Friday, January 22, 2010
It looked as if a hurricane had blown through the Sloop's office. Sarah's body was laying spread eagle on the floor, one exposed breast flopped out of her suit jacket.
She spent half her life waving her tits at the world, Jo thought as she bent over the body, not surprising she died doing the same. For old time's sake she slipped Sarah's breast back inside her jacket and then pulled the envelope out of the pocket.
They were all there. Negatives and photos.
“Police would've said she was killed trying to rob the office,” said a man standing in the doorway. “They would've said he was killed trying to stop her. They killed each other. Police would have said that...”
“...but he never showed. I waited, but he never showed,” Stan repeated.
Jo nodded. She knew Stan was disappointed, how much he had wanted to kill Fisher for her as well as Sarah, but the plan had changed. Now they would sail the High Water far out into the Gulf and dump Sarah's body in the deep blue sea. The office she would leave as is. She needed the apparent robbery to account for that missing fifty-thousand. The safe was empty and the gym bag was stuffed with newspapers not cash. Fisher had secreted the money out of the office when he supposedly went back to check if the sledge hammer was in place before they left for the expo. A sleight of hand she had missed while plotting his elimination. "Touche, my love," she whispered to herself.
“What do you want to do about him?” Stan asked.
Jo tore the photos and the negatives into small and smaller pieces before piling them in an ashtray shaped like a clam. She snapped open her lighter and set the remains of the photos on fire.
“Forget,” she said.”
Fisher drove to the airport in a daze, having no idea of what he was going to do. When the woman behind the ticket counter asked him for his destination, Fisher said “Where would you suggest?”
“I hear Martinique is nice.”
“Done,” he said, taking out an envelope stuffed with cash.
As he passed a postal-drop, the thought briefly crossed his mind that he should mail half of the fifty-thousand back to Jo for sparing him. But he got over it. He bought toiletries and adhesive tape at a terminal shop and entered the Men's room by the water fountain. Finding a vacant stall he dropped his pants and taped the envelope inside his thigh.
He checked the airport departure board. The flight to Fort-de-France, scheduled to leave at 7:35 a.m., was on time. The early morning inched along. He watched the jets taking off to points unknown. One hour to go, he thought, and I'll be up there too. Just sixty more minutes. He felt exhausted, drained by the events of the last twenty-four hours, but he couldn't afford to fall asleep and miss his flight. He needed a cup of coffee. He walked past a group of religious cultists with shaved heads canvassing the terminal for donations.
He found a spot at a stand-up-table. There was a man next to him in a sweat stained shirt, eating a sausage and egg sandwich. Fisher was relieved to see the suitcase by the traveler's feet.
“Heading somewhere, Detective?”
“Yeah, back home,” said Paduano, wiping his perpetually sweating face with a napkin. “How about you, Fisher? You going or coming?”
“Going. Little vacation.”
“By yourself, or with Mrs. Landy?”
“Fisher. Mrs. Fisher.”
“Yeah. Never seemed to get that right.”
“I'm... on my own.”
“Any luck finding Robin Grant?”
“No. How about you?”
“I wasn't looking.”
“Ah. I saw you at the track at Troyers last night.”
“Didn't know you were a fan of the ponies, Detective. Why didn't you say hello?”
“I tried, but you left in a hurry.”
“Not my favorite track.”
“Whose car was that you were driving?”
“The black Jeep.”
“I have no idea.”
Paduano opened his notebook. “Stan Fredrickson, 414 Tamiami Drive. Ring any bells?”
“Also owns a boat. 'The High Water'. Sails out of the Manatee Marina.”
Fisher flinched and his tired eyes popped open. “The High Water?”
“You know the boat?”
Yeah he knew it. He'd seen it everywhere; outside of the Sloop, in the Bahamas on their honeymoon, even cruising the river past their condo.
Stan. Sure. His boat, his Jeep, his ponytailed-fuckface butting into their fight outside the recreation hall. His shoulder to lean at all those morning "meetings". Her "Stan-by-me". Her next fool.
