Running to the Caymans

We were going to make big money, Ray and I, money enough to pay for my Caribbean life. A multi-state shipper, Urban Transporters, was buying our land and had wired the money to the title company, and when Ray Hedges, my real estate partner, and I—and of course our wives—signed the deed and gave it to Mona at the title company to record, the money—$7.3 million—would be my money, Ray’s money. I found out that the money was in escrow sitting there before I knew Ray was arrested and before I had to drive to the jail to bail him out.

Jenkins and Crockett is the law firm where Ray is a real estate lawyer. You can find my name, Kirby Lund, at Jenkins and Crockett too, mounted underneath a polished brass plate that reads Tax Counsel.

Ray and I were to meet that night at my office to finish all the work for our property sale to the buyer, Urban Transporters. But Ray wasn’t there at midnight when my phone rang and I heard the voice of Ray’s wife, Jeannette:

“Ray’s in the county jail. The police arrested him two hours ago at the Broadway Burger King.”

“This is a joke, right?” I said. Maybe this was Jeannette’s way of getting me riled up when the biggest deal of our lives was happening in the morning.

“Maybe to you. They let Ray call from the jail about five minutes ago. He did something to a twenty-year-old kid, busted his leg or something. He’s being released now and needs a ride.”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“That’s up to you.” Then she hung up. And I knew what she had told me was the truth.


It had started because I went to the Bahamas once and found that it was the perfect place for me, far from the dank clouds perpetually over the Northwest logger town where I grew up and that I ran away from. When I hid in the shade of a palm tree, I could watch the light from the Caribbean sun turn everything cool blue and green. No matter how hot it was, the teal-green copper roof of the Grand Bahaman hotel frosted the ceiling of my room right up to the fan spinning cool air.

I remember the first time I cooled down by holding a dollar bill up to my cheek. It felt like green ice. All it took to be in the Caribbean shade was cool money, and Ray had found a parcel of land that would make us a ton of dough that would free me from my life of watching other people make money, would let me bathe permanently in the cool, green Caribbean shade just a step away from the ripples on the green-blue sea.

“Why not us?” Ray said. “After this deal we can go anywhere we want, pay for anything we want, be anyone we want.”

Ray was once a Marine, honest and brave. When he talked the smell of iced cash, coconut oil, and tropical oleander was in the air, believe me.     

I got the chance to be Ray’s partner three months ago at lunch at the Thirteen Coins, a restaurant that was windowless and darkened like a pirate’s cave. Open twenty-four hours a day.

I liked that the Thirteen Coins’ walls were decorated with paper palm trees and fishnets. And their Caribbean Blue Mountain Java smelled of mists rising from the top of the Jamaican hills at sunrise.

I drank Caribbean coffee and Ray talked while chewing his club sandwich.

“This new client of mine—Urban Transporters, the shipping company—needs a distribution center. They are ready to pay up to eight million for the right property. One parcel of land with freeway access, Clarke Booth’s land, would do it, big enough for a huge warehouse and parking for hundreds of transport trucks.”

Clarke Booth’s forty-acre farmland fit the bill. Ray always did his homework. I trusted that.

“Is the land for sale?”

“Everything is for sale.” Ray was strong this way, a closer. He could walk into a room full of lawyers, and within minutes a deal would flow first from his mouth to his pen, and then to a written contract that all would sign.

Ray nibbled on the bacon slipping out of his sandwich.

“I need somebody who can put up the cash for the property. The owner, Clarke Booth, is an old farmer. Farmers like to haggle but they know cash talks and bullshit walks. To be in this, you would have to put up three hundred thousand cash, hard money.”

Ray knew I could raise cash. You see, rich people come to me to set up tax shelters, trusts that hide their profits from taxes. I sign up as many rich folks as I can. Each month I put more money in trust tax free; each month the trusts grow.

My clients trust me; I am the trustee. I can move their money around without bothering them.

“How much will we make?” I asked. That moment I hungered to own a Jamaican coffee plantation.

