Mystery Ron Faust Sea of Bones

ISBN 13: 9780553586565

Sea of Bones

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9780553586565: Sea of Bones

Dan Shaw hopes to be a lawyer some day--if he can only stay out of prison long enough to pass the bar. Neither is likely when he agrees to help a hotshot Florida attorney track down a slick con man whose swindled a consortium of well-to-do Paradise Key clients out of twenty-two million dollars. But the charismatic Victor Trebuchet and his sexy partner-in- crime are a lot more dangerous than anyone imagined. And the silken counter-sting set up in an Italian villa to snare the pair may end up trapping Shaw instead. With that much money on the line, anyone is liable to betray anyone. For now, Shaw's living the high life and he's way over his head. Soon he may find himself doing hard-time--or, worse, in a watery grave at the bottom of Bell Harbor.

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About the Author:

Ron Faust is a former baseball player and journalist. He is the author of Dead Men Rise Up Never, In the Forest of the Night, When She Was Bad, Fugitive Moon, and Lord of the Dark Lake. He lives in Wisconsin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One


This was the second day I had watched the beat-up cabin cruiser search a grid pattern over the area where I had deep-sixed Raven Ahriman's corpse.

I had a good view from the tower of Martina's lighthouse. The inside platform was forty feet above the reef and an additional five or six feet above the bay waters. From that height I could look out over the bay, above the breakwater, and beyond to the undulating blue Gulf.

I heard a hiss and a soft despairing whimper--Martina, forty feet below in her little studio at the base of the spiral stairway, had fumbled a line, made a false brush stroke, smeared a color. The conical tower amplified her kittenish sounds into a sort of ghostly anguish.

The cabin cruiser had appeared a little before noon on Saturday and searched until dusk. It had returned this morning. I recognized the boat. Catcher was thirty-six feet long, old, and poorly maintained: It needed paint, varnish, bronze polish, rust remover, and an engine overhaul--oily smoke emerged from the engine compartment and exhausts. The boat was owned by the Mackey brothers and docked at a marina south of Bell Harbor. Earl and Kyle Mackey were roughnecks who hustled a chancy living from the sea. They chartered the boat out for diving, deep-sea or line fishing, beer parties, anything that brought in an honest or semihonest dollar. The brothers were known locally as more rascals than crooks; that is, it was understood that they took undersized lobsters, poached other men's lobster and crab traps, and disobeyed game laws, and if they should discover a jettisoned bale of marijuana floating at sea they wouldn't turn it over to the police. I easily recognized the brothers; they were big, bearded, shaggy-haired men suntanned to a color Martina would describe as burnt umber. I was unable to make a sure identification of the third man. My binoculars were powerful, but the cabin cruiser was never less than two miles offshore.

"What?" Martina said.

"What?" I said.

"Dan?"

I leaned over the railing and looked down. Martina was seated at her drawing board. She wore a black smock, and her face appeared to buoyantly float through a bright cone of light.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"Nothing."

"You said something."

"No."

"Oh. I thought..." She leaned over the drawing board.

Poor Martina was hearing voices now. She sweated over her cartoon panels as Michelangelo must have agonized over the Sistine Chapel or Van Gogh over his wheat fields.

The cabin cruiser made a tight turn and took a new line on the north-south grid. I supposed they were trailing an underwater camera. Mostly they just crisscrossed a big patch of water a couple miles out, but three times today they had anchored and one of the brothers had put on diving gear and gone down. It was over a hundred feet deep out there. Bad light, silty bottom, vagrant currents.

"Baby?" Marty called.

"Yes?"

"What the devil have you been doing up there for most of two days?"

"Why?"

"It makes me nervous to have someone lurking overhead."

"I'm thinking," I said.

"Why don't you go into the house to think? Think about the bar exams. You came out here to study, so then study instead of lurking. Barefoot. Barefoot lurking."

Of course Ahriman's flesh had long since been picked clean by fish and crabs in the seven months that had elapsed. He was just bones now, skull here, jawbone over there, pelvic girdle, femurs and fibulas and ribs and scattered vertebrae, all now colonized by various organisms.

I said, " '...Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes; Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something new and strange...' "

"What?" Martina asked.

"I didn't say anything."

"You did so. You were reciting verses."

"No, Martina. Steady, now."

She was quiet as she determined whether she was annoyed or amused, and then finally she laughed.

Among the scattered bones you'd see an anchor and length of chain, frayed rope, rags, and an aluminum spear shaft. Peter Falconer was out there somewhere, too, dispersed ashes and bone grit, spiritual traces as well if you believed in that sort of thing. Falconer and Ahriman, victim and victimizer, now sharing the same dismal accommodations.

