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Authors: Dave Stanton

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Hard-Boiled, #Private Investigators

Dying for the Highlife (8 page)

BOOK: Dying for the Highlife
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“Yes, I’m looking for an old friend who I haven’t been able to reach. I don’t think it’s called for to hire an investigative service, but I’m wondering if you can provide reports of some kind, perhaps listing residences, phone numbers, or any other data that might help me locate this person.”

“Yeah, we can do that. We have a basic report we run that includes address history, phone number, date of birth, that sort of thing. You can go to our website and order it with your credit card. The report costs fifty bucks.”

“That sounds like it would be helpful. But unfortunately, I don’t have access to a PC. Would it be possible for you to run the report, and then I could come pick it up?”

The voice on the other end hesitated. “Sure, that’ll work. Just ask for Joe.”

Mort woke early the following morning and meticulously applied his beard, working with the glue and blending lotion until he was confident it would pass a face-to-face encounter.

At nine o’clock sharp, a portly, bearded man smoking a pipe arrived at the offices of American Security in Reno. A few minutes later, Mort was seated across from Joe, a fleshy, dark-haired fellow in his thirties. Mort paid him with two twenties and a ten, and noticed Joe quickly slid the cash into his desk drawer.

As Mort suspected, the background report on Jimmy Homestead was not updated recently enough to reflect anything Jimmy may have done since winning the lottery.

“Do you have any other reports, showing more recent activity?” Mort said.

Joe picked at the corner of his mouth. “Recent activity,” he said.

“That’s right.”

“Well, we could triangulate his cell phone. We have a GPS system that can pinpoint his location to fifty feet. The fee for that is two hundred fifty. But we can’t just provide that service to anyone. You need certain clearances.”

“I see,” Mort said. He had begun slipping into a Southern drawl while in costume. He counted $400 from the roll of bills in his pocket. “Is this clearance enough?”

Joe’s eyes shifted back and forth. He took the money, and it disappeared into his desk. “Come back at two,” he said.

12

W
hat a joke, Jimmy thought. What a bone-smoking joke. All anybody can talk about is the Internet, yeah, check this website, check that website, yeah, yeah, you can find anything. What a bunch of bullshit. Jimmy was at the bar at the Mirage, trying to drink away a grinding coke-and-booze hangover. The last three days had been a blur of casino gambling, liquor of every variety, and a snowstorm of cocaine. It was too much, even for Jimmy.

Within the first twenty-four hours of posting his personal ad, he had received three responses. Two were from Russian women who Jimmy learned were part of a mail-order-bride scam. The third was from a dumpy-looking, dark-haired woman from Sacramento, who sent him a simple six-word greeting: “You sound like a real asshole.”

Jimmy blew a gasket when he read that e-mail. What kind of rude, ugly bitch would send a message like that? He was deeply offended a woman so beneath him had actually reached out and made contact. He felt soiled by it. And he was also perplexed and outraged that no quality babes had responded. It was freaking ridiculous.

So he spent three days drinking and snorting away his frustration. And now he was paying the price. He had danced, and it was time to pay the fiddler. It was the worst hangover he could remember, and he’d had plenty.

The midweek crowds at the Mirage were light, and Jimmy spent the afternoon sipping slow, medicinal Bloody Marys, trying to feel human again. Eventually, he went back to his room and passed out for a while, and when he woke he drank a strong Irish coffee, and finally his head started to clear. He searched around for his cell phone, which he’d lost at some point, and found it, dead, buried in his suitcase. It didn’t matter, no one ever called him anyway.

He made his way to the bar again and was irritated to find it was now crowded, and the only open seat was next to two men who were laughing and having an animated conversation.

“Man, I’m telling you,” said a red-haired guy with blotchy skin and hunched shoulders. “The women down there have a completely different attitude. It’s a different culture. In the US, women have it made, right? They expect you to open doors for them, buy jewelry, kiss their ass, and if you’re lucky, maybe you get laid every now and them. But it’s totally different down there.”

The other man was a short, bearded fellow wearing thick-rimmed glasses. “So what are Costa Rican women like?” he asked.

“They’re incredible, I’m telling you! Costa Rica has more beautiful women than any other country in the world. And Costa Rican women—they call them Ticas—treat men totally different. It’s like the man is dominant, and the woman’s role is to please. They cook, they clean, they ask you if you want your back rubbed, or if you’d like to pound their poontang. And they love us gringos!”