Ray leaned over the table. “More than you can dream, if you put up some of the cash for Clarke Booth’s land.” Ray spoke as if my clients’ money was my cash, which it was—so to speak—since they trust me with it.

“Ever eat an OREO cookie?” Ray asked. “The cream in the middle is sweet, and the top and bottom never touch. We use your clients’ money to buy Booth’s farmland with a dummy company. We don’t tell him about Urban Transporters, and they are not going to know about the price we will pay for Booth’s farm. Then our dummy company sells it to Urban Transporters for twenty times as much as we paid. That’s the creamy middle of the OREO. That’s for us.”

I didn’t want to appear too eager, and lawyers always talk about what could go wrong.

“Clarke Booth might find out about Urban Transporters, or they could find out that you and I are the real sellers, that we are the ones getting the profit,” I said.

“If Booth balks, then the deal craters. And we’re lawyers. If either Booth or Urban Transporters asks who’s who along the way, we’ll tell them, right? But only if we have to.”

But nobody did ask and in three weeks, using the trust money I took from my clients, Ray paid $300,000 hard cash for the farmer’s forty acres of wheat-colored farmland. He paid it through the account of our dummy corporation. Ray called it Valley Properties, Inc., and I funneled my clients’ trust money into Valley Properties for the payment.

Urban Transporters was delighted to sign an agreement with Valley Properties, Inc. to buy the property for $7.3 million. Why? Because Ray, their lawyer, also gave them permits to turn the farm into a distribution warehouse and parking lot.

Ray had all the permits in his pocket before Valley Properties bought the land. No one knew this but me. And I started collecting sales brochures on Caribbean waterfront.


I didn’t tell Ray everything. I didn’t tell Ray about my separate corporation, also called Valley Properties, Inc.—which, by the way, is a foreign corporation. I used a lawyer in the Caymans to set up my own Valley Properties, Inc., the Cayman version.

I have to think for myself sometimes. And it is better that no one knows everything that you are doing. You learn in the Caribbean that sometimes it’s better to stay in the shade.


I didn’t know that I would have to get Ray out of county jail, a place I had never been before and a place not at all like Jenkins and Crockett.

When you walk off the elevator at Jenkins and Crockett, surrounded by walls of cloudy glass and warm wood paneling, the soft lights brush your garments like a feather duster, the floors of thick carpet and rich, forest-green granite like a well-cut lawn underneath your shoes, and the sound of the air conditioner is all you can hear, a prayerlike ssshhhhh, like palm leaves shaking in a tropical breeze.

It didn’t feel the same when I got off the jailhouse elevator into the rat-damp jail air. There were policemen everywhere, unsmiling policemen standing by the elevator watching me get out like they knew something about me. And more policemen with creaking leather gun belts looked at me as they leaned on a set of riveted metal doors bearing a sign: Visitors Check In. No Smoking. It didn’t feel the same at all.

The sign was next to a glass-enclosed cage with a round, metal voice slot and a cold-looking woman inside:

“I’ll get to you in a sec, sugar,” she said to me. “Willy, are we clear in the walkout? Clear? Give me a ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ Willy.” Then she turned to me. “Now, what’s up, hon?”

Glacial air was blowing on my neck. The police were looking at me, and I tried to flatten my voice into a small and unimportant sound. “I’m looking for Ray Hedges.”

The glass-box lady screwed up her face and put her ear closer to the porthole on the window.

“Hedges,” I said. “Hedges.”

The glass-box lady called into a microphone, “Willy, Hodge—no, Hedges. You got a Hedges in the walkout?” Then, “OK.” She turned back to the hole in the glass, talking to the hole, not to me.

“Hodge in the walkout, in about ten minutes. Waiting room to the left.”

The swirling air in the waiting room left cold night cramps in my neck. Sitting there in a green plastic chair, I tried to get my late-night neck thinking about the warm tradewinds in the Cayman Islands, where I had set up my secret Valley Properties, Inc. bank account—not Ray’s—to receive all of the Urban Transporters money.

