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Authors: Carl Hiaasen

Star Island

BOOK: Star Island
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Nature Girl
Skinny Dip
Basket Case
Sick Puppy
Lucky You
Stormy Weather
Strip Tease
Native Tongue
Skin Tight
Double Whammy
Tourist Season

For young readers



The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
Kick Ass: Selected Columns
(edited by Diane Stevenson)
Paradise Screwed: Selected Columns
(edited by Diane Stevenson)

For Sonny Mehta,
a great editor and friend


Other Books by this Author

Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30


A Note About the Author



On the fifteenth of March, two hours before sunrise, an emergency medical technician named Jimmy Campo found a sweaty stranger huddled in the back of his ambulance. It was parked in a service alley behind the Stefano Hotel, where Jimmy Campo and his partner had been summoned to treat a twenty-two-year-old white female who had swallowed an unwise mix of vodka, Red Bull, hydrocodone, birdseed and stool softener—in all respects a routine South Beach 911 call, until now.

The stranger in Jimmy Campo’s ambulance had two 35-mm digital cameras hanging from his fleshy neck, and a bulky gear bag balanced on his ample lap. He wore a Dodgers cap and a Bluetooth ear set. His ripe, florid cheeks glistened damply, and his body reeked like a prison laundry bag.

“Get out of my ambulance,” Jimmy Campo said.

“Is she dead?” the man asked excitedly.

“Dude, I’m callin’ the cops if you don’t move it.”

“Who’s with her up there—Colin? Shia?”

The stranger outweighed Jimmy Campo by sixty-five pounds but not an ounce of it was muscle. Jimmy Campo, who’d once been a triathlete, dragged the intruder from the vehicle and deposited him on the sticky pavement beneath a streetlight.

“Chill, for Christ’s sake,” the man said, examining his camera
equipment for possible damage. Stray cats tangled and yowled somewhere in the shadows.

Inside the ambulance, Jimmy Campo found what he was looking for: a sealed sterile packet containing a coiled intravenous rig to replace the one that the female overdose victim had ripped from her right arm while she was thrashing on the floor.

The stranger struggled to his feet and said, “I’ll give you a thousand bucks.”

“For what?”

“When you bring her downstairs, lemme take a picture.” The man dug into the folds of his stale trousers and produced a lump of cash. “You gotta job to do, and so do I. Here’s a grand.”

Jimmy Campo looked at the money in the stranger’s hand. Then he glanced up at the third floor of the hotel, where his partner was almost certainly dodging vomit.

“Is she famous or somethin’?” Jimmy Campo asked.

The photographer chuckled. “Man, you don’t even know?”

Jimmy Campo was thinking about the fifty-two-inch high-def that he’d seen on sale at Brands Mart. He was thinking about his girlfriend on a rampage with his maxed-out MasterCard at the Dadeland Mall. He was thinking about all those nasty letters from his credit union.

“Whoever she is, she’s not dead,” he told the photographer. “Not tonight.”

“Cool.” The man continued to hold out the wad of hundreds in the glow of the streetlight, as if teasing a mutt with raw hamburger. He said, “All you gotta do, before loading her in the wagon, just pull down the covers and step away so I can get my shot. Five seconds is all I need.”

“It won’t be pretty. She’s a sick young lady.” Jimmy Campo took the crumpled money and smoothed it into his wallet.

“Is she awake at least?” the photographer asked.

“On and off.”

“But you could see her eyes in a picture, right? She’s got those awesome sea-green eyes.”

Jimmy Campo said, “I didn’t notice.”

“You really don’t know who she is? Seriously?”

“Who do you work for, anyway?”

“A limited partnership,” the man said. “Me, myself and I.”

“And where can I see this great picture you’re gonna take?”

“Everywhere. You’ll see it everywhere,” the stranger said.

Eighteen minutes later, Jimmy Campo and his partner emerged from the Stefano Hotel guiding a collapsible stretcher upon which lay a slender, motionless form.

The photographer was surprised at the absence of a retinue; no bodyguards or boyfriends or hangers-on. A lone Miami Beach police officer followed the stretcher down the alley. When the photographer began snapping pictures, the cop barely reacted, making no effort to shield the stricken woman from the flash bursts. That should have been a clue.

Sliding closer, the paparazzo intercepted the stretcher as it rolled with an oscillating squeak toward the open end of the ambulance. True to his word, Jimmy Campo tugged down the sheet and stepped away, leaving an opening.

“Cherry!” the photographer shouted at the slack face. “Cherry, baby, how ’bout a big smile for your fans?”

The young woman’s incurious eyes were open. They were not sea-green, mint-green, pea-green or any hue of green. They were brown.

“Goddammit,” the photographer growled, lowering his Nikon.

