KIERAN SHEA’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he's also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is out now from Titan Books. Kieran divides his time between 38°58′22.6″N- 76°30′4.17″W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W.


The Last A.C. Story: A Labor Day Experiment

The Last Andy Caruthers Story

(As per yesterday's post...kill this bastard however you see fit, and we'll see who wins after the Labor Day weekend.)

My drinking buddy, Zulfigar Kamath, firehosed two sizzling streams of hard cider out his nose when I told him I was turning pro on the investigator gig.

Well, there you have it, people. My life, one gargantuan punch line.

I mean I half-expected some reservations from Zulfi just not full-blown, pound the heel of your fist on the bar, upchucking hysteria. I bitterly nursed my Harp Lager and stared dolefully up at Alexander Ovechkin stick-handling minor miracles on the TV. Finally, Zulfi’s coughing ebbed at my elbow.

“Get out!” he cried as he punched my shoulder. He then searched for the paper napkin tucked next to his chicken pot pie. Zulfi dabbed at the blast of cider stains on his sixty dollar polo and then blew his hawkish nose like an angry kazoo. Other than a trembling pair of octogenarians in foul weather slickers at the other end of the brass, we were the only patrons humped over at The Happy Goat Pub that Saturday afternoon.

I shook my head and sank another inch of lager, “No joke, Zulfi.”

Zulfi ventured another chortle but it kind of died in mid-flight when he saw my eyes.

“Been at it for a while now too,” I added matter-of-fact tilt of the head, “Nothing big, mind you. A couple of cheaters, a workman’s comp sneak.”

“Like since when?”

I swiveled on my stool, “A few months. I’ve always had the idea percolating as a sideline. Been taking some courses nights too to beef up my cred. Criminal justice basics at the community college. But I did the legwork, dotted my i’s, crossed my t’s, and got my official green light from the state about two weeks ago.”

“I don’t know how to respond to this, Andy.”

“How about being supportive?”

“I am. I am.”

“Okay then.”

“But investigations? Don’t take this the wrong way but, you are, like, so far removed from law enforcement it’s not even funny.”

I nodded in agreement, “I know but look, man, I have to do something. With my recent layoff at the newspaper I’m lucky I’m not totally assembling conveyor belt pizzas at this point.”

On the television a power play was in progress against the Washington Capitals. I sighed and worried about the bet I placed with my bookie. Then I looked out the rain ticked window. U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen in their dress whites were escorting stoop-shouldered relatives around the quaint t-shirt and fudge shops of old waterfront Annapolis. I briefly remembered my dress whites, a lifetime of bad decisions ago.

“And it’s not like my getting canned at the newspaper totally blindsided me. I mean, I knew something was in the wind but I chose to hope for the best and ignore it. Should’ve gotten my book together and left that suck-hole after the first layoffs back in ‘02.”

“A dying industry.”

“Tell me about it. Editorial nitwits are using cell phone pictures for page one stories.”

“No severance deal?”

I burped and shot Zulfi a look, “Have you taken a whiff of the real world lately, Gunga Dim? I was lucky I got away with a box of copy paper and a case of Diet Coke from the supply room.”

“But I thought some German conglomerate was going to buy the paper.”

“That was two years ago. When the market tanked those German fat cats circled their halftracks and hauled ass back to the fatherland. Mach schnell.”

Zulfi swirled a downward pointed finger above our now nearly empty pint glasses and the fleshy-faced bartender caught the signal for another round. Originally from an affluent family in Bombay, Zulfi had some bank. Not to mention he was Georgetown law grad and partner in a leathery furnished firm up on West Street, a clean pitching wedge from the Maryland State House. Gift horses in my life were rare, if he was buying, I wasn’t about to pass.

“I’m just looking for some low hanging fruit, Zulfi, OK? Nothing heavy, nothing all drawn out into court appearances, no complicated computer forensics, nothing that’s going get me into trouble. You know, stuff your ex-Staties and ex-cops think is beneath them. Due diligence. Interviews, public records footwork. Pictures if need be because I’m never giving up my cameras.”

“How about nanny cams? Be into stuff like that?”

“If the nanny is hot, sure. I mean, hell yeah. In fact, please.”

Zulfi shook his head, “OK. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Great,” I said slapping his skinny shoulder. “And pass the word along to your slithering brethren viping around the State House. There must be plenty of sleazy, spit-bucket work with the new governor getting his tax groove on.”

“Got a preference on the aisle?”

