Magnet For Murder
Magnet For Murder
NOVEMBER 5 - FIVE MONTHS EARLIER
The afternoon sun was hot through the windshield of the Ford Crown Victoria. It beat down on his thighs. Rivulets of perspiration ran down his pale forearms into his rolled sleeves, two-toning the blue of his shirt. Temperature alone stamped Key West as different from Minneapolis in November.
With a failed air conditioner, the windows were down. The condenser had quit condensing north of Atlanta. At the higher speed of the highway, moving air had wicked away his sweat. But at the crawl through the tourist district of Old Town, little evaporated.
The air temperature had risen steadily with the accumulating miles straight south on I95. He had driven through Miami, South Miami and down the road to the Keys. Just off the shoulder of the mainland, the narrow strip of land that comprised the Keys abruptly hooked west through Islamorada, Marathon and the Lower Keys like a big letter J. The hook on the North bounded the Gulf of Mexico to its southeast. The Keys on the South shore were the terminuses that separated the Gulf from the Straits of Florida. Cuba lays ninety miles more to the South. The Keys lay like a flat fence a few feet above the waters of the Gulf and the Straits.
It was hurricane season but this year none had popped up in the warm waters of the Atlantic to corkscrew their ravaging winds across the low lying Keys. The air was calm and an effulgent sun warmed the semi tropical island.
The unfamiliar smell of the sea slid in though the open windows. It was near and smelled near. Right then it didn't smell good. It was a combination of fishy, salty and something else he couldn't place.
Chance Colter discovered the Yellow Parrot was tucked between a bar on one side and a tourist shop selling shares in a company that dove for sunken treasure from Spanish galleons on the other. Apparently, they had found a couple in the clear waters around Key West according to the big sign above the door. Colter eyed the business as he drove by the first time. A few examples of gold and silver objects, coins and faded photo enlargements of the wrecks were on display in a storefront window. He craned his neck like a tourist. They have to be replicas . Nobody would put gold and silver artifacts in an unprotected store window .
The neighboring bar offered a female wait staff dressed as buccaneers and pirates minus the boots, swords, striped billowy pants and most of the expected attire. They did wear gauzy eye patches they could see through, and headscarves sporting the pirate skull and crossbones embroidered on the front. The outfits included red and white striped shorts, skimpy black halter-tops, wide black belts with big buckles and three inch red heels that must be murder to wear for eight hours. It looked to Colter that a primary qualification for employment rested mainly in the shapes of their bodies, which were shapely. The bar specialized in just about every brand of rum that was made and its waitresses. Food was very much a secondary consideration.
Mike's joint, the Yellow Parrot, was known for fresh, locally caught seafood, key lime pie, and great bands from across Florida and beyond. All this Colter had read in the brochure Mike had sent him to persuade him to drive down from Minneapolis and help him run the place. He also included a brochure describing the neighboring bar named Pirate's Cove that was dominated by pictures of the waitresses. Play to your strengths . He guessed Mike thought that might be an added enticement since Colter didn't have a wife or a girlfriend at the moment.
Colter had been driving for three days and was more than ready for the driving to end. His back was stuck to the seat. Getting the air conditioner repaired was going to be a priority in this semi tropical climate but he hadn't wanted to take the time to stop fearful