home | login | register | DMCA | contacts | help | donate |      

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


my bookshelf | genres | recommend | rating of books | rating of authors | reviews | new | | collections | | | add



12

JERRY WAS READING the Sun-Sentinel. He held it up as Moran came in the office.

You see this? Right up at Hillsboro. Guy walks out of his condo, hes taking his morning exercise, look what he finds right out in front of his place. The headline of the newspaper read:

33 HAITIANS DROWN IN HILLSBORO SURF;

SURVIVORS STORY DOUBTED BY OFFICIALS

The photograph that ran the full width of the page and was about five inches deep showed four naked swollen bodies lying on the hard-pack sand at the edge of the surf in early morning light. A Coast Guard helicopter hovered about twenty yards offshore.

Im telling you, Jerry said, its getting out of hand. People up there, they invest a lot of money in their retirement homes-thiss what they got to put up with.

Whats the story the officials dont believe?

That they came all the way from Haiti in this rickety boat, sixty-something people. If theyre not coming from Cuba its Haiti now, we dont have enough Latins here, we got all this extra welfare money laying around. Oh there was a phone call for you. You know how many Cubans they got in Miami now?

Who was it called?

Two hundred thousand. Over half the population. Some woman she didnt leave her name. Plus a hundred and twenty-five thousand boat people, for Christ sake, half of them out of the Havana jails and insane asylums. They send em here for us to take care of Heres the number.

It was Marys.

Whend she call?

Few minutes ago. Were different, we got us a couple Dominican freeloaders. Where you going? You just got here.

Ill be back.

Moran shoved the slip of notepaper into his jeans and walked out into the sunlight, back toward his house. He was anxious.

Nolen, coming out of Number Five, stopped him.

George, can I talk to you?

I got to make a phone call.

Just take a minute. Nolen, his shirt open and hanging out of his pants, got to Moran at the shallow end of the pool. I got a request. How about letting your buddy from the D.R. stay a couple more days? Hes afraid to talk to you.

I hope so, Moran said.

Hes sorry. He said he made a mistake.

I made the mistake, Moran said, ever talking to him. He started to move away.

George, he cant hurt you. Let him stay a while.

Moran stopped. Why?

Why not? Hes all right, just a little fucked up. Hes an interesting type, I can study him.

I know what you want to study, Moran said.

Nolen shrugged. I think I can get a freebee, a libretito. His hair hung oily looking, he needed a shave, he looked terrible, forlorn, standing barefoot with his hands in his pockets. She wants me to show her Miami Beach, all the beeg otels.

Good, Moran said. You take her down there well probably never see her again. Look, I dont have time right now. Tell her to clean up the kitchen before you go and tell Rafi hed better stay away from me, not that Im pissed off or anything.

Ill keep em in line, Nolen said, no problem. He watched Moran hurrying away. Hey, one other thing

Later, Moran said. He ran inside his house and locked the door.

Moran waited. As soon as he heard her voice on the phone he said, What happened?

Hes still here but hes leaving. Going out on the boat.

Should I call back?

No, its okay, hes outside. I can see him.

Whats the matter?

He told me this morning he doesnt want me to drive anymore. I cant go anywhere alone in the car. If I go out, Corkys supposed to drive me.

Why?

Because he knows. Or he thinks he does-its the same thing.

Whatd he say?

He said he wants me to take the goddamn limousine, but if I insist on using my own car Corkys still going with me.

I mean what reason did he give?

Crime in the streets, the high incidence of muggings and holdups. Its for my own safety. I told him there arent any muggings at Leucadendra or the Dadeland shopping mall, but you dont argue with him. I told you, hes a rock.

Can he order you like that?

If I get in the car, Corky gets in with me. Thats it, or stay home. Whatre we gonna do?

You got to get out of there, thats all.

There was a pause. I had sort of a talk with him.

Yeah? What happened?

Not much. Ill tell you about it some other time, not now, Mary said. God, Im dying to see you.

Ill be over in a little while.

You cant come here.

Ive got an excuse. Im gonna return something.

What is it?

Ill be there in about an hour. Why dont you invite me to lunch?

God, Moran-hurry.

Nolen caught him again, coming out of the laundry room holding a grocery sack, the top rolled tightly closed. Moran was wearing a sport coat and good pants. Nolen looked him up and down.

The casual Holiday Inn attire?

There times you can say anything you want, Moran said. This isnt one of em. Im in a hurry.

