The beautiful people, I really hate them. Miami’s South Beach, its snobbery, glam and glitz—all of it makes me sick. I’d never set foot on this expensive pile of sand if the job didn’t take me here once in a while. If I had my way, I’d bulldoze the whole city straight into the Everglades, art deco buildings included. I’d rip down every Givenchy and Gucci logo on every boutique window. As for the hoochie-coochie girls, the trophy wives, the blue-haired widows, and the millionaires with their old/new money, I’d give them all thirty-six hours to get out of town or face deportation to Barrow, Alaska. I’d burn everything except the mansions, the yachts, the Lamborghinis and Porsches. I’d let the residents of Little Havana and Liberty City loot everything and whatever’s left can be won in a big lottery. Ticket money would go to build retirement houses for aging greyhounds from Hialeah.
I track runaways. I’m a private eye from Northern Ohio where a lot of the flabby, melanoma-prone snowbirds live. I despise them, too, for what it’s worth. But here I am, once again, in the land of sunshine and clubbing ‘til dawn.
The girl I came down here to find and bring back to her parents died in a motel room far from the beach. She was malnourished, scabby, and riddled with STDs. I was twenty-four hours and some odd minutes too late. Miami-Dade PD was obliging enough to let me see the autopsy report. A promising life, albeit in boring Ohio, was what she left behind to follow a hustler named Max to the sunshine state. She was seventeen when he seduced her. His age, according to the parents who hired me, was somewhere between twenty-five and thirty. When she wouldn’t drop him, they threatened to bring statutory rape charges, which of course resulted in their flight. It’s not a new story even with the sad ending for Kara Levesque.
Her family is distantly related to René Lévesque, the French Canadian minister who founded the Parti Québécois. I don’t read much besides political memoirs and biographies, which hobby might seem strange for my profession. (I’ll dignify what I do for a living with that word instead of “job,” which is all it is to me nowadays.) It was René Lévesque who said: “There is a time when quiet courage and audacity become for a people at the key moments of its existence the only form of adequate caution. If it does not then accept the calculated risk of the great steps, it can miss its career forever, exactly like the man who is afraid of life.”
That might seem like a roundabout beginning to what I am going to tell you, but it’s important to what happened. You see, I was enjoying a cold draft beer out of the suffocating humidity in a dark neighborhood tavern close by Calle Ocho where no one from the trendy SoBe crowd would even dream of entering; it was a place where you are more likely to hear Frankie Yankovic’s “Roll Out the Barrel” than that thumping, autotracked rave music in the clubs. I suppose I was close to crying in my beer over the fact I had just missed another one. I mean saving a lost girl who needed saving; it wasn’t the money, either. I’ve failed before. I’m not an egomaniac. I’m a realist. The number of runaways I do find and cajole or forcibly bring back is less than a third of the total and Kara wasn’t the first one I had found dead in a sleazy motel room with the walls spattered with dried, cast-off blood from the needles. I’ve found them dead in otherwise perfect health and dead with dirty needles sticking out of their unwashed arms. The smell in that room, however, was so foul that a rookie cop upchucked his breakfast outside in the bushes. I told myself that, even if I had found Kara in the nick of time, rather than staring up at the ceiling from a lousy mattress with eyes glazed like a dead bird’s, soiled from her own bowel movement, would she have gone with me no matter what persuasion I tried to use on her?
Because hers was an unattended death, the lead detective told me the body would be kept in the cooler downtown until the final ruling. They wanted to talk some more to the boyfriend Max, who occupied the room with her but whose condition was much less dire when cops kicked in the door. Their money for the drugs most likely wasn’t earned working at a fast-food franchise or panhandling in the street. Cops were curious how these two homeless drifters could afford a two-hundred-dollar-a-day habit between them. Kara’s family had money, but they cut her off after her promise to come home with the money wired through Western Union had also gone for dope.
I asked Raymond Navarro, who got the call-out, if there was any suspicion of homicide in the death.