Authors: Iris Chacon
Tags: #murder, #humor, #cowboy, #rancher, #palm beach, #faked death, #inherit, #clewiston, #spoiled heroine, #polo club
by Iris Chacon
copyright 2014 by Delia L. Stewart
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places
and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is
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Rural Florida, outside Clewiston
Two Days Before the Explosion
A dove gray Mercedes Benz limousine bumped
along a winding, rutted dirt road through palmetto bushes, spindly
pines, and scrub oaks to stop at an open gate with a rusty cattle
gap. On a plank above the gate someone had burned “McGurk Ranch” in
simple block letters.
Harry Pace, lean, tanned, and dark-haired
with silvering temples, slid out of the limo’s back seat. He
gestured to the driver to stay put and walked over the cattle gap,
through the gate.
Harry had walked farther than any sane person
would care to in the sticky Florida heat when at last he
soundlessly approached the front door of the ranch’s modest house.
He gripped the doorknob. It was locked. He sidled to his left and
peered in a window. Nobody inside. From behind the house, he heard
someone whistling “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Harry smiled to himself
and moved in the direction of the music.
In the second-story loft of a hay barn,
Walter McGurk was forking hay out the open second-story door and
into the bed of a battered red pickup truck parked below. The
truck’s doors were inexplicably yellow. Walt whistled as he
Walt made a heavy job look easy with his
strong, athletic build. Sweaty shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows
revealed ropes of muscle undulating in his sun-darkened forearms as
he lifted and tossed the hay. His worn jeans were tight and faded
from many washings. His tooled leather belt held a large hunting
knife in a weathered cowhide sheath. He wore battered, scuffed
Harry approached the barn, shielding himself
from view beneath a huge avocado tree. When he eased around the
tree, a big, ugly dog growled from beneath the red-and-yellow
pickup. In the loft overhead, Walt jerked toward the sound and
spotted Harry instantly.
“What do you want?” Walt growled, echoing the
“What does any man want when his partners are
stealing him blind?” asked Harry, stepping out from beneath the
Walt spun and hurled his pitchfork like a
javelin. It thwacked into the ground a hair’s breadth from Harry’s
boots. Only Harry’s eyes moved.
“You ain’t stupid enough to be talkin’ about
me,” said Walt. “I ain’t a thief. Fact, I’m the only half of
partnership that ever does an honest day’s work. So,
what do you want?”
Walt used the hayloft’s rope and pulley to
swing Tarzan-like to the ground. He paced to the truck, drying his
face and wiping perspiration out of his hat with a bandana from his
pocket. Walt opened the truck’s passenger door and helped himself
to water from an Igloo cooler.
Harry walked around the grounded pitchfork to
join Walt at the truck. Walt filled a paper cup with water from the
Igloo, but when Harry reached for it, Walt offered it instead to
the ill-tempered dog lying under the truck. Unperturbed, Harry got
his own cup of water. Then he turned his back on Walt and toyed
with a heavy avocado drooping from a low branch.
“Spit it out, will ya?” said Walt, helping
himself to water from the paper cup he had shared with the dog.
“Butch and me got things to do.”
Harry didn’t turn around. “I was gonna ask
you to help me when I make my play to get back what they stole,”
Harry said to the avocado. “But it occurs to me you’re probably
gettin’ too old and too slow.”
Behind Harry, Walt bent to reach beneath his
jeans and pull a pistol out of an ankle holster.
“I’m twenty years younger than you, old
timer, and I can still chop my own guacamole,” said Walt.
Harry snapped the avocado from the tree. The
branch recoiled, bucking and swinging. Harry feinted one way, then
reversed direction, turned, and threw the avocado high. It soared
like a miniature green football far over Walt’s head.
Walt fired three quick shots, each one
chopping a piece off the airborne avocado.
Avocado chunks rained down and littered the
grass. Harry walked through them, turning them over with the toe of
his shoe. Walt slid the pistol back into his boot. Harry gave him a
“I want you to take care of Sylvie,” Harry
Walt shook his head. “I ain’t up to spoiling
your daughter for ya. You done too well already on that, if ya ask
Harry gave him a hard look. “Don’t spoil
her,” he said. “Take care of her.”
“You take care of her. Ain’t seen her in
nearly ten years. You and I both know she’d be happy if she never
saw me again.”
“I’ll be busy,” said Harry. “Gonna give some
big city thieves a dose of their own medicine.”
“And if they don’t want to swallow it?”
Harry turned to leave, speaking almost to
himself as he retraced the route to the limo. “Then we’ll find out
gettin’ too old and too slow.”
Butch rose from beneath the truck, and Walt
absently rubbed the dog’s ears as he watched Harry go. Walt’s brow
furrowed, and there was both anger and worry in his voice when he
shouted, “I got a good life here, Harry. Don’t you mess it up for
me, y’hear? Harry? I mean it, now.”
Harry kept walking. He never looked back.
“Shoot!” said Walt in disgust. He splattered
a hunk of avocado with a kick and snatched up the pitchfork to
return to work. Harry was gone. Whatever would happen, would
A cellular phone rang inside the truck. Walt
walked over, leaned in, and plucked the phone from its holster on
“McGurk,” he said into the phone. He
listened, then responded, “Was that tonight? ... No, no problem. I
just forgot is all. ... Clarice, people forget. It don’t mean they
don’t love people. They just forget. I’ll pick you up at seven. ...
He slammed the phone back into its holster
and gave Butch an exasperated look. “I think what we need is one
more fancy-planning, crazy-talkin’, lipstick-wearin’ tower of
estrogen in our lives right now, don’t you?”
