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- ISBN: 9781453210673 (electronic bk.)
- ISBN: 1453210679 (electronic bk.)
- Physical Description: 1 online resource
- Publisher: [United States] : Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller : 2010.
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A Key West fishing captain takes on Florida's drug lords in an underground war that could cost him his freedom - and his life. Though he is one of Key West's most skilled fishing captains, Breeze Albury barely ekes out a living on the meager earnings of his trade. Meanwhile, Cuban and Colombian drug smugglers thrive all around - and they have their sights set on Albury and his fishing boat. After the smugglers cut his three hundred trap lines and crush his livelihood, Albury is forced to run drugs to survive. But when he gets busted by the crooked chief of police and becomes a target of the drug machine's brutal hit men, Albury becomes a vigilante on the seas of South Florida, unleashing a fiery and relentless vengeance on Key West's most dangerous criminals.
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|Subject:||Drug traffic > Fiction.
Fishers > Fiction.
Key West (Fla.) > Fiction.
By Carl Hiaasen, Bill Montalbano
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA
All rights reserved.
THE DIAMOND CUTTER, a forty-three-foot Crusader, Key West-built with an 892 GMC diesel, cleared Stock Island twenty minutes after dawn. Albury, splay legged at the helm, drank bitter coffee from a chipped white mug. Jimmy ran a rag across the wheelhouse windshield.
"Engine sounds good, Breeze. Real good."
"After five days' work, it ought to," Albury said. The parts alone had set him back a thousand dollars.
"Well, it sounds fine," Jimmy insisted. "Gonna be a good day."
"I hope so. Anybody needs a good day, it's us. Won't be long until the end of the month."
Jimmy laughed through the new gold beard that dwelt like peach down on his sunburned face. Reflexively, Albury turned the Diamond Cutter to the southeast, where the first line of crawfish traps rested on a shelf of coral. He could have found it blindfolded. The fine porcelain sky, the rising white sun, the hot and cool sea hues of the Florida Straits; these were Albury's birthright. He had first made the trip in another era, with his granddaddy sitting on a sun-bleached whiskey crate steering an old one-lunger with no winch and hardly a wheelhouse. And, since that morning, how many times, in how many boats? And how long since the excitement had died? Too long.
The end of the month. Surely it had not weighed so heavily on his granddaddy, like the massive, unsheddable shell of a loggerhead. Albury could not imagine the old man fretting in his pine cabin, neatly stacking the bills as they piled up like driftwood.
But now, with his boat cutting a clean vector toward the crawfish waters, Breeze Albury mentally riffled the accounts due that awaited him in the sagging trailer that his granddaddy would have rightfully spurned as a chicken coop. Boat payment, dockage, fuel, parts; then there was the rent—pure robbery—car payments, the electric, and, of course, the installment on the TV.
Against these he weighed the account of Albury, William Clifford. This month it came out worse than usual. Fishing had been good, until the engine quit. The parts had taken cash, plus he still owed for the cypress on two hundred new traps.
And spikes. He had promised Ricky a new pair. Pitching was hell on spikes. His mind held the image of Ricky's arm flashing, the streaking ball a white pea as it flew to the plate, the foot slamming down hard in a balanced follow-through.
Albury smiled. He leaned back from the waist and let his belly steady the wheel, gentling the lobster boat through the quiet morning sea. He would buy the new spikes, pay on the boat and whatever else he could, then let the unpaids chase him. Wouldn't be the first time. Let them take back the color television if they wanted it bad enough.
Albury lit a cigarette and nudged the Diamond Cutter on a course that would intersect up-current with the first trail of orange-and-white buoys that marked his trap line.
"Hey, Jimmy," he called down to the deck where the young mate was coiling rope. "The captain needs a cold beer."
A few minutes later, Albury jockeyed the boat with unthinking precision as Jimmy hauled the traps. He would snare the pumpkin-sized buoy with a swoop of long practice, fix it to the winch, and watch expectantly as the cypress trap spun to the surface. Albury only half-heard Jimmy's running count as he stripped the traps, rebaited them with a strip of cowhide, and sorted the catch.
