the screenplay without Corey looking like a bastard.’

‘Don’t make him a saint if he wasn’t one, Pete,’ the woman said.

Pete shook his head and the tape fuzzed to blue, then resumed with Pete standing in front of a sign, JABEZ JONES MINISTRIES.

‘Visual notebook, part two, still scouting locations for the shoot.’ Pete pointed up at the sign. ‘Here’s where muscle-bound morons come to wrestle with their sins.’

‘I remind you,’ the woman’s voice said, ‘my daddy was a preacher. Be nice.’

‘Jabez declined to be interviewed for my movie. It makes you wonder,’ Pete said. ‘I have a feeling he’s just waiting to see the movie and sue big-time.’

‘Let him sue your ass,’ the woman counseled. ‘Free publicity.’

Pete grinned. ‘Like I’m gonna have to worry about publicity. I’m gonna be front page on every paper in the country.’

‘Yeah. Right. Whatever,’ the woman said. Annoyance dripped from her words, as though there was a secret she wasn’t privy to and wanted to be.

The tape jumped again. Pete stood on a stretch of jumbled heavy granite blocks, a fishing jetty near Port Leo Park. The surf surged in and the waves slammed hard against the pink and gray stones, spraying droplets into the air. Wind whipped Pete’s hair; the time stamp said this was filmed a week ago.

‘Hand me the flowers,’ Pete ordered. From out of the frame came a woman’s hand, covered with jangling bracelets, offering a large bouquet of daisies and carnations, the kind found in the grocery checkout lines, wrapped in green paper. Pete tossed the bouquet into the waves; the flowers churned in the tide, bounced, vanished, churned again. The camera panned up to Pete’s face.

‘There’s no grave for my brother, but we used to fish off this jetty. It’s the best I can do.’ He began to cry, softly.

A few moments of silence. ‘I think I’m gonna bring Sam here,’ Pete said, and the woman said, ‘Oh, Jesus, you got to listen to reason,’ and the film went black.

He looked over his shoulder, ejected the tape, and stuck in one of the adult offerings – Johnny Ampleseed. The new tape had only been rewound midway. It took less than twenty seconds watching Pete and two bleached blondes kneeling in an orchard to confirm Pete Hubble was indeed a celluloid sleaze. His timeless lines consisted of ‘Oh, yeah,’ ‘Do it, baby,’ and ‘Now it’s your turn.’

Whit felt sick. For Faith, for Lucinda, for Sam. Another part of him wondered: so what was living that life like?

Whit put the first tape back in the machine and powered off the television. Pete had been making a film project about his brother’s disappearance. Going legit with a film career after working in porn, unless he had decided to inject adult themes into his family’s tragedy. Whit thought probably not.

Whit went up to the deck. He spotted Claudia Salazar talking to a sheriff’s deputy along the gangplank. Another deputy carefully packed a few bagged and tagged items into a large cardboard box. The ambulance had departed, replaced by a mortuary service hearse, ready to transport the body when Whit gave the go-ahead.

Whit waited for Claudia to head back to the boat. ‘I’m pronouncing him dead as of 10:45 p.m.,’ he said. ‘I’m authorizing the autopsy and ordering an inquest. It’s all right to transport the body now.’ He scribbled details on an authorization of autopsy form, signed it, then Claudia witnessed his signature. ‘Is it you or Prince Charming that’s in charge of the investigation?’

‘Delford’s given me the case. You thinking suicide?’

‘Before we get to that question… he’s a porn star.’

Claudia blinked, her face paling in the marina lights. ‘Your shirt’s funny, but you’re not.’

He explained what he’d found, both the adult and legit tapes. Claudia rubbed her face. ‘Holy holy God,’ she mumbled.

‘Back to your question,’ Whit said. ‘Suicide’s certainly suggested. There’s no sign of a note, but he turned down a picture of his son. I saw the same in a suicide down in Darius a few weeks back. But… considering this guy’s livelihood, I’m wondering why that camera – with no tape – is pointed at the bed. And there’s a pair of women’s panties mixed in with his own clothes. Is our young witness missing any underwear?’

