Crosses to Bear was awarded First Place in the Royal Palm Awards for 2013
given by the Florida Writers Association in the Suspense/Thriller category.
When Macduff Brooks and his two clients approached the takeout at the end of a day's float on the Yellowstone River, they saw Brook's trailer wasn't lined up with the others the "Shuttle Gals" service had moved that morning. The trailer had been backed into the river and a woman’s body was nailed to a large wooden cross strapped to the trailer. Mexican drug boss's sister and new Paradise Valley ranch owner, Victoria Montoya, was the first of three obvious suspects. Another was Helga Markel, a black-leathered, heavy-metaled, twenty-something member of PARA (People Against Recreational Angling).
The third suspect was the client Macduff had taken fishing that day - a man who had come to Montana to discuss building a controversial proposed dam that would flood Paradise Valley and destroy trout fishing on the Yellowstone River - to provide water for agriculture and coal mining.
Macduff soon learned that the head investigator from the local country sheriff’s office dislikes him because Macduff is admired by a number of local women the deputy has his eye on. But Macduff was more interested in his old Guatemalan nemeses, Juan Pablo Herzog and Abdul Khaliq Isfahani, who continued to search for Macduff to kill him.
While Macduff was engaged with the new killing on the Yellowstone River, Herzog visited the Florida law college where Macduff once taught as Maxwell Hunt. Herzog offered to fund a $4 million chair in the name of Macduff’s former identity – Professor Maxwell Hunt. But the quid pro quo for the money was a thorough investigation by the law school of Maxwell Hunt’s alleged death by a stroke. Herzog has never been convinced Maxwell Hunt actually died.
Struggling to deal with the killings, Lucinda Lang and Macduff have become increasingly close and increasingly at risk. Lucinda's mother would like to end their relationship.
U.S. Representative from New Mexico Juan Mendoza is fly fishing in Cuba at Playa Larga near the infamous Bay of Pigs. He dies an agonizing death. Macduff is asked by Juan's sister, Elena, U.S. Representative from Connecticut, to go to Cuba and search for Juan. Traveling to Cuba to fish is not permitted by U.S. laws, but Elena pulls strings and gets Macduff and Lucinda visas. While Macduff searches for Juan, Lucinda photographs places made famous by U.S. author Ernest Hemingway. for publication in a Canadian travel magazine.
In Havana Lucinda begins her photography with the help of the college student Francisco Sandoval, son of the powerful Cuban Minister of Home Affairs, Christina Sandoval. She has special treatment as she travels and photographs the various places Hemingway loved.
Macduff meanwhile has been driven to Playa Larga, checks into the same Playa Larga hotel where Juan Mendoza stayed and begins his search for who killed Mendoza. Macduff takes time to go fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit, using the same guide, Nacho Gomez, used by Juan. Three days later Lucinda is driven to Playa Larga by Francisco, who has been asking Lucinda questions about why Macduff's fingerprints taken for a visa entering Cuba match the fingerprints of one Maxwell Hunt who tried but was denied entry two decades earlier.
Macduff and Lucinda have to quickly leave Cuba and escape in a unique manner.
Added to the interests of various people who might have had a hand in Juan's death, are Alfredo Luna, a Florida sugar baron who wants the status quo with Cuba maintained, and U.S. Senator from Florida (Miami) Jorge Garcia Garcia, who along with a dwindling number of Cubans living in the U.S., wants Cuba returned to the "glorious days" of the 1950. Macduff meets two others in Montana who have interests in Cuba, rancher Cliff Cameron and Montana's sole U.S. House member, David Longstreet.
Minister Sandoval surprisingly invites Macduff and Lucinda back to Cuba. They decide to go and are flown to Havana. But Elena has also gone to Cuba, without telling Macduff. Elena goes to Playa Larga and has dinner with the manager of the hotel, Celia Bustamante. After dinner she makes a major discovery about her brother's death.
Macduff and Lucinda are fully convinced who killed Juan. But there are still surprises to come.
A new gang of illegal immigrant youths - called Calle Rojo - has been establishing itself in Jackson, Wyoming from its initial base in Los Angeles. To become a member of Calle Rojo a candidate is assigned a prominent fly fishing guide to murder while float fishing on a river. The first occurs on the Snake River where the candidate drives a machete through the heart of guide Janice Whittaker, paints the letters CR in her blood on the inside of the drift boat, severs her hand, and flees. The Calle Rojo killer is inducted at a ceremony in Jackson the following week.
