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Authors: Lucky You

Tags: #White Supremacy Movements, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery & Detective, #Lottery Winners, #Florida, #Newspaper Reporters, #Fiction, #Humorous, #Militia Movement, #General, #White Supremancy Movements

Carl Hiaasen (4 page)

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
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Tom Krome took the feature-writing job because he needed the money. He was saving for a cabin on Kodiak Island or possibly up near Fairbanks, where he’d live by himself. He intended to buy a snowmobile and photograph wild wolves, caribou and eventually a grizzly bear. He intended to write a novel about a fictional actress named Mary Andrea Finley, based on a true person named Mary Andrea Finley, who in real life had spent the last four years successfully preventing Tom Krome from divorcing her.

He was packing for the Lotto story when Katie returned from church.

“Where to?” Her purse hit the kitchen table like a cinder block.

“A place called Grange,” Tom Krome said.

“I’ve been there,” Katie said testily.
A place called Grange
. Like she didn’t even know it was a town. “That’s where they have the sightings,” she said.

“Right.” Krome wondered if Katie was one of the religious pilgrims. Anything was possible; he’d known her only two weeks.

She said, “They’ve got a Mother Mary that cries.” She went to the refrigerator. Poured herself a glass of grapefruit juice; Krome, waiting for more about Grange. “And on the highway,” she said, between sips, “in the middle of the highway, the face of Jesus Christ.”

Tom Krome said, “I heard about that.”

“A stain,” Katie elaborated. “Dark violet. Like blood.”

Or possibly transmission fluid, Krome thought.

“I’ve only been there once,” Katie said. “We stopped for gas on the way to Clearwater.”

Krome was relieved to hear she wasn’t a Grange regular. He tossed a stack of clean Jockey shorts into the suitcase. “What was your impression of the place?”

“Weird.” Katie finished the fruit juice, washed the glass. She slipped out of her shoes and took a seat at the table, where she had a good view of Tom packing. “I didn’t see the crying Madonna, just the road-stain Jesus. But the whole town struck me as weird.”

Krome suppressed a smile. He was counting on weird.

Katie asked, “When will you be back?”

“Day or two.”

“You gonna call me?”

Krome looked up. “Sure, Katie.”

“When you get to Grange, I mean.”

“Oh … sure.”

“You thought I meant for you to call when you get back. Didn’t you?”

Krome marveled at how, with no effort, he’d gotten himself into a downward-spiraling conversation before noon on a Sunday morning. He was simply trying to pack, for God’s sake, yet he’d apparently managed to hurt Katie’s feelings.

His theory: It was the pause between the “oh” and the “sure” that had tripped her alarm.

Surrender was the only option: Yes, yes, sweet Katherine, forgive me. You’re right, I’m a total shit, insensitive and self-absorbed. What was I thinking!
Of course
I’ll call as soon as I get to Grange.

“Katie,” he said, “I’ll call as soon as I get to Grange.”

“It’s OK. I know you’ll be busy.”

Krome closed the suitcase, snapped the latches. “I want to call, all right?”

“OK, but not too late.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Art gets home—”

“At six-thirty. I remember.”

Art being Katie’s husband. Circuit Judge Arthur Battenkill Jr.

Krome felt bad about betraying Art, even though he didn’t know the man, and even though Art was cheating on Katie with both his secretaries. This was widely known, Katie had assured him, unbuckling his pants on their second “date.” An eye for an eye, she’d said; that’s straight from the Bible.

Still, Tom Krome felt guilty. It was nothing new; possibly it was even necessary. Beginning in his teenage years, guilt had played a defining role in every romance Tom Krome ever had. These days it was a steady if oppressive companion in his divorce.

Katie Battenkill had poleaxed him with her fine alert features
and lusty wholesomeness. She’d chased after him, literally, one day while he was jogging downtown. He’d gotten tangled in a charity street march—he couldn’t recall whether it was for a disease or a disorder—and clumsily slapped some money in her hand. Next thing he knew: footsteps running behind him. She caught up, too. They had lunch at a pizza joint, where the first thing out of Katie’s mouth was: “I’m married and I’ve never done this before. God, I’m starved.” Tom Krome liked her tremendously, but he realized that Art was very much part of the equation. Katie was working things out in her own way, and Krome understood his role. It suited him fine, for now.

Barefoot in her nylons, Katie followed him out to the car. He got in and, perhaps too hastily, fit the key in the ignition. She leaned over and kissed him goodbye; quite a long kiss. Afterwards she lingered at the car door. He noticed she was holding a disposable camera.