“Whuff!” said Butch.
One Day Before the Explosion
Leslye Larrimore was a 50-ish, elegantly
coiffed woman who sported designer business attire and balanced
effortlessly on five-inch stiletto heels. Leslye’s office at
Pace-Larrimore, Incorporated, was an expansive, opulent room with a
stunning city view. Mahogany and brass shone everywhere around her
as she read her mail at a desk the size of an aircraft carrier.
Harry Pace entered without knocking and
sprawled in one of the elegant, upholstered guest chairs across
from the desk. Leslye set her mail aside.
“Missed you at Sylvie’s last Saturday,” she
“I doubt if my daughter would agree with
you,” said Harry. “Surely Dan Stern was there to fill the
“Jealous? Harry, really.”
“I’m not jealous, Les. I’m her father.”
“And he’s your business partner,” said
Leslye. “I should think you’d be pleased that they like each other.
She’s not Daddy’s little girl any longer, Harry. She’s going to
have other men in her life.”
“Fine. Let her have
can’t you get Stern to lay off?”
“You want him to lay off, you tell him. Why
are you so against Danny all of a sudden?”
Harry pursed his lips and clenched his fists.
He bounced one fist on his knee. “He’ll get his tail in a crack
someday and do something desperate to get himself out of it. Heck,
he may have done it already. I don’t want Sylvie to be caught in a
Leslye smiled and used her most soothing
tones. “I really think you’re overreacting,” she said. “I don’t see
any of that happening. Really I don’t.”
Harry pushed himself up from the chair like a
much older man. “I’ll pass on dinner tonight, Les, if you don’t
mind,” he told her. “Think I’ll go out to the boat and spend the
weekend alone. Try to get my perspective back. Chill out.
Leslye couldn’t quite hide her
disappointment, but she tried. “Sure, Harry,” she said. “You take
care of yourself. It’ll all look better Monday morning. I’m sure
there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah, maybe not,” said Harry. He left her
office, closing the door behind him.
Immediately, Leslye dialed a number on her
desk phone. She was irritated when she reached an electronic device
instead of a human.
“Stupid machine,” she said beneath her
breath. Then, into the phone, she said, “Yeah, it’s me. Call me at
home when you get in, no matter how late.”
Then she hung up the phone and chewed at the
edges of her expensive manicure.
It was 2:45 a.m. by the digital bedside clock
when Leslye’s cell phone vibrated with a loud clatter on the
nightstand and she writhed across silk sheets to answer it.
“Hello,” she said, and looked at the clock
while listening to the caller. “Well, it’s about time. Listen, I
think we’d better pay Harry a visit first thing in the morning.
This thing could blow up in our faces if we’re not careful. Meet me
at the marina at nine thirty.”
Without giving the other party a chance to
argue, Leslye hung up and went back to sleep.
Dinner Key Marina, Coconut Grove, Florida
The Day of the Explosion
A silver Bentley pulled in and parked beside
a black Jaguar sedan in the yacht basin parking lot. The Jaguar
disgorged Leslye Larrimore, who immediately approached a younger
man, in Ostrich-skin boots, who angled out of the Bentley.
Attorney Larrimore slung her Louis Vuitton
briefcase over her shoulder and extended her hand to the man. He
shook her hand perfunctorily before shoving his soft, manicured
hands into his pockets, ruining the perfect drape of his linen
Euro-style slacks. “Where’s Pace? It’s hot out here,” he said.
Leslye focused her practiced charm at him and
assured, “It’ll be cooler on the boat.”
“It would be cooler in the
he muttered. “This is what I get for kowtowing to Harry Pace. I
know you like him, Leslye, but let’s face it, Harry is a
Leslye touched the man’s elbow and steered
him toward the nearby pier.
“Where are we meeting him?” he asked,
scanning the yachts lining both sides of the long, floating
“Out there,” Leslye pointed to a sailing
vessel moored a hundred yards out into the bay.
“Of course we are,” the man sighed.
Together they walked to the end of the
central pier, where Leslye flagged down a marina employee in a
Zodiac pontoon runabout. In moments the Zodiac had pulled up
directly before the couple, and it’s pilot helped them board the
Leslye negotiated the pier-to-craft transfer
with amazing poise even in a pencil skirt and high heels. The man
in Ostrich boots removed his suit jacket and loosened his collar;
he produced a monogrammed handkerchief and wiped perspiration from
his head and face.
“Can we hurry this along, please,” he said,
commanding rather than asking.
Leslye’s smile never faltered. She gestured
to the pilot, and the Zodiac putt-putted away from the pier.
Minutes later the runabout, with its company
of three, was about halfway between the shore and an out-moored
sailing yacht with “Helen” in florid gold lettering on the stern.
Leslye delved into her briefcase and lifted her cell phone.
“I’ll just let Harry know we’re here,” she
Seconds later, the faint ring of a telephone
could be heard coming from the Helen—and a deafening blast
vaporized the yacht in a cloud of fire and debris.
Concussion from the explosion rocked the
Zodiac. Leslye, her companion, and the marina employee hid their
faces from the heat and flames and covered their heads against
falling debris. The marina employee shouted “Mister Pace!” and
moved as if to dive overboard and attempt a rescue.
Leslye stopped him with a hand on his
shoulder, a look, and a wag of her head. Harry Pace, master of the
good ship Helen, was no more. Nothing remained but a burning oil
slick, black smoke, and floating shards of teak decking.