When Jay Miscovich stepped off Duval Street into the Bull & Whistle bar in January 2010, Key West was shivering through a cold spell, the thermometer parked at a rare 70 degrees.
A bearish guy in his 50s with a beach-ball gut and an ever-present baseball cap pulled over his bald head, he crossed the stone floor, extending a hand to an old acquaintance.
The room was nearly empty. Afternoon shadows mossed the high ceilings. Steer horns poked from the corners.
The walls surrounding the U-shaped bar were splashed with fading murals of Florida legends, yellowed like old photos: a beer-bloated Hemingway; railroad baron Henry Flagler; and next to a pair of regal galleons, Mel Fisher, the famous treasure hunter.
Even though Miscovich hadn't seen him in over a decade, Mike Cunningham looked the same. A drifter, he was tanned and whittled thin from day labor. A clean white sweatshirt hung off his shoulders.
"How's it going ?" Miscovich asked, his consonants sloshing around in a wet lisp.
When he'd known Cunningham years earlier, back in their hometown of Latrobe, the handyman had been painfully shy, preferring to mow grass or paint walls alone.
Back then, Miscovich hired him regularly, and Cunningham still checked in a few times a year after moving to Florida for year-round work. Knowing that his former employer had an interest in treasure hunting, he'd asked to meet today.