Read Carl Hiaasen Online

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 (8 page)

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
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“I bet you didn’t know,” Bode Gazzer said, “your hard-earned tax dollars are payin’ for a crack NATO army to invade the U.S.A.”

Shiner had no clue what the camouflaged man was talking about, though he didn’t let on. He’d never heard of NATO and in his entire life hadn’t paid enough in income taxes to finance a box of bullets, much less a whole invasion.

Headlights in the parking lot caught his attention: a Dodge Caravan full of tourists, pulling up to the gas pumps.

Chub frowned. “Tell ’em you’re closed.”

“What?”

“Now!” Bode barked.

The clerk did as he was told. When he came back in the store, he found the men whispering to each other.

The one called Chub said, “We’re just sayin’ you’d make a fine recruit.”

“For what?” Shiner asked.

Bode lowered his voice. “You got any interest in saving America from certain doom?”

“I guess. Sure.” Then, after thinking about it: “Would I have to quit my job?”

Bode Gazzer nodded portentously. “Soon,” he said.

Shiner listened as the men explained where America had gone wrong, allowing Washington to fall into the hands of communists, lesbians, queers and race mixers. Shiner was annoyed to learn he probably would have
owned
the Grab N’Go by now if it weren’t for something called “affirmative action”—a law evidently dreamed up by the commies to help blacks take over the nation.

Pretty soon Shiner’s universe began to make more sense. He was pleased to learn it wasn’t all his doing, this sorry-ass excuse for a life. No, it was the result of a complicated and diabolical plot, a vast conspiracy against the ordinary working white man. All this time there’d been a heavy boot on Shiner’s neck, and he hadn’t even known! Out of ignorance he’d always assumed it was his own damn fault—first quitting high school, then crapping
out of the army. He’d been unaware of the larger, darker forces at work, “oppressing” him and “subordinating” him.
Enslaving
him, Chub added.

Thinking about it made Shiner angry, but also oddly elated. Bode Gazzer and Chub were doing wonders for his self-esteem. They gave him a sense of worth. They gave him pride. Best of all, they gave him an excuse for his failures; someone else to blame! Shiner was invigorated with relief.

“How come you guys know so much?”

“We learned the hard way,” Bode said.

Chub cut in: “You say you got a gun?”

“Yep,” Shiner said. “Marlin .22.”

Chub snorted. “No, boy, I said a
gun.”

In more detail Bode Gazzer explained about the impending invasion of NATO troops from the Bahamas and their mission of imposing a totalitarian world regime on the United States. Shiner’s eyes grew wide at the mention of the White Rebel Brotherhood.

“I’ve heard of ’em!” the young man exclaimed.

“You have?” Chub shot a beady look at Bode, who shrugged.

Shiner said, “Yeah. It’s a band, right?”

“No, dickbrain, it’s not a band. It’s a militia,” Chub said.

“A well-regulated militia,” Bode added, “like they talk about in the Second Amendment.”

“Oh,” said Shiner. He hadn’t read the first one yet.

In a low confiding tone, Bode Gazzer said the White Rebel Brotherhood was preparing for prolonged armed resistance—
heavily
armed resistance—to any forces, foreign or domestic, that posed a threat to something called the “sovereignty” of private American citizens.

Bode laid a hand on the back of Shiner’s neck. With a friendly squeeze: “So what do you say?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“You want into the WRB?”

“You’re kiddin!”

Chub said, “Answer the man. Yes or no.”

“Sure,” Shiner chirped. “What do I gotta do?”

“A favor,” Chub said. “It’s easy.”

“More like a assignment,” said Bode Gazzer. “Think of it like a test.”

Shiner’s expression clouded. He hated tests, especially multiple choice. That’s how he’d blown the SATs.

Chub sensed the boy’s consternation. “Forget ‘test,’” he told him. “It’s a favor, that’s all. A favor for your new white brothers.”

Instantly Shiner brightened.

