Retired smuggler Dixon Sweeney exits Raiford after eight long years behind bars, vowing "From here on out, things are gonna be different."
And boy is he right: his wife has left him, emptied his safe deposit box, moved their entire house to Key West, and is shacking up with Sweeney's former partner and Best Man. Worse yet, Buck Wiggins is after him for a sixty-five grand debt. But Sweeney's broke! So Buck sends Gooch and Gunther Canseco, twin towers of steroidal ape stuff to tune Sweeney up each week until he pays Buck back.
And he thought life in prison sucked!
When a mysterious Cuban-American approaches Sweeney with an offer, Sweeney is forced to accept. The payoff? A cool half mil. The problem? The money is hidden inside a house in Cuba. Worse yet: on Guantanamo Naval Base, a.k.a. GITMO!
Strap on your seat belt and prepare for the ride of your life, as unlikely hero Dixon Sweeney and his beat-up Chris-Craft challenge the Gulf Stream, waterspouts, man-eating sharks, the crazy Canseco twins, the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, the entire Cuban military and one super sexy senorita in this hilarious romp through the Florida Straits!
Praise for GITMO:
"An exciting read that should appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen, espionage thrillers and caper comedies." -Kirkus Reviews
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|Publisher:||Down & Out Books II, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.72(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Shawn Corridan, Gary Waid
Down & Out BooksCopyright © 2017 Shawn Corridan and Gary Waid
All rights reserved.
Dixon Sweeney shaded his eyes and looked at a cloud, a puffy little thing hanging on the horizon. Maybe it was a sign, an omen of his first free breath in eight years. He picked up his cardboard box with the duct-taped handle containing all his possessions and walked down the three concrete steps and out into the early morning heat that dampened his body and stained the pits of his Goodwill suit.
He glanced back at the huge, institutional green complex that was Florida State Prison. Well that sucked, he thought. He turned around again and his face went prickly hot and he suddenly felt naked because there was nobody there to greet him. Calm down, he told himself. An emotional episode would not be cool.
He changed mental directions and decided to ignore the homecoming slight. I'm keeping this suit forever, he decided. He pulled at his crotch. The seersucker coat didn't cover his wrists, and the seersucker pants didn't cover his ankles. But so what? He could hang it on the wall. Or eat the lining. It was bound to taste better than the glop that passed for food inside prison walls.
The guards had laughed at him when he received his clothes that morning. A bunch of redneck guards laughing at his cracker ass and making jokes. He wasn't the first guy they'd ever forced to wear a clown suit on his way out the door.
"You'll be back," cackled Sergeant Dimmit Hogg Hardin, a steroidal fatso who belonged in a zoo. "Y'all boys are all the same. Wash some dishes, mow some lawns, dig some ditches, you every one come back. Besides, ain't no dicks to suck like they is in prison."
"Ah, so that's why you're still here," replied Sweeney.
"I'm here to slap the shit out of smartasses," said Hogg, stepping closer, snapping his rubber gloves at the wrists. Playtime was apparently over.
"I'm gonna miss you, Officer Hardon," said Sweeney as he tucked his shirt in.
"Hardin," said the sergeant now inches from Sweeney's mug. "Sergeant Dimmit Hardin."
"I suppose you'll have to live with that," Sweeney said. He turned and ducked through the gates just as Hardin was reaching for him.
The heat was overpowering and the mosquitoes were a torrent by the time the bus stopped in an open swale of dirt commonly used by protesters who gathered for executions. Sweeney picked up his box and climbed aboard. There were only a few riders, but he sat in the back, as far from anyone as he could. The new noises frightened him. Conversations confused him. Colors blinded him. And making any kind of decision was damn near impossible. So he sat by the latrine and endured the stink and watched the miles roll by. He wondered again why his wife hadn't been there to greet him at the gates. Where the hell was she? This was Sweeney's big day. This was his coming-out party, his delivery and whack-on-the-butt-so-he-could-breathe moment. Yet no one was there to welcome him or even stare at him and wonder if he took it up the ass six times a day from Aldo the Gorilla and his posse.
