Bahamaramaby Bob Morris
Two years in a Florida federal prison on bogus charges has made former Miami Dophins linebacker, Zack Chasteen, stir crazy. The first step toward getting his life back together is meeting up with his beautiful magazine mogul girlfriend, Barbara, on Harbor Island in the Bahamas. But making it out of Florida proves to be more trouble than a gator with a… See more details below
Two years in a Florida federal prison on bogus charges has made former Miami Dophins linebacker, Zack Chasteen, stir crazy. The first step toward getting his life back together is meeting up with his beautiful magazine mogul girlfriend, Barbara, on Harbor Island in the Bahamas. But making it out of Florida proves to be more trouble than a gator with a toothache--and even deadlier. Zack barely leaves the state alive before he discovers Barbara's been kidnapped and her ex-lover, a photographer, murdered.
Once again trouble has come knocking on Zack's door. But this time he's fighting back, with the help of a Royal Bahamanian police superintendent, his trusted mystical Taino Indian friend Boggy, and a cast of the most colorful characters ever to step into the warm Bahama sun.
As unpredictable as island trade winds, Bahamarama twists and turns its way to a stunning conclusion and announces the arrival of a writer who is sure to surprise and delight mystery fans for years to come.
Bahamarama is a 2005 Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel.
-Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Skin Tight and Skinny Dip
"In Bahamarama, Bob Morris is as tough and fast as Elmore Leonard, writes about the Caribbean as knowledgeably as Jimmy Buffett, and also begins to blaze his own, stylish trail as a gifted novelist. Bahamarama is a can't-miss hoot."
- Randy Wayne White, New York Times bestselling author of Twelve Mile Limit
"Bob Morris, a terrific writer and pure Florida boy, has created a marvelous tale that perfectly captures the nation's strangest state. Like Florida itself, Bahamarama is wild, weird, unpredictable, populated by exotic denizens and funny as hell."
- Dave Barry, New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner of Tricky Business and Boogers are My Beat
"Bob Morris' Bahamarama is as spicy as a bowl of fresh conch salad. Leading good guy Zach Chasteen tells his own story of a Bahama trauma with a voice so fresh that it makes you want to read this book twice."
- Jeffrey Cardenas, author of Sea Level
"When it comes to books from the lower latitudes you sometimes can't see the forest for the palm trees. No worries with Bahamarama. This book stands out. It's a fun and engrossing read from an author who expertly knows the lay of the land and the sea."
Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of THE NARROWS
"The memorable characters, wry humor, and distinctive Florida and Bahama settings will appeal to Carl Hiaasen fans." Booklist
Read an Excerpt
By Bob Morris
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Bob Morris
All rights reserved.
The way it works at Baypoint Federal Country Club for Way-ward Males, guys sometimes throw a going-away party for their buddies who are checking out, and invite the D.O.'s to join in. Everyone acts all chummy, guzzling Dom, firing up the Cohibas, playing Texas hold 'em for real hard-on money, and letting the good times roll.
It's not like that at most prisons. At most prisons the guards lord it over inmates, treat them like scum, sweeten their lousy state-tit paychecks by muling in merchandise. Skin magazines and dope, those are the major franchises at the low-rent lockups, with cell phones grabbing a chunk of the action — a year contract paid in advance and a flat two hundred and fifty dollars going to the D.O. who sets it up on the outside. Then the D.O. goes home to his double-wide trailer and his Dish Network TV, feeling smug and in control, thinking his tiny little life beats anything the cons can ever hope to have.
But things are different at Federal Prison Camp/Baypoint, where the alumni ranks are swollen with premium-grade white-collar criminals, including, at last count, two former U.S. congressmen, a past president of the Florida Senate, and enough fallen financiers to staff an M.B.A. program in advanced corporate swindling. At Baypoint, the D.O.'s lack leverage. They're just chambermaids with too much testosterone. Because it's not like they can build any equity by catering to inmate cravings. Whole different crowd. Baypointers enjoyed the good life before they got caught and fully intend to start enjoying it again the moment they get out. There's nothing they really need, and even if there were, they wouldn't obligate themselves to the hired help.
So what you have at Baypoint is the D.O.'s being serious suck-ups and gofers and actually thinking that once the Mr. Bigs get back into circulation they will look kindly upon the cheerful detention officer who used to bring fresh towels and fix the leaky toilet. Maybe find a place for him in their organization. Like that ever happens.
No one threw me a bubbly send-off. No slaps on the back, no thirty-dollar cigars. And the D.O. escorting me through all the graduation-day rigamarole — a pork loaf name of Fair-banks — was definitely not playing brownnose. Mainly because he and all the other guards thought they had me figured — just an aging jock, a bottom-feeder among the Baypoint elite, someone who'd pissed away what little he'd had and wound up at Baypoint instead of a lowlier joint where he belonged only because he had charmed someone with a little clout. That she was a beautiful someone ticked them off even more.