Jiggs wants to talk to you.

You told me.

Give him the courtesy-whatve you got to lose?

My good name, being seen with a kneecapper. There isnt anything he can tell me I need to know.

Im not asking you to go out of your way.

I hope not.

Im not suppose to say anything, Nolen said, but Ill give you a hint. Its got to do with freedom of choice and self-respect. Like not having to sneak in the Holiday Inn anymore.

What I have to say to that, Moran said, has to do with self-control. How Im learning to stay calm, not pop anybody in the mouth, dump em in the swimming pool every time I get a little irritated. But its hard.

I know, stay out of your personal affairs, Nolen said. But I feel I owe you something. Youve been a buddy to me, even after we tried to blow you away with a one-oh-six. I mean it mightve been me, though I hate to say it.

Lets let bygones be bygones, Moran said. Long as you pay your rent on time. Ill see you.

Nolen said, Hey, George? And waited for him to stop a few feet away and look back. Youre a beautiful guy. I just dont want anything to happen to you.

Jesus Christ, Moran said, leave me alone.

Only three nights I got to recite that line, Nolen said. You can see why the fucker closed.

He liked the trees in this south end of Coral Gables, the quiet gloom of the streets; the trees belonged and were more than ornamental. It was old Florida, the way he felt Florida should still look. No way for a one-time cement-finisher to think, or a man partly responsible for a half-dozen king-size condominiums with majestic names. Maybe it was guilt. Or maybe he simply liked a tangle of ripe tropical vegetation. What was wrong with that? He told himself not to argue with himself; he was one of the few friends he had. He didnt care for what he was doing right now. It was like going to the dentist when you were in love with his nurse, but it was still going to the dentist. He turned off Arvida Parkway into the drive marked 700 on a cement column and this time followed its curve up to the house.

Mary was waiting outside. She brought him past the three members of the home guard who stood in the driveway and seemed disappointed. Moran recognized the one with the mustache. Corky. The one trying to look mean.

From the front steps Moran said, Keep an eye on my car, okay?

Mary took him by the arm. Get in here. And closed the door. Whats in the bag?

Moran opened it and brought out a pink negligee. You like it? Anita de Boyas playsuit. She left it.

Hes not gonna believe thats why you came, Mary said. Anita lives in Bal Harbor.

Do you want me to care what he believes?

Youre right, it doesnt matter, Mary said. Tense today, inside herself.

She led him from the hallway that was like an arboretum of exotic plants and trees, past an almost bare living room that resembled a modern-art gallery, through a more lived-in-looking room done in rattan and off-white fabrics and out to the sundeck with its several-million-dollar view of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, what Miami money was all about.

Moran was impressed; but he could be impressed by all kinds of things and not have a desire to own them; he considered himself lucky. He took in the sights, the empty boat dock, the stand of acacia trees, then back again, across the sweep of lawn to the swimming pool, designed to resemble a tropical lagoon set among palm trees and terraced flower gardens. Clean that setup every day, he thought. But said, I like it.

I dont, Mary said. Ive got to get out of here.

She stood at the rail with him, wearing sunglasses now, looking out at the water. When she turned away he followed her to a half-circle of chairs with bright yellow cushions. On the low table in the center was a white telephone and the morning paper headlining the dead Haitians.

Why dont you leave now? With me, Moran said. He sat down. Mary remained standing, tan in her white sundress, silent, her slim legs somewhat apart, folding her arms now; protective or defiant, Moran wasnt sure.

She said, finally, Rafi was here yesterday.

I know, I had a talk with him, Moran said. If thats whats got you clutched up, dont worry about it. Rafi comes on strong, but hes a twink at heart, he caves in.

What did he say?

Hes not our problem. Theres a guy that works for your husband on and off, Jiggs Scully. You know him?

I know who he is.

Hes been following you. He knows what were doing and wants to talk to me.

Oh, God-

Wait. Nolen Tyner-I told you about him. He says Jiggs doesnt have his hand out, he wants to discuss something else entirely, but I dont see any reason to talk to him. Do you?

I dont know. Mary was wide-eyed now, gathering it all in. If he saw us together and he works for Andres

Nolen says he hasnt told Andres. You know why?

No.

He doesnt like him. I feel like were back in the eighth grade. Heres a guy- Moran stopped. Well, thats beside the point. What Jiggs and Nolen are up tos none of our business. I hope. But I dont want to see us get dragged into it. We got enough going as it is.

