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Solomon and Lord Drop Anchor

Paul Levine

“What aren’t you telling me?” Victoria Lord demanded.

Jeez. Her grand jury tone.

“Nothing to tell,” Steve Solomon said. “I’m going deep-sea fishing.”

“You? The guy who got seasick in a paddle boat at Disney World.”

“That boat was defective. I’m gonna sue.” Steve hauled an Igloo cooler onto the kitchen counter. “You may not know it, but I come from a long line of anglers.”

“A long line of liars, you mean.”

The partners of Solomon amp; Lord, Attorneys-at-Law, stood in the kitchen of Steve’s bungalow on Kumquat Avenue in Coconut Grove. The place was a square stucco pillbox the color of a rotting avocado, but it had withstood hurricanes, termites, and countless keg parties.

Unshaven and hair mussed, wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt, Steve looked like a beach bum. Lips glossed and cheekbones highlighted, wearing a glen plaid suit with an ivory silk blouse, Victoria looked sexy, smart, and successful.

“C’mon, Steve. What are you really up to?” Her voice drizzled with suspicion like mango glaze over sauteed snapper.

Steve wanted to tell his lover and law partner the truth. Or at least, the partial truth. But he knew how Ms. Propriety would react:

“You can’t do that. It’s unethical.”

And if he told her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? “You’ll be disbarred! Jailed. Maybe even killed.”

No, he’d have to fly solo. Or swim solo, as the case may be.

Steve pulled two six packs of Heineken out of the refrigerator and tossed them into the cooler. “Okay, it’s really a business meeting.”

Victoria cocked her head and pursed her lips in cross-exam mode. “Which is it, Pinocchio? Fishing or business? Were you lying then or are you lying now?”

For a tall, lanky blonde with a dazzling smile, she could fire accusations the way Dan Marino once threw the football.

“I’m going fishing with Manuel Cruz.”

“What! I thought you were going to sue him.”

“Which is what makes it business. Cruz wants to make an offer before we file suit. I suggested we go fishing, keep it relaxed. He loved the idea and invited me on his boat.”

So far, Steve hadn’t told an outright fib and it was almost 8 a.m. Not quite a personal best, but still, he was proud of himself.

For the last five years, Manuel Cruz worked as controller of Torano Chevrolet in Hialeah where he managed to steal three million dollars before anyone noticed. Teresa Torano, a Cuban exilado in her seventies, was nearly bankrupt, and Steve was determined to get her money back, but it wouldn’t be easy. All the computer records had been erased, leaving no electronic trail. Cruz had no visible assets other than his sportfishing boat. The guy didn’t even own a house. And the juiciest piece of evidence – Cruz fled Cuba years ago after embezzling money from a government food program – wasn’t even admissible.

“Just you and Cruz, alone at sea.” she said. “Sounds dangerous.”

“I’m not afraid of him.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about.”

***

Victoria punched the RECORD button on her pocket Dictaphone. “Memo to the Torano file. Make certain our malpractice premiums are paid.”

“You and your damned Dictaphone,” Steve complained. “Drives me nuts.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s so…”

“Organized?”

“Anal.”

Victoria pulled her Mini-Cooper into the Matheson Hammock marina, swerving to avoid a land-crab, clip- clopping across the asphalt. The sun was already baking the pavement, the air sponge-thick with humidity. Just above a stand of sea lavender trees, a pair of turkey buzzards flew surveillance.

Victoria sneaked a look at Steve as he hauled the cooler out of the car’s tiny trunk. Dark, unruly hair, a slight, sly grin as if he were one joke ahead of the rest of the world. The deep brown eyes, usually filled with mischief, were hidden behind dark Ray Bans.

Dammit, why won’t he level with me?

Why did he always take the serpentine path instead of the expressway? Why did he always treat laws and rules, cases and precedents as mere suggestions?

Because he has more fun making it up as he goes along.

Steve drove her crazy with his courtroom antics and his high-wire ethics. If he believed in a client, there was nothing he wouldn’t do to win. Which was exactly what frightened her now.

Just what would Steve do for Teresa Torano?

They headed toward the dock, the morning sun beating down so ferociously Victoria felt her blouse sticking to her shoulder blades. The only sounds were the groans of boats in their moorings and the caws of gulls overhead. The air smelled of the marshy hammock, salt and iodine and fermenting seaweed. The fronds of thatch palms hung limp in the still air.

“Gimme a kiss. I gotta go,” Steve said, as they stepped onto the concrete dock. In front of them were expensive toys, gleaming white in the morning sun. Rows of powerful sportfishermen, large as houses. Dozens of sleek sailing craft, ketches and sloops and schooners.

“Sure, Mr. Romance.” She kissed him lightly on the lips. Something seemed off-kilter, but what? And what was that pressing against her through his shorts?

Hadn’t last night been enough? Twice before SportsCenter, once after Letterman.

She sneaked a hand into his pocket and came out with a pair of handcuffs. “What’s this, the latest in fishing tackle?”

“Ah. Well. Er…” Gasping like a beached grouper. “You know that store, Only Sexy Things? ” He grabbed the handcuffs and slipped them back into his pocket. “Thought I’d spice up the bedroom.”

“Stick to cinnamon incense. Last chance, lover boy. What’s going on?”

“You’re fucking late, hombre!” Manuel Cruz yelled from the fly bridge of a power boat tied up at the dock. He was a muscular man in his late thirties, wearing canvas shorts and a white shirt with epaulets. A Marlins’ cap was pulled low over his eyes, and his sunglasses hung on a chain.

The boat was a sportfisherman in the sixty-foot range, all polished teak and gleaming chrome. A fly bridge, a glass enclosed salon, and a pair of fighting chairs in the cockpit for serious deep-sea fishing. The name on the stern read: “ Wet Dream. ”

Men, Victoria thought. Men were so one-dimensional.

“ Buenos dias, Ms. Lord.”

She gave him a nod and a tight smile.

“Let’s go, Solomon,” Cruz urged. “Fish are hungry.”

Steve hoisted the cooler onto the deck. “Toss the lines for us, hon?”

She leveled a gaze at him. “Sure, hon. ”

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