When Tom Krome saw JoLayne’s living room, he told her (for the fourth time) to call the police. The house was a mother lode of evidence: fingerprints, plenty of blood to be typed. JoLayne Lucks said absolutely not, no way, and started cleaning up. Reluctantly Krome helped. There wasn’t much to be done about the gutted piano, or the bullet hole in the wood floor. The blood mopped up with ammonia and water.

Afterwards, while JoLayne took a shower, Krome buried the dead turtle under a lime tree in the backyard. When he came back inside, she was standing there, bundled in her robe.

Dripping water. Shredding lettuce into the aquarium.

“Well, the others seem fine,” she said quietly.

Krome led her away from the turtles. “What’ve you got against calling the cops?”

JoLayne pulled free, snatched up a broom. “They wouldn’t believe me.”

“How could they not? Look in the mirror.”

“I’m not talking about the beating. I’m talking about the Lotto ticket.”

“What about it?” Krome said.

“I’ve got no proof I ever had it. Which makes it damn hard to claim it was stolen.”

She had a point. Florida’s lottery computer kept track of how many winning tickets were bought and where, but there was no way of identifying the owners. That’s because Lotto numbers were sold over the counter with the beer and cigarets; trying to keep track of customers’ names—hundreds of thousands—would have been impossible. Consequently the lottery bureau had one intractable criterion for claiming the jackpot: possession of the winning ticket. If you didn’t have it, you didn’t get the money—no matter what your excuse. Over the years, once-in-a-lifetime fortunes had been lost to hungry puppies and teething infants and washing machines and toilets and house fires.

And now robbers.

Tom Krome was torn between his sympathy for JoLayne Lucks and the realization that he’d stumbled into a pretty good news story. He must have done a poor job of masking his anticipation, because JoLayne said: “I’m begging you not to write about this.”

“But it’ll flush the bastards out.”

“And I’ll never, ever get the money. Don’t you see? They’d burn the damn ticket before they’d go to jail. Burn it or bury it.”

Krome lifted his feet to make way for JoLayne’s fierce, metronomic sweeping.

“If these guys get spooked,” she went on, “that fourteen-million-dollar stub of paper is garbage. They see a newspaper headline about what they did … well, it’s all over. Same if I go to the police.”

She probably was right, Krome thought. But wouldn’t the robbers assume JoLayne would report the theft? That’s what most people would do.

He no longer heard the manic whisk of her sweeping. She was in the kitchen, leaning on the broom in front of the open refrigerator, letting the cool air soothe the cuts and bruises on her face.

Tom Krome said, “I’ll put some ice in a bag.”

JoLayne shook her head. The house was silent except for the drone of the aquarium pump and the turtles’ steady munching of lettuce.

After a few moments, she said: “All right, here it is. They said they’d come back and kill me if I told anyone about the lottery ticket. They said they’d come back and shoot my babies, one at a time. Then me.”

A chill went down Krome’s arms.

JoLayne Lucks went on: “They told me to say my boyfriend beat me up. That’s what I’m supposed to tell the doctor! ‘What boyfriend?’ I say. ‘I don’t have a boyfriend.’ And the short one goes, ‘You do now,’ and he punches me in the tits.”

Suddenly Krome couldn’t breathe. He stumbled out the back door. JoLayne found him on his knees in the tomato patch. She stroked his hair and told him to take it easy. Before long, the crashing in his ears faded away. She brought him a glass of cold juice, and they sat together on an iron bench facing a birdbath.

In a raw voice, Krome said: “You can identify these guys?”

“Of course.”

“They belong in jail.”

“Tom—”

“Here’s what you do: Go to the cops and the lottery bureau, and tell them everything that happened. About the robbery and the death threats. Give a statement, file a report. And then let the authorities wait for these bastards—”

“No.”

“Listen. These guys will surface soon. They’ve only got six months to claim that jackpot.”

“Tom, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t have six months. I need the money now.”

Krome looked at her. “What in the world for?”

“I just do.”

“Forget the money—”

“I can’t.”

“But these guys are monsters. They’re going to hurt someone else the way they hurt you. Maybe worse.”

“Not necessarily,” JoLayne said. “Not if we stop them first.”