Dragged into what?

I dont know, but its got to have something to do with your husband and they either want to use me-Im guessing now, you understand-or they want some information from me, or they want me to get it from you.

Oh-

The way she said it, like an intake of breath, surprised him. She was thoughtful now, staring. Then took several steps without purpose, moving idly, though he could see she was concentrating, looking down at the boards as she paced toward the railing, aimless, and came back. As she turned again he stopped her.

You have an idea what it might be?

Mary sat down now. She eased back into the chair next to him.

Money. What else?

I had that in mind, Moran said. But what kind of money? How do you rip off a guy like your husband? I mean its not like going to the bank, make a withdrawal. How do you get it? Extortion? They have something on Andres? Its a feeling Ive got more than anything else. I think Nolen and this guy Jiggs are putting something together. But it wouldnt be a holdup, anything as simple as that. Nolens not, well, hes a little shifty, but hes not an armed robber. I dont think hed have the nerve to walk in with a gun. So it would have to be something he thinks is clever or he wouldnt be doing it. If theyve got some kind of scheme in mind.

Theres money in the house, Mary said.

Moran waited a moment. Is that right? He waited again and was aware of the silence. You mean a lot of money, huh?

Quite a lot, Mary said.

Moran looked out at the bay, at the dark shape of Key Biscayne lying five miles off, on the horizon.

Is it money he has to hide? I mean, did he get it illegally?

I assume its from his business. Andress investments net, before taxes, three to four million a year.

Moran waited. If she wanted to tell him more hed let her, up to a point.

Mary said, Remember in Santo Domingo we were talking about Andres? Youd heard he came here in Sixty-one with a fortune. Everyone thought so-he was a millionaire general with a sugar plantation and God knows what else. But he lost all that. He had to run for his life and he came here with practically nothing.

I remember.

And I think I said something about hes never gonna let that happen again. Have to run and leave everything behind.

You said hed be ready next time, Moran said. But I would imagine he has money in a Swiss bank or the Bahamas, one of those numbered accounts.

Im sure he does, Mary said, but if for some reason hes not able to leave the country or he has to hide All I know is hes got quite a chunk of quick-getaway money right here in the house.

He could see the two of them at the deep end of the hotel pool the wives of the winter ballplayers in a group I asked you, wheres he keep it, under the mattress?

Mary was looking at him. She didnt speak right away; she didnt have to. Finally, in the silence, she said, You want to guess how much?

Ive got a feeling I know too much already, Moran said. Weve got to get you out of here. Why dont you pack a bag and leave him a note.

Not yet. Im gonna talk to him, George, if I have to hit him over the head. Last night, I had all the words ready. Andres, listen to me, okay? Like talking to a child. This isnt a marriage. Im not happy and I know youre not. And that was as far as I got. He gave me papers to sign. Here-like he hadnt heard a word-read these and sign them.

What kind of papers?

Business. Im part of his corporation, one of them. He made a business transaction out of the marriage with that prenuptial agreement and thats all it is, a deal. Im a member of the board.

Resign, Moran said.

Now hes trying to use the agreement to threaten me. Hell amend it so there wont be a settlement if I walk out. I told him fine, I dont care. I said, I just want to talk. I want you to understand how I feel.

That didnt impress him?

Ill tell you, George, Im scared to death. You know that, Mary said. She seemed to clench her teeth. But Im also getting mad, goddamn it.

Good, Moran said.

Im gonna write it down, everything I want to say. Then Im gonna try once more. If he still wont listen then Ill hand him the papers this time and thats it, Im through.

You promise?

You have my word, Mary said.

Stay mad.

I am. I dont owe him a thing.

If anybody owes anybody, Moran said, and let it go at that. It would be nice to sit with tall drinks and talk about nothing and enjoy the million-dollar view. But his presence was making her nervous. He said, Write your letter. He touched Marys shoulder as he got up and left his hand there until she put her hand on his. She was looking up at him through her round sunglasses. More than anything he could think of he wanted to touch her face.

He walked away.

Jiggs Scully was in the road next to his two-tone red and white Cadillac, the car standing within a few yards of the driveway. So that when Moran swung out onto Arvida he had to brake to a stop or run into the Cadillacs rear end. Jiggs came over to him.

He said, George, how we doing? If you dont have a pair of the biggest ones in town, come right to the mans house there, I dont know who does. You getting reckless or you just had enough of this sneaking around shit, going the Holiday Inn?

