So much to say, no way to say it;
so much to tell
without the right words to tell
it in Very
begin. But where? Beginnings, endings, which is which?
Within a day of arriving on a Caribbean paradise, Philip Castle told a harmless lie that
changed his destiny forever.
It started with a plane crash soon after he landed. A complete stranger was killed; even
in death he intervened in Castle's fate. Our paths cross in unexpected, surprising ways. Not even the
most rational philosophers can disagree with that assessment.
Had Castle foreseen the accident? He was tempted to believe it.
Anyone landing on the
short field for the first
time, like himself,
would have morbid thoughts; when a plane actually crashed, he
was bound to ask if he had anticipated the event. There was a murky term for that — déjà vu.
Flying Windward Air from St. Martin, where the Eastern 707 terminated, took a mere
fifteen minutes. Glistening yachts riding in turquoise bays, lush little
valleys, neat terraced plots, pink
hamlets — St. Jean exuded serenity.
No wonder the rich and privileged regarded it as almost a private
preserve. Philip listened as passengers gushed about the wealthy families who owned the fabulous
houses nestled on hillsides or rooted on rocky points. One house had a swimming pool shaped like a
free-form "5" — somebody's lucky number, no doubt. Philip Castle wasn't feeling very lucky just then.
The high-winged, twenty-seat De Havilland Twin Otter overflew the only town of any size,
headed out to sea, banked sharply, and returned, radio silent — there couldn't
have been a control tower
at the strip.
But a small radio antenna loomed alarmingly close. It stood on a hill,
and another hill,
topped with a white windmill,
rose on the other side, so that the plane swooped down the cleavage
between the two earth breasts. After shuddering in an updraft,
it dropped abruptly,
stomach at a higher altitude. Passengers squealed in fear, though not him. Seeming barely to clear cars
on the road, the plane dipped to asphalt.
were scattered around the squat terminal.
Even a STOL like this one needed a good deal of the runway; white sand beckoned through Castle's
window as the plane turned.
The heat, moist, clinging, vaguely oppressive even in March, was the Antillean antithesis
of the cryogenic cough from Lake Michigan. Clearing customs was a mere formality.
He had only to
carry his bag from the plane and hand his passport to the short-sleeved gendarme who glanced at it
without looking at Philip to compare his face with the one on the photograph.
"No stamp?" Philip asked, surprised.
"Go to the police station if you want one," he understood the man to say.
An Australian jeep called a Minimoke had been reserved. There was nothing to sign or
show. A few minutes later,
Castle was following a hand-drawn map past a graveyard, along the beach,
by a modest hotel,
and up a steep hillside.
White with a red roof, surrounded by tropical verdure, the house seemed larger outside
than in because of the expanse of terrace, reached through spacious doors, with a glorious view of half
the island. There wasn't a telephone — a blessing! The place was prettily
furnished, and Castle was
almost glad his friends the Wallers had forced him to come — almost, because he dreaded being solo in
A female sounded through the water in the shower. "Be right out," he called, emerging in
the living room in shorts and a T-shirt.
A woman in a plain dress stood there, with a dark, sharp-featured
face. She told him her name was Sansa, and he remembered: Sansa took care of the house. The
Wallers had telegraphed her about his arrival.
She lived down the hill,
near the landing strip,
have seen the plane come in.
They probed for a common tongue. Sansa spoke Spanish as well as French, but not
much English, while he spoke no Spanish and only a little
French that he'd learned in high school.
French and English then — Franglais.
Sansa had brought him food because he was a stranger and this was his first
generosity doubtless meant to be remembered at tip time. The cold chicken was ample for two. Her
glance shifted to the bedroom, from which no sound came. Yes, he felt
his face indicate, he was by
Her eyes widened, her expression changed. No wife? He said not really.
She giggled as
though to acknowledge the absurdity of the answer. You're either alone or you're not. She looked
younger when she laughed. She was quite pretty,
with a nice trim form. How long would he stay? He
know. Probably not long. The Wallers had lent him the house for a month, but he doubted he'd
last a week. Too bad! St. Jean was so beautiful,
the most beautiful
place in the world. Yes! For him, it
already had a magical quality,
like Prospero's island.
The woman usually cleaned the house in the afternoons, but occasionally she preferred
mornings. Would he be disturbed? Philip shrugged — disturb what? He was too old to want to
masturbate. How discerning women were. She tuned in the moment sex crossed his mind. She
responded by spreading her feet ever so slightly,
smoothing the material around her hips. She could
return that evening to serve his supper if he liked. She desired so much his visit
be enjoyable. If she
So Sansa was a light hook! The Wallers would have told him, had they known, but why
would they be aware? Philip was tempted. He hadn't been with a woman in he wasn't sure how many
weeks, but for whatever obscure glandular or psychological reasons, Sansa didn't
move him. Even if
she had, he wouldn't
have done it.
To pay for sex in his present mood would have been giving up, and
he was too close to that state already. He changed the subject to mosquitoes, already attacking his pale
ankles. Sansa found black coils that resembled slender snakes. He should light them in his bedroom
before he slept, and use the netting above the bed — she showed him. Like a bridal canopy without a
After Sansa walked down the hill,
he examined the coils.
No matter how far you went,
escape mosquitoes, any more than you could escape pain.
Or astrology. He had Jamaica on the radio. "What's your sign, girl? Is it compatible to
mine?" a rock singer blasted, after which the announcer shouted, "Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius,
Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Pisces, Pisces, Pisces, all of them, and
you, right here on radio —" He switched over to classical music on the St. Jean frequency. The airline magazine on the way down had had an astrological column, a piece on preparing horoscopes and an ad
for astrological toilet
water. Twelve variations, each for a sign. "Smell like the sexy Scorpio you were
meant to be." Meant. By whom? Jesus!
The bar contained a haphazard collection of near-empty bottles that must have been left
by the previous tenant—the Wallers rented the house except in March, when they usually used it.
was the first
of the month — people had probably gone yesterday, maybe that morning. He poured gin
over ice from the fridge and searched for vermouth. Drinking and gloom were handmaidens — he hadn't
learned yet to handle either in moderation. What would he do on this island of only eight square miles?
Try not to get to tight in the evenings. Go to bed early. Force himself to exercise. In the last few
months he'd gotten slack. If he slid any more, he'd have a hard time recapturing muscle tone — he'd
reached that age.
Philip was lapsing into the familiar
inner debate about how to live the rest of his life
interspersed with admonitions not to feel sorry for himself,
when the sound jarred him from
self-preoccupation. He had heard the sound of a plane in trouble before. The roar of emergency power
being applied was completely different from normal engine noise. He listened intently,
putting down the
drink. Ominous silence followed a hollow slap. He thought quickly of the "premonition" he'd had when the Windward Air flight was landing.
He rushed to the terrace. The landing strip was in clear view below. Before it lay a plane
in the water, belly-up. It looked like a toy. He seized the binoculars that hung by the door. The twin-
engine craft was of fair size, maybe an Aero Com mander. People ran down the beach, but the water
around the wreck was empty. Philip was utterly certain someone inside the cabin had died.
Castle wasn't squeamish. If he resisted going at first,
it was because of a habitual
caution about involving himself in matters that weren't his business. You never knew what the outcome
might be. And did he wish to avoid confirmation of his dreadful hunch? But the wreck beckoned and he
swung into the jeep, reconstructing the accident as he drove. He had been vaguely aware from the
sound that a plane had landed. The pilot must have touched down, discovered a navigational error or a
and tried to take off again with a desperate burst of power. The plane had lurched
skyward, failed to achieve sufficient takeoff speed, stalled, and flipped over as it struck the sea.
The road by the airstrip
was already filling up with cars. Parking, he walked down a short
path through beach grass. People rushed in every direction without any purpose that Castle could
discern — left,
back and forth, screaming in high-pitched French. An elderly woman cried, while an
elderly man comforted her. Did they know anyone on the plane? For some reason Castle doubted it.
Someone shouted in English, "How many are on board? Are they alive or dead?"
