Another Day In Paradise by Barry M Vass by Barry M Vass - Read Online

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Summary

Head out for adventure and romance with Jimmy and Naomi as they sail the high seas, dodging pirates and terrorists every step of the way! Experience the unforgettable chase from Florida to the West Indies, and then on to Jamaica, where the two lovers are finally captured in a pitched gun battle. Imagine yourself in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip as a group of terrorists blow up a megaresort, bringing the city to its knees. While most of the terrorists are either killed or captured, one survives to dog Jimmy and Naomi across the snow-capped mountains of Northern Nevada in a desperate, last-ditch attempt at revenge... Take off into high adventure you'll never forget!
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611603224
List price: $3.99
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Another Day In Paradise - Barry M Vass

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Chapter 1

They finally caught up to us one night in Key West.

To tell the truth I’d been expecting it. When you know what I do, and can walk into any casino in the world and beat the house at its own game, let’s just say that people are going to be interested in your whereabouts. And by this reasoning it doesn’t really matter if they’re good guys or bad guys; any attention is unwelcome.

And we hadn’t been exactly subtle in our comings and goings. We’d flown up to Foxwoods in Connecticut a few days ago and walked away with a little over ten thousand dollars. A neighbor was selling out and going back to the Rust Belt, and he had a thirty-four-foot catamaran, nearly brand-new, that he let me know a while back he would part with for five thousand dollars.

This goes a long way in explaining what we were doing in Key West that night. I’d taken control of the boat that very afternoon, and after some dithering around in the swells near Marathon, we’d come to the conclusion that it was only appropriate to make a quick fifty-mile sprint down to Land’s End. And then we could celebrate my new acquisition with a few drinks and a nice seafood dinner...

It was the kind of night you get used to in the Florida Keys. It had rained briefly that afternoon when we were sailing around the islands in the heat of the day, but the rain was over now. High, puffy clouds blew across the face of the half-moon in the stiffening trade winds. The night was warm and humid.

Naomi spotted them first. We were about twenty yards out of Sloppy Joe’s, holding plastic cups of Mount Gay and Coke when she grabbed my arm.

Don’t make a big thing out of this, she whispered, but I think we’re being followed.

I made a pretense of kissing her—not a hard thing to do since Naomi is a beautiful woman: tan and fit, with a great smile and loose, sun-bleached brown hair hanging past her shoulders—and noticed them hurrying out the doorway behind us. They were two fairly intense Middle-Eastern guys dressed in slacks and sports coats. It was the sports coats which gave them away. Key West boasts a young, hip crowd that likes to party, and you don’t see a lot of sports coats. People down here don’t really care what they look like. Then, too, it was probably difficult to hide a gun in a shoulder holster dressed in shorts and a tank top.

Naomi and I had been sailing pretty much all afternoon and were dressed appropriately. We wore bathing suits and loose-fitting Aloha shirts with rubber flip-flops on our feet. My wallet was stashed in a back pocket. From the corner of my eye I saw one of the men pull a photograph from his jacket pocket. They shifted their gaze from the photograph to me and then back to the photo again. They talked between themselves. After a moment they seemed to reach some sort of decision and the photo was put away. They stepped resolutely toward us.

We were frozen on the narrow, cracked sidewalk, a tableau of uncertainty. I nervously drained the rum and tossed the cup into a convenient trash can. A stream of happy young people flowed around us, some stepping into the street.

Mr. Spencer? one of the men called out. Hey! Are you Jimmy Spencer?

I grabbed Naomi’s hand and we bolted through the crowds, kicking off our flip-flops as we went. We ran like frightened animals. I glanced back at one point and saw them chasing after us. Naomi’s cup, still full, was thrown to the ground.

Key West is a compact little island out at the end of the Florida Keys. The locale is jammed with bars, restaurants, homes and tourist attractions. Despite the small area, it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know your way around. Naomi and I had been coming down for nearly three years to drink and carouse, with the result that we knew our way around Key West like natives. We especially knew our way around in the dark.

We ducked into a service alley behind a restaurant, came out the other end, ran into, through and then out of a crowded little bistro, ducked into another dark alley, finally ending up behind a trash dumpster. We huddled in the shadows, breathing hard.

It looks like someone found us, Naomi said finally.

I found myself nodding. Yeah, you knew they would eventually. Something like Free Money is just too tempting to give up on.

So what do we do now? she asked, squinting at me in the gloom.

We do what we always said we’d do. We cut and run.

She nodded soberly, saying nothing but clearly unhappy.

Let’s get back to the boat. I grabbed her hand and we sprinted off toward the short-term docks.

There’s only one way into and out of Key West: the Intracoastal Highway which connects the hundred-mile scattering of islands to Southern Florida. It was pretty much a certainty that if they were looking for us in Key West they’d have that route covered.

