Board Stiff - Chapter 1

Elaine Viets: A mystery for every mood

Chapter 1

“They’re trying to kill me,” Sunny Jim Sundusky said. “They nearly succeeded in March, but I’m a tough old buzzard. I survived. They almost got me in April, but I escaped again.”

Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont, sat across from Sunny Jim in their black-and-chrome chairs in the Coronado Investigations office. Sunny Jim sat in the yellow client chair, looking anything but sunny. Sun-dried was more like it, Helen thought, as she studied him.

His face was red leather. His blond hair was dyed and flash-fried in a crinkly permanent. But he did look tough.

“They’re gonna keep coming after me until they stop me for good,” he said. “That’s why I wanna hire you two. I hear you’re the best private eyes in South Florida.”

“We were lucky to get good publicity,” Helen said.

“That wasn’t luck,” Phil said. “That was good detecting.”

“That’s what I need,” Sunny Jim said. “Detecting. I want you to stop them before they stop me – permanently.” He stabbed his chest with a brown calloused hand, right in the smiling sun on his yellow SUNNY JIM'S STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD RENTAL T-shirt. His arms and legs were roped with muscle and his chest was a solid slab.

Helen had seen enough steroid hardbodies to know that Jim built that beef the old-fashioned way. She thought he was attractive in a dated disco style, except he was too young to have caught the seventies’ disco fever. She guessed his age on the shady side of thirty-five.

“So, you gonna save my business or not?” Jim’s eyes were hidden behind expensive shades – Floridians rarely had naked eyes – but his chin jutted in a challenge.