The plane was a silent universe unto itself,
lying forty feet from shore in perhaps eight
feet of water. The white underside bobbed slightly in a light surf. Swimmers in face masks converged,
crawled on the belly,
took turns diving and struggling to open a door submerged in a filmy sea of oil.
there had been passengers, they would have been seen inside the debris-darkened cabin. Men carried
rope from a nearby shore restaurant;
they waded the rope to the wreck and tied it to a horizontal
Forming a line in the water, men pulled without result,
yelled in frustration.
The rope slid off
and was retied. The frantic tugging began again.
Another set of would-be rescuers appeared with a large hammer and a metal wedge, and
clambering aboard the plane, began to cut a hole in its tough aluminum skin. Philip's
contracted as he put himself in the pilot's
place. Suppose the man (or woman) was alive? If so, he
probably was trapped in his seat, conscious or not, feet up, head down, body held tightly by the seat belt
and shoulder harness. The only reason he still
breathed was the air trapped in the cockpit.
must be sloshing in, rising toward his face. Faster, Philip urged the men on top the plane. The poor
may be drowning a stone's throw from the beach.
The voice, speaking in distinct French, startled Castle. "He shouldn't
have flown. He
was warned." The American turned sharply to find a tall
young woman with long orange-red hair,
exquisite features, high coloring, tiny freckles and a slender body. A thin blouse revealed full
under a bikini
He asked in English, "Warned?"
Startled brown eyes with gold flecks jumped toward him. Evidently she'd been thinking
our loud. "I...meant nothing." She pointed at the rope. "Why aren't
"Tail section's stuck. The plane can't be budged that way." He looked at his Timex.
"Anyway, whoever's in there's dead."
He must be dead by now."
"Only the pilot on board?"
"I think so."
"Most likely he was killed on impact."
"You know something about planes?" she asked.
"Are you a flier?"
"I used to be. Why?"
But she walked off, mouth pensive. He watched her rear bunch beneath the bikini
moved with the grace of a wild animal. The sensation in his crotch felt
welcome, but of all times! He
forced his attention to the wreck. A tractor had appeared on the runway, and a heavier rope was brought
to the plane. A diver with tanks disappeared below the surface; rising, he shouted to a companion
aboard a rubber dinghy, who motioned. The crowd on the beach went still,
as though it sensed
confirmation of what had to be true.
"Everybody back! Everybody back!" People moved away from the tautening cable. The
section rose slowly, bent, ruptured. The diver went down again. A body floated to the surface.
Facedown, arms limp in the water, the corpse was dragged aboard the dinghy. Outboard engine
whining, the rubber boat sped toward shore, where a battered ambulance waited.
People stampeded, Philip too, impelled by an overpowering curiosity,
an instinct almost,
to see the victim with whom they identified because sudden death lurked everywhere, and yet to
reassure themselves that they still
ived. Castle had a glimpse of the dead man's pallid features . My
God, without the curly beard, he'd look like me!
As if to expunge its presence, the body was rudely shoved inside the ambulance, which
careened back over the runway while the cable pulling the plane to shore crushed it with primitive
vengeance. They'd never find out what caused the crash, Castle thought. Unable to witness further
destruction, he perused the beach, but the girl
with the gold-brown eyes had vanished into the twilight.
Back on the hill,
Philip Castle had his gins, nibbled at the cold chicken Sansa had left,
tried to read a mystery story, poured himself a liqueur and, on the terrace settled restlessly in a lounge
The plane wreck had shaken him, and so the brief encounter with the girl.
want to think
The moment he raised his eyes to the bright stars spangling the black velvet sky the
argument about astrology flashed into his mind.
Ellie hadn't really left
him because of an astrologer — he knew that. Astrology had been
not a cause. But that she'd let stargazing — Castle's estimation of astrology — come into their
lives at all annoyed him anyway.
he said in disbelief
when she said she planned to consult one.
"Who gives a damn which it is?"
"Look, I understand your attitude, given your mother and all."
Castle's mother had been
a devotee of astrology and he hated the subject.
Ellie went on, "But I have more respect for astrology
than you do. I have to make a decision and I need help."
The decision was whether to leave him, go off with Richard, get a divorce. It was almost
that cut-and-dried. Richard had been Ellie's
boyfriend before Philip entered the picture and hadn't
forgotten her in all those years. They'd started seeing each other in earnest while Castle was away at a
conference, and one thing led to the next, she finally
once he'd absorbed the shock,
concluded that Ellie was kidding herself.
He'd begged her to see a therapist — not him; you didn't
your own wife — but she'd refused. He thought he knew why, too: therapy might have exposed Ellie's
real motives. That she was approaching forty and feared losing her good looks. That the attention of a
rich bachelor — Richard had never married — flattered her.
And now that she was intent on breaking up, she wanted to be told what she wanted to
clarify my future," she was saying. "He's supposed to be terrific."
"Frederick Zoltmann. He's Richard's astrologer."
"The deck is stacked, Ellie."
work out between us yet."
He wished he were capable of giving her a firm ultimatum — him or me — but, as
always, he reacted judiciously,
even when he sensed that Ellie wanted him to stand up to her. He'd
accepted the affair
as the temporary price of not losing her, hoping she'd return to her senses. The
torture had been doubly painful because he'd endured it for nothing.
She timed the announcement for the Christmas holidays when their sixteen-year-old son,
David, was visiting her parents in Oregon. She'd hardly eaten a mouthful at dinner. She dropped her
fork and said, "I've decided." He tensed. "I've been to see Mr. Zoltmann. More than once, in fact."
"I'd forgotten about him," he lied.
"According to Mr. Zoltmann, this is the right time for me to make a move. He predicts it
I want to do it.
I'm leaving you." Her frightened eyes seemed enormous. "Mr.
as I said." She paused and smiled slightly.
"Though he likes to cop a feel."
Ellie went on carefully.
"The signs in my horoscope point to Richard. I'll
spend the rest
of my life with him. Married."
"Please don't tell
me I'm out of whack because I'm having a life crisis of some kind. Of
course I am! I'm seeing things as clearly as I ever have. You were right for me once, and Richard
but people change. I admit he doesn't thrill
me like you do sometimes — I mean when you stop
working long enough to let yourself go. But I'm not a girl
any more. I need a different style. That he's
rich doesn't matter, but Richard can give me what I want. I've given my best years to you and David.
is for me. Richard and I will
do things together. Like we never do. Richard plans to retire."
" Retire? " Richard was the same age as himself.
"He can do it,
believe me. Next summer we'll
travel to China." She paused, but before
he could collect his scattered thoughts Ellie said brusquely, "I'm tired of writing copy. I'm tired of bosses younger than me and clients who make passes. I'm tired of household chores. All I ever do is work.
With Richard I'll
have a maid. I don't want to be stuck in a rut like you and everybody else."
To argue with her stubborn chin was useless. "When are you leaving?"
"In about an hour. Richard's coming for me. We might as well get it over with. Phil,
On the terrace a mosquito coursed by his ear and he flailed at it futilely.
seemed futile after that. Ellie had moved into Richard's swank near-Northside apartment. David
decided to live on a commune in Oregon at least until
summer —to hell with school, he said, and couldn't
be budged, not even when Philip flew west to see him. Philip was shocked to learn that he didn't
That was a real blow—to learn he didn't
care about his own son. Or about himself.
Or about his career.
The bottom simply dropped out one morning, when it didn't
seem to matter whether he left his bed.
Under the detached expression he offered the world Philip hid his emptiness. He tried to
explain it as the postpartum depression authors often experience when they turn in their manuscripts —
he'd spent several years on The Psychology of New Nations—but that wasn't the answer. He could
hardly bring himself to correct the galleys — he didn't
have the energy. He saw fewer and fewer patients
because he wanted to shout at them; he was frequently late to his classes at the university or didn't
appear at all.
He'd wondered what would happen to him this year or the years to come. He considered
relocating, but if he did, he'd have to take himself along. He began to drink. He was pretty drunk when
he threatened Zoltmann. Maybe he'd laugh at the incident someday, but certainly not yet. He was just
He had to stop brooding. Get up. Go out. He was sick of self-pity.