But the catamaran changed the equation, hopefully in our favor. The boat was big and fast, with a huge forty-foot sail. And I really doubted that they would be watching the docks. They hadn’t seen us when we’d arrived, so why would they be looking there now? With the strong off-shore breezes we could probably be back in Marathon in a little over an hour.

Our love of the sea and sailing had grown during our time in the Keys, and we both looked forward to any excuse to cut loose from the land. Naomi often said it made her feel like a pirate. But this was different. Nothing’s very much fun when people are looking for you with evil intent in their hearts.

We darted through a maze of busy side streets, finally ending up at the docks. I paid the attendant the fee and we hurried down the floating wharf to our boat.

I jumped onto the canvas deck and began pulling up the multicolored sail. Let’s get out of here! I shouted over my shoulder.

You’ve got that right! She untied the two restraining ropes holding the big cat to the pier and tossed the ends onto the wharf.

I got the jib up, grabbed the tiller, caught the stiff wind and we surged away into the night.

Chapter 2

So here’s the 411 about why we were so paranoid about those two guys in the sports coats.

My name is, or rather was, Jimmy Spencer. Several years ago we’d changed our names and gotten complete sets of false I.D. I’m five feet ten inches, about a hundred and eighty pounds, with long blond hair usually tied back in a ponytail. I also have a full beard, worn these days mainly as a disguise.

Perhaps I should explain further. Until about three years ago, I’d been a casino floorman at the fabulous Omni Hotel and Casino on The Las Vegas Strip. What can I say; the money was good and I was doing my best to get by. And then my friend Eddie Roberts had come to me with an incredible new blackjack system called Free Money that he swore couldn’t lose.

The system worked all too well. I found this out during several sessions on the blackjack tables. Unfortunately, Eddie for some reason had put the details of his new system out over the Internet—all except one small part, the key that made it work if you will, which he had given only to me.

Middle-Eastern terrorists ultimately found out about Free Money, and of course they wanted the secret that made it work to finance their nefarious operations. They’d tracked Eddie down and tortured him, trying to get the key to Free Money. But he never gave it to them and they killed him in the end.

In the course of things they found out about little old me. I was the only one who understood the potential of Free Money, and I realize in retrospect that I was an easy target. I was crashing around Las Vegas after hours, feeling the system out, and in the process winning more and more money when they finally caught up to me. In a period of days I’d gotten two FBI agents assigned to me for protection, and then two more when the first two were corrupted by the mere thought of Free Money. My car had been destroyed in a wild shoot-out up on Mount Charleston with militia goons who also wanted the secret, and then both my restaurant and home had been bombed by persons unknown. Although we had a pretty good idea about who had been involved...

I’d been fired from my job of eighteen years at the Omni, the Las Vegas FBI building had been car-bombed while Naomi and I were inside telling our story, and then the two FBI agents assigned to protect us had been killed in a vicious confrontation in broad daylight on Las Vegas Boulevard. Free Money was like an albatross around my neck.

All of this had happened in a space of less than two weeks. After that Naomi and I managed to run away to Chicago in a mobile home I’d contracted to drive back to a local businessman’s parents. The bad guys had followed us, though, and we’d barely gotten out of the Windy City alive. I like to call it the snowball effect.

We made it to New Orleans scant hours in front of a hurricane, holed up until it had passed and then gotten our hands on some fake Louisiana driver’s licenses. I was now known as Johnny Baxter. Naomi, for all intents and purposes, legal and otherwise, was Natalie Smith.

How they’d finally found us in the anonymity of the Florida Keys made little difference; we’d known eventually that they would. My knowledge of the secret which made Free Money work made me a goose with a continual supply of golden eggs. We realized they’d never stop looking. But we’d made plans for every eventuality.

And now it was time to implement those plans.

It was time to get out of Dodge.

Chapter 3

We ripped along in the moonlight, heading back to Marathon. The ungainly catamaran with the big sail was a stunningly fast boat and I was sorry to have to leave it behind. But there was little choice in the matter.

The night was blustery, the ocean running two to four feet, the waves occasionally white-capped. Under such conditions, and because I was a virtual novice with the big cat, control was a difficult thing. The pontoons kept digging into the waves; one mistake on my part and we would flip over. And two people trying to right a boat of this size in these seas would be a difficult proposition at best. I eased off the wind.

We were both scared again, lost in our own thoughts and the crashing of the waves. The catamaran rocketed across the cresting sea and then went flying over until we crashed into another set of swells. It was an exhilarating ride. Naomi was staring at me petulantly, holding on for dear life to a series of nylon ropes tied around the mast.

What is it? I asked finally.

You’re kidding, right? I’ve never seen you go so fast.

You heard what they said! I shouted as we launched from another wave. They knew exactly who we were! They called me Jimmy Spencer! How could they have found us out here?

