Key West—southernmost point in the United States, Mile Zero on Highway 1; and as far as you can run away from your past troubles without swimming to Cuba. Key West—originally Cayo Huesos or Isle of Bones, for centuries a refuge for pirates, wreckers, writers, scoundrels, drunks, and tourists. Now home to a Crew of techno geek con artists who've turned it into their own private hunting ground. Paul and Chloe have the run of the sun-drenched island, free to play and scam far from the enemies they left behind in Silicon Valley. But that doesn't mean they can't bring a little high tech know how to the paradise. They and their new Crew have covered the island with their own private Big Brother style network—hidden cameras, RFID sensors, and a web of informers that tip them off about every crime committed and tourist trapped on the island. But will all the gadgets and games be enough when not one but three rival crews of con artists come to hold a top-secret gang summit? And when one of them is murdered, who will solve the crime? Inspired by author Rick Dakan's own eventful experiences in the video game and comic book industries, the Geek Mafia series satisfies the hunger in all of us to buck the system, take revenge on corporate America, and live a life of excitement and adventure.
About the Author
Rick Dakan lives, writes, and plays in Sarasota, Florida, his home and native town. Prior to writing the Geek Mafia book series, he scratched out a rewarding if poor living writing role-playing game books for numerous product lines, including: Wraith: The Oblivion, Kult, Conspiracy X, Deadlands, Vampire: The Masquerade, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Read an Excerpt
Geek Mafia: Mile Zero
By Rick Dakan
PM PressCopyright © 2007 Rick Dakan
All rights reserved.
Paul Reynolds doodled idly on a bar napkin as he sipped at his margarita. All around him tourists of every size and shape were donning paper pirate hats and plastic eye patches. They were part of a relatively new Key West tradition called the Booty Hunt — a glorified bar crawl where participants followed a "treasure map" that led them from bar to bar, with occasional stops in private homes, and where the chief treasure to be found was the pleasure of being surrounded by fellow drunks and saying "Arrrr" a lot. Paul had participated a few times himself and was kind of embarrassed at how much fun it was. His pen drew a rough sketch of the crowd, although in his version they were actual pirates, in full dress with real swords and pistols and parrots.
He took another sip and glanced around the bar, wondering where his drinking companion had gotten to. It was still early — just an hour or so after sunset, and Crooked Pete's was only half full. Located on Simonton, a block off the tourist-choked sidewalks of Duval Street, the bar hadn't hit its stride for the evening yet. The real crowd and the regulars would come later, once they had gotten a bite to eat and were ready for some serious, cheap drinking.
He saw his friend Sandee emerge — finally — from the bathroom, smiling at Paul from across the bar while maneuvering through the gaggle of bar-hopping buccaneers. Thick, cascading black curls complemented Sandee's black sequined mini-dress that clung to every slim curve and emphasized shapely breasts. Sandee winked at one of the tourists, blowing the man a kiss as he ogled in naked admiration.
"Did you miss me?" Sandee asked, sitting down beside Paul.
"Of course," Paul replied, sliding another margarita to Sandee. "But your drink missed you more. All your ice is melting."
"Oh, the poor darlings," Sandee cooed, licking the salt on the rim suggestively before taking a long swallow that emptied a third of the contents. "There, now they have some more room."
"So where's The Party tonight?" Paul asked. "I assume you're going."
"Of course I'm going, sweetie. You know I can't resist The Party two nights in a row."
"And it's just not the same without you there."
"Nothing's the same without me there, Paul."
"Don't I know it," he replied as he made a show of looking Sandee up and down. "Rrrrow! You look amazing. I'm always impressed."
Sandee gave him a playful shove. "You big tease. You better be careful, talking to me like that. I'll tell Chloe."
"Like she doesn't already know. She probably had Bee bug this place too," he joked. He looked around the bar again. "Actually, that's not a bad idea ..."
"You crazy kids and your little spy toys. I swear! You won't be satisfied until there's a camera on every corner and a bug in every bar. But not Pete's, ok? He's got enough of the real live bugs already."
"Good point," said Paul, taking another sip of his drink. "But there's no stopping Bee once she gets an idea in her head."
"There's no stopping any of you three when you get an idea in your heads."
"Another good point." He finished his drink and smiled at Sandee. "But back to my question. Where is The Party tonight?"
