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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


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TWENTY-NINE

On the morning of August 2, Jake Harp crawled into the back of a white limousine and rode in a dismal gin-soaked stupor to the construction site on North Key Largo. There he was met by Charles Chelsea, Francis X. Kingsbury and a phalanx of armed security men whose crisp blue uniforms failed to mitigate their shifty felonious smirks. The entourage moved briskly across a recently bulldozed plateau, barren except for a bright green hillock that was cordoned with rope and ringed by reporters, photographers and television cameramen. Kingsbury took Jake Harp by the elbow and, ascending the grassy knob, waved mechanically; it reminded Charles Chelsea of the rigidly determined way that Richard Nixon had saluted before boarding the presidential chopper for the final time. Except that, compared to Francis Kingsbury, Nixon was about as tense as Pee Wee Herman.

Jake Harp heard himself pleading for coffee, please God, even decaf, but Kingsbury seemed not to hear him. Jake Harp blinked amphibiously and struggled to focus on the scene. It was early. He was outdoors. The sun was intensely bright. The Atlantic Ocean murmured at his back. And somebody had dressed him: Izod shirt, Sansibelt slacks, tasseled Footjoy golf shoes. What could this be! Then he heard the scratchy click of a portable microphone and the oily voice of Charles Chelsea.

"Welcome, everybody. We're standing on what will soon be the first tee of the Falcon Trace Championship Golf Course. As you can see, we've got a little work ahead of us...."

Laughter. These numbnuts are laughing, thought Jake Harp. He squinted at the white upturned faces and recognized one or two as sportswriters.

More from Chelsea: "...and we thought it would be fun to inaugurate the construction of this magnificent golfing layout with a hitting clinic."

Jake Harp's stomach clenched as somebody folded a three-wood into his fingers. The golf pro stared in disgust: a graphite head. They expect me to hit with metal!

Charles Chelsea's well-tanned paw settled amiably on Jake Harp's shoulder; the stench of Old Spice was overpowering.

"This familiar fellow needs no introduction," Chelsea was saying. "He's graciously agreed to christen the new course by hitting a few balls into the ocean since we don't actually have a fairway yet."

Laughter again. Mysterious, inexplicable laughter. Jake Harp swayed, bracing himself with the three-wood. What had he been drinking last night? Vodka sours? Tanqueray martinis? Possibly both. He remembered dancing with a banker's wife. He remembered telling her how he'd triple-bogeyed the Road Hole and missed the cut at the British Open; missed the damn cut, all because some fat Scotsman booted the ball....

Jake Harp also remembered the banker's wife whispering something about a blowjob but did it happen?

He hoped so, but he truly couldn't recall. One thing was certain: today he was physically incapable of swinging a golf club; it was simply out of the question. He wondered how he would break the news to Francis Kingsbury, who was bowing to the photographers in acknowledgment of Charles Chelsea's effusive introduction.

"Frank," said Jake Harp. "Where am I?"

With a frozen smile, Kingsbury remarked that Jake Harp looked about as healthy as dog barf.

"A bad night," the golfer rasped. "I'd like to go home and lie down."

Then came an acrid gust of cologne as Chelsea leaned in: "Hit a few, Jake, okay? No interviews, just a photo op."

"But I can't use a fucking graphite wood. This is Jap voodoo, Frank, I need my MacGregors."

Francis Kingsbury gripped Jake Harp by the shoulders and turned him toward the ocean. "And would you please, for Christ's sake, try not to miss the goddamn ball?"

Chelsea cautioned Kingsbury to keep his voice down. The sportswriters were picking up on the fact that Jake Harp was seriously under the weather.

"Coffee's on the way," Chelsea chirped lightly.

"You want me to hit it in the ocean?" Jake Harp said. "This is nuts."

One of the news photographers shouted for the security officers to get out of the way, they were blocking the picture. Kingsbury commanded the troops of Pedro Luz to move to one side; Pedro Luz himself was not present, having refused with vague mutterings to exit the storage room and join the phony golf clinic at Falcon Trace. His men, however, embraced with gusto and amusement the task of guarding Francis X. Kingsbury from assailants unknown.

Having cleared the security force to make an opening for Jake Harp, Kingsbury ordered the golfer to swing away.

"I can't, Frank."

"What?"

"I'm hung over. I can't lift the bloody club."

"Assume the position, Jake. You're starting to piss me off."

Tottering slightly, Jake Harp slowly arranged himself in the familiar stance that Golf Digest once hailed as "part Hogan, part Nicklaus, part Baryshnikov" chin down, feet apart, shoulders square, left arm straight, hands interlocked loosely on the shaft of the club.