Lucinda and Macduff are at their Florida cottage south of St. Augustine. When they learn of the murder they have to consider whether Macduff will cancel all or some of his scheduled guiding trips during the soon to begin season. It’s not long before they become even more involved, as more guides are targeted.
They decide to go to Hope Town in the Bahamas for Macduff’s birthday, avoiding Reginald Covington, who long ago with now deceased Robert Ellsworth-Kent, onetime husband of two months of Lucinda, kept her hostage for eighteen months. They learn astounding changes have happened to Covington and to his former plaything, Candi Treat, who is really Jennifer French. These events further complicate Macduff’s and Lucinda’s future.
The Calle Rojo gang begins to encroach upon the territory of another gang - the Bandits motorcycle gang - in Livingston, Montana, leading to direct conflict between the two groups. Macduff is ultimately drawn into the matter, making his return to Montana to guide even more treacherous.
Can Macduff and Lucinda, and their new friend, Jennifer French, solve the guide murders and end the conflicts of the gangs and their murderous practices, including avoiding racist charges by the Hispanic population in Jackson
THE SIXTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
Macduff has arrived alone at the Florida cottage as the book opens. He learns that about the time he left Montana for Florida, a Master Casting Instructor named Arthur Spence was found dead in the creek in Cascade Canyon at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was found under water and when pulled ashore had a black fly tied around his neck. The Wyoming Attorney General enters the picture, for ambitious political reasons he attempts to make Macduff the scapegoat in the death of Spence in Cascade Canyon, even though Macduff had left for Florida before the body was found. Lucinda arrives in Florida, after eighteen months of abduction, to surprise Macduff at Thanksgiving dinner.
Macduff is curious about Spence but more concerned about his wife Lucinda, who had been abducted by her former spouse Robert Ellsworth-Kent. His body was found washed ashore at Abaco in the Bahamas and an unidentified woman’s body also was found on the beach. To Macduff’s relief it was not Lucinda, who he soon learns is in a Bahamas hospital. She suffers from months of hypnosis and he may not be able to see her for six months.
To keep busy, Macduff goes to the annual meeting of an international fly casting organization in Crystal River, Florida. He wants to take a lesson from the principal guest instructor, Master Casting Instructor Rachel Hart. About the time Macduff leaves the next day after his lesson and dinner with Hart, tragedy strikes at the Crystal River lodging and another black fly is found around the victim’s neck.
Macduff learns that a man named Covington had helped Ellsworth-Kent hide and keep Lucinda hypnotized and, with the help of Macduff’s CIA friend, Dan Wilson, plan tos deal with Covington.
The Citrus County, Florida, chief investigator begins to investigate and suspects Macduff for the death of Hart at the program at Crystal River. The investigator wants Macduff to come to Citrus County for questioning.
THE THIRD MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE FIRST MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE SEVENTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
Macduff and Lucinda Brooks are on their flats boat in Pine Island Sound off Southwest Florida, on their way to Cabbage Key for the weekend, when they come upon an airboat driven into the mangroves on the edge of Black Key. A body is in the propeller cage, dismembered from being spun to death. The Brooks are drawn into the search for the killer by their curiosity, to the dismay of local authorities in Ft. Myers, who confuse curiosity with involvement.
As they have done since they met, Macduff and Lucinda move between St. Augustine, Florida, and Paradise Valley, Montana. Returning from Montana, where Macduff has been guiding for the summer season, to St. Augustine, they learn that Guatemalan Juan Pablo Herzog, determined to find and kill Macduff but unsuccessful for a dozen years, has been elected President of his country. Herzog begins to train his niece Luisa Solares, to help him find what happened to Professor Maxwell Hunt.
The couple also are drawn into a second airboat murder, this time very close to their St. Augustine cottage. Now they must deal both with the two airboat murders and with Herzog’s continued attempt to discover that one-time Professor Maxwell Hunt of the University of Florida law college, is now living as Montana fly fishing guide Macduff Brooks. Adding to the complexity of Macduff’s life is his determination not to have his wife Lucinda or his daughter Elsbeth drawn into Herzog’s vengeance.
Their friend and Florida State Attorney, Grace Justice, drawn into the second murder, visits the Bahamas searching for the more recent airboat murder. Reader's are introduced to a new, dangerous character, Reginald Covington III, allegedly merely a Bahamian businessman.