"Have you really lost track of it? It's your party."
"I know, I know, but I lost control of it long ago. Giancarlo said that we couldn't have upstairs at Vesuvio, but he said you had something lined up instead of the normal backup."
"As a matter of fact, I do." Sandee smiled with pride. "I finagled us the house on Eaton."
"The Crawford place?" asked Paul, surprised.
"The very same."
"That's great! God, I love it when we can get that place. How long?"
"Thirty-six for sure, maybe as long as fifty."
"Perfect. Who've you told?" asked Paul, standing up.
"My kids. Jesse of course. I haven't hit the girls yet."
"I was heading over there anyway. I'll tell them."
Sandee winked. "I bet you will. Chloe trusts you more than I would."
"Chloe trusts me with you, doesn't she? She's obviously not risk averse."
"I'll bet no one ever accused her of that," said Sandee.
"No one that's lived to tell the tale," Paul agreed. He caught the bartender's eye and waved, signaling him to put the drinks on his tab. The bartender smiled and nodded back at him. "I gotta get going then, make sure everything's set."
"There is one more thing," said Sandee. "New place, new money."
"New money?" asked Paul, surprised. He'd thought there was plenty in the party fund to cover anything Sandee might need for tonight. "Why ..."
"We had to pay for damages at Max's, and then there was the whole sordid affair with The Gringo. We're tapped out."
Paul sighed and dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "I've only got $600 on me," he said as he leafed through the bills. "That was going to be my bribe money for the night."
"If you can spare it, it'd help. I've already doled out all my cash on hand to secure the place and get the liquor. But we still need ..."
"I know, I know," said Paul, handing the money to Sandee. "Let's just try and make tonight kick ass so we can earn that back as quick as possible."
"We should be flush by dawn, my dear," Sandee assured him. "Just you wait."
"That's the plan anyway. But would you explain that to Chloe for me?"
"What is Chloe doing tonight, anyway?" Sandee asked. "I was hoping to get her to come out with me and check out the new help at the Hyatt."
"She's busy getting everything set up for our visitors. She's kind of freaking out about all the little details."
"Oh my, are they coming in tonight? I thought that was next week."
"Nope, it's tonight."
"Well, I guess I won't be seeing too much of you three anytime soon."
"We'll see," said Paul. "I'll try and swing things and introduce you around. It's still kind of a big mystery as to why they're coming here in the first place, so we'll have to wait and see how things play out."
"I understand, sweetie. And hey, if you can, bring some of them by The Party. I'll show them a good time."
Paul leaned forward and gave Sandee a quick kiss on the cheek. "Ok, I'll let you know. Have fun."
"You too," replied Sandee. "But not too much fun unless I'm there."
"We'll see," said Paul.
Sandee looked past Paul's shoulder and grinned. "Look who's back."
Paul turned to see a squat, bald man in his early 60s bearing down on him. He gave Paul a crooked smile full of yellow teeth as he slapped him on the back. "What's up, friend. Long time no see!"
"Bernie!" said Paul, turning to the old man and shaking his hand. "Where the fuck have you been? I heard Miami PD picked you up!"
"Nah, nah, nothing that dramatic," Bernie said, shaking his had. "I just had some family shit to take care of up in Coral Gables. Pain in my wrinkled old ass, I tell you. But I'm back."
"That's great, man. Actually I'm glad I ran into both of you here. It means I don't have to track down Cuban Eddie." Bernie was a fun-loving old man who loved, loved, loved strip clubs. He financed this expensive habit by selling air purifiers on eBay and growing high quality dope in his house, most of which he sold to strippers and bartenders. Cuban Eddie was a 70-year-old coffee shop owner who was his main competition among the local bar and restaurant workers.
"Pffft, that old bastard? You are lucky I came back when I did. What do you need, sport?"
"We got The Party going tonight," said Paul.
"The party's always going when I'm around," interjected Bernie.
"Yeah, of course; that's the point, right? But it's rotated to the Crawford place tonight. And since you're here, you can make the delivery yourself, and I don't have to get someone to run the shit over from The Cuban."
Bernie raised his drink in salute to Paul, "Your wish is my command. How's about three hours?"
"Whenever's good for you, Bernie. Just check in with Sandee when you get there." That was some good news anyway. Things always went well when Bernie was in the house.