"There," Jake Harp said gamely.

Charles Chelsea cleared his throat. Francis Kingsbury said, "A golf ball would help, Jake."

"Oh Jesus, you're right."

"You got everything but a goddamn ball."

Under his breath, Jake Harp said, "Frank, would you do me a favor? Tee it up?" "What?"

"I can't bend down. I'm too hung over, Frank. If I try to bend, I'll fall on my face. I swear to God."

Francis Kingsbury dug in his pocket and pulled out a scuffed Maxfli and a plastic tee that was shaped like a naked woman. "You're quite an athlete, Jake. A regular Jim Fucking Thorpe."

Gratefully Jake Harp watched Kingsbury drop to one knee and plant the tee. Then suddenly the sun exploded, and a molten splinter tore a hole in the golfer's belly, spinning him like a tenpin and knocking him flat. A darkening puddle formed as he lay there and floundered, gulping for breath through a mouthful of fresh Bermuda sod. Jake Harp was not too hung over to realize he could be dying, and it bitterly occurred to him that he would rather leave his mortal guts on the fairways of Augusta or Muirfield or Pebble Beach. Anywhere but here.


Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue had driven up to Kendall to break into a house. The house belonged to FBI Agent Billy Hawkins, who was still tied up as Molly McNamara's prisoner.

"Think he's got a dog?" said Danny Pogue.

Bud Schwartz said probably not. "Guys like that, they think dogs are for pussies. It's a cop mentality."

But Bud Schwartz was wrong. Bill Hawkins owned a German shepherd. The burglars could see the animal prowling the fence in the backyard.

"Guess we gotta do the front-door routine," said Bud Schwartz. What a way to end a career: breaking into an FBI man's house in broad daylight. "I thought we retired," Bud Schwartz complained. "All that dough we got, tell me what's the point if we're still pullin" these jobs."

Danny Pogue said, "Just this one more. And besides, what if Lou takes the money back?"

"No way."

"If he can't get to the guy, yeah, he might. Already he thinks we tipped Kingsbury off, on account of all those rent-a-cops."

Bud Schwartz said he wasn't worried about Lou going back on the deal. "These people are pros, Danny.

Now gimme the scroogie." They were poised at Billy Hawkins's front door. Danny Pogue checked the street for cars or pedestrians; then he handed Bud Schwartz a nine-inch screwdriver.

Skeptically Danny Pogue said, "Guy's gotta have a deadbolt. Anybody works for the FBI, probably he's got an alarm, too. Maybe even lasers."

But there was no alarm system. Bud Schwartz pried the door jamb easily. He put his shoulder to the wood and pushed it open. "You believe that?" he said to his partner. "See what I mean about cop mentality. They think they're immune."

"Yeah," said Danny Pogue. "Immune." Later he'd ask Molly McNamara what it meant.

They closed the door and entered the empty house. Bud Schwartz would never have guessed that a federal agent lived there. It was a typical suburban Miami home: three bedrooms, two baths, nothing special. Once they got used to the idea, the burglars moved through the rooms with casual confidence wife at work, kids at school, no sweat.

"Too bad we're not stealin" anything," Bud Schwartz mused.

"Want to?" said his partner. "Just for old times" sake."

"What's the point?"

"I saw one of the kids has a CD player."

"Wow," said Bud Schwartz acidly. "What's that, like, thirty bucks. Maybe forty?"

"No, man, it's a Sony."

"Forget it. Now gimme the papers."

In captivity Billy Hawkins had agreed to notify his family that he was out of town on a top-secret assignment. However, the agent had displayed a growing reluctance to call the FBI office and lie about being sick. To motivate him, Molly McNamara had composed a series of cryptic notes and murky correspondence suggesting that Hawkins was not the most loyal of government servants. Prominently included in the odd jottings were the telephone numbers of the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban Special Interest Section in Washington, D.C. For good measure, Molly had included a bank slip showing a suspicious $25,000 deposit to Agent Billy Hawkins's personal savings account a deposit that Molly herself had made at the South Miami branch of Unity National Savings & Loan. The purpose of these maneuvers was to create a shady portfolio that, despite its sloppiness, Billy Hawkins would not wish to try to explain to his colleagues at the FBI.

Who would definitely come to the house in search of clues, if Agent Hawkins failed to check in.

Molly McNamara had entrusted the bank receipt, phone numbers and other manufactured evidence to Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue, whose mission was to conceal the material in a semi-obvious location in Billy Hawkins's bedroom.