In the Moke, he drove down a winding road that brought him to Pointe-de Mer, the town
he'd seen from the sky. It had a well-protected harbor dotted with expensive yachts from which music
floated across the water. To cruise about the Caribbean in the middle of winter must be some life,
thought enviously; well,
he'd never have a chance to try it.
The town consisted of several one-way
streets running around the harbor, lined with smart restaurants and duty-free shops. Next to the main
pier was the inevitable French fixture, a café, which a sign announced as "Le Boucan."
He ordered a Cointreau from the balding middle-aged black man behind the bar and took
in the surroundings. Le Boucan was open at one end that overlooked the beach. Banana fronds
covered the ceiling; green vines spread across them and worked their way down wooden pillars.
tables were rough wood, bleached white from being scrubbed clean. On the walls were announcements
of yachting races, old photos. One showed a smiling round-faced black with a keen expression. Curios
like conch shells lay in glass cabinets along with piles of cigarette cartons and liquor bottles with labels 14
and strange. From a far corner came the clinks, clanks, lights,
and noises of an old pinball
machine. Country music played.
Castle had to smile a little
at the eclectic assortment of things collected behind, over, and
around the bar; post cards, T-shirts and towels, on which was printed Kastar Aldrig In Handduken; What's the Use of Getting Sober When You Know You'll
Be Drunk Again; a balloon made like a bee; a Toronto
Maple Leafs pennant; an electric clock that said Miller High Life; a calendar from the Banque Nationale
de Paris; a message to "Pay When Served"; a plaque for Cape Cod; bank notes from a dozen lands. It looked like the motley of the world had representation in that place.
Philip listened to the multilingual chatter around him. The talk concerned only one topic
— the crash. In the babble his ears strained for information. Aero commander...from the Cayman
used the airstrip
before...should have landed safely...quite mysterious...mechanical
known to drink before flying...
trop de vin peut-être...
The heavyset black man behind the bar said abruptly in a bass voice, "How are you?"
I'm a friend of the Wallers. They said to say hello. You're the owner, aren't
"Yes. They won't be down, then?"
"No. Herb Waller's stuck in Chicago this winter. They lent me the house. I'm Phil
He put out his hand and the other took it.
"I'm Joseph Martinez. Call me Joe. Fine people, the Wallers. I shall miss them. They
frequent my place when here. I knew you'd arrived. I should have been insulted if you'd failed to visit, but you came promptly."
Philip grinned at the flowery speech. It felt
strange to grin, like moving a limb that had
been immobilized. "How'd you know I was here?"
"Oh, I'm aware of most things that happen on this rocky island. A surprising place when
you understand it,
There it was again. People always called him Philip.
He was just too stiff
"Sansa told you?"
The black man made a disparaging face, for no obvious reason. "Sansa loves to talk.
Sansa talk too much. And that's not all."
"Sansa likes money. There is such a thing as liking money too much."
"I feel the same way, which is helpful,
since I don't have a lot of it."
"Yes, it is hard to make ends meet, especially when you have fourteen children, as have
I." He took a new-looking photo from the wall and showed it.
Ten of the fourteen were boys, ranging
from their early teens to their twenties, all big like their father.
"I don't know whether to commiserate or applaud."
"Both, I suppose."
"Do they all live here?" Phillip
"Yes, fortunately and unfortunately.
They have a habit of getting into trouble. They're a
"Is Sansa native to the island?"
"Sansa's from El Parador, in Central America. She's East Indian."
" East Indian?"
"Millions of East Indians were imported to the Caribbean as indentured servants when
slavery was abolished. They were slaves, too, for all intents and purposes. Sansa came to St. Jean as a
her uncle, and never left,
though she goes home from time to time. Sansa has close ties
in El Parador, I believe."
"And you? Are you a native of St. Jean?"
"Me? Heavens no. I speak French but I was born in Guyana when it was a British
colony. My parents immigrated here-not easy, for blacks." Joe Martinez lowered his voice. "They are 15
more racist than you might think. They keep black people out. You've noticed how few blacks there
"There was little
cultivation of sugar — the island's too small.
Few slaves. That's why
this island is almost entirely white."
"Do you resent that?"
Keen eyes searched his. "Some days."
Joe neither offered more information nor moved. Castle asked for a refill,
"What does 'Le Boucan' mean?"
"You must know history, friend. It is more than odd that a decent history of the whole
Caribbean does not exist — that says a lot about how little
importance is given to the area. Once there
were French settlers who live on Hispaniola — now the Dominican Republic and Haiti
— and ate dried
beef, boucan, in French. The Spanish hunted them with bloodhounds, and pushed them out. They went
to smaller islands, took to the sea, and retaliated by raiding Spanish settlements. They were the first
pirates — the buccaneers, so-called because of their staple, dried beef. Other adventurers joined them.
Errol Flynn made them famous. The swashbuckler.
Errol Flynn was how people pictured the
buccaneers. Do they still
show his films?"
"Do you watch them?"
"I don't watch TV much," he said, not liking to think of those late movies he'd watch until
he drank himself to sleep. "But I see a Flynn flick from time to time."
"My favorite isn't
a pirate picture, actually.
Dawn Patrol, about the First World War.
Philip smiled. "Last month."
"Boy, that part where he takes David Niven's place and goes on the raid all by himself.
Blows up the arms depot. And the dogfight! He loops-the-loops and shoots down two Huns before von
Richter finally got him." Martinez playfully put his hands together, waving them in an imitation of wings.
"I loved that bit."
Joe Martinez gleamed teeth. "Errol Flynn was bigger than life.
Well any man that
enjoys Errol Flynn is okay by me. And you're a friendly fella,
You don't have airs, like the
The proprietor busied himself with the customers, and Castle studied them. "Yachties"
had to mean people from the big yachts, tanned and carefree-looking in expensive casual clothes with
vacuous faces. Ellie,
he thought, would have loved the atmosphere. It would have appealed to her
innate snobbishness. They used to fight about wealth. Castle had a bias against the rich.
The few locals were easy to pick out. They were pale and plain and their pale faces
looked rather alike. When they smiled they showed missing teeth. On a little
place like this — the
permanent population was only several thousand, the Wallers said — intermarriage must be frequent.
The natives struck Castle as simple honest folk, and he wondered what they did for a living. There
be enough farmland for all to till.
They fished, he supposed, or worked in the tourist
though the Wallers claimed tourism wasn't much of a business here, and the islanders even discouraged
it by permitting only a handful of small hotels. There were no casinos, golf courses, or discotheques, so
why would ordinary tourists come?...
He hadn't stopped hoping, he realized. He had been watching, in fact, a particular bare
foot with red toenails that stuck out from behind a post in the corner. He'd thoroughly inspected the
place; if the foot didn't
belong to her, the girl
from the beach wasn't there. The foot vanished, and he
saw her the moment she rose from the table. She started out, followed by two dark-haired muscular
men, both young. She wore tight linen slacks and a gauzy blouse tied below her breasts, leaving her
tanned belly exposed. If he hadn't been drinking he might not have had the nerve to push his way from
the bar. Seeing him, she halted abruptly.
Moonlight shone on the water behind her.
"How do you do," he said.
"Hi there. Enjoying yourself?"
"I'm not sure yet. My first
trip to the beach wasn't exactly fun."
She frowned. He put her in her mid-twenties. "No, it wasn't.
avoid that beach for a
while. There are plenty of others."
"Which do you prefer?"
"I choose a different one every day, for variety.
Each beach has its own personality
see." She seemed to avoid his gaze. "Tomorrow I'll
be at Cul de Sac. I'll
go in the morning.
Nobody comes there until
afternoon. So long."
She trotted away gracefully,
followed by the swarthy men, who ignored Castle completely.
He returned to the bar and asked Joe Martinez, "Who's she?"
"French? But she has no accent."
"She's French, though, at least partly."
"Where is Cul de Sac?"
Martinez must have overheard the conversation. "I expected you'd ask. The far end of
the island. If I was you I'd stay away. Cul de Sac means dead end."
