Conner had driven two miles feeling pretty damn pleased with his own cleverness when he realized he didn't know where he was going.

He pulled over.

He went back to the file and found a home address. Hopefully, the divorce had been particularly bitter, and Conner could get Jenny Folger to fink on her ex-husband. Maybe Jenny would get a kick out of taking away hubby's big toy boat. Conner pulled back onto the road and drove.

The address from the file was a nice, three-bedroom, two-bath American apple pie special in a good neighborhood. But a yellow real estate sign sprouted from the overgrown lawn like a middle finger. Conner looked in the windows. The place was empty.

A phone book at a nearby convenience store had nothing to offer, but information had a J. Folger listed in Mobile. Conner scribbled the number on the outside of the Folger file.

Conner called, and she answered. He told her who he was and that he was looking for her husband. She said her husband could burn in the fiery pits of hell, and wherever he might be it sure wasn't at her apartment. Conner said he wanted to find her husband's boat and take it away from him. She said Conner should get a merit badge. He suggested she might be able to help. She didn't see how but said if Conner held Teddy's arms, she'd punch him in the gut. Conner offered to come by and discuss it. She gave him the address.

Teddy Folger's ex-wife lived way the hell on the west side of Mobile, so Conner had to pass Hank Aaron Stadium to get there. The stadium was where the Bay Bears played.

I would have been a good Bay Bear, Conner thought.

When he'd blown his baseball scholarship at the University of West Florida, he'd tried a few more schools, even some community colleges, to see if he could get on with another team. Nobody was impressed by his 0.5 grade point average, and he'd struck out all around. Conner sat on his thumb for a year, drinking beer and shaking his fist at the world.

Then he'd gotten the bright idea to try out for the triple-A club in Mobile. It was still a long way from the show, but it was professional sports and a steady paycheck. He swung the bat, ran the bases. The coach said he had a good arm, a decent eye in the batter's box, but maybe he should join a gym. He was out of shape and sucking wind. He was told there were a dozen guys in top form who could throw and swing as well as or better than Conner.

What if I got into shape, worked really hard?

Sorry, kid. Maybe next season.

He spent the next few months doing sit-ups and running three miles a day, but somehow when tryouts rolled around again, his heart wasn't in it. His heart wasn't in much of anything. He earned a buck here and there with repos and the occasional gambling score.

But it was more than a simple lack of willpower that kept him from tryouts, something worse and deeper. Fear. He was scared. It was that simple. What if he worked hard, did his best, gave it everything he had, and yet he still failed? Could he handle that? Would he be able to stand the knowledge that he was exactly as useless as he suspected he might be? It was easier for him not to try than to give it his best only to crash and burn.

Conner had failed at college, failed in his attempts to win Tyranny. Life had been so easy for him for so long, and now life was calling in all its markers. Growing up was unpleasant and uncomfortable.

He put baseball and Tyranny out of his mind. Today he was looking for a boat, and that was all.

Jenny Folger's apartment complex rivaled Conner's own in drab efficiency and unimaginative landscaping. He climbed a flight of steps and knocked. She let him in and directed him to a sofa that was a little too nice for the apartment.

"It's early, but would you like a beer?" she asked.

"There's no such thing as too early."

She came back with a Labatt's Blue, and Conner stopped her before she poured it into a glass. "Straight from the bottle is fine."

She took hers from the bottle too, sat in the matching chair across from him. They drank beer and took each other in for a second.

Jenny Folger looked like she'd once been a sunny, stunning blonde. Hourglass shape, long hair pulled tight into a butter-silk topknot. Athletically thick, broad back, built for action. She was just into middle age. Bouncy, sun-kissed youth had left her behind but reluctantly, and she was just divorced. Jenny sent out a vibe of broken-winged desperation that stirred the predator in men. Conner sensed it filling the room between them, thick like perfume that was a little too sweet. He could see it in her eyes as she searched his face.

"I told you I was looking for the boat," Conner said.

"Yes. Teddy's little plaything."

"Do you have any idea where he might have stashed it?"

"Not the faintest," she said. "Believe me, if I did, I'd have my lawyer on him in a second. I was supposed to get a big, fat settlement. I haven't seen a dime or I wouldn't be here." She waved her bottle at the apartment.

Conner sipped beer, shrugged. "It's not so bad."

"It's not so good either."

"Can I ask what happened?"

"The divorce?"


She frowned, took a hit off the beer. "The same thing that happened to the first Mrs. Folger. Teddy found somebody he liked better."

Oh, yeah. Conner had heard this one before.

"I suppose I'm some kind of idiot," Jenny said. "When he left his wife for me, I thought I was hot stuff. It never occurred to me I could get older and sag and sprout crow's-feet."

"You look okay."

"Gee, you're sweeping me off my feet. Anyway, he found this woman in Pensacola, tends bar at one of the beach places. Half Teddy's age. It's ridiculous."

"How old is Teddy?"

She nibbled the inside of her lip. "Let's see. Next month he'll be fifty-six. He's a motherfucker. He sold everything, cleaned out the checking account, and took off. He hadn't made a mortgage payment on the house in five months. Bastard. I had to get the most hideous job as a receptionist downtown."