“You know me. All the same. Dirty politics right or left. As Maryland as crabcakes.”

“You gadfly you.”

I slid off my stool as the bartender brought our next round. Lifting my beer from the coaster mat I chugged with slow, practiced ease and pumped Zulfi’s hand at the same time. When I finished the beer I belched again hard, wiped my mouth on my jacket sleeve, and fished a minty, new business card from the slit in my wallet.

Zulfi took the card from me and looked down.

“Andrew Carruthers – Investigative Consultant/Photography, LLC.” He snapped the white card with the flick of a fingernail, “Very nice.”

I stalked out into the mousy, March rain.

“Yeah. Nice and desperate,” I said.

Zulfi didn’t volley anything particularly enticing for about two weeks. A couple of mercy gigs was what I figured, an effort to fend off my constant supplicating telephone calls. One divorce paper serving to a blubbering fifty-two year old cross-dresser and an afternoon’s worth of prescribed witness interviews on a tax case. Christ save me. I nearly fell asleep halfway through the tax interviews and on break I tossed back two double espressos from a coffee shop around the corner just to keep my eyes from floating back into the soft stuff in my skull.

Then I got a photography gig, thankfully. Not investigator work but a wedding—a quaint affair up at St. John’s College, the other school in Annapolis known for its progressive classic curriculum and annual croquet match against the Navy midshipmen. Two Birkenstock-shod literature professors renewing hippie vows…I’m talking John Lennon glasses, flowers in their hair, vegetarian buffet, the whole bit. I smoked a bowl of nice West Virginian bud in the bathroom with the caterers and took the leftover tabouleh home. The check was enough to keep the nasty landlord at bay for a month or two.

As luck would have it a few days after the wedding I ran into Greg Reese when I was having breakfast. Greg was a former sailing Olympian (silver and bronze) and a bit of a local rockstar in the Chesapeake racing scene. In addition to the Olympics he had half a dozen world championships in various one-design classes and two losing stints with a couple of America’s Cup syndicates under his belt. I was jamming out cover letters on my laptop when Greg squeezed into the yellow hardbacked booth at Chick & Ruth’s Deli on Main.

“Hey, hey! Andy!”

I shook Greg’s calloused paw, slightly embarrassed by my breakfast that morning—gravy fries and two eggs over easy. What can I say? My Olympics were special.

Greg and I knew each other through mutual friends and bonded because, like me, he had the swaggering reputation of being a world-class pussyhound. Unlike me though Greg had the movie star good looks that almost always closed the deal. And I’m talking George Clooney-bred good looks. A flash of that rakish smirk and women splashed into Greg’s bed with legs of delirious greed.

Greg scrunched his eyebrows as he examined at the arterial catastrophe on my plate, then looked up. “Breakfast of champions, eh? How’s work at the paper?”

I gave him the finger with my left hand and smeared a French fry in some cold yolk and gravy with my right. I popped the fry into my mouth, chewed like I was savoring ambrosia.

“Laid off. Cutbacks.”

Greg’s lips snapped open into an over-exaggerated, sympathetic gasp. “Man, I am so sorry.”

I bunched my shoulders and let them drop, “Happens, man. This economy. How’s the rigging business?”

When he wasn’t sailing Greg’s full-time job was being a much sought after boat rigger for a marine outfitter just over the Spa Creek Bridge in Eastport.

“Busy,” he said and then puffed out his cheeks, “Spring, you know? People getting ready for the race season. Cruisers. Lots of procrastination on gear and hardware that should have been upgraded about like a thousand years ago. Got a big job consulting for a team doing big boats at Block this year. That’s fun.”

By big boats and “Block” Greg meant Block Island Race Week, a huge deal for east coast sailors, held way the hell up in the icy waters off of Rhode Island. Cross check massive racing egos, raging alcoholics, and money to frigging burn.

“Lot of crew?” I asked.

Greg confirmed, “Yeah. It’s a Farr 40, mostly local talent. Owner has some very deep pockets. Carbon fiber mast and sails cost more than my net worth. Apparently he made a ton of money with defense contracting.”

I cooed, “Lovely.”

“Yeah. Got an estate over on the other side of the Bay near Saint Michael’s. Flies his own helicopter. Apparently Donald Rumsfeld’s a bud. So is the Prince of Darkness.”

“Horns and talons too?”

