With warmer weather on the way and spring just around the corner, we can't help but daydream a bit about outdoor activities, beaches, and being on the water. March is a great time to grab a book that evokes these summer settings, maybe with a bit of intrigue sprinkled in.
Arrow’s Flight is not that book... exactly. But you’ll be swept right up into the story alongside Jared Kane and his best friend, Danny MacLean, as they sail down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to California and out into the South Pacific on a high seas adventure like no other.
Jared’s a West Coast fisherman whose life has been plagued by bad luck. When he inherits Arrow, an old 46-foot wooden sailboat, he sees a chance for redemption. With his friend from prison, Danny MacLean, he plans a trip to the South Pacific, but bad luck rears its ugly head. Danny is attacked and left for dead, and when the unknown assailants attempt to finish the job, Jared is forced to flee aboard Arrow ill-prepared, poorly provisioned, and crewed by Danny’s silent Haida grandfather.
Read an exclusive excerpt from Arrow’s Flight below!
It was eleven thirty the following evening when I dropped the anchor in five fathoms of water inside Navvy Jack Point. I had slipped Arrow out of the berth in darkness with just a small headsail, letting the wind and current do the work. Once I was out into the channel, I dropped the sail and started the engine. There was about twelve knots of wind as I motored up to the point. If I had to go outside it later, there would be more. With luck it wouldn’t be necessary.
While I waited I made a few changes in Arrow’s rig. I put a reef in the main and angled the boom so the aft end would swing across seven feet above the decks, then hung a two-part block on the end of it and ran a spare mainsail halyard down through so the snap shackle was extending downwards towards the deck. I took the other end at the mast and led it via a pair of blocks to the spinnaker winch and cleated it off. I was ready.
I leaned back against the coamings and waited. They should be coming soon. Arrow tugged against the anchor chain, her bow bobbing to the light chop. I had put down the small Danforth and a scant fifty feet of chain. No matter which way it went, we would not be here long. I watched the sky, drank coffee, and wished I still smoked.
It was forty-five minutes before I heard the outboard and another five before they pulled alongside. We had put peel-and-stick over Arrow’s lettering so they wouldn’t have to blindfold Jaeger.
He was a creature of habit, and they had nabbed him when he came out of the bar on Howe Street at his usual time, eleven o’clock. He had been easy enough to find once we had the name — his business depended upon his being visible.
His headquarters was in the Excelsior, a fashionable bar near the Vancouver Stock Exchange. That made it easier: at night the area was deserted save for bar patrons and the occasional street person rummaging in the Dumpsters. Jaeger’s practice was to attend the Excelsior each night around eight, make his contacts, and depart at eleven for the drive back to his home in the British Properties.
Annie had borrowed a nondescript white Plymouth for the evening and spread mud over the licence plates. Jaimie and Erin had gone into the bar at ten while Annie and Joseph waited in the car. When the boys saw Jaeger getting up to leave, Jaimie walked out the door in front of him, while Erin closed in behind.
They had him inside the car before Jaeger knew what had happened. Annie explained that someone wished to talk to him privately, and Jaeger inclined his head in polite acknowledgement. He was relaxed and sat quietly. The boys said the only time he showed any signs of nervousness was when they climbed down the dock ladder into the dinghy.
I reached over the side and helped him aboard Arrow. He climbed in through the lifelines gate, a small, dapper man with a three-piece herringbone suit, a grey homburg, and the air of a city banker. He sat down in the cockpit, crossed his legs fastidiously, shot his cuffs and acknowledged me with a nod. He pulled out a silver cigarette case, offered it around, and then lit up with a silver Dunhill. He inhaled deeply, looked down and inspected his gleaming black shoes, then brushed a fleck of dirt off his trousers.
“Now then, gentlemen,” he said, “how may I be of service?”
You had to like his style. Jaimie and Erin moved up to the bow, their cigarettes glowing in the darkness.
“We are friends of Danny MacLean,” I said.
He reflected for a moment. “Ah. The young man in the hospital. How is he?”
“Not very well,” I said.
