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Tourist Season

Tourist Season

Tourist Season 26


  “We’ll get the best plastic surgeon in Miami,” Mulcahy vowed. He was wondering what in the world to do with a deaf reporter with no fingertips. For his suffering Ricky certainly deserved something, Mulcahy thought, something generous but safe. Perhaps a lifetime column on the food page—even Bloodworth couldn’t screw up a casserole recipe.

  “Too bad he can’t tell us what happened,” Keyes said.

  Ricky Bloodworth had no intention of telling anyone what had happened; even an elephant-sized dose of painkillers had not dulled his sense of survival. Maimed or not, he knew he’d be fired, perhaps even indicted, if it ever became known that he’d snatched the brown package from Sergeant García’s desk. It was better to let the world think the bomb had been meant for him—better for his career, better for the story. And why should that lout García get any attention, anyway?

  Through a haze, Bloodworth saw Cab Mulcahy holding up a notebook. On it the editor had written: “You are going to make it okay.”

  Bloodworth smiled and, with one of his nubs, gave a tremulous thumbs-up.

  Keyes took the notebook and wrote: “Where did you get the package?”

  Bloodworth shrugged lamely.

  “I guess he doesn’t remember much,” Mulcahy said.

  “Guess not.”

  Next Keyes printed: “Are you strong enough to write a note for the cops?”

  Bloodworth squinted at the pad, then shook his head no.

  “We’d better let him rest,” Mulcahy said.

  “Sure.”

  “I don’t know what to tell the wolf pack downstairs,” Mulcahy fretted.

  “Hell, Cab, they’re the competition. Don’t say a damn thing.”

  “I can’t do that.”

  “Why not? You’re the Sun’s reporter on this one, aren’t you? So just keep your mouth shut and write the story. Write the hell out of it, too.”

  Amused, Mulcahy said, “Well, why not?”

  He winked at Bloodworth and turned for the door. Bloodworth grunted urgently.

  “He wants to say something,” Keyes said. He laid the notebook on Ricky’s chest and fitted the pen into his guazed claw.

  Bloodworth wrote laboriously and in tall woozy letters:

  “PAGE ONE?”

  Keyes showed the notebook to Mulcahy and said, “Can you believe this?”

  A nurse came in and gave Ricky Bloodworth an enormous shot. Before drifting off, he saw Keyes and Mulcahy waving good night.

  Outside the hospital, Keyes said, “It’s getting late, Cab, I’d better head back to the house.” Dismally he wondered what a nail bomb could do to Reed Shivers’ cork billiard room.

  “Go on ahead,” Mulcahy said. “If our pal calls, you’ll be the first to know.”

  Back in the newsroom, the other reporters and editors were surprised to see Cab Mulcahy sit down at a video-display terminal and begin to write. Before long his presence seemed to galvanize the whole staff, and the Friday-night pace of the newsroom quickened into something approaching gusto.

  The spell was interrupted by the city editor, who, after circling reluctantly, finally stepped forward to give Cab Mulcahy the message.

  “From Wiley,” the city editor said uneasily. “He phoned while you were out.”

  Mulcahy’s ulcer twinged when he saw the message.

  “I say yes, you say no,” it read. “You say stop, and I say go, go, go.”

  25

  From the hospital Brian Keyes drove straight to Coral Gables to check on Kara Lynn. He rang the bell three times before Reed Shivers opened the door.

  “Nice of you to show up,” Shivers said archly. He wore a monogrammed wine-colored robe and calfskin slippers. A walnut pipe bobbed superciliously in the corner of his mouth.

  “Nice to see you, too, Mr. Hefner.”

  “Don’t be a wise guy—where’ve you been? You’re getting big bucks to be a baby-sitter.”

  “There’s been another bombing,” Keyes said, brushing past him. “A newspaper reporter.”

  “The Nachos again?” All the Anglos in Miami had started calling Wiley’s gang the Nachos because it was so much easier to pronounce than Las Noches de Diciembre.

  “Where’s Kara Lynn?” Keyes asked.

  “Out in the game room working her fanny off. Try not to interrupt.”

  Keyes examined Reed Shivers as he would a termite. “After all this, you still want your daughter to ride in that parade?”

  “They have dogs, Mr. Keyes, dogs trained to sniff out the bombs.”