The book ends with a tragic meeting between Lucinda and Ellsworth-Kent, her former husband.
Gill Net Games was named a Finalist by the Florida Writers Association in the Suspense/Thriller category of the Royal Palm Literary Awards for 2014. The first place award was won by Deadly Drifts.
Gill Net Games opens with two good ole boys heading out from Ft. Meyers for a day of bait fishing near Sanibel. As they pass a channel marker they see a gill net hanging from the marker, and when closer discover that a body is wrapped in the gill net. Macduff and Lucinda learn of the death the following morning at Macduff’s cabin in Montana. Macduff knew the person from a conference where they both spoke.
Macduff and Lucinda decide to do something more pleasant and go fishing on the Passage Falls Creek. But on their way home they discover a body also wrapped in a gill net and wedged under a small bridge.
But that’s not the end of it, as someone is seeking revenge for the passage of the 1994 Florida gill net ban and current proposal to tighten the ban as well as limit judicial review. More deaths of recreational fishermen occur. It could be the work of commercial fishermen, disgruntled about the ban in 1994 and outraged at the new proposals. Or it could be members of PARA ― People Against Recreational Angling ― who a couple of years ago (as told in Crosses to Bear) may have been responsible for the death of one of the Shuttle Gals. Finally, it could be people from Oyster Bay, a small town economically devastated by the net ban.
Macduff and Lucinda, accompanied by loyal Sheltie Wuff, make their annual fall move to Florida. Lucinda leaves the trip in St. Louis to fly to Manhattan and do some work at her old investment firm. She can’t answer Macduff's inquiry about when―or if―she will rejoin Macduff. What may be concerning her is Macduff’s failure to set a wedding date, or that she will interfere with the arrival of his daughter, whom he thought died years ago or, more likely, Lucinda’s inability to live with Macduff’s determination to confront his Guatemalan and Sudanese assailants, Juan Pablo Herzog and Abdul Khaliq Isfahani. Macduff is asked by his CIA contact to try again to assassinate Isfahani, this time in Khartoum.
Macduff has to deal with his alleged daughter’s arrival, Lucinda’s departure, CIA agent Dan Wilson’s demands, and more actions against recreational fishermen in Florida
GILL NET GAMES
THE FOURTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE EIGHTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE FIFTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE TENTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
THE ELEVENTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
"You're Next!" was named a Finalist by the Florida Writer's Association in the
Suspense/Thriller category of the Royal Palm Literary Awards for 2014.
The First Place award was won by Deadly Drifts.
Macduff Brooks starts his guiding season on June 21st, the summer solstice, with a client floating on the Madison River near Ennis. Another boat drifts toward them with what appears to be only one person. But on closer inspection that person is encased in a wicker man basket-like covering. The person is wearing a wreath of mistletoe. On the front of the wicker are plastic explosives and a sign that reads “You’re Next, Lucinda,” a reference to Macduff’s lady friend and now fiancée.
Macduff and Lucinda assume it is the work of the two―Guatemalan Juan Pablo Herzog and Sudanese Abdul Khaliq Isfahani―who have been trying to discover Macduff’s name (he is in a federal protection program) and where he lives.
Dismissed former CIA agent Allan Whitman knows that Maxwell Hunt is Macduff Brooks because he was involved in placing Hunt in the protection program. He now threatens to disclose that to the world by publishing his memoirs, or selling the information to Herzog and Isfahani for a very high price.
Meanwhile, Lucinda Lang, Macduff’s companion, hears from Robert Ellsworth-Kent, a British war hero to whom she was married for two months. He has been released from prison and is coming to America to take Lucinda back. She is terrified of him.
On the autumnal equinox another explosion occurs, this time on the North Platte River in Wyoming near Saratoga. What will happen next and will it occur on a different river on the winter solstice? How is it possible that Macduff claims he has seen Helga Markel, who died a year ago after killing one of the Shuttle Gals on the Yellowstone River.
That makes five people who may cause harm to Lucinda and Macduff. At the end Macduff receives the shock of his life when he encounters another person he has never seen before.
Macduff is without Lucinda as the book opens. Alone, he continues to guide in Montana and Wyoming. He has an incident with a client from Hell, Palmer Brown, who is planning to kill his wealthy wife.