"Breeze," Jimmy said, "what say we keep a few of these shorts today?"
"No shorts: Toss 'em back."
Shorts were the undersized crawfish that measured less than five and one-half inches from bony carapace to tail. Get caught with them and it could cost a couple hundred dollars, except that no self-respecting crawfisherman would get caught. If the Marine
Patrol happened by, all you had to do was cut the weighted sack from a line on the stern and let the delicious evidence sink. There weren't many Key West captains who could resist the shorts now and then; easy to sell and good to eat. Albury could have gotten away with it, but Laurie would have lectured him for sins against the ecology. Risk was another factor. A fine was the last thing he needed, especially with the end of the month coming. You could never tell about the Marine Patrol. One morning they wave hello, next morning they get nasty and board you.
"Hey, Breeze, you been to Miami a lot." Jimmy had climbed into the wheelhouse with two fresh cans of Bud. Albury drank deeply as the Diamond Cutter plodded dutifully, like a milkman's horse, toward the second line of traps.
"Sure, I spent some time in Miami. Why?"
"I just wanna know if it's safe up there."
"Safe for what? Christ, don't tell me you never been." Albury was incredulous.
"Sure, with my dad, a few times. But it's been a couple years. I want to know is it safe for Kathy, if I take her up there with me. You read about all these murders and crazy shit ..."
"How old is Kathy?"
"And you've been married ..."
"About three months. She wants to go up there and do some shopping."
Albury laughed. "Sure. It'll be fun."
"Well, I asked her what's wrong with shopping on the island, but she says everything's too ugly or too expensive down here."
"Sounds like she wants to see Miami."
Jimmy ran a calloused hand through his bleached-out hair. "Maybe so," he said.
Albury drained the beer, squashed the can, and tossed it neatly into a broken lobster trap on deck. He gestured toward the windshield. "Trap line comin' up."
Jimmy turned for the deck, but Albury stopped him with a question. "You got enough money for a shopping trip to the city?"
"No, I ain't, Breeze. Not yet. But I figure you and me gonna pull us some fat fucking crawfish out of the Cobia Hole this morning, and I'll be fixed just fine."
"OK," Albury said. "You got it."
The second line of traps bore decent fruit. With Jimmy happily babbling a soon-to-be-rich aria for the very young, Albury aimed the Diamond Cutter out to sea, toward the final trap line, the new and private one he and Jimmy called the Cobia Hole.
Albury had discovered the improbable underwater ridge two years earlier. It was four hours southeast of Key West, further than lobstermen normally ventured on a one-day trip. If you believed the charts, the water in this area was too deep, but a good hard look at the color told Albury there was a ledge below. Intrigued, he had investigated, patiently tracking a long and narrow ridge where none should have been. Jimmy, who was new on the boat then, spotted a huge school of cobia churning crazily in Diamond Cutters wake. On a lark, he had tossed a couple of short crawfish into the hungry swarm of brown, half-blind game fish, which had fallen into a frenzy and milled behind the boat for more than a mile.
From then on it was the Cobia Hole. A gamble, too. Albury needed extra fuel to make the trip, longer lines for the deep-water traps. There had damn well better be crawfish, he had warned Jimmy. And there had been. The first two seasons had been bountiful, and somehow the hole had remained Albury's secret. God bless Jimmy for keeping his mouth shut.
This year it was too early to tell if the gamble would pay off. The first catches had been good, but in twenty-five years, man and boy, of crawfishing, Albury had seen more than one bonanza dry up overnight. And it was only a matter of time before other boats moved in at this hole, too, and then Albury would move on.
On the docks at Stock Island, everybody knew Breeze Albury liked to fish alone. Or not to fish at all: a few knew that, too, the ones who had gone to school with him and watched over the decades as he had dulled from a rakehell all-state fullback into a thickening, middle-aged fisherman who rolled with life's punches. It was easy to surrender to the potbellied, parboiled ennui of the island.