I had made all the stops, collected my exit papers, and Fair-banks was ushering me into Building A, the "transition lobby," with its fake leather furniture, and ficus trees dropping leaves in every corner. Two other D.O.'s were manning a counter by the last set of doors between me and the great wide open. They traded talk with Fairbanks as we walked up, making me stand there a minute, then two, playing their D.O. mind games. One of them was this black dude named Williams and the other was this pimply young white guy didn't look like he could have been more than two years out of high school. Probably brandnew on the job, still developing his style, paying close attention to the older guys and mirroring the way they did it.
Williams finally glanced sideways at me and grumbled, "Put your bags on the counter, Chasteen."
"No bags," I said.
Which got me the full turn-around from Williams. He raised up from his swivel chair and looked me over.
"Mean to tell me you're leaving here and you ain't got nothing?"
"Just my good looks."
"Shit, then you really are traveling light, Chasteen. Let's see your papers."
I gave them to him. Williams ran them one by one over a green-light scanner, the pimply kid taking them and sticking them in a see-through plastic pouch that also contained my driver's license, birth certificate, and passport.
"You're supposed to ask me first," I said to the kid.
"Ask you what?"
"Do I want paper or plastic ..."
The kid was glaring now, only his glaring skills were still pretty lame. I kept looking at him until he looked away.
Williams jerked his head toward the doors.
"Chariot's waiting, Chasteen."
I looked outside. A hundred yards away, beyond a Bahia grass lawn turning brown against the sun and a ten-foot chain-link fence topped with concertina wire, sat a big black SUV. One of those Cadillac Escalades it looked like — the only vehicle in the visitors' parking lot.
"You sure that's here for me?"
"Guy driving it asked for you," said Williams. "Figured he was here to pick you up."
"Yeah," said Williams. "Two of 'em, as a matter of fact."
Fairbanks said, "They your boyfriends, Chasteen?"
I let it slide. I was trying to figure out who was sitting inside the Escalade. I wasn't expecting two guys to pick me up. I was expecting Barbara. She was the beautiful someone. Just thinking about her gave me ...
Put it this way: Baypoint might be the Ritz-Carlton of prisons, but the top brass cuts no slack when it comes to conjugal visits. You have to be married. To each other. No license, no nooky. And no amount of bribery could change that. I'd tried.
One year, nine months, and twenty-three days. That's how long it had been. One short stretch for a monk, one giant gulch for my kind.
I grabbed the plastic pouch that held my papers and turned toward the door.
Fairbanks said, "We'll leave the porch light on for ya, Chas-teen. So you can find your way back."
"That's sweet, Fairbanks. I'll leave the porch light on for you, too."
"So you'll know where to deliver my pizza."
The doors jolted open, and I left the three of them standing there, Williams saying, "Smart-ass walking ..."CHAPTER 2
It was one of those August days in Florida that doesn't so much suck the air out of your lungs as it does jam it down your throat. Not even 9 A.M. and already everything felt heavy. Dragonflies buzzed up from the lawn as I walked past, then said to hell with it, folded their wings, and spiraled back down. Mockingbirds perched atop the fence, but not one of them could work up even the faintest song. The sun was on its way to glory.
Halfway to the gate I was lathered in sweat, my white shirt sticking to my back, little rivulets of eau-de-me running down the legs of my jeans. It was too hot to be wearing jeans, but it was all I had. I'd buy some new duds — the Chasteen summer collection — as soon as I got the chance.
As I approached the gate, I kept my eyes on the black Escalade. It definitely wasn't part of the plan. Barbara was supposed to be there, driving her sweet little haul-ass 450 SL convertible, a 1979, with 117,000 miles on it and just getting primed. She called it "Yellow Bird."
"Like the song," she had explained when I asked her why she named it that.
"Dumb song," I told her.
"I happen to like it."
"You ever tried eating breakfast with a bunch of bananaquits hanging around?"
"Those yellow birds they sing about. You eat breakfast down in the islands and they come out of nowhere. They hop ...
"Oh, those, they're adorable."
"... they hop on the table, pick at your bread, dab at the butter. Swat them away and they just come back stronger, crap on the tablecloth. That's a yellow bird."
"Well," said Barbara, "it's a pretty song."
In three years of knowing each other that was the closest we'd ever come to an argument. Of course, we'd only had a few months together before I got sent up, so maybe if things had been different, maybe if we'd lived together and knew too much about each other, we'd have fought like hell, and split up. But I didn't think so. Neither one of us was quite sure where the whole thing between us was heading, but we were enjoying the ride. Or had been until a run of bad luck — not to mention considerable double-crossing — landed me at Baypoint.
So now Barbara and I were going to spend a few days wending our way down to Key West, just taking our time. That's why I couldn't figure out what the Escalade was doing there.