“For your trip,” she said, handing it to him. “There’s five shots left. Maybe six.”

Krome thanked her but explained it was unnecessary. Sinclair would be sending a staff photographer if the lottery story panned out.

“That’s for the newspaper,” Katie said. “This is for me. Could you take a picture of the weeping Madonna?”

For a moment Krome thought she was kidding. She wasn’t.

“Please, Tom?”

He put the cardboard camera in his jacket. “What if she’s not crying? The Virgin Mary. You still want a picture?”

Katie didn’t catch the sarcasm that leaked into his voice. “Oh yes,” she said ardently. “Even without the tears.”

3

T
he mayor of Grange, Jerry Wicks, complimented JoLayne Lucks on her cooters.

“My babies,” she said fondly. Her blue fingernails sparkled as she shredded a head of iceberg lettuce into the aquarium. The turtles commenced a mute scramble for supper.

Jerry Wicks said, “How many you got there?”

“Forty-six, I believe.”

“My, my.”

“There’s red-bellies, Suwanees and two young peninsulars, which I am told will grow up to be something special. And see how they all get along!”

“Yes, ma’am.” Jerry Wicks couldn’t tell one from another. He was impressed, however, by the volume of noise made by the feeding reptiles. He was quite certain the crunching would drive him insane if he lingered too long.

“JoLayne, the reason I came by—there’s talk you won the Lotto!”

JoLayne Lucks dried her hands on a towel. She offered the mayor a glass of limeade, which he declined.

“It’s your own private business,” he went on, “and there’s no need to tell me yes or no. But if it’s true, nobody deserves it more than you….”

“And why’s that?”

Jerry Wicks was stumped for a reply. Ordinarily he wasn’t nervous around pretty women, but this afternoon JoLayne Lucks possessed an uncommonly powerful aura; a fragrant dazzle, a mischievous twinkling that made him feel both silly and careless. He wanted to run away before she had him down on the floor, howling like a coon hound.

“The reason I’m here, JoLayne, I’m thinking about the town. It’d be great for Grange if it was true. About you winning.”

“Publicity-wise,” she said.

“Exactly,” he exclaimed with relief. “It would be such a welcome change from the usual…”

“Freak shit?”

The mayor winced. “Well, I wouldn’t…”

“Like the road stain or the weepy Virgin,” JoLayne said, “or Mister Amador’s phony stigmata.”

Dominick Amador was a local builder who’d lost his contracting license after the walls of the Saint Arthur catechism school collapsed for no good reason during a summer squall. Dominick Amador’s buddies advised him to relocate to Dade County, where it was safe for incompetent contractors, but Dominick wanted to stay in Grange with his wife and girlfriends. So one night he got hammered on Black Jack and Xanax, and (using a three-eighth-inch wood bit) drilled a perfect hole in each of his palms. Now Amador was one of the stars of Grange’s Christian pilgrim tour, touting himself as a carpenter (“just like Jesus!”) and assiduously picking at the circular wounds in his
hands to keep them authentically unscabbed and bloody. There were rumors he was planning to drill his feet soon.

The mayor said to JoLayne Lucks: “See here, I’m not one to pass judgment on others.”

“But you’re a religious man,” she said. “Do
you
believe?”

Jerry Wicks wondered how the conversation had drifted so far off course. He said, “What I personally believe isn’t important. Others do—I’ve seen it in their eyes.”

JoLayne popped a Certs. She was sorry about putting the mayor on the spot. Jerry wasn’t a bad fellow, just soft. Thin blond hair going gray at the sides. Pink slack cheeks, a picket line of tiny perfect teeth, and sparse guileless eyebrows. Jerry ran an insurance business he’d inherited from his mother; homeowners and auto, mostly. He was harmless and chubby. JoLayne kept all her coverage with him; most everyone in town did.

Jerry said, “I guess the point to be made, it’d be good for Grange to get a different slant of publicity.”

“Let the world know,” JoLayne agreed, “there’s normal folks who live here, too.”

“Right,” said the mayor.

“Not just Jesus freaks and scammers.”

The blunt words caused in Jerry Wicks a pain similar to an abdominal cramp. “JoLayne,
please.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to be such a cynical young lady. Don’t ask how I got this way.”

By now the mayor realized JoLayne Lucks had no intention of telling him whether or not she’d won the Lotto. The rhythmic munch of her hungry cooters had become almost unbearable.

“You want one?” she asked. “For Jerry junior?”

