The Whisperers
wharf upon which it stood: apartment buildings that barely came up to code; ruined structures on waterfronts and side streets in towns all the way from Kittery to Calais; and vacant lots that were used for nothing but storing filthy pools of stagnating rainwater, lots that were not for sale and bore no indication of ownership beyond a series of ‘No Trespassing’ signs, some of them reasonably official in appearance, others just scrawled boards with increasingly varied and creative spellings of the word ‘Trespassing.’
    What these buildings and lots had in common was the possibility that they might, at some future date, be valuable to a developer. The wharf on which the Sailmaker sat was one of a number tipped to become part of the new Maine State Pier redevelopment, a $160 million effort to revitalize the commercial waterfront involving a new hotel, soaring offices, and a cruise ship terminal which had since been dropped and now looked to be an increasingly distant prospect. The port was struggling. The International Marine Terminal that had once been filled with cargo containers waiting to be taken out on ships and barges, or transported inland by truck and train, was quieter than it had ever been. The number of fishing boats bringing their catches to the fish exchange on the Portland Fish Pier had fallen from 350 to 70 in the space of fifteen years, and the livelihoods of the fishermen were being threatened further by a reduction in their number of permitted fishing days. The high-speed Cat service between Portland and Nova Scotia was ending, taking with it much needed jobs and income for the port. Some were suggesting that the survival of the waterfront depended on increasing the number of bars and restaurants permitted on the wharfs, but the danger was that the port would then become little more than a theme park, with a handful of lobstermen left to eke out a meager living and provide some local color for the tourists, leaving Portland just a shadow of the great deep-water harbor that had defined the city’s identity for three centuries.
    And in the middle of all this uncertainty squatted Jimmy Jewel, sizing up the angles, his finger damp and raised to the wind. It wouldn’t be true to say that Jimmy didn’t care about Portland, or its piers, or its history. He just cared about money more.
    But decaying buildings, although a significant part of his portfolio, did not represent the sum total of Jimmy’s business interests. He had a slice of interstate and cross-border trucking, and he knew more about the smuggling of narcotics than almost anyone on the northeastern seaboard. Jimmy’s main deal was pot, but he’d suffered a couple of serious hits in recent years, and now he was rumored to be taking a step back from the drug business in favor of more legitimate enterprises, or those enterprises that gave the appearance of legitimacy, which was not the same thing. Old habits died hard, and when it came to criminality Jimmy kept his hand in as much for the money as for the pleasure he got in breaking the law.
    I didn’t have to call ahead to make an appointment with him. The heart of Jimmy’s empire was the Sailmaker. He had a small office in back, but it was used mainly for storage. Instead, Jimmy could always be found at the bar, reading newspapers, answering occasional calls on an ancient phone, and drinking endless cups of coffee. He was there when I entered that morning. There was nobody else with him, apart from a bartender in a stained white t-shirt who was hauling in crates of beer from the storeroom. The bartender’s name was Earle Hanley, the same Earle Hanley who had tended bar at the Blue Moon on the night that Sally Cleaver was beaten to death by her boyfriend, for the owner of the Sailmaker and the Blue Moon were one and the same: Jimmy Jewel.
    Earle looked up as I came in. If he liked what he saw, he made a manly effort to disguise the fact. His face creased, wrinkling like a ball of paper that

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