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Newlyweds, Doug and Mara Williams, chose to settle in Homer, Alaska, owning both a small home on the bluffs overlooking lower Cook Inlet and a fishing seiner docked among a fleet of other working boats in the picturesque harbor at the end of the Homer Spit. With the warning prophecies of Alaska native elder Joe Michael already faced and resolved in the first book in this series, Feather From a Stranger, the newlyweds undertake their final preparations before they leave for the Sitka herring fishery. Thanks to the amazing sacrifice made for them by Joe Michael, they set out for their first adventure as a married couple in Doug’s seiner, the Fire Ring Roamer, no longer fearful of the future of their past—until, on her last day of work, Mara receives another mysterious message. With its setting in many Alaska locations, Two Tickets and a Feather is the second in this mystery series and the sequel to Feather from a Stranger.
Joe Michael’s gift
Stepping down from the deck of the building that housed Ocean Research and Preserve, Mara looked at the whitecaps on the deep blue waters of the Inlet as the waves thundered on the beach below the bluff on which she stood. A few seiners, recognizable by their distinctive design, bobbed in the choppy seas. She closed her eyes tightly as if to seal in the sight. It should always be this way—always and forever it should remain this same quaint little town.
The way the snowy mountains across the Inlet glowed against the deep blue sky made today seem more beautiful than ever, but tomorrow she expected she would say the same thing, just as she would the next day, and the next day, and the next. It’s just the way it was for almost everyone she knew here in Homer, Alaska—just another day in Paradise—like the locals said.
Opening the envelope that she had just been given in the office, she was surprised to see a lifetime pass for the Alaska State ferry with her name, Mara Williams, written on it. Eagerly, she read the short attached note.
I meant to give this to you in person, but as you can see, it didn’t work out. My people will get it to you, though, so I know you will have it if you need it.
The ferry is your link to your freedom.
This pass is your means to be free.
Keep this freedom between you and me.
When she went back inside to try to find out who had delivered the note, as far as anyone knew, it had simply turned up in the mailbox yesterday—hand-delivered and addressed simply, to Mara Williams.
Once back outside, she placed the note and the ticket carefully inside her pocket, climbed into Doug’s old beater truck, slammed the door three times before it would latch, turned the ignition an equal number of times before the engine would start, and drove off. When she got to the harbor, she could see Doug standing on the deck of the seiner, which was floating in water about 15 feet below the parking area due to the low tide.
“Your SUV’s ready over at the repair shop,” he called up to her. “I would have picked it up for you, but I got hung up with this fouled fuel pump I’ve been working on here, and I’m gonna need to take a run into town to pick up a new one or we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”
“I’m sorry I took so long,” she told him. “Maybe you can drop me off on your way in and I’ll drive myself back home and fix something to bring out to the seiner for us for dinner. I also have to stop at the store and get some more dog food.”
She waited while he grabbed a rag and wiped the grease from his hands before locking his tools inside the cabin and climbing up to the docks. Moments later she moved over so he could slide into the driver’s seat beside her, happy when he leaned over and kissed her just as he always did—as naturally as if he were breathing.
“Did everything go okay with turning in your resignation?” he asked her, putting the truck in reverse and backing slowly out of the space where she had parked behind one of the tourist-oriented shops-on-pilings that stood alongside the harbor.
“It did,” she answered. “They said they really appreciated me being here for the past eleven months, and—“ laughing ”—they pretty much knew that I’d be leaving after taking all of last summer off to be with you out on the boat.”
“That’s good,” Doug answered, making a right turn onto the Spit road and heading the 4 miles into town as she continued talking.
“They told me I could come back any time. They said good biologists are hard to find—especially those specializing in sea plankton, like me—Oh, Doug! Stop! Look—the otters!”
“Looks like a storm’s coming in,” Doug said matter-of-factly, while she snapped a few pictures of the rafts of sea otters in Mud Bay. Like most everyone in town, she knew the otters rafted up in this shallow area at the start of the Spit right before a storm, so she took advantage of the photo op using the camera she always carried.
When they reached the auto shop a few minutes later, she waited while Doug talked to the mechanic, checked the repairs, and made sure her SUV was running okay. Meanwhile, she went in to pay the bill and then switched vehicles with him, waiting while he walked to his truck. He pulled up alongside her on his way out of the parking lot, leaning with one elbow out the window as he spoke.
“Looks like you’re about to change careers and become a fisherman,” he teased.
The smile she flashed him was instant, making her stop fiddling for a moment with putting their checkbook back inside her purse. Fingering the note from Joe Michael in her pocket, she stuck it inside her bag along with their checkbook. She started to mention the note to Doug, but stopped herself before any words could come out. Instead, she blew him a kiss and drove off.
Marriage to Doug had brought more happiness than she could ever have hoped for so far, but they had been married only about a year. Her marriage to Brad had taught her that perfect could be an illusion. She would show the note to Doug when the time was right. For now, though, she didn’t want to make him worry about a mysterious message from a man whose memorial service they had attended over a year ago.