It was to have been a three-week family
vacation away from New York City and the NYPD, and it should have been a wonderful
one. Detective First Grade Brian McKenna had rented a Fort Myers Beach condo
at a great off-season rate from Mike McCormick, a retired cop who had started
a real estate business there. McKenna and Angelita had lived briefly in the
same Fort Myers Beach condo complex, and they knew and liked many of their neighbors,
most of whom were retired cops from one Midwest city or other. McKenna also
appreciated many of the restaurants in town, so Angelita would get a break in
the cooking and cleaning department.
To make everyone even happier, included in the rental package were the three jet skis and a twenty-seven-foot motorboat docked right outside the condo on a canal that accessed the Gulf of Mexico. The kids especially enjoyed outings on those toys, and there was an easy eighteen hole golf course across the road to keep McKenna entertained during the early mornings.
The first week had been great. McKenna used the condo’s pool to teach his four-year-old twins how to swim, and they had learned well enough to impress him. The condo had the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Channel to amuse the twins when McKenna and Angelita needed some quiet time, and seven-year-old Janine was no problem at all. Two of the neighbors had grandchildren visiting, so Janine had formed a friendship with one of them, another seven-year old girl.
Perfect vacation, and then Cisco had arrived with his girlfriend Agnes. As partners in the NYPD’s Major Case Squad, McKenna and Cisco frequently took their vacations at the same time. However, since McKenna thought of it more as a vacation from Cisco than a vacation from the NYPD, he had never considered asking Cisco to join him in his travels. He and Cisco were great friends at work, but they had entirely different interests and lifestyles, so they rarely socialized together.
McKenna was considered the NYPD’s most famous detective, and that annoyed Cisco no end. Cisco considered McKenna to be an exceptionally lucky detective—lucky to have him for a partner, and lucky to have the police commissioner, Ray Brunette, as his longtime best friend. Because of that friendship, as Cisco was never reluctant to point out, McKenna was frequently assigned the big cases that received the press attention that had made him so famous, and McKenna conceded whenever asked that Cisco was right.
McKenna also conceded that having Cisco for a partner helped him solve those big cases. Cisco was the greatest natural athlete McKenna knew; he was hard-working, dedicated, glib, and sometimes practiced his detective craft so well that even the chiefs who loathed him admitted that he just might be as good as he thought he was.
Cisco had known where McKenna was going on vacation, which was unfortunate since Cisco also knew Mike McCormick. Agnes had given Cisco the idea of joining the McKennas. Agnes loved Cisco and desperately wanted to marry him, and Cisco loved her in his own way, but McKenna considered him a confirmed bachelor with an eye for and a way with the ladies. Agnes had thought it would be nice to show Cisco the way happily married people lived, and she had pestered him for days to take her to Fort Myers Beach. She and Angelita got along well, and the McKenna kids thought Cisco was the greatest thing ever. Since Cisco could easily adopt the attitudes and actions of a spoiled adolescent, he understood kids and loved entertaining them—as long as they were other people’s kids. So Agnes had prevailed, and on the seventh night of their vacation McKenna and Angelita had discovered that Cisco and Agnes were their new next-door neighbors.
The misery began the next morning when Cisco joined McKenna for his morning round of golf, breaking up McKenna’s usual foursome. McKenna considered himself a fair golfer, and played about twenty times a year. Cisco, on the other hand, played once every couple of years, so McKenna had been happy to pair off with Cisco to teach his younger partner a thing or two about how the game was played.
McKenna shot his best round of the year, but Cisco beat him by eight strokes, and he had been ungracious enough to give McKenna a few pointers and lessons along the way. After golf, Cisco had devoted himself to a few hours of amusing the kids at pool side with his juggling routines, his magic tricks, and his handstands and back flips. The kids loved it, of course, and their joy increased when Cisco prevailed upon their father to come out and join in the fun.
Cisco had shown the kids the secrets behind his magic tricks, and then used McKenna as his assistant. Cisco pulled quarters from McKenna’s nose, eggs from his ears which always broke in McKenna’s hands whenever he handled them, and Cisco topped even that routine when he pulled a ladies’ bra and panties from McKenna’s pockets. In Cisco’s shell game, McKenna could never find the pea, and he never did figure out how Cisco performed his card tricks. The end result was that the kids were convinced Cisco was a genius, but feared their father might be a boob.
But McKenna was still game, and he enrolled with his kids in a juggling lesson. Janine picked it up quickly, and was soon juggling two items without a problem. McKenna was able to do that as well, and then the lesson advanced to three items. In McKenna’s case, it was his keys, a tennis ball, and his wallet, and McKenna thought he had it down pat until he juggled his wallet into the pool. He immediately jumped after it, fully dressed, with an excellent dive intended to recover some prestige with his kids. He grabbed the wallet, but hit his head on the bottom of the pool and put a bloody knot on his forehead that gave him an instant headache. Cisco insisted on driving him to the hospital to have his head checked, and McKenna reluctantly agreed. “You shouldn’t be playing so hard at your age,” was the unsolicited opinion of the young intern who processed McKenna through the emergency room and discharged him with a bandage on his forehead that the McKenna kids dubbed his “Juggling Contest Last Place Patch.”
For dinner that night, Cisco had insisted on cooking for everybody. He was proud of his culinary talents, and prepared his new recipe for a spicy Indian dish, chicken vindaloo. It turned out that Cisco’s dish was delicious—maybe a trifle more spicy than they preferred, but still good enough so that both McKenna and Angelita had allowed themselves a second helping. The kids had loved it, too, and ate their fill.
Right after coffee, McKenna had been the first one to feel an uncomfortable growling low in his stomach, and he excused himself to head for the bathroom. Ten minutes later he still hadn’t returned, and then Angelita excused herself to visit the other bathroom. For that night and the next day, McKenna and Angelita suffered through the worst cases of diarrhea they had ever experienced. Cisco, Agnes, and the kids were all fine, and Cisco explained to the kids that their parents just hadn’t been blessed with strong constitutions.
The next morning Cisco had filled in for McKenna to play golf with McKenna’s usual foursome, and he beat them all out of their bridge and pinochle money. That night Cisco had further exasperated McKenna’s neighbors when he enrolled himself in the condo complex’s shuffleboard tournament. He won it to the applause of Agnes and McKenna’s kids, but they were the only ones clapping when Cisco was presented with his trophy.
McKenna had never considered his neighbors to be great sports, and that night he received calls from two of them. After very little in the way of chitchat, both had presented McKenna with the same pointed question: When is that pain-in-the-ass pal of yours going home?
It wasn’t Cisco’s fault, McKenna knew. Cisco had done nothing wrong, he was just being Cisco, but McKenna didn’t know if he could take another day of being shown up in front of his wife and kids. Since Cisco’s arrival, McKenna’s head hurt, his kids thought he was an uncoordinated dullard, his neighbors avoided him, and Angelita was barely speaking to him. McKenna was absolutely certain that he would lose in a physical confrontation with Cisco, but he was almost ready to smack his partner anyway. Ridiculous idea, he knew, but at fifty-one years old he was prepared to take a beating in front of his wife and kids just to experience the satisfaction of getting in that one good shot.