He rubbed his broken nose. It had healed long ago, but it wasn't straight anymore.
Boy, did that suck.
Eight years ago, he'd been accused of smuggling Cuban refugees into Florida. A whole boatload of them. He'd denied it, of course, and the assistant state attorney, a guy named Alvin Scopher, had called him a liar.
But Sweeney had stuck to his guns. He'd made it hard.
So the investigators got mad, objecting and carping and working him over. And that's when Sweeney knew they were having trouble getting witness testimony.
That's also when Scopher went to Dixon's mother, Mrs. Adelia Sweeney, getting old, ailing, sometimes becoming confused, especially in the face of such a creep. And when the creep accused Mrs. Sweeney of harboring smugglers, of abetting a criminal, and told her he was going to be forced to go federal and she was going to lose her house and do hard time as an "organizer/manager," Dixon, her only son, had to cave. He'd had to plead out, take the eight, learn a new language that began with sally ports clanging behind him and ending an hour ago, in the heat, on the wide prison sidewalk where no one was waiting.
The day after he'd signed the plea agreement his mother died.
And although he'd blamed the assistant prosecutor at the time, he'd decided later that he was as much at fault as anyone. He'd petitioned the court to go to the funeral — his father had been dead for years — but the judge denied him because, he said, a man such as Dixon Sweeney, who knows about boats and knows too many people and traffics in human misery, can't be trusted.
Alvin Scopher got a promotion for his diligent efforts at enforcing the law, while Sweeney went off to get an education at Gladiator State.
Yes, Dixon Sweeney was a cracker all right, a native Floridian, a dying breed put on this earth to serve the people of the "New South." And now he had a record — a personal history that set him even further apart. He hoped like hell he wouldn't be forced to wash dishes, mow lawns, or dig ditches for a living.
That would really suck.CHAPTER 2
Two hours later the bus stopped in Pahokee, a hamlet along the banks of Lake Okeechobee. Sweeney had a half hour to kill so he took a little stroll. He fished around in his box, dug out a prison-issued, brown bag lunch and stepped off the bus. The sky was still clear, the sun was still hot, the seersucker still clinging. Yet for the first time in all those years there wasn't a twenty-foot stone wall to contemplate or razor wire to navigate. This would be his first walk as a free man. A new day was dawning for Dixon.
He'd been to Pahokee once with his dad when he was a kid. There was a fishing legend there by the name of Hodie Grubbs who'd made the best split-bamboo fly fishing rods in Florida, and Sweeney's father wanted one in the worst way. Pahokee back then was a quaint little town with one filling station, a sprinkling of greasy spoons, and a single traffic light. Sweeney could see the place had grown but not much; there still wasn't a Starbucks or McDonald's to spoil the ambiance. And sure enough, the old Wylie-Baxley funeral home was still there on the corner across from the bus station. He never forgot their slogan: "You Better Bereave It!" He'd often wondered over the years if the undertaker was Japanese.
A block from the station Sweeney found himself on a cracked sidewalk that fronted huge gabled houses shaded by hundred-year-old oaks. So far so good. Nothing had changed. He smiled as he turned the corner into the neighborhood.
The world's still the same. Thank God for —
"Get 'er, Bingo!" squealed a morbidly obese lady in a flowered housedress. Her legs were swollen blue logs and she was hovering over two Chihuahuas fucking on one of the sagging porches, filming the furry little porn stars with her iPhone. "Move it, little buddy, we're goin' viral!" she said to the little jackhammer. His eyes were bugged, his tongue wagging.
Well. Maybe some things have changed ...
Sweeney turned away. Across the street, a trio of bare-chested, Middle Eastern street toughs in baggy jeans were popping ollies and power slides on their newfangled skateboards. He was just about to wave to the lads when they regarded him in his seersucker outfit and laughed. One called him a "straight up faggot." Another called him a "dick-sucking, butt-packing, felching Mo."
A veritable fountain of eloquence, that one. He could be president!
