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Tourist Season

Tourist Season

Tourist Season 5


  “Think hard, Emesto. Where did you see the black guy? On the beach? In a bar? At Sunday school?”

  “Sone-thin like dat.” Ernesto clasped his hands behind his back and stared through the bars of the cell. “I’m gone thin about it.”

  Keyes decided it was time to break the bad news. He told Ernesto about the desk clerk at the Flamingo Isles and the saleswoman at the clothing store, about how they had looked at his mug shot and were almost positive that he was the one.

  “Dumb bitches,” Ernesto said stoically.

  Keyes said, “A skinny Cuban rented that motel room, and a skinny Cuban bought those loud clothes for B. D. Harper. ”

  “Not diss skinny Cuban.”

  Ernesto sat down on the cot and, mercifully, crossed his legs.

  “Do you want me to get your clothes back?”

  “Thas all right, man.”

  “Where do I start looking for the friendly car salesman?”

  “Pauly’s Bar. Juss ask round. Big black guy with glasses. Not many of dose on the Beach, man.”

  “Did he have an accent?”

  Emesto giggled. “He’s black, man. ‘Course he had an accent.”

  “Jamaican? Haitian? American?”

  “He’s no Jamaican, and he’s no street nigger. Diss boy been to school.” Ernesto was very sure of himself. “Diss man, he’s stick.”

  Keyes told Ernesto to think on it some more. He’d need all the help he could get. Especially at Pauly’s Bar.

  6

  Dr. Remond Courtney didn’t blink. He merely said: “I’m not sure I heard you right, Mr. Wiley.”

  “Oh, sorry.” Skip Wiley got up and ambled across the office. He leaned over and positioned his large face two inches from the doctor’s nose. “I said,” Wiley shouted, as if Courtney were deaf, “is it really true that you have sex with mallard ducks?”

  “No,” Courtney replied, lips whitening.

  “Mergansers, then?”

  “No. ”

  “Ah, so it’s geese. No need to be ashamed.”

  “Mr. Wiley, sit down, please. I think we’re avoiding the subject, aren’t we?”

  “And, what subject would that be, Dr. Goosefucker? May I call you that? Do you mind?”

  Courtney looked down at the notebook in his lap, as if referring to something important. Actually the page was blank. “Why,” he said to Skip Wiley, “all this hostility?”

  “Because we’re wasting each other’s time. There’s nothing wrong with me and you know it. But you had to be an asshole and tell my boss I’ve got a pathological brain tumor—so here I am, about to do something truly pathological.” Wiley smiled and grabbed Dr. Courtney by the shoulders.

  The psychiatrist struggled to maintain an air of superiority (as if this were just some childish prank) while trying to squirm from Wiley’s grasp. But Wiley was a strong man and he easily lifted Courtney off the couch.

  “I never said you had a tumor, Skip.”

  Dr. Remond Courtney was remarkably calm, but he’d had plenty of practice. He was by trade a professional witness, a courthouse shrink-for-hire. He was impressive in trial—cool, self-assured, unshakable on the stand. Lawyers loved Dr. Courtney and they paid him a fortune to sit in the witness box and say their clients were crazy as loons. It was laughably easy work, and Courtney was conveniently flexible in his doctrines; one day he might be a disciple of Skinner and, the next, a follower of Freud. It all depended on the case ( and who was paying his fee). Dr. Courtney had become so successful as an expert witness that he was able to drop most of his private patients and limit his psychiatric practice to three or four lucrative corporate and government contracts. Dr. Courtney had hoped this would minimize his exposure to dangerous over-the-transom South Florida fruitcakes, but he’d learned otherwise. By the time a big company got around to referring one of its employees to a psychiatrist, the screaming meemies had already set in and the patient often was receiving radio beams from Venus. The worst thing you could do in such a case, Remond Courtney believed, was lose your professional composure. Once a patient knew he could rattle you, you were finished as an analyst. Domination required composure, Dr. Courtney liked to say.

  “Skip, I can assure you I never said anything about a brain tumor.”

  “Oh, it’s Skip now, is it? Did you learn that at shrink school, Dr. Goosefucker? Whenever a patient becomes unruly, call him by his first name.”

  “Would you prefer ‘Mr. Wiley’ instead?”

