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Authors: Falafel Jones

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Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
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Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
Max Fried [2]
Falafel Jones
Falafel Jones (2013)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Computer Forensic Examiner - Florida
Mystery: Cozy - Computer Forensic Examiner - Floridattt

When Brenda McCarthy wakes to the sound of police pounding on her door, her clothes are bloody and she doesn't know why. After detectives say her date's dead body washed up on the beach, she turns to private investigator Max Fried. Max wants to help her, but neither he nor Brenda are so sure she's innocent.

Payback’s a Beach
by
Falafel Jones
Copyright © 2013 Falafel Jones

All rights reserved.

First Edition November 2013

Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE

 

I groaned, opened my shorts, and reached down to press the button. When I looked up, TV reporter, Lisa Bell, stared me in the face. She said the Coast Guard towed an abandoned boat, but I was too stuffed from dinner to pay attention. All I could think about was coffee. While I reclined on the couch waiting for my espresso, I heard Mariel in the kitchen answer the phone. Her voice grew louder as she approached but instead of coffee, she handed me the cordless and left the room.

On the TV, Lisa said the boat owner’s dead body had washed up on the beach. On the phone, Ed McCarthy, a local lawyer, told me the police wanted to arrest his daughter Brenda.

“Max, you’ve got to help me out.”

“With what?”

“The police think Brenda killed that guy who washed up on the beach.”

“The guy from that abandoned boat?”

“Looks that way.”

“What can I do to help?”

“I need someone to prove she didn’t do it.”

When I first moved to New Smyrna Beach, I did a forensic examination on a computer to help Ed settle a client’s estate. The exam led to the capture of the client’s killer but I hadn’t seen Ed for a while.

“Geez, Ed. You know I can’t work the case like that. I’ve got to follow the evidence.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. What I mean is I know she didn’t do it and I want you to find out who did. That’s the only way we can help her.”

“But, what if the investigation proves her gu… I mean doesn’t clear her.”

Ed’s confidence didn’t surprise me. “It will. I’m sure of it. Don’t make me beg. Will you do it or not?” He exhaled loudly into the phone.

“Sure, sure. I’ll do it. Where’s Brenda? I’ll need to talk with her first.”

“She’s here at the house, with me and her mother. They haven’t charged her yet thanks to her mom.”

Brenda’s mom was also an attorney. “Sheila? She’s in town?”

“Yeah, she’s been back and forth between here and New York but she’s here now.”

I suspected Ed really meant his relation with his ex-wife Sheila was on again, off again and now on again. “OK, give me some time to get myself together and I’ll be right over.”

I put down the phone and looked up to see Mariel standing over me, two steaming cups of dark Latin coffee in her hands.

“What?” I asked.

She bent and placed a cup on the coffee table without taking her eyes off me. Then she stood straight, sipped from her cup, and continued to stare.

“OK,” I said, “Ed needs some help. I told him I’d be right over.”

“You did?”

Unable to hold her stare, I leaned over my cup, took a sip, and burnt my tongue. “Ow.”

Mariel said, “It’s hot.”

I looked up at her. “I noticed.”

“So, what kind of help does he need?”

I recounted my phone conversation.

“What can you do?”

“Me? I’m a licensed private investigator. Remember?” I reached into my pocket for my PI license.

“Keep it in your pants. I’ve already seen it.”

“Brenda’s in a jam. She needs help and Ed thinks I’m the guy. I can’t say no.”

“No, you can’t, but this go round, I don’t want to be in the dark again. You’ll tell me what’s going on. I almost lost you the last time you helped Ed. I’m not going to let that happen again. Deal?”

“Deal.”

 

An avid boater, Ed owned a huge house on the river in New Smyrna Beach. Since the island is so narrow, he could also see the ocean from his upper deck. My place is a more modest abode down the block from the beach about three miles south of his. When I pulled into Ed’s driveway, he stood waiting for me with a cigarette in his hand. As I approached, he tossed it to the ground, stepped on it, and said, “I don’t smoke in the house. C’mon.”

I followed him inside to the kitchen where Brenda and her mother sat across from each other drinking from coffee cups. Sheila had her head down writing notes on a yellow legal pad. She looked up when Brenda said, “Max, I’m so glad you came.”

I bent down into Brenda’s outstretched arms and hugged her. “How you holding up?”

Brenda raised an eyebrow and her long ponytail swayed as she rocked her head side to side. Ed pulled out a chair for me and sat down across the table. Sheila pointed her pen at me and asked Ed, “You called him? You don’t know anybody else?”

I said, “Hi, Sheila.”

She pursed her lips as if she tasted something bitter.

Ed clapped his hands together, loudly, “OK, now. We’re all here. Let’s get started.”

I said, “Umm, Ed, Sheila, could I have some time alone with Brenda. I’d like to learn what she knows.”

