[Note: "Key West - Special Edition" will be published by Azzurri Publishing next month. The new edition combines Wick's 2013 novel with previously unpublished prequel short story "The King of the Keys." The following is a short sample of the prequel story.]
The sun rose over Key West that Thursday morning as if it
were any other morning. This would be like no other morning in
Key West, though.
Gaines and Bill Lee watched as the fresh copies of the
Gazette came off the printing press. Bill’s “Old Jonah” story led
the front page.
Toward the bottom, in the lower left hand corner, where you
might miss it if you didn’t know to look for it, was a small notice
about the ten thousand dollar bolita jackpot.
Gaines put his copy back down on the stack. Bill could tell he
was nervous, but didn’t say anything.
“Alright,” Gaines said, “let’s get these papers out there.”
Maybe Gaines hoped the story would blow over quietly.
Bolita, after all, was out in the open in Key West. It was on the
streets. It was woven into the fabric of the local culture.
It was also illegal, of course.
The locals who played it, and especially the locals who ran it,
were very aware that it was illegal. Perhaps they did do it openly,
but they did not appreciate it being reported on.
Gaines' hope of a quiet day was shattered almost instantly.
Word spread quicker than fire through a paper factory.
In Tallahassee, Papy dropped his entire schedule for the day,
drove south from the capital, and complained for hours that his
driver wasn’t getting him to Key West fast enough.
Everyone in Key West knew Papy was coming. There was a
silence, a coldness on the streets that afternoon, regardless of how
warm the sunny weather was.
Sitting in the Gazette office, Gaines and Bill could feel it.
The phone was unusually silent. The street outside lacked it’s
usual bustle. Gaines buried himself in work, but Bill sat and stared
out the window.
Finally he could take no more, grabbed his hat and was gone
before Gaines could protest.
Bill walked down Duval Street. He could sense people
avoiding his eyes. In a town the size of Key West, everyone knew
everyone, and people avoided making eye contact only when they
had good reason.
He approached the Boat Bar, pushed the door open, and
stepped inside cautiously.
He wasn’t sure why he had come to the Boat Bar. Maybe it
was the ultimate test. Here, he would learn the true impact of the
If people on the street avoided eye contact, the opposite was
true in the Boat Bar. The moment he walked in the bartender
looked at him with stunned silence. Then the bartender turned to
his left, to the two goons and their boss, Walter.
These three gave Bill icy, piercing stares, looks full of
disgust, anger and outrage.
Bill walked to the bar, defying the gauntlet of outraged
stares, and tried to sit calmly.
“What’ll it be?” asked the bartender.
“Whisky soda,” Bill said.
The bartender waited a moment before moving. He glanced
quickly toward Walter and, receiving no response from him,
nervously poured a Whiskey soda.
The ominous silence of the Boat Bar was pierced only by the
staccato business-like mutterings of a tired poker game in the
Bill had his answer. Never before had silence told him so
much. He was in trouble and he knew it, deep, deep trouble.
Since first posted, Key West Special Edition has been published. Here is the amazon link:
March 13, 2015