“I’m very sorry to hear that.” He seemed genuinely concerned.
“He will likely require some expensive treatment for a long time, and we thought perhaps his ex-partners might like to contribute.”
Jaeger smiled faintly. “I would have thought that Her Majesty’s Government would be looking after all of that.”
“He may be paralyzed. We might be looking at a lifetime scenario.”
He showed the first sign of impatience. “And what does any of this have to do with me?”
“We thought you might be able to put us into contact with the men in question.”
He smiled patronizingly. “Even assuming that I knew the names of the two gentlemen, you must surely understand that the essence of my profession is confidentiality. If I were to reveal names, my business would be at an end. And, conceivably, my existence as well. What you ask is impossible.”
I nodded. “There is something you may not know. Danny was knifed by his partners. After he was shot. They gutted him and left him to bleed to death in the street.”
Jaeger frowned in distaste. “I hadn’t heard that.”
I showed him some pictures. Polaroids that Annie had taken when the police officer went upstairs for his cigarette. The bandages were pulled back and the wound shone wetly in the flash.
“Yes, well, it doesn’t surprise me, I’m afraid. Regrettable.” He shook his head sadly. “But unfortunately it doesn’t change anything.”
“We will pay you for the names. Five thousand dollars.”
“It isn’t a question of money.”
“I can absolutely guarantee our discretion. There will be no comebacks.”
I stood up and stretched my shoulders. A moment later I heard the soft chink of the chain as the anchor started to come in.
“I really am sorry,” Jaeger said. “But it is absolutely out of the question.”
“Is that your final word?”
“Yes.” He stood as if to leave.
I shoved him abruptly back down. “No sense in wasting a nice breeze. Seeing as we are out here anyway, we might as well go for a sail.”
The anchor clanked aboard, Jaimie pulled up the ready-hanked jib, and Arrow slowly started to make way.
Jaeger tried to stand again. “I don’t really think . . .”
Erin’s big hands gripped his shoulders. “Relax. We’re really very good at this.”
“We’d better put on life jackets,” Jaimie said. “It’s a dark night, and if anyone fell over we would have a hell of a time spotting them in the water.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Erin growled. “Especially if they happened to be wearing a dark-coloured suit.”
They stood Jaeger up and fastened his life jacket around him and cinched it up tight, then sat him back down directly under the boom on the port side.
“You had better hook on a safety line as well,” I said. “Just in case.”
“Good thinking, Captain.”
Erin reached up and brought down the halyard I’d reeved through the blocks earlier and clipped it on to the stainless ring sewn on the back of Jaeger’s life jacket.
We were running downwind now, doing a slow three knots.
“Hoist the mainsail,” I called out.
I swung the tiller slightly, Jaimie hauled and Erin tailed, and the mainsail filled directly above Jaeger. Arrow edged up to five knots.
“I really wish you would change your mind,” I said.
He stared defiantly up at me. But he wasn’t so relaxed now. He was braced back against the coamings, his hands tightly gripped about his knees.
“Okay. Fuck it, then. Let’s go sailing.”
I laid the tiller over thirty degrees, Jaimie cranked on the spare halyard, and Erin slipped the mainsheet. Jaeger rose up into the air with a startled yelp, and two seconds later was dangling off the boom, ten feet out from the side of the boat. He hadn’t even grazed the lifelines on the way by. Arrow was doing six knots now, the motion quiet as we ran downwind.
“How about a beer?”
Erin disappeared below and returned with four cans. He opened them and passed a couple to Jaimie and me.
Jaeger was trying to curl his feet up on the boom, but with the sail up and filled hard, there wasn’t much purchase. His hands were locked on the boom end, but his feet kept slipping off. I saw he had lost a shoe.
“Catch,” hollered Erin and lobbed the can towards him. Jaeger flinched, and the beer sailed past.
“He doesn’t want a beer,” Jaimie said.
We drank ours and chatted for a bit. Jaimie stood up and squinted into the darkness.
“I think we’re going to have to jibe, Skipper,” he said.
“Really? But that will put us out into much rougher water,” I replied. “Oh well.”
