For over seventeen years with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, DEA and Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Jim Born has seen just about everything Florida crime and criminals can throw at him, and he’s put it all into as entertaining and accomplished a first thriller as you’ll find anywhere this year.
State cop Bill Tasker has had problems in the past, but nothing compared to what’s about to happen to him. A satchel with a million and a half in skimmed money is about to go walking. A phony community activist has decided to cash in, but a local FBI agent also has his eyes on the prize, a key witness gets murdered, and it’s Tasker who ends up framed for the whole thing. Soon, other people become seduced by the cash as well, and as the satchel passes from hand to hand and the body count mounts, Tasker realizes it’s all up to him. If he doesn’t retake his life right now .someone’s going to do it for him.
Filled with a rich array of characters, a constantly-twisting plot, and an authenticity so deep you can’t help wondering how much of this is actually true, Walking Money is indeed proof that “Jim Born is the real thing.”
James O. Born is a Special Agent Supervisor with the FDLE, where he is head of the Broward field office, and involved with a wide variety of crime investigations. He is also the technical consultant for the fall 2003 television series Karen Sisco . He lives in Lake Worth, Florida .
Bill Tasker massaged the cramp in his thigh as he peered out the small rectangular window cut into the door of the walk-in freezer. His leg pain too his mind off his black eye he’d gotten a few hours before. His breath formed clouds on the thick, pockmarked glass that looked out on the main floor of Remy’s Quick Stop. The thirty-degree air kept the others quiet, waiting for the FBI’s information to pan out. Tasker thought, some big-time task force on robbery. Four grown men spending the past two hours waiting for someone to rob a convenience store. This sucked. As the only State cop on the task force he fell in between the natural friction of the locals toward the Feds.
“Tell us about your eye, Billy,” said Tom Dooley, the FBI representative to the task force.
“Just an accident,” said Tasker, not turning from the window.
Dooley laughed. “Yeah, I had an accident like that once. My wife accidentally caught me with my girlfriend.”
Even Tasker laughed at that one.
Dooley tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “How old was she?”
“Ten, that’s not right.”
“It was my daughter.”
“I guess that’s all right in Florida, but we find it unacceptable.”
Tasker waited for the other cops to stop laughing and said, “I was showing her how to fast pitch a softball and she caught on quick.”
Dooley said, “Or you can’t catch for shit.”
Tasker nodded, chuckling a little as he kept his watch.
A minute later Tasker saw a young white, gang-banger, wearing a ripped, hooded sweatshirt, stride in through the front door. Having on something like this in Miami’s eighty-degree night air meant you were either on a serious weight loss program or an armed robber hiding your Smith and Wesson ATM card.
Tasker let a small smile spread across his face as he realized at least they’d make an arrest. The little moments like this were what made him glad he didn’t follow his dad into the dry cleaning business. He felt the almost conformable sensation of his heart picking up a beat.
“Stand-by. We may have a live one,” croaked Tasker, his face plastered to the tiny window.
The other three men sprang up toward the door, jockeying for position.
“Look out, Rick, I’m the one who needs to see what the hell is going on,” said Dooley, elbowing past the Metro-Dade cop. He already had his Smith and Wesson model 13 in his hand. Dooley tried to muscle Tasker out of the way too.
“Hang on, Tom.” Tasker said, still staring out the window. “I know I’m not a Fed, but I think I’m capable of watching a damn street robber.” A slight shift of his six-foot frame sent the portly FBI man back a step, slipping on a pebble of ice. Turning his attention back to the store, Tasker watched the suspect act like he was looking at a magazine while the last customer paid for her gigantic soda and microwaved burrito. The suspected robber’s sweatshirt had pockets up front and the sleeves whacked off. A tattoo of a pitchfork on his right arm identified him as a member of the Folk Nation of street gangs. No way this jerk-off would be interested in PC Computing. His eyes darted toward the clerk over the top of the magazine. A big lump filled the right pocket of the ratty sweatshirt.
In a calm, almost sleepy voice, City of Miami Detective Derrick Sutter, asked, “What’s it look like, Bill?”
Tasker’s right hand tightened on the grip of his Beretta still locked in his leather hip holster. “The clerk even knows this is the one. We’ll wait a second to let him move up to the counter, then give him the shock of his life.” Tasker’s heart raced like it did any time he had a couple of minutes to think about things like this. “He’s making his move. Get ready.” Tasker made sure he said it slow and steady. He didn’t want these guys too hyper when they popped out of the freezer.
The robber walked to the counter, dropping his hand to his pocket. Tasker shoved the door wide, shouting, “Police, don’t move.”
Immediately, three shots echoed in the little store, slugging his eardrum like a fist. What did this guy have, a cannon? Tasker slid to a stop, diving for cover behind a low ice cream cooler as Rick Bema fell in behind him, unashamed of pushing his face hard into the seat of Tasker’s jeans. Dooley pivoted on the heels of his penny loafers, his girth shifting, giving him momentum and leaped back into the freezer, his belly jiggling under his button down oxford shirt and cheap, polyester blend sport coat. He yelled from inside, “The son-of-a-bitch-cocksucker is shooting.”
Tasker ignored the flustered FBI man. He turned his head, still down low behind the image of a big Dove Bar and barked in a harsh whisper, “Rick, cover the end of the aisle.” He watched the Metro-Dade detective scurry down the aisle, keeping his head well below the top shelf of candy.
Tasker gripped his Beretta tight in both hands and peeked around the cooler quickly. As he dropped back behind his cover he analyzed the image he just saw. The clerk was still standing and he had the gun. A big gun. “Hold your fire,” yelled Tasker. He looked to make certain Bema heard him. No one moved in the freezer. Tasker popped out from the cooler again, making sure of what he saw. The dark skinned clerk had a blue steel, forty-four magnum revolver in his hand pointing at the ceiling, smoke drifting up from the barrel in a light wisp.
Tasker stayed behind the Dove Bar and spoke very precisely, “Put the gun on the counter and step away from it.”
“No, no. It is okay officer. I handle the situation,” said the man in a heavy, singsong Pakistani accent.
“Listen to me. Drop the gun right now,” Tasker said, slowly articulating each syllable.
The clerk tossed the gun on the counter top and moved toward the register. “You don’t need to be nasty. I am not the criminal.”
Tasker stood up, seeing Sutter and Dooley at the freezer opening and Bema coming up the other aisle. The young guy in the sweat suit lay on the floor with blood gushing from what was left of the top of his head. Tasker kicked the small revolver from the dead man’s hand and watched it spin across the floor as he thought about the other three times he had taken a gun from a dead man’s hand.
“Fuck me,” said Sutter quietly from behind him.
Rick Bema crossed himself with the barrel of his gun.
Tasker felt something on his neck and looked up at the clumps of flesh and blood stuck to the ceiling, dripping down in swirling little wads. This didn’t work out like they had planned.
“What the fuck you do that for, Hadji?” asked Dooley, stepping toward the tall, thin clerk.
“I was thinking I would be of assistance and save you the trouble of shooting this boil of a man.” The clerk smiled.
“You should have waited for us,” Tasker didn’t want to get into right now, but he had given the clerk explicit instructions. This would cause him some stomach trouble when he sat down to explain it.
“I do not even get a thanks for my civic duty?”
“You might get a foot up your damn ass is what you might get,” said Derrick Sutter, slamming his Glock with silver painted grips into his holster.
Tasker heard the sirens coming toward them. The get-away car was long gone. The outside surveillance missed them all together. A crowd gathered at the front door.
Tom Dooley looked up from the corpse to his partners. “On the bright side, it’s an early night.”