"Why? Too young?"
"By anyone of those guys?"
" Them ? God no! A much older man."
"She's very pretty."
"Beauty is skin-deep. You wouldn't
like her friend. He might not like you, either, I warn
on the beach had said that the dead pilot was warned. They seemed to do a lot
of warning down here.
account of late-twentieth-century international finance may never be written
because the facts will
not be complete.
A gaping hole lurks in the statistics — the extent of misrepresented or unaccounted-for
money generated by the drug trade, tax evasion, unlawful currency exchanges, skimming, export-import
frauds and other crimes loosely labeled "white collar,"
though collars may have been bloodied.
The quantity of dirty money — "dirty"
obtained and/or sequestered — is
believed to be staggering. In offshore Atlantic banks — so-called because the majority are located on
islands off mainlands, which seek to attract capital
— hundreds of billions of American dollars are said to
be hidden from the IRS. (Offshore banks operate almost without restrictions.)
By one count, there are
worth of lost,
missing, or stolen securities.
An estimate puts the practice of double
invoicing in Latin America as equal to twenty percent of its total trade. Though mostly unreported, the
new and burgeoning crime-by-computer has serious potential.
If economic crimes in the Western
Hemisphere are added up, type by type, the crude sum of dirty money that has been accumulated,
mostly from or in the United States, would appear to be in the neighborhood of one trillion dollars.
Such a figure cannot be easily absorbed. A trillion is a thousand billion.
A trillion dollars
is nearly one-half of the gross national product of the United States. Effectively applied, a trillion dollars would go far towards ending the miseries of global poverty. If criminally obtained and/or sequestered
American dirty money was recaptured, and taxes paid by those who evade them, there would be
sufficient funds to significantly
lower the taxes paid by Americans for years to come.
Be it too high, or too low as seems more likely,
the figure underscores a foolish
perception. When Americans think of crime, they imagine street crime, which, by comparison with
economic crime, is a minuscule matter. Never before, law-enforcement and tax authorities agree, have
economic criminals been so sophisticated. Those who believe that most of them end in jail
They were four.
By accident they found themselves at the same bridge table during a tournament at a
Las Vegas hotel in March 1976.
Though each a superlative player, none finished the match, being far more interested in
each other. No one remembered exactly how the communication had been made — what signals had
been sent, what words had been dropped. If ESP were mentioned, it would have alerted them — all four
believed in the unconscious contact between kindred spirits.
They were soon convinced they had been
destined to meet.
If not, why the many coincidences and parallels? Why were these particular people in
the same room at the same time? Why did they represent the four cardinal signs of leadership? Why
were their bridge positions — N,E,S,W — entirely appropriate? How come all four were in the crown line
or keystone positions of the tarot deck? Why — gradually the facts emerged — had each suffered a
grave misfortune in 1968? And why, exactly a year after,
had all become...? They smiled; why should
four people at a bridge table turn out to be...? If they were secretive, they had reason.
Once they had admitted to a common interest in breaking the law — or laws; they
operated in various countries,
had different scams - they displayed excitement. Never had they
encountered professionals of their caliber and class. High-spirited,
they admitted to liking their work,
relishing the originality
enjoying their victories,
delighting to find others with their poses. They
laughed at what amateurs they'd been at the start,
though the youngest should be more careful about his
gangland connections, the oldest felt.
He held hoods in elegant contempt. He regarded them as vicious
sharks. By comparison, the group at dinner in the posh private room had the majesty of killer
They toasted each other with the finest champagne; they shared a superior vision.
Modesty and self-effacement seemed absurd. Why conceal their strengths, or for that matter,
weaknesses? The others at the table would have seen through them easily.
And so they explained
themselves as frankly as they could. They had followed their pathways with brilliant
success. They were
amazed to discover how much each had accumulated. Approximately, of course; complete condor
about assets does not exist among rich people, even those who trust each other. Good taste, the desire
to play up in order to impress, or play down to reduce risks, must affect claims to wealth. But each
possessed a fortune. Together...
The temple tower, or ziggurat,
had been built
on the flat crown of an artificial
symbolized the binding together of earth and heaven and provided an ascent. There were many stair
temples around the city, overlooking the flat,
lush plains. Through a slit
in the tower roof, plump, dark-
skinned men searched the nighttime skies of Babylonia, meticulously recording the movements of the
seven planets that turned about the earth — Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter,
Saturn — and the
stars beyond them. A complex system had been developed, with properties assigned to the planets:
Mars-Nergal, the fiery god of war and destruction, the morning-rising Venus, giving birth to the day,
symbol of feminine qualities,
love, gentleness, procreation...
The beneficent Sun was most important;
the Sun's path was divided into twelve sections,
the twelve constellations had been identified along its course, the elliptic,
each corresponding with an
earthly month. Aquarius, the water-pourer, delivered the heavy rains of January, for instance. In this
way, natural forces could be explained; and, if the movements of stars could be reduced to regular
patterns which could be understood and foreseen, the destiny of kings could be predicted. As above, so
The Bible called the men who toiled in the temple-towers Chaldeans. When the oldest of
the group in Las Vegas announced that he had been a Chaldean, a wise man, once, none of the others
looked dubious. In other incarnations, he believed, he had lived in Egypt, Greece, Spain and he
continued to live: his destiny was not played out. Death had always intervened before he could achieve
his dreams, but this time he hoped to succeed. He wanted power — of an unusual kind.
He was a magician — the ace of diamonds. Adolf Hitler had the same card. Many nice
people do, too. But most of them share the desire to be rich, he said.
He'd been born outside Paris on April
20, 1916, at 4:08 P.M., of a family with a title
modest means. He was employed by a financial
establishment when the Germans invaded. France
surrendered before he was called up. He worked as a bank teller
during the war, a job he chose
deliberately because it enabled him to identify possible collaborators with the Gestapo by the size of their accounts. The names went to the resistance. He participated in several dangerous missions but did not
fire a gun. To kill
directly was not in his stars.
His legitimate career could be easily summarized: French consulate, Zurich, where he
specialized in trade negotiations; the prestigious Banque de Paris et Pay-Bas, Geneva, where he was a
commodity banker. He traveled extensively throughout the world. His title,
fluency in several languages
(natural for an aristocrat),
composed manner, exquisite clothes, perfect discretion, won him important
friends. Affable, keen, humorous when he wished, he always moved in the best circles.
He mentioned impatience with detail,
however, as a fault,
as well as a hot temper, which
he tried to control.
If he condescended to women, it was not because he regarded them as inferior
was too smart for that) but to prove he could get away with it.
He was unable to stop proving himself.
He liked to win, more rather than less as the years passed.
He had a vigorous sex life but staved off marriage until
1964, when he was forty-eight.
He wasn't anxious to be married then, either — men like him have great resistance to matrimony — but
the opportunity was too good. The woman was beautiful
very rich, her father being a
leading French industrialist.
The father objected strongly to the age difference (she was twenty-three;
the aristocrat had always preferred young women), to his reputation as a rake, and to his motive.
that the aristocrat married for money and told him in
no uncertain terms never to expect an inheritance. The aristocrat discounted this threat:
was old, the daughter his only child.
His bride urged him to quit his job at the bank and live with her on a grand estate owned
by her father near Lyon — the old man couldn't
say no to her. There, she surprised him, revealing that
she pursued studies in the occult,
by which she could read character and fate, she said. When the
aristocrat demurred, she told him about himself.
He had an unseen side which one day would emerge.
He was destined to be a successful criminal.
He would meet an archrival with a similar configuration
disguised, might vanquish him. He had better be vigilant,
since she wouldn't
be there to
protect him. She would die first.
He took these tidings lightly.
In 1968, pregnant, she began to visit
in Lyon. Independent as always, she
insisted on driving alone, leaving him to study the materials she'd given him, in which, despite himself,
he had gradually come to give credence. Her car skidded on an icy road and went over a cliff.
aristocrat had loved her in his way, and grieved. He was astonished by the accuracy of her prediction
that she would die first,
and wondered why neither of them had foretold that she should not drive on that
particular day. He resolved to achieve perfection in the uses of her materials.
kept his promise. The aristocrat inherited nothing. He was forced to
leave the estate. He resumed his banking career in Geneva. Examining his life,
he decided to get rich
in his remaining years. Wealth would amuse him, take his mind off her, help him toward the goal he had
finally set for himself.
