Bellows Falls isn't far from Brattleboro, but it's a whole world away from the bigger town's bustling optimism, as even its own fatalistic natives, who never seem to get very far from home, acknowledge. Brattleboro's Lt. Joe Gunther comes to Bellows Falls on a routine errand--lacking their own Internal Affairs Division, the police force needs an outsider to investigate a charge of sexual harassment against Officer Brian Padget--but he keeps coming back to town even after hearty, overbearing Norman Bouch and his child-bride Jan recant their accusations against Padget. Norm is linked to a fugitive Gunther is looking for--minor-league drug dealer Jasper Morgan, last seen running from the scene of a brawl with the would-be arresting officer's gun--first by a car registration, then by rumors about a sub-rosa youth group they're both connected to, then by a lover whose favors they shared simultaneously. Even as Padget slides deeper into trouble--no sooner is he cleared of the harassment charge than he tests positive for cocaine use, and an anonymous tip alerts his cop buddies to the coke stashed in his place--Gunther finds the tentacles of Norm's youth network winding themselves, in Mayor's recent manner (The Ragman's Memory, 1996, etc.), into every corner of Vermont. Once again Mayor does it all--domestic abuse, forensics, a statewide drug ring, family counseling--while balancing the whole triple-decker mess on the Bouches' troubled marriage.