While I waited in the jail, my eyes shut, dreaming of the Urban Transporters money floating on a Cayman cloud into my Valley Properties, Inc. bank account, there was a sudden burst of noise by the jail door. A giant gong struck by a bullet. The gong vibrations shook my spine, evaporating the warm winds in my mind, and my hand jumped, out of control, whacking the underside of the window ledge where I was sitting.

A lady in a parka next to me jumped too and grimaced.

“Just the electronic door bolts. The slammer,” she said, relaxing back in her chair. I didn’t smile back, my hand aching. I knew then that I couldn’t survive in jail. The gong, the sound of the slammer, would break my mind open if I had to hear it over and over again.

I saw Ray coming up to the door, saw his trimmed beard and aviator-style glasses, saw his lips drawn tight together, his short, stout body erect as if he was marching on a parade ground, his head stuck out a little in front of his body, his spare tire hanging out over his Marine fatigue belt, his short, overweight legs stretched against his khaki pants.

Ray marched behind a county jail guard carrying a lawyer’s briefcase, Ray’s brown leather briefcase. As he opened the door and handed the briefcase to Ray, he looked at Ray’s belt buckle and its Marine insignia.

“You Marines?” the guard said. “Me too, man. Semper Fi.” Ray didn’t say anything; he just took the briefcase. Looking at Ray’s plump fingers, it was hard to believe that he had been a Marine. But he kept a Marine bayonet on his desk as a letter opener, Semper Fidelis inscribed on the metal.

Ray saw me. He said, “Let’s go. I’m hungry,” as if we had been relaxing on a Caribbean beach. Ray is used to all-nighters, but I was feeling tired, and my hand and neck still ached from the slammer’s gong.

I was afraid to ask Ray about the arrest, even when we got on the elevator alone.

“Mona at the escrow called me,” I said. “She told me that Urban Transporters’ money is in escrow.”

Ray had his watch to his ear. He shook his wrist. “Must have broken it somewhere. What time is it?”

“I have the seller’s deed, Ray. For you and Jeannette to sign. I’ve signed, for me and Gwen. We get the money once we give Mona the deed. What happened tonight?”

“Be quiet,” Ray said. “Don’t talk here.” I put my arm around his shoulder. Just what a friend would do. Easy and free.

“There’s nobody around,” I said. “Nobody can stop us now. We are done when we give Mona the deed to the property. I have all of the trust records in my Volvo, all the cash investment reports to my clients. What happened tonight?”

“I need a new watch,” Ray said. “I’ll pick up a Timex at a drugstore. Let’s get some food, some dinner. What time is it?”

“Let’s try Thirteen Coins,” I said. It was almost one in the morning.


The booths in the restaurant were all empty, but Ray picked a booth as far away from the door as we could get. He sat his briefcase next to his right side, and we ordered Java coffee and looked at the menus.

“What happened tonight?” I said. “The jail made me nervous.”

“Jeannette is leaving me.” Ray sipped his water. “She told me at six tonight, ordered me to come home. Said that if she didn’t make it a command performance, I would not show.”

Ray’s eyes were on the menu. “Hamburgers. That’s all I really wanted anyway at Burger King. Hamburgers.” Ray was so calm. He ordered two hamburgers. I ordered one.

“Bring them quick,” Ray said to the waitress. “When Jeannette met me at the door, she started out calling me names. ‘Look at you,’ she said. ‘You work all the time, day and night. You never come home. You work, then eat, then work some more. It’s made you gross.’ Jeannette said that all I wanted was money, she said that to me. Where are our hamburgers?”

“You should have told her about the deal,” I said. “She would have felt better.”

Ray looked at me without blinking; his head swayed from side to side as if I was arguing with what he was saying.