If you were a Conch, you were a Conch. Simple as that. You could run a bulldozer in Georgia, fell trees in Oregon, drive an eighteen-wheeler cross-country, fix fancy foreign cars in Atlanta ... even work for a year in a New York brokerage house, management trainee, for Christ's sake, suit-and-tie, sorry-you-are-leaving, Mr. Albury ... do it all until the Conch called you home in excitement and dismay to the broiling rock where your granddaddy hauled crawfish and ran rum; where your daddy died drunk in his hardware store, slumped across the counter clutching a ball of brown twine at forty-three; and where those goddamned motherfucking orange-and-white lobster buoys danced with false promise in the morning sun.
Eighteen years Albury had been back. Eighteen years: three boats, all owned by the bank; one wife, a slut pickled in alcohol long since; two kids, one nightmare and one dream; and Laurie, sometimes.
At least the boats had served him well. He had had this one—what?—nearly nine years now. She rolled a bit and skittered in a bad following sea, but Diamond Cutter was a hell of a crawfish boat. Albury had commissioned her the Peggy, and she had fished with that name until one night he had walked into the trailer to find the old lady in bed beside an empty bottle and a bald stringbean who drove tourists around on the Conch Train.
Probably it was just as well Albury had been half-lit himself. At first he had resolved to burn down the trailer with the two of them inside, but all he had had was a disposable lighter, and, lying there green on his belly in the musty living room, he couldn't get the carpet to catch. So he had stormed out, fallen asleep on the boat. In the morning, he got a can of red paint and changed the name of the boat. For two years Albury had fished as captain of the Peggy Sucks, mocking her every time he had motored out of the harbor. Everybody had understood.
The boat had stayed that way, its crooked name in red and black, until Albury had repainted her in a fit of off-season energy. Diamond Cutter was a perfect name. Even then, Ricky was just getting out of Little League, but you could tell he was going somewhere.
Boog Powell made it off the Rock. So would Ricky. Good size, a blazing fastball, and good stuff to wrap around it. He pitched smart, picking at batters the way a heron speared glass minnows.
A good kid, too. Last summer he'd hung around the boat constantly, wanting to help. Albury had refused, although he had been more tempted than he'd ever let on.
"Look, champ, let's make a deal. I fish, you pitch. Fishing is for bums, and you're going to the majors. If you don't make it, then I'll teach you how to catch crawfish. In the meantime, if I catch you pullin' traps, I'll break your fucking arm—the pitching arm."
Ricky had laughed and found himself a job at the Burger King down on Roosevelt Boulevard.
An internal clock snapped Albury's reverie. He looked at his watch, then at the sea. He could feel the ridge. The boat had to be over it now. So where—? His eyes narrowed, his jaw muscles tensed. He checked the compass by flicking it with an index finger. He turned on the fathometer, and in moments the Cobia Hole rose in graphic relief on the screen. With fists like claws, Albury spun the wheel until Diamond Cutter turned south-southwest to follow the ridge.
The motion awakened Jimmy.
"Hey, Breeze," he called without rising, "ain't we there yet?"
Jimmy unfolded and stood up. "Jesus, why didn't you tell me?" he said groggily, peering out across the bow. "Where are the traps?"
Jimmy either didn't hear or misunderstood. He stretched luxuriously, hands high above his naked chest, staring ahead where he knew the orange-and-white buoys would soon be bobbing. He stood like that for what seemed a long time, and then he knew.
Jimmy leaned over the side. "Breeze?" he cried. "Breeze, we're over the ridge. Where are the fucking traps?"
Albury's voice snagged somewhere in his throat.
"No traps, Jimmy. Not one."
Jimmy ran to the bow and pressed himself against the rail. "The whole line's been cut!" His voice cracked. His eyes fanned the water. Under the noon sun, the secret ledge sketched a faint indigo seam, eighty feet down. Albury idled the engine and climbed down to the deck.
"Who?" Jimmy asked. "Marine Patrol?"
Albury shook his head. "This was a legal line. Besides, they'll just bust the slats out of a few traps, as a lesson. They won't cut your pots off like this."
Albury felt sick. Mentally he cataloged a list of his enemies. Nobody hated him bad enough to cut his traps. He couldn't take his eyes off the water.
"Shrimper," Jimmy murmured. "Motherfucker probably did it last night. Never looked, just dragged the goddamned nets over the traps."
