E X C E R P T
Moran’s first impression of Nolen Tyner: He looked like a high risk, the kind of guy who falls asleep smoking in bed. No luggage except for a six-pack of beer on the counter and the Miami Herald folded under his arm.
He reminded Moran of a show-business personality going to seed. Long two-tone hair thinning fast, what was left of a blond pompadour receding from a sunburned peeling forehead. Moran could see dark roots that matched his dark, neatly trimmed mustache. The khaki shirt was neat too, freshly laundered, faded, the cuffs of the sleeves turned up once, shirttails hanging out, aviator sunglasses hooked to one of the flap pockets. Onetime dude over the hill at forty. Maybe half in the bag. Dreamy eyes looked up from the registration card to the calendar on the wall behind Moran, then half-closed, squinting.
“Is it October already?”
It was almost November.
He filled in another line of information about himself, looked up and stared directly at Moran, deadpan.
“This is the Coconut Palms Resort Apartments. Is that correct?”
“That’s correct,” Moran said, just as dry.
Nolen Tyner’s gaze shifted to the inside window of the office that looked out toward the Atlantic Ocean, past the oval-shaped pool and empty lounge chairs. His sleepy eyes returned to Moran.
“Then why don’t I see any palm trees?”
“Some bugs ate ‘em,” Moran said. “I had to have six trees removed.”
“It doesn’t bother you,” Nolen Tyner said, “you call this place the Coconut Palms there isn’t a single palm tree out there? Isn’t that false advertising?”
“The high rise on the south side of us, nine stories, is called the Nautilus,” Moran said, “but I don’t think it’s a submarine. The one on the other side, it’s ten stories, is the Aurora. Tell me if you think it looks like a radiant glow in the upper atmosphere. That’ll be thirty dollars. You’re in Number Five, right next to the office.”
Nolen Tyner continued to stare at Moran. He nodded.
“Okay. How about if I sit out by the pool and drink my beer and I don’t take a room? How much is that?”
“That’s also thirty dollars,” Moran said. “For the ambience and the music.”
“I don’t hear any music.”
“I haven’t turned it on yet,” Moran said. “I’ll tell you what though. You can take your six-pack up the road, you might find something more to your liking. Maybe even less expensive.”
Nolen Tyner was looking at Moran’s beard, his white T-shirt and cutoff jeans. “You work here or own the place?”
“Both,” Moran said. “My desk clerk’d stand here and chat with you all afternoon, but he’s off today.”
“Being courteous to people who come in off the street,” Nolen Tyner said, smiling a little, “I imagine that can be a pain in the ass at times, huh?”
“It can if you let it,” Moran said.
Moran looked at the reservation card.
Nolen Tyner 201 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, Fla. 33134. Make of car: ‘76 Porsche. No license number.
Written in an arty back-leaning style, half-printed. Give him an “A” for neatness but an “F” for lying about his home address, since 201 Alhambra Circle was a big glass building, the Ponce de Leon Plaza, where his former wife’s lawyer had his offices. It wasn’t more than a mile from where Moran had lived during the seven years of the marriage.
If Nolen Tyner did live in Coral Gables or had an office there and he liked to sit outside in the afternoon and drink beer, why didn’t he go to Bayfront Park? Why come all the way up to Pompano, an hour’s drive, pay thirty bucks for a room and then sit outside? Which the guy was doing now. Lying in a lounge chair on the afternoon shady-side of the pool. Holding a can of beer on his chest, moving it almost in slow motion when he’d take a sip. Wearing his sporty safari shirt, but also wearing, Moran noticed, very unsporty black socks with his open-toed sandals. If he wasn’t meeting a woman here—and after about an hour and three cans of beer it didn’t look like it—then he was either hiding or looking for action.
But if he was hiding he’d stay inside. Wouldn’t he?
And if he was looking for action and had heard something about the Coconut Palms’ SECRETARY SPECIALS—advertised twice a year in big-city papers up north—it was possible he’d come with the idea of picking up some poor secretary who was here by herself, bored out of her mind. Except that October was a very lean month for secretaries compared to February and March. And the guy had not said anything clever or hinted around about looking for girls.
So maybe he was looking for somebody in particular. And if that was the case, without checking the guest chart Moran knew who it would be. Not the secretaries from Dayton in Number Three. Not the ones from Fort Wayne in Four. Or the elderly couple who wanted Seven so they could keep an eye on their Buick parked on the street. No, it would have to be the afternoon lovers in Number One, the lower oceanfront apartment.
They had been meeting here every afternoon except the weekend for the past eight days: the young Cuban-looking guy who wore rings and chains, gold-rimmed sunglasses up in a nest of thick hair, and the stylish woman who was about ten years older than the guy and probably married to a Cuban businessman in Miami. The guy had signed in Mario Prado and Moran, taking in the guy’s glistening hairdo, said, “Haven’t I seen you on TV?” Mario Prado said yeah, he did guest shots on Tony Marvin’s show; he was playing cocktail piano at the Sheraton in Palm Beach; his manner so bored, relaxed, Moran was afraid the guy might collapse, melt into a puddle of grease. Mario took Number One oceanfront for a month, paid fifteen hundred cash in advance, without Moran asking for it, and the mystery woman appeared a short time later. Mario Prado waited on the street, sunglasses over his eyes now, until the gray Mercedes pulled up. He took a case of champagne out of the trunk. After that they arrived separately each afternoon between one and two and usually left about five, not much later.
Neither of them ever spent the night.
One time, a few days ago, the woman arrived on schedule, but the piano player failed to show. Moran watched her come out of Number One to stand by the low cement wall that separated the yard from the beach, the woman in a white sundress and heels, her dark hair shining in the sunlight, tied back with a violet scarf. She had her arms folded and seemed impatient, though she didn’t move much. Moran went out in his T-shirt and cutoffs to get a look at her.
He said, “Mrs. Prado, how’re you today?”
She appeared to be in her late thirties, about Moran’s age, stylishly thin, holding a languid model pose now, wrist bent on her hip, as she studied Moran from behind big round violet-tinted sunglasses.
“That’s not my name,” the woman said, with an edge but only the hint of an accent.
“It’s the name your husband signed,” Moran said.
“My hus band?” the woman said. “You think that’s my husband?”
“Well, whoever you are, we’re glad to have you,” Moran said. “You like me to put some music on? We’ve got outside speakers.”
“I like you to beat it and leave me alone,” the woman said and turned to look at the ocean. She had a nice profile, thin, straight nose, her hair pulled back tight to show round white earrings.
“Well, enjoy your stay,” Moran said and got out of there. He couldn’t imagine her being much fun. Maybe that was why they brought all the champagne, get her loosened up. Lula, Moran’s part-time maid, would come out of Number One in the morning with a plastic bag of trash and give him a report. “‘Nother dead soldier and the brandy’s near touching bottom. Should see how they tear up a bed.” Moran never went into occupied rooms out of curiosity, to see how people lived or what they’d brought with them; he respected their privacy. But he did consider sticking his head into Number One, some quiet evening after the lovers had gone. Inspect the setting on the off chance it might reveal something about them. Still, it had to be a purely sexual relationship, and if that was the case then what would he be looking for, pecker tracks? He could think of a lot more important things to do—if he put his mind to it.