  “You’re incredible.”

  “We’re talking about a career decision here.”

  “We’re talking murder, Mr. Shivers.”

  “Not so loud!”

  Keyes heard music coming from the game room. It sounded like the Bee Gees. Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive, oooh-oooh-oooh-oooh. The bass guitar thumped through the wall.

  “Jazz aerobics,” Shivers explained. “Since Kara Lynn can’t go out to class, the teacher came here. I thought that was damned considerate.”

  Keyes went into the game room. The stereo was extremely loud. The pool table had been rolled to one wall. In the middle of the carpet, Kara Lynn was stretched out, grabbing her heels.

  Keyes smiled.

  Then he looked up and saw Jenna.

  “Oh God, no,” he said, but the words were lost in the music. Jenna and Kara Lynn were so absorbed that neither noticed him standing there gaping.

  Their choreography was enthralling; each woman gracefully mirrored the other, stretching, dipping, arching, skipping, kicking. Keyes was transfixed by the vision—the two of them in sleek leotards and practically nothing else, both with their blond hair up in ponytails. Of course there was no mistaking one for the other: Jenna was bustier, fuller in the hips, and she had those gold earrings. Kara Lynn was taller, with long thoroughbred legs. Tennis legs.

  Brian Keyes could not have dreamed up a more stunning, or baffling, apparition. He turned off the stereo, leaving the dancers stranded in mid-jumping jack.

  “Whoa!” Jenna said, dropping her arms to her sides.

  “Hey! What’s the idea?” Kara Lynn was a little annoyed.

  “I’ll explain,” Keyes said.

  Jenna turned around and stared. “Brian!” She seemed shocked to see him.

  “Hey there,” Keyes said. “Since when do you make house calls?”

  “Oh boy.”

  Kara Lynn looked quizzically at Jenna, then back at Keyes. The prickly silence gave it all away.

  “So you two know each other,” said Kara Lynn.

  “Long time ago,” Keyes said.

  “Not so long,” said Jenna, talking with her eyes.

  Kara Lynn looked embarrassed. “I’m going to get some lemonade.”

  When she was gone, Jenna said, “How’d you find me here?”

  “Don’t flatter yourself. I wasn’t even looking.” Keyes felt rotten. And angry. “Tell me what’s going on,” he said.

  Jenna dabbed her forehead with a towel that matched her pink lipstick. “Kara Lynn’s been a student of mine for two years. She’s a good dancer and quite athletic, in case you didn’t already know.”

  Keyes let that one slide.

  “She said she couldn’t come to class this week—something about a parade curfew—so I offered to stop by here for a short workout. I don’t know what you’re being so snotty about.”

  “Where’s Skip?” The eternal question; Keyes wondered why he even bothered.

  “I’m not sure. This is some room, huh?”

  “Jenna!”

  “Time for sit-ups.”

  “Stop.”

  But in an instant she was supine, arms locked behind her neck. “Hold my legs. Please, Brian, don’t be a pill.”

  He got down on all fours and braced her ankles with his hands. He thought: She really is on another planet.

  “One ... two ... three ...” She was as limber as a whip.

  “Where’s Wiley?” Keyes asked.

  “Seven ..
. eight ... I got one for you ... what are you doing here?” With each sit-up Jenna emitted a soft round cry, half-moan and half-grunt. Keyes was intimately familiar with the sound.

  “I’ve been hired to keep an eye on Kara Lynn,” he said.

  “You? Come on, Bri...”

  “Your deranged boyfriend plans to kidnap her during the Orange Bowl Parade, or didn’t you know?”

  “Fourteen ... fifteen ... Jeez, I said hold my legs, don’t fracture them ... you’re wrong about Skip....”

  “Did he send you here?” Keyes asked.

  “Don’t be silly... he doesn’t even know I’m back in the country ... supposed to be house-hunting in Port-au-Prince....”

  *“Holy Christ.” Keyes couldn’t imagine Skip Wiley loose on the streets of Port-au-Prince. The government of Haiti was not known for its sense of humor.

  “Twenty-four ... twenty-five ... Tell me the truth, Brian, are you sleeping with this kid?”

  “No.” Why did he answer?—it was none of her damn business. “Jenna, I just don’t want her to get hurt.”

  “Skip wouldn’t do that...”