Floating on the Gallatin River fly fishers discover barbed wire stretched across the river at about neck height. Was done to harm or kill specific persons, or any person fishing along privately owned land?
With Lucinda's absence Macduff has been seeing Florida State Attorney, Grace Justice. But a letter comes from Lucinda. Macduff discovers someone is trying to take the assets he and Lucinda have shared.
Guatemalan President Juan Pablo Herzog continues to try to find out information about Macduff, taking the characters abroad to Portugal, Italy, and the Bahamas. Herzog's niece Luisa Solares, is studying in Gainesville and searching for information that would help her uncle.
A surprising turn of events occurs in a small town in the hills of Tuscany, Italy.
The barbed wire on the Gallatin River continues to cause problems.
M.W. Gordon, Author of the Macduff Brooks Fly Fishing Mystery Novels
CROSSES TO BEAR
THE SECOND MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
Deadly Drifts was named overall Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association
in the Royal Palm Literary Awards for 2014, and also received first place in the suspense/thriller category for the same year.
Florida law professor Maxwell Hunt wants nothing more than to spend his life married to El and teach international law in Gainesville. But after ten years of marriage El died in a terrifying drift boat accident on the Snake River in Wyoming. Maxwell blames himself for not saving her.
Despondent, Macduff increasingly accepts “special work” for a federal agency while lecturing in such troubled countries as Sudan, Yugoslavia, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. His work is misinterpreted in Guatemala by the nation's drug lord, who nearly beats Maxwell to death, until he is rescued and flown back to the United States. To protect him, his death is announced and he is placed in a federal protection program with a new identity as Macduff Brooks, and a new location in Paradise Valley, Montana. He struggles to become a competent fly fishing guide, drinks too much Gentlemen Jack, and avoids serious relationships with women.
But his new, quiet life is disrupted. A client on his drift boat is shot, Macduff's cabin is rigged with bombs, and he is drawn into his old work for the agency, being convinced to help thwart a second attempt by al-Qaeda extremists to topple New York City skyscrapers – the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.
Complicating his life, Macduff meets a New York investment-banker lady, Lucinda Lang, who owns a ranch next to Brooks' Montana cabin, a relationship that threatens to compromise his attempts to avoid both his Guatemalan assailant and an Islamist terrorist.
On a beautiful fall day along Mill Creek in Paradise Valley, Montana, Lucinda and Macduff are enjoying coffee when they see the creek suddenly begin to flow a grungy bright orange. They head up Mill Creek to investigate and enter a maze of trouble involving some unpleasant FBI agents and a spillage at an old gold mine.
When they head cross country and reach their Florida cottage for the winter, they learn that a new AP writer, Lorna Dubois, wants to write about Macduff’s early years, which he has carefully avoided discussing since he became Macduff Brooks a decade and a half ago. While Lucinda and Macduff stay in Florida for the winter, Dubois heads to Montana to begin research for her article.
Lucinda and Macduff unwisely visit Gainesville and drop by the law college where unknown events are occurring that may affect the couple. While in Florida the FBI becomes more intrusive into Lucinda’s and Macduff’s lives, trying to search both their Florida cottage and Montana cabin.
After a break at Cabbage Key in Southwest Florida, the two head back to Montana for the summer, persistently threatened by FBI agents. One FBI agent goes missing adding to the suspicion of the FBI about Macduff’s and Lucinda’s participation. The couple takes some needed time to fish on spectacular private land. Two days later they head up Mill Creek to fish and nose around the mine area, which can only lead to trouble.
At the University of Florida law college in Gainesville, a newly hired maintenance man who is Guatemalan shows an interest in former Professor Hunt, Macduff’s name almost two decades ago. The man talks at length with Professor Nancy Jones, who was a faculty member and close friend to Professor Hunt. He also talks to the new dean, who wants the money once offered by Herzog for a chair to honor Hunt, and will obtain and provide information about where former Professor Hunt is now living and what name he is using.
A new character enters, a Chinese billionaire named Xia Han, who has bought the Mill Creek mine and wants to start mining in several places in Paradise Valley. Macduff and Lucinda are shocked but are determined to stop Xia at all costs.
Lucinda and her friend local deputy Erin Giffin become unusually angry at Xia, which can only lead to trouble, and does. While they deal with Xia, Herzog returns to and is restored as president of Guatemala. Professor Nancy Jones shows up with him amid speculation that she will become the first lady of Guatemala and, of more concern to Macduff, will tell Herzog what he has long sought about Professor Hunt – if she knows he is now Macduff Brooks and lives as a fly fishing guide in Montana.