“Don’t worry,” I called across to Jaeger. “This is a standard sailboat manoeuvre. We do it all the time.”
He turned his head slightly and glared at me. If he wasn’t such a gentleman, I would have sworn he said fuck you.
He was pale, but he was game.
“Helm’s alee,” I hollered as I swung the tiller through ninety degrees. Jaimie worked the mainsheet as the wind came across. He went a little slowly, and as the wind caught the main on the weather side, there was a few feet of slack. Jaeger went through the cockpit like a bullet from a gun as the boom slammed across. We all crouched as he went screaming over, and then there was a solid thud as the main came up on the traveller. Erin slacked on his halyard, and Jaeger was parallel with the boom four feet outboard before he dropped back down again and spun crazily. It was a rougher tack, and his feet were touching the water occasionally.
“That was just terrible,” I said. “What will our guest think? We’d better have another beer and practise until we get it right.”
We did two more jibes. Now that Jaeger knew what to expect, he didn’t scream, just closed his eyes tight and tried to curl up as he careened across the decks.
If you have never sailed, it is hard to imagine the difference between the upwind and downwind legs. In a breeze of around fifteen knots, like we had that night, the apparent wind was eight or nine knots as you went with it. The boat was rolling a little, but the motion was easy, there was little spray or noise, and it all seemed very controlled. That was about to change.
“Hang on,” I yelled to Jaeger as we brought Arrow around into the wind and hardened up on the main and jib sheets. We were still doing around seven knots, but now the apparent wind was twenty-two plus. Arrow was heeled sharply and sending spray over the decks as she knifed into the waves, and you had to yell to be heard.
“Tack,” I screamed as I swung the helm and ducked. Jaeger blurred by in a sodden mess. The winches clattered and the jib snapped as it moved across and we lay down on the other course.
“Tack,” I yelled again, and back we went, Jaeger unable to hang on now, just dangling limply as we sheeted in.
“Tack,” I yelled again above the noise, and we began to swing again.
“No,” Jaeger said. “No.”
We lowered him into the cockpit and stripped off his clothes. His face was pale and greasy, and he had thrown up on his suit. We had the Dickinson stove lit in the cabin, and Jaimie and I carried him below while Erin took the tiller. I rubbed him down with towels, keeping at it till some of the colour came back to his face. Jaimie passed him thermal underwear, a heavy flannel shirt, and a pair of wool fisherman pants. He put them on without a word, then took the coffee with the brandy in it and held it in his hands until he had stopped shivering long enough to drink from it without spilling.
“You did well,” I said. “You lasted a long time.”
“You’ve done this before?” he stuttered.
“No. But I didn’t think you’d last near that long.”
He finished his drink and handed me the cup, and I poured him another coffee. We were running in on a close reach, and the motion was easier. He took the brandy bottle and added a good inch to the coffee.
“Their names are Lebel. Henri and Claude, two brothers in their thirties. They came out from Quebec four months ago, and I heard they were dealing in high-grade cocaine. I was surprised to hear they had pulled the jewellery robbery. I have no idea how your friend got mixed up with them.”
Neither did I. Danny never did drugs, not even the occasional joint when I offered. One of his uncles had died from an overdose, and he was a puritan on the subject.
“Where do they hang out?”
“I don’t know. They were pointed out to me in the Excelsior when they first came to town, but that was a while ago. I haven’t seen them since.” He shrugged. “If I knew, I’d tell you.”
He didn’t seem concerned whether we believed him or not. We had enough anyway.
We were running smoothly now, back inside the lee of the point.
The engine started up and Erin stuck his head in and nodded.
“Okay. We’re back.”
I handed Jaeger an envelope with five thousand dollars in it. He took out two thousand and threw the remainder down on the cabin sole.
“For the suit,” he said. “You can throw it away.”
He climbed out through the companionway and lowered himself into the dinghy, where he sat impassively, waiting for the boys. I thought that he had handled himself pretty well, considering.
Jaimie told me the next day that they had offered him a ride home.
“Fuck you,” he’d said, “I would rather walk.” And he marched off in his bare feet.