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.”
The sheriff was aware of Yancy’s employment history. “You don’t want to drive up to the big coldhearted city, that’s all.”
“What if they won’t take the case?”
“See, I’m depending on you to persuade them.”
“I can’t just leave a limb at the ME’s office if they don’t want it.”
Sonny Summers said, “Tomorrow I’m announcing that the investigation has been turned over to the appropriate authorities in Miami- Dade County. That’s the game plan, okay? This is officially no longer our headache.”
“I would wait a day to be sure.”
“Know what happened this morning? Some d---head from Channel 7 calls up and says he heard that mangled corpses are floating up in Key West harbor!”
“Did you tell him to f--- off?”
“Call back tomorrow is what I told him. Wait for the media statement.”
“Our victim’s probably a rafter,” Yancy said. “Drowned on the crossing from Havana and then got hit by a bull shark or a hammerhead.”
“There you go!” the sheriff exclaimed brightly. “Aren’t most rafters on their way to Miami to meet up with family? So that’s where the goddamn arm belongs—Miami! End of discussion.”
“It’s not really up to me, Sonny.”
“Let me put it another way: There will be no human remains on my watch. Understand? No human remains.”
Those close to Sonny Summers sensed that he was sometimes overwhelmed by his elevated responsibilities. The transition from writing speeding tickets to commanding a recalcitrant law enforcement bureaucracy had been bumpy. One aspect of the new job that Sonny Summers did enjoy was putting on a blazer and schmoozing with the chamber-of-commerce types.
Yancy tried to suggest that an occasional severed limb was no cause for panic.
“Really? The two-day lobster season is next week,” the sheriff said. “We’re expecting, like, thirty thousand divers.”
“A sea of reeking turds wouldn’t keep those lunatics off the water. What are you worried about?”
“We’ll speak again tomorrow,” said Sonny Summers.
Yancy said, “I’ll drive up there on one condition: You lift my suspension.”
“Not until after the trial. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“But it’s such bullshit, Sonny. I didn’t even hurt the guy.”
The sheriff said, “Talk to Bonnie. She’s the problem.”
Bonnie Witt, Yancy’s future former girlfriend, was prepared to testify that he’d assaulted her husband of fourteen years with a portable vacuum cleaner, specifically a tubular attachment designed for upholstery crevices. Clifford Witt had required some specialized medical care but he was more or less ambulatory within a week.
Sonny Summers said, “Of all the women you had to get involved with. Swear to God, Andrew. All the women on these islands.”
“Our love was like a streaking comet.” Yancy paused. “Her words, not mine.”
“Did you take a look at it? The . . . ?”
“Arm? Yes, Burton insisted.”
“No,” said Yancy. “But it makes a dandy back-scratcher.”
“Call me on your way back from Miami. I want some happy news.”
Excerpted from “ Bad Monkey” by Carl Hiaasen. Copyright © 2013 by Carl Hiaasen. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.