Black Widow (A Doc Ford Novel)

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9780425226704: Black Widow (A Doc Ford Novel)

A cult of death.
A weapon of apocalyptic horror.
Juan Cabrillo must stop them both.

THE ?FASCINATING?( BOOKLIST) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Some women you love.
Some women you hate.
Some women you survive.


Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is blackmailed. Someone filmed her at an out-of-control bachelorette party?and they want big money to keep it quiet. When Ford investigates, he finds that the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any Ford has ever encountered before. And she may be the last encounter he ever has.

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About the Author:

Randy Wayne White is the author of seventeen previous Doc Ford novels and four collections of nonfiction. He lives in an old house built on an Indian mound in Pineland, Florida.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Epigraph

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

 

EPILOGUE

ALSO BY RANDY WAYNE WHITE

Sanibel Flats
The Heat Islands
The Man Who Invented Florida
Captiva
North of Havana
The Mangrove Coast
Ten Thousand Islands

Shark River
Twelve Mile Limit
Everglades
Tampa Burn
Dead of Night
Dark Light
Hunter’s Moon

NONFICTION

Batfishing in the Rainforest
The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua
Last Flight Out
An American Traveler
(An Introduction)
Tarpon Fishing in Mexico and Florida
Randy Wayne White’s Gulf Coast Cookbook
with Carlene Fredericka Brennen

FICTION AS RANDY STRIKER

Key West Connection
The Deep Six
Cuban Death-Lift
The Deadlier Sex
Assassin’s Shadow

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group
(Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of
Pearson Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL,
England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books
Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale,
North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin
Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2008 by Randy Wayne White

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned,
or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do
not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation
of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada

ISBN: 978-1-4406-3011-8

Sanibel and Captiva are real places, faithfully described, but used fictitiously in this novel. The same is true of certain businesses, marinas, bars, and other places frequented by Doc Ford, Tomlinson, and pals.

In all other respects, however, this novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

For Wendy, again, and my pal, Dr. Brian Hummel

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I called upon experts in various fields who kindly provided information used in writing this novel. I take full blame, in advance, for any misunderstandings that may have led to factual errors.

Thanks to Dr. John Miller for the ingenious idea of using shrimp as weapons of terror, and to Dr. Brian Lapointe for many years of advice related to marine biology and Marion Ford. Capt. Peter Hull and dolphin expert Kim Hull of Mote Marine once again provided valuable counsel.

For insights into massage, and the massage industry, I called upon several people, including old friends Nick Swartz, head athletic trainer, Kansas City Royals (and MLB American League All-Star selection); Dr. Brian Hummel, M.D., FACS; and Dr. Dan White, DC. Jean Baer, consultant to spas and resorts in Florida and the Bahamas, provided valuable information that was not available through conventional sources—but should be.

For information on Freemasonry, I called upon Col. Gerry Bass, Ralph Benko, and Matt Hall of Captiva, as well as Barry Thrasher at Tropical Lodge #56, Fort Myers, Florida, where, in 1985, I was raised as a Master Mason.

For general information on fishing, life, and interesting beverages, the following people were incredibly helpful: Mark Marinello, Marty Harrity, Greg Nelson, Dan Howes, Brian Cunningham, Kevin Boyce, Steve Carta, Stu Johnson, Scott Fizer, Gary Terwilliger, David Osier, Capt. Jeffrey Cardenas, Capt. Chico Fernandez, Capt. Flip Pallet, my uncle Phil Byers, my sister, Kay White, and Bill Spaceman Lee.

I would especially like to thank Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy and the staff at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet, Saint Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean. It is among the most beautiful and brilliantly designed nature-oriented resorts I have seen. While I was writing there, Della Thornille, Jondel Bailey, and Peter Jean-Paul were unfailingly helpful, as were my friends Karyn and Michael Allard.

As usual, I wrote parts of this novel while on the road, and I want to thank staff at Dave Taylor’s Cypress House, Useppa Island, and Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille for their input, kindness, and forbearance: Jean, Lindsey, Rachel, Michelle, Liz, Allyson, Matthew, Alex, Khusan, Millie, and Kevin.

Finally, I would like to thank my sons, Lee and Rogan White, for once again helping me finish a book.

For a great bachelorette party, try planning a weekend getaway at a spa or tropical resort. Get pampered, go sightseeing, dance with dashing foreign men who don’t speak English. Pack a survival kit . . . including a disposable camera. The pictures you take at the bachelorette party will come in handy when you need to blackmail the bride later!

