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By Carl Hiaasen
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But first-this being Hiaasen country-Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy's new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey-who just may be one of Carl Hiaasen's greatest characters.
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK
PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
Copyright © 2013 by Carl Hiaasen
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bad monkey / Carl Hiaasen. — First edition.
1. Police officers—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. Florida—Fiction.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Jacket design by Mark Matcho
For all the flying fishermen of the apocalypse,
This is a work of fiction. All the names and characters are either invented or used fictitiously.
Although most of the events depicted are imaginary, the dead-sailfish scam is based on a true-life scandal in Miami. Likewise, the odious duties of a restaurant inspector are authentically rendered.
On the hottest day of July, trolling in dead-calm waters near Key West, a tourist named James Mayberry reeled up a human arm. His wife flew to the bow of the boat and tossed her breakfast burritos.
“What’re you waiting for?” James Mayberry barked at the mate. “Get that thing off my line!”
The kid tugged and twisted, but the barb of the hook was imbedded in bone. Finally the captain came down from the bridge and used bent-nose pliers to free the decomposing limb, which he placed on shaved ice in a deck box.
James Mayberry said, “For Christ’s sake, now where are we supposed to put our fish?”
“We’ll figure that out when you actually catch one.”
It had been a tense outing aboard the Misty Momma IV. James Mayberry had blown three good strikes because he was unable to absorb instruction. Dragging baits in the ocean was different than jigging for walleyes in the lake back home.
“Don’t we need to call somebody?” he asked the captain.
The hairy left arm was bloated and sunburned to the hue of eggplant. A cusp of yellowed humerus protruded at the point of separation, below the shoulder. The flesh surrounding the wound looked ragged and bloodless.
“Yo, check it out!” the mate said.
“What now?” James Mayberry asked.
“His freakin’ finger, dude.”
The victim’s hand was contracted into a fist except for the middle digit, which was rigidly extended.
“How weird is that? He’s flippin’ us off,” the mate said.
The captain told him to re-bait the angler’s hook.
“Has this ever happened out here before?” James Mayberry said. “Tell the truth.”
“You should go see about your wife.”
“Jesus, I’ll never hear the end of it. Louisa wanted to ride the Conch Train today. She did not want to come fishing.”
“Well, son,” the captain said, “we’re in the memory-making business.”
He climbed back to the bridge, radioed the Coast Guard and gave the GPS coordinates of the gruesome find. He was asked to remain in the area and look for other pieces of the body.
“But I got a charter,” he said.
“You can stay at it,” the Coast Guard dispatcher advised. “Just keep your eyes open.”
After calming herself, Louisa Mayberry informed her husband that she wished to return to Key West right away.
“Come on, sugar. It’s a beautiful morning.” James Mayberry didn’t want to go back to the dock with no fish to hang on the spikes—not after shelling out a grand to hire the boat.
“The first day of our honeymoon, and this! Aren’t you sketched out?”
James Mayberry peeked under the lid of the fish box. “You watch CSI all the time. It’s the same type of deal.”
His wife grimaced but did not turn away. She remarked that the limb didn’t look real.
“Oh, it’s real,” said James Mayberry, somewhat defensively. “Just take a whiff.” Snagging a fake arm wouldn’t make for as good a story. A real arm was pure gold, major high-fives from all his peeps back in Madison. You caught a what? No way, bro!
Louisa Mayberry’s gaze was fixed on the limb. “What could have happened?” she asked.
“Tiger shark,” her husband said matter-of-factly.
“Is that a wedding band on his hand? This is so sad.”
“Fish on!” the mate called. “Who’s up?”
James Mayberry steered his bride to the fighting chair and the mate fitted the rod into the gimbal. Although she was petite, Louisa Mayberry owned a strong upper body due to rigorous Bikram yoga classes that she took on Tuesday nights. Refusing assistance, she pumped in an eleven-pound blackfin tuna and whooped triumphantly as it flopped on the deck. Her husband had never seen her so excited.
“Here, take a picture!” she cried to the mate, and handed over her iPhone.
“Hold on,” James Mayberry said. “Get both of us together.”
Louisa watched him hustle to get ready. “Really, Jimmy? Really?”