Moran didnt say anything. He wondered if Jiggs had slept in his seersucker coat. He wondered where Jiggs lived and wondered what he thought about when he was alone.

Im gonna buy you a drink, George. How about the Mutiny up on Bayshore? You know where it is there? Cross from the yacht basin.

Okay, Moran said.

The room was still nearly full in the early afternoon, the tables occupied by men in disco sport shirts with dark hair and mustaches, a few in business suits, some of them wearing their sunglasses, some talking on phones brought to the tables. The waitresses, moving among them in skintight leotards, were experienced and familiar with the patrons, calling them by first names or the names they were using.

You think it looks like a jungle, all the plants and shit, Jiggs said, it is a jungle. Thiss where all the monkeys hang out. Jack a phone in there and make a deal, talk about the product; its always the product now, and how many coolers itll cost you. Use clean new hunner-dollar bills, George, a hunner Ks maybe twelve inches high, little less. Put a million bucks in a Igloo cooler you look like youre going the beach. These guys kill me, all the hot-shit dealers. He was looking over the room, pushing his glasses up on his nose. About every fifth one you see is making believe hes in the business and about every tenth ones a narc. The mean-looking ones are the narcs, with the hair and the bell-bottoms. Fucking bell-bottomsre out of style, they dont know it. Little guy there looks like he repairs shoes, hes the biggest man in the room. Looks like the Pan-American games, doesnt it? Spic-and-span. Theyre the spics, George, and me and you, were the span. Jiggs raised a stubby, freckled hand from the table, fingers spread, and looked at it. Distance between the tip of your thumb to the tip of your little finger, thats your span. He looked at the back of his hand, then turned it over and looked at the palm. But I dont see nothing in it, do you, George? No, its empty. The spics, they got the product, they got all these coolers we hear about. But were sitting here with our fucking mitts empty. Why is that? They dont work any hardern we do. Is it we let em have it cause were kindhearted or what?

A waitress with a blond ponytail brought their beer and asked Moran what his sign was. He told her Libra and she said, I was right, not telling him if she thought it was good or bad. She gave him a look though and he smiled.

You got a nice way with the ladies, Jiggs said. I admire that. Youre quiet, you mind your own business, dont you? Till somebody pushes you. I notice that the night I came by your place, run the piano player off. You stood right in there.

Im going, Moran said, soon as I finish this beer.

Jiggs grinned; his teeth were a mess. I get talking to my own kind I run off. You talk to these monkeys they stare at you. Subtle-you try and say anything subtle to em you get a blank stare. You get what Im saying but you dont make a big deal out of it. I dont think anything I might say to you would even shock you; I think you been around a couple times. Tell me what you think I got in mind. Id like to know.

If its a payoff so you dont tell de Boya, Moran said, youre out of luck.

Come on, George, give me some credit. Thats pussy, that kind of deal; I never stooped to that in my life. Jesus, Im surprised at you, George.

Forgive me, Moran said.

What I do when somebodys paying me, I dont even think about it, Jiggs said. But when its my deal I try to be a little selective, stay away from the shlock. You have to understand theres all kinds of opportunity out there, George.

Im not looking for work, Moran said. Ive got all I want.

All right, let me tell you a quick story. Scully hunched in, planting his arms on the table. Not too long ago Im out at Calder with Mr. de Boya and a gentleman by the name of Jimmy Capotorto, you mayve heard of. He runs Dorado, very influential guy, does a little business with de Boya. Jimmy Capll send some cash over there, get it cleaned and pressed in some condo deal, but nothing big. Were at Calder. Were watching the races up in the lounge. Im placing bets for em, getting drinks when the waitress disappears. Im the gofer, you might say, Im not sitting there in the party too much. De Boya wins a couple grand, its on the table there, and Jimmy Cap asks him what he does with his winnings, his loose cash. They start talking about the trouble with money like a couple of broads discussing unruly hairr split ends, Jimmy Cap saying in Buffalo he used to have a vault in the floor of his basement, but there arent any basements here. De Boya says you dont need a vault, there a lot of places to hide money itll be safe. Oh, Jimmy Cap says, like where? De Boya says oh, there lot of places. Jimmy Cap asks him what he needs to stash money for, hes a legitimate businessman, he doesnt deal in cash, whats he trying to do, fuck the IRS? De Boya says no, he always pays his taxes. Then he says, quote, But you dont know when you have to leave very quickly. Jimmy Cap says use a credit card. I miss some of the next part, Im shagging drinks. I come back, de Boyas saying, If I tell you, then you know. Jimmy Cap says, You have my word. The guinea giving the spic his word. But its good. Thats one thing I have to hand em, George. They give their word you dont need it written out and signed. De Boya says then, Put away what takes you a year to make and have it close by, so you can take it with you. Jimmy Cap says, That the rule of thumb? Like getting back to our span, George. Jiggs looked at his hand again. How much does it hold? How much does a guy like de Boya put away in case he has to slip off in the night and show up in Mexico as Mr. Morales? You follow me?

