Death Benefits


Martin is in Venezuela to get some documents signed, but the man he is looking for went sailing and didn't come back. Only an ex British spy and a mysterious woman seem to care, and their concern is for the mob money he was holding.

None of that has a thing to do with his mission, but it sticks him in the middle of a mess he has to fix before Ugly Bill gets tired of him playing detective.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

José Renaldo was sleepy. Maria and the kids had been making a racket all day long and he hadn't managed to get any decent sleep.

Sometimes he thought she did it on purpose to punish him. He didn't think that was fair; it wasn't his fault that he worked the night shift.

He didn't like it either. Working nights meant that he could hear the happy noise coming from the cantina near the marina and know that his amigos were having a good time while he stood at the gate to the parking lot in his scratchy uniform and stiff shoes.

He looked up at the handful of people sitting in the marina bar and restaurant. It was an open-air place situated so that the customers could look over the boats sitting peacefully along the docks.

José Renaldo had to admit that on such a clear night, with the stars shining above him, that his wasn't a truly bad job at all. The guards who worked in the daytime had to run errands for the rich marina clients and help them tie up their boats when they came and went.

They worked harder than he did. The only real problem with his job was not being able to go to the cantina and Maria being angry because he wasn't home at night.

This was a Monday and relatively quiet. A Venezuelan man who looked vaguely familiar was sitting at the bar nursing a drink. A few minutes later a French couple stepped off a catamaran talking loudly as they walked up the dock to the stairs that led up to bar.

Still talking, they took a seat at a table. As the waiter took their drink order, José Renaldo wished he spoke French because then he would know what they were talking about. It sounded like an argument, although a subdued one and not at all heated. He enjoyed listening to rich people argue. They fought about different things than his people did. They fought differently too, most of the time.

He watched them wistfully for a time. The woman was tall and lean, a bit skinny for his taste, but nice to dream about despite that. She was older than he was, but an attractive woman that he wouldn't mind being seen with. He envied the man she was with, both for his woman and his boat.

He wondered what it would be like to have money, enough to own a boat and be able to sail it somewhere just to see a new place—anytime you wanted.

Although he'd never been on a sailboat in his life, José Renaldo decided that such a life would be fun, especially if you had money and an attractive woman with you. And if you had money, that kind of money, it was easy to find attractive women.

He heard the scrunch of gravel as a car pulled into the parking lot. Turning his head toward the gate, he recognized the Ford Explorer of Señor Walker.

Walker owned the sailboat tied up at the far end of the dock. Once he had told José Renaldo, for no reason other than to talk to him, that he liked having his boat in that spot because he could come and go with no one paying him much attention.

When he left the marina at night, he could just cast off the lines and slip out quietly through the break in the seawall. No one cared.

As far as José was concerned, no one would have cared no matter where he kept his boat. What did one more sailboat more or less matter? He would still be there, poor and guarding the gate.