Catcher, at the extreme of its northward run, turned and commenced cruising south. She was a dirty, smoking, disreputable boat, but originally expensive, very well made, and she rode the swells with a proud grace. Sunset was an hour away. They would be coming in soon.

I hung the binoculars around my neck and went down the twisting iron stairway to the circular room below, Marty's cluttered studio.

"The barefoot lurker descends," she said.

Martina was working on a Sunday color cartoon panel. I saw Ollie Alligator, Gilbert Possum, Buddy Hare, and the rest of the droll creatures who populated Martina's Edenic marsh and woodland country (deer and cougars and kites and mice and rattlesnakes and raccoons), natural enemies in real life but here united against the Progress People. The PP's were human: land developers, polluters, water thieves, dumpers of toxic waste. In her present series all of the animals, birds, and reptiles were gathering to thwart a developer who proposed to drain a marsh and level a wood in order to construct a gated golf course community named Parvenu Pointe Estates.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"I like it. It has a certain...je ne sais quoi."

She smiled. The tip of her tongue was blue and scarlet from absentmindedly licking brush tips. It was a childhood habit that she claimed she could not break. The gooseneck lamp attached to the drawing board silvered her dark hair.

"The raccoon?" she asked.

"The apotheosis of raccoonhood."

Martina had been influenced by the old Walt Kelly comic strip featuring Pogo and other furred and feathered creatures of the Okefenokee Swamp. Influenced but not overwhelmed: She had her own viewpoint and approach, and a highly individual style that caused rude people to suggest she give up silly cartooning and turn to the fine arts.

"Marty," I said. "Don't you think your strip is becoming too overtly political?"

"What's political about putting in a word--and pictures--in favor of the natural world?"

"If you don't know..."

"Oh, I know."

"You've been losing an average of two newspapers a month lately."

"I have eighty-six left."

"And you ought to hire an assistant. Here it is the weekend and you're working. You're always working."

"Something you might try to emulate. I don't want or need an assistant. Go away."

I went through a doorway and down the arched masonry tunnel, through another door, and into the blockhouse. This was Martina's home, comfortable enough except for the lack of good outdoor light--there were no ordinary windows, just rows of bronze-rimmed portholes set into the east and west walls. Aside from the enclosed bathroom, it was one fairly big space partitioned by the kitchen counter and tall, painted (by Martina) bamboo screens. My books and papers were spread out on the all-purpose table. They piteously called out to me: Come; work; duty.

I scorned their whining appeal, got a can of beer from the refrigerator, went through the heavy front door and outside into steeply angled sunlight. There were a few puffball clouds, a luminous sky the color of a gas flame, and a sun beginning to turn orange as it descended toward the horizon.

The reef was a thick slab of rock maybe eighty yards long and fifty wide, with tumbled piles of quarried blocks at the north and south ends. Late in the nineteenth century the reef and lighthouse had lain outside the small natural harbor; since then, dredging and landfill had extended the promontories, and construction of a large breakwater had isolated the structure inside the bay. The marine light had long ago been removed. Martina had bought the property at a government auction. Bought the lighthouse and bought into years of complicated litigation.

I walked south, wary of ambush by Martina's ill-mannered dog. Cerberus was a mutt composed of diverse body parts, head of this breed, limbs of that, chest of something else. He liked to launch his one hundred and twenty pounds at my back. Then he grinned and slavered and licked my hand.

A powerful tide was beginning to stream out through the opening in the breakwater. This was a spring tide, when the sun, a new or full moon, and the earth are roughly aligned. Only a very strong swimmer would be able to fight this tidal rip.

I walked to the extreme southern tip of the reef and sat on a rectangular stone block the size of a diesel truck engine. It was possibly the same block that Raven Ahriman had sat on during the morning I'd killed him.

Cerberus, without the usual preliminary mugging, picked his way among the stone blocks and lay down at my feet. He placed his ugly head on his paws and rolled his eyes so that he might gauge my mood.

"Bad dog," I said. "Evil beast. Hellhound."

His tail twitched, and then he yawned, snapping his jaws shut with the finality of a guillotine blade. Martina had named him after the dragon-tailed, three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. He had not so long ago saved my life. It hadn't been intentional.

I got a solitary cigarette and a single wooden match from my breast pocket. At Martina's urging, I had mostly quit smoking six weeks before. I found that I was able to regard myself as a nonsmoker so long as Martina didn't catch me.

You need dirty chemical clouds for a spectacular sunset, serio...

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