As I was absorbing the news of the mayor’s death, a police cruiser came screaming into O’Sullivan’s parking lot. The uniformed patrolman jumped out and ran to where the chief and I were standing by the fallen buttonwood. Turning to the approaching cop, the chief said, “Son, how the heck did you let the mayor get killed?”
“Wasn’t entirely my fault,” said the hard breathing patrolman. “Those landscapers must have thought they were real police officers. They saw a ratty old BMW going down Gulf of Mexico Drive, and all five of them jumped into the cruiser to chase him. I guess they thought he was poor.”
The chief grimaced. “Where were you?” he said.
“I was resting under the mayor’s banyan tree. When I saw them leave I jumped in the Mayor’s Mercedes and went after them. They pulled over the BMW just up the road.”
“Was it a short cutter?” the chief asked.
“No. It was the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice. He was visiting parishioners on the island. I let him go with a warning, and by the time we got back to the mayor’s house she was pinned to her begonia bed with a javelin.”
“Were there any witnesses?” I asked.
“Just one. Logan Hamilton was driving Ditto’s car up the island and had pulled over to get out and have a cigarette. You know Ditto don’t let nobody smoke in his car.”
The chief turned to me. “Did Logan have a grudge against the mayor?”
“I don’t think so. I saw them last week at karaoke night at Key West Willie’s, singing a duet.
“A Carpenter’s tune, I think.”
“No. That was a rhetorical ‘what.’ I don’t care what they were singing.”
“They weren’t very good.”
“I don’t care,” the chief said, blowing an exasperated breath through his nose. “Do you think he’d have killed her?”
“Well, he was pretty mad,” I said. “She kept getting him off tempo, but I don’t think he’d kill her.”
The chief turned to the officer. “Where’re the landscapers now?”
“The last I saw of them they were directing traffic in front of the mayor’s house.”
“Get some people down there and start interviewing witnesses. And get a real cop to direct traffic. Oh, and get me a cell phone. Something happened to mine.”
The town had been going through a very expensive visioning process. Some consultants had been hired to meet with townspeople and get their ideas on where they wanted Longboat Key to be in twenty years. Since most of the residents realized they wouldn’t be affected much by whatever happened, since they’d be dead, not many showed up for the focus groups. The ones that did show up said they wanted the island to stay just like it was.
The mayor had decided that it was important to get more input from the citizens and had decided to send out questionnaires to each resident. She was enclosing her own autobiography and a glowing biography she had written about the town manager, both of which had just been printed at town expense. When she threw in some campaign literature and an account of her trip to the hurricane conference in Hawaii, each piece of mail would cost $12.89 in postage.
There had been some grumbling on the island about the expense of such a mailing, but since most of the people were used to the town commission wasting money, there wasn’t much of a fuss made.
“I wonder who was the maddest about this visioning thing,” said the chief. “That note on the javelin makes me think somebody with a beef about the mailing did her in.”
“Where did the javelin come from?” I asked.
“We’ll know more when we talk to Logan. Let’s go.”
Logan was waiting for us in front of the mayor’s house on Gulf of Mexico Drive. “I stepped out of Ditto’s car to have a cigarette, and I saw a javelin coming from the roof of the mayor’s house. It hit her dead on in the chest.”
“It was coming from the roof?” I asked.
“Yeah. Somebody must have been up there. I thought I saw an elderly lady peeking over the top of the house just before I saw the javelin.”
“Describe her,” said the chief.
“I didn’t get a good look at her. Just a quick movement. I think she was wearing a burqa.”
“One of those things the Afghan women wear?” I asked.
“Yeah. Baby blue.”
“Then how did you know it was an elderly lady?” the chief asked.
“I don’t think a man would be wearing a burqa,” Logan said, “and she was moving kind of slow, so I figured she was just old.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “It would take a lot of strength to throw a javelin like that.”
“It was a short terrorist disguising himself as a woman.” Charley Goins had joined us. “I’m telling you, they’re coming to take over this key.”
“Charley might have a point,” said Logan. “I heard they’re mounting fifty caliber machine guns on jet skis.”
“Where did you hear that?” I asked.
“From Charley,” Logan said.
“That’s crazy talk,” the chief said.
“Not really,” said Charley. “Most of those terrorists are poor people, and you know how the town commission doesn’t like poor folks. Maybe they figure if they take out the commission, the poor will like them and they can take over the key and throw out all the rich people.”
“Then why blow up the planning and zoning board?” I asked.
“I think they were after the chairman. He runs the town commission, you know,” said Charley. “If the bomb had gone off a little later the chairman would have been there.”
Charley and Logan left. An hour later Joe and I were finished at the crime scene and ready to head for home. My phone rang. It was the crime lab. “I hope you’ve got some good news for me on those finger prints,” I said.
“No, we’re still on hold with India,” said the lab tech, “but we did trace the C-4. It was sold in the flea market on highway 41 in Bradenton.”
“Who bought it?”
“Not sure. The guy that sells the C-4 also sells key chains and tube socks, so his records are a little spotty. He sold something to a lady from Longboat, but he’s not sure whether it was C-4 or a pair of socks.”
“Did he get a name?”
“No, but he did say she sold real estate and drove a Lexus.”
“So do half the women on the key.”
As soon as I hung up the phone rang again. “This is LBK dispatch. Is the chief with you? I can’t raise him on his cell.”
I gave my phone to Joe. He listened intently, his face turning gray in the waning light of the late afternoon. He hung up.
“The town attorney’s gone,” he said, his voice haggard.
“What do you mean, gone?” I asked.
“He was dragged into the Gulf by a Loggerhead turtle.”