Albury slowly guided Diamond Cutter in a wide arc around the ridge, then began tacking back, against the tide, to the north. A shrimp boat is sloppy. The odds of one raking all fifty-five traps were remote. A few of the severed markers should be floating loose, Albury thought. A copper taste rose in his mouth as he scanned the bridge.
"It was no shrimper, Jimmy."
"Shit." Jimmy sagged back onto the ice chest. "Who? What for?"
"I don't know."
They checked four more trap lines on the way back to Key West, all sabotaged. By the time they reached the reef where the last one should have been, Albury had figured out the marauder's course. He was not surprised to see whitecaps where he should have seen the buoys; he watched unblinking as Jimmy retrieved a single orange-and-white buoy, examined the limp tail of rope, and pronounced it hand-cut with a fishing knife.
"What did you do, Breeze?" Jimmy asked wanly. "Are you screwin' somebody's wife?"
Albury shook his head sourly. Jimmy palmed the orphaned buoy like a basketball. "This ever happened before?"
"Years ago when I was fighting with one of the Cubans. He got mine. I got his. But that was only a dozen traps, not three hundred."
"Three hundred and twenty," Jimmy said. He hurled the marker as far as he could. A gust of wind caught the styrofoam ball and slapped it gently into the ocean.
They rode home in heavy silence, Albury nipping liberally from a bottle of Wild Turkey he kept on board for times when beer would not do. Was it the twenty-second or twenty-first? he wondered. Didn't matter, really, the end of the month was now.
Fifteen minutes out of Stock Island, Jimmy could no longer contain himself. "Breeze, I'm scared," he blurted.
"Well, I'm pissed, but I'm not scared."
"It's Kathy," Jimmy said, embarrassed, fighting tears. Albury stared out the windshield. The island was taking shape on the horizon.
It came with a rush. "She's pregnant. It wasn't supposed to happen with the pills, but it did anyway. We can't have no baby, not livin' with her folks. Not on what I make. Shit, Breeze, she ain't old enough. I needed the money from today to take care of it. From the Cobia Hole."
Albury ran a half-numb hand across the stubble of his cheek. "That was your shopping trip to Miami."
"Yeah, I got the name of a doctor up there who does the whole thing in his office one afternoon and you go home the next day."
"That's the most sensible way to handle it," Albury agreed.
"But I got no money."
"That makes two of us, son."
Jimmy whined, "What am I gonna do?"
"Let me think on it."
At the fish house, Jimmy cleaned the boat and hauled the iced crawfish onto the scales. Only about two hundred pounds, a quarter of what it should have been. In disgust, Albury joined a small group of fishermen drinking outside the small commissary. There was a tribal likeness among them: faded baseball caps above lined and sunburned faces, slick white fishermen's boots, powerful legs and muscled torsos betrayed by bellies swollen from too much beer.
"See you got your eight ninety-two fixed," said a fisherman named Spider.
"Finally," Albury said with a grimace that told what it cost.
"Do any good today?"
"Started out real good," Albury replied, popping a Budweiser. "Then it got real bad. I lost five trap lines way down south."
The fishermen clustered around to question Albury closer.
"How many traps?" demanded a crawfisherman named Leech.
"More than three hundred. Cut by hand." Albury's voice was rising. The agony of the day finally was settling in his stomach.
"We got to find out who," Leech said.
"Little Eddie," Spider declared. "Didn't you get in a fight with him over at the West Key Bar?"
"A year ago," Albury said. "He wouldn't have waited a year. Shit, he loaned me some tools last week."
"I don't know."
The men fell quiet. The mental arithmetic was familiar; three hundred traps at thirty bucks apiece, not to mention the loss in crawfish catch. By the time Albury spoke, each of the men had figured out in dollars how badly he was hit.
"Well, I better go help Jimmy."
"How you fixed, Breeze?" Spider asked as gently as he could. A couple of the fishermen looked away, pretending to watch another crawfish boat unload three slips away.
Excerpted from Trap Line by Carl Hiaasen, Bill Montalbano. Copyright © 1982 Carl Hiaasen and Bill D. Montalbano. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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