SKIN TIGHT by Carl Hiaasen

SKIN TIGHT by Carl Hiaasen

SKIN TIGHT by Carl Hiaasen


On the third of January, a leaden, blustery day, two tourists from Covington, Tennessee, removed their sensible shoes to go strolling on the beach at Key Biscayne.

When they got to the old Cape Florida lighthouse, the young man and his fiancée sat down on the damp sand to watch the ocean crash hard across the brown boulders at the point of the island. There was a salt haze in the air, and it stung the young man’s eyes so that when he spotted the thing floating, it took several moments to focus on what it was.

“It’s a big dead fish,” his fiancée said. “Maybe a porpoise.”

“I don’t believe so,” said the young man. He stood up, dusted off the seat of his trousers, and walked to the edge of the surf. As the thing floated closer, the young man began to wonder about his legal responsibilities, providing it turned out to be what he thought it was. Oh yes, he had heard about Miami; this sort of stuff happened every day.

“Let’s go back now,” he said abruptly to his fiancée.

“No, I want to see what it is. It doesn’t look like a fish anymore.”

The young man scanned the beach and saw they were all alone, thanks to the lousy weather. He also knew from a brochure back at the hotel that the lighthouse was long ago abandoned, so there would be no one watching from above.

“It’s a dead body,” he said grimly to his fiancée.

“Come off it.”

At that instant a big, lisping breaker took the thing on its crest and carried it all the way to the beach, where it stuck—the nose of the dead man grounding as a keel in the sand.

The young man’s fiancée stared down at the corpse and said, “Geez, you’re right.”

The young man sucked in his breath and took a step back.

“Should we turn it over?” his fiancée asked. “Maybe he’s still alive.”

“Don’t touch it. He’s dead.”

“How do you know?”

The young man pointed with a bare toe. “See that hole?”

“That’s a hole?”

She bent over and studied a stain on the shirt. The stain was the color of rust and the size of a sand dollar.

“Well, he didn’t just drown,” the young man announced.

His fiancée shivered a little and buttoned her sweater. “So what do we do now?”

“Now we get out of here.”

“Shouldn’t we call the police?”

“It’s our vacation, Cheryl. Besides, we’re a half-hour’s walk to the nearest phone.”

The young man was getting nervous; he thought he heard a boat’s engine somewhere around the point of the island, on the bay side.

The woman tourist said, “Just a second.” She unsnapped the black leather case that held her trusty Canon Sure-Shot.

“What are you doing?”

“I want a picture, Thomas.” She already had the camera up to her eye.

“Are you crazy?”

“Otherwise no one back home will believe us. I mean, we come all the way down to Miami and what happens? Remember how your brother was making murder jokes before we left? It’s unreal. Stand to the right a little, Thomas, and pretend to look down at it.”

“Pretend, hell.”

“Come on, one picture.”

“No,” the man said, eyeing the corpse.

“Please? You used up a whole roll on Flipper.”

The woman snapped the picture and said, “That’s good. Now you take one of me.”

“Well, hurry it up,” the young man grumped. The wind was blowing harder from the northeast, moaning through the whippy Australian pines behind them. The sound of the boat engine, wherever it was, had faded away.

The young man’s fiancée struck a pose next to the dead body: She pointed at it and made a sour face, crinkling her zinc-coated nose.

“I can’t believe this,” the young man said, lining up the photograph.

“Me neither, Thomas. A real live dead body—just like on the TV show. Yuk!”

“Yeah, yuk,” said the young man. “Fucking yuk is right.”

The day had begun with only a light, cool breeze and a rim of broken raspberry clouds out toward the Bahamas. Stranahan was up early, frying eggs and chasing the gulls off the roof. He lived in an old stilt house on the shallow tidal flats of Biscayne Bay, a mile from the tip of Cape Florida. The house had a small generator powered by a four-bladed windmill, but no air-conditioning. Except for a few days in August and September, there was always a decent breeze. That was one nice thing about living on the water.

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Categories: Hiaason, Carl