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Frank Silvio checked into the hotel under an assumed name, using fake identification.
It had been so long since he used his real name that he was in danger of forgetting it. The truth was that it had no real meaning for him anyway, since he was never going to be Frank Silvio again.
Frank Silvio, for all intents and purposes, and in the eyes of everyone, was dead.
So Silvio chose to be known to everyone in the operation simply as Mister. That’s how he wanted it, and he had the money, so that’s how it would be. No one he dealt with was about to complain.
The hotel was a Hilton at the Tampa airport. Clean, modern, with a number of amenities that he would never use, other than room service and, of course, wireless internet. He was there for entertainment—a specific entertainment, which he had already arranged for.
He checked in at two o’clock in the afternoon. He had a small bag with him, but did not bother to unpack, since he would not be staying overnight. He also would not be going back out until it was time to leave. Even though he had substantially changed his appearance, Silvio was fairly well-known in this area, and he could not afford to be seen and recognized.
So all he did was order a shrimp cocktail and a steak sandwich; there would be time to eat before the show started at around three thirty.
At precisely that time, he opened the webcam app on his iPad, and the video appeared immediately. It was from a camera on a boat offshore near a town called Wilton Key, Florida, about forty-five miles north of Tampa.
There were four people on the boat, all of whom he recognized. That was no surprise; he had met with three of them in secret earlier that day. He had left them with very specific instructions, which they were now about to follow.
One of the four men was not currently recognizable, mainly because he was in a full diving suit. It was made of neoprene, which meant the helmet was not the old metal kind. But it was airtight and impregnable, which was all that was important. His air supply would come from the hose attached to the processor on the ship. That man’s name was Vincent Grobin.
Silvio watched Grobin as he was helped into the water by the others, who then waited until he reached the desired depth. When enough time had passed, they seemed to hesitate, as if frozen in place, unsure what to do.
It was as if they were waiting for a signal from Silvio, but, of course, while he could see them, they could not see him. It didn’t matter anyway, since he had already told them exactly what to do.
There wasn’t really a hierarchy among the men on the boat, though the unofficial captain was probably Bryce Dorsey. The others looked to him for most things, and this would certainly be no exception.
Dorsey went to the edge of the boat and looked down into the water. Even though the water was fairly clear, there was no way he could see all the way down to where Grobin was, but he certainly knew Grobin was on the end of the air hose.
Dorsey looked toward the webcam, in a silent signal that was both an acknowledgment and a concession. Then he walked over to a table, picked up a knife, and, with a slashing, explosive movement, cut Grobin’s air hose.
No one could see it, but every man on that boat, as well as Silvio, watching from the hotel, knew what had just happened.
The air supply, which was pressuring the suit against the tremendous pressure of the water, was cut off. Grobin’s body was actually crushed and forced upward toward his helmet. Had there been more room, his entire body would have been squashed into his helmet.
But Grobin knew none of that; he died instantly from the depressurization when the tube was cut.
Dorsey once again gave a slight, silent nod to the webcam and Silvio. It had been a difficult act for him to undertake; Grobin was a friend, but he had inadvertently betrayed them and put their operation at risk. Dorsey might have found another way to handle it, but Silvio had the money.
Silvio, for his part, took no great pleasure in what had happened; nor did he feel any regret. It was a business transaction; he and everyone on that boat knew it.
All Silvio did was shut down his iPad, leave the room, and head for the airport.
“Andy, can I talk to you in my office?”
Taken out of context, that question may not sound like a big deal. In context, spoken by Dr. Dan Dowling, it is the most frightening question I have ever heard.
Dowling is my veterinarian, and I am here today because Tara, my wonderful, extraordinary, remarkable golden retriever and closest of friends, has a lump on her side. He had said that it was very likely nothing to worry about, though of course I was and am plenty worried. So I’ve brought Tara here, and she has been in the back getting an aspirate done on the offending lump.
But now he wants to talk to me, and the request was spoken in a very serious tone. And why in his office? I’ve never been in his office; I didn’t even know he had a goddamn office.
I make a decision as I follow him back there. If he says anything negative about Tara’s health, I am going to strangle him right there in the office I didn’t know he had, and then feed pieces of his body to the fish in the aquarium he has in the waiting area.
And that still wouldn’t make us even.
I follow him into the office and see that there is another dog in there, on a leash attached to a drawer handle on his desk. What the hell is going on? Is this a therapy dog designed to ease my pain at what I am going to hear?
The dog is a French bulldog and seems a bit agitated. He can’t be more than twenty-five pounds; if Dr. Dowling thinks this dog will protect him from me, he is sorely mistaken.
“I have a bit of a situation here,” Dowling says. “And I thought you might be able to help.”
He wants my help? What the hell is he talking about?
“What the hell are you talking about? Is Tara okay?”
“What? Oh, she’s fine. But—”
“But what? She’s fine but she’s not fine?” There is a definite possibility that my head is going to explode.
“Andy, she’s really fine. It was a lipoma, just fatty tissue. No need to remove it; no need to do anything. I promise you, she’s fine.”
I feel the tension come out of me in a rush, like when you let the air out of a balloon you’ve just blown up, before tying it shut. I’m expecting my body to be like the balloon and fly wildly around the room. “You scared me half to death,” I say.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to. I wanted to talk to you about this dog. His name is Truman.”
I’m guessing that he wants me to find Truman a home, for whatever reason. When I’m not working as a defense attorney, my friend Willie Miller and I run the Tara Foundation, a rescue group named after the dog who only has a lipoma and is fine … really fine.
“What about him?” I ask.
Copyright © 2019 by Tara Productions, Inc.