“Not in the cards. When I said I was working hard for us, Jeannette just laughed, said the word ‘us’ was a joke. ‘You never pay any attention to me,’ she said. ‘You have no idea what I want or who I am. You are around so little that if I was having a kid,’ Jeannette said, ‘you could never tell, would never notice that I looked different.’”

The hamburgers were there now.

“Give me the mustard,” Ray said. He ate with huge, ripping bites and a few rapid chewing motions, then he swallowed and took another bite. All the time he looked around as he bit, chewed, swallowed, and bit again. It was like watching a wild animal gorging, looking around for competition.

“Ray, I have to re-deposit my clients’ trust money tomorrow before I send out the monthly reports,” I said, putting a napkin in my lap. “Right now I show up as the one who took three hundred thousand dollars out of my clients’ trust accounts. The checks trace to me. We need to close the sale so I can put the money back.”

Ray patted the briefcase.

“When I was arrested, they took my briefcase away but didn’t even look inside. I told them it had confidential papers, clients’ papers, and they didn’t look. That’s our law enforcers for you; Jesus.” He took out some papers and laid them on the table.

“Jeannette’s power of attorney,” Ray said. “Names me.”

Ray also took out his bayonet/letter opener. He laid the Semper Fidelis side up on top of the papers.

“I drew up a deed too,” he said, opening a folder and revealing a deed with two signature lines: one for his signature, one for Jeannette’s. Ray took out a pen and signed both names on the deed transferring the farmland to Urban Transporters.

“There,” he said.

“Maybe I should hang onto that deed, put it with the other documents,” I said. I wanted that deed. It would get me off the hook because once we gave Mona the deed, the sale to Urban Transporters would close, and I could pay back my clients with cash from the sale. 

“I’ll keep it for now,” Ray said. “Now, this thing with my wife didn’t just start tonight. Jeannette has been thinking about leaving me for some time, I can see that now. She was planning on doing without me, and she wasn’t willing to listen. So when she went to bed, I heard her lock the bedroom door. I watched TV for a while, then about eleven I turned off the lights but I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shut my eyes.”

Ray never stopped eating his hamburger while he talked.

“I knew that something had been happening with her, maybe another guy. I could hear her inside her room, so I started to ask her about it, but I heard her pick up the phone and ask for the police.”

Ray shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“I may have spoken too strongly to her, something like ‘you open the door or I’ll kick it in,’ something like that, I’m not sure. So I decided to leave and grabbed my briefcase because this deed and Jeannette’s power of attorney were in it.”

Ray wiped his mouth. There was still a small daub of mustard on his mustache. “I drove to the Broadway Burger King, drove over to get a hamburger, some fries, maybe a shake to clear my head.

“At the Burger King there was this kid in front of me. His shirt said SCREW THE SEAHAWKS. Probably left over from last year’s playoffs. I don’t know why but it just pissed me off to see someone that insolent out in public with ‘Screw’ written on his sweater.

“Anyway, this kid was demanding a double deluxe burger and wouldn’t move out of the way to let me put in my order. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, but I’ll just want whatever is made already,’ and the kid turned around and said, ‘You don’t need anything, Fatso.’”

Ray looked across at me, his forehead all wrinkled up, and his voice was earnest and flat. “That is when I kicked in his knee. I did it Marine-style: strike square on the top of the kneecap and down a little to make the bone crack. You rip the ligaments good that way.

“When the kid fell down hard and started screaming, the girl behind the window called the cops, and I never got that hamburger. That’s why I’m so hungry now.”

I admired Ray that moment, loved him for being so brave, but I was nervous too.

“Lucky you got Jeannette’s power of attorney because she won’t sign the closing papers,” I said. “I know it. And I have to pay back the money I borrowed from my clients.”

Ray looked at me with that swaying nod. He picked up the bayonet and held it lightly, the tip and the handle knob balanced between the pointer fingers of each hand.

“How did you know she wouldn’t sign? There’s something you and Jeannette have been discussing?”

“She called to tell me you were in jail,” I said.