Moments later the captain glanced down from the bridge and saw the mate snapping photographs of the newlyweds posed side by side at the transom. Their matching neon blue Oakley wraparounds were propped on their matching cap visors, and their fair Wisconsin noses practically glowed with sunblock.
Louisa Mayberry was gamely hoisting by the tail her sleek silvery tuna while James Mayberry wore the mate’s crusty gloves to grip his rancid catch, its middle finger aimed upward toward the puffy white clouds.
The captain dragged on a cigarette and turned back to the wheel. “Another fucking day in paradise,” he said.
The phone kept ringing but Yancy didn’t answer it. He was drinking rum, sitting in a plastic lawn chair. From next door came the offensive buzz of wood saws and the metallic pops of a nail gun. The absentee owner of the property was erecting an enormous spec house that had no spiritual place on Big Pine Key, and furthermore interfered with Yancy’s modest view of the sunset. It was Yancy’s fantasy to burn the place down as soon as the roof framing was finished.
He heard a car stop in his driveway but he didn’t rise from the chair. His visitor was a fellow detective, Rogelio Burton.
“Why don’t you pick up your phone?” Burton said.
“You believe that monstrosity? It’s like a goddamn mausoleum.”
Burton sat down beside him. “Sonny wants you to take a road trip.”
“I’ll pass.” Yancy glared at the construction site across the fence. “The house is forty-four feet high—I measured it myself. The county code’s only thirty-five.”
“It’s the Keys, man. The code is for suckers.”
“Deer used to come around all the time and feed on the twigs.”
Yancy offered his friend a drink. Burton declined.
He said, “Andrew, it’s not like you’ve got a choice. Do what Sonny wants.”
“But I’m suspended, remember?”
“Yeah, with pay. Is that Barbancourt?”
“My last bottle. Tell him anywhere but Miami, Rog.”
“You want me to ask if you can go to Cancún instead?” Burton sighed. “Look, it’s a day trip, up and back.”
“They always screw me on the mileage.”
Burton knew this wasn’t true. Yancy had issues with the Miami Police Department, from which he’d been fired in a previous era of his life.
“Chill out. You’re just going to the ME’s office.”
“The morgue? Nice.”
“Come out to the car,” said Burton.
Yancy set down his drink. “This ought to be special.”
The severed arm had been bubble-wrapped and packed on dry ice in a red Igloo cooler. To make it fit, the limb had been bent at the elbow.
“That’s all they found?”
“You know how it goes,” Burton said.
“John Doe or Juan Doe?”
“Rawlings says white male, mid-forties, heavyset, black hair.”
Dr. Lee Rawlings was the pathologist who served as the chief medical examiner for Monroe County. There were relatively few murders or accidental deaths in the Florida Keys, but Rawlings never complained. He filled his free time with golf, and was rumored to have whittled his handicap down to five strokes.
Yancy knew the sheriff was sending the arm to Miami because Miami was the floating-human-body-parts capital of America. Maybe they’d luck out and find a match, although Yancy thought it was unlikely.
“Traumatic amputation,” Burton said.
“Charter boat brought it in yesterday. We checked our missing persons, all three of them. Nobody fits the description.”
Yancy noticed the upraised finger on the end of the arm. “A sour farewell to the mortal realm?”
“Random rigor mortis is what Rawlings says. He took a picture anyway.”
“Of course he did.”
“Look, I’m late for my kid’s soccer game.”
“Absolutely.” Yancy put the lid on the cooler and carried it up to his porch.
Burton said, “Sure you want to leave it out here all night?”
“Who’s gonna jack an arm?”
“It’s evidence, man. I’m just sayin’.”
“Okay, fine.” The island was plagued by opportunistic raccoons.
Burton drove off and Yancy moved the cooler into the house. From a kitchen cupboard he retrieved the Barbancourt bottle and ambled to the deck and poured himself one more drink. Next door, the construction crew was gone. Yancy’s watch said five p.m. sharp.
For the first time all day he could hear seabirds in the sky.
