Miami, it turns out, is hot in January. I'd taken the midday flight out of BWI, arriving in Miami midafternoon. When I left home I was wrapped in a quilted down-filled coat, cashmere Burberry scarf, fleece-lined boots, and heavy-duty shearling mittens. Perfect for Baltimore. Not great for Miami. On arrival, I'd crammed the scarf and mittens into the mediumsize duffel bag that hung from my shoulder, wrapped my coat around the duffel bag handle, and went in search of the taxi stand. Sweat was soaking into my Victoria's Secret Miracle Bra, my hair was plastered to my forehead, and I was sucking in air that felt like hot soup.
I'm thirty years old now. Average height and average build. I'm not movie-star gorgeous, but I'm okay. My hair is naturally mousy brown, but I started bleaching it blond when I decided to stop being a grease monkey. It's currently platinum and cut in a medium-length shaggy kind of style that I can punk up with paste if the occasion arises. I have blue eyes, a mouth that's a little too big for my face, and a perfect nose inherited from my Grandma Jean.
My parents took Bill and me to Disney World when I was nine. That's the extent of my in-the-flesh Florida experience. The rest of my Florida knowledge consists mainly of horrific bug stories from my mom's friend Elsie Duchen. Elsie winters in Ocala with her daughter. Elsie swears there are cockroaches as big as cows in Florida. And she says they can fly. I'm here to tell you, if I see a cow-size cockroach fly by, I'm gone.
I gave Bills address to the cabdriver, and I sat back and watched Miami roll past the window. In the beginning there was a lot of concrete road stretching forward into a confusing jumble of intersections and turnoffs. The turnoffs spiraled away to super highways. And the super highways flattened and went on forever. After a few minutes the Miami skyline appeared in the distance, in front of me, and I had the feeling I was on the road to Oz. Palm trees lined the road. The sky was azure. Cars were clean. Exotic stuff for a girl from Baltimore.
We rolled across the Causeway Bridge, leaving Miami behind, moving into Miami Beach. My stomach felt hollow, and I had a white-knuckle grip on my bag. I was worried about Bill, and my anxiety was increasing as we drew closer to his apartment. Hey, I told myself. Relax. Pry your fingers off the bag. Bills okay. Hes always okay. Like a cat. Lands on his feet. True, he wasnt answering his phone. And he hadnt reported in for work. No reason to panic. This was Wild Bill. He didnt always prioritize in the normal fashion.
This was the guy who missed his high school graduation because en route to the ceremony he found an injured cat on the side of the road. He took the cat to the vet and wouldnt leave until the cat was out of surgery and awake. Of course, he could probably still have made the ceremony if only he hadnt felt the need to seduce the vets assistant in examining room number three.
The troublesome part about my late-night phone call from Bill was the woman screaming. This was a new twist on Bills usual call. My mother would freak if she knew about the call, so Id said nothing and boarded a plane.
My plan was to somehow get into Bills apartment and make sure he wasnt lying on the floor dead. If he wasnt dead on the floor and he wasnt hanging out watching television, my next stop would be the marina. He was on a boat when he called me. I thought I might have to find the boat. Beyond that, I was clueless.
The Causeway Bridge fed into Fifth Avenue in South Beach. Fifth was three lanes in each direction with a grassy island in the middle. Businesses lined both sides of the road.
The driver turned right at Meridian Avenue, went one block, and pulled to the curb.
From Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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