“But Kirby, I never told her that you and I were working on a deal together. She didn’t know about the deal.”

“Maybe I told her.” My eyes rolled away from Ray, then back again, looking for the shade. It is the way my eyes always have rolled when I make up the truth.

Ray’s eyes were unwavering and bright, like the tropical sun glaring down on me. I didn’t blink for a minute, but then I turned away, afraid that Ray’s glare might penetrate the falseness of my absolute loyalty.


Jeannette and I had sex in the afternoon before Ray went to jail, as we have lots of times before because Ray works day and night. Jeannette is sexy in a kind of French movie-star way, with long legs and huge, brown nipples and a long underlip like Julie Christie. I loved to take her lip with lightness in between mine and pull at it like a straw stuck in one of those daiquiris they serve by the gallon in the Caymans.

Even while Jeannette and I were in bed, even while I lay on Jeannette’s long, naked right leg, my hand on her tummy and her eyes shut, I was figuring out how I would conceal that I had taken my clients’ money. After all, my clients had trusted me with their funds.

“You know,” Jeannette said this afternoon as we lay together, “I wonder how Ray’d behave if I announced all of a sudden that I was going to have a baby. We haven’t had sex for months.” Jeannette said this lying on her back, said it as careless and easy as a waft of Caribbean air, daring me to believe her.

You can talk about how you would take this until you are blue in the face, but when you are in your partner’s bed, his wife’s right leg under you, her left hand squeezing your buttocks, it is tough to imagine how to respond.

“Don’t kid around, Jeannette,” I said, bracing myself upright against the pale, bare skin of her ribcage, which made her jump. “There’s something big going on. Ray and I are doing a big deal, a deal that changes everything for all of us.”

And I told her about the property. I told her about the Caymans too. Not all of it but most of it. Maybe it was a mistake to tell her, but I had to make Jeannette stop thinking about telling Ray she was pregnant. It might change things.

Jeannette sat up, ready to do business even though she was naked. “When did you and Ray expect to tell me what my side of your deal would be?”

“I haven’t told Gwen either,” I said.

“So what’s that to me? I get my own share of this. Got it?”

“I guarantee that you will get one-half of Ray’s share, and then we’ll be together in the Caymans,” I said, my eyes rolling a bit.

Jeannette pushed a lock of her hair away from her eyes as she watched me.

“One-third of the whole deal,” she said. “All my own.”

When Jeannette said this, I felt a lot better because I knew that she had no intention of telling Ray what she and I were up to. I felt the Caribbean sun weaving together the green palm boughs with the bougainvillea below, yielding the cool shade underneath in which I could hide.

“One-third is too much,” I said. I could negotiate even while I stood half naked, getting my clothes on.

“One-third is what I’ll get because so far you’ve hidden a little bit from Gwen, a little bit from Ray, a little bit from your clients, and you’re probably hiding some from me too. Either I end up with one-third, or everyone else you’ve hidden this deal from will know all about you.”

Jeannette opened the door of her closet. She began to laugh, laughed in a cold way that made me not want to turn my back on her while I looked for my shoes.

“This was real nice today, getting to pretend that Ray came through the door and saw us going at it.”

“One-third it is,” I said, my eyes rolling around, looking for the shady part of the room. “I guarantee it. All on the up-and-up.” 

False and true at the same time. There was no way that Ray would go along with Jeannette getting her own share.


Now Ray knew Jeannette and I had talked about the sale of Clarke Booth’s wheat-colored farmland and maybe more if he looked at my face, my rolling eyes. I felt so careless.

“I have got to go to the men’s,” I said to Ray, my eyes like ball bearings. It was too late to be his partner anymore. I passed the men’s room and left the restaurant. Outside I dialed Jeannette.

“Ray and I are eating at Thirteen Coins. He knows that I told you about the deal. He knows about us. He won’t do the deal.”

Jeannette sounded half asleep. “Have you thought about divorce?”

“You mean Gwen and me?”