—ADVICE TO MAIDS OF HONOR www.ForeverWed1.com

“My grandfather was a powerful Houngan, a vitch [voodoo priest] known from Nassau through the islands. Now I’m a Houngan, keeper of that knowledge. I will tell you about assault obeahs, blue stone, fire, blood spells, and the lost Books of Moses. But you cannot write everything I tell you.”

—VICTOR SMITH Free & Accepted Mason, Queen Esther Chapter #2 Cat Island, Bahamas (in conversation with the author)

1

IT WAS A SIMPLE EXCHANGE. Clean. So why did things go so wrong for the determined young bride?

I flew to the Caribbean on a Wednesday, and Thursday morning gave the blackmailer’s bagman a routing number to an account containing $109,000. The bagman gave me a video shot secretly at a party thrown by my goddaughter, Shay Money, for her bridesmaids.

In the sepulchre chill of a cubicle provided by the Bank of Aruba, I popped the cassette into a minicamera long enough to confirm its contents before nodding at the teller.

Yes. She could transfer the funds.

Bagman and teller conversed in patois French as I stowed the cassette in a briefcase, focusing on details to mitigate my nausea. Inside the men’s room, I filled a marble sink with water, then lathered face and hands, but the taint was subcutaneous, associative. Soap couldn’t cut it. I had helped Shay with high school homework. I’d fielded her homesick letters when she was a college freshman.

After leaving the bank, I pulled my rental around the block, waited, then followed the bagman’s Fiat to a waterfront bar. Big round man, big round head. I battled the urge to snatch him from the parking lot, then drive to a secluded place.

I’m no longer authorized to do that sort of thing.

Eight hours later, I landed at Miami International, then caught a commuter flight to Fort Myers Regional, a forty-minute drive from my home and laboratory on Sanibel Island, southwest coast of Florida. Shay, now twenty-six, with a master’s in business, was waiting.

“Did you check luggage?”

I was carrying the briefcase and a recent issue of Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.

“Never.”

“Ah . . . I forgot. All those research trips, studying fish in foreign countries. What’s the secret to packing light?”

“Simple. Wear dark clothes, and always save your second pair of socks for the flight home.”

The girl laughed as we hugged. “Doc Ford, the mysterious biologist. I picked the right guy.”

I said, “It’s been awhile. We’ll see.”

Shay had her arm around my waist, shoulder wedged into ribs, thumb hooked to my belt. She was her usual affectionate, alpha-female self, body docked to mine so she could steer me efficiently toward baggage, or her awaiting car. But there was an intensity to the way she hugged close. This was a frightened women desperate for asylum. Had I provided it?

Life may be a chemical-electrical process, but living is a procession of uncertainties, one damn thing after another. Somehow, that truth makes lying easier.

“Did everything . . . go okay?”

“Couldn’t have gone smoother.”

“You feel good about it?”

“Better than expected. Very businesslike. We’ve been dealing with pros.”

“The money transferred from my account fast enough. I checked. Geezus, one hell of a chunk. Were you . . . surprised by the amount?”

Not surprised, shocked. But I replied, “A lot of money.”

“My entire savings.”

“You’ve saved that much since college?”

“Well . . . plus Daddy’s life insurance.”

“Insurance? He didn’t seem like the type.”

“I know, I know—a man like him being thoughtful was as unexpected as him dying. I thought I told you about the check. After the honeymoon, Michael and I could’ve—”

“It’s done. You said you weren’t going to beat yourself up when I got back. I’m back.”

“You’re right. You know the way I ought to see it? Like it’s an investment in the future. I have to keep reminding myself. Our future, Michael and me.”

We exited the terminal into the sodium glare of asphalt and Everglades heat. It was a Thursday in June, a little before midnight, less than ten days until the girl’s wedding. There were stars up there above palm trees.

“So he gave you the . . . thing.”

“Yes.” The briefcase was on my opposite shoulder, and I tapped it. “In here.”

I felt her body stiffen. “The only copy?”

“I don’t know. That’s the deal you made. But it’s his game, his rules.”

“Do you know why . . . why I paid the money?”

“I have a pretty good idea.”

“So you watched.”