The incredible part was, she meant it. Krome would have laughed except he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

JoLayne, pinching his right knee: “We could do it. You and me, we could find them.”

“To borrow an old expression: No fucking way.”

“They’re driving a bright-red pickup.”

“I don’t care if they’re in the starship
Enterprise.”

“Tom, please.”

He held her hands. “In my business, fear is a sane and very healthy emotion. That’s because death and disaster aren’t abstractions. They’re as goddamn real as real can be.”

“Suppose I told you why I need the money. Would it make a difference?”

“JoLayne, I don’t think so.” It tore him up to look at her, at what they’d done.

She pulled away and walked to the aquarium. Krome could hear her talking—to herself, to the turtles, or maybe to the men who’d beaten her so badly.

“I’m truly sorry,” he said.

When JoLayne turned around, she didn’t appear upset. “Just think,” she said mischievously, “if I get that lottery ticket back. Think of the fantastic story you’ll be missing.”

Tom Krome smiled. “You’re ruthless, you know that?”

“I’m also right. Please help me find them.”

He said, “I’ve got a better idea. May I borrow the phone?”

Shiner awoke to the sight of his mother hovering over him. She was dressed in the white bridal gown that she always wore on Mondays to the Road-Stain Jesus. The outfit was a smash with the Christian tourists—it wasn’t uncommon for Shiner’s Ma to come home with two hundred dollars in cash from donations. Monday was her best day of the week, pilgrimwise.

Now she told Shiner to get his fat ass downstairs. There was company waiting in the Florida room.

“And I’m already an hour late,” she said, cuffing him so hard that he retreated under the blanket.

He listened to the rustle of the wedding dress as she hurried downstairs. Then came the slam of the front door.

Shiner pulled on some jeans and went to see who was waiting. The woman he recognized, with apprehension, as JoLayne Lucks. The man he didn’t know.

JoLayne said, “Sorry to wake you, but it’s sort of an emergency.”

She introduced her friend as Tom, who shook Shiner’s hand and said, “The day guy at the store gave me your address. Said you wouldn’t mind.”

Shiner nodded absently. He wasn’t a young man who had an easy time putting two and two together, but he quickly made the connection between JoLayne’s battered face and those of his new white rebel brothers, Chub and Bodean. Out of simple courtesy Shiner probably should’ve asked JoLayne who popped her in the kisser, but he didn’t trust himself with the question; didn’t trust himself to keep a straight face.

The man named Tom sat next to Shiner on the divan. He wasn’t dressed like a cop, but Shiner resolved to be careful anyway.

JoLayne said, “I’ve got a big problem. You remember the Lotto ticket I bought Saturday afternoon at the store? Well, I’ve lost it. Don’t ask me how, Lord, it’s a long story. The point is, you’re the only one besides me who knows I bought it. You’re my only witness.”

Shiner was a mumbler when he got nervous. “Saturday?”

He didn’t look at JoLayne Lucks but instead kept his eyes on the folds of his belly, which still bore wrinkle marks from the bedsheets.

Finally he said: “I don’t remember seein’ you Saturday.”

JoLayne couldn’t hear the words, Shiner was speaking so low. “What?” she said.

“I don’t remember seein’ you in the store Saturday. Sure it wasn’t last week?” Shiner began fiddling with the curly black hairs around his navel.

JoLayne came over and lifted his chin. “Look at me.”

He flinched at the prospect of her blue fingernails in his throat.

She said, “Every Saturday I play the same numbers. Every Saturday I come to the Grab N’Go and buy my ticket. You know what happened this time, don’t you? You know I won.”

Shiner pushed her hand away. “Maybe you come in Saturday, maybe you didn’t. Anyhow, I don’t look at the numbers.”

JoLayne Lucks stepped back. She seemed quite angry. The man named Tom spoke up: “Son, surely you know that one of the two winning Lotto tickets came from your store.”

“Yeah, I do. Tallahassee phoned up about it.”

“Well, if Miss Lucks didn’t have the numbers, who did?”

Shiner licked his lips and thought: Damn. This high-stakes lying was harder than he figured it would be. But a blood oath was a blood oath.

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
2.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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