This, of course, is something else entirely.

“St. John,” Cash repeats. “In the Virgin Islands.”

“Your father was in a helicopter crash,” Irene says. “It crashed into the sea. Three people were on board: your father, the pilot, and a local woman.”

“Who told you this?” Cash asks.

“Todd Croft’s secretary, Marilyn,” Irene says. “Todd Croft, your father’s boss.”

“Was Dad in the Virgin Islands working?” Cash asks. The exact details of his father’s career have been hazy ever since he switched jobs. When Cash was young, Russ worked as a salesman for the Corn Refiners Association. Then, when Cash entered high school, Russ got a different job, a much better-paying job working for Todd Croft, who owned a boutique investment firm, Ascension, that catered to high-end clients—international soccer stars and the like, though when Cash asked which soccer stars, Russ claimed he wasn’t at liberty to say. Russ’s job was to keep the clients happy, do interface, provide a personal touch, whatever that meant. All Cash knows for sure is that they went from being the middlest of middle class to people who had money. “Having money” meant Irene could buy and renovate her dream house, it meant no college loans; it meant Russ had seed money for Cash’s doomed business venture.

“I’m not sure,” Irene says. “Todd’s secretary, Marilyn, told me your father has a ‘concern’ there. She told me your father owns property there.”

“Property?” Cash says. “Does Baker know about this?”

“I haven’t talked to Baker yet,” Irene says. “I called you first.”

Right, Cash thinks. Their family, like every family, has its allegiances. It’s Irene and Cash on one side and Russ and Baker on the other. Irene called Cash first because they’re closer—and also because she fears Anna, Baker’s wife.

“Maybe Baker knows what Dad was doing in the Virgin Islands?” Cash says. His father is dead. Could this possibly be true? His father was in a helicopter crash?

“I have to fly down there,” Irene says. “I can’t get there tomorrow. I’m leaving Thursday morning out of Chicago. I’m not sure what to do about your grandmother. This will kill her.”

Cash does some quick mental calculating. It’s an eleven-hour drive from Denver to Iowa City. If Cash grabs his things from the apartment and the money from both stores, he’ll be on 76 by ten o’clock. Even with stops, he should be pulling into his parents’ driveway before noon.

“I’m going with you,” Cash says. “I’ll be at your house tomorrow and I’m going down there with you.”

“But how can you get away?” Irene asks. “The stores…”

“Mom,” Cash says. “Mom?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Call Baker,” Cash says. “But don’t tell anyone else about this yet. Don’t call Grammie. I’ll be there tomorrow. I’ll help you. I’m on my way.”


Any day on St. John is better than a holiday, if you ask Captain Sam Powers, known to one and all as “Huck.” Huck’s first mate, Adam, is twenty-seven years old, and all he can talk about on their December 31st afternoon fishing charter (a couple from Albany, New York, and their college-aged daughter, who hasn’t been off her phone since getting on the boat) is how he can’t wait to go to Drink for the big party that night. They have a ball drop and snow, and everyone is served drinks in real glasses instead of plastic cups.

“You should come with me,” Adam says to the college-aged daughter. (Maybe she’s older, Huck can’t tell, but he thought he was clear with Adam: pursue girls who show an interest in fishing! This girl, who is scrolling through her Instaface account, is attractive, sure, but she doesn’t even seem to realize she’s out on the water, for Pete’s sake. If it were up to Huck, he’d turn around and take her back to the dock.)

The girl raises her eyes to look at Adam, who is elbow-deep in a bucket of squid, baiting the trolling lines. “Ah-ight,” she says.

Is that even a word? Huck wonders.

“Yeah?” Adam says. “You’ll go? It won’t get good until about ten, but we should plan to arrive around eight, eight thirty.”

