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Determined to be reunited with her father and confident that she knows where he might be going, Morgan sets out on an ambitious and dangerous journey to a small Pacific island. With little money, no driver's license, and no passport, Morgan attempts to reach her destination by sailboat, prepared to fight through hostile waters, and hostile men, if it means finding her father.
But Morgan isn't the only one searching for Aiden. The same people who engineered his company's collapse know that he is the only man who can uncover a conspiracy that could destroy far more than one bank or a single life. The group is unconstrained by morality, undeterred by mercy, and it will do anything in its power, including using Morgan as a pawn, if it ensures that Aiden Page remains a corpse. Now Aiden must solve the mystery behind his exile if he hopes to save not just his own life but his daughter's as well. Before his race is over, he will discover that thousands of lives may depend upon the actions of a dead man.
The "Swan Pond" at Anse. Marcel on the northwest coast of St. Martin, a popular Caribbean tourist island between Anguilla and St. Barts, was a lousy place to disappear if you'd ever devoted body and soul to getting rich in New York. Hidden up a narrow, twisty creek and ringed by dense vegetation, the natural cove might have sheltered pirates or escaped slaves in a simpler time. But in the month of March 2002, it was a marina for blue-water charter yachts. Tucked ashore among the bougainvillea, a five-star health club resort -- the ritzy type the French called a privilège spa -- offered a clear view of million-dollar hulls, flawless teak decks, lofty masts, and polished chrome. Sooner or later a Wall Street guy would run into somebody he knew at the Swan Pond.
So Aiden Page kept his head down while he scrubbed diesel soot off the transom of a Swan 44 he had just delivered from Martinique. When he did look up, it was to whisper Hail Marys that on off days, between last week's clients flying home and the next en route, the only people to recognize him -- the boats' deckhands and cooks, and the shore-based mechanics, riggers, and varnishers -- would know him as "Chuck," a taciturn charter captain from some landlocked place like Kansas or Iowa where Chuck must have learned to sail on lakes.
He appeared, at first glance, similar to the other paid crew cleaning the boats this brilliant winter morning in the high season -- a seafaring man in cutoffs and a faded polo shirt, face tanned, hair and beard bleached yellow by the sun. Squint lines radiating from his eyes suggested he had left his twenties far behind; his perpetually bowed head hinted at disappointments or remorse; but a restless vitality and a handsome face offered the possibility that the best years stretched promisingly before him, if only he could get out of this current mess.
He had a sailor's broad hands, and arms hard with muscle. But his legs betrayed the camouflage of the working seaman: unlike most professional crew, whose lower limbs were spindly from years confined to small decks, Aiden Page's were still muscled from daily workouts at the Downtown Athletic Club. If anyone noticed, he hoped they would take him for a pumped-up race boat gorilla from the "Heine," the annual Heineken Regatta that the island had just hosted. Though at an athletic five-ten and one-seventy, Aiden Page was built more like a bowman than a winch grinder -- and had the scars to prove it: an O branded on his left cheek by an errant jib's stainless-steel clew ring; and a pale crescent on his chin, which never took the sun, courtesy of a foredeck face plant in a club race back on the Sound.
Thank God the fierce tropical light made everybody wear sunglasses. If there was one aspect of his appearance that would give him away to anyone who had ever met him, it was a distinctive feature shared by several of that arm of the Page family that emigrated from Kiltimagh in County Mayo -- one eye bright blue, the other bottle green. Blue for dreaming, green for money, his father used to laugh. And look where that had got them.
When the transom was clean, he got busy Windexing the ports.
A pretty crew girl in a bikini bottom and loose shirt, who had already made several attempts to get friendly, leaned down from the high-sided Halberg-Rassey ketch moored beside the Swan. "Newsprint works better than paper towels," she said. "The ink makes the glass shine." She handed him a section of the New York Times, which was stained with coffee cup circles and crinkled like parchment by salt spray.
Aiden shut his mind to a generous flash of braless brown breasts. He couldn't risk hooking up with anyone who would ask questions. So getting laid would have to wait until he worked himself a lot farther away than the Caribbean. He was dreading the arrival of Friday's charter clients; he didn't recognize their names on the manifest, but he couldn't breathe easy until he had scoped them out at binoculars' distance to make sure they had never met.
The newsprint worked as advertised, until the paper got wet. He reached to wad a fresh sheet. It was sprinkled with head-shot photos, and the sight of his own face knocked the breath out of him, like the boom had whipped across the coach roof and smashed him square in the chest.
"Hey." The pretty girl was back, peering down from her side deck, looking a little puzzled by the stricken expression on Aiden's face even as she said, "We're taking our van into town. Want to come for lunch?"
Aiden crumpled the paper and ran below.
The Swan's owner, who was in St. Martin on vacation, sat at the nav station, reading bills from the charter company. He looked up at Aiden stumbling down the companionway. "Chuck, can you explain -- "
Aiden hurried past the nav station, around the saloon table, and locked himself in the forward head. Heart pounding, breath storming through his lungs, he spread the sheet and tried to focus on the print.
Headlined PORTRAITS OF GRIEF, the page was laid out like a high-school yearbook, with full-face photos and six-inch biographies. Aiden, who had deliberately not looked at a newspaper in six months, surmised that the Times had committed to posting an obituary for every single person who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Smiling up at him was a picture he remembered well. He'd kept a copy on his desk, right next to Morgan's. The publicist's photographer had shot him and Charlie at a company party, arms over each other's shoulders. They were grinning happily at the camera, back in '99 when you could do no wrong and the money would flow forever.The Ripple Effect