J. Krankheit Vielsprechen, Esquire, had been the town attorney for twenty years As far as anyone could tell, J.K., as he was known, had never had an original thought in his life, but simply determined that anything the town manager wanted to do was legal.
J.K. had received his law degree from a correspondence school in Ohio that he had discovered one night when his drug induced gaze fell upon a match book cover from which he had extracted all the matches in a vain attempt to fire up one more doobie. He sent off his fifty bucks and two weeks later got his law degree. He couldn’t take the bar exam in any state, but he opened a law practice in the back room of the tattoo parlor he ran with his mother, Big Sal, over on the Tamiami Trail.
The Florida Bar had tried to shut him down on several occasions, but finally gave up when the investigators determined that J.K. was only giving advice to bikers too high on one substance or another to remember anything the next morning. If one gives legal advice that nobody heeds, or even remembers, can one be practicing law? The Florida Supreme Court was looking into that issue, and a ruling was expected by the end of the century.
Serendipity is a marvelous concept, and sometimes it brings together the most unlikely people who form bonds that last a lifetime. So it was with the Longboat Key town manager and J.K. The manager had slipped into Big Sal’s tattoo parlor late one night seeking to have his motto, “I’m bigger than I look” emblazoned on his concave chest. While waiting for Big Sal to clean her needles the manager noticed a sign on the door to the back room announcing J.K.’s law practice. He knocked and went in.
“I have a legal question,” the manager said.
“Yes?” answered J.K.
“If a town commissioner won’t vote the way I instruct him to, can I take custody of his wife and hold her incommunicado until the commissioner acquiesces?
“You mean kidnap her?”
“I don’t like that word.”
“How do you want this to come out?”
“I think it ought to be legal. It’s sort of what I like to call power politics.”
“There you have it. My opinion is that it would be legal.”
“Have you ever thought about being a town attorney?” asked the manager.
And thus was born a partnership that had endured for twenty years.
J.K. was known to have a fondness for turtle eggs and would scour the beaches looking for the nests of the big creatures who came to our shore to deposit their progeny. Because J.K. was sneaky, an occupational necessity he often said, nobody knew who was stealing the eggs. Some of the turtle ladies had taken to carrying rifles, hoping to plug the thief on sight. The police chief had tried to dissuade the ladies, but their attitude was that it was better to kill off a few humans, even if by mistake, than to further endanger the dumb reptiles that couldn’t care less about their offspring.
When we got to the beach on Beer Can Island, the Crime Scene Unit was already at work. They had discovered an empty tube of super glue near a turtle nest, and pointed out the turtle tracks followed by gouges in the sand made by J.K.’s wingtips as he was dragged toward the surf.
One of the Crime Scene techs reported to the chief. “We think whoever did this, glued the lawyer’s hand to the back of the turtle. A witness saw him being dragged toward the Gulf and it looked to him as if the victim couldn’t get his hand loose from the turtle’s shell.”
“Maybe. It was dusk and the witness didn’t get a good look, but he said he saw a woman standing back in the trees.”
“Who’s the witness?”
The tech looked at his notebook. “A Mr. Logan Hamilton. He’d stopped his bicycle on the bridge to have a cigarette and saw the whole thing.”
“It’s terrorists, I tell you.” Charley Goins had joined us. “It’s a scientific fact that turtle poop causes red tide, and the terrorists want as many turtles as possible pooping in the Gulf. It’ll destroy our economy, and the terrorists can take over.”
“I don’t know, Charley,” said the chief. “It was probably those turtle ladies who glued poor old J.K. to the turtle.”
Night had fallen, and as we left the beach a hunter’s moon rose from the sea, bathing the area in a soft light that obscured the violence done that day. We’d probably never find J.K.’s body, so we’d never know for sure if he had been glued to the turtle. It was a lousy way to die, and the turtle probably wasn’t too happy about the extra drag J.K provided as she was trying to dive.
The Crime Scene Unit had taken the glue tube back to their lab in hopes of finding finger prints. I didn’t hold out much hope that they would, but stranger things had happened. I called the tech I had been dealing with and was told she was still on hold with India. I decided the best thing to do was go home to bed.
I stopped to talk to Logan for a minute. He didn’t know any more than what he had told the cops he’d already talked to. He offered to join me for a beer at Biggun’s, and that’s where we spent the evening. We’d seen a lot of death in the past two days, and while losing the town commission wouldn’t make much difference in life on the island, we mourned the dead. Sort of.
Logan had come to the conclusion that had he won the race for the town commission he’d probably be dead by now. He was beginning to see his willingness to serve in heroic proportions. He thought there ought to be some kind of medal for him, since he had put his life at risk by running for town commission. He thought a small ribbon representing the medal would look spiffy on the lapel of his suit coat. All the politicians seemed to be wearing one these days. Of course Logan never wore a suit, but I had nothing to gain by pointing that out.
We talked for awhile about Charley Goins’ theory on terrorists. Logan thought there might be something to it, but I was more inclined to think it was a real estate lady driven mad by the town bureaucracy.
We called it a night and I headed for home and bed. I had been asleep for about an hour when my cell phone chirped out its rendition of Willie. I answered. It was the chief. This couldn’t be good news.
“Commissioner Jaylow is dead. She was found on the shoulder of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Her head was stuffed into a traffic cone. Suffocated.”