  “I would prefer not to be here,” Wiley said, guiding Dr. Courtney toward the window of his office. Below, fifteen floors down, was Biscayne Boulevard. Courtney didn’t need to be reminded of the precise distance (he’d had a patient jump once), but Skip Wiley reminded him anyway. He reminded Dr. Courtney by hanging him by his Italian-made heels.

  “What do you see, doctor?”

  “My life,” the upside-down psychiatrist said, “passing before my eyes.”

  “That’s just a Metro bus.”

  “A bus, you’re right. Lots of people walking. Some taxicabs. Lots of things, Mr. Wiley.” The doctor’s voice was brittle and high. He was using his arms to fend himself off the side of the building, and doing a pretty good job. After a few seconds Courtney’s paisley ascot fluttered from his neck and drifted down to earth like a wounded butterfly. Skip Wiley thought he heard the doctor whimper.

  “You okay down there?”

  “Not really,” Courtney called up to him. “Mr. Wiley, your time’s almost up.”

  Wiley dragged Courtney up through the window.

  “Your ankles sweat, you know that?”

  “I’m not surprised,” the doctor said.

  “So you’re sticking with this idea that I’m crazy? That’s what you’re going to tell Mulcahy?”

  Courtney brushed himself off. The palms of his hands were red and abraded, and this seemed to bother him. He straightened his blazer. “You’re very lucky I didn’t lose one of my contact lenses,” he told Wiley.

  “You’re lucky you didn’t lose your goddamn life.” Plainly unsatisfied, Wiley sat down at the doctor’s desk. Courtney reclaimed his spot on the couch, a brand-new spiral notebook on his lap.

  “In my opinion, it started with the hurricane column,” the psychiatrist said.

  “Come on, doc, that was a terrific piece.”

  “It was uncommonly vicious and graphic. ‘What South Florida needs most is a killer hurricane...’ All that stuff about screaming winds and crumpled condominiums. My mother saw that ... that trash,” the doctor said with agitation, “and the next day she put her place on the market. The poor woman’s scared to death. An ocean view with a nine-point-eight-mortgage—assumable!—and still she’s scared out of her mind. Wants to move to bloody Tucson. All because of you!”

  “Really?” Skip Wiley seemed pleased.

  “What kind of drugs,” Dr. Courtney started to ask him, “provoke this kind of lunacy?”

  But Skip Wiley already was on his way out the door, a honey-maned blur.

  Cab Mulcahy strolled into the newsroom shortly after five. He was a composed, distinguished-looking presence among the young neurotics who put out the daily newspaper, and several of them traded glances that said: Wonder what brings the old man out?

  Mulcahy was looking for Wiley. Actually, he was looking for Wiley’s column. Mulcahy harbored a fear that Wiley would devise a way to sneak the damn thing into print in defiance of their agreement.

  The city editor said he hadn’t seen Wiley all day, and reported that no column had arrived by messenger, telephone, or teletype. The city editor also pointed out that, without a column, he was staring at a big sixteen-inch hole on the front page, with deadlines fast approaching.

  “Ricky Bloodworth’s offered to do the column if Wiley doesn’t show up,” the city editor said.

  “Has he now?”

  “He worked up a couple pieces in his spare time. I saw ‘em this morning, Cab, and they’re not bad. A little purple, maybe, but interesting.”
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br />  “No way,” Mulcahy said. “Tell him thanks just the same. ”

  The city editor looked dejected; Mulcahy knew that he had been yearning to rid himself of the Wiley Problem for a long time. The city editor did not get on well with Skip Wiley. It was a bad relationship that only got worse after Wiley let it slip that he was making five thousand dollars a year more than the city editor, not including stock options. Stock options! The city editor had gone home that night and kicked the shit out of his cocker spaniel.

  “Did you call Wiley’s house?” Mulcahy asked.

  “Jenna hasn’t seen him since he left for the doctor’s this morning. She said he seemed fine and dandy.”

  “That’s what she said?”

  “Ver-batim,” the city editor said. “Fine and dandy.”

  Mulcahy phoned Dr. Remond Courtney and told him that Skip Wiley hadn’t showed up for work.

  “Oh?” Dr. Courtney did not seem surprised, but it was hard to tell. Courtney was an expert at masking his reactions by saying things like Oh and I see and Why don’t you tell me about it.