“Haven’t checked. Wants like hell for me to be his tactician, but the guy has like zero race instincts and apparently yells at his crew all the time. Like I need that at this point in my sailing career even with the money he’s offering. But, hey, what’re going to do? You job hunting? Any prospects on the horizon?”

I pointed at my laptop’s smudged screen, “Some. Doing a bunch of cover letters as we speak. Been shopping my book too via my website but photo journalist jobs are almost non-existent and I have no cash to travel on spec. I’m also looking at some non-profit administrative work for now, you know, government dead-wood-you-can’t-fire-me jobs.”

“Steady work if you can stand it.”

I gave him one of my new business cards, “I’m also doing something else. Bit of a sideline actually.”

Greg took the card. He was quiet for a moment, his jaw working and eyes squinting as he reread the card.

“It’s OK,” I said after an agonizing half a minute, “You can laugh.”

“Are you qualified for this?”

“Kind of.”

“I thought only ex-cops and intelligence washouts did this kind of work.”

“Hey, I have over fifteen years in journalism, I can run down the skinny with the best of them and have. Plus I know a lot of people in this town.”

“True, I can’t deny that.”

“And anyway a lot of it is really just doing a little research, asking the right questions, sticking your beak into things, not being afraid of getting in people’s grills. Plus I got my cameras.”

“Ohh. Two-timers, huh? Kind of sleazy.”

“You know me. I don’t have some hard ass moral code. Besides you and I both know this town is lousy with bored housewives and guys on the make.”

He grinned. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”


“Promise me if you catch me banging someone’s wife you’ll pass on the case or give me a heads up, OK?”

The waitress, a sour-pussed black woman named Elise, chopped down a menu in Greg’s face, like a cutlass blow. Greg made a quick decision and ordered some plain oatmeal, black coffee, and a large orange juice. The bastard.

While we waited for his food I filled Greg in on my whole deal, me getting my license, the few projects I worked on for Zulfi and his law firm, my own luck. Greg listened, thoughtfully peppering the pauses in my pitch with an occasional bob of his head paired with an “I see…” and “I gotcha”. His oatmeal, coffee, and OJ arrived and he dumped a small snowdrift’s worth of sugar on the steaming gruel. So much for Olympian nutrition.

As he stirred the mound of sugar into his oatmeal I noticed his eyes were a bit unfocused.

“Do you find people in this new sideline of yours?”

Elise the waitress dropped my check and I snatched it up. “Sure. Part of the gig. Why?”

“Because,” said Greg, “my boss might be interested.”

My ears felt hot with anticipation of another payday, “Your boss? Do tell.”

Greg scooted in his seat and tucked forward, “He’s got a guy who royally screwed us on a job and he’s pretty bitter about it. Some retired dentist. Name’s Lukstat. Dude is, like, in the wind and up and bailed on major rigging job. I’m talking custom mast rebuild, all new running and standing rigging. A Santa Cruz 43 named Easytime. Seemed like an okay guy, so my boss gave him the benefit of the doubt when he went past due. Then one night he came into the boatyard at the marina and sailed away under cover of darkness.”

“Wow. That sucks.”

“Totally. These days….guess you can’t trust anybody. Anyway my boss kind of prides himself on being pretty sharp. Personally I think the guys a con man, I doubt he ever even was a dentist.”

I sat back and rubbed my chin, mulling it over. Then I braced both of my hands on the edge of the table. “Santa Cruz 43. Gee, that guy could be anywhere by now. Bermuda. The Carolinas….”

Greg wagged his spoon, “Yeah, you’d think that, what with all the work we did re-outfitting his sailboat, but apparently people have seen him around Annapolis still. Just last week he was in Jacobs Marine Supply buying new dock lines. Tried swiping a cancelled credit card.”

“Talk to your boss. Let me know if I can poke around.”

Turned out Greg’s boss was interested and hired me on Greg’s recommendation and a small retainer. Gave me a list of particulars, including unnecessary detailed specs on the Santa Cruz and information on where Dr. Rick Lukstat used to have his practice down south outside of Tampa, Florida.

I started shaking the Florida bushes and made a day’s worth of calls long distance along with some standard journalism queries. It didn’t take long to narrow things down. The dentist’s real name was Luke Ricardo.