THE NINTH MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERY
A diversion dam―about six feet high and several yards across―is alongside Mill Creek in Paradise Valley, Montana. The owner of the dam annually opens the dam to allow water to his farm in late summer and early fall. All of the water is diverted causing the creek to become waterless and all the fish to perish.
The farmer, Oscar Macpherson, refuses to allow even a small amount of water to remain in the normal course and allow the fish to survive. One morning his body is found at the bottom of the now closed dam. He may have fallen, or he may have been struck from behind. A coil of yellow line was found on his body.
Macduff and Lucinda are concerned because it happened within a mile of their log cabin, and they have both been outspokenly opposed to Macpherson’s use of the diversion dam.
Dan Wilson in D.C. asks Macduff and Lucinda to go to Guatemala and help Luisa Solares, Herzog’s niece, escape his grasp. Nancy Jones, now married to Herzog, has become his First Lady by marriage, and Vice President by election. He is jealous of her.
Lucinda would like to have Dan approve her killing Herzog to protect Macduff. They go to Guatemala, but things go wrong when Herzog shows up at the U.S. Embassy while Luisa is being helped leave the country.
Two new persons, wealthy twin brothers Bob and Dave True, move to Paradise Valley and want to rid the valley of miners, diversion dams, depletion of well water by agriculture, and ripraps along the Yellowstone River. How they will change matters becomes a problem, by legal means of buying land, or murdering those who abuse the land.
EXTRACTS FROM THE DEBUT NOVEL
OF THE MACDUFF BROOKS FLY FISHING MYSTERIES -
Four miles of river to fish remained before Moose. Soon after we pushed off we approached another braid, a choice of four channels. Brew was visibly nervous about choosing a channel. I was behind him in the rear seat and couldn’t see his face. El was in front glancing back at me with an expression of growing fear.
“You talk to Stan about these channels?” I asked Brew. “This section has good water, but it flattens out up ahead.”
“I know how to row, dammit! There’s plenty of water,” Brew replied. There was an edge to his voice ― a bravado masking indecision. “The worst this channel is gonna do is braid again. Then I think we’ll rejoin the channels off to the left.”
We were close to stage three ― scared. I didn’t want to think about what was stage four. Over Brew’s blowing hair, wind-loosened from its pigtail, I saw what I didn’t want to see. The winter snow melt, as moderate as the snow pack had been, had carried piles of debris down our channel. Not a few branches, but whole trees that forty yards ahead were piled one atop another. Only the river’s flow could pass through its maze of limbs and branches. A drift boat didn’t have a chance. It was a strainer about which guides tell horror stories. We were heading straight at it.
Two rivers define my fishing life ― the Yellowstone and the Snake. Both begin not far apart in the high country near the southern boundary of Yellowstone Park. The difference is that the Snake begins a little to the west of the Continental Divide, while the Yellowstone begins a little to the east. If I stood on the divide and tipped two water bottles out from my opposite sides, the water from one would join the Pacific, and from the other would join the Atlantic by way of the Gulf. The Snake journeys south past the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park, through Jackson Hole, turns west, and twists through Idaho to join the Columbia River, which flows to the Pacific.The Yellowstone, on the other hand, journeys north through the park ― dropping over two magnificent falls ― exits the park and meanders through Paradise Valley, passing a couple of miles from my cabin. Then it makes an easterly bend at Livingston, joins the Missouri River near the North Dakota border, turns south through Mid-West states, and adds to the Mississippi River at St. Louis, eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. From my favorite locations on these two rivers, I view waters that struggle to reach their final oceans.
At Moose in Wyoming the Snake is rimmed to the west by the Teton Range, around which it must pass to reach the Pacific.
At Emigrant in Montana the Yellowstone is rimmed to the east by the Absaroka Range, around which it must pass to reach the Atlantic. The Snake runs south until it can turn west. The Yellowstone runs north until it can turn east. That’s the magic of the American West.
We pushed off in Osprey at Deadman’s Bar as some high cirrus clouds began to capture a clear blue sky, warning of a weather change by midnight. John rowed the first couple of miles, watching me throw casts to the bank.
“Try to get that fly closer to the bank, almost on the rocks,” he suggested.
