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Plying the San Francisco waterfront, trolling for triceps, her attention is snagged by a parade of passing yachts--especially their predominantly male skippers--and experiences a champagne-induced epiphany: If she had a boat, ...
Plying the San Francisco waterfront, trolling for triceps, her attention is snagged by a parade of passing yachts--especially their predominantly male skippers--and experiences a champagne-induced epiphany: If she had a boat, she could get a man.
In spite of a spectacular ignorance of all things nautical, Hetta buys her dream boat, but shadowy stalker, an inconvenient body, and Hetta's own self-destructive foibles, give a whole new meaning to the phrase "sink or swim!"
After reading the Interpol data, I nodded. "Yep, looks right, but he's shorter. More like sixty-eight inches. He was real sensitive about his height and probably lied on his passport application. I've hated short men ever since he disappeared.
"His occupation. It should be professional jerk." My eyes fell on a handwritten note next to the photo of Hudson. "Merde, Martinez, That's my old address in Tokyo."
"Don't worry, you aren't considered an accomplice. Read on."
I did. Hudson was wanted for misuse of company property, fraud, larceny, and murder. Murder?"
"Murder? I thought he just stole stuff and jilted women."
"Oh, there's even more. The guy I talked to at Interpol thought your old buddy was also mixed up in drugs and gem smuggling. Quite versatile, your Mr. Williams."
I gave him a dirty look. "He ain't my mister, mister."
"A figure of speech. So Hetta, what was it you wanted to tell me about Williams? You said you think you know what he wants from you?"
I'm a really good liar--accomplished, some of my detractors might say--but for all my apparent bravado and disdain for rules, some authoritative types can bully me pretty good. Preachers, cops and the IRS, in that order. Having been raised by an eclectic mixture of hard-shell Baptists, Baha'i's, and redneck backsliders, I harbor a host of divinely inspired phobias. You see, I have it on good authority, and believe in my soul, that liars burn in Hell. Ask any one of my great aunts or grandmothers. So I don't lie, I fib. I prevaricate. I equivocate.
"I guess I said it wrong when we were talking on the phone a few minutes ago," I prevaricated. "What Imeant was, maybe I can tell you more about what he might be looking for. Maybe he thinks I have some of his stuff. But I don't, I threw it all away." Jesus, that sounded lame.
Martinez thought so, as well. "Cut the crap, Hetta. What stuff?"
Decision time. "Nothing. Maybe he thinks I do, though. He left a television, some furniture, things like that, but I sold it all in Tokyo. That's all."
Martinez arched a brow and wrote a couple of jots in his ever-present little book. From my upside down vantage point, it looked like the last words were "pants on fire."
He agreed to a cup of tea, then pursed his lips when I added a smidgen of Slivovitz to mine.
"What?" I asked. "Never heard of thé Slav?"
It was after ten when he rose to leave, and I wondered again about his hours. He wore a wedding ring, and it occurred to me I'd been remiss in inquiring after his personal life, what with us becoming such bosom buddies and all.
"Detective, are you married?" I asked.
He gave me a sly grin. "Why? You interested?"
"Gee, I dunno. Do you have a lot of money?"
Martinez left and I went back to my stack of yachting magazines. I tried concentrating, but the idea that Hudson Williams was alive and stalking me kept creeping into my thoughts.
For the first time since I owned the house, I closed the mini blinds on the rear of the house after ensuring that the alarm was set. I tried shaking off the chagrin this caused me, but after a few minutes of reading yacht listings, I threw them on the floor. RJ, who had obviously been whacked with a newspaper or two when he was a pup, looked up in alarm.
"Sorry, baby," I said, soothing his fear with a pat. "It's all right."
RJ settled back down with a sigh, and I retrieved the listings. Damn Hudson Williams's eyes. He was not going to have us to terrorize much longer. I intended to find safe refuge for me and my dog. Sanctuary on our ship of dreams.
Posted November 24, 2011