Ricardo had piggybacked his way into a high-volume doc-in-the-box practice through falsifying his educational records. Apparently Greg’s hunch way back at the deli was right; the son of a bitch turned out not to be a dentist after all. He was former dental lab technician tired of slaving for dentists so he decided to become one. Ricardo submitted fraudulent credentials to the Board of Dentistry, took the Florida state board examination, and passed. Believe it. The guy operated for five years totally undetected. The practice was so swamped with traffic that no one really asked questions. They did become suspicious, however, when his less than stellar work started to ebb back on them, the pivotal flashpoint being a case where osteoradionecrosis set in two years after a routine tooth extraction on a retiree. Yeah, now that was a whole mouthful of ugly—poor gramps lost his entire lower jaw to the subsequent cancer and ended up sucking cheeseburger smooties out of a tube. The buzzards swarmed in and the torts started flying like a fucking blizzard. After making bail Ricardo (a.k.a Lukstat) decided to check out and up and boogied out of dangling dong of Dixie.

I talked with a few of his former patients cited in a half a dozen lawsuits against him. They said he was a charismatic, swaggering Lothario and nice as pie until their teeth started falling out like rotted acorns. Drove a black Mercedes SL 550, favored the knockoff Armani drape and gave out free Mylar balloons to patients’ kiddies on visits. Sponge Bob. Mickey Rat. He also talked about his plans to retire and sail to Tortola all the time.

A lawyer down there checked me out and agreed to PDF me a copy of his expired driver’s license. Three days later, my throat sore from asking questions and my fingers numb from dialing, I found him after ringing about a gagillion marinas up and down the creeks and rivers of Anne Arundel, Queen Anne’s and Calvert Counties. New name yet again. I mean, Jesus, are you ready for this gem? Ricardo Luck. Yeah, I know. My nipples still get all glassy just saying it.

In addition to changing his name Ricardo changed his appearance as well. Gone for the spiky, blond look that was okay if you were in a skate-punk thrasher quartet, but pretty stupid for a middle-aged, paunchy conman on the run.

To confirm matters for my new client and to cover my six, I took a few discreet snaps of Ricardo at the marina’s bar while he was chatting up two girls getting their happy hour on. The smart play was to just pass the information off to my client and be done with it, collect my check and let him sort out his deadbeat troubles. But I was feeling cocky for some reason. It must have been the bourbon I was nursing. A few minutes of staring and I hatched a halfassed plan.

I got up and migrated over to where Ricardo and the girls were perched, rubbing my cheek.

“Jesus! Bartender! Give me a Jägermiester or Goldschläger shot or something, I need to dull this pain.” I rubbed my cheek, “Ow! Good Lord….”

They ruse worked. Ricardo glanced over one of the flanking boozed-up ladies’ shoulders, “Tooth pain?” he asked.

I cast a wary eye in his direction and affirmed with a nod. “Kind of got knocked loose.”
He shook his head. “Upper or lower?”

I flicked another suspicious glance, hand still cradling my cheek, “Upper, right.”

“How long?”

“About three days now,” I answered. My shot appeared. Oh boy. Jäger--viscous, mean and green, like bug juice. I threw it back and remember instantly why shots of Jägermeister are never a good idea. Especially on top of bourbon. My stomach did a chilly flip-flop but I kept it down. “Why?” I asked, “You a dentist?”

A muddy chuckle. “As a matter of fact, yes I am.”

“Wow. No shit.”

“No shit.”

“What’re the odds?”

“Retired now though. Soon as I unload my Mercedes I’m taking my sailboat heading down to Tortola for good.”

“That a fact.”

“Sure is.”

I slid the shot empty glass back across the bar and the beveled bottom kissed the edge, “Good time of the year is what I understand, for blue water I mean.”

“How so?”

“Weather patterns on the Atlantic are favorable.”

“You a sailor?”

I rubbed my nose and lied, “Yeah. A bit. Local stuff. Race crew mostly. J-30s. Never done the big bad ocean thing myself, but I read a lot. Dream.”

“The ocean even in good weather is a major challenge.”

“That it is. Hey, if you don’t mind me saying so, um, you’re kind of young to be retired.”

Lots of grinning then and zero modesty, “Got out before the market tanked.”

All this tit-for-tat, retired-dentist-sailing banter seemed to transmit a hormonal ripple between the ladies sandwiching Ricardo. Giggling eyes widened ever so slightly and perfect hair was flipped with deliberate flirt.

“Too bad,” I said, flagging the bartender again, “A couple more of these Jäger shots and I’d pay you cash money to yank this tooth out with a pair of slip-joint pliers.”

Big haw-haw from Ricardo then, the fuck. Mewing, grossed out titters from the girls.

“Seriously,” I added earnestly.