“No, you and Ray. Maybe you need a divorce. Call me tomorrow. I’m too tired to listen to this tonight.”

“This means there’s no one-third, Jeannette.”

“There never was one-third. You and Ray are the flip side of the same record, talking millions, pretending to be something special. And neither of you are. I’m going back to sleep. ’Nite, Kirby.” She hung up.

I had to make a decision right then. I didn’t need Ray; I didn’t need Jeannette; I didn’t need Gwen. I would sign everyone’s name on a new deed myself. Maybe this was what I meant to do all along. 

I just needed Ray out of the way until tomorrow, when I would swim smooth as a Caribbean shark into Mona’s office at the title company with the deed containing four letter-perfect versions of the signatures of Ray, Jeannette, Kirby, and Gwen, notarized by a trusting Jenkins and Crockett partner who will do me a favor even if three of the signers aren’t present.

Then the title to the forty acres of farmland will pass like an electronic whisper from Valley Properties, Inc. to Urban Transporters. And Mona will wire $7.3 million—to the account of Valley Properties, Inc. My company.

The one in the Caymans.

I called 911. If Jeannette could call the police, so could I.

“There’s a man in the Thirteen Coins restaurant, Ray Hedges,” I whispered. “He says he’s going to kill his wife. He has a beard, looks fat, but he’s armed.”

“Who is this?”

“The name is Lund. I’m a lawyer. Hedges just got out of jail; I heard him say he broke somebody’s leg this evening. Hedges has a knife, a big one. I saw him with a knife. His wife is in big trouble. Hurry, please.” I put the phone on the cradle and went back into the restaurant.

Ray’s briefcase and bayonet were not on the table anymore. Ray was nowhere around either. I ran out of Thirteen Coins, out to my car parked on the black street near the restaurant.

The Cayman barbecue scent of the Thirteen Coins, warm and liquid, was suddenly replaced by bracing northern gusts. The streetlight seemed to bend and dance on the puddles in the asphalt. The front end of my Volvo was lower than the car in front of it. The streetlight shone on the Volvo’s flattened right front tire, a thin, clean slash leaving two protruding lips in the black rubber sidewall. I could feel the warm air rush out of my dream of the Caribbean just as air must have rushed out of the tire when it was sliced, perhaps by a razor-sharp bayonet.

The driver’s side door window was broken; the remaining glass swung down in a curve, a spider web of shattered glass. My papers were gone, all the records of my borrowings gone, all but one sheet of paper which lay on the seat, stuck into the upholstery with a Marine bayonet, metallic black and green.

My spine felt slapped cold by the gong of the jail door slammer. The paper had been scrawled on with red ink that I could barely read, but I didn’t need to, really. I knew what was written there.

A yellow glare from the neon light over the Thirteen Coins door struck the rear window of my Volvo, turning the glass into a mirror. There was my face in the mirror, half disclosed, half disguised: crooked mouth, uneven brow. And eyes rolling back and forth like worried marbles looking for some shade.

Across the street, in a darkened, empty parking lot, a short, corpulent shadow seemed to dart toward me; then it subsided as the red and blue lights of a patrol car, flashing like a Caribbean carnival at midnight, paraded down the silent, black street.

There the police found me, my rolling eyes desperate to fabricate the truth, and with a sound coming out of my throat and nose with each breath, a sound that I have made whenever I have been caught with my falsehoods in the full light of day, out of the shade, caught lying. No words but a low yowl clotted with the residue of deception.

Mike Cohen’s short stories have been published in Streetlight, Adelaide, Storgy, FRiGG, Furious Gazelle, and Umbrella Factory magazines and the Penman Review Journal. Two of his stories have been anthologized in Adelaide Voices Anthology of 2018 and American Writers Review 2018. Future short story publications in 2019 include the Streetlight Magazine’s Anthology of 2017 stories, The North Dakota Quarterly, The Evening Street Review, and LitBreak Magazine. Mike can be contacted at and on Facebook at Mike Cohen Author.