I stood at the gate, waiting for it to open. Nothing happened. The D.O.'s were making me squirm, milking the last drops of authority. I was hoping they came out curdled.
The Escalade had its motor running. The a.c. belts were whining, straining to cool off whoever was inside. The windows were tinted as dark as the law allows, maybe darker. I couldn't make out who was sitting behind them.
Thirty seconds went by. Then a minute. The gate stayed shut. I was getting prickly around the neck, ready to be moving. Finally, Williams's voice came over a speaker mounted on the fence: "Three steps back, Chasteen."
I moved back; the gate whirred open. I stepped out onto the asphalt parking lot; the gate whirred shut behind me.
No one got out of the Escalade. I looked beyond it, down the two-lane road that led to the main highway. I could see for at least a half mile, until the road curved and disappeared behind pine trees. I was ready to be on that road, ready to see Barbara. The road was empty, no cars headed our way. The heat was rising off it and making the distance look liquid, almost molten, like a painting that was melting, like the whole scene was turning into something else right before my eyes.
I looked back at the Escalade. The driver's window went down. The man at the wheel was thirty-five, maybe. It was hard to tell, but he looked younger than me. He was smoking a cigarette. He took a long draw and flicked ashes out the window, studying me. There was someone sitting up front beside him, but I couldn't make out much more than a shape. It was a pretty big shape. It was slumping so it wouldn't scrape its skull on the headliner.
The driver wore a black T-shirt made out of some shiny synthetic material that was supposed to look more expensive than it really was. He had a thin mustache that wormed across his lip and down to his chin and turned into a skinny goatee. Skinniest goatee I'd ever laid eyes on. He probably had to stand in front of the mirror every morning and pluck it to get it to behave like that. Maybe he took it to goatee obedience school. Maybe he trotted it out at goatee shows. Maybe it had won trophies. His hair was long and black, and pulled back in a ponytail. It was slick and greasy, like he put something on it to make it look that way. Or maybe he hadn't shampooed since the first Bush was in office. I was guessing he put something on it. He seemed like the kind of guy who worked hard on the way he looked. All I knew was, I'd never seen him before.
Goatee flipped his cigarette onto the asphalt. Then he used the same hand to wave me over to the Escalade. He did it like a headwaiter summoning a busboy to clean up a spill that was the headwaiter's fault.
I stayed where I was. I reached behind me and stuck the plastic pouch with my i.d.'s into the waistband of my jeans. That way I had both hands free. Never can tell.
Goatee cocked his head and screwed his mouth around, giving me his hard-ass look. But he didn't have the eyes for it. They were big and round and soft and brown. Pretty girls might swoon over them. I didn't.
He said, "We need to talk, Chasteen."
There was an accent. Spanish, it sounded like.
"So talk," I said.
"It is better you get inside and come with us."
"Better for who?"
Goatee looked at me some more. Then he turned away and said something to the shape sitting next to him, and it opened its door and got out, and I could see its head and shoulders above the roof of the Escalade. It didn't appear to have a neck, just a big square head planted on big square shoulders.
He came around the Escalade and walked toward me. Good thing the sun was already riding high or he would have blocked it. He was wearing one of those nylon workout suits where the top and bottom match and it always looks ridiculous. The workout suit was maroon, with white stripes on the pant legs, and white stripes on the shirt sleeves. The vertical striping didn't have much of a slimming effect. The guy was every bit of three hundred and fifty pounds, maybe bigger. Defensive tackle material, only he didn't move well enough to be a defensive tackle. He'd spent too much time bench-pressing and not enough time running. He was top-heavy and bad on his feet. He rolled from side to side as he walked, meaning his quads were no match for his weight. He was already breathing hard by the time he stopped a couple of yards away from me. He was sweating a lot more than I was. He wore a crewcut. His ears were tiny and pink, in contrast to the rest of him, which was dark, Hispanic, like Goatee. A 'roid muncher for sure. Pumped up and primed, but with a pecker that was probably punier than his ears. That's the downside of steroids. Certain appendages suffer for the sake of a ripped bod. Life is all about trade-offs. Some people just make stupid trades.
Excerpted from Bahamarama by Bob Morris. Copyright © 2004 Bob Morris. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a good beach read or summer read and the first book in an engaging series of Florida based mysteries featuring former football pro and felon Zack Chasteen. Morris' style is somewhere between the manic approach of Hiaasen, Barry and Dorsey and the more serious approach of Randy Wayne White and James W Hall. Perhaps the closest comparison is the Florida novels of Elmore Leonard and that's not a bad neighborhood to reside in. Zack Chasteen and his right-hand man Boggy are well drawn and amusing characters. Zack's significant other Barbara is a little less three-dimensional and seems too good to be true, but her dialog and characterization ring true. The story line involving the kidnap of Barbara at an island resort is compelling with several twists and it makes for a fast and enjoyable read. For those who like the ample Florida mystery genre this is a good choice, as are other books I have read in this series.