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Authors: Stephen Dobyns


BOOK: 014218182X
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Praise for
Boy in the Water

“Once again, Dobyns has offered readers a thriller that is swift and smart and very, very spooky.”

The Washington Post Book World

“A shivery whodunit.”

USA Today

“Dobyns creates a haunted, troubled realm.”

The Providence Sunday Journal

“Nasty fun.”

Daily News

“The author has thoroughly mixed several genres—horror, the fiction of personal crisis, suspense—into a weird and original concoction that is highly entertaining.”

The Chicago Tribune

“An atmospheric thriller.”

San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

“Like the best thriller writers, Dobyns not only scares us with what is out there but also with what we find (or don’t find) within ourselves.”


“Mr. Dobyns is a masterly poet and shrewd mystery writer . . . moody and evocatively written.”

Dallas Morning News

“If you take
Boy in the Water
to the beach, take lots of sunscreen; you may sit longer than you planned, following this thriller to its intense conclusion.”

Schenectady Gazette

“[Dobyns’s] prose is fluent and the plot races along like clockwork.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Set in the New Hampshire mountains at remote Bishop’s Hill Academy, Dobyns’s new novel succeeds . . . Recommended for all mystery collections.”

Library Journal

Also by Stephen Dobyns


Winter’s Journey

Mystery, So Long

The Porcupine’s Kisses

Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides

Common Carnage

Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966–1992

Body Traffic

Cemetery Nights

Black Dog, Red Dog

The Balthus Poems

Heat Death


Concurring Beasts


Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry

Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry


Eating Naked


Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?

The Burn Palace

Saratoga Strongbox

The Church of Dead Girls

Saratoga Fleshpot

Saratoga Backtalk

The Wrestler’s Cruel Study

Saratoga Haunting

After Shocks/Near Escapes

Saratoga Hexameter

The House on Alexandrine

Saratoga Bestiary

The Two Deaths of Señora Puccini

A Boat off the Coast

Saratoga Snapper

Cold Dog Soup

Saratoga Headhunter

Dancer with One Leg

Saratoga Swimmer

Saratoga Longshot

A Man of Little Evils

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

First trade paperback edition 2001 by St. Martin’s Press

Originally published by Metropolitan Books copyright © 1999 by Stephen Dobyns

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Dobyns

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Blue Rider Press is a registered trademark and its colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dobyns, Stephen.

Boy in the water : a novel / Stephen Dobyns.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-99179-4

1. Preparatory schools—Fiction. 2. New Hampshire—Fiction. 3. Good and evil—Fiction. 4. Psychological fiction. I. Title.

PS3554.O2B69 2015 2015017236


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Praise for
Boy in the Water

Also by Stephen Dobyns

Title Page










About the Author

Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all the other things that entertain or trouble imprudent men.



ike a black island on a turquoise sea, the dark shape floated on the surface of the water, lit from beneath by a string of underwater spotlights evenly spaced along the twenty-five yards of the swimming pool. They gave off the only light apart from the glow of a red exit sign above the door. The shape at first looked like a barrel or log. It took a moment to realize that it was a body: a boy, naked except for a pair of white Jockey shorts. He was small for his age and quite slender. Perhaps he was thirteen—an eighth grader. Only the boy’s torso and the back of his head rose above the surface; his arms and legs hung down toward the black lines that ran the length of the pool’s bottom. His elbows were bent and his fingers were curved and relaxed, as if he had been holding something but had just let it go. The underwater lights made the air shimmer above the water and formed rippling shadows on the green cinder-block walls and tile ceiling.

Something small with pointed ears and a bedraggled tail stepped gingerly across the boy’s back, tentatively lifting and shaking one paw after another as it moved along the boy’s shoulder blades. It mewed and the sound echoed throughout the pool area. When the creature turned and its full silhouette became visible against the turquoise, one could see it was a kitten stranded on this dark island, stepping lightly from one part of the boy’s back to another, seeking the highest spot, while its movement caused the body to bob and turn very slightly. As a trickle of water ran across the boy’s skin, the kitten reared up like a miniature horse to keep its paws from getting wet.

One side of the boy’s body was white as parchment, lit up by the row of underwater lights. The other side was dark. His long red hair floated on the water in a ragged fringe. The kitten continued to mew and pace across the body as the turquoise light flickered and the boy’s shadow drifted like a dark swimmer across the left-hand wall. The kitten’s fur was orange-colored, and the orange of its fur and the red of the boy’s hair seemed significant, as if there were a family connection. It was warm and humid in the large room and the air smelled of chlorine and mold.

Two men stood at the shallow end, watching. Their backs were to the door and together they formed two black silhouettes.

“When did you find him?” asked the one in an Irish fisherman’s hat.

“Half an hour ago.”

“And we’re the only ones who know?”

“Except for whoever put him there.”

The kitten paused and arched its back, and its damp fur bristled. Then it began to mew frantically.

“Do we call the police?” asked the bareheaded one.

“Let someone else do it.”

“You’re taking a chance.”

“I see no reason to think so.”

Both men wore heavy overcoats, giving off an odor of damp wool.

“And is this what you were expecting?”

“No, but it will do.”

Outside it was snowing, as it had been for the past ten hours. More than a foot had fallen and the snow spread its white, uninterrupted surface across the lawns and playing fields to the edge of the forest. A half-moon glowed dully behind the clouds so one could make out the school’s buildings: five two- and three-story structures built in the nineteenth century and laid out in the shape of the letter
The bridge of the
was Emerson Hall, the administration and main classroom building, with its illuminated bell tower. Lights were spaced along the driveways and sidewalks, creating brilliant circles of white. Beyond the school buildings on a curving driveway stood a row of six dormitory cottages for students, and further along the driveway and scattered among the trees were five small houses where faculty lived. Lights burned in the windows of two of the cottages: Shepherd, where a dozen students and two teachers were eating popcorn and watching
Die Hard 3,
and Pierce. Here, in the faculty apartment on the top floor, a tall, thin man was hurriedly taking clothes from the bureau and closet and dumping them into the two suitcases that lay open on the bed. It was the Friday night after Thanksgiving and most of the students were gone.

BOOK: 014218182X
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