The woman on the stretcher grinned behind the oxygen mask and blew him a kiss.

Grabbing at Jimmy Campo’s arm, the photographer cried, “Gimme back my money!”

“Mister, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the paramedic, elbowing the sweaty creep back into the shadows.

Inside a chauffeured black Suburban, racing across the MacArthur Causeway toward Jackson Memorial Hospital, a performer known as Cherry Pye was retching loudly into a silver-plated ice bucket. Her real name was Cheryl Bunterman, one of many ferociously
guarded secrets about her life. Since the age of fourteen, when she’d first appeared in a dubious buckskin cowgirl outfit on the Nickelodeon network, Cheryl Bunterman had been introduced to one and all as Cherry Pye.

The person who’d invented that shamelessly porny name was sitting next to Cherry Pye in the third leather bench seat of the big Suburban, stroking her daughter’s crusty blond hair. “Feel better now?” Janet Bunterman inquired soothingly.

“No, Momma, I feel like shit.” Cherry whimpered, hurled, and then drifted off again. Half-sitting and half-sprawled, she wore a white terry-cloth robe, courtesy of the Stefano Hotel, and nothing underneath it. Even in semi-consciousness her small red-knuckled hands remained fastened on the rim of the ice bucket.

Janet Bunterman had long ago chosen to overlook her offspring’s promiscuous fondness for drugs and alcohol, and on this particular occasion decreed that a late snack of spoiled shellfish was to blame for Cherry’s current debilitation. Also riding in the vehicle were a locally recruited physician, two stone-faced publicists, a hairstylist and a chunky bodyguard named Lev, who claimed to have served with the Mossad.

“Who ordered those vile scallops from room service, anyway?” Janet Bunterman demanded.

“Cherry did,” said Lev.

“Nonsense,” snapped the superstar’s mother.

“And also the two bottles of Grey Goose.”

“Lev, how many times have I warned you about calling 911? Like she’s some sort of … 

The bodyguard said, “I thought she was dying.”

“Oh please. We’ve been through so many of these gastritis scares.”

The doctor looked neutrally at his new patient, but the publicists, who were identical twins, exchanged dour glances. The hairstylist yawned like a cheetah.

“This time was worse,” the bodyguard said.

Janet Bunterman said, “That’s enough. Don’t upset her more.”

“Ask the doc. It was bad.”

“I said, that’s enough. Lots of girls have tummy problems. Right, Dr. Blake?”

“Let’s see what the tests show at the hospital.” The doctor was being diplomatic, for he knew very well what would turn up in the blood and urine of Cherry Pye. Upon arriving at Room 309 of the Stefano, he’d found the starlet nude, speckled in sunflower husks and twitching like a poisoned cockroach on the carpet. The bodyguard had pulled the doctor aside and provided a list of all known substances that the girl had consumed during the night, and the approximate amounts. It was the doctor’s earnest desire to be free of this crew before those three hundred milligrams of Dulcolax kicked in.

“Well, our Annie sure saved the day,” Janet Bunterman said in a positive tone.

“That’s her job,” one of the publicists remarked coolly.

The other one said, “It was her night off. We lucked out.”

“Ann’s a pro,” Lev agreed.

“Sometimes,” added Janet Bunterman with a barbed pause, “I think she’s the only one we count on in this organization.”

“What do you mean by that?” Lev asked.

Conversation was suspended when Cherry Pye awoke and urped again, stentoriously.

Afterward she wiped her mouth on a sleeve and whined, “Can’t somebody please hold this freaking bucket?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” her mother said. “Lev will hold your bucket.”

“No, Lev will
said Lev.

Cherry Pye’s mother reached up and angrily punched one of the dome lights, harshly illuminating a scene that had been barely tolerable in the dark.

She said, “Lev, turn around and steady the bucket for Cherry. It’s the least you can do.”


“Somebody?” gurgled Cherry. “Jesus, what do I pay you assholes for?”

No one, including the woman’s mother, made a move. Only the
hairdresser spoke. “Come on, people, step up,” he said. “Baby girl’s in pain.”

Janet Bunterman fixed her well-practiced glare on the stubborn bodyguard. “Lev, I swear, if you don’t hold that yuck bucket for my sick child, my only child, your meal ticket, then you’re fired.”


“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say?”

“No, Mrs. Bunterman, that’s not all. Your daughter’s a fucking train wreck. Also, she sings like a frog with emphysema.” The bodyguard tapped the chauffeur on the shoulder. “Pull over, François,” he said. “I’m getting out of this nut wagon.”

Still wielding his cameras, Bang Abbott returned to the lobby of the Stefano and took an ambush position behind a potted schefflera tree. The security goons paid no attention, which probably meant that Cherry Pye had already left the hotel.

BOOK: Star Island
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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