Sweeney walked on, the spring in his step was waning. He pulled his tuna sandwich from a Ziploc and took a bite. It crunched. Celery? He took another bite. Another crunch. Sweeney knew there was nothing like prison food to dull the senses but he didn't recall eating crunchy tuna fish at Raiford. He peeled back the bread and saw the three giant half-dead cockroaches nestled into the fishy goo and promptly threw up in his mouth. He gagged again and spat his vomitus onto the sidewalk then wiped his mouth and looked into the paper sack where he discovered a note under the semi-rotten orange that came with the sandwich.
"FUCK U," it said, signed by Dimmit Hardin in childish scrawl.
The "C" was backwards. Of course.
He dropped the sandwich and the bag in the gutter.
Sweeney wheeled. A large Jamaican lady in a pink spandex jumpsuit was steaming out the door of a tumbledown, concrete-block shithole wagging a finger, brow furrowed. Sweeney was transfixed. At first he thought she was wearing a forward facing fanny pack. Then he realized what he was witnessing was the most spectacular camel toe he'd ever seen, hanging below a navel indentation the size of a pie plate.
"No-o-o, mon, dis ain't soom fukkin' Babylon ghetto, no! You gather dat shit, motherfucker! Where you t'ink you is, you fukkin' whitehead?"
He snatched up his brown bag and deposited it in a nearby trashcan. Then backed away — eyes still on the Jamaican lady, gag reflex in overdrive — and straightaway stepped in a mountain of fresh dog shit.
Wow. It had been years since he'd done that. He'd forgotten what that felt like. After all, there were no dogs in prison. He'd also forgotten the smell. Until now. And immediately began hacking and gagging again, by now almost running back to the bus depot, where just as he was stepping onto the bus, he managed to befoul the sole of the other shoe with a gigantic wad of bubble gum.
When Dixon got back on the Greyhound after a trip to the men's room, he thought, I'm free. I'm a free man now. That's all that matters.
Then he said it aloud. "I'm free."
* * *
The sun was going down when the bus reached Yeehaw Junction. He didn't get off the bus this time. He didn't want to risk it. And there was too much noise and neon lights. Huge trucks were parked in rows that spoiled the air with mirage-making exhaust. Big men sat or stood at dirty picnic tables eating fried gizzards and wiping their hands on their pants, talking about trucking.
They were talking about women, too. Because across the highway there was a strip joint with a sign that read: 12 BEAUTIFUL GIRLS! 23 BEAUTIFUL LEGS!
He cocked his head and wondered if one of the girls was an amputee, or maybe they had a double amp and a lady with three legs. Or maybe someone couldn't add.
He closed his eyes and tried not to think about it.
* * *
In a town called Corkscrew, Dixon bought a box of saltwater taffy. He climbed back aboard the bus just in front of a family that smelled like fish. Every one — the four boys, the father, even the mother — all smelling like clams.
Dixon recognized the aroma. He knew it well. They were a family of clammers, folks who lived in a trailer somewhere by the Intracoastal Waterway and raked clams off the mud bottom, selling them by the bushel and scraping out an existence.
Sweeney hadn't smelled a real clam in a long time. But if you're a cracker, you don't forget. He liked the seaweed stench and the salt tang. He smiled. Then the mother smiled back at him and sat in the seat in front of the latrine with her husband, while the children piled up in a tumble of clam-smelling clothing that took up the next row. Sweeney passed out some of the taffy to the kids. They acted like they didn't know he'd just come from prison. They seemed to think he was normal. The father made them say "thank you," and the guy sounded like he had marbles in his mouth because of the Red Man, but he made his kids behave, which Sweeney thought was cool.
The bus trundled south. Everyone seemed happy as, well, clams. They didn't know about Sweeney. Somehow he'd fooled them. Maybe the world had other things to think about after all.