  “I was wondering,” Mulcahy said impatiently, “how things went today?”

  “How things went?”

  “With you and Mr. Wiley. You had an appointment, remember?”

  More silence; then: “He became abusive.”

  “Became abusive? He’s always abusive.”

  “Physically abusive,” Courtney said. He was trying to remain clinical so Mulcahy wouldn’t suspect how scared he’d been. “I believe he threatened my life.”

  “What did you do?”

  “I talked him out of it, of course. I think we were doing much better by the end of the hour.”

  “Glad to hear it,” Mulcahy said, thinking: Wiley’s right, this guy is useless. “Tell me, did Skip say where he was going after his visit?”

  “No. He left in a hurry. It had been a strenuous session for both of us.”

  Mulcahy said, “So what’s the verdict?”

  “Verdict?”

  “What the hell is wrong with him?”

  “Stress, fatigue, anxiety, paranoia. It’s all job-related. I suggest you give him a year off.”

  “I can’t do that, doctor. He’s a very popular writer and the newspaper needs him.”

  “Suit yourself. He’s a nut case.”

  A nut case who sells newspapers, Mulcahy thought ruefully. Next he tried Jenna.

  “I still haven’t seen him, Cab. I’m getting a little worried, too. I’ve got a spinach pie in the oven.”

  Jenna had the most delicious voice of any woman Cab Mulcahy had ever met; pure gossamer. Even spinach pie came out like Let’s do it! The day Skip Wiley moved in with Jenna was the day Cab Mulcahy decided there was no God.

  “Does he usually call?” Mulcahy asked.

  “He doesn’t do anything in a usual way, you know that, Cab.” A silky laugh.

  Mulcahy sighed. In a way it was his fault. Hadn’t he introduced them to each other, Jenna and Skip, one night at the Royal Palm Club?

  Jenna said, “Skip makes contact two or three times a day, in various ways. Today—nothing, after noon.”

  “What did he say,” Mulcahy ventured, “when he ... made contact?”

  “Not much. Hold on, I gotta turn down the stove....Okay, let me try to remember ... I know! He said he was on his way to get a new muffler for the car, and he also said he murdered the psychiatrist. Is that part true?”

  “Of course not,” Mulcahy said.

  “I’m glad. He’s got such a crummy temper.”

  “Jenna, did Skip mention when he might be making contact again?”

  “No, he never does. He likes to surprise me, says it keeps the romance fresh. Sometimes I wonder if he’s just testing me. Trust is a two-way street, y’know.”

  “But he comes home for dinner?”

  “Almost always,” Jenna said.

  “If he comes home tonight,” Mulcahy said, by now eager to escape the conversation, “please have him call the newsroom. It’s important.”

  “I’m getting worried, Cab,” Jenna said again. “This spinach is starting to clot. ”

  What an actress, Mulcahy thought, she’s just terrific. When Skip Wiley first seduced Jenna, he’d thought he was getting himself a gorgeous blond melon-breasted bimbo. That’s how he had described her to Mulcahy, who knew better. He had warned Wiley, too, warned him to proceed with extreme caution. Mulcahy had seen Jenna in action once before; she was magnetic and purposeful far beyond Skip Wiley’s ragged powers of comprehension. But Wiley hadn’t listened to Mulcahy’s warning, and chased Jenna shamelessly until she’d let herself get caught.

  Mulcahy’s speculation about Wiley’s weirdness included the possibility that Jenna was the key.

  Mulcahy swept the clutter from the desk into his briefcase, put on his jacket, and threaded his way through the newsroom toward the elevators.

  “Cab, just a second.” It was the city editor, looking febrile.

  “If Wiley doesn’t show, run a feature story in his slot,” Mulcahy instructed, still walking. “A parade story, something mild like that. And at the bottom run a small box in italics. Say Wiley’s out sick. Say the column will resume shortly. ”

  The city editor didn’t skulk off the way Mulcahy expected him to. Mulcahy stopped short of the elevators and asked, “What’s the matter?”

  “The highway patrol just called,” the city editor said uneasily. “They found Wiley’s car, the old Pontiac.”

  “Where?”

  “In the middle of Interstate 95. At rush hour.”

  “No Wiley?”