“It sounds almost too good to be true.”

“I’ve been there, man! I know! I found this twenty-three-year-old who was a perfect ten. I mean just incredible. And nice as can be. We hung out for three days; it was insane! Dude, when I left to come back to the US, she was totally bummed. And she only wanted, like, eighty bucks a day.”

“She was really a ten?”

“Hell, yes! Costa Rica is swarming with women like her. Prostitution is legal there, and it’s totally casual. The whores down there love it!”

Jimmy caught enough of the conversation to raise his interest. He turned toward the men and managed a meager smile. “Where are you guys talking about?”

“Huh?” said the red-haired man, looking at Jimmy’s horribly bloodshot eyes.

“I overheard you talking.” Jimmy’s nerves were shot and his voice was shaky.

“Hey, you feeling okay?”

“I’ve had a few long nights, it’s no big deal.”

The red-haired man laughed. “I’m Larry,” he said and stuck out his hand. “My friends call me Fast Larry.”

Jimmy gave his hand a weak shake.

“We were talking about Costa Rica,” Larry said.

“That’s in Europe, right?”

“Europe?” Larry said, one eyebrow raised quizzically. “No, it’s in Central America, down near the Panama Canal.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Jimmy said, and he was tempted to spin a tale about how he’d been to a lot of countries, but he didn’t have the energy.

“It’s about a five-hour flight from here,” Larry said. “Costa Rica is a tropical paradise. Lush rain forests, stellar deep sea fishing, great food, and it’s all dirt cheap.”

“Well, the money’s not an issue for me,” Jimmy said. “But I wouldn’t mind checking out a new scene.” As the words came out of his mouth, Jimmy had an odd realization he was speaking the pure truth, a somewhat unusual event for him. He was sick of Vegas. He was sick of the murderous weather, which was still a hundred degrees in early October. And he was sick of bitchy, greedy American women, whores or otherwise. An exotic new locale might be just what he needed—especially a tropical paradise with nubile, young Latinas who treated men with the proper respect and admiration.

“Yeah? You got the money and the time, you ought to go, man,” Larry said.

“Tell me more about this place.”

An hour and a number of cocktails later, Larry was in Jimmy’s suite, prompted by Jimmy’s offer of a few lines of Peruvian flake. Afterward, Jimmy watched Larry pull up a number of websites on Costa Rica. He wouldn’t admit it, but Jimmy found the prospect of visiting a foreign country intimidating. What about the language? And what about a passport? Jimmy didn’t have one. But when he brought up his concerns, they were quickly dismissed.

“Dude, everybody speaks English. And anybody can get a passport,” Larry told him.

There was something about Larry that Jimmy found soothing, in a down home sort of way. Larry had big, innocent, light-colored eyes, and eyebrows that seemed perpetually raised in laughter or exclamation. His smile was constant and seemed natural, and he had a casual, optimistic aura about him, as if he were immune to typical annoyances. Although Jimmy had only known him for a very short time, he felt Larry was harmless and trustworthy.

As he listened to Larry excitedly prattle on about Costa Rica (everything there was “the best”) it struck Jimmy that since winning the lottery he had not contacted anyone he knew—no friends, no family, no one. Instead, he’d spent his time just drifting from place to place, Southern California, Tahoe, Vegas, and mingling with strangers, people who had no idea who he was. There was no question he was a very sociable person, and actually he’d met a lot of people recently, although when he thought about it, they were mostly whores and drunks. Well, what the hell, he was on a roll, living it up, and the truth was, he didn’t feel compelled to contact anyone from his past life. Why should he? They’d probably just be looking for a handout, and he didn’t owe anybody a thing, not a goddamned thing.

But in the back of his mind he felt a gnawing concern, like a sense of unfinished business. Should he feel any obligation to take care of people who used to be close to him, like his immediate family? No, hell no. Not his father, a man Jimmy thought of as more an acquaintance than a parent. What real guidance and support had his dad ever provided? What real love? John Homestead always put himself first, before his children. Not that this made him such a bad guy, but he hadn’t sacrificed much for his son, certainly not enough for Jimmy to feel obliged to reach out and share his wealth. Still, Jimmy felt a tiny edge of guilt when he thought about his father.