The new sheriff of Monroe County was a local bubba named Sonny Summers who won office because he was the only candidate not in federal custody, the two front-runners having been locked up on unconnected racketeering charges eight days before the election. Sonny Summers’s opponents were unable to post bond and therefore faced a strategic disadvantage during the campaign’s final debate, which was conducted via Skype from a medium-security prison near Florida City.
During his sixteen years as a road patrol officer, Sonny Summers had received numerous commendations for not fucking up on the job. He was well-groomed, courteous and diligent about his paperwork. One year he led the whole force in DUI arrests, a highly competitive category in the Keys. His spelling on arrest forms was almost always legible, he never took any of his girlfriends on dates in his squad car and he smoked pot only on his days off.
Upon becoming sheriff, Sonny Summers arranged a series of get-acquainted luncheons with business leaders up and down the islands, from Key West to Key Largo. A recurring theme of these meetings was the fragility of tourism and the perils of negative publicity. The BP oil spill was often invoked, although not a drop of crude had ever reached South Florida beaches. Sonny Summers was sympathetic to the business owners, whose support he would need for future elections. Under no circumstances did he wish to be blamed for scaring customers away.
With that in mind, Sonny Summers ordered his public-information officer not to divulge any information about the severed arm that had been brought in aboard the Misty Momma IV. It was the new sheriff’s worry that floating body parts would be bad for tourism, particularly the waterfront trades. This was laughably untrue, as any marina owner in Miami could have assured him. Nothing short of a natural disaster discouraged people from going out on (or into) the water. One particular beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway got spunked regularly by raw sewage, yet squads of riot police couldn’t keep the swimmers and kiteboarders away.
In any case, Sonny Summers was fighting a lost battle. A crime-scene van had been waiting for the Misty Momma IV when it docked, so news of the icky discovery spread quickly. Worse, the boneheaded angler who’d reeled in the dead arm was showing the pictures on his cell phone to everybody at the Chart Room. There was even a rumor that he’d posted a photo on Facebook.
“I’m counting on you,” the sheriff said to Yancy, after Yancy finally answered the phone.
“I’m counting on you not to come back from Miami with that you-know-what.”
Yancy said, “What if there are no matching limbs at the morgue up there?”
“I need some optimism from you, Detective. I need some can-do mojo.”
“The Gulf Stream flows north.”
“Duh,” said Sonny Summers.
“Also, the prevailing breeze this time of year blows from the southeast.”
“I was born here, Yancy. Get to the point.”
“Factor in the wind and currents, the odds of that arm floating from Miami all the way down here are pretty damn slim—unless it was paddling itself.”
The sheriff was aware of Yancy’s employment history. “You don’t want to drive up to the big coldhearted city, that’s all.”
“What if they won’t take the case?”
“See, I’m depending on you to persuade them.”
“I can’t just leave a limb at the ME’s office if they don’t want it.”
Sonny Summers said, “Tomorrow I’m announcing that the investigation has been turned over to the appropriate authorities in Miami-Dade County. That’s the game plan, okay? This is officially no longer our headache.”
“I would wait a day to be sure.”
“Know what happened this morning? Some dickhead from Channel 7 calls up and says he heard that mangled corpses are floating up in Key West harbor!”
“Did you tell him to fuck off?”
“Call back tomorrow is what I told him. Wait for the media statement.”
“Our victim’s probably a rafter,” Yancy said. “Drowned on the crossing from Havana and then got hit by a bull shark or a hammerhead.”
“There you go!” the sheriff exclaimed brightly. “Aren’t most rafters on their way to Miami to meet up with family? So that’s where the goddamn arm belongs—Miami! End of discussion.”
“It’s not really up to me, Sonny.”
“Let me put it another way: There will be no human remains on my watch. Understand? No human remains.”
Those close to Sonny Summers sensed that he was sometimes overwhelmed by his elevated responsibilities. The transition from writing speeding tickets to commanding a recalcitrant law enforcement bureaucracy had been bumpy. One aspect of the new job that Sonny Summers did enjoy was putting on a blazer and schmoozing with the chamber-of-commerce types.
Yancy tried to suggest that an occasional severed limb was no cause for panic.
“Really? The two-day lobster season is next week,” the sheriff said. “We’re expecting, like, thirty thousand divers.”
“A sea of reeking turds wouldn’t keep those lunatics off the water. What are you worried about?”