I was watching two adolescent otters tumble off the bank ahead when John yelled, “Lift the rod! Tip up, not sideways.”
A cutthroat broke the surface curtain, absorbed the fly, rolled to flash us its namesake crimson throat, and vanished into the depths. I reeled in line that had piled on the casting deck and then used the open palm of my left hand against the reel to control the drag. The cutthroat headed downstream straight along the bank, twisting left and right like a submarine eluding a destroyer, never more than two feet off the refuge under the bank, searching for anything to wrap the tippet around to break the line. Trout aren’t too smart, but they know how to react instinctively to survive. John was rowing hard forward, trying to match the pace of the desperate trout and reduce the stress on my light tippet.
“Damn! The line’s gone slack. It’s off,” I said.
“No, it’s not. Reel in fast.” John back-rowed to help. “It’s turned a half-circle, heading back toward us, gaining slack to throw off the barbless hook.”
I got the slack in. The small hook, a #18 encased within an imitation of something more tempting than familiar to trout, maintained the tenuous link between the boat and the fish that was unable to seek the safety of the depths. John and I flashed smiles at the trout’s abrupt turning splash and its final thrust across the river, where it surprisingly stopped two feet short of refuge within the underwater limbs of a fallen tree on the opposite bank.
“I think it’s surrendered,” John proclaimed. “It’s swimming around slowly without direction.”
He turned the boat to work the long-handled guide net close under the fish. But the prospect of capture or a second wind changed its mind, like Rigoletto’s dying Gilda rising for a few final lines of the closing aria. The trout showed another burst of adrenaline, thrusting thirty-feet downstream. Then it stopped again and, after we floated to close the gap, accepted the net.
“Great cutthroat. Beautiful color. Lucky catch!” he said.
“Luck? Perfect fly choice. Perfect presentation. Perfect set. All followed by a perfect play to the boat. And you were OK with the net. I may ask you to fish with me again. . . . How come everything I catch is luck and everything you catch is skill?”
“Except for when you catch whitefish . . . then it’s your skill.”
We kept the trout only a few seconds, to admire its complexion and praise its competitiveness. John easily slid the barbless hook free and held the fish under the surface, facing upstream. We watched it breathe deeply to regain energy. And then, without our sensing any movement, it wasn’t there.
As our float progressed, both the river and John’s humor proved cathartic. He has reason for self-deprecation. He’s a Bulldog. One of those unenviable individuals who, in their late teens, when their judgment is still to be forgiven, somehow find themselves studying in Athens. Not in Greece, but at Georgia’s major institution of more-or-less higher education.
Since I was determined to become a wintertime resident of Florida, it wasn’t a compromise of identity to favor the Florida Gators in playing my role of Macduff.
“John,” I asked, “why did Georgia choose the planet’s ugliest creature ― the bulldog ― for its mascot?”
“The Florida gator’s uglier.”
“But gators eat dogs,” I responded. “That’s survival of the fittest. It’s only natural that Florida beats Georgia. Darwin says so.”
“What’s Darwin got to do with it? He was a running back for Alabama in the late 50's."
Comfortable that Kath was happy with her quiet location and producing good drifts of the trude, I went back to see how Park was doing. I thought he was on one knee working on his rig ― maybe undoing a wind knot ― but as I got closer I saw he was clubbing a trout with a piece of driftwood, the slow rigid curl of the tail unveiling an ebbing life.
By the time I got there a beautiful eighteen-inch cutthroat was bloodied and dead. Park was trying to slip it into a plastic bag.
"I told you there’s no keeping fish! You don't deserve to be on this river.”
“One dead trout won’t empty the goddamn river, Mick. Just pretend it died from swallowing the hook.”
There was a discomforting, hostile edge to his voice. No hint of contrition. It wasn’t time to again correct his calling me Mick.
“It didn’t die swallowing a hook. Don't you listen?"
“So what are you going to do? . . . Arrest me? Report me to the park pansies?”
“No, but I’m pretty creative at dealing with clients who don’t listen.”
Kath returned from around the bend, drawn by the louder parts of our discussion. She was shivering and it wasn’t from the cold. She hopped into the stern seat of the boat, never looking at Park, knowing he needs anger management. I kept my distance from him, walked to the drift boat, climbed in, pulled in the anchor, and backed off the bar, quickly putting us out into the five- to six-foot depth of mid-stream.
