Excerpt: Toros & Torsos



“Can I sit with you for a time, sir?”
A silky voice — alto, but strained. The young woman said, “I think a man in this place may mean me harm.”
Hector Lassiter looked up from his notebook.
She was 23, maybe 24. Pretty, poised and flustered.
Hector had seen her come in an hour or so before, when he’d looked up to check the weather, which was still strangely calm. Although Hector had at least a dozen years on her, he’d been attracted to her. Then he’d become absorbed in his writing…lost track of the young woman and of his interest in her while he wrote.
The crime novelist closed his notebook, capped his pen and slipped it into the pocket of his faded and striped fisherman’s shirt. He gestured at the empty seat across from him and said, “Sit, please.”
The short story he’d been trying to shape was showing every sign of being a dog, anyhow. He’d been trying to write the forecasted hurricane into the story, but it wasn’t coming together.
Hector sipped his mojito, watching her. The woman sat down and Hector rose, walked behind her, and scooted in her chair. She was wearing a white dress that bared her shoulders and most of her back — more than a little sunburn there. He sat back down and gestured at his glass. Hector said, “Ever have one?”
“No,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think so. Not even sure what that is. Is that mint in there with the lime?”
“Mashed in, then some more as garnish.” Hector raised two fingers at his bartender friend. He pointed at his nearly empty glass and then at himself and the woman. “You’ll love this, trust me,” he said. “Calm your nerves. Like my Daddy said, ‘You’ve got to find what you love and let it kill you.’”
She was blond. Blue eyes and long legs. The woman was bustier than most regarded as the vogue. But Hector never bought into the flapper physique and mystique. That aesthetic bewildered him: Hector liked curves.
“I feel I know you,” she said. “I mean, as if I’ve maybe seen you before. I’m pretty sure I have…just yesterday.”
Hector winked. “Sure. And likewise. Think I saw you come in on the steamship. I was out fishing with a friend.”
“The man with the black boat? I heard that is Hemingway’s boat.”
“That’s right,” Hector said. “The Pilar. Now, this man who scared you…”
She nodded and fidgeted. “He’s across the bar. He keeps staring and smiling at me. He has a big knife. He’s been running his finger along the blade as he smiles at me. I mean, it’s not so much of a smile…more of a….” She searched for the right word.
“A ‘leer’?” Hector offered.
“Perfect — a leer. And he doesn’t have so many teeth.” She paused as the bartender placed her drink on the table.
Hector said, “Here, Josie,” and slipped a couple of bills to the man. He raised his fresh mojito and extended his arm for a toast. “To new friends,” Hector said.
She nodded distractedly and they tapped glasses. She sipped her drink and said, “It’s delicious.” She took another sip and said, “If I leave here alone, I’m afraid he’ll follow me. I’m pretty sure that he will do that.”