“We’ll speak again tomorrow,” said Sonny Summers.
Yancy said, “I’ll drive up there on one condition: You lift my suspension.”
“Not until after the trial. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“But it’s such bullshit, Sonny. I didn’t even hurt the guy.”
The sheriff said, “Talk to Bonnie. She’s the problem.”
Bonnie Witt, Yancy’s future former girlfriend, was prepared to testify that he’d assaulted her husband of fourteen years with a portable vacuum cleaner, specifically a tubular attachment designed for upholstery crevices. Clifford Witt had required some specialized medical care but he was more or less ambulatory within a week.
Sonny Summers said, “Of all the women you had to get involved with. Swear to God, Andrew. All the women on these islands.”
“Our love was like a streaking comet.” Yancy paused. “Her words, not mine.”
“Did you take a look at it? The …?”
“Arm? Yes, Burton insisted.”
“No,” said Yancy. “But it makes a dandy back-scratcher.”
“Call me on your way back from Miami. I want some happy news.”
A clawing heat settles over the Keys by mid-July. The game fish swim to deeper waters, the pelicans laze in the mangroves and only the hardiest of tourists remain outdoors past the lunch hour. Yancy’s unmarked Ford was well air-conditioned but he still brought a box of Popsicles, which he positioned beside the disjoined limb in the cooler on the passenger side.
He was a pathologically impatient driver, and sucking on iced treats seemed to settle him. Bonnie had started Yancy on the Popsicle habit because she’d found it terrifying to ride with him on Highway 1. Mango was Yancy’s favorite flavor beside Bonnie herself. These were the sorts of sidecar thoughts with which he tormented himself.
The drive to downtown Miami usually took ninety minutes, but Yancy had stopped along Card Sound Road to purchase blue crabs, as there was still room in the cooler.
“Is this your idea of wit?” asked the assistant medical examiner, a serious brown-eyed woman whose name tag identified her as Dr. Rosa Campesino.
“Help yourself to a Popsicle,” Yancy told her. “However, the crabs are off-limits.”
He summarized Rawlings’s findings while Dr. Campesino removed the arm from the ice and carefully unwrapped it. She placed it on a bare autopsy table without commenting on the vertical middle digit.
“I suppose you’ve seen some winners,” Yancy said.
“And you brought this all the way from Key West because …?”
“The sheriff thought it might belong to one of your victims.”
Dr. Campesino said, “You could’ve e-mailed some photos and saved yourself a tank of gas.”
“Want to grab lunch?”
Finally, a smile. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said.
Yancy ate another Popsicle. Unless you happened to be deceased, there were worse places to hang out than a morgue in the summertime. The thermostat was turned down to about sixty-three degrees. Very pleasant.
Dr. Campesino returned with a printout of the county’s current inventory of body parts, listed by race, gender and approximate age—three partial torsos, two left legs, a pelvis, three ears, seven assorted toes and one bashed skull. None of the items belonged to a chunky, hirsute white male in his forties.
“I knew it,” said Yancy.
“Maybe next time.”
“Are you hungry?”
“My husband’s a sniper on the SWAT team.”
“Say no more.”
“Did you notice this?” Dr. Campesino pointed the eraser end of a pencil at a well-delineated band of pale flesh on the wrist of the darkened arm. “His watch is gone,” she said.
“It probably fell off the poor fucker while the shark was mangling him.”
Dr. Campesino gave a slight shake of her head. “Often in upper-arm amputations the victim’s wristwatch remains attached. Not so much in homicides. The bad guys either steal it to pawn, or they remove it to make the ID more difficult.”
Yancy was certain that Sheriff Sonny Summers wouldn’t want to hear the word homicide. “Then why wouldn’t they swipe the wedding ring, too?” he asked.
“You’re right. It looks expensive.”
“I’m betting platinum. The guy’s wife would be sure to recognize it.”
Dr. Campesino leaned closer to study the damaged stump of the limb.
“What now?” Yancy said.
“The end of the humerus is hacked up pretty bad.”
“Maybe he fell into the boat’s propeller.”
“That would be a different style of wound.”
Yancy said, “You’re killing me.”
