Elaine Jorgenson is a wealthy Key West real estate developer who second husband is gambler Kevin Terminadi. When Jorgenson wants to bring a gambling casino to a popular Key West beach front property, citizen united against it. Jack Kilgore is hired by Lester Dodge (Jorgenson’s attorney) to protect the mansion where Jorgenson lives after she receives ambiguous death threats. One night, while on surveillance, Kilgore surprises and intruder on the mansion’s grounds, but can’t catch him in the dark. The next day, a car bomb kills Elaine Jorgenson and Kilgore feels naturally guilty and determines to catch the killer. A single clue leads Kilgore first to Las Vegas, where he meets Moe Koffer, a sleazy private detective with connections to gambling and boxing interests. While gambling at a Kevin Terminadi casino in the desert, Kilgore meets the mysterious Catherine, a woman with a deep and secret past that is hinted at by a scar on her face. Kilgore falls in love with Catherine, who is both a clue and a dangerous connection to the car bombing in Key West. Working together against shadowy underworld figures, Catherine and Kilgore get justice.
Same Old Sun, Same Old Moon – Chapter One
That year I came down to Key West from Miami where I had been working as head of security for a biotech firm in Coral Gables, not a bad gig so far as salary went, but a job that meant shuffling paper and handling political tasks like hiring and firing, reporting on every urine sample that came across my desk. It was August and every day was the same. The sun would come up a little before seven and I’d make coffee and drink it sitting on the balcony of my expensive apartment on the water at Bayside in Coconut Grove. I knew that sun like a brother, let me tell you. Pretty soon after the sun rose, the Atlantic would color up to a nice burnished green-gold and the wind would commence to blow through the palms out on the beach. The clouds were spectacular, the way they’d explode into life as the sun split them like atoms. I’d sit there in my underwear for twenty minutes. After that it was too hot to sit on my nine-hundred-dollar-a-month balcony and I’d go to work at what the bio-technicians called in their brochures a “sprawling technical complex”, not so far from the campus of the University of Miami. After six weeks on the job it became apparent that I was a dog-bone thrown to Homeland Security and the pack of lawyers who would file paper if a single anthrax bacterium got loose from its titanium canister. Half of every day I spent watching video tapes of employee “behaviors”, after which I’d write memos that would wind up as recycled trash in the VP for Personnel’s office. At noon a messenger from a medical lab in a mini-mall two blocks over would deliver the urine sample analyses and I’d go through the results. I walked perimeters carrying a fancy plastic Beretta and my superior attitude, until one day a urine sample turned up positive for THC, a sample which belonged to a board member’s software programming son-in-law. One thing led to another and I was asked in private to shit-can the sample, the lab report it came with, and my own written recommendation filed in triplicate. The VP for Personnel confided to me that “anyone could have a slip”. At any other time or in any other place I’d have gone along with the subterfuge, but I didn’t like my expensive condo-style apartment on the water and I didn’t like the VP for Personnel and I didn’t like the traffic on the South Dixie Highway, so I pretended that I had principles, thinking that I could get a good severance package by holding out.
They showed me the front door like a first wife when the trophy girlfriend shows up.
Breaking the lease was as easy as loading up the old Bronco with my clothes and fishing equipment, heading south down the Dixie and across the Rickenbacker Causeway above Bear Cut where a hundred sailboats dotted the bay like little casks of thousand dollar bills, white as cocaine on a blue velvet background.
The corporate landlord at Bayside in Coconut Grove kept my last month’s rent and my security deposit. The biotech security division never sent my final paycheck. I was broke and friendless and happy in a crazy independent kind of way, the brand of joy a lot of plastic credit can create in the short run. I remember seeing Virginia Key in my rearview mirror, realizing then that I was heading for the last sliver of land on the North American continent, thinking to myself—as Charlie Parker blew a clean frantic line of sax over a tape—that whatever war we were fighting at the moment, whatever moral crusades we might be engaged in, and whatever search for the new American Idol might be going on, I wasn’t in on it. The traffic that August morning was all going the other way from me, folks heading north out of the Keys because of the heat and the coming hurricane season. It seemed like I was the only one going south, the bright gray highway empty ahead of me as the palms went wild in the breeze. You ever feel that way? Like your life is a convertible with the top down, your future a stretch of good road with no road signs?