* * *
Corkscrew was a clam-smelling town and a saltwater-taffy-with-a-thank-you town. Lauderdale and Miami and Homestead were nothing — blurry images in the night. At dawn the bus stopped sixty miles south on US 1, the Overseas Highway. Dixon claimed his box and his taffy from the overhead rack and got off. He surveyed the surroundings amid a swirling vortex of dust in front of a sign that read "Welcome to the Florida Keys." The Greyhound pulled away, while thunder pealed and the heavens crackled and rent the air with the smell of ozone and rain. Then the sky fell and thick drops tumbled down in angled sheets of white.
As my dad used to say, timing is everything.
"Timing is everything," he said aloud.CHAPTER 3
But Dixon Sweeney wasn't about to be discouraged. In fact, he started dancing.
He moonwalked and he shouted and he threw his box of taffy high in the air. And even when the rain turned his black prison brogans into slapping seal feet, and even when all that water whipped the sandy berm into mush, he didn't let up. He'd been gone so long, damn near a decade, and he missed his home and his wife and he jumped up and around like an idiot, in the rain, in the mud, in the dumb seersucker suit that was given to him as a prison guard joke. And he missed his wife, and his people and his house, and his wife ...
The rain shut down like a faucet, which made Sweeney stop, dizzy with exertion.
He blinked. Across the street there was a brace of palm trees and a sandy trail. Beyond, through a cluster of sea oats, there was a glimpse of blue.
He started running, kicking off his shoes, ducking under his string tie, yanking away his coat, ripping through his pajama-top shirt, tossing everything aside. He began hopping on one foot at the water's edge, finally falling and rolling as the double-pleated seersucker pants split over his toes and his underwear disintegrated. He ran headlong into the sea, naked as a jaybird, babbling incoherently about his true love, his baby, the love of his life, a presence since he was born that had been denied too long — the sea.
When he was sent away, he knew he would miss a lot of things. He would miss pizza and pancakes and popcorn and the taste and feel of his woman. Yet he denied there would be any real damage. After all, he was still relatively young, not ugly, a Florida man with a Florida tan and a good chin. He was tall, with blue eyes and plenty of wavy yellow hair. He would come back strong, he thought. He would forget about his losses, become himself again and regain those long years of stagnation.
But he never counted on the big loss. The real loss. The eight-year death knell that made him cry inside and ache with longing. He never understood about his connection with the salt and the sea and the currents that could take a man and pull at him and mold him and float him away.
He'd been raised on the ocean. He'd first met the Gulf Stream when he was only a year old. He'd fallen off his father's lobster boat into Hawk Channel when he was two. By the time he was eight he was running his own skiff, pulling his own traps. And when he graduated from high school, he didn't get a wad of cash or a trip to Disneyworld or a car. He got a brand new Evinrude. He was an ocean guy.
And the ocean absolutely did not suck.
So he stood buck naked in the ocean, looking at his white toes in the gin clear water, eyes welling with tears.
What a baby, he thought. But hey, this is my ocean.
"My ocean," he said.
Then he said it again, louder. And he dove in and splashed and rolled like a sea otter. He stuck his hands in the sand of the bottom and luxuriated in the taste and the smell and the feel of all he had missed for all those years. The sun was out, the sky was blue, there was only one cloud he could find — a little puffy number — and everything was going to be put right. He knew it. Before him a school of jacks ripped through the water. Welcome home, Sweeney. Off to his left a breaching dolphin went airborne. Nice to see you again, Sweeney. Away to his right a flock of roseate spoonbills picked at the tide line for goodies. Long time, no see, my man. All he had to do now was take advantage of his opportunities and recover his attitude, reclaim his piece of the pie.
His mother once told him, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." One thing was certain, though — he was a free man.
And from here on out things were gonna be different.
Excerpted from Gitmo by Shawn Corridan, Gary Waid. Copyright © 2017 Shawn Corridan and Gary Waid. Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
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.
Table of Contents
About the Authors,
Also by the Authors,
Other Titles from Down & Out Books,
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Preview from Back to Brooklyn, the sequel to My Cousin Vinny by Lawrence Kelter,
Preview from American Static, a Crime Novel by Tom Pitts,