Bernie blew Sandee a kiss. "Will do. Mind if I join you two for a drink? I wanna tell y'all about this wild club I went to while I was up in Miami ..."
Just then Paul's pocket started singing The Clash's, "I Fought the Law."
"Hold on a sec," Paul said. He scooped the phone out and saw "KW Telemarket" on the caller ID. He sighed as he answered, "Hey, Bee, what's up?"
"It's Chloe," said Bee, her voice tight and nervous. "She needs you."CHAPTER 2
The classic Key West-style house just off Fleming looked much like the rest of the residences on the block — two-story wooden frame walls and peaked roofs with shallow porches nearly butting up against the sidewalk. Chloe's rusting blue Vespa was tucked away beside the house, in the narrow space separating it from the neighbors. To anyone walking by outside, everything looked quiet and peaceful.
Inside, Chloe was pissed. Everything had been going great and then those stupid fuckers had decided to show up a week early, forcing her to scramble to pack a week's work into a single day. She wore a black bandana wrapped around her head, covering her buzz cut pink hair. Numerous smudges of dirt on her cheeks and the tip of her nose testified to the heavy-duty cleaning she'd been doing for the past five hours. She wore loose fitting shorts and a tight-fitting tank top that had once been white. In her bare feet she pushed a mop across the hardwood floors, grumbling to herself.
She heard the door open and looked up to see Paul standing in the doorway. Even though it wasn't his fault, she glared at him as he came in. As much as Chloe liked a clean house, she hated housework, and this wasn't even her house. This particular space was sparsely decorated with just a few worn pieces of furniture and some bad condo art on the walls. After six months of being sealed up tight with the air conditioner off, it smelled of dust and mildew and needed a good airing out.
"What are you doing?" asked Paul, closing the door behind him.
"Mopping," she said, her voice flat.
"Right. But why are you mopping here? Whose house is this anyway?"
"It's one we just added to the roster last week. The cleaning service hasn't had a chance to get in here yet."
"I see that," said Paul. "So why're you cleaning it tonight?"
"We're cleaning it tonight because the Guidarizzi's decided to make a surprise visit to their winter home in Key West. They're coming in tomorrow afternoon. Every other decent place is filled up, so we have to use this one instead."
"Oh fuck. Is there another mop?"
"There's another bucket and a scrub brush in the kitchen if you want to get started in there."
"Sounds like a plan," he said, taking careful steps as he crossed the freshly mopped floor on his way back to the kitchen. She was glad he'd showed up when he did — he could clean the kitchen and deal with whatever horrors might be hiding in the fridge.
"Lucky thing we got this place when we did, then," he called out to Chloe.
"Yeah," she yelled back. "It's a little smaller than the Guidarizzi place, so it might be a little cramped. I'm not sure how many people he's bringing with him."
"I thought he said three or four."
"I said I thought it'd be three or four. He didn't say at all."
She finished the living room floor and went into the kitchen. Paul had filled a bucket with hot water and soap and was scrubbing away the dirt and stains he found hidden below the dust. The kitchen's last encounter with food hadn't ended with a very thorough clean-up. "I'm going to go upstairs and try and make the bedrooms habitable," Chloe said. "Bee's supposed to bring by some clean sheets from one of the other houses, so keep an ear out for her."
"Ok," Paul muttered in reply. She knew he wasn't happy that his normal evening of partying and dealing with stripper contacts had suddenly taken a dramatic turn into domestic chores, but then neither was she. She wanted to make a good impression on her visiting friends, and putting them up in a filthy house was not the way to do that. Fortunately, there was no such thing as getting to The Party too late. He'd just have to wait a while for his evening's fun and games.
After about half an hour of scrubbing the upstairs bathroom, she felt a pair of arms snake around her torso from behind. She leaned back into them and felt Paul's chest pressing against her back. She sighed.
"How's it going, hot stuff?" she said.
"All finished downstairs," he said, giving her a neck a long, soft kiss. "You know, I never thought a life of crime would involve so much housework."
"I did tell you it would be glamorous and exciting, didn't I?" she teased. "No one can say I'm not a woman of my word."
Paul motioned for her to put down the scrub brush and then pulled her to him. She turned around to face him as he drew her close and kissed her again. Then one more time. She nuzzled against him, nipping playfully at his neck. "You smell good," she said.
