A lawman with bleak eyes stalks a ne’er-do-well with a rakish smile through a quiet waterfront town in Delaware, near the turn of the last century. Both have recently arrived by steamship from New Jersey, and as far as a Nanticoke Indian youth named Sonny is concerned, they can’t leave Lewes the same way soon enough.
Sonny is trying to stay out of trouble and to explore the puzzling affections being showered on him by the daughter of the wealthiest banker in town. But everyone seems to want something else from him, and some of it involves a thrashing by the banker who wants him to stay away from his daughter.
Miss Lil has given him a cot off the kitchen and three square meals a day to do what needs to be done for her and her girls. Miss Lil is in the entertainment business, and her establishment has a secure little cottage just down the beach road, in a town that’s always been good about keeping its secrets.
But why has Sonny’s older brother also seemingly gone off the rails, after springing him from that unpleasant boarding school in Pennsylvania? And what game is Miss Lil’s favorite girl really playing? She’s always been sweet, but her out-of-town boyfriend may have turned her head.
Sonny can’t explain what it means or why it all seems to be coming down on him. He only knows that life as he has always known it is changing. Formidable men mean him no good. He’ll be lucky to get through the next week.