Ricardo fiddled with the clasp on his gold watch, then took a sip of his drink, “Don’t you have dental?” he asked.

“Nope. I’m a freelance photographer. Went to a walk-in place and they were going to charge me, like, two fucking grand. As it was they charged me four hundred for an x-ray and a fifteen minute consult.”

“Costly business not being insured.”

“Yeah, well…here’s the kicker though. My tooth? It’s a number five, whatever the hell that means, not deep at all, and they said I’m like a medical anomaly. Doc said it wouldn’t even need a root canal.”

“I’m surprised they’d even mention it.”


“Pshh, why bother with a root canal on an upper right five?”


“And they were going to charge you how much?”

“Two grand.”

“For a routine extraction?”

“Yeah. It was a tough bugger, they said. Tissue tears could be a concern.”

He drank again then laughed, “Tissue tears. You, my friend, were being played.”


“They were swindling you. Happens all the time. Especially with the uninsured who don’t know any better. Believe me, start throwing around the dental jargon and possible prospects of extended pain and people will fork over almost anything.”

The bartender finally trolled back and I handed him a fifty, “Let’s get a round of whatever Doc and these two ladies are drinking. And I’ll have a double Knob Creek with plenty of ice.” The bartender snatched the bill from my fingers.

“Wait,” Ricardo said lifting an arm in protest, “You don’t have to do that.”

“Free medical advice? Hell yes, I do—especially if I want you to take care of my tooth.”

“You want me to do what?”

“My tooth. Come on. Even retired you must have a doctor’s bag of goodies stashed somewhere. Shoot me up, pack the hole full of gauze. I can handle a stitch.”

“Yeah, but….”

“What do you say? I have tomorrow afternoon free before I have to fly to Panama for an assignment. US News and World Report.”

“What did you say your name was again?”

“I didn’t. I’m Andy. Andy Caruthers.”

He extended his hand. We shook.

“I’m Rick Luck. Nice to meet you.”


Our fresh drinks arrived.

“Well, I got to be honest, I don’t know if doing an extraction outcall is such a good idea, Andy.”

“Why not?”

“Well it’s, ahh, against the law for one thing. Plus I’m no longer practicing. And I was never licensed in Maryland to begin with.”

“Give me a break. You just said yourself it’s probably no big deal right?”

“You could sue me.”

“I’ll sign a waver. Whatever you want. Plus, I’m not that kind of guy. Old school.”

“I’d have to examine you. See if it’s the right diagnosis. And I don’t have a chair, or magnifiers, or proper instruments, or x-rays. I need lights too.”

“Dude, you know how many soft boxes I got in my studio in Baltimore? I could make this place look like the surface of the sun. Plus I got my x-rays from the walk-in place.”

“Still…” he looked at the ladies, one then the other, “Baltimore studio, huh?”

“Yeah, we could do it up there. It’s really just a leased small loft with some flat files, background muslins, and an ISP connection I share with another shooter who’s off dodging hajis in Iraq. Like I said, I’m freelance, stringing for a bunch of agencies.” I flashed some old press credentials I swiped at the first Bush inaugural, back when the world seemingly had its shit together.

Again, it had to be the bourbon because my crazy spur of the moment idea was that I’d send Ricardo on a wild goose chase to a dead address up in Baltimore. Meanwhile, I’d call Greg and he’d get his rigging team to come down to the marina and de-rig the Santa Cruz 43 before scumbag came back. Plus I planned to have the cops waiting.

A few more rounds of drinks and things got greasy. I told some jokes and Ricardo locked in for a price of five hundred bucks on the extraction plus some boat pictures to take with him to Tortola. Of course this was a total drunken idiot play on my part. I should have known better than to believe in my power of persuasion.

The ladies bailed around ten, but cell numbers were exchanged. Just before Ricardo strolled off to his boat to crash, he asked me if I was up for smoking a fattie in the bathroom. I said sure, a little weed would help straighten me out for the ride home. So I slunk back to the bathroom with him.

The door to the head had a sign screwed into the surface about neck high that read OUTBOARDS. Ricardo pushed his way in and I followed. As soon as the door bumped closed behind us he had my right arm up in a lock and smashed my face into the damp gray wall. My cheekbone snapped the drywall.

“Who are you?!” he growled.


Ricardo’s spit dappled my ear. “You actually think I was buying that line of b.s. out there all this time? Bad tooth. What? You think I’m stupid or something?”