He perceived a golden opportunity,
and hadn't his astute wife predicted he'd turn
Monetary investors are said to dream about their favorite currencies. The currencies of
which they most frequently dream are the U.S. dollar,
the Swiss franc and the West German mark.
These currencies are strong, or "hard." To dream in weak or "soft"
currencies might bring nightmares,
especially if you are an affluent person living in nations whose currencies are not freely exchangeable.
Such people may be desperate to get their money out of the country so that it can be converted to hard
money, but to do so may be a jailable offense.
In 1969, when the aristocrat entered white-collar crime, the lira had been a nightmare
currency for years. Wealthy Italians worried that labor unrest, the powerful Com munist party, extremists
of all kinds, and other factors had made the lira an endangered species. If it could be removed from the
country and exchanged, even at loss, for a hard currency in Switzerland, say, the Italian who did so
would have money abroad, hedged against inflation,
tax-free, usable for investments or pleasure. The
Italian government would have no way to know because of the secrecy of the Swiss banking laws.
role was that of a simple courier.
It was done all the time, but he wanted to learn
the problems firsthand. In Rome he hinted to a friend that, for a fee of ten percent, he would smuggle
money to Switzerland. Th Italian could have moved the money himself — bribing a customs official
necessary — but he was an important government official
take chances. For the aristocrat
there was no risk at all.
Who would suspect, much less search, a French banker with a title
and so much
A few more trips and he was established. But to repeat the operation too often would be
foolish. Besides there was bigger money to be had.
Quiet questions led him to the villa of a Turin millionaire he was sure he could trust even
if nothing came of it.
after the usual pleasantries,
the aristocrat looked out the window and said, in
which he spoke as well as French, "One would think, since we live in the free world, that one
would have the right to invest as one chose, including abroad, don't you agree?"
said the Italian.
"Why, then, do you call it the free world?"
"Well, one is free to improvise. Kidnappings are common these days. A kidnapping
might be useful."
The Italian recoiled. "Kidnapping?"
"Why not? I could arrange to have you abducted, or if you prefer, your son. Upon
payment of ransom, you or your son will
be released. The police will
not be notified unless word of the
ransom reaches the government, in which case the kidnapping is the cover story for the payment, to
which the government cannot object, even though the ransom money is carried over the frontier —
of course. It will
be deposited in a Swiss account, in your name. Failure is impossible."
After deliberation, the wealthy Italian put his life in the aristocrat's
hands. There was
something about the man he trusted implicitly.
A huge "ransom" was promptly paid by his company, the
manufacturer released, a numbered bank account created in Geneva. Other spectacular kidnappings,
engineered by the Frenchman, were sometimes reported in the newspapers. Not a single "victim" was harmed.
Next came the pseudo-robberies. Plenty of Italians lacked liquid capital
valuables — paintings, sculpture, tapestries,
jewelry, stamp and coin collections. Faking a robbery was
with the owner's connivance. The French nobleman selected the thieves, arranged the job,
sold the objects after they had been brought over the border, for one-third the take, which was gladly
Using his special ways of reading character,
he picked dependable accomplices and was
double-crossed only once. He completely lost his temper, as occasionally did. Contemplating revenge,
he remembered a meal in a Taiwan restaurant.
The Chinese adored the specialty of the house, though it
The table had a hole in the center. A bound monkey was placed under the table, its head
shoved through the hole. The top of the skull was removed, and with chopsticks one ate the warm brains
of the still
ive monkey. The revolting scene had stuck in his mind.
The man who had double-crossed him was brought to a Paris cellar and tied in a chair.
An Arab, well paid for the work, sawed a hole in the top of his head. His brains were removed with a
spoon and placed in his mouth. Word of that spread.
The aristocrat compiled a list
of countries with the "right" set of problems — blocked
deep fears about the future. The list
included the Union of South Africa,
Rhodesia, India, Turkey, Jamaica, Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Guatemala, and later,
Taiwan and Iran.
There were people with money in all those lands. In Johannesburg, a South African couple begged him
to remove 100,000 rand — something over $100,000. He shipped the money airfreight in two boxes
identified as bedroom slippers. The slippers in the middle layers were stuffed with banknotes. The
auguries told him nobody would search the boxes. Nobody did.
The signs pointed to the Americas as the logical place to expand. The big drug dealers
were there, and so were incredible amounts of U.S. dollars seeking to evade taxation. He established an
elaborate organization designed specifically
to make him almost impossible to trace — representatives in
Liechtenstein whose bank secrecy laws exceed those of Switzerland, holding companies in Panama
(where there are 35,000 registered companies, many simply mail drops), offshore banks in Bermuda and
the Cayman Islands, a British crown colony 475 miles south of Florida, with a population of 13,000 and
more than 300 private banks licensed to conduct limited business.
The aristocrat needed more capital.
Back in Johannesburg — his energy was endless
and he traveled constantly — he contacted the same couple for whom he had successfully
100,000 rand. He had a better proposition this time. Instead of paying interest,
Swiss banks had begun
to charge a fee for keeping foreign money there, so much had poured in. If the couple wished to take
more money out of South Africa, he could suggest a bank in the Bahamas, owned by a trusted friend of
his, which for a time deposit of one year, would pay interest of twelve percent, a figure huge enough to
be interesting but low enough to avoid suspicion. He would not charge his usual courier fee because he
wanted a favor from his friend.
His international operations continued, but he concentrated on the United States, in
search of a special kind of depositor.
Dining out on his aristocratic
he would acknowledge
that he had foolproof ways to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Like any salesman of life insurance, he had plans tailored to various needs. The source
of income didn't
matter — it might be drugs, stolen jewelry, political
payoffs, hidden profits,
investment, skims, unreported fees, anything. A person came to him with $100,000 — it was usually
much more — in cash or negotiable securities,
which he would transport to the Cayman Islands, flying
from Miami, and open an account in his bank with a service charge of six percent. Nobody bringing
money in was ever searched, and Cayman bank secrecy laws were a complete shield against the IRS.
A friendly offshore banker could be useful.
He could suggest that the Cayman bank hold
a person's stock portfolio
to circumvent the requirement to report capital
gains. For individuals who had
even the vaguest connection with import-export, he might recommend founding an offshore company
through which profits
could be skimmed outside the United States. Among his clientele was a leading
group which transferred, through the Cayman bank, about five million dollars to dummy
companies in the Netherlands Antilles,
where banking laws were limp. The group paid no U.S. Taxes at
Or — he had so many "ors" — one could set up an offshore company, pretending it was foreign, and actually lend oneself money and deduct the interest from U.S. income taxes. The money could be used
to buy property in Florida, say, again with tax advantages — in 1979, almost half of the five billion
worth of real-estate purchases in the Miami area was by "foreigners."
through fees and excellent investments, had done splendidly.
magnificent new home on a small Caribbean island was complete. Perhaps the new friends he'd just
met in Las Vegas, where he'd come to scout for depositors,
would like to visit.
His name was Raymond, Count de Vaucresson.
Exhausted, Philip Castle slept late, until
finally woken by probing fingers of light through
the wood blinds, as if the sun wanted to enter the room.
He ate a quick breakfast and set off hurriedly in the Moke. It was nearly eleven and he
was afraid of missing the girl.
pleasantly adolescent — not that anything would come of it.
wasn't exactly a prize package — a disappointed middle-aged man who'd lost track of his life.
like Marie-Celeste would see in him, he couldn't
imagine. But he had nothing to lose except
ego, of which there wasn't enough left to worry about. Anyway, for whatever reasons, she seemed to
have encouraged him. Or had she? He wasn't sure.
A crumpled ball of wire, metal, and glass, yesterday's wreck stood at the side of the
runway like an advertisement against flying.
