Camino WindsBook - 2020
From the critics
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For a month, strong dry winds had swept across the Sahara and collided with the moist fronts along the equator, creating swirling masses that moved westward as if searching for land. When Leo began his journey, there were three named storms ahead of him, all in a menacing row that threatened the Caribbean. All three would eventually follow their expected routes and bring heavy rains to the islands but nothing more.
From the beginning, though, it was apparent that Leo would go where no one predicted. He was far more erratic, and deadly. When he finally petered out from exhaustion over the Midwest, he was blamed for five billion in property damages and thirty-five deaths.
If Leo had proved anything, though, it was that he cared nothing for the models.
Everyone is excited to see you again. There were some questions when you disappeared three years ago, but I covered for you, said you had some family drama back home, wherever home might be. Then you got a couple of gigs teaching and just haven’t had the time to get back to the island.” “Same characters?” “Yes, minus Noelle, as I said. Andy will probably stop by for a glass of water and a hello. He asks about you. And there’s a new writer you might find interesting. Name’s Nelson Kerr, a former lawyer with a big firm in San Francisco. He ratted out a client, a defense contractor who was illegally selling high-tech military stuff to the Iranians and North Koreans, nice guys like that. It was a big stink about ten years ago, now it’s long since forgotten.”
Bruce and his guests had become frustrated with the need to refill the dainty glasses every ten minutes or so. Since then, he insisted on more modern versions that held eight ounces of red, six for white. Noelle, who drank little, had acquiesced and found a collection of goblets from Burgundy that would impress an Irish rugby team.
As writers, they had struggled to pay the bills until they discovered the genre of soft porn romance novels. They cranked out a hundred of them under a dozen pseudonyms and made enough money to retire to the island and live in a quaint old house just around the corner from Bruce.
Bruce pointed to chairs and got them seated properly. He sat at one end and Mercer, the guest of honor, had the other, with Thomas to her right. There were eleven in all, the literary mafia of Camino Island plus Nick Sutton.
“Please, Bob,” Myra snapped. “No more prison stories. After your last book I felt like I’d been gang-raped.”
“Did your grandmother, the real Tessa, really have a steamy romance with a younger man, here on the island?” “That was the best part,” Myra interjected quickly. “That first seduction scene made my teeth sweat. Really well done, girl.”
The police began going door-to-door. By law, a resident could not be forced to leave. However, for those who chose to remain, the police took phone numbers of their next of kin and informed them that first responders would not try to save them. The two hospitals were evacuated and the critical patients were taken to Jacksonville.
Those who planned to stay were warned that there would be little food and water and no electricity for days after the storm. And there would be almost no medical care.
His winds were 155 miles an hour, on the verge of rising to a Category 5, with projections of catastrophic damage and loss of life. He was also moving faster, almost fifteen miles an hour due west, with landfall now predicted at 10: 30 p.m. at the heart of the island. By 4: 00 p.m., the rains were torrential as the outer bands settled in with gusts strong enough to snap branches. Debris flew and scattered across the streets.
… he reclined against the brick wall and said, “Looks like the limb hit him at least three times. Want to explain that?”
My friend Nelson Kerr died in the storm. He has no family here and left my name and number as his contact. His body was brought here for an autopsy. At first the police thought he had been killed by flying debris. We think otherwise,
Nelson’s parents are in Fremont, near San Jose. They’re desperate for information and don’t have a clue about what to do next. I’m their contact here.
You see his type all the time, at least in good crime novels. These guys who’ve been around think they can look at a crime scene and name the killer. It’s called tunnel vision. They embrace their own theory, then march off in the wrong direction. They ignore facts to the contrary and embrace anything that supports their ideas. Happens all the time, especially in real-life wrongful conviction cases where they nail some poor dude while the real killer keeps on killing.”
Because they can and it’s far more dramatic. These guys think they’re as tough as Navy Seals and they have to prove it. Look at all that military garb they wear. Why does every Podunk police department have a tank these days? Because the Pentagon has too much of the stuff and sells it cheap. Why do they send canine units to sniff around the county fair? Because they have the damned dogs and need to use them. Don’t get me started.”
Phil called yesterday from St. Louis. Asked if I needed anything. Nothing really, I said. Just a new house, new car, new furniture, some food might be nice. A bottle of cold water. He said he’d do what he could, which of course means nothing.”
“He left the law at the age of thirty-two, eleven years ago. At the time he was making it big but spending a lot too. What he didn’t spend his wife did. They saved virtually nothing because the future had no limits.
“There are over fifteen thousand nursing homes, rest homes, retirement villages, call them whatever you want, from coast to coast. About a million and a half total beds, and almost all are filled, demand is constant. Many of the patients suffer from various forms of dementia and are out of it, completely.
. On average, a nursing home charges Medicare between three and four thousand dollars a month per resident. Its actual cost — a few meds, the bed, the nutrients in the tube — is much less, so it’s a profitable business. And a booming one. Six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and the number is increasing rapidly.
Last year Alzheimer’s cost the federal government close to three hundred billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments.”
“It’s sort of a legal thriller with female characters who leave a lot to be desired.”
The blacks had their honky-tonks, the whites had their beer joints, and for everyone in town the nightlife was as segregated as ever.
Anyway, the protagonist is a forty-year-old corporate lawyer, male, whose mother is stricken with the disease, and he’s forced to put her in a nursing home where she steadily worsens and is soon out of it. The family is torn and goes through the right-to-die debate and all that.”
“And what’s the purpose of Daxapene?” “It extends life, keeps the heart beating.” “Then why isn’t it a miracle drug? I’d like to invest.” “It has a rather limited market. It’s not clear if scientists and researchers understand how it works, but it stimulates the medulla, that section of the brain that controls the heart muscle. And it works only in patients who are basically, as they say, brain dead.”
This person chose not to go to the police for whatever reason, so he found Nelson. He read his books and knew that he wasn’t shy about using his fiction to expose some nasty people and their businesses. All names changed to protect the guilty, of course.
We never break laws, but we’re also not bound by such legal niceties as probable cause and valid warrants.”
An old tree with debris still stuck in the limbs. A leaky roof that no contractor had time to fix. An abandoned house too damaged to repair. A drainage ditch choked with garbage. A city park filled with FEMA trailers and desperate people sitting in lawn chairs around them, waiting for something. In the woods nearby, people even more desperate still living in tents.
Like I said, lady, there ain’t no jobs around here. They pay me minimum wage to clean bedpans and you think I like it? No, I don’t, but my kids also like to eat, now don’t they?”
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