  The city editor shook his head grimly. “Engine was running, and Clapton was blasting on the tape deck. The car was just sitting there empty in traffic. They’re towing it to Miami police headquarters. I’ve sent Bloodworth over to see what he can find out. Want me to call you later at home?”

  “Sure,” said Cab Mulcahy, more puzzled than before.

  “About the column, Cab ...”

  “Yeah?”

  “Sure you won’t give Ricky a shot?”

  Mulcahy rarely frowned or raised his voice, but he was on the verge of doing both. “You got a parade story for tomorrow? Don’t tell me you don’t. There’s always a parade in this goddamn town.”

  “Yes, Cab. However, it was a very small parade today.”

  “I don’t care.”

  “Belize Nationalism Day?”

  “Perfect. Go with it. Run a nice big picture, too.”

  “But, Cab...”

  “And call Jenna. Right away. ”

  The screen door on Pauly’s Bar was humming with flies. Inside there were six barstools, a gutted pinball machine, a boar’s head, and a life-size cutout of Victoria Principal, a bourbon stain on her right breast. The bar itself was made of cheap pine and appeared to be recently repaired, bristling with fresh nails and splinters. Behind the bar was a long horizontal mirror, its fissures secured with brown hurricane tape.

  At first glance Pauly’s was not a raucous joint, but a careful person could sense an ominous lethargy.

  Brian Keyes decided to be the perfect customer. He slipped the lumpy-faced bartender a twenty-dollar bill and discreetly assured him that no, he wasn’t a cop, he was just trying to buy some information.

  The bartender, who wore a mesh tank top and a shiny mail-order toupee, turned out to be somewhat helpful; after all, twenty dollars was a banner night at Pauly’s. Keyes knew from looking around the place that the man he hunted would be remembered here, and he was right.

  “Don’t get many big niggers in here,” the bartender remarked, secreting the money in a pocket. “Then again, they all look big at night. ” The bartender laughed, and so did a greasy wino two stools down. Keyes smiled and said ha-ha, pretty funny, but this one you’d remember especially because of the fancy black sunglasses.

  The bartender and the greasy wino exchanged looks, their grins getting bigger and dirtier. “Viceroy!” the bartender said. “Viceroy Wilson
.”

  “The football player?”

  “Sure.”

  “I don’t believe it!” Keyes said.

  “Well, take a look here,” and then the bartender tossed an official NFL football at Brian Keyes, knocking over his Budweiser. Viceroy Wilson, former star fullback for the Miami Dolphins, had autographed the ball with a magnificent flourish, in red ink right under the stitch.

  “He’s a regular,” the bartender boasted.

  “No!”

  “He sure is!”

  “Well, I really need to talk to him.”

  “He don’t give autographs to just anybody.”

  “I don’t want an autograph.”

  “Then why you asking for him? He’s not a man that likes to be asked for.”

  “It’s personal,” Keyes said. “Very important.”

  “I’ll bet,” croaked the wino. Keyes ignored him. He had a feeling these guys were full of shit anyway. Keyes was an avid football fan and, looking around, he wasn’t able to picture the great Viceroy Wilson—bad hands, bankrupt and all—rubbing elbows with a bunch of pukes at Pauly’s. Viceroy Wilson didn’t belong in a rathole dive on South Beach; Viceroy Wilson belonged in Canton, Ohio, at the Football Hall of Fame.

  “I’ll get him for you,” the wino volunteered, oozing off the barstool.

  “Hey, what if he don’t want to be got?” the bartender said. “Viceroy’s a very private man.”

  “Twenty bucks,” the wino said. Keyes handed it to him and ordered another beer. Twenty dollars apparently was now the going rate for everything at Pauly’s. The wino shuffled out the door.

  “Kiss your money good-bye,” the bartender said reproachfully.

  “Relax,” Keyes told him, knowing it would only have the opposite effect. People in bars don’t like to be told to relax.

  “I’m beginning to think you’re a narc!” the bartender said loudly. He calmed down when Keyes laid another twenty bucks on the bar next to the beer glass.

  Forty minutes later the screen door wheezed open and stayed that way for several moments. A cool salty breeze tickled Keyes’s neck. He longed to turn around but instead just sipped on the beer, pretending that the 235-pound black man (Carrera sunglasses dangling on his chest) who loomed in the tavern mirror wasn’t really glaring at him as if he were the proverbial turd in the punch bowl.