  “No? He blew up Ricky Bloodworth tonight.”

  “Mmmm ... all the way?”

  “He’s still breathing, if that’s what you mean.”

  Jenna was tiring, but not much.

  “Thirty-nine ... forty ... Skip promised he wouldn’t hurt the girl ... ease up a little on the left leg ... hey, you still miss me?” She caught his eye, beamed. Full of confidence, like she could jerk the leash anytime she wanted.

  “Do you want Skip to die?” Keyes said tonelessly. He’d had about all he could take.

  “Forty-six, forty-seven ... ’course not ... do you?”

  “No.” But don’t ask me why not, Keyes thought, because the bastard richly deserves it.

  “Brian ... don’t let anything happen to him.”

  That was it. One the count of forty-nine he stopped her, slipped a hand behind her head and held her there, in a sitting position. Probably with more firmness than was necessary.

  “Just one more!” Jenna protested.

  “Know what he said, Jenna? He said there’d be a bloodbath if I told the cops about him. Said lots of people would die.”

  “Baloney.” She strained against his grip. “He’s just bluffing.”

  Keyes said, “Look here at my clothes—what do you suppose that is?”

  “A-1 Sauce?”

  “It’s blood, you bubblehead! Human blood. I knelt in a big warm puddle of it tonight over at police headquarters. You should have been there, the place looked like Beirut.”

  “Let me go,” Jenna said.

  “So what do you make of all these darned murders?” he said. “Pretty hilarious, huh?”

  “Brian, just stop it.”

  “No, goddammit, look at me!” But she wouldn’t.

  “Look at these bloodstains and tell me Wiley’s a big hero,” he said angrily. “Tell me how proud you are, go ahead, Jenna. The man’s a genius, all right. Takes a real visionary to bomb a moron in a toilet.”

  She squirmed loose and shot to her feet. Her face was pink and she was breathing hard.

  Keyes said, “Jenna, you can end all this—it’s not too late. Do everyone a favor and turn him in.”

  She shook her head once and spun away, out the door

  “I’m going for pizza,” Kara Lynn announced.

  “Not alone you’re not,” Keyes said.

  *“It’ll make you chubby,” Reed Shivers added. “The only Orange Bowl queen with a mozzarella tummy.”

  “That’s enough, Daddy. I’m hungry.”

  “Then we’ll get it delivered,” Keyes said. He picked up the telephone in the game room and stared at it. The phone was made out of an actual bottle of Seagram’s; Reed Shivers had ordered it specially from a golf catalog.

  “What do you like on your pizza?” Keyes asked.

  Kara Lynn shrugged. “Mushrooms, anchovies.”

  “No pizza!” her father said. “Pumpkin, we’ve got publicity stills tomorrow, remember?”

  “Screw it,” said Kara Lynn.

  “That’s the spirit,” Keyes cheered.

  “But it’s swimsuit,” Shivers pleaded.

  “And I’ll look sensational, Daddy. Tiny tits and all.”

  Keyes changed his mind about having the pizza delivered. Kara Lynn obviously needed to get out of the house.

  “You ever been to Tony’s?” he said. “Great pizza.”

  “Let’s go.”

  “At least go easy on the cheese,” Reed Shivers said, pouting into his pipestem.

  - They took the MG. It was a chilly night, full of stars. The brisk air whistled through a rusty hole in the floorboard, and the car got cold quickly.

  “The heater’s busted,” Keyes said. “I got an extra sweater in the back.”

  “I’m okay.” Kara Lynn cupped her hands and blew into them softly. Keyes could see the gooseflesh on her bare arms.

  “How far to Tony’s?” she asked.

  “I’ve got no idea,” Keyes said. “I made it up.”

  “Oh.”

  “To get us away from Professor Higgins.”

  “Daddy’s not a bad guy,” Kara Lynn said, “but he can be such a pain in the ass.”

  Keyes drove north down LeJeune Road. Just for the hell of it, he squared the block at Miracle Mile to make sure they weren’t being followed again.

  “Is the Pizza Hut okay?”

  “Sure,” Kara Lynn said.

  They got a booth in the corner, away from the jukebox and video games. Keyes ordered a pizza with mushrooms, pepperoni, and anchovies. Kara Lynn looked like she was freezing in her dance tights, so Keyes went out to the car and got his spare sweater, a gray cotton pullover.