Bud Schwartz chose the second drawer of the night-stand. He placed the envelope under two unopened boxes of condoms. "Raspberry-colored," he marveled. "FBI man uses raspberry rubbers!" Another stereotype shattered.

Danny Pogue was admiring a twelve-inch portable television as if it were a rare artifact. "Jesus, Bud, you won't believe this."

"Don't tell me it's a black-and-white."

"Yep. You know the last time I saw one?"

"Little Havana," said Bud Schwartz, "that duplex off Twelfth Avenue. I remember."

"Remember what we got for it."

"Yeah. Thirteen goddamn dollars." The fence was a man named Fat Jack on Seventy-ninth Street, near the Boulevard. Bud Schwartz couldn't stand Fat Jack not only because he was cheap but because he smelled like dirty socks. One day Bud Schwartz had boosted a case of Ban Extra Dry Roll-on Deodorant sticks from the back of a Publix truck, and given it to Fat Jack as a hint. Fat Jack had handed him eight bucks and said that nobody should ever use roll-ons because they cause cancer of the armpits.

"I don't get it," said Danny Pogue. "I thought the FBI paid big bucks what's a baby Magnavox go for, two hundred retail? You'd think he could spring for color."

"Who knows, maybe he spends it all on clothes. Come on, let's take off." Bud Schwartz wanted to be long gone before the mailman arrived and noticed what had happened to the front door.

Danny Pogue turned on the portable TV and said, "That's not a bad picture." The noon news was just starting.

"I said let's go, Danny."

"Wait, look at this!"

A video clip showed a heavyset man in golf shoes being hoisted on a stretcher. The man's shirt was drenched in blood, but his eyelids were half open. A plastic oxygen mask covered the man's face and nose, but the jaw moved as if he were trying to speak. The newscaster reported that the shooting had taken place at a new resort development called Falcon Trace, near Key Largo.

"Lou! He did it!" exclaimed Danny Pogue. "You were right."

"Only trouble is, that ain't Mr. Kingsbury."

"You sure?"

Bud Schwartz sat down in front of the television. The anchorman had tossed the sniper story to a sportscaster, who was somberly recounting the stellar career of Jake Harp. The golfer's photograph, taken in happier times, popped up on a wide green mat behind the sports desk.

Danny Pogue said, "Who the hell's that?"

"Not Kingsbury," grunted Bud Schwartz. The mishap confirmed his worst doubts about Lou's qualifications as a hit man. It was unbelievable. The asshole had managed to shoot the wrong guy.

"Know what?" said Danny Pogue. "There's a Jake Harp Cadillac in Boca Raton where I swiped a bunch of tape decks once. Is that the same guy? This golfer?"

Bud Schwartz said, "I got no earthly idea." What was all this crap the TV guy was yakking about career earnings, number of Top Ten finishes, average strokes per round, percentage of greens hit in regulation. To Bud Schwartz, golf was as foreign as polo. Except you didn't see so many fat guys playing polo.

"The main thing is, did they catch the shooter?"

"Nuh-huh." Danny Pogue had his nose to the tube. They said he got away in a boat. No arrests, no motives is what they said."

Bud Schwartz was trying to picture Lou from Queens at the helm of a speedboat, racing for the ocean's horizon.

"He's gonna be pissed," Danny Pogue said.

"Yeah, well, I don't guess his boss up North is gonna be too damn thrilled, either. Whackin" the wrong man."

"He ain't dead yet. Serious but stable is what they said."

Bud Schwartz said it didn't really matter. "Point is, it's still a fuckup. A major major fuckup."

The Mafia had gunned down a life member of the Professional Golfers Association.


Pedro Luz finally emerged from the storage room, where he had been measuring his penis. He rolled the wheelchair out to Kingsbury Lane for the morning rehearsal of the Summerfest Jubilee, a greatly embellished version of the nightly musical pageant. Pedro Luz needed something to lift his spirits. His leg had begun to throb in an excruciating way; no combination of steroids and analgesics put a dent in the pain. To add psychic misery to the physical, Pedro Luz had now documented the fact that his sexual wand was indeed shrinking as a result of prolonged steroid abuse. At first, Pedro Luz had assured himself that it was only an optical illusion; the more swollen his face and limbs became, the smaller everything else appeared to be. But weeks of meticulous calibrations had produced conclusive evidence: His wee-wee had withered from 10.4 centimeters to 7.9 centimeters in its flaccid state. Worse, it seemed to Pedro Luz (although there was no painless way to measure) that his testicles had also become smaller not yet as tiny as BBs, as Churrito had predicted, but more like gumballs.

