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.”“Only one of your clients failed to lose weight?” He couldn’t put enough skepticism in his voice, so he threw in a good head shake and then turned so his wide shoulders would have at least a little intimidating effect on the short scam artist.“I didn’t say that.Most people who don’t lose weight drop out long before we resort to the box.” Manny looked Tubman up and down and even carefully pulled one side of his sport coat open to get a view of his belly.“You’re still a young man and can handle some serious exercise.I think this program would be perfect for you.And if you didn’t lose”—Manny looked down at the application Tubman had filled out before he realized who ran the clinic—“forty-five pounds by April, after following everything—the protein shakes, exercise, counseling—then you might realize that the box is plan B.But most people don’t take plan A to its logical conclusion.”“So you’re saying if I sign all of these releases, agree to follow your rules, sign the contract, and do everything and still don’t lose every pound I want to, then I could find out what’s in the box?”Manny nodded his head.“Only if all else fails.”“You can see my concerns.Given your history and the number of people in Boca Raton who bought condos you didn’t own, paid you to sell their time-shares, or bought into your investment schemes, I’d be crazy to just pay your initiation fee.”“In that case, Detective, unless you have other business here, you need to move on because I have a lot of clients waiting to sign up.Five hundred dollars to start is a tremendous deal.After that, you pay by the pound.No other program gives you that option.” Manny focused his dark eyes on the taller detective.“Three years in prison changes people.”Tubman said, “It changes druggies or killers, not common fraud artists like you.” He didn’t care if he hurt the man’s feelings.Guys like that could hardly be offended.But he needed to do something drastic if he wanted to lose enough weight to satisfy Maria.She didn’t think he had it in him to accomplish a goal like that, and she insinuated he was a lazy mama’s boy and that was why she wouldn’t marry him.He had to do something, and this was the clinic everyone was talking about.The detective said, “And I lose forty-five pounds by April, even with the holidays coming up?”Manny just nodded his head.“And if I haven’t done it by, say, March, we’ll consider using your super-secret box over there?”“You won’t need it.The only questions are, when do you want to start and how do you want to pay?”“I’d never trust you with my credit card info, so I’ll be paying cash.” Tubman couldn’t take his eyes off the two-foot-by-one-foot box behind the counter as he slid his wallet out of his back pocket and slowly pulled out three twenties for a down payment.“I’ll bring the rest by later this afternoon.” He was excited by the possibility of changing the recent direction of his life.Paul Tubman stared down at his salad with dressing on the side, using some of the tricks the counselor at the weight loss clinic had taught him.He took a drink of water before and after each bite, focusing on the sensation of food in his mouth, and tried not to think about all the stuff on the menu he would’ve preferred to order.To make matters worse, his friend, Carl Spirazza, perpetually lean and fit, gobbled down a plate of lasagna like it was an appetizer.His friend looked at Paul and said, “I’m impressed, Tubby.I don’t think I’ve ever seen you focus on a diet for this long.”Tubman ignored the unfortunate nickname he’d had since childhood.He attributed it more to his name than his size.He hadn’t really started to expand horizontally until his midtwenties.“It’s only been three weeks and I still got the holidays staring me in the face, but I’ve lost almost ten pounds, and even though I had reservations, the clinic certainly seems to be legit.”“They may be helping you lose weight, but their cost is way out of line.”“It’s the first time I’ve been losing weight.I know Manny is a crook, but maybe he really did stumble into an honest-to-goodness business.It still kills me to see that box every time I walk through the door.You’re a doctor, you don’t have any idea what it could be?”Carl shook his head.“Probably some kind of a gimmick, like an ancient saying written on a piece of paper.The way you describe the box, oblong, about two by one foot, it could hold anything.Or nothing.But there’s no special device that could trim off weight you don’t lose after four months of dieting.Unless it has something to do with liposuction.”“That’s one of the things the clinic is very specific about.No cosmetic surgery.They leave open the idea that it could be a medical procedure, but who the hell knows what kind of procedure it is.They swear it’s not a stomach staple or anything like that.”“You’re doing good.You’re ahead of schedule.Why even worry about it? The way things are going, you’ll never have to worry about what’s in that box.”Tubman shook his head.“If it were anyplace but Boca Raton.Why do I have to live and work in the fraud capital of the US?”“Is it really that bad?”“You have no idea.This place attracts con artists like Mormons attract wives.Thirty percent of the office space in the city is devoted to some type of illegal activity.It’s been estimated that half the car accidents are staged.There’s no reason for me to be optimistic about the clinic.I was blinded by a chance to impress Maria.”Carl frowned at the mention of Tubman’s girlfriend.Most of his friends weren’t happy about the relationship and thought the sexy Venezuelan took advantage of Tubman.Carl didn’t say much about Maria.He just didn’t want an asshole like Manny Katner taking advantage of him.Tubman sighed and took a sip of water before shoving a piece of romaine lettuce with a spritz of vinegar on it into his mouth.“Maria hasn’t even commented on it yet.The only thing she noticed was that I didn’t eat much at dinner last Saturday night.”“Did she really tell you she wouldn’t marry you until you lost weight?”“She beat me to the punch.She said it before I even popped the question.It’s really good motivation.”Carl shook his head and said, “Why do you put up with that shit? You’re a great guy.People love you.I’ve got a couple of nurses in my practice that would go out with you in a heartbeat.You don’t need to be bullied into doing something you don’t want to do.”“You sound like my mom.Maria isn’t bullying me.She’s encouraging me.”Now Carl lost all humor and looked at his friend.“Are you kidding me, Tubby? The only thing she encourages you to do is buy her gifts.I’m glad you’re taking an interest in your health, but I think Maria is more likely to kill you than your weight problem.”“Then I’ll die happy.”Paul Tubman purposely didn’t wear a sport coat today.Instead, he wore a shirt and tie with his Glock on his right hip and his gold badge clipped on the belt next to it.It was the style most detectives in the coastal cities liked to wear.They weren’t hiding the fact they were cops.They weren’t undercover.Palm Beach County had a clear divide between “the coast” and “western communities.” The coast, at least in the minds of most the residents, was where everything happened and the cool people lived [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]