From a tray of instruments the pathologist selected a pair of hemostats, with which she extracted a pointed tooth from one of several puncture holes in the upper biceps. She dropped the smallish gray fang into Yancy’s palm.
“I’m no shark expert,” said Dr. Campesino. “Some marine biologist could tell you what species this came from.”
Yancy pocketed the tooth. He asked how long the arm had been in the ocean.
“Five to seven days. Maybe longer.” The young pathologist took some photographs which she promised to upload in case another part of the same corpse turned up in her jurisdiction.
“Can’t you keep the damn thing here?” Yancy asked. “Honestly, it would save me all kinds of grief.”
“Sorry. Not our case.” Dr. Campesino was mindful of the blue crabs when she returned the orphaned arm to the cooler. “I’ll call you if we get something that looks like a match.”
Yancy was aware that the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office sometimes assisted other jurisdictions in difficult cases. He was also aware that his boss hadn’t sent him to Miami to initiate a murder investigation.
“Can we call it an accident? I mean, if you had to guess.”
“Not without a more thorough exam,” said Dr. Campesino, peeling off her latex gloves, “which I’d be happy to do if we had an official request from Monroe County.”
“Which you won’t get.”
“Can I ask why?”
“I’ll tell you over a strictly platonic lunch.”
“Fine,” Yancy said. “So what would you do if you were me?”
“I’d go back to Key West and advise Dr. Rawlings to pack the arm in his freezer. Then wait for someone to show up looking for a missing husband.”
“And what if nobody does? It’s a cold business when true love goes south. Take my word.”
“Can I ask you something? Did you bend his middle finger up?”
“God, no! They found it that way!” Yancy moved the arm aside as he pawed through the cooler in search of another mango Popsicle. “Dear Rosa, what kind of sick bastard do you take me for?”
The person responsible for Yancy leaving the Miami Police Department was a sergeant named Johnny Mendez, who at the time was working with the Crime Stoppers hotline. To augment his salary Mendez would recruit friends and relatives to call in with tips on crimes that had already been solved, providing detailed information that detectives already knew. Then Mendez would backdate the tip sheet and personally sign off on the reward money, half of which he took as a commission.
Yancy had discovered the scam when he’d read a Herald story about a bus driver who’d received forty-five hundred dollars from Crime Stoppers for providing “crucial information” leading to the arrest of a man who stuck up a pedicure salon in Little Havana. Yancy himself had busted the robber, with no guidance whatsoever from the general public. The suspect had helpfully dropped his fishing license at the crime scene, and two days later Yancy jumped him while he was waxing the hull of his Boston Whaler.
The bus driver who’d phoned in the bogus tip turned out to be a second cousin of Sergeant Mendez’s. One morning Yancy boarded the cousin’s bus and sat in the first row and opened a notebook. After thirty-three blocks the driver spilled the whole story. He said Sergeant Mendez was upset to have opened the newspaper and seen the item about the reward, and had punished him by pocketing all but a grand.
- "[A] comedic marvel . . . [Hiaasen] hasn't written a novel this funny since Skinny Dip. . . . Beautifully constructed."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- "[A] deliciously zany romp. Buckle up for the ride."—People
- "Bad Monkey boils over with corruption and comeuppance. And yes, there's a monkey."—O, The Oprah Magazine
- "[A] rollicking misadventure in the colorful annals of greed and corruption in South Florida. . . . Hiaasen has a peculiar genius for inventing grotesque creatures . . . that spring from the darkest impulses of the id. But he also writes great heroes."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
- "This 'Triple-F'-fierce, funny, and Floridian . . . enfolds corruption, greed, mayhem, and very funny social satire in the way that only Hiaasen does it."—Reader's Digest
- "[Hiaasen is] one of America's premier humorists."—Rege Behe, Pittsburg Tribune-Review
- "No one writes about Florida with a more wicked sense of humor than Hiaasen."—Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today
- "The gold standard for South Florida criminal farce."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Inspired . . . Another marvelously entertaining Hiaasen adventure."—Publishers Weekly
- "Hiaasen is laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly entertaining."—Thomas Gaughan, Booklist (starred)
- On Sale
- Jun 3, 2014
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing