That lovable, under-undermedicated dispenser of truth, justice, and trivia is back with a vengeance. And not a weirdness-laced moment too soon.
His cherished home state is about to take a beating, and from far more than the way-too-routine conga line of hurricanes bearing down on the peninsula. Bodies have begun turning up at a disturbing rate, even for Florida, and it looks like a brutal serial killer is on the loose, which highly offends Serge's moral sensibilities and he vows to stop at nothing in his juggernaut to make All Things Right . . . except if he gets bored or distracted by a cool souvenir or . . . or a . . . whatever.
But his path won't be obstacle free.
Agent Mahoney has picked up the scent. The obsessive criminal profiler—just released from a mental hospital where he'd been sent for getting too deep inside Serge's head—is convinced there is no second killer. Serge's personality is simply splitting from decades of burning with incandescent zest for everything under the sun. Then there's Coleman, whose triathlete approach to the sport of polyabuse binging just might derail the mission more than the entire police community put together.
The pace picks up. Winds howl, TV reporters fly around the beach, the Party Parrot parties on, and questions mount: Who's stalking Tampa Bay's most sensitive journalist? Did Tom Cruise go too easy on Matt Lauer? Do multiple orgasms improve storm tracking? Why is the feeding-tube guy so quiet? Will Molly ruin our antihero's dreams of playing the electric guitar better than Clapton? . . . All of which ultimately leads to the most pressing question on everyone's new-millennium lips:
What would Serge do?
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Hurricane PunchA Novel
By Tim Dorsey
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Tim Dorsey
All right reserved.
The consistently inventive positions of the hurricane-flung bodies validated the chaos theory, particularly those equations involving trajectory, procrastination and trailer parks. Certain corpses seemed purposefully arranged, the rest very much not. Some appeared to have been scattered by mortar strikes, others peacefully reclined like stuffed pandas on a child's bed, still others looked like sick practical jokes being played on the recovery crews. The disturbing circumstance of one particular body, the next to be discovered, was no accident.
But wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's back up. . . . June 1.
The opening day of the Atlantic hurricane season was like any other: dire predictions in the media and cheerful sales at the home-improvement centers.
How people ramped up for hurricanes depended on experience. If you'd been through a direct hit, you didn't fool around. Plywood, gas, go. Those with small children were the first to bolt, followed by seasonal residents, who had more options. The old-timers went one of two ways: Most had developed keen instincts and knew precisely when to pull the trigger; the crustier stayed put no matter what and were interviewed on CNN. Newer residents forgot to charge up cell phones; the wealthy scheduled unscheduled vacations; families gathered family albums; insurance executives canceledcoverage. Prescriptions and sandbags were filled. Some believed in the power of hoarding canned meat; others lost faith in electricity and withdrew massive amounts of cash from ATMs. Door-to-door entrepreneurs purchased chain saws for the brisk post-strike downed-tree business. There were the tourists, who stared bitterly at unused portions of multi-park passes; sailboat owners, who spiderwebbed vessels to docks; the motor-oil-baseball-cap people standing in the beds of pickup trucks, making everyone wonder by loading the heaviest, most worthless shit; and college students, whose hurricane preparation consisted of not knowing a storm was coming.
The memories of 2004 were supposed to greatly improve public awareness. Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.
Since then, authorities found less trouble getting residents to heed evacuation orders. But not a lot less. The culture of complacency had deep roots in nearly four decades of borrowed luck. There was one ten-year period from 1975 to 1985 when but a single hurricane made landfall in Florida. The next seven years saw only three more. Meanwhile, thousands of new communities and condos sprouted along coastlines with the growth-speed and sturdiness of spring-shower mushrooms.
Then 2004. As many hurricanes that had struck during seventeen years pummeled the state in less than six weeks.
A lot of residents learned their lesson and installed the latest storm shutters. Others drank beer.
Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Wilma. Another wake-up call. Someone hit the snooze alarm.
Hurricane shutters were already up on an old theater in Seminole Heights. It was now a low-rent professional building. A clock ticked on the wall of an upstairs office, postmodern feng shui. Two people sat in white leather chairs, facing each other twenty feet apart. Only one could see the clock. That was by design.
A self-assured woman with pulled-back strawberry hair folded her hands on top of a small notebook. She smiled with genuineness. "What are you thinking about?"
"It's dark in here."
"The shutters are up," said the psychiatrist.
"I know," said Serge. "A big one's already on the way, and it's only the beginning of June. It's all I've been able to think about."
"The anxiety's perfectly normal. Especially after the last few years. I've been seeing a lot more patients--"
"Oh, I'm not worried," said Serge. "I'm cookin'! I love hurricane season!"
Her expression changed. "Why?"
The doctor took a deep, poised breath and looked down at her notebook. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
Serge slouched in his chair. "I was in the neighborhood."
"I just moved to this office. That means you had to look me up."
"Happened to be reading the Yellow Pages."
"Give yourself more credit. The last time we saw each other, you were involuntarily committed. This time you came on your own. You're taking steps."
"See? And you wonder why I've been away so long. You still think I'm crazy."
"That's an unfortunate term we don't like to use."
"I like to use it," said Serge. "You want to talk about crazy? I knew this caseworker who was checking on a guy in a St. Pete transient hotel. One of those beautiful old places with the striped awnings over the sidewalk. But that's another tragedy, another day. My friend knocks on the door and doesn't get an answer, so he tries the knob. Unlocked. He goes in, and there's shit everywhere. I don't mean trash or PlayStations. I mean real shit. The smell hit him like a shovel. The guy he's looking for is sitting in the middle of the floor wearing nothing but one of those hats with the moose antlers, singing Peter Gabriel--Shed my skin!--playing with more turds, sculpting little bunny rabbits. He's got a whole bunch of them lined up on the floor in an infantry formation like some kind of Easter-morning nightmare. My friend says, 'Tito, you haven't been taking your medication, have you?' Then he gets hit in the chest with a shit-bunny. But he tells me he likes his job because it's something brand new every day. In my thinking, there's good brand new and bad. Know what I mean?"
"And this story is important to you how?"
"That's crazy. I just want someone to talk to."
"Then let's talk. How have you been? Do you recognize the improvement?" "Not really."
"I can," said the doctor. "When we first met, you were wearing a straitjacket."
"Since then I've learned to dress for success."
"What about your medication? Have you been taking it?"
Serge squirmed into a different slouch. "Those pills made my head thick. I was turning into my friend Coleman. You know how you are the first few seconds after waking up in the morning? He's stretching it into a life."
Excerpted from Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey Copyright © 2007 by Tim Dorsey. Excerpted by permission.
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