Jack Mullen is a driven student of the law. His brother Peter is a servant of the rich, parking the cars of the Hamptons' elite-and perhaps satisfying their more intimate needs as well. Then Peter's body is found on the beach. Jack knows the drowning was no accident, but someone's unlimited power and money have bought the cops, the judges, the system. Now Jack is learning a lesson in justice he never got in law school- and his astonishing plan to beat the billionaires will have you reeling-and cheering-to the very last page.
AT 9:20 THAT FRIDAY EVENING, I grabbed my backpack and descended by elevator, escalator, and stairs, each a little grittier than the one before, until I reached a subway platform beneath Grand Central Terminal. The MTA shuttled me west and south to Penn Station, and I high-stepped it over to the track that would take me to Long Island. I caught the last train out.
Every car would soon be cheek by jowl with frisky young urbanites headed for the summer's first big Hamptons weekend, but I was early enough to claim a window seat. I slipped a CD into my Discman and hunkered down for the creaking three-hour ride to where the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road dead-end. Montauk. Home.
Minutes before the train lurched out, a kid who looked like a college freshman going home for the summer, all his dirty laundry and worry squeezed into one huge bag, sank into the seat across from mine.
Five minutes later he was asleep, a dog-eared paperback of The Red Badge of Courage hanging perilously from the pocket of his Old Navy tech vest. The book had also been a favorite of mine, and I reached over and tucked it safely back in.
Looking at the kid, who was tall and gawky with one of those mustache-goatees a nineteen-year-old sprouts with anxious pride, I was reminded of all the trips I made back home on that same train. Often I traveled in total defeat. Other times I was just looking to rest and refill my wallet, laboring for my old man's little construction company if he had enough work or, more often when he didn't, repainting the hulls at Jepson's Boatyard. But for five years I never made the trip without a nameless dread of what the future held.
It made me realize how much better things had gotten. I had just finished my second year at Columbia and made Law Review the semester before. I'd parlayed that into the associate gig, where I made more in a week than in a summer humping two-by-fours or repainting hulls.
And then there was Dana, who'd be waiting for me at the train. I'd been going out with her for almost a year, but it still amazed me. Part of it was her last name, Neubauer. Maybe you've heard of it. Her parents owned one of the biggest privately held companies in the world, and one of the great summer houses on the eastern seaboard.
I started dating her the summer before, when I was working at Jepson's. She had stopped by to check on her father's luxo-cruiser. I don't know what got into me — but I asked her out. I guess she liked the rich girl-working boy scenario, and I probably did, too. Mostly, though, I liked Dana: she was smart, funny, centered, and focused. She was also easy to talk to, and I trusted her. Best of all, she wasn't a snob or a typical spoiled rich kid, which was some kind of miracle, given her pedigree.
Eastward ho! The old train rattled on, stopping at all the suburban sprawl towns with their 7-Elevens and Indian names like Patchogue and Ronkonkoma, where my tired college pal got off. Real towns. Not the weekend-tourist villages those on board couldn't wait to cavort in.
I apologize if my yuppie tirade is wearing thin, particularly since I had on the same kind of clothes and my prospects were probably better than most. But one difference between us was that for me, Montauk and the Hamptons were real places, not just a way of keeping a conversation going in a singles bar.
It's where my brother and I were born. Where our mother died too young. And where our octogenarian hipster grandfather showed no sign of slowing down.
Half the passengers scrambled out in Westhampton. The rest got off a couple of stops later, in East Hampton. When the train finally wheezed to a stop in Montauk right on time at four minutes past midnight, I was the only one left in my car.
And something outside the window seemed very wrong.
Copyright © 2002 by James Patterson
Gil Bellows stars in the TV Show The Agency and played "Billy" on Ally McBeal. He also appeared in The Shawshank Redemption, Miami Rhapsody, and Looking for Richard on the big screen.
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