‘Oddly enough, I haven’t checked.’

‘There’s women’s clothing in the closet, including some stuff you ain’t gonna see the Junior League sporting during the Buccaneer Ball. If this girl isn’t staying with him, it belongs to someone else.’

‘You think… he was filming a movie and got snuffed?’

Whit shrugged. ‘I really don’t know.’

‘This is turning nastier by the second.’

‘Where is your witness?’

‘Down at the station. Gardner and the deputies can finish the scene work, I’m going to question her and get a statement.’ She jabbed a finger at him. ‘Not a word, Whit, not a word to anyone.’

He jabbed a finger back at her but smiled. ‘Gardner says this girl is a runaway. If you’re not going to detain her I don’t want her taking off before the inquest.’

Claudia nodded. ‘I’ll make sure she sticks close.’

‘I wonder if the person taping Pete talking about his brother was our runaway.’

‘Let’s talk to her,’ Claudia said. ‘We’ll compare her voice to the tape.’

They walked back to Real Shame. Claudia quickly inspected the tape collection and retrieved Pete’s homemade tape, and they went back on the dock, toward the marina office. An angry voice boomed along the docks, and they saw a woman arguing with Patrolman Fox at the police tape boundary.

‘Lady says she lives on the boat,’ Fox called to Claudia. ‘Her name’s Velvet.’

‘Velvet Mojo,’ Whit whispered, ‘is the director of Pete’s movies.’

‘Velvet Mojo sounds like a real bad wine,’ Claudia said. ‘It’s okay,’ she called back to Fox.

The woman was in her late twenties, with streaky blond hair combed back to her shoulders. She wore a dark long-sleeve T-shirt that read MEAN PEOPLE SUCK and baggy blue-jean shorts with scuffed sneakers.

‘Velvet?’ Claudia asked as they came to the tape.

The woman stared, and Whit saw fear in her eyes, fueled by the police, the crowd, the hearse.

‘What’s going on here? Is Pete in trouble?’ the woman asked.

Whit immediately recognized the woman’s voice from the videotape. Smoky, hinting of hazy bars and purred invitations.

‘Maybe we could go inside and talk.’ Claudia nodded toward the marina office.

Velvet shook her head. ‘I want to know what’s happened. Right freaking now.’

‘And I want to tell you. But inside,’ Claudia said.

‘Jesus,’ Velvet said, but she allowed herself to be led to the marina office. The wind gusted against them once, smelling of rain.

Inside the office, Claudia gently steered Velvet to a couch and sat down with her. ‘Velvet – pardon, but is that your real name?’

‘Yeah, it’s what I go by. But Mojo’s made up,’ Velvet said, as if that could be a revelation.

‘So what’s your real name?’

‘Velvet Lynn Hollister.’ Her gaze darted back and forth between Whit and Claudia.

‘I’m Claudia Salazar with the Port Leo Police Department, and this is Judge Whit Mosley. He’s our justice of the peace.’

‘Is Pete in trouble? Did he-’ She stopped.

‘Pete has died,’ Claudia said. ‘He was found shot to death this evening. I’m terribly sorry.’

Velvet accepted this news without screams or tears. Her throat worked in the dim light of the office for a few moments. ‘Dead? On the boat?’ She held herself very still, hands fixed in her lap, eyes dry.

‘Yes,’ Whit said. ‘He had been shot in the mouth. The gun was in his hand.’

They let Velvet digest that bit of news for a moment. She didn’t move.

‘Did he own a gun?’ Claudia asked.

‘No. He hated guns. Didn’t want them around.’

Claudia glanced at Whit. ‘Would one of his family perhaps have lent him a gun?’

‘I avoided his family,’ Velvet said. ‘I wasn’t up to their tight-assed snuff. His mother’s an A- I bitch and his

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