Sensing Fisher's guard was down, Paduano came in for the kill. “She betrayed you. She's been cheating on you from the start, playing you like a chump. Wake up! She and Grant killed Landy. Now dollars to doughnuts she and this Fredrickson killed Grant. She's dirty as hell, Fisher, and you know it. Give her to me. Give her to me now.”
Fisher shook his head.
“Damn it, Fisher! Come on. She's played you for a fool. You don't owe her a thing.”
“I'm sorry, Detective.”
"Damn it, Fisher..."
Paduano's instinct told him to keep leaning on Fisher, press him hard, over and over... but his flight left in ten minutes, and nobody else seemed to care about a closed case. He was a one-man-band playing to a deaf crowd. Small potatoes, his chief had said. And the rotten stay rotten. “All right. All right.” He sighed. He hated to let this one go. But was homesick and couldn't wait to get out of the God damn state. “Give you a little advice, Fisher?”
“Don't come back to Rosehill.” When Fisher laughed, Paduano jabbed a finger in his side. “Think this is a joke? I'm serious. Put you away before your foot hits the tarmac.”
“I'm sorry, Detective. Just, Rosehill is the last place I'd go.”
“All right, all right." Paduano licked a piece of egg off his upper lip. You know, Fisher, you're a lucky son-of-a-bitch.”
As Paduano walked away he was set upon by the group of religious cultists asking him for donations in exchange for their pamphlets. He waved them off with a “Go get a job,” and disappeared around the corner.
Fisher heard the first call for his flight, but he didn't move. He took his time sipping his coffee, making sure Paduano was gone for good. There was no reason to let anyone see where he was heading. “Lucky son-of-a-bitch?” He didn't know about that. But Paduano didn't understand. Fisher couldn't give him Jo without giving up himself. Even separated, they would always be tied together. Landy, Sarah, and Stan Fredrickson, all collateral damage, killed in a walk-in, or in a fake robbed office, or, unless Fisher missed his bet, shot and shoved overboard this morning out at sea. For whatever reason, Fisher was the one to get away. “I'd never give you up, Fish,” she said.
To that, she was true to her vow, her addiction. “Till death do we part.”
“Caribbean Airways Flight Thirty-three to Fort-de-France, now boarding at gate number three,” called the P.A.
As Fisher was walking to the gate, one of the cultists approached him and offered a pamphlet. “Have you heard the word of God, today?”
Fisher was about to give the young man the Paduano treatment when he realized he knew him.
“Aren't you Mickey Salmanowitz, the football player from Rosehill High?”
“Yes.” His docile round brown eyes, reminded Fisher of a stabled horse.
“How are... how did... what are you doing in Florida?”
“I had a scholarship to play football. But I met some people and realized I needed God in my life.”
“Was it a girl?”
“Did you do it for a girl?”
“I don't understand,” said Salmanowitz with a beatific smile.
Join the club, thought Fisher. He heard his flight called again. He took a pamphlet from Salmanowitz and handed the boy twenty dollars.
“Thank you. God loves you,” said Salmanowitz.
Walking away, Fisher looked back and noticed the remnants of the backwards swastika tattoo inked into the shaved head of the disciple.
His seat was by the window and Fisher briefly closed his eyes as the jet soared up off the runway. But he opened them to watch the the houses and condos shrink into toy towns. The inland canals looked like varicose veins angling through the green and brown flatlands. Blood was running down there, he thought, running through the every day lives behind white picket fences, through the bedrooms, shower stalls, hospitals and restaurant offices, running down Route One to a shack in the Sugarloafs and all the way up the East coast to Rosehill, running out to the deep blue of the Gulf of Mexico where a lone boat was anchored far at sea and where it was too far away for Fisher to see the orange flash, hear the shot or see the body splash into the water. But he could feel it like the cool of Jo's pistol shoved up against his ribs.
"Did you say something?" asked the passenger in the next seat.
Fisher shook his head "no" and closed his eyes. There was nothing to say. And even if there was, he thought, I'm not telling. I'm not telling them a thing.