West Coast Crime Wave leads off with Bill Cameron‘s “The Last Ship,” and I think that was a wise choice. When you think West Coast, you inevitably think of Los Angeles (which is represented in this anthology). Editor Brian Thornton instead opts to start with Cameron’s turf, Oregon. And for this one, Cameron goes way off the beaten path, taking his character Skin Kadash to a remote coastal town to recover from a gunshot wound. This being a Skin Kadash story, he stumbles into some bad stuff surrounding an inn so isolated, it has no cell or Internet service.
The inn is owned by Fi, an old lady who is not all quite there. In fact, one morning, she wanders out into the ocean to catch the last fairy ship. Kadash, at great risk to himself, brings her back in. Soon after, a strange character named Morgan parks himself across from Kadash in a coffee shop, probing for information. Kadash is a former cop, and this sets off alarms despite the conversation sounding rather innocent.
We soon learn Morgan has a reason to be curious about Fi’s delusions. He has gone from being one of the odd strays who took up residence with Fi at the inn to would-be real estate mogul.
This is a quirky story, which you’d expect from Skin Kadash. But for this outing, Cameron has completely isolated him from his support system, namely coffee bar owner Ruby Jane. I remember Ruby Jane from Cameron’s 2007 book Lost Dog. In fact, she is the one character who stuck with me the longest after reading that one. Cameron, however, has Kadash wounded and alone in this one, and not really with a horse in the race. Which is what makes this story interesting. He takes a shine to Fi’s remaining enigmatic strays, Egg and Tweetie, and becomes, if only for a short time, their self-appointed protector.