These matters weighed heavily on his mind as Pedro Luz sat in the broiling sun and watched the floats rumble by. He was hoping that the sight of Annette Fury's regal bosom would buoy his mood, and was disappointed to see that she had been replaced as Princess Golden Sun. The new actress looked familiar, but Pedro Luz couldn't place the face. She was a very pretty girl, but the black wig needed some work, as did the costume buckskin culottes and a fringed halter top. Her singing was quite lovely, much better than Annette"s, but Pedro Luz would've preferred larger breasts. The lioness that shared the Seminole float was in no condition to rehearse; panting miserably in the humidity, the animal sprawled half-conscious on one side, thus thwarting the cat-straddling exit that culminated the princess's dramatic performance.

As the parade disbanded, Pedro Luz eased the wheelchair off the curb and approached the Seminole float. The pretty young singer was not to be seen; there was only the driver of the float and Dr. Kukor, the park veterinarian, who had climbed aboard to revive the heatstruck lioness. Dr. Kukor was plainly flabbergasted by the sight of Pedro Luz.

"I lost my foot in an accident," the security chief explained.

Dr. Kukor hadn't noticed the missing foot. It was the condition of Pedro Luz's face, so grossly inflated, that had generated the horror. The man looked like a blow-fish: puffed cheeks, bulging lips, teeny eyes wedged deep under a pimpled, protuberant brow.

To Pedro Luz, Dr. Kukor directed the most inane inquiry of a long and distinguished career: "Are you all right?"

"Just fine. Where's the young lady?"

Dr. Kukor pointed, and Pedro Luz spun the wheelchair to see: Princess Golden Sun stood behind him. She was zipping a black Miami Heat warm-up jacket over the halter.

Pedro Luz introduced himself and said, "I've seen you before, right?"

"It's possible," said Carrie Lanier, who recognized him instantly as the goon who shot up her double-wide, the creep she'd run over with the car. She noticed the bandaged trunk of his leg, and felt a pang of guilt. It passed quickly.

"You sing pretty nice," Pedro Luz said, "but you could use a couple three inches up top. If you get my meaning."

"Thanks for the advice."

"I know a doctor who specializes in that sort of thing. Maybe I could get you a discount."

"Actually," said Carrie, patting her chest, "I kind of like the little fellas just the way they are."

"Suit yourself." Pedro Luz scratched brutally at a raw patch on his scalp. "I'm trying to figure where I saw you before. Take off the wig for a second, okay?"

Carrie Lanier pressed her hands to her eyes and began to cry plaintive, racking sobs that attracted the concern of tourists and the other pageant performers.

Pedro Luz said, "Hey, what's the matter?"

"It's not a wig!" Carrie cried. "It's my real hair." She turned and scampered down a stairwell into The Catacombs.

"Geez, I'm sorry," said Pedro Luz, to no one. Flustered, he rolled full tilt toward the security office. Speeding downhill past the Wet Willy, he chafed his knuckles trying to brake the wheelchair. When he reached the chilled privacy of the storage room, he slammed the door and drove the bolt. In the blackness Pedro Luz probed for the string that turned on the ceiling's bare bulb; he found it and jerked hard.

The white light revealed a shocking scene. Someone had entered Pedro's sanctuary and destroyed the delicate web of sustenance. Sewing shears had snipped the intravenous tubes into worthless inch-long segments, which littered the floor like plastic rice. The same person had sliced open every one of Pedro's unused IV bags; the wheelchair rested, literally, in a pond of liquid dextrose.

But by far the worst thing to greet Pedro Luz was the desolate sight of brown pill bottles, perhaps a half-dozen, open and empty on the floor. Whoever he was, the sonofabitch had flushed Pedro's anabolic steroids down the John. The ceramic pestle with which he had so lovingly powdered his Winstrols lay shattered beneath the toilet tank.

And, on the wall, a message in coral lipstick. Pedro Luz groaned and backed the wheelchair so he could read it easier. A wild rage heaved through his chest and he began to snatch items from the storage shelves and hurl them against the cinder block: nightsticks, gas masks, flashlights, handcuffs, cans of Mace, pistol grips, boxes of bullets.

Only when there was nothing left to throw did Pedro Luz stop to read the words on the wall again. Written in a loopy flamboyant script, the message said:


Good morning, Dipshit!

Just wanted you to know I'm not dead.

Have a nice day, and don't forget your Wheaties!


It was signed, "Yours truly, J. Winder."

Pedro Luz emitted a feral cry and aimed himself toward the executive gym, where he spent the next two hours alone on the bench press, purging the demons and praying for his testicles to grow back.


TWENTY-EIGHT | NativeTongue | THIRTY