He found the beach called Cul de Sac. At the turn was a sign: "LE NUDISME EST
FORMELLEMENT INTERDIT." Formally, yet. The road ran beside an abandoned salt pond,
degenerating into rocks, then sand. Another jeep was parked there, a V W, larger than his, white, with a
perky blue-and-white striped canvas top. The olive-drab Moke was less festive. Maybe that summed up
the contrast between the girl
and him, if the V W were his.
The curved beach was a crotch between two leglike promontories. Removing his flip-
flops, Philip walked to the other end, disappointment mounting when he failed to see her. He was about
to give up as, passing a great hunk of lava, he sensed a human presence.
Draped on a towel, she was minus a top. Her breasts, angled gently toward the sides of
her body, were browned and gleaming with oil.
Little beadlets of sweat extruded from her skin. Plastic
disks joined at the center shielded her eyes. Her hair was in a bandanna. Afraid she slept, Philip
Removing the disks, she sat up. "Sorry. I didn't
mean to frighten you," he said. "What's
to be scared of?" she said. She made no effort
to cover herself.
"Not me, God knows." He stood
"Did you think I'd come?"
"Were you invited?"
Hadn't she rather deliberately dropped the beach's name? "In any case,
here I am." The eye protocol wasn't clear to him. Was he permitted — encouraged — to stare? Not to was hard.
"So you are. Did you bring a suit?"
He produced one from inside a towel. "I'll
change behind the rock."
"You expected a cabana?" She had an impish laugh.
He emerged, feeling like a Victorian rotogravure with his white skin and long boxer
trunks. "I must look like the Abominable Snowman."
say abominable." She inspected him. "Just a little
out of shape. Better be
careful about the sun." She'd applied lip gloss in his absence.
He removed a leather case from his neatly rolled clothes and put on
dark glasses with droopy lenses. He spread his towel next to hers. "My name's Philip Castle,"
he said as
he sat down. He held out his hand and she took it.
Her fingers were cool.
"The barman told me."
The young woman seemed slightly alarmed. "Joe says a lot of things. What else did he
"That you were part French. The rest wasn't specified."
"The other half's
American, though I think of myself as French. I had part of my
education in the States."
"I wondered why you didn't
have an accent, though maybe you do, just slightly."
surprised at how easily they had started to talk, though the Wallers had told him everything was casual
and friendly in the Caribbean. How beautiful
it was: the sky, the gentle sea, the beach, the breasts,
especially the breasts. He indulged himself in a good look — pointed, firm, ruby nippled, large on her
narrow rib cage. Half humanity had breasts, yet these two dominated his attention. How American of
him! He wasn't used to seeing the naked mam maries of a stranger, though a European would be, he
supposed. He wasn't European. Her breasts excited him. He sprawled on his back, as had she. "Live
on St. Jean?" he asked.
"I'm spending a few months here as a guest."
"Good duty," he murmured.
what they say in the service."
"Service? Oh, military service. Are you in the military?" she asked.
"Years ago. Somehow you never quite lose the lingo."
"Were you a pilot in the military? You said you flew."
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"What kind of plane did you fly?"
"Jets. I was a fighter pilot."
"Wasn't it dangerous?"
"I guess so."
"You were in a war then?"
"The Korean one."
"Did you shoot down enemy planes?" she asked languidly from behind closed lids.
"Did you win medals?"
"Yes. What does nudity mean here?"
Marie-Celeste snorted. "The signs are the work of the new mayor, the fool. Everybody's
embarrassed about them. He's afraid St. Jean will
become like Guadeloupe, where people go naked on
"Nude is bottomless. Topless isn't
"I hope I get used to it.
Wo men don't go topless where I'm from." He added, "Chicago."
"Topless on beaches means trouble in the States. It attracts voyeurs. What a strange
country America is."
"Europe seems strange to Americans," he pointed out.
"You've been there?"
"That's now enough. I love Europe. What is your work? Are you an airline pilot?"
over from the war."
"The Korean war? You kept them all these years?"
"Yes, he said, oddly embarrassed."
"I bet you wear old clothes, too." He grunted. "I had a professor as a lover once and he always wore old clothes. I think you're a professor also."
"At a university?"
"That's where you usually find professors."
"Is it boring to be a professor?"
"Boring?" Philip had never asked himself that question, though teaching was pretty
unadventurous. "Not especially.
I have patients,
too. And I write, or did."
"Well, pieces for scholarly journals."
He added, "I have a book coming out."
"What's it called?"
"The Psychology of New Nations," he said, sorry suddenly he hadn't picked a livelier
The brief interest that had sounded in her voice faded. "It doesn't sound like something
not for the general public,"
Castle said resentfully.
"I bet you wish you had written for a big audience. Have you been teaching for a long
"About twenty years."
"Nobody should do anything that long, unless you're an Einstein or a Freud. Are you a
The query got to him. That was part of his trouble — the realization (Ellie's
had caused him to examine everything afresh) that he was never to be a great or inspired psychologist.
The Psychology of New Nations was carefully done and good enough. It might induce a few at the State Department and elsewhere to be more understanding about the problems of the Third World — to which
Castle was sympathetic,
or had been; the fire had gone out of him — but the book wouldn't
anything. He avoided the subject.
"Listen, everything's boring sometimes, isn't
it? We all go through periods..."
"Not me. I don't believe in boredom. Boredom is waiting for something to happen. I
don’t wait. I wonder if you've lost enthusiasm. Are you married?"
The question seemed inevitable,
Philip had heard it so much the past few months.
"Separated." Despite himself he returned his eyes to her breasts and shining lips.
"So that's it.
Should I be sorry?"
"If you want."
She wiggled her skinny hips as though digging a hole with her bottom. "I kind of like
breaking up. Then I can meet somebody new. Have you met somebody new?"
"Nobody who matters."
"Do you own a plane?"
"No. Too expensive a hobby. Anyway, I haven't flown in years. I...don't
have time." He
sense a strange displeasure when she showed him the back of her head and was silent.
"What do you
do?" He asked.
"I live in Paris. This winter I'm a guest here. Last winter I was a model. The one before
that I acted some. The winter before...I
she said over her shoulder.
"You don't work in the summer?"
"Not if I can help it."
"Why are you here?"
"I needed a change of scene," he said, trying to seem casual.
"Oh." He feared she was falling asleep because there was nothing left to say. He was
probably boring her already. He sat up and looked at the water. Cutlass-billed birds soared overhead.
Pelicans. One crashed into the sea for a fish, reminding him of yesterday's accident. Why was she so
interested in his having been a pilot? "Where were you born?" he heard her ask in a flat voice.
He hesitated. "A town in Arizona. Bisbee."
"How old are you?"
A signal light went on. "Forty-five."
"You look younger. What day were you born?"
Somehow he had felt
it coming. Only astrology buffs asked your exact birthday —
nobody else cared. He was trying to escape, but the question slammed him back to reality.
you born?" Marie-Celeste repeated.
The question rankled. It forced him to think of Ellie and his dead mother who had
ignored him for astrology. He was irritated with the girl
just as he had started to like her. Just for the hell
he lied. Castle's real birthday, March 21, was barely three weeks away. He made himself younger
by exactly nine months. "December twenty-first,"
he told her. It was such a silly
Marie-Celeste's intake of breath was audible. She whipped her head around. "That was
somebody else's birthday, too!"
"One out of every three hundred and sixty-five people," he said, watching her carefully.
"Don't joke. I'm talking about the pilot.
The one who died."
"It is, though. That makes you two astrotwins."
"What a word." He said with disdain. "Well, it's
"Is it? He dies almost the very moment you arrive — that's a coincidence, too? You
even look a little
like him. You were in the crowd. Didn't you notice?"
" So what? I'm so upset I can hardly speak."
"How well did you know him?"
"Not very. Recently, he began to fly in on business. His own business," She said in a
tone that precluded questions. "I wish I knew what caused the accident."
"Could he have misjudged the field?"
"Him? He could have landed dead drunk or blindfolded, just about. Maybe he was ill,
it had to do with the plane."
"You said he was warned. Who warned him?"
