Excerpt of Alice in Jeopardy by Ed McBain
(Page 2 of 10)
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"No, no," she says. "Actually, the name is an odd combination
of Seminole and Spanish."
She goes on to explain that when the Spaniards first came to southwest
Florida, the Seminole word tha-kee for "big" was already in
place, and they added the Spanish word cabo to it, and came up with the
name "Cabo Tha-kee," or "Big Cape." This eventually became
slurred and contracted to "Cab'Otha-kee," which was then finally
Hispanicized to "Cab'Octubre," which of course was "Cape
October" in English.
"Or so the story goes," she says, and turns to him and smiles.
The eastern rim of October Bay is jaggedly defined by U.S. 41, more
familiarly known as the Tamiami Trail. Frank Lane, the owner and sole proprietor
of Lane Realty, believes that "Tamiami" is redneck for "To
Miami." Alice doesn't know if this true or not. But if you follow 41 south,
it leads eventually to Alligator Alley, which then crosses the Florida peninsula
to the east coast and, of course, Miami. So maybe he's right.
There are four keys off the Cape's mainland. Beyond these so-called barrier
islands lies the vast Gulf of Mexico. Sail out due west from the Cape, and
eventually you'll make landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas. If you're lucky.
"So how old are you, Alice?" he asks her. "May I call you
"Sure," she says.
"So how old are you, Alice?" he asks again.
She doesn't think that's any of his business, but he is a client, and neither
does she wish to appear rude.
"Thirty-four," she says.
"Sorry to hear that."
"Yes," she says.
"Two, a boy and a girl."
"Yes," she says again.
"How long ago?" he asks.
"You know," she says, "I'm sorry, but I'd rather not talk
"Okay," he says, and shrugs. "Sorry. I didn't mean to
"That's okay," she says, and then softens her tone. "It's just
that it's still painful."
"Must've been recent then, huh?" he says, and when she doesn't
answer, he says, "Sorry."
They ride in silence for several moments.
"Was it an accident?" he asks.
She doesn't answer.
"Sometimes it helps to talk about it," he says. "I figure he
had to've been young, right? I mean, you're only thirty-four. So it had to've
been either a heart attack or some kind of accident, am I right?"
"He drowned eight months ago," Alice says, and Webb remains silent
for the rest of the trip to Tall Grass.
"The house was built in 1956," she tells him. "Named for Jennifer
Bray Healey, who had it designed by Thomas Cooley and his son. They're famous
Cape October architects."
"Never heard of them," Webb says.
"They designed a great many of the buildings downtown, I'll take you to
see some of them later, if you like. The Healey house is considered a hallmark
of the Cape's modern architectural movement."
They are standing in the oval driveway in front of the house. Alice is
deliberately postponing that moment when she unlocks the front door and opens it
onto the spectacular panoramic view of Little October Bay. It never fails to
knock the socks off any prospective buyer.
"The house fell into disrepair after Mrs. Healey died," she says,
searching in her bag for the key to the lockbox. "The present owners --
Frank and Marcia Allenby -- bought it two years ago. They've been renovating it
ever since, all in accordance with historic guidelines. The rules are that you
can make changes provided you don't alter any 'historically or architecturally
significant aspects of the design,' quote unquote."
"Sounds like bureaucratic red tape," Webb says.
"Well, no, not actually. The regulations are there to protect the
environment and the property itself. This is a landmark house, you know."
From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without
written permission from the publisher.