Posted by John on Saturday, 17 March

the speakerphone to report that Mr. Bensinger had arrived and that the atmosphere in the hallway was growing tense. Fuck em. Arthur Battenkill snorted. I hope they slaughter each other with blunt objects. Save the taxpayers a few bucks. Dana, isnt it Judge Tigert over in Probate whos got the bungalow in Exuma The Abacos. Whatever. See if its available. The notion of the judge taking his wife on a romantic trip to the Bahamas was stupefying. Obviously the man was suffering a breakdown. Dana could hardly wait to share the gossip with Willow. As she was leaving his chambers, Arthur Battenkill called out: Dana, darling, youre doing a superb job of concealing your amusement. What on earth are you talking about. Dont pretend to know everything about me. Dont pretend to have me figured out. I do have feelings for Mrs. Battenkill. Oh, I believe you, Dana said. By the way, Art, howd she like the new necklace The judges smug expression dissolved. Send in the goddamn Bensingers, he said. JoLayne Lucks hadnt been to the Keys since she was a small girl. She was amazed at how much had changed, the homey and congenial tackiness supplanted by franchise fast-food joints, strip malls and high-rise resorts. To take her mind off the riffraff, JoLayne recited for Tom Krome a roster of local birds, resident and migratory: ospreys, snowy egrets, white herons, blue herons, kingfishers, flycatchers, cardinals, grackles, robins, red-tailed hawks, white-crowned pigeons, flickers, roseate spoonbills ... Once there were even flamingos, she informed him. Guess what happened to them. Krome didnt respond. He was watching Bodean James Gazzer strip and clean a large semiautomatic rifle. Even from a distance of a hundred yards, the barrel glinted ominously in the noon sun. Tom, you dont even care. I like flamingos, he said, but what we have here is a rare green-breasted shithead. Broad daylight, hes playing with guns. Yes, I can see. Tom had rejected her latest plan, which involved ambushing Bodean Gazzer alone, jamming her twelve-gauge into his groin and demanding under threat of emasculation that he return the stolen lottery ticket. Not here, Krome had told her. Not yet. They were parked on a bleached strip of limestone fill, along a rim of lush mangroves. Not far away was a gravel boat ramp, blocked at the moment by Bodean Gazzers red pickup. The drivers door was open and he stood in full view; neck-to-knees camouflage, cowboy boots, mirrored sunglasses. He had a chamois cloth spread on the hood, the assault rifle in pieces before him. Steel balls. I give him that, Krome said. No, hes just a fool. A damn fool. JoLayne feared a cop would drive by and see what Bodean Gazzer was doing. Once the idiot got himself arrested, the chase would be over. The thing would boil down to JoLaynes word against the rednecks, and hed never produce the ticket. A small black bird landed in the trees and began to sing. Krome said, OK, whats that one Redwing, JoLayne answered stiffly. They endangered Not yet. Dont you find it obscene their presence in a place like this Theyre like ... litter. She was talking about the two robbers. They dont deserve this to feel the sun on their necks and breathe this fine air. Its completely wasted on men like that. Krome rolled down the car window and took in the cool salt breeze. In a sleepy voice he said, I could get used to this. Maybe after Alaska. JoLayne, thjnking: How can he act so relaxed She could no longer distract herself with the island wildlife, so unnerving was the spectacle of Bodean Gazzer toiling ritually at his gun. She couldnt shake the memory of that awful scene in her house not just the mans punches and kicking, but his voice: Hey, genius, she cant talk with a gun in her mouth. Talking to his filthy, ponytailed friend: You wanna make a impression Look here. Snatching one of the baby turtles from the glass tank, putting it on the wooden floor, coaxing his ponytailed friend to shoot it. Thats