"I did," she said sadly. "I prepared his horoscope when he was here last week. I told him
not to fly that day. Boy, it was only yesterday."
"Well, you can't blame yourself."
"I'm not. I wish he'd listened, that's all.
I have to stop talking about this.
It makes me
"Fine with me." The conversation, strangely, made him edgy too.
She began tracing a design in the sand with a long forefinger.
"What's that supposed to
"A centaur. Sagittarius is the centaur, with a bow and arrow. You're a centaur."
"A horse's ass with a bow and arrow," he said, trying to be light.
She regarded him solemnly. "You're too hard on yourself.
Come on, let's
Marie-Celeste rose abruptly from her towel and loped toward the hard packed sand on
the edge of the gentle surf. He watched her for a moment without moving. Feet apart, she stood for a
moment staring out to sea. Then she began to bend from one side to the other, stretching so far down
that her hair almost touched the beach. He found her gracefulness strongly pleasurable, though he
help thinking that she performed for his benefit.
Why? She hadn't been flirting.
She did a few
more slow exercises that reminded him of a combination of yoga and classical dance, then turned, face
placid, and signaled him to follow.
She raced into the sea, taking bold strokes, and he came gingerly,
skin crinkling in
anticipation of the first
contact with the water. But the temperature was perfect — neither too hot or too
cold. He smacked the Caribbean with his palms, enjoying it,
then swam out to her. Long wet tawny hair
hung straight down both sides of her slender face. "You look like a lioness with that mane," he said.
A golden-brown eye winked. "Sure I do. I'm a Leo!" She lowered her head, brought her
knees to her stomach, and executed a surface dive. Through water with the transparency of glass, he
watched her cruise ten feet down among coral flowers.
"I bet you think it's
more than a coincidence that I compared you to a lioness and you
turn out to be a so-called Leo," he said when she came up. She nodded. "Aren't
some things just plain
"No. At least I don't think so. There are no accidents for believers in astrology."
"I hate astrology, if you must know," he said, treading water.
"Really? How silly
of you! Have you ever had your horoscope cast?"
"Me? I'm a scientist.
I'm at the opposite pole from a mystic."
"Mystic! People who think something's far out call it mysticism." Her breasts bobbed in
"Astrology's a science, too, the real science of personality.
been neglected, that's all."
"Astrology's a parlor game."
"You're out of your depth and there are freaky currents here. Let's go in."
"Any sharks?" he called in the same spirit.
"Mostly on land."
They lay silently on their towels for a few minutes. "What time were you born?" she
"In the morning. How'd you get hooked on astrology?"
"A friend. But I'm on expert. You should meet one. Did Joe tell
you I was taken?"
Philip nodded. "Who's the happy man? What does he do for a living? Is he married?"
Her eyes fluttered evasively. "He's not married. You're mighty inquisitive — that's a Sag
for you." She pronounced it Saj. "Sagittarians think they have all the answers." Marie sat up and seemed to study him. "But you don't look like a Sag."
"I thought I resembled the dead pilot."
"Facially maybe a little,
but that's all.
Sag males are often big, beefy guys with muscles
and powerful legs. How tall
"Just under six feet, unless I've shrunk."
"You seem shorter because you stoop. Turn your hands. See! Sag hands are wide and
yours are slender. You have small feet, which isn't
right for a Sag, either. Typical Sagittarians
have florid complexions, yours is pale."
"I've been in Chicago all winte."
"You have too much hair except for your little
bald spot, and not a bit of it's
tend to get gray. And your face...it's
too narrow for a Sag. The forehead's too high. Your eyes are hazel
— they ought to be dark. Sagittarian men have full
lips and huge teeth — you don't.
You don't have
enough body hair for a Sagittarian. You'll
get a burn. Roll over."
Supple hands smoothed an ecstasy of coconut-smelling lotion onto his back. "I don't
seem to be running true to form."
"You flew planes, didn't
you?" The Sagittarian arrow is a symbol of flying."
"That's all it's
a symbol of?" He could feel himself pressing into the sand.
"Sag males can be Don Juans, but don't get any ideas."
"Suppose I do?"
"Am I too old for you?"
"Age doesn't mean anything to me. Anyway, you aren't
"But you don't find me attractive."
"You mean you don't find you attractive. You'd probably be quite attractive if you had a
better opinion of yourself,"
she lectured from above. "You're kind of good-looking in an oddball way.
And I like your mind. You have the mind of an Aries. There must be a strong Aries in the picture
"An Aries, he scoffed, remembering he was an Aries, "Do you like Sagittarians?"
"Sagittarians and Leos don't usually get along so well.
They're both fire signs and born
free, so they compete. They can quarrel constantly.
There's no real victor because neither's
"What are the cardinal signs?" he asked innocently.
"Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn."
"The cardinal signs are born to lead, which doesn't mean a Leo can't stand up to an
Aries, say. But Arians, hard-driving as they are, are generous, while a Sag tries to run all over a Leonine woman. He's not sensitive. He forgets how proud she is. She's royalty,
The Sag always tries
to be the lion-tamer. He ignores the fact that Leo's a fixed sign — his is mutable. And he's too pushy
Forget about trying to go to bed with me.
It was maddening to hear her talk that way and yet feel her knead lotion onto his skin.
"You like Aries men, I guess."
"Aries are winners, above all.
My companion's an Aries."
"How does that work out." he said with a sigh.
"Between an Aries man and a Leo woman? They're both dynamic, exciting. She has
enough dignity to keep him in control,
and he likes to make a queen of her. She wants to be
"I'd appreciate you," he said a little
"Not like he does. When he's not too busy, anyway."
"Ha! So he ignores you!" He thought of how Ellie had accused him of the same thing.
put a Sagittarian arrow through him."
"You Sagittarians, always clowning around. He's nobody to mess with", she advised.
"He'd break you like a croissant.
Have you broken, I should say."
"Oh? He doesn't like to dirty his hands?"
"He likes them clean."
"Where is this man?"
"Away on business. Tell me the truth. How good a pilot were you?"
He wished she would lower her breasts to his back. "Pretty good," he murmured.
"But you could fly again, couldn't
you? It must be like driving a car. You never forget
not so simple as driving a car, but I could fly again, yes."
"Maybe you should. It's
in your sign."
"I don't want to fly any more." He watched a crab scuttle down the beach.
hard to pin down, he avoided close contact because he was vulnerable
despite the armor he wore. He pretended to be bold and tough, but if the odds were not in his favor he
would run. He was quick to take offense and slow to give praise. He never forgot a slight.
permeated his wisecracks and innuendoes. Wo men liked him because they sensed something fragile
under his brittle
but he was durable, too, clawing back from defeats. Inventive, resourceful,
bubbled with ideas. His ethics consisted of a single credo: help thyself.
He was the Eight of Diamonds
— fated to be rich.
He might have been an empire builder,
in some other time. He could easily have been a
too. And he might have been murdered.
He was born in New York City on July 7, 1946, at 10:03 P.M. (His Las Vegas listeners
calculated his ascendant to be Pisces in Cancer.) No one could account for his delinquent
traits — each parent blamed the genes of the other, but wasn't he utterly unlike his siblings? At five he was stealing candy and comic books before graduating to portable radios and money. He liked to trip old
people on the street by shoving sticks between their legs. Quick with his fingers, he was a precocious
cheat at cards. Maybe if he'd been religious...But he had a fight with his mother about going to church.
She was a domineering, demanding woman who tried to control the boy by withdrawing affection and
even food. The more she punished, the worse he got. He became incorrigible,
or very nearly, yet was
clever enough to stay out of reform school.
Unable to secure or buy a deferment, he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, which
probably saved him from prison. Because of his quarrelsome nature, his furtive efforts to avoid combat,
his reputation as a soldier who raped village girls,
he had few friends in the company, but, in the case of
one, he chose well.
His buddy was the son of a high ranking Midwestern union official
who ran its
pension fund. The contact sounded promising and it was the sole reason he risked his life to drag his
wounded friend to safety. Wounded himself,
in the foot, he possessed a due card which at the right time
he would present. He calculated everything.
