throwing out his chest and taking a deep breath, which was at least one- quarter rain.

'Don't mind him, dear,' Binkie whispered, noticing my reaction. 'Rough weather always makes him a tittle queasy, and he likes to put a brave front on it.'

'Oh, I don't mind the crossing,' Winnie said. 'I'm just hoping the weather doesn't spoil the bird- watching.'

'Bird-watching?' Michael said. 'You're going out to Monhegan in the middle of a hurricane for bird- watching?'

'Yes, aren't you?' Winnie asked.

'It's been downgraded to a tropical storm,' Binkie said. 'And this is the fall flyover season.'

'Oh, of course,' I said.

'The what?' Michael asked.

'The fall flyover season,' Binkie explained. 'Monhegan lies right in the path the birds take when they migrate north and south. There's a short time every spring and fall when the bird-watching reaches its peak, and birders come here from all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.'

'We have a cottage on the island,' Winnie said. 'We've been bird-watching here for fifty-three years.' He and Binkie exchanged fond smiles.

'But if you're not here for the bird-watching, why are you going out to Monhegan?' Binkie asked.

'We wanted to get away from things,' Michael put in. 'Get some peace and quiet.'

'Some what?' Winnie shouted over a gust of wind that had evidently carried away Michael's words.

'Peace and quiet!' Michael shouted back.


They still looked at us with puzzled expressions. I sighed. I wasn't sure I even wanted to try explaining.

The trip had seemed so logical a few days ago. My romance with Michael had reached the point where we wanted to spend a little time alone together--okay, a lot of time--just at the point when neither of us had a place to call our own.

As a bachelor professor of theater in a college town with a chronic housing shortage, Michael had lived in relative luxury for the last several years by renting houses from faculty members on sabbatical. This year, alas, his landlords had suddenly realized they couldn't afford to spend a year in London--not with their seventh child on the way.

They'd been very nice about letting Michael sleep on their sofa until something else turned up, but it was no place for the logical conclusion to a romantic candlelight dinner. We'd already ended enough dates watching Disney videos and dodging blobs of peanut butter.

And I was temporarily homeless, as well. Subletting my cottage and ironworking studio for several months to a struggling sculptor had seemed like a good idea at the start of the summer. I'd known I would be down in my hometown of Yorktown, organizing three family weddings; and with my career as an ornamental blacksmith on hold, I could use the rent money.

But when I tried to move back in, I couldn't get rid of my tenant. He was in the middle of an important commission; he would ruin the whole piece if he had to move it; he needed just one more week to finish it. He'd been needing just one more week for the past six weeks.

So I was still staying at my parents' house. Mother and Dad weren't there, of course; they were off in Europe on an extended second honeymoon. But the house was filled with elderly relatives. They'd come for the weddings and stayed on to watch the legal circus unfold as the county built its case against the murderer whose identity I'd managed (more or less accidentally) to uncover.

That was another problem. I'd become notorious. I couldn't go anywhere in Yorktown without people coming up to congratulate me for my brilliant detective work. More than one romantic candlelight dinner with Michael had been interrupted by people who insisted on shaking my hand, having their picture taken with me, buying us drinks, treating us to dinner--it was impossible.

'Too bad we can't just run away together to a desert island,' Michael said after one such interruption.

Inspiration struck.

'Actually, we can,' I said. 'What are you doing next weekend?'

'Running away to a desert island with you, evidently,' Michael said. 'Did you have a particular island in mind?'

'Monhegan!' I said.

'Never heard of it. Where is it?'

'Off the coast of Maine.'

'Won't that be cold this time of year?'

'The cottage has a fireplace. And a gas heater.'


'Aunt Phoebe's summer cottage. Actually, it's an old house. And hardly anyone stays on the island after August; it's too ragged.' Which meant we wouldn't have half a hundred neighbors and relatives looking over our shoulders and reporting who said what to whom and how many bedrooms were occupied.

'What about Aunt Phoebe?'

'It's a summer cottage, remember? Which she isn't using, partly because summer's over and partly because she's having much more fun down here, waiting for the trial and keeping me awake with her snoring.'

'And she won't mind if you use her cottage?'

'She wouldn't mind if she knew, and she won't have to know. Dad has a spare key. She's always inviting us to go up anytime. We haven't for years, but the whole family knows they have an open invitation.'

'And how can we be sure the whole family won't be there?'

'In September? Like you said, it's cold this time of year. Besides, most of the family finds it a little too Spartan for their tastes. Mother won't go at all; she refuses to go anywhere that doesn't even have electricity, much less ready access to a deli and a good hairdresser. Michael, this is not a tropical paradise. But it's empty, it's free, and there's nobody else around for miles except for a few dozen locals who winter there.'

'I'm sold,' he said. 'I can't skip Wednesday night's faculty meeting, but I'll get someone to cover my classes for the rest of the week, come by for you early Thursday morning, and we'll drive up.'

As I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Even the two flat tires that stranded us in a Motel Six near the New Jersey Turnpike for the first night of our getaway hadn't dimmed our enthusiasm. But standing there on the deck of the ferry, I wasn't sure any of that would make sense. I focused back on the present, where Winnie and Binkie were still patiently waiting for an answer. From the way they looked at us, they probably thought we were on the run from something.

'Well, things were so hectic down in Yorktown, and I told Michael about what a great place Monhegan was for getting away from it all,' I said finally. 'I didn't really stop to think how far past the season it is.'

'Yes, you've had quite a time,' Winnie said. 'We had a note from your father when they were in Rome, and he mentioned your detective adventures. You'll have to come over for dinner and tell us all about it.'

Michael winced. I could almost hear his thoughts: So much for anonymity and privacy.

'Yes, that's a wonderful idea,' Binkie said. Then her smile suddenly vanished, and she flung her hand out to point over her husband's shoulder.

'Bird!' she cried.

Winnie whirled, and they both produced gleaming hightech waterproof binoculars from beneath their rain gear. They plastered themselves against the boat rail and locked their lenses on their distant prey. I couldn't see a thing. I glanced at Michael. He shrugged.

I had assumed that the other passengers clinging to the rail were seasick, like us, and either optimistically hoping the fresh air would make them feel better or pessimistically placing themselves where the weather could take care of the inevitable cleanup. But up and down the rail, a forest of binoculars appeared, all trained on the distant speck.

'Only a common tern, I'm afraid,' Binkie said. 'Still, would you like to see?'

Under Binkie's guidance, I managed to focus on a small black dot atop a distant buoy. Even with the binoculars, you could recognize the dot as a bird only if you already knew what it was.

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