Driving home to Boston after a day's surveillance in the suburbs, John Cuddy is enjoying the sweet September air and looking forward to a dinner-and-scuba-class evening with his lady, assistant D.A. Nancy Meagher. But when he sees the old Dodge Swinger by the side of the road, two kids staring helplessly at its flat tire, he has to stop.
"If I ever got lost or anything, would you come help me?" The boy's entreaty triggers a long-buried memory from Vietnam, and Cuddy makes him a solemn promise. Eddie seems a typical ten-year-old, but for the red birthmark that runs across his face like a map of Texas. His companion, a teenage girl named Melinda, is scared yet defiant. Cuddy changes their tire and soon they are back on the road. Except for the blue New Hampshire pick-up that briefly pulls over, its driver a rough, inquisitive character sporting a southern twang, Cuddy doesn't give the event much thought - until the next day, when the Globe reports the body of a young woman fished out of a South Boston channel. In the background of the photo accompanying the article is a Dodge Swinger. There is no mention of a boy.
Some basic detective work sends Cuddy north to the hardscrabble town of Elton, New Hampshire, where Polly and Thomas Haldon, Eddie's fundamentalist parents, insist their son - with the devil's Mark of Cain upon his face - is now safe in the hands of the Lord at a Christian institute. Reluctantly, the Dr. Pepper-drinking chief of police tips Cuddy off about Lonnie Severn, the mysterious driver of the pick-up. Breaking into Severn's lonely trailer, Cuddy finds trouble - the serious kind.
With fake I.D. provided by an old pro called Sneezer, Cuddy heads south to the Florida Keys... to a church on the remote island of Little Mercy, where the faithfuls' practiced smiles conceal a blood-chilling secret. A lovely Conch barmaid - who ruefully admires his unshakable commitment to Nancy - becomes a staunch ally, although defending her from a drunk almost costs Cuddy his freedom. Cuddy also meets a World War II vet whose glory days are far from over and his equally gusty wife, who help Cuddy mastermind a plan to breach the church's defenses. Charging into a deadly swamp of greed, child abuse, police corruption, and pure madness, Cuddy will do the impossible to keep his promise to a little boy...
This hardback is in like-new condition. The dust cover has some light wear. The flap has a price of $20.