That was how I wound up inhabiting the top floor of an old conch-house on Angela Street in Key West, across from the Key West Cemetery. It was pushing five o’clock in the afternoon when I got into town, and I drove around for an hour looking for a place to park. I wanted to see the Hemingway House on Whitehead Street, but there was no place to park when I got there, so I toured Bahamas Village, hoping to locate something to rent, but I couldn’t find a place to park there either. The only place to park was on Angela Street across from the graveyard, and as I pulled into a space along the curb, I saw a “for rent” sign in the front yard of a two story clapboard mansion with a wrap-around veranda. The property was surrounded by a Victorian-style wire fence and the grounds sported a lime tree and one old lemon. The landlady, who lived on the ground floor with her sixty-year-old daughter rented the upper floor to me after I showed her cash for the first and last month’s rent, no questions asked and no application. The place faced south, had three rooms including a large living and dining room just off the veranda, which was shaded by the upper limbs of the fading lemon. It was an old house and smelled like an old person might smell, someone who didn’t get out of bed much and never changed his clothes. The bed was too soft and only two burners of the four worked on the gas stove. You could tell just from looking around at the flowered wallpaper and the smooth wooden floors that palmetto bugs would come out at night and make rounds of the kitchen and bath, but then there’d been palmetto bugs at the expensive condo-style apartment I’d had at Bayside in Coconut Grove too. There was a couch and a couple of easy chairs and an oak table in the dining area, almost no closet space, but three chests for my clothes and fishing lures. My view was of the cemetery, a bulb of sandy waste peppered with hundreds of old mausoleums that stuck out of the ground like rotten teeth, and beyond the cemetery a pretty collection of conch-houses varied in color from peach to crimson to what can only be described as Santeria-green. The neighborhood was noisy on weekends, fairly quiet during the week, but off the main tourist drag, which was Duval Street, a mile or so to the west.
You can get used to living on credit the same way you can get used to being in a bad marriage. It starts out as an enjoyable lark and gradually becomes a bad habit. In between you have only the process of going downhill and not noticing. Halfway toward my own bad habit, I landed a job at the marina near Front Street on the docks as a night security guard. A Cuban named Fuentes hired me for the same reason that many Anglos hire Mexicans. Nobody else wanted do the job, not even his cousins I presumed. I was supposed to walk a beat along the wharf, keeping an eye on the expensive yachts and power boats, a timer-clock to punch and my plastic Baretta on my hip, making sure that no expensive boats were hijacked or broken-into while the rich owners were asleep up in Miami. Nobody wanted the job because it was third shift, midnight to eight in the morning. That was how I found myself watching the sun come up every day a little before seven again, this time from the very end of the continent on the docks at Key West. Same old sun as in Miami.
Unfortunately, meeting people in Key West is easy. Everybody has a story, and everybody in that town thinks they’re Tennessee Williams. I met the two cops who worked days on security for the marina, both moonlighting. Once in a fit of ambition I made the rounds of lawyer offices touting my Florida investigator’s license and my experience in both security and surveillance, making the acquaintance of three or four unusual characters, each of who thought he was Tennessee Williams. Somebody once told me that if you look busy people will think that you actually are busy, and in that way you’ll get a reputation for busyness that will stand you in good stead, whether you’re actually busy or not. So, I looked busy, drank alone, and went fishing with an old guy up on Pine Key I’d once met during a case. A couple of months later I started hosting poker games in the early evening before my shift began, inviting lawyers and cops up to the apartment for cards. Little sums were won and lost.
I learned a lot those first two months in Key West. I learned you can live in the Keys during August without air conditioning if you have the correct mental posture. Another lesson I learned was that there are very few available straight single women in a tourist town like Key West, and almost no women who didn’t blow coke or drink too many Cuba Libre’s. I learned that living without sex was unpleasant, but not nearly so unpleasant as having a monkey on your back all the time. During a poker game one night, a retired cop who had been invited along by one of the lawyers told me that my boss Fuentes was a “big shot” for a land company responsible for developing half the casinos in the Everglades Indian community, and that he’d once been a narcotics detective with the Key West police department. Nobody had ever told me that. In two months of working for Fuentes, nobody had ever told me that. It came as a surprise.
Finally, one of the lawyers asked me if I’d like to do a simple surveillance. I thought it over for about two seconds and said yes.
Things can go downhill just that fast.