"Thanks," he replied, his hands roaming down her back to her ass. He gave her a squeeze.
"Actually, you smell like a stripper."
"Sandee says hi."
"I'll bet," said Chloe, still kissing his neck.
"You know the party's moved back to the Crawford place."
"I like the Crawford place. It has those back rooms ..."
"Oh, I remember." She pulled away from him just enough to make room for her hand to caress him through the front of his pants while she looked him in the eye. "I remember very well indeed."
"We did just watch the video last week," he reminded her, closing his eyes as he moaned in pleasure under her touch.
"That was you in that video?" she said.
"Not the Kennedy Assassination video, the other one."
"Oh right. That video," she laughed. "That was you, wasn't it?"
"It sure was. Maybe we could ..."
Then Paul's pocket started singing The Clash again. "Did I do that?" asked Chloe. Then her pocket started singing as well, although for her it was The Misfits.
"No," sighed Paul. "I think that must be Bee."
They both took out their phones and looked at the caller ID screens. Paul's read "Verizon." Chloe's read "Keys Taxi Disp."
"She loves that new trick of hers," said Chloe as she answered the phone. "Heya, Bee, what's up with the sheets?" Paul answered his phone as well and was instantly conferenced into the conversation.
"I'm having Pia bring them by. I picked something up on the cameras and I thought you might want to see it."
"What is it?" said Chloe. "We're almost finished here."
"I got a boat coming in at the marina. I'm pretty sure it's your friend."
"Really?" said Chloe, excited and nervous. "Are you sure?"
"Nope. That's why I thought you might wanna come take a look."
"You're right. We're on our way. Can you call Pia and tell her the key's under the rock by the back door?"
"Sure thing," said Bee. "See you soon."
Paul and Chloe hung up their phones and looked at one another. Chloe had a big smile on her face.
"Are you nervous?" he asked her.
"What? Are you kidding? Of course not. I'm just psyched to see him again. Aren't you?"
"Definitely. I still owe him a lot. He's the only person who ever got shot on my behalf," said Paul. "I just thought you might be nervous. That's all."
"Why? Because I'm going fucking crazy trying to get this place hospitable before he gets here?"
"No," he said. "That's just being a good host. I thought you might be nervous for the same reason I'm nervous."
She looked at him for a long moment. They'd been dancing around this subject ever since he'd told them five days ago that he was coming to Key West. "You're wondering why he's coming at all," she said.
"It's a long way to come. Especially in a boat."
"I'm sure he got the boat once he got to this coast."
"Either way, it's a long way to come. And people like him — which is to say, people like us — don't make long trips without a reason."
"And I'm sure he'll tell us his reason," said Chloe. "Fuck, that's why I'm so excited! I want to hear what he's got up his sleeve. We need a little damn excitement around here. We've fallen into a rut. I thought you'd be excited too ..."
"I am, I am," Paul assured her, although she suspected that he might be lying. "I'm excited and I'm nervous. You know what I mean."
"Like a teenager on his first date," said Chloe.
"Yeah, sort of."
"Well don't worry. I promise Winston won't try to cop a feel in the back seat." She kissed him then. "But I might, so you better watch yourself." Another kiss. "Come on, let's go. Bee's waiting." She disengaged, turned, and headed straight for the front door.
Excerpted from Geek Mafia: Mile Zero by Rick Dakan. Copyright © 2007 Rick Dakan. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have already read the other two novels (Geek Mafia and Black Hat Hacker Blues) by the same author too as I very much enjoy his storytelling in all three books. The stories are about the adventure of a group of young con artists from how they got started by chance meeting, to their successes and failures of their con jobs, resulting in them having to move across the country from coast to coast, dodging and scheming to avoid the authorities and their adversaries. The pace is brisk without a dull moment, yet not excessive like some other page-turners that all I care about is whodunnit in the last chapter. Here, the chapters make the entire book very entertaining and engaging. Moreover, the author has elaborated the stories and characters so totally that I am convinced by the end of each book that Paul and Chloe can be real, and if I vacation in Key West these days, I would surely run into them. I better be heads-up when I am there and a warning to all you tourists too. If you like reading realistic adventurous tales like Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn, you'll probably enjoy this book or even all three (a Trilogy ?) by Mr. Dakan.