“Hey, where in hell you think you’re going? Bring that boat back,” Park demanded.
As I rowed to keep us away from his reach he lunged a couple of steps and tripped. His hairpiece fell off and floated off with the current. What Park heard next he didn’t welcome.
“You’ll never float with me again, Salisbury. You can walk out. It’s a few miles downstream to Moose. It’s hard, slow going along the rocky shore because the water’s low this time of the fall. I suggest you stay close to the water. Most of the brush by the river is huckleberry, and this is the time of the year the grizzlies are stocking up. They’re in what’s called hyperphagia. Gorging themselves ― getting ready for hibernation. One of them might enjoy a change in diet if it sees you. When you finish your walk, I’ll be gone. Kath will be waiting in the bar at Moose. Maybe she’ll find someone there who won’t scare her like you do.”
I took a small tube from my bag and tossed it to Park. It landed at his feet. “Put some sunscreen on that bald head!” Park’s expletive-laced screams were echoing off the moraine slopes as Kath and I rounded a bend out of his sight.
On a late March day, while I was hoping that Juan Pablo was so involved with his dirty tricks in Guatemala that his hatred for me had been pushed to a back burner, an unexpected call came from D.C. Not from Dan Wilson, but another agent I know only by name ― Bruce Rogero. He works at Langley on Guatemalan issues.
His comments supported Dan Wilson’s.
“There are disagreeable rumblings in Guatemala,” Rogero related. “Juan Pablo has consolidated his power since ‘the incident,’” a term we used to avoid mentioning my identity change. “The Supreme Court of Guatemala isn’t able to function. One member was murdered last month in the park in Guatemala City, her body mutilated and impaled on one of the volcanoes which rises on the large relief map of the country. Two other members of the court immediately resigned. Their replacements are Juan Pablo lackeys.
“There’s a federal warrant out for Juan Pablo’s arrest in the U.S. We believe he was here last week using false diplomatic credentials and was part of a group that murdered a CIA agent in Virginia. The agent was one of the three who saved Maxwell Hunt at the Camino Real. We have no reason to believe you’ve been compromised, but I think you need to be aware of Juan Pablo’s activities.”“If you’re trying to scare me, you’ve succeeded. Any suggestions?”
“We don’t want you to go anywhere. It’s trouble enough that you have two houses. And we want you to be alert.”
“If the protection plan is working and Juan Pablo believes I’m dead, should I be worrying?”
“If he doubts your death, Mac, he probably wouldn’t have shown his hand by going after one of the agents who rescued you. But he hasn’t dropped the matter.”
“Juan Pablo’s activities in the U.S. can’t have been well thought through if he’s serious about running for Guatemala’s presidency.”
“He’s compulsive. His actions aren’t very consistent. That makes him all the more dangerous. But the career ambassadorship seekers in our State Department believe he should be supported, as long as he speaks favorably about the U.S. and protects U.S. business interests in Guatemala. . . . One more thing ― Dan Wilson asked me to tell you that we’ve lost track of Isfahani."
Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead as I stretched out in a prone position amongst the foliage. The sweat wasn’t from the prospect of shooting, but the Guatemalan humidity. I wanted to pull the trigger. And I wanted a clean kill. Anything other than a quick death was unsatisfactory.
I didn’t want Isfahani to suffer a lingering death, even with his fanatical hatred for America and Americans. Hatred for me. And Lucinda by association. He’s willing to trade his life shortly for the lives of two to three thousand innocent people. It almost certainly means killing Lucinda if she’s at work in Manhattan. If I saw Isfahani point a gun at Lucinda and cock the trigger, would I fire at him? I’d empty the magazine.
I kept that in mind as I loaded five .408 cartridges in a single-stack clip, and lay on a far warmer ground than when I’d practiced at Mill Creek. Soon, a tiny, lone figure appeared a half-mile away, running smoothly toward me, visible only for an instant in gaps in the dense highland forest. He was moving gracefully, most of his effort moving him forward without noticeable bouncing. That would make the shot easier.
Isfahani increasingly filled my scope as he approached the target point. He was handsome in the tropical sun that glistened on his sweating cheeks. Wearing a blue baseball cap with orange trim. I focused the scope on the hat. On the front was the Gator logo of the University of Florida. It was a perfect target, I’ve never been gator hunting before.
Last revised: August 2017
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