  With a nod of thanks, she slipped it on over the leotards. Keyes wondered why she was so quiet; it wasn’t a hostile silence, or even a sulk. It reminded him of the first few days at the house, when she was sizing him up. Kara Lynn was a pro when it came to withdrawal, a real blank page when she wanted to be.

  “What’s on your mind?” he finally asked.

  “I was just wondering about you and Jenna.”

  “Ancient history.”

  “Go on.”

  “Very boring.”

  “I’ll bet.”

  “And painful.”

  “Oh.” She took a sip of diet cola, a concession to her father. “Didn’t mean to pry.”

  “Forget it,” Keyes said. “But do me a favor: no more aerobics classes until after the parade.”

  “How come?”

  “Call it a security precaution.”

  “For heaven’s sake, you’re not saying Jenna’s dangerous,!’

  You don’t know the half of it, Keyes thought. “Did Jenna ever say anything about the Orange Bowl?”

  “Sure. She wished me luck before the pageant—even sent a bouquet of wild sea oats to the dressing room.”

  “She would have made a great florist.”

  “Actually she’s the one who convinced me to enter the contest. To be honest, I was burned out on the darned things. Besides, I didn’t think I had a chance—you should’ve seen some of the other girls. But Jenna said to give it a try. Strike a blow for small-breasted women, she said.”

  “A great florist and a great psychologist,” Keyes said. So Jenna was in on it from the beginning. What the hell did he expect? He decided to leave it at that, though. Jenna wouldn’t be back, and there was no use scaring Kara Lynn.

  “She says I look like her, ten years ago.”

  “Maybe a little,” Keyes said. It wasn’t the beauty they had in common, so much as the aura—an aura of absolute control. The ability to conquer with a shy glance or the slightest of smiles.

  “I hope I look that good when I’m twenty-nine,” Kara Lynn remarked.

  “You will.”

  A waitress brought the pizza, hot and pungent. They attacked it hungrily. Keyes got tomato sauce on both his sleeves. Kara Lynn rolle
d her eyes, pretending to be mortified.

  “Have you had many girlfriends?” she asked.

  “Thousands. I was once engaged to half the Rockettes.”

  “You don’t like this subject, do you?”

  “Look, I never asked you what it’s like to be the Stone Crab queen, with a dozen greaseball contest judges staring up your crotch. I never asked because it seemed personal and none of my business, and I knew you wouldn’t want to talk about it.”

  “You’re right. It’s awful, that’s why.”

  “It looks awful,” Keyes said. “I don’t know how you do it.”

  Kara Lynn plucked an anchovy from the pizza and dropped it neatly on a napkin; a little anchovy graveyard. “It’s easy to become Stone Crab queen,” she said. “All you have to do is get some black heels and a bikini and learn to play ‘Eleanor Rigby’ on the French horn.”

  “You got my vote.”

  “I hate it. All of it.”

  “I know.”

  “Half the girls get boob jobs and butt tucks,” Kara Lynn said. “Nobody does anything about it.”

  “What happens to them when there’s no more beauty pageants?”

  “Two, three years of modeling. A few local TV commercials if you’re lucky. Guy once offered me three grand to lie on the hood of a Dodge truck and say: I got my Ram Charger at Cooley Motors. Real Shakespearean television. Daddy had a seizure when I turned it down.”

  “What do you really want to do, Kara Lynn?”

  “Stop world famine, of course.”

  Keyes laughed. “And after that?”

  “See Europe.”

  Keyes cut another slice of pizza but it surrendered grudgingly. A web of cheese hung elastically from his mouth to the platter.

  “What about you, Brian? Your life all mapped out?”

  Keyes chewed pensively.

  “Someday I’m going to buy a sailboat,” he said. “Move down to Islamorada, live off seaweed and lobsters. Let the sun fry me so brown that my hide gets tough as a turtle shell. I think I’d make a helluva good sea turtle—hey, don’t look at me like that.”

  “But you’re serious!”

  “A turtle’s got no natural enemies,” Keyes said.

  Kara Lynn felt warm. She liked the cozy smell of the sweater. “Can I come visit you down there?”

  “You bet. Fix up a nice big plate of sargassum. We’ll pig out.”