The following is an excerpt from Carl Hiaasen’s “Bad Monkey,” which was released on Tuesday. Additional excerpts were published Sunday and Tuesday. You can read them all at MiamiHerald.com.
The new sheriff of Monroe County was a local bubba named Sonny Summers who won office because he was the only candidate not in federal custody, the two front-runners having been locked up on unconnected racketeering charges eight days before the election. Sonny Summers’s opponents were unable to post bond and therefore faced a strategic disadvantage during the campaign’s final debate, which was conducted via Skype from a medium-security prison near Florida City.
During his sixteen years as a road patrol officer, Sonny Summers had received numerous commendations for not f------ up on the job. He was well-groomed, courteous and diligent about his paperwork. One year he led the whole force in DUI arrests, a highly competitive category in the Keys. His spelling on arrest forms was almost always legible, he never took any of his girlfriends on dates in his squad car and he smoked pot only on his days off.
Upon becoming sheriff, Sonny Summers arranged a series of get acquainted luncheons with business leaders up and down the islands, from Key West to Key Largo. A recurring theme of these meetings was the fragility of tourism and the perils of negative publicity. The BP oil spill was often invoked, although not a drop of crude had ever reached South Florida beaches. Sonny Summers was sympathetic to the business owners, whose support he would need for future elections. Under no circumstances did he wish to be blamed for scaring customers away.
With that in mind, Sonny Summers ordered his public-information officer not to divulge any information about the severed arm that had been brought in aboard the Misty Momma IV. It was the new sheriff’s worry that floating body parts would be bad for tourism, particularly the waterfront trades. This was laughably untrue, as any marina owner in Miami could have assured him. Nothing short of a natural disaster discouraged people from going out on (or into) the water. One particular beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway got spunked regularly by raw sewage, yet squads of riot police couldn’t keep the swimmers and kiteboarders away.
In any case, Sonny Summers was fighting a lost battle. A crimescene van had been waiting for the Misty Momma IV when it docked, so news of the icky discovery spread quickly. Worse, the boneheaded angler who’d reeled in the dead arm was showing the pictures on his cell phone to everybody at the Chart Room. There was even a rumor that he’d posted a photo on Facebook.
“I’m counting on you,” the sheriff said to Yancy, after Yancy finally answered the phone.
“I’m counting on you not to come back from Miami with that you-know-what.”
Yancy said, “What if there are no matching limbs at the morgue up there?”
“I need some optimism from you, Detective. I need some can-do mojo.”
“The Gulf Stream flows north.”
“Duh,” said Sonny Summers.
“Also, the prevailing breeze this time of year blows from the southeast.”
“I was born here, Yancy. Get to the point.”
“Factor in the wind and currents, the odds of that arm floating from Miami all the way down here are pretty damn slim—unless it was paddling itself.”