“Hey! What’re you talking about, man? Ow! HEY! Let go! OW!”

“Who sent you? Huh? Was it that bitch Marie? She sic you on my ass? Try to set me up? Tell Marie I don’t owe her jack!”

I honestly didn’t know sweet fuckall about any Marie. Her name didn’t come across in any of my long distance calls to Florida or any of my research on the case. I scrunched my eyes shut and felt my stomach lurch. My elbow tingled with little hot shards of pain.

“Dude! Hey, you’re breaking my arm!”

Ricardo shoved me one more time for good measure and let go, popping back on the balls of his feet into a fighter’s stance. I wheeled around and wedged myself in a corner near the trash bin and door. Immediately I decided the best play was to just agree with him. I held up my palms in defense.

“Look,” I said, “Take it easy, all right? Jesus. You’re right. It was Marie. Marie paid me to find you. She said she wanted me to get you up to Baltimore somehow so she and Mick could shake you down.”

A cocky, confused sneer and a pointed finger. “Shake me down? Shake me down? And Mick? Who d’fuck is Mick?”

“I don’t know. Just Mick somebody. I don’t know him, Marie does. And Marie knows a friend of mine. He introduced us.”


“Look man, it’s Marie’s play. She said I was to try anything to get you up to Baltimore so I came up with the tooth thing. She said you were a dentist.”

Ricardo moved closer. “You totally suck at the short con, retard, you know that?”

“Yeah, well, clearly.”

“I don’t know why Marie is hanging out with Baltimore trash or a goofball photographer or whatever you are, but you tell that little bitch from me she gets nothing, understand? Nothing. Thinks she can muscle a little more on those pills I hooked her up with and she’s got another thing coming. Send an army next time, not some half-assed amateur pretending to have a tooth ache. ”

I bounced my eyes back and forth, jazzing up the full panic look, making Ricardo relish his condescension. “Look, Rick,” I pleaded, “I’m done with this, OK? Fuck it. And fuck, Marie too. I don’t want any more trouble. Please.”

Ricardo cracked his neck. He snorted back and spat an oyster of phlegm on my shirt.

“Aw, man….Jesus…did you have to do that….”

“I’m going back to the bar, “ he said. “I see you here in there three minutes from now and I don’t care if there’s a hundred witnesses out there I am going to beat your ass so hard you’ll shit blood for a month.”

“Gotcha. I’m gone. Vamos.”

Ricardo backed out of the bathroom.

A few minutes later I was in the parking lot slashing the tires on his Mercedes with my jack knife, keying the paint on the doors of the car for good measure. Then I had another bright idea. I took a stroll down the marina docks and found his boat, the Santa Cruz 43, Easytime. In his arrogant brilliance phony Dr. “Fight Club” had left the main hatch open.

When Ricardo returned a little while later I knocked him cold with the butt end of a fire extinguisher as he made his way down below. Then I tied him up in the forward berth.
I found a zippered bank satchel full of walk-around cash in the navigation table and helped myself to a few inches of compensation for his little terror act in the bathroom. There were a couple of well-packed orange bottles of Vicodin rolling around next to cash so I help myself to those as well. Always a good call to have a spare groove handy. Then I called and woke up Greg.

When Greg arrived around one a.m. we maneuvered Easytime into the fifty foot work slip on the marina’s outer pier and at dawn Greg’s crew showed with a portable crane. Let me tell you, those hombres worked like kicked over hive of thick-necked bees. Power tools a-whirring, they de-rigged the Santa Cruz, offloaded the mast and stripped every last piece of upgraded hardware in a little over an hour flat.

The marina manager balked at all the work being done on his premises but when I filled him on what a snake Ricardo was, how he was probably going to cruise on his bill, and the outstanding Florida warrants, the manager even helped offload the last box of winches.

There’s a first for everything when starting a new livelihood and for me that morning it was my first time contacting a recovery agent. The bondsman was a squat fellow named Chester who I found online after pinging a few lawyer hatcheries. Chester was stoked for the gig and flew up from Clearwater on an afternoon shuttle to BWI. He pulled up to the docks in a plain Econoline rental van and scooped up Ricardo without much fuss.

In September I received a letter from Ricardo stewing in jail awaiting trial. How he found my address I don’t know. Maybe his lawyer. It wasn’t a threat exactly, but reading between the lines there was heavy menace in his words.

Someday, all this? This score will be settled, believe me. Only a matter of time.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ricky.

Tell me something I don’t know.