Jerry Wicks said no thanks. He eyed the teeming aquarium and thought: Look who’s talking about freaks.

JoLayne reached across the kitchen table and tweaked him in the ribs. “Hey, cheer up.”

The mayor turned to gooseflesh at her touch; he smiled bashfully and looked away. He beheld a fleeting impure fantasy: JoLayne’s blue fingernails raking slowly across his pallid, acne-scarred shoulder blades.

Teasingly she said, “You came here to tell me something, Jerry. So let’s hear it already, ’fore we both die of old age.”

“Yes, all right. There’s a newspaper reporter coming into town. From
The Register
. He’s got a reservation at the bed-and-breakfast—Mrs. Hendricks told me.”

“For tonight?”

“That’s what she said. Anyhow, he’s looking for the lottery winner. To do a feature story, is my guess.”

“Oh,” said JoLayne Lucks.

“Nothing to worry about.” As mayor, Jerry Wicks had experience dealing with the press. He said, “They love to write about ordinary people who make it big.”

“Really.” JoLayne pursed her lips.

“Human interest, they call it.” The mayor wanted to reassure her there was nothing to fear from giving interviews. He hoped she would be cooperative and friendly, since the image of Grange was at stake.

JoLayne said, “Do I have to talk to him?”

“No.” Jerry Wicks’ heart sank.

“Because I’m fond of my privacy.”

“The man doesn’t have to come to the house. Fact, it’d be better if he didn’t.” The mayor was worried about JoLayne’s turtle hobby, and what cruel fun a snotty city reporter might have with that. “Maybe you could meet him at the restaurant in the Holiday Inn.”

“Yum,” said JoLayne.

The phone on the kitchen wall rang. She stood up. “I’ve got some errands. Thanks for stopping over.”

Jerry Wicks said, “I just thought you should know what’s ahead. Winning the Lotto is very big news.”

“Must be,” JoLayne Lucks said.

The mayor told her goodbye and let himself out. As he walked from the porch to the driveway, he could hear JoLayne’s telephone ringing and ringing and ringing.

Chub said they should drive directly to Tallahassee and claim their half of the $28 million jackpot as soon as humanly possible. Bodean Gazzer said nope, not just yet.

“We got one hundred and eighty days to pick it up. That’s six whole months.” He loaded a cold twelve-pack into the truck. “Right now we gotta find that other ticket before whoever’s got it cashes in.”

“Maybe they already done it. Maybe it’s too late.”

“Don’t think so negative.”

“Life
is fucking negative,” Chub noted.

Bode spread a striped beach towel on the passenger half of the front seat, to shield the new upholstery from the gun grease and sweat that was Chub’s natural marinade. Chub took mild offense at the precaution but said nothing.

A few minutes later, speeding along the turnpike, Bode Gazzer summarized his plan: “Break in, rip off the ticket, then split.”

“Happens we can’t find it?” Chub asked. “What supposed they hid it too good?”

“There you go again.”

“I ain’t interested in felony time.”

“Relax, goddammit.”

“I mean, my God, we’s millionaires,” Chub went on. “Millionaires, they don’t do b-and-e’s!”

“No, but they steal just the same. We use crowbars, they use Jews and briefcases.”

As usual, Bode had a point. Chub hunkered down with a Budweiser to think on it.

Bode said, “Hey, I don’t wanna go to jail, either. Say we go up on charges, who’d take over the White Rebels?”

The White Rebel Brotherhood is what Bodean Gazzer had decided to call his new militia. Chub didn’t fuss about the name; it wasn’t as if they’d be printing up business cards.

Bode said, “Hey, d’you finish that book I gave you? On how to be a survivalist?”

“No, I did not.” Chub had gotten as far as the business on eating bugs, and that was it. “How to Tell Toxic Insects from Edible Insects.” Jesus Willy Christ.

“I didn’t see no chapter on prime rib,” he grumbled.

To ease the tension, Bode asked Chub if he’d like to make a bet on who was holding the other winning Lotto numbers. “I got ten bucks says it’s a Negro. You want to take Jews, or Cubans?”

Chub had never met a white supremacist who said “Negro” instead of “nigger.” Is they a difference?” he inquired sarcastically.

“No, sir,” said Bode.

“Then why don’t you call ’em what they is?”

Bode clenched the steering wheel. “I could call ’em coconuts and what’s the damn difference. One word’s no better than another.”

Chub chuckled. “Coconuts.”

“How about you make yourself useful. Find a radio station plays some white music, if that’s possible.”

“S’matter? You ain’t fond a these
Negro
rappers?”

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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