Read Hunter's Moon Online

Authors: Randy Wayne White

Hunter's Moon

Table of Contents
Also by Randy Wayne White
Sanibel Flats
The Heat Islands
The Man Who Invented Florida
North of Havana
The Mangrove Coast
Ten Thousand Islands
Shark River
Twelve Mile Limit
Tampa Burn
Dead of Night
Dark Light
Batfishing in the Rainforest
The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua
Last Flight Out
An American Traveler
Tarpon Fishing in Mexico and Florida (An Introduction)
Randy Wayne White's Gulf Coast Cookbook
with Carlene Fredericka Brennen
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi- 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 1311, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Copyright © 2007 by Randy Wayne White
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
White, Randy Wayne.
Hunter's moon / Randy Wayne White.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-20704-8
1. Ford, Doc (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Marine biologists—Fiction. 3. Florida—Fiction. I. Title. PS3573.H47473H'.54—dc22
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

This book is for my mother, Georgia Wilson White,
of Richmond County, North Carolina
and for my aunts
Jewel, Johnsie, Jo Anne, DellaSue, Vera,
Lucille, Authorine, and Judy
and for my uncles
Levaugn, Kerney, Thomas, Mitchell,
Paul, Eugene, and Carl
This book required extensive research, and the author is grateful to experts in many fields, while taking full blame, in advance, for any misunderstandings that have led to factual errors. Thanks to my dear friends, Dr. Brian Hummel, Dr. Thaddeus Kostrubala, Capt. Jimmy Johnson, David Thompson, Jerry Franks, Capt. Russ Mattson, Robert Macomber, Judge Tony Johnson, and all the folks at Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, and Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille for their input, kindness, and forbearance.
Capt. Mark Futch, one of the world's finest amphib pilots, invested much time in helping me make the flight scene herein accurate, and not just by taking me on low-level flights. As I was finishing the book, Capt. Futch, with writer/filmmaker Krov Menuhin aboard, landed his Maule off the dock at Useppa Island, where I was holed up working. Even though they were returning from a two-week trip to Central America, these men sat patiently going over charts and answering questions.
The scenes in the Panama Canal Zone were carefully choreographed, and especially helpful was my friend Tom Pattison, although all of my Zonian friends contributed, because we have had so much fun in Panama over the years, so thanks to Capt. Bob Dollar and Mindy, Priscilla Hernandez, Legendary Vernon Scholey, Mimi and Lucho Azcarraga, Teresa Martinez, Priscilla and Jay Sieleman, now director of the Memphis-based Blues Foundation.
Thanks to my pal George Riggs, I had a solid table on which to write this book, and, thanks to my teammate Gary Terwilliger, my writing shed had electricity—useful for working after sunset.
Finally, I would like to thank my sons, Lee and Rogan White, for, once again, helping me finish a book.
Sanibel and Captiva are real places, faithfully described, but used fictitiously in this novel. The same is true of certain businesses, marinas, bars, and other places frequented by Doc Ford, Tomlinson, and pals.
In all other respects, however, this novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.
It's easier to be a genuinely humane person if you can
afford to hire your own personal son of a bitch.
On a misty, tropic Halloween Eve, an hour before midnight, I stopped paddling when coconut palms poked through the fog ceiling, blue fronds crystalline in the moonlight.
An island lay ahead. Maybe the right island. Hard to be certain, because the fog had thickened as it stratified, and my sense of direction has never been great.
If it was the wrong island, I was lost. If it was the right island, there was a chance I'd soon be detained, arrested, or shot, maybe killed.
I'm human. I was hoping it was the wrong island.
I checked the time as I reached into the pack at my feet and opened a pocket GPS. The navigational display was phosphorous green, like numerals on my watch. It was 11:17 p.m., I discovered, and I wasn't lost. I'd arrived at my destination, Ligarto Island.
As I drifted, the tree canopy floated closer. Slow-motion fog cordoned off water and palms became brontosaurus silhouettes grazing in moonlight.
is Spanish for “lizard.”
I've spent years on Florida's Gulf coast, exploring above and below the water. It's what self-employed marine biologists do and I am a marine biologist. Usually. In all those years, I'd never had reason to set foot on Ligarto. Until tonight. I was here because a powerful man had demanded a favor. Doctors had told him he was in the final weeks of remission, with a month at most before leukemia immobilized him. Would I help him escape?
“Escape to
?” I'd asked. We were in my lab, standing amid the aerator hum of saltwater tanks, the smell of formalin and chemicals. He'd surprised me, tapping on my screen door after midnight.
The man had nodded his approval. “Perceptive. Most would've asked, ‘Escape from
?' Which is romantic nonsense.”
His confidence was misplaced because I didn't understand the reference. Death? Afterlife? Nonexistence?
“No sentimental baloney, Dr. Ford. You nailed it. The question is,
? I have about four weeks to live, really
before they hook me up to the tubes and monitors. I want to spend part of that time traveling—but freely. Incognito.”
“Travel anonymously in this country?

“Yes, this country . . . and others.”
His wording seemed intentionally vague.
“No specific destination?”
“When I left the Navy, I traveled everywhere. Followed my instincts. What was I, twenty-five? Hitchhiked, worked on a freighter, even hopped a train. That's the way I want it to be.”
An evasion. He didn't bother to conceal it so I didn't pretend to be convinced.
“Relive your youth. Put on jeans, a T-shirt, and blend in. Is that the idea?”
“You're saying I'll be recognized. I don't think so. People expect to see me on television, not the street.”
“Take it from a guy who's never owned a TV. People know who you are . . . specially after”—I caught myself—“after the recent controversy.”
Annoyed, he said, “I don't have time for diplomacy. Are you talking about my wife's death? Or the million-dollar bounty on my head?”
I knew that his wife had been killed in a plane mishap. I'd also read that he'd infuriated religious fundamentalists, Muslim and Christian, but I was unaware that a reward had been offered. I remained diplomatic.
“That was five months ago—eternity, to the American public. Please stop second-guessing. You're like the so-called media experts who gave me a ration of crap for being a concept guy, called me a dope when it came to details. Believe me, I'm no dope, and this has nothing to do with revisiting my youth. I'd love to stick it up their butts one last time.”
The media, or the fundamentalists? Either way, his bitterness was unexpected.
I'd been hunched over a microscope studying a sea urchin embryo—it was liquid green, round, and clouded like a miniature planet.

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