That was in 1968. The soldier in the next hospital
bed lent him books on a fascinating
topic. A born gambler, he saw in this system a way to increase the odds favoring him. A hoarder, he
saved everything he could find on the subject.
After his discharge he had changed his name — he'd always wanted one that sounded
and the name he chose fitted the ideas he'd learned in the hospital.
In 1969 he moved to
Florida and soon learned whom to hang out with. His connections led to a job with a group said to be
controlled by Meyer Lansky. His function was to escort junkets for big Miami gamblers to Las Vegas.
The casinos kicked back ten percent of the gamblers' losses to the organizers of the junkets. He knew,
because he carried the bag to Florida from Vegas, wisely delivering every penny. The bag also
contained IOU's which the gamblers, for a discount, paid in Miami, so that the money was never
recorded on casino records. Many millions of taxable dollars were skimmed from Vegas in this way
before the federal government cracked down, not very effectively.
Vegas was the place for him. Through the organization he got a job as assistant
manager of a casino there. One of his duties was to stand guard at the count room early in the morning
when management skimmed the take. Things were relatively straightforward in Vegas then.
His Nam pal showed up at the casino by invitation.
They talked. "Listen," he said in his
staccato fashion, "Vegas is going to boom. I don't care about the fucking recession here — it'll
This country wants to gamble and nothing will
but the goddamn banks and insurance companies
won't go near Las Vegas. Jerks! They think there's something wrong with gambling, or with us. The loot
has to come from someplace else. I want to show you a building lot not far away. There's jerks here too,
even the blackhats. This lot's
supposed to be the wrong size and too small. It's
long and narrow, just
right for a casino. I want to build a hunnerd-fifty-
room hotel over it — the minimum for the Strip. Are —
be more — great big hotels around it.
Bring in the business — it'll
be like free advertising. The
land is cheap, for this town, anyhow. And inflation's
coming. The time to build is now. If your old man's
union would lend me the dough..."
His Vietnam friend, who worked for his father managing the pension fund, was
impressed. The father, aware of his debt to the son's friend, also thought the proposal made sense. And
the veteran had no criminal record and therefore no impediment to licensing. But the young man was
inexperienced, the union man concluded after meeting him, and maybe a little
whacked up. Something
about the eyes. The official
would go along with the deal provided there were silent partners the union
The vet figured he was being used as a front,
but what could he do? Plenty.
He began with kickbacks from the contractors building the hotel.
That was standard in
Vegas. When the casino was in operation, he started to skim. The first
ones were too hazardous, he
and would not repeat them.
Getting the cooperation of a few employees wasn't difficult
— they were scared of being
fired and were given a small piece of the take. The other man in the count room looked the other way
when he wrote out an extra fill
slip authorizing chips to be sent to a table and walked off with the chips,
cashing them in through an associate and destroying the slip. That brought him $20,000. The hotel had
a legitimate race wire; it was easy to past-post the race book and bet on ones that had already been run.
Every Las Vegas casino has an eye in the sky — one-way mirrors in the ceiling that look
from the tables like mirrors or black glass. He constantly prowled the catwalk above them to make sure
his dealers didn't
cheat, except when instructed. He watched his baccarat skim from the eye. Each
button was worth one thousand dollars.
A particular player, his accomplice, had markers for $30,000, of
which $15,000 was in buttons. The dealers knew how to palm. During play the dealer palmed ten
buttons. The markers were subsequently changed to $20,000, which was repaid. $5,000 in buttons,
$15,000 in cash. Minus a cut, the missing $10,000 went to the man in the eye. The scheme was
repeated many nights. Agents of the Las Vegas Gaming Control Com mission, spying constantly,
He was pleased to have pulled off what he claimed was the first
big time slot-machine
skim in Las Vegas history. He solved the traditional problem of how to get stolen coins out the door by
simply eliminating that step. When emptied from the machines, the coins went to the count room and
were weighed according to denominations — silver dollars,
cent pieces, and so forth. The scale
showed precisely how much value the coins had, so he fixed the scale to show less weight than there
Suppose, he explained to his new friends in the private dining room, a certain number of
pounds equaled $100 in silver dollars.
All silver dollars in excess of that weight were placed at the rear
of the cart. The $100 worth of silver dollars went to the cashier, to be dispensed. The excess coins were placed in an auxiliary bank behind the cashier's booth. When the cashier needed more coins, they were
supplied from the auxiliary bank, which employees assumed was part of the casino's normal operation.
The cashier paid for the coins with envelopes of dollars,
which were placed in a slot in the auxiliary bank.
An accomplice periodically
opened the locked drawer below the slot and removed the envelopes. For
more than a year this scam took in $10,000 a day.
The signs told him it was time to stop. The next evening the Gaming Control agents
arrived and searched the auxiliary bank, finding it bare.
hoax was pure genius on his part, he boasted. He knew his heavy-
The eminent East Cast doctor was in over his head when the Vietnam vet made a
proposal. He would destroy the doctor's markers — IOU's — if the man would provide names and
information on all prosperous cancer victims he treated. They had to be terminal but still
was important for them to be on their feet so that they wouldn't
have been in a hospital
checked later on.
The doctor provided information about wealthy patients from various cities,
pretending to be these people arrived at the casino. Having the proper identification and good credit
ratings, the impostors were given markers — for $100,000, say — and would duly lose some of the
money before cashing in. The markers would thus be reduced. But they weren't repaid in full.
the money instead, while the casino kept the markers. When the patients died, the doctor informed him,
and he wrote off the markers as uncollectable because they were gambling debts. This scheme earned
for him more than a million dollars.
He quit when the omens told him to.
By then he had a wife and two children whom he never saw and supported as skimpily as
possible. He didn't
like to spend except on himself.
He had a $70,000 car, a large collection of male
jewelry, a racehorse, and a bundle of cash.
There was an employee who threatened to squeal unless he was cut in big. The man
was found in bed the next morning with his chest crushed in. Crushed. The Vegas police never learned what happened. (It had been done with a sledgehammer, on his orders.)
His partners never caught on to his various tricks. A casino expects to lose about four
percent of the take in bad debts, since big gamblers typically
carry no cash, play with markers and
sometimes don't pay up. But he could tighten credit procedures and — though risking the wrath of some
steady customers — reduce the loss to two and one half percent, the difference being enough to cover
the skims. The overall
gross wasn't affected, since his partners kept the splurgers walking through the
One big spender was a rancher from Texas. The owner knew the man would arrive in
advance — he always knew, through the grapevine, when drug dealers, sheikhs, Japanese exporters,
and other ready dispensers of money were due. He had a special room where the minimum bet, $100 or
$500, was sufficient to discourage little
folk. The numbers, on which he relied, promised a spectacular
That afternoon the Texan had visitors,
with big breasts who told him he was a
pansy and wouldn't
withdraw the charge until
he proved himself repeatedly; two girls of not more than
nineteen who restored his ardor by giving him a show and then dared him to satisfy them both. Yippee!
What a day! The Texan had never had anything like it.
A bottle of Scotch, dinner, and wine arrived.
Arm in arm, the three showed up at eleven, right on schedule, in the semiprivate room where the hotel
By midnight, Scotches later,
the Texan was down $900,000 at roulette,
a large but not
extraordinary loss. The owner planned to make it one. The strange eyes glittered. He offered the
rancher double or nothing. The broad-shouldered Texan had always thrived on dares. He bet red. The
wheel turned, the ball skittered...
Although the owner foresaw he would win, he had nothing to lose if he didn't.
would be even, ahead if you counted the girls and the dinner, but those were minor concerns.
The next day, in the owner's office, the Texan confessed to an inability
to produce readily
almost two million dollars.
But he owned a yacht, registered and moored in Panama, easily worth the
money. As a tax dodge, it had already paid for itself,
and he never used it.
The veteran told the three new friends he'd met at the bridge tournament at the hotel
about the yacht he had just won. The boat could be used to entertain stars who appeared at the hotel,
impress important gamblers. The eldest demurred. Why should the veteran tell
his partners (or the IRS)