I dont know, Moran said, how much does he?

Later on Im talking to Jimmy Cap, Jiggs said, I ask him out of curiosity how much does he think de Boya makes a year-all the condos, all the land deals. Jimmy Cap says, Net? Couple mil, easy.

Jiggs waited.

What do you want me to say? Moran said.

Tell me where he keeps it.

How would I know?

You could find out. Ask his missus.

Why would she tell me?

Cause she thinks youre cute, George. Cause she thinks her husbands a bag of shit. Cause shed like to dump him and play house with you. Cause if I knew exactly where it was I could be in and out of there in two minutes and your troublesd be over.

Why would they?

Because Andres de Boya would be dead, George, and you and the missus could sail off in the sunset.

Moran actually saw a picture of a red sunset, sky-red night but put it out of his mind as he said, What about Nolen? Is he in it?

I tell you the deal, Nolen dresses it up, adds a little inspiration. Hes like my p.r. man, George, get you interested. Its the only reason I talked to him.

Moran said, Youve been thinking about this for some time, uh?

Walking around it, Jiggs said, scratching my head. Then you come along and I think, heres a chance to do something for the happy couple. If theyll do a little something for me.

I think youre crazy.

I know you do, George, at the moment. But what you got to do is examine your conscience. You Cathlic?

Sort of.

You remember when you go to confession you examine your conscience? Lets see, I had five hundred impure thoughts and I entertained the idea of killing Sister Mary Cunnagunda. Examine your conscience, George. Go ahead, and tell me if youre doing anything wrong. Its in the intention where the guilt is. Your intention is to give me information. What happens after that is out of your conscience and into mine and I think I can handle it.

You might be from New York, Moran said, but you didnt learn to think like that at Fordham.

No, I never quite made it, George. But the inference there, what youre driving at-well, you want to get philosophical and discuss whether a blow job from a married woman is the same as committing adultery or you want to make your life easier? I can get the guys and go in with blazing six-guns and tear the place up, well find it. But thats the hard way and I cant be responsible if an innocent bystander, if you understand what I mean, gets in the way. Or we can make arrangements, do it quietly. Its up to you.

Whyre you telling me this?

Jiggs was patient. He sat back, pushed his glasses up, then hunched over the edge of the table again. George, correct me. Didnt I just tell you?

I mean how do you know I wont go to the cops?

With what, a story? Come on, George, whatever way this goes down, you think Im gonna be a suspect? Guy like de Boya, you make it look political. Write on his wall Death to Assholes and sign it the PLO or some spic revolutionary party, thats the easy part.

Hes got armed guards, Moran said.

This town you better, Jiggs said. No, thats something you take into consideration. But hes only got one guy dumb enough to stand in there with him, young Corky, and Im taking that into account.

Moran sipped his beer, making it last. Maybe he had time for one more. Carefully then, thinking of what he was saying: If this money de Boyas got, its like an emergency fund?

Right, case he has to bail out in a hurry.

Well, if hes ready to do it like at a moments notice, Moran said, why dont you spook him? Turn in some kind of false alarm.

Yeah? Jiggs said.

He runs with it and youre waiting for him. Saves tearing his house apart.

Jiggs didnt say anything for a moment.

Thats not bad, George. Thats not bad at all. Sounds to me like youre in the wrong business.

Or maybe I could tell fortunes, Moran said. He picked up his beer glass and gazed at it. I see a guy murdered in his house. I dont see anything about him being robbed, no money in the picture. But wait a minute. I see the police have been given information about a suspect. Ah-ha, guy runs a motel and is a good friend of the victims wife. He looked at Jiggs. That how it works?

Jiggs said, George, I offer you the stairway to happiness and all you gimme backre ideas. Im telling you, youre in the wrong business.


| Cat Chaser | c