“We have a dinner reservation at eight in Coral Bay,” the girl’s mother says. The mother is attractive as well, but she isn’t interested in fishing either. She brought a book—something called Lilac Girls. Huck isn’t against books on his boat; in fact, there was a period of time when he believed that a person reading brought the fish. Huck likes to read himself, though never on the boat, but at home in his hammock, yes. When LeeAnn was alive, she got him hooked on Carl Hiaasen, and from there it was an easy jump to Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly. Rosie is always telling him he should try some female writers, and he promised her he would read anything she put into his hands, as long as it didn’t have the word girl in the title. Gone Girl, Girl on the Train—and now look, Lilac Girls. The mother—Huck has forgotten her name; he only retains the names of people interested in fishing—seems pretty engrossed, however.

“Dinner reservation?” Dan, the father, says. Dan is a name Huck remembers because Dan wants to catch fish and Dan is paying for the trip. Dan works for the state government of New York—Huck shudders just thinking about it—but he is now on his Caribbean vacation and he wants to catch a fish, preferably a wahoo or a mahi. Huck assured Dan that would happen even though he’s been experiencing something of a dry spell. He hasn’t had a decent haul since the high season started.

Huck has decided to stay inshore—one look at the mother and daughter told him they would not be up for the forty-minute ride south to blue water—so wahoo and mahi are out of the question.

“Yes,” the mother says. “We have an eight o’clock reservation at Shipwreck Landing.”

“Good place,” Huck says.

“But I want to catch a fish and grill it up,” Dan says. “That’s what we agreed on.”

The wife shrugs. “If you catch a fish big enough to feed the three of us, I’ll cancel.”

“Count me out,” the daughter says. “I want to go to the party.”

Hank will have to reprimand Adam for starting this mess. He doesn’t get involved in other people’s family drama. He focuses all of his emotional energy on his own girls—LeeAnn’s daughter, Rosie, and Rosie’s daughter, Maia. Maia, at age twelve, probably qualifies as Huck’s favorite person in the world.

Now there’s a girl who loves to fish.

Huck’s mind wanders as it tends to when he’s captaining his boat, The Mississippi. People always ask if he’s from Hannibal or Natchez, St. Louis or New Orleans, but the answer is no. Huck’s nickname was given to him his first week in St. John, twenty years earlier at the bar at Skinny Legs, by a West Indian fella named Rupert, who is now Huck’s best friend. Rupert saw Huck’s strawberry-blond hair and the nickname fit somehow. Rupert hooked him up with a boat for sale—a twenty-six-foot Regulator—that had been bought by a kid on the island who lost his shirt gambling in Puerto Rico and needed to sell it quick for cheap. The boat had been named Lady Luck, but Huck changed it immediately to The Mississippi to match his new identity.

Who wants to drink from real glasses? Huck wonders. He can do that at home. His favorite thing about this island is that it’s a barefoot, casual place; there isn’t a pretentious thing about it. After a full-day charter, Huck likes to hit Joe’s Rum Hut for happy hour—he gets a planters punch or the local beer—and he wanders to the waterline of Frank Bay for a cigarette, then he heads down to Beach Bar with his drink and he’s allowed to finish it there before he buys his next drink. He knows everyone and everyone knows him: Huck, captain of The Mississippi. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t had a decent catch since Halloween. He always has clients because he’s connected. And he also happens to know what he’s doing.

Huck will spend tonight with Maia because the Invisible Man is on-island. Sometimes, when the Invisible Man is here, Maia will go along with her mother, but tonight is New Year’s Eve. The Invisible Man hasn’t been here for New Year’s Eve in four years, and so Rosie planned a special night of champagne and romance.

Fine. Huck can think of no better person to ring the new year in with than Maia. Huck will stop by Candi’s on the way home and pick up some barbecue.

He anchors the boat at the edge of Mandal Bay, off the north coast of St. Thomas, and helps Adam bait the hooks. The air has been crystalline since Christmas, and today there isn’t a cloud to be seen. The sky is a deep, painterly blue. There are supposed to be thunderstorms tomorrow morning but there’s no sign of them now.

“Who’s casting?” Huck asks. Dan already has his rod at the ready. Mrs. Dan is reading, and the daughter is on her phone. Huck looks between the two of them. Nothing.

Hey, Huck wants to say. You’re in the Caribbean! Look at the string of palm trees backing that platinum beach over there. Look how clear the water is. Days don’t get any more picturesque than this. Now, let’s catch some fish.


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