"Hello. It's me."
Adam hurried out on deck to give Winifred a hand as she stepped down to the boat. He was pleased to note that she had his briefcase and jacket under her arm.
Something was obviously distressing her, though -- he could tell by the way she moved and held her head back. "What's wrong, Winifred?" he asked.
She tried to smile, but it was a failed effort. "You can look right through me, can't you, Adam?" Clutching his hand, she made the long step onto the deck. "I have to ask you, and you have to be completely honest," she said earnestly. "Did I do something to make Nell angry at me?"
"What do you mean?"
"She wasn't at all like herself when I stopped by the apartment. She acted as though she couldn't wait to get me out."
"You shouldn't take any of that personally. I don't think it was you who caused her to act differently. Nell and I had a disagreement this morning," Adam said quietly. "I would guess that's what's on her mind."
Winifred had not released his hand. "If you want to talk about it, I'm here for you."
Adam pulled free from her grasp. "I know you are, Winifred. Thank you. Oh, look, here's Jimmy."
Jimmy Ryan was obviously ill at ease on the boat. He had made little attempt to clean up his appearance after spending the day at the job site. His work boots left dusty imprints on the cabin carpet as he silently followed Adam's suggestion to fix himself whatever he'd like to drink.
Winifred watched as he poured himself a particularly heavy scotch, thinking that she should probably talk with Adam about Jimmy later.
Still inside the cabin, Jimmy Ryan sat at the table as though ready for the meeting to start. When he realized, however, that Adam and Winifred seemed to have no intention of coming in from the deck, he got up and stood there awkwardly, but made no effort to join them.
Sam Krause arrived ten minutes later, fuming at the traffic and at the incompetence of his driver. As a result, he got on the boat in a sour mood and went directly into the cabin. With a curt nod at Jimmy Ryan, he poured straight gin into a glass and went out on the deck.
"Lang's late as usual, I see," he snapped.
"I spoke to him just before I left the office," Adam told him. "He was in his car and on his way into the city then, so he should be along any minute."
A half-hour later the phone rang. Peter Lang's voice was clearly strained. "I've been in an accident," he said. "One of those damn trailer trucks. Lucky I wasn't killed. The cops want me to go to the hospital and get checked out, and I guess I'd better, just to be on the safe side. You can either call off the meeting or go ahead without me -- it's your decision. After I see the doctor, I'm heading back home."
Five minutes later Cornelia II sailed out of the harbor. The light breeze had stiffened, and clouds were beginning to pass over the sun.
"I don't feel good," eight-year-old Ben Tucker complained to his father as they stood at the railing of the tour boat that was returning from a visit to the Statue of Liberty.
"The water's getting choppy," his father acknowledged, "but we'll be on shore soon. Pay attention to the view. You won't get back to see New York again for a long time, and I want you to remember everything that you see."
Ben's glasses were smudged, and he pulled them off to clean them. He's going to tell me again that the Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France, but it wasn't until that lady, Emma Lazarus, wrote a poem to help raise money for a base that it got put up here. He's going to tell me again that my great-great-grandfather was one of the kids who helped collect the money. "Give me your huddled masses yearning to be free..." All right. Give me a break, Ben thought.
Copyright © 2000 by Mary Higgins Clark
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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