He shrugged slightly, then turned and walked back into the house.

'I was the one who first warned you about rebound, wasn't I?' I said to the empty, button eye. 'Now you're up to your eyeballs in shit, and there's no way you're going to wade out of it. We now have your taped confession admitting complicity in the murder of Tom Blaine, and you'll be facing additional charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. So, can we talk?'

After a long hesitation, Chick Carver nodded his head slightly. Garth appeared with two glass tumblers filled with Scotch and ice. I helped Carver up to a sitting position, then eased him back against the wall behind him. He took his hands away from his face, and it was all I could do not to avert my gaze. Blood continued to ooze from the lacerations on his face. His nose was broken, and it looked like his left eye was gone. Mary had played quite a tune on him. I handed him the generous tumbler of Scotch, which he downed in three long swallows. Garth squatted down beside me, stared at Carver.

'The police are going to be here in a few minutes, Sacra, so listen up,' I continued quickly. 'Now, I imagine you can try to cut some kind of deal with the cops by offering to tell all you know about Carver Shipping-about how all the executives approved of the idea you put in the suggestion box, how you were taken out to dinner, paid a cash bonus, and all that. Naturally the company will deny it. You tell me if I'm wrong, but I'll bet you don't have anything in writing, and any other bonuses you received were in cash. They're just going to claim you were in league with their mythical rogue captains all along. You're overboard, Sacra, and the sharks are circling. Your ex- bosses get away with the money they made off your idea, and they'll be laughing at you while you go away to prison. There's no way in hell you can escape a long term, and I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you there is. But Garth and I may be in a position to help you get something that I think means a great deal to you, and that's the respect of your father. Assuming we can convince the authorities to cooperate, which shouldn't be a problem, we can help you win back that respect, while at the same time getting in some licks at the boys in the gray suits who used you. Are you interested?'

There was another long pause. Then, in a thick voice, Carver said, 'Yes.'

'Me too,' Garth said drily.

I picked up my tumbler of Scotch, handed it to Carver. 'Then drink up while you have the chance, and keep listening. I've got a proposition for you. We're going to make Sacra Silver a star.'


I stood on a chair and watched through a square viewing portal in the projection booth as the five hundred people who had shown up for the luncheon and shareholders' meeting of Carver Shipping milled about in the grand ballroom of the Times Square hotel, waiting for the gathering to be called to order. There were an unusual number of media representatives, due not only to the notoriety of recent events involving Carver Shipping but also to the presence of the United States Secretary of the Interior-the guest of honor, main speaker, and pompous village idiot who could always be counted on to put his foot in his mouth in any speech lasting more than sixty seconds. The good Secretary was expected to rain praise on this 'great American company' and then endorse what was expected to be a routine vote of confidence in the board of directors and a celebration of the company's policies.

At the moment, the Secretary was seated at the center of a flower-bedecked table set up on a stage beneath a theater-size screen. A specially produced promotional film with the title We Love the River was scheduled to be screened in, according to my watch, five minutes. The Secretary, a tall, stooped man, was engaged in animated conversation with Barry Russell, a short, rotund man with a pencil moustache who was the chairman of the board. The Secretary of the Interior was not an impressive-looking man, nor was the chairman of the board, nor, indeed, were any of the directors, men who seemed almost swallowed up in their thousand-dollar suits. I was struck once again by how much the lives of every citizen of the United States were controlled, finally, not by the Sacra Silvers of the world, but by faceless, unimpressive white men in gray suits. I thought they all looked like third-string Godfathers-but then, I was decidedly prejudiced.

At precisely twelve-thirty the chairman pounded a gavel on a lectern set up to the left of the table, and the crowd obediently quieted as people sat down in their seats. Russell motioned for the Secretary and other members of the board schmoozing at the table to take their places in a special section in the front row of seats that had been partitioned off with a thick velvet rope strung between gleaming brass stanchions. They did so, and then the chairman looked up at the booth to signal for the film to begin. As his eyes met mine, he frowned, then cocked his head to one side and squinted, as if there might be some hint of recognition. I gave him a salute and a grin, then turned and signaled Garth to start the projector as I dimmed the auditorium lights on the master control console to my right. Then I turned back to watch the show. The projector began to whir, and Garth stepped up to the viewing portal on the opposite side of the booth.

There were no opening credits at the beginning of the film, and no music-just a stark close-up of Chick Carver's ruined, stitched face. There was a sharp, collective intake of breath from the audience below, which obviously did not find this a suitable image to open a corporate promotional film.

'My name is Charles Carver,' the man who had once described himself as a sorcerer and insisted on being called Sacra Silver said directly to the camera. 'Until recently, I worked as an assistant to Roger Wellington, the chief of security for the Carver Shipping Company. I am the son of Bennett Carver, the founder of this company you now all collectively own, but my father is in no way responsible for the criminal actions I am about to describe to you. My father has avoided contact with me for twenty years, and with good reason.'

I considered the picture quality of the 35mm film to be quite good, considering the fact that it had been transferred from quarter-inch videotape-a little grainy, but I thought that appropriate to the subject matter. The sound was too loud, even for the large auditorium, but it never even occurred to me to turn down the volume. Even above the booming sound of Chick Carver's voice, I could still hear shouts of protest and the loud buzz of excited conversation from below.

Chairman Barry Russell rushed up on stage, shielded his eyes with one hand, and squinted as he repeatedly made cutting motions across his throat with the other hand to indicate to the projection booth that the film should be stopped. Although I knew it was unlikely he could see me against the glare of the projection lamp, I made a series of cutting motions of my own back at him, and grinned. Then he started shouting orders and making frantic motions toward both sides of the auditorium. Security guards began running up the aisles, heading toward the stairwell leading up to the projection booth. I wasn't worried; careful preparations had been made for this special screening. In the lobby their security guards would meet our security guards, off-duty NYPD and transit cops hired for the occasion, and there was no doubt in my mind that our security guards would prevail. We would be undisturbed for the next fourteen minutes and twenty seconds, which was how long this particular promotional film would run.

On screen, the scene had shifted from the banks of the Hudson to the river itself, where we had filmed Chick Carver standing at the bow of a large powerboat borrowed from one of Garth's friends for the occasion. Carver was narrating a guided tour of the industries along the shores of the river serviced by Carver Shipping, while at the same time describing how he had originally come up with the idea for hauling water from the Hudson to the Middle East; he described how the idea had been eagerly received by the company's executives, and he named each of the individual directors who had come up to personally congratulate him for his initiative; he described the menu at the dinner to which the CEO had treated him, and he listed what he had bought with the five-thousand-dollar cash bonus he had received. He told how he had been made personally responsible for seeing that the captains of Carver Shipping's vessels acceded to the company's decision, and how he had personally delivered cash bonuses to the captains and their crews who agreed to cooperate.

The next-to-last stop on this tour of corporate greed and irresponsibility was the mooring site where he had ordered Julian Jefferson to activate his tanker's main engines while Tom Blaine was in the water below; the last stop was the fisherman's float net where Mary and I had found the bloody pieces of Tom's body.

Chick Carver finished by saying that he deeply regretted what he had done, and apologizing to his father for the damage he had done to the company Bennett Carver had been so proud of. Then the screen went blank.

I turned up the lights, looked down. There was pandemonium below, with all of the shareholders out of their seats, milling about and shouting at each other. The Secretary of the Interior was nowhere in sight. The chairman of the board was up at the lectern, banging his gavel for order, while, to a man, the rest of the directors were

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