Sheila bolted upright. “Don’t be silly. There’s nothing she can’t say. I’m not only her mother. I’m her attorney as well.”

“You’re co-counsel,” Ed said.

“In your dreams.” Sheila replied.

Brenda stood with her cup in her right hand. “Sure, Max. Let’s go out on the dock.”

I followed her through the French doors and past the infinity pool to the dock behind the house. Brenda climbed onto the deck of Ed’s 36-foot sailboat and motioned me aboard. We sat on benches in the cockpit and she said, “Please, just let me talk, then you can ask your questions.”

I nodded.

She took a long sip from her cup. When she put it down, I could see the contents were too clear to be coffee. Brenda paused, took a deep breath, and said, “I went on a date with a guy I met at the yacht club.” She pointed at the boat cabin with her chin. “The
Shimmering Sea
needed fuel and a pump out. Dad was busy. I was here, so I took her over myself. This nice looking guy caught my lines for me when I tied up at the dock and we started chatting. He said he was thinking of trading his powerboat for a sailing ship like Dad’s. He wanted to cruise to South America without worrying about fuel or engine problems. He seemed nice. We talked some more and ended up eating lunch together at the club restaurant. We sat out on the deck, ate, and watched the dolphins. He made me laugh and I had a good time.”

Brenda took a long pull from her cup and leaned back. “We made dinner plans. I sailed back here and later, he picked me up at the dock behind my condo.” She stared off at the river and didn’t say anything. I was about to prompt her when she said, “We had dinner at the Hidden Harbor restaurant in Ponce Inlet and around 9:00, boarded his boat to leave. The next thing I remember is waking up at home in bed with police pounding on the door. I got up and saw my clothes covered in dried blood.”

She turned and looked at me. She seemed done talking. I waited a moment to be sure then I said, “So, your Mom met you at the precinct?”

“No, she met me at the hospital.”

“Did they do any tests?”

“Yes.” Brenda looked away. “They took my clothes and did a… rape kit.” She swallowed. “It came back negative.”

“I’m sorry. I mean, I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

Brenda pressed her lips together and nodded while she gazed into the distance.

“Did they do any blood or urine tests?”

“You mean for roofies and drugs?”

“Yes.”

Brenda stared down into her drink. “Mom wouldn’t let them. She said that as long as they couldn’t prove I wasn’t drugged, a jury would have reasonable doubt. I…”

“Were you drugged?”

She looked back up directly at me. “I think so.”

“So, a test could also prove you innocent.”

Brenda brought her hand to her mouth and started sobbing.

“I’m sorry, Brenda.” I stood and hugged her while she cried. When she seemed to calm down a bit, I left her on the dock and went back to the house.

When I walked in the door, Ed and Sheila looked up at me from the kitchen table. Ed said, “Well?”

I glared at Sheila. “Did you refuse a blood test?”

She put her cup down hard and leaned towards me. “What if I did?”

Ed’s mouth hung open.

I said, “You may have missed a chance to prove your daughter innocent.”

Sheila sat back. “…or a chance to prove her guilty. None of us knows what happened, not even Brenda. What if she did push him over the side? Then what? She could have done it without even knowing.”

“No.” Ed said. “No, not Brenda. You could have Sheila, but not Brenda.” He got up and walked out the door to the deck. Sheila and I stared at each in silence for a bit and then I left her alone in the kitchen and opened the door to the dock. Ed stood in front of Brenda engulfing her in his arms so that I almost couldn’t see her. I hesitated to approach but I guess he heard me.

“It’s OK, Max.”

I closed the door but didn’t want to intrude so I kept my distance and said, “I’ll need to see the murder… um, the boat.”

Ed said, “I know but the police have it secured. They won’t let anyone on board until they’re finished with it.”

“I still need to see it. The sooner the better.”

“Yeah, you do,” Ed turned to face me, “and I’ve got an idea how you can. I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning.”

CHAPTER TWO

I woke with a start when the doorbell rang and I wondered who was there. Then I remembered my appointment, grabbed my shorts, and ran for the door. When I opened it, Ed stared at me.

“I woke you, didn’t I?” He tilted his head and squinted at my eyes. “No contacts. Where are your glasses?”

“Cataract surgery. Now, I’m 20/20 and 20/25 but you still seem kind of fuzzy around the edges.”

“I am. I had a rough night.”

“Sorry.”

“Get dressed. I’ll wait out here and have a smoke.”

When I got back to the bedroom, Mariel stirred. “Who was it?”

“Ed. We’re going try to see the murder scene.”

“Wait. I’ll come with you.”

“I don’t think Ed’s up to the company.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

By the time I showered, dressed, and made it out the door, Ed accumulated a nice pile of cigarette butts in my driveway. I looked down at them and then at Ed. He looked at me, then down at the butts. Then he looked back at me.

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
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