Jay Porter wants to help his family but time doesn't seem to be on his side. His pregnant wife is depending on him to bring home the bacon, and it is stressing him out. A seasoned community minded young attorney, he gives away more services than he bills for. He can't help it. It's in his heart to help out where he can, it is just how he was raised.
The long hours and little take home pay are just the start, he's forgotten his wife Bernie's birthday and in an effort to clean up his act, he books a dinner cruise where they will be the only diners. The gift is courtesy of a hook-up (a favor) owed Jay by one of his clients who is also a close associate.
Coal black water fills the Houston Bayou and a moonless night make for the perfect crime scene. Trouble faces Jay as a woman's scream in the black of the night changes his life forever. He jumps ship in order to help the woman, who is frantically flailing her arms in efforts to keep from being swept up the river.
Jay and Bernie help the strange woman to catch her breathe, offering her comfort. Instead of going into the police station with her once they are again on dry land, they simply drop her off at the station. The woman, still a mystery. The only thing Jay, knows for sure is that she was disoriented when he pulled her from the water, and that there was a gunshot. There could be a dead body on the marshy dense, river bank.
His days of student activism and sit-ins in the early 1970s come back to haunt Jay as he debates whether to share what he knows with the police. He'd only narrowly escaped prison time from a system bent on teaching him and others who were trying to challenge status quo of leftover Jim Crow laws.
Jay solicits the help of his old lover, now the Mayor of Houston, Cynthia Maddox. Jay is donating services on a labor issue involving black workers and institutionalized racism. A black teenage worker is badly beaten and it appears the job was ordered by the shop lead. He needs her help. With Cynthia however, nothing has ever been easy.
Black workers call for action, an apology and better pay and treatment. Black workers are being encouraged by white mobs to stay away from anything union and especially, anything that would increase their pay. The powers that be are fine with the way things are. Jay gets involved representing the black workers and the assaulted teen. He grows weary as FBI and police officers tail him at every turn. He needs Cynthia and her political help more than he wants to believe possible.
While he is working on union issues the woman from the boat causes a new kind of havoc. She knows what happened with the gunshot, and may have pulled the trigger herself.
At any rate, Jay is involved over his head. The only way out for him is to go to the police, something he should have considered days earlier. Warnings and threats from hit men follow Jay at every turn.
The mayor spent her time at college learning what she could from Jay and his brothers in relationship to the civil rights struggle. She had wanted to hang out with the black radicals and being Jay's girlfriend gave her the open door she needed. Years later, accomplished professionally, Cynthia still has a thing for Jay but refuses to lose any of her professional standing. Besides, Jay is married man. She knows she owes Jay a favor for leaving him in jail to hang, after she disrupted an organized protest.
Jay is silent in efforts to shield his pregnant wife from his side dealings with Cynthia. The mayor may sell him out again, and the woman from the boat won't disappear. The boats captain has been murdered in cold blood and the police are looking at Jay as a suspect. Jay's union organizing is making him a target for anyone in town with an ax to grind.
Jay is a man facing his problems. Although he gets weary along the way, he manages to keep his head above water. A fighter, Jay regains his footing in the world, one step at a time.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that Jay was able to overcome his insecurities and stand strong for his family and community.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was Jay urging men to join the union in the face of grave retribution.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that Jay finds his bearings in the midst of confusion.