along this river have been known to tremble in terror when Tom's boat comes into sight.'

Tom Blaine raised one hand off the helm and waved it at Garth in a self-deprecating gesture. 'Your brother's a sailing fool, Mongo. You should have known better than to go out with him on that little toy you've got back there. You know, this isn't the first time I've had to tow him home, either because there wasn't enough wind, or too much of it.'

Garth laughed again. 'Watch what you say there, Captain. You're talking to the man who taught me how to sail.'

'Really?' the gray-haired, gray-bearded man replied, apparently surprised. 'Where'd you learn to sail, Mongo?'

'In the library, and out here. Hey, Captain, I live in the city. When my brother and sister-in-law bought a house right on the Hudson, complete with boathouse, you'd better believe I was going to take advantage of it. I'd always wanted to learn to sail, so I bought them that used Hoby Cat as a housewarming present.'

The riverkeeper again looked around at me. 'No lessons?'

'Lots of books. And the Hudson River is a great teacher.'

'But a tough one,' the other man replied evenly. 'A guy can get killed out here if he doesn't know what he's doing.'

'Oh, Mongo knows what he's doing, all right,' Garth said drily. 'He's a classic overachiever. Once he takes it into his head that he's going to do something, there's no stopping him until he's done it-and usually well. He's pretty damn good on that cat. Give him a stiff breeze that would blow me over, and he's out there flying a hull.'

I offered my brother a pained grimace, spoke again to the riverkeeper. 'Tom, you say you work for a private organization, doing work that benefits all of us. I would think that monitoring pollution levels would be the job of the state or federal government.'

Tom Blaine grunted derisively. 'That it is, Mongo. On paper. Both have monitoring and enforcement responsibilities. The problem is getting either the state or federal government to do its job-they spend more time arguing about turf than taking care of the river. A lot of it has to do with politics. Things weren't so bad when Shannon was President, but then he went and got himself thrown out of office, and now the right-wingers are back in power. To them, their business buddies can do no wrong, and people who care about air and water are just pains in the ass out to wreck the economy. The result is that the monitoring and protective agencies get no money, and not a whole lot of effort is put into enforcement. Even when workers do see violations, their bosses won't let them do anything about it. Hell, we actually get tips from state workers asking us to go after some shit-dumper because they can't do it themselves. So we do-which means I do. Sometimes we'll go to the Coast Guard, which is supposed to be the big gun on the river, but they'd rather play soldier than sheriff. It seems they're on the lookout for terrorists sailing up the river to blow up Poughkeepsie. I used to try to prod them into doing what they're supposed to do, but I finally gave up. Now I just turn any evidence I find over to the Fishermen's Association, and their lawyers go after the pricks in court. That works. The fines are usually a joke, but the bad publicity embarrasses the bastards, and they usually stop whatever it is they've been doing-for a time anyway. When they start up again, we sue them again. It's a constant battle. But damned if the river doesn't continue to get cleaner. I'm in a position to know.' He paused, turned to look at the green jugs next to the coil of rope on which I sat. 'It's the unbelievable arrogance of the sons-of-bitches that gets to me; that, and their hypocrisy. You'll hear these people carrying on in church about all the wonderful things in God's world, and then they go out on Monday morning and virtually shit in one of the most beautiful rivers God ever created. You'll hear them yammering about what a great country this is; they cry when they sing 'America the Beautiful,' and they tell you flag burners should be shot. And then they spend their working hours spitting on America's face. It's unbelievable.'

It was now dark on the river, except for the lights of the towns and anchorages on both shores, our running lights, and those of the other boats on the water. Tom Blaine must have seen something floating in the water ahead, for he eased back on the throttle, veered off to starboard. Garth and I got to our feet, looked over the side as a large log drifted past. It bumped gently against one of the catamaran's pontoons, then disappeared into the darkness.

The riverkeeper's anger and passion now seemed at least banked, if not spent, and he fell silent and attentive as the three of us gazed out over the river. Garth and I remained at the rail, enjoying the special thrill and beauty of being on the Hudson at night-specks of light on black velvet, the lapping sounds of the water passing under us, the reassuring purr of the trawler's engine. Behind us, the lights of the Tappan Zee Bridge, a necklace of emeralds and white gold, were rapidly growing fainter, like last night's dream receding into memory. We'd had our adventure for the day, and it felt good to be going home.

Chapter Two

Tom Blaine brought us to within a hundred yards of the beach on Garth's property. We hopped back on the catamaran, untied the towline, thanked him profusely, then proceeded to make our way to shore. It was high tide, and we paddled our way under the overhang that was both a family music room and a state-of-the-art recording studio where Mary and her musician friends laid down many of the tracks for her best-selling albums. We pulled the cat up on the beach, in front of the original boathouse on which the main house had been built, then walked up the path leading to the side door. I was thoroughly exhausted, but it was a healthy fatigue, free of mental stress. Being out on the water always did wonders for my head. The mellow high I was enjoying would last until at least midmorning on Monday. Now I was ready for a hot shower, a good stiff Scotch, and some music-live music, if Mary felt like playing her guitar or the piano-dinner, and then sleep. I knew I was going to feel good driving into the city in the morning.

As we came to the side of the house, I noticed a late-model green Cadillac parked in the driveway behind Mary's Wagoneer. I said, 'It looks like you've got company.'

Garth merely shrugged, then led the way through the screen door at the side of the house. 'Mary?' he called cheerfully. 'Guess who's back? It's just like Mongo says: there's nothing like a short sail before dinner to whet your appetite. Mary?'

There was no response, and we walked into the spacious living room with its pine walls and fireplaces at the north and south ends. 'Mary?' Garth called again. 'You home?'

'We're in here, Garth.' Mary's voice, coming from the music room off to our left, sounded strained, nervous.

Garth and I exchanged glances, and then I followed him into the music room, which was essentially a large, enclosed deck overlooking the river. It was my favorite room; despite the clutter of cables, amplifiers, and huge, studio-quality speakers, I found it comfortable and cozy, a place where you could sit in an easy chair and look out over the river through the wraparound windows, read, or listen to music, or just think.

But now the room was filled with an almost palpable atmosphere of tension apparently generated by the lanky stranger who was slumped in Garth's favorite chair, a leather recliner, with his long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles.

Mary was seated on a straight-backed chair between two five-foot-high floor speakers. Her back was stiff, not touching the chair, and both feet were flat on the floor. Her large hands with their long fingers were clenched tightly in her lap. She was wearing her waist-length, gray-streaked yellow hair in a ponytail that was pulled back tightly from her face and held in place with a calico ribbon. As usual when she was home, she wore no makeup, and her flesh, normally a golden brown in the summer from the sun, now looked pale, almost translucent, like delicate china. Her blue eyes seemed cloudy, and she appeared to be very tense, perhaps afraid.

The man in Garth's recliner did not rise, but instead stared intently at my brother and me with cold, black eyes that were bright with intelligence, but also tinted with cruelty. I judged he would be six-four or six-five if he were standing, a couple of inches taller than Garth, but much thinner. He wore jeans, the bottoms tucked into the tops of highly polished black cowboy boots with silver chains draped around the ankles. His black T-shirt was too large for him and hung loosely on his tall frame. Crawling out onto his flesh from both sleeves were black tattoos that appeared to be the clawed, hairy legs of some creature, perhaps a spider that might be tattooed on his chest. He had angular features, with high cheekbones, long nose, and pronounced chin. His hair was black-too black, with a flat, matte appearance that made me think the color had come out of a bottle. I put his age at around forty-five.

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