She nodded, tight-lipped in a burst of ocean spray. Shit happens. She took a deep breath. So when do we leave?

We leave tonight, as soon as we get back. Everything’s packed, isn’t it? There’s food and water on board, everything we’ll need for a few months, right?

She nodded again, and I quickly turned my attention back to piloting the surging catamaran.

Three years ago, when we’d finally settled in Marathon, I’d bought a small, bankrupt day-sailing operation for a pittance. With little else to do we’d worked hard. Over time the business had come back and was now a going concern. I’d gotten an offer to sell just last week for ninety thousand dollars, and it looked like I was now going to have to take that offer. Neither of us wanted to leave, but it was obvious we’d overstayed our welcome.

With the business all but running itself, it was a fairly indolent life in the Keys. The result was that some months ago I’d begun looking around for another project to fill my time. I eventually ran across an old beached forty-foot trimaran, a three-hulled ketch, in a Homestead shipyard. It was a homemade job, beat-up and in desperate need of work, but basically sound. I hired some shipwrights to look into the matter, and they got back to me a few weeks later with a solid thumbs-up. The price was certainly right: for seven thousand dollars the dry-dock man would even haul it right to our beach.

I worked on that boat for months, replacing plywood and fiberglass, refinishing the three hulls and then the decks, finally installing all new stainless steel masts and rigging. I ordered custom-designed heavy-duty sails. It was quite a job, truly a labor of love, but in the end I was definitely pleased with myself. It was honest labor, and I’d created a vessel which could cross any ocean.

As we flew into our little harbor at Marathon I could see the gleaming trimaran riding the waves, hard at anchor about a hundred yards out from the land. The name on the stern, in bold black letters, was easy to read in the moonlight: Desperado, Islamorada.

An apt name, I’d told myself many times. And now we were on the run again I had just the boat to carry us.

I ran the catamaran up on the deserted beach and glanced at my diver’s watch. It was a little after midnight. We’d made the distance from Key West in an hour and twenty minutes, a new record for me. But then there really hadn’t been any choice, had there? Now they had some idea as to where we were, we needed to flee and flee quickly.

Naomi jumped off the boat into the surf, shaking the salt spray out of her hair. I ran out a hose and sprayed the salt water off the sails and canvas decking, and then got the trolley from the shed, ran down the sails, folded the mast and trundled the catamaran up the beach into the shed, locking the door behind me.

After that I ran over to the tiny office at the end of the pier. I opened the door and went inside, where I quickly filled out the paperwork for the sale of the business. I added a brief note to tell the buyer, another neighbor, that we were putting out to sea and I would call to let him know where to send the money.

I sealed the envelope and ran it over to my neighbor’s mailbox. I slipped the letter inside and raised the red flag, then hurried back down to where Naomi was standing at the end of the dock.

Are you ready? I asked.

You know I am.

We took off our shirts, tied them around our waists and dove into the water.

We swam out to the Desperado, eager to be gone.

Chapter 4

We pulled ourselves over the low transom and got onboard. We’d gotten into the habit of leaving a few towels in a cupboard off to one side. Naomi grabbed two of these, tossed one to me and we toweled off. It was still warm even at this late hour.

Be careful where you step, she warned me as she surveyed the premises. Rex has been at it again. She indicated some doggy poop in the middle of the deck.

I suppose some explanations are in order. Rex is my dog. Half Yorkshire terrier and half Shih Tzu, Rex is a frenetic little bundle of energy with a mind all his own. I’d often thought that the two halves were warring with each other, but as the years went on I gradually reached the conclusion that there was just something inherently off about my dog. And it was something that only many sessions of intense canine psychotherapy could cure.

When we’d first moved onto the Desperado four months ago, Rex had revealed to us in subtle ways that he didn’t like living at sea. This was evidently another Yorkshire phobia. He didn’t like the pitch of the waves, walked hesitantly and occasionally fell down whenever a particularly high swell rocked the boat. When we took the boat to sea, as we had many times after I’d finished the restoration, his behavior was borderline psychotic. He often hid in the master cabin for hours at a time, growling at us when we came inside or called his name.

Nausea had been a specific problem. While he was an aggressive handful on land, Rex seemed to have a delicate constitution at sea. Let me put it like this: he threw up a lot. Over time he gravitated to one spot near the middle of the boat, a low sheet of plywood and fiberglass over one of the scuppers, perhaps twelve inches high. It was there that he could stand on his hind legs, drape his paws over the railing and let nature take its course. And at certain times, alone in the dark with his tail between his legs, he often reminded me of some old salt resigned to his fate.

Rex! I called out. Come here, boy!

He slunk up the steps from the cabins, head down, tail wagging listlessly.

This is our watchdog? Certainly we could do better...

Naomi got a paper towel from the cupboard, picked up the poop and tossed it overboard. Rex hung his head.

