Chapter 23: ‘Never trust a white guy.’

Marco might have fled to Tegulcigalpa, but it was just as likely he was hiding in The City. The RiverPort had so much freight movement, so many hijackers, smugglers, dark characters and back alley, a guy with no conscience could make a living there indefinitely.

 Butchie and Artie were heading to The City to gamble on the horses. “Can’t afford it,” Taylor said when they invited him. “I’ve got to conserve my cash. But can you meet me at Peace, Love on your way to the train station? I want to run something by you.”

Peace, Love & Coffee had become his go-to hangout, with Penny as an added attraction. But this summer she was interning with the sheriff, and was replaced behind the espresso machine by an ugly tattoed white guy. Taylor carried a latte to a window seat and waited for Butchie and Artie. 

His scheme was designed to test Butchie. If Butchie rejected it, Taylor would focus on him as the main suspect, clearing away his foggy suspicion of Dad and Mariana.

When Butchie and Artie were sitting across from him with coffee and scones, Taylor said: “Marco the Ferryman. He had citizenship issues, right?. What are the chances he’s up in The City? I’m thinking specifically,” he tapped the table, “of the RiverPorts.”


Butchie broke off a chunk of scone. “What do you care?”

“I need to talk to him, that’s all.”

“Do I look like a duh duh detective to you?”

“I need someone who knows his way around up there.”

“So what am I, your go-to criminal? I see the Bulgarian hasn’t broke your legs yet.”

“If Marco’s up there,” said Artie, “he might be dealing the Big Buckaroo.”

“The what?” Taylor asked.

“The people’s lottery,” said Butchie.

“Marco even sold ‘em on the ferry,” said Artie. 

“Sold what?”

“You don’t know?” asked Artie.

Butchie gave Artie a look that said: This guy’s hopeless. 

“The dark lottery,” Artie said. “Buck a throw.” 

Butchie laughed. “They weren’t sold at Console Graphics. You people were too high and mighty for that. I hear they hold yah yah yoga sessions in the office. In the Buckaroo, no taxes, no publicity, and no visit from the immigration cops.”

“Okay,” Taylor said, “so if Marco is living in The City, he’s probably selling lottery tickets.”

“People do the shit they do,” said Butchie. “Lot of duh duh desperate Mexicans up there.” He snapped his fingers. “Is there a finder’s fee?”

“Five thousand,” Taylor blurted.

Butchie laughed. “Artie, I’m starting to like your friend.” 

Artie consulted his phone, said, “Train time!” and they rose from the table.

“You have five grand cash?” Butchie said. “I thought you didn’t have money to play to horses?”

Taylor prepared to explain, but Butchie cut him short. “Never trust a white guy,” he said.

“Aren’t you a white guy?” Taylor said.

“My point exactly,” Butchie said.

Butchie knows just where to go to meet all the right people in The CIty.


While Butchie and Artie were at the racetrack, Taylor had a free weekend at Artie’s beach cottage. He planned a weekend of beach walking, swimming, quiet evenings, cooking on the grill. He thought he’d be alone, with time to think. 

But Artie had hired Lisa to trek in and give him a surprise massage. Taylor returned from the beach, sandy and sunburned, to find her setting up her portable table.

“Artie said he owes you,” Lisa said.

“For what?”

“He didn’t say.”

Taylor sputtered. “He doesn’t owe me. Money’s nothing to Artie. He spends like he’s the Great Gatsby.”

Lisa set up the table in the shady gazebo and stepped back. “You know he’s compensating, right?”

“Who, Artie?”

“Artie. His parents. The emotional deficit is huge.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Taylor, I’m his masseuse too.”

“Spill.”

“They didn’t value him, they didn’t cherish him, they didn’t love him. Being the most popular guy in town, that would prove them wrong, wouldn’t it?”

She fluffed up a white sheet and tucked it in. “What could be better than a massage within sound and sight of the surf?” From the side table, she retrieved an icy glass of liquid.  “Lemonade,” she said. “Just lemonade. You should try sobriety, Taylor, it’s really enlightening.”

“Lisa, what did you know about Cammie?”

“She wasn’t going to last at the spa, I knew that.”

“Why?”

“She missed appointments.”

“Did you think of her as vulnerable?”

“Slow maybe. I don’t know what you mean by vulnerable.”

“Was she giving happy endings in return for tips?”

“Look, if she was recruiting johns, Billie didn’t know it. I do know Cammie’s sister brought her to work and showed up to take her home. Like the sister was a minder.”

“That’s her cousin, Adora.”

“The zombie weirdo.” Lisa sipped lemonade. “Whatever.”

“I hooked up with her last night.”

Lisa stood arms on hips and stared at him.

“What’s wrong with you? Are you trying to do everyone in town? Okay, get on the table. Face down.”

Lisa stepped into the kitchen to fill a carafe with water as Taylor stripped, then wriggled under the draping cloth. 

Neither Lisa nor Taylor said anything for the next twenty minutes, as she massaged his back and shoulders. When she told him to turn face up, that broke the spell. 

Taylor said: “You think everybody’s compensating, don’t you?”

Lisa rubbed oil into her palms. “I guess you could put it that way.”

“So what am I compensating for?”

“Oh, I don’t know, but you seem to be seeking female approval.”

Taylor sighed. “It was really bad in Hawaii.”

She had both hands in his hair, working the scalp.

“She had bruises,” he said. “I never actually saw the two of them fight. I’d come home from school and … she tried to cover it with makeup. She wasn’t a makeup woman, at all, except … my Dad was furious. He accused her of destroying his career.”

“I love you, Taylor,” Lisa said. 

“You do?”

“Not how you think, though. Marry Stephanie, that’s my wise advice. You’re looking for love, poor boy, and finding only sex. Marry for love. That’s what you need, I know it.” 

Taylor and Lisa meet in the kitchen of Artie’s cottage after the massage.


CHAPTER 24: The bruises