As far as his friends, there were so many Jimmy had known over the years that trying to define who might be worthy of a handout made his head spin. The majority of people who came to mind were from San Jose, back in the days before he started drifting. He hadn’t talked to most of them for over a decade. He thought back to the different faces, to his old partying buddies, different women he’d bedded, AA contacts, and his dead brother Marty. Sitting in his suite at the Mirage, watching Larry work the computer, the truth slowly dawned on Jimmy: he no longer had any real friends. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t have friends if he wanted—he’d always been popular. But somehow, over the course of time, it just seemed more natural to keep people at arm’s length. People were just too damned sensitive, always judging and blaming him, as if he were actually responsible for the difficulties typically present in his life.

Every time something went seriously wrong for Jimmy, he saw it as the result of people creating bad situations for him. Of course, everything was always his fault in the eyes of the world, and then it was the plumber’s motto—shit rolls downhill—with Jimmy at the bottom. As a result, he developed a tendency to stay light on his feet and move on quickly. He was used to changes in locale and environment, which were usually pleasant at first, until people started giving him shit again. And then it would be, “Adios, assholes,” and onto a new town.

This pattern had prevented him from ever being anywhere long enough to develop true friends, the type who would be there through thick and thin. A repressed emotion that had been churning for some time finally propelled itself plainly into the forefront of Jimmy’s conscience. With a sinking of his stomach, Jimmy realized he was sad, and it was because he was friendless and lonely.

And so, forty-eight hours later, Jimmy found himself with his new buddy and tour guide, Larry, waiting for an American Airlines plane to depart from Las Vegas to San Jose, Costa Rica. All it cost him was the expense of a rush passport and his and Larry’s airfare, hotel, and party budget.

13

T
ony Sanzini was not a happy camper after the events of the previous evening. Being left sprawled unconscious in front of the Tumbleweeds Ranch brothel wasn’t his idea of a positive outcome to his initial effort at finding Jimmy Homestead. To make matters worse, the bouncer at the whorehouse called the cops and reported a drunk and disorderly customer had been in a fight and was passed out in the parking lot. As a result, Tony spent the night as a guest of the county in a filthy cement room, with only a drain hole in the center for a toilet.

He was released at dawn the following morning, and limped away from the Carson City jailhouse toward the nearest bus stop. His clothes felt damp and soiled, and he reeked badly of a potpourri of stagnant body fluids. At some point during the night, someone had apparently hawked a huge wad of phlegm at his head, and Sanzini had been unsuccessful in completely removing the sticky mess from his hair.

He sat in the back of the bus, amazed at the growing list of fools who had wronged him. He was sure Rancour had taken his prized leather jacket, his own personal colors, and that alone was an offense punishable by broken bones. The bouncer who drilled him with his billy club was also due a severe beating, perhaps an ass-reaming with a broken bottle. And the mysterious man who had punched him out in the parking lot? His face would be rearranged if they ever crossed paths again.

Sanzini consoled himself with these visions of retribution during the morning, as he made his way to a hotel at the south end of town. Fortunately, he had been carrying his wallet in his pants pocket and had a credit card that still had some limit, so he wasn’t without means. After cleaning himself up, he took another bus to within a mile of the cathouse, then began walking through the desert back to where his bike was parked. The sun floated like a white balloon above him, and it soon became uncomfortably hot. The terrain he was crossing had looked like sand from a distance, but it was actually hard-packed dirt full of undulations and sharp rocks, making the relative flatness difficult to traverse.

By the time Sanzini neared the Tumbleweeds brothel, he was in bad shape. He had fallen a couple of times during the walk, which he now estimated at two miles rather than one. His bruised thigh would barely support his weight, and he felt every blow from the pounding he had taken the night before. As he staggered toward his bike, soaked in sweat, he began feeling sick to his stomach, and tiny flickers of light danced in front of his eyes. He dropped to a knee and waited for the blood to return to his head. What was he doing out here in the desert? Finding Jimmy and settling the score now seemed no more than a fanciful dream. He didn’t know what to do next. He rose and limped to his chopper. With a groan he started it, and slowly rode away, back toward his hotel.

BOOK: Dying for the Highlife
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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