Let’s get out of here, I said. Get that anchor up. I’ll raise sail.

She nodded and headed for the bow. After a moment I heard the metallic clanking of the electric-powered winch.

I unsnapped the sail covers as I went, raising first the mainsail, then two of the jibs and finally the after-sail. When all of the canvas was up and locked in place, I went back to the stern and spun the wheel so that we caught the wind.

We sped out of the harbor, heading east.

Chapter 5

After a while Naomi came out of the lower cabins with a mug of coffee. I thought you might need this, she said. She handed me the mug and slumped on one of the blue seat cushions arrayed in a horseshoe on a bench behind the wheel.

Thank you very much. That rum was starting to make me drowsy. I held the mug in one hand, caressing the wheel with the other. The clouds overhead had broken up, the moon was shining through and stars were everywhere.

Naomi was looking up. What a beautiful night. The offshore breeze ruffled her hair.

I glanced over as I sipped the coffee. You’re sorry we had to leave, aren’t you?

She hung her head. Yeah, I am. I loved living there, leasing the boats out, getting to know all those people. I’m really going to miss it. You know how girls are; we like to make friends.

Didn’t you feel that way about Las Vegas?

She laughed a harsh snort. That was different. That was just for money; I felt like I was on stage all the time. Most of those people were so fake, so shallow. And everyone was always drunk. This was...real. Marathon isn’t Las Vegas. She got up and slipped her arms around my waist. I enjoyed myself in the Keys. Thanks for letting me tag along.

I nodded, gulping the last of the coffee. It was nice to have you by my side. You’re probably the one person I can trust at this point in my life.

That’s nice to know. She glanced at the stars again. So where are we?

I pointed to a dark bulk off to our left. That’s Key Largo falling behind over there. Homestead’s over there, but it’s pretty much shut down for the night. It’ll take us another hour to get to Miami. We were surging along, beating a quick path up the Florida Straits. The trimaran was a very powerful sailing ship. It wasn’t as fast as the catamaran we’d left behind, but few boats were. I was glad to be aboard. There were no other boats around at this time of night. All was right with the world.

And then where do we go? She freed her arms and took the now-empty coffee mug from me.

I’m thinking the Bahamas. I’ve got to do some banking in Nassau, and maybe we can do a little gambling as well.

She grinned suddenly, her teeth very white in the moonlight. Yeah, I’ll bet you’re just itching to hit the tables again.

Why, whatever do you mean? It was my turn to laugh. Well, maybe just a little. It’s been a while.

Jimmy, it’s been three days since we left Foxwoods. She seemed suddenly nervous. You won’t do anything to draw attention to yourself, will you?

I shook my head. This won’t be anything serious. I’ll stop at a few thousand for expenses. We’re going to need some money.

And then where will we go?

Where do you want to go? The world’s your playground. But we need to put some distance between ourselves and the Florida Keys. I noticed a faint glow up ahead: the lights of Miami.

She grinned again, hugged me and then stood back. We’ll talk about that later.

Sure, let me know your thoughts. In the meantime how about something to eat? I could do with one of your famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

One peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread coming up. She turned and bounced down the steps to the cabin.

As I’ve said, the Desperado was a fast boat with a large sail area, and we zipped along quickly toward Miami. The strong wind carried us along like a kite.

After a moment I noticed Rex at his usual spot, standing at the rail on two legs, doing the unfortunate spit into the ocean.

At times he seemed more human than anything else.

Chapter 6

We drifted into the Bimini island chain right around dawn the next morning. The wind had died to nearly nothing, and I found that I was very tired. I hadn’t slept in thirty hours and sailing all night wasn’t something I’d planned on. I picked out a cove in a deserted coral atoll and headed for that. The island was dotted with palm trees and some sort of scrub vegetation. Together we dropped anchor and lowered the sails.

The hulls of the Desperado were painted ice blue, the decks white, and the sails were a striking electric blue. It was a very distinctive and expensive-looking yacht, and I knew that we would eventually have to get rid of it if they ever caught up to us again. And there were always pirates to contend with if we didn’t move fast enough. Nowadays, in times such as these, it seems there’s always someone out there who wants to relieve you of your assets.

But until either of these scenarios went down it was great to be aboard. I stood on deck, looking over the atoll, breathing the salty sea air and feeling vibrantly alive. After a while, almost reluctantly, I went below.

Below decks, the cabin of the Desperado was spacious and comfortable. I’d paneled it in dark mahogany, and as I looked around I was still very pleased with my efforts. There was a spacious alcove in front with a white bolted-down table, a circular couch covered in blue waterproof nylon, with a large series of nautical chart bins overhead. The floor was dark blue non-skid rubber tiling. All of the electronic gear was on the other side of the aisle, slightly above a small work-station. Portholes lined the wall on both sides, and a