"You didn't get anything?"

"There was nothing left to get." She finished the beer and lit a thin cigarette, exhaled gray smoke, her head back against the chair. "I got a lawyer, of course, tried to grab back what I could, but it was no good."

Conner opened the file on Folger. "It says here he had some properties. You couldn't claim any of that?"

"It was just one property."

He rechecked the file. "It says a tanning salon, a comic-book shop, a Blimpie-"

"No." She shook her head, puffed the cigarette. "It was all one property. A strip plaza in Pensacola. It burned down."

"The whole plaza?"

"The insurance investigators were all over his ass," Jenny said. "Nobody could prove anything."

"Did he do it?"

"Of course he did. The new mall was killing him. He didn't confess it to me, but you bet he torched the plaza."

He asked, "You couldn't claim any of the insurance money?"

She shook her head, mashed out the cigarette in an amber glass ashtray. "The banks were faster than I was. The plaza was mortgaged up the ass, and the insurance barely paid everything off."

All Conner could think was that Teddy Folger was a dumb fucking asshole. He'd pulled off the most useless insurance scam in history, burning down his own property only to lose the payoff to his creditors. How could he sail off to Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic without a stash of cash?

Conner opened the file again, scanned all the same stuff, hoping it would look more useful this time. It didn't.

Jenny lit another cigarette, nodded at the file. "Can I see that?"

Conner handed it to her.

She started reading, flipping pages, the cigarette dancing between her lips with nervous puffs. She scrunched her eyes severely as she read. Too vain for glasses maybe.

Conner turned the Labatt's bottle around in his hands. He was pretty sad about how empty it was.

"Son of a bitch." She flipped pages rapidly. "Son of a fucking bitch bastard!"

"What's the matter?"

"I married a shit. That's what's the matter."

She dropped the file folder on the coffee table. Pages spilled out. She stood, crossed the room to the front window, arms folded, her foot tapping away pent-up anger. She let her cigarette ash fall on the carpet. Her shoulders bunched tight, knotting in frustration.

Conner let her stew for a minute, then said, "You might as well tell me. Maybe I can help."

She thought about it a moment, spun, looked hard at him. "You said you were looking for the boat."

"That's right."

"How would you find it?"

Conner said, "Systematic investigative techniques."

"You don't have a fucking clue, do you?"


"That's why you came to me," Jenny said. "You thought I might know where Teddy went."

"I'm new at this," Conner admitted. "Usually someone hands me a name and an address and says to go get the car. There's no mystery about it. I wait until it's dark or the guy's at work, then jump in the car and take off."

"You hot-wire it?"

"Sometimes I have an extra key. Most of the work is done with tow trucks nowadays."

"Same with the boat?" Jenny asked. "When you find it, you're going to steal it back?"

"It's not stealing, but yeah. I'd just as soon never meet Mr. Folger. Better I grab it while he's napping or on the crapper. It'll be a problem if he's hauled it out of the water. I don't have a trailer or a hitch."

The tendons along her hand twitched. Her jaw muscles tightened. She was thinking something, and it was giving her trouble. She said, "What if I could show you where the boat is?"

"That would completely kick ass."

"I mean, what's in it for me?"

"The satisfaction of knowing you've thwarted your husband's evil schemes."

"Get real."

Conner sighed. "Mrs. Folger-"


"Jenny, I'm not being paid a lot to do this. Cutting you in for even a small chunk makes the job more trouble than it's worth."

She dropped the cigarette butt into the ashtray with the others. It looked like she was trying to build a little fort. She snatched up the pack, pulled another out, and lit it. Conner had her figured at about three packs a day.

"I know Teddy. That rat-fuck, little turd. He has money. Something. He was always squirreling it away. Stocks and things. It's half mine. I'm not going to get screwed on this, goddammit!"

"I'm just supposed to get the boat."

"He probably sold all the stock or something," Jenny said. "And I want to see his face when we steal the boat out from under him."

"What's this we shit?"

"I'm going with you."


"Yes, or fuck you. I know where he's got the boat. I think I do."

"Fine." Who cares? "Where?"

Jenny grabbed the file, tucking the loose pages back into the folder. She sat next to Conner on the couch, smelling like coconut oil and Pall Malls. She opened the file and showed him a listing for some property in Pensacola.

"So what?"

"He owned this property before we were married," Jenny said. "It was just a lot, weeds and grass. He told me he sold it."

"Didn't he?"

"Look, see what it says there?"

He read the document. "It says there's a house on the property."

"That sorry bastard built it."

"You're a very angry person."

"He said he was going to sell the lot, but instead he built a little bungalow. Fucker. He didn't even tell me. It's probably where he screwed his little whore." Jenny lit another cigarette, forgetting she already had one in the ashtray.

Conner let her get a lungful, then asked, "What's this got to do with the sailboat?"

"The property is on a canal," she said. "Big enough for the Electric Jenny, no problem. It's probably sitting there right now. You'd be pulling your pud another week looking for it if I hadn't told you." She grabbed her purse, fished out a jingly collection of keys, picked one out, and showed him. "Also, I have the other key."

She looked at him. He looked back.

Conner held up the empty Labatt's bottle. "So can I have another beer or not?"

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