“Just the beginning. You and your bridesmaids were on a patio by a swimming pool, a view of the ocean below. With three men I assume were locals—so the party was just getting started. That was enough.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Another lie. The video had been queued to footage that was unambiguously graphic. I’d watched for a few seconds, skipped ahead, then couldn’t hit the power button fast enough.

Yes, we had been dealing with a pro, but there were also symptoms of pathology. Voyeurism plus cruelty. Her blackmailer enjoyed humiliating his victims.

Shay laughed to disguise relief. “Thanks for being a gentleman. Not that there’s anything really bad. Just stupid. The sort of things we did in college—smoke grass, smooch with strangers. But Michael wouldn’t have understood. None of our guys would, even though it seemed harmless at the time. We tried to turn the clock back—Liz, Corey, Beryl, and me—and have one last fling . . . only now, I wish we’d never heard of that damn island. By October, we’ll all be married. And we’ve got professions. We’re grown-ups now, not sorority girls.”

I’d just lied to Shay, so why did I find it so irritating that she was lying to me? My own moral code varies with time zones and border crossings, plus I do not accept the premise that human behavior can be separated neatly into columns of right and wrong. So who the hell am I to judge? But I am neither so jaundiced nor naïve that I don’t know the difference between a kiss and a blow job.

“Aren’t grown-ups also supposed to accept responsibility for their behavior?” I said.

The woman stopped walking for a moment, her expression indignant, then sped ahead. “I don’t care for your tone, buddy boy.”

“Then stop treating me like I’m stupid.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Really? You didn’t pay a hundred thousand dollars to spare your future husband seeing you smoke dope and kiss a stranger.”

“I just told you: Michael’s the jealous type. Like most guys, there’s a double standard. It doesn’t matter if it was innocent fun. He wouldn’t have understood.”

“I flew halfway to the equator and back because of innocent fun? Knock it off, Shay. I know better.”

“Damn it! You said you didn’t watch the video!”

The woman slowed enough for me to catch up, eyes searching. The footage I’d seen was disturbing. What I had not seen was there in her eyes, and it sickened her.

I said, “I don’t give a damn what’s on this tape. Whatever perceived sins, your girls’ weekend couldn’t have been any worse than a lot of bachelor parties. Okay? And it sure as hell doesn’t compare to some of the things I’ve done in my life.” I cut her off before she interrupted. “Don’t ask. We’re all entitled to our secrets. The point is, I’m your friend. As of today, I’m also your partner. So no more evasions.

“When you asked me to fly south and make the exchange, I did—no questions asked. Now I expect the truth. Because there’s a chance we’re going to hear from him again.”

Shay stopped and faced me. She took a shuddering breath, and in a voice I hadn’t heard since she was a teen, she whispered, “Oh . . . Ford, I hope . . . I so hope you’re wrong.”

I swept the girl into my free arm and held her, thumping my hand on her back. “Me, too, Shay. But if it happens, no surprises, okay? Because it’s started.”

“What? What’s started? I don’t understand.”

I meant the lie we’d created. It now had a life of its own. Unlike the truth, lies can’t survive independently. They’re quasi matter, like something sewn together in a lab, and require monitoring.

“If we’re not straight with each other,” I told her, “our friendship will be the first casualty. Your marriage could be th...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A cult of death. A weapon of apocalyptic horror. Juan Cabrillo must stop them both. THE ?FASCINATING?( BOOKLIST) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Some women you love. Some women you hate. Some women you survive. Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is blackmailed. Someone filmed her at an out-of-control bachelorette party?and they want big money to keep it quiet. When Ford investigates, he finds that the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any Ford has ever encountered before. And she may be the last encounter he ever has. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425226704

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A cult of death. A weapon of apocalyptic horror. Juan Cabrillo must stop them both. THE ?FASCINATING?( BOOKLIST) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Some women you love. Some women you hate. Some women you survive. Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is blackmailed. Someone filmed her at an out-of-control bachelorette party?and they want big money to keep it quiet. When Ford investigates, he finds that the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any Ford has ever encountered before. And she may be the last encounter he ever has. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425226704

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. A cult of death. A weapon of apocalyptic horror. Juan Cabrillo must stop them both. THE ?FASCINATING?( BOOKLIST) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Some women you love. Some women you hate. Some women you survive. Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is blackmailed. Someone filmed her at an out-of-control bachelorette party?and they want big money to keep it quiet. When Ford investigates, he finds that the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any Ford has ever encountered before. And she may be the last encounter he ever has. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780425226704

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