Alex was only half joking when describing Mark and Hazel’s home as a tree house built on top of a waterfall. That was Hazel’s dream; to live on a hill overlooking a waterfall.
Mark searched the world for a perfect haven, and he found the sprawling twenty-six acre property with a six bedroom home perched atop a waterfall in the Hudson Valley across the river from the City of Kingston, which he found both ironic and appropriate for raising little princes.
They weren’t wasting time getting started growing their family. Six weeks was the recommended length of time from having a baby to getting pregnant again and so far, they hadn’t missed the mark.
Little Aaron had been born roughly ten months after Mark and Hazel’s wedding, which Mark had said was not from lack of trying. Owen had arrived eleven months later, and now was a seven-month old baby squirming in Hazel’s arms as her baby bump, and the ultrasound, revealed another little boy. Owen would be approximately eleven months old when his new baby brother came along.
Alex didn’t know how Hazel was going to juggle three boys under the age of three. Three highchairs, three car seats, three cribs, three sizes of diapers unless Aaron maintained progress with his potty training.
“Let me hold that adorable little guy,” Alex said to Hazel as he and Mark entered the open floor plan kitchen where Hazel was attempting to cook dinner with baby Owen resting on her hip. Alex kissed his cousin on the cheek before taking the baby from her arms. Mark continued into the living room, chasing Aaron to the pile of blocks in the play corner.
“Thank you.” Hazel shook out her left arm as if she’d been straining to keep Owen from falling while stirring the ground beef sizzling in a frying pan on the stove. “To what do we owe the honor of a visit in the middle of your workday? I know you didn’t drive all the way over here just to see your favorite cousin.”
“I don’t think your brother would appreciate me admitting that you’re my favorite cousin,” Alex said.
“Mateo is not married to your best friend,” Hazel pointed out. Her twin brother had stayed in the DC area when Hazel married Mark and they moved to the Hudson Valley.
“Good point.” Alex and the twins didn’t grow up knowing each other and only learned they were cousins after they were already adults and their grandfather told them of their joint lineage.
Alex walked from the kitchen into the open living room which looked out over the top of the waterfall and plopped onto the floor where little Aaron already had huge Duplo blocks piled high. Alex held baby Owen just far enough away that he couldn’t reach his brother’s creation and knock over the tower.
“What did you need my help with?” Mark asked, reaching for another block to help his oldest son raise a tower into the living room.
“I need some eyes in the sky to count solar arrays,” Alex said, resting his back against the plush sofa. Even as a healthy twenty-five-year-old guy, sitting cross-legged on Berber carpet balancing a seventh-month-old baby was not comfortable. “Your drone has on-board camera and high-definition video, right?”
“Yeah, you know, a group of solar panels that generate electricity,” Alex explained in a condescending way as if Mark wasn’t familiar. “We had this crazy guy come into our last city council meeting and claim that there were more arrays than the city and county were claiming. We dismissed him as a kook, but I couldn’t get his accusation off my mind. So, I did some digging into his allegations and I’m not so sure he’s crazy.”
“I don’t understand,” Mark said, dismissively placing another block on the tower. Alex wondered which kid was having more fun. Mark? Or his son, Aaron? “Why are too many solar arrays a bad thing? They’re generating clean energy. More is better, right?”
“They’re also generating revenue…” Alex said, letting his statement hang in the air.
“Okay…” Mark raised his eyebrows. “That’s what we call profit.”
“Tax revenues coming into the city coffers from the company producing the solar arrays and from federal government subsidies,” Alex said, pausing again.
“The crazy guy claims the money is coming into the city, but not all of revenue is showing up on the city records. He wants to know where the rest of the money is going, and how our trusty new mayor, Noah Adlin, was able to build that mansion on the hill west of town on a mayor’s salary.”
“Hmm…” Mark finally creased his brow in suspicion.
“Do you remember who opened the solar array manufacturing company?” Alex asked, baiting Mark.
“Andrew Huron,” Mark choked out. After college, Drew had become overzealous with his focus on clean energy even though Alex suspected Drew was more interested in profit than saving the planet.
“And who provided the seed money to invest in starting that company?” Alex waited while Mark placed the pieces together in his mind.
“We did.” Mark’s voice was a hoarse whisper.
Alex saw in Mark’s eyes the same panic he’d felt early that day when he’d made the discovery.
Before digging any further into his research, Alex needed to consult Mark. He’d dropped everything and made the half hour drive from his office in Kingston, across the Hudson River and up into the hills where Prince Marcos lived in seclusion with his young bride and growing brood.
“Don’t mean to break up the party, but you and I need to get to the bottom of this, Your Highness.”