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Authors: Falafel Jones

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Computer Forensic Examiner - Florida

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BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
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“Were you open late on Friday?”

“Sure. Some of our clients can’t leave their businesses during the day so we often meet with them after dinner.”

“Mind if we ask around? See if anyone saw Kimberly or Scott Friday night?”

“Knock yourself out.”

Mariel got up to start interviewing people when her phone rang. While she chatted on the phone, I talked with Bryan’s co-workers. Two worked at the Co-op Friday night but only one made a coffee run. Apparently, buying each other coffee was more egalitarian than brewing it.

Mariel and I finished about the same time and met up at Bryan’s desk where we said goodbye.

On our way to the car, she asked me, “Anybody see them?”

“One of them saw Barker but no Kimberly sightings.”

“Could she have been out of sight in the back?”

“Could have been.” I indicated her cell phone. “Your Mom called?”

“No, Detective Torres.”

“Torres? Why’d he call you? How’d he get your number?”

Mariel shrugged, “He’s a police detective. He knows my name and address. It doesn’t seem all that difficult for him to get my cell number.”

She was right. It just bothered me that Torres called her instead of me. “What’d he want?”

“He said they were only able to get one print from Barker on the cup and it wouldn’t help unless Barker left a print from that particular finger on the boat.”

“So, it’s a dead end?”

“No, Torres used that one print to search the database and found Barker’s other nine. They printed him when he applied for his concealed weapon carry permit. Max, he owns a gun.”

“This is Florida. You and I are probably the only ones who don’t have a gun. So, they got something from the prints?”

“No, none of the prints on the boat matched Barker’s.”

“Oh, is that all he had to say?”

“No,” she smiled. “He also said that if I was going to go around investigating, I should file for a class CC PI intern license or I could get into trouble.”

“Why are you smiling?”

“He said the only problem with getting a class CC was that I would need a class C private investigator licensee within 50 miles to mentor me.”

“Hey, wait a minute, I’ve got a class C license, and we live together.”

“That’s why I smiled. Torres said it was too bad there’s nobody qualified to mentor me.”

“And that’s funny?”

“Yes, it reminded me of something you’d say.”

 

For the sake of continued marital bliss, I ignored her comment and asked, “You know what this means?”

“What?”

“Well, if Barker’s clean, maybe Kimberly wasn’t giving him an alibi. Maybe she was using him for hers.”

“So you think that restaurant receipt is bogus? How are you going to sort that out?”

“You asking as my wife or you asking as my class CC intern?”

Mariel gave me the look.

“OK, OK. Well, I don’t know but Scott’s a pretty big guy while Kimberly’s short and slim. Maybe the M.E. can tell us something about the killer?”

“She’ll talk to you?”

“Let’s find out.” I pulled over into a parking lot, took out my cell, and dialed.

“This is Linda Forsythe.”

“Hi, Ms. Forsythe, Max Fried. Do you have a moment?”

“Oh, Mr. Fried. I’m glad you called. I felt bad about our last meeting.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I let my personal life get in the way. You know, my relationship with Ed. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, no problem.”

“Is he with you now?”

“Um, no.”

“Oh.” She sounded disappointed.

“I wonder if you’d be able to say anything about how tall Drew Fisher’s killer might have been.”

“Will you be speaking with Ed today?”

“I don’t expect to… but, you never know, why?”

“Never mind, forget I asked.”

“Do you have any indication of how tall Fisher’s killer was?”

“Oh. Well, Fisher was a little over six feet tall and the forehead injury was more towards the front of his head than towards the top.”

“So?”

“Most likely, his assailant was shorter than he. Otherwise, the injury would be more towards the top of the head.”

“How much shorter?”

“Hmmm, probably a good six inches or more.”

I thanked her and hung up. After I repeated the conversation for Mariel, she said, “Kimberly’s only a few inches taller than I am.”

“So what do you figure? Five five? Five six?”

“That sounds about right.”

“I guess we can cross Barker off the list. I’d add Kimberly but I can’t imagine why she’d kill Drew.”

“I hate to say this but Brenda’s about that height.”

CHAPTER ELEVEN
 

I pulled my car into our garage while Mariel entered the house to turn off the burglar alarm. When I came into the foyer, she said, “There’s a message.”

I pressed the play button and listened while I hung up my car keys and took off my boat shoes.

A recorded voice said, “My name is Detective Snyder. I’m with the East End New York Police Department. Please phone me as soon as you hear this.”

I dialed the number he left with his message and I guessed he recognized my number on his caller ID.

“This is Detective Snyder, East End Police. Commodore McCarthy?”

“The commodore isn’t here right now. Perhaps I can help you?”

“Well, the East End Yacht Club tells me McCarthy called and asked about Drew Fisher. I’d really like to speak with the commodore.”

“Oh, I’m the one who called.”

“You’re the commodore?”

“No, I’m Max Fried. I phoned on the commodore’s behalf. He’s my client.”

“What are you? His attorney?”

“No, I’m a private investigator.”

“So? You do background checks for the yacht club?”

“Something like that.”

“I need to locate Drew Fisher.”

“Why’s that?”

“I can’t say. Do you know where he is?”

“In the morgue.”

“Fisher’s dead?”

“If he wasn’t when he got there, he sure is now. They did an autopsy and the M.E. called it homicide.”

“Damn. You know who’s working the case?”

“Detectives Torres and Fitzpatrick, New Smyrna Beach PD, but you better talk to Torres first. He’s the senior man and he gets fussy if you don’t go through him first.”

“Fussy?”

“Yeah, tell you what, to smooth the way, just tell him that Max Fried sent you. He’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

“Yeah? Great. Thanks.”

I hung up the phone and asked Mariel, “You hungry?”

“I didn’t think so but now that you mention it, yes.”

“I don’t feel much like cooking. Pizza?”

She nodded. “With a Greek salad. I’ll call A Touch of Italy to deliver.”

Ordinarily, I cooked and Mariel cleaned but our division of labor also had rules for take-out. She called for delivery and cleaned up afterward. I answered the door, paid and opened the wine.

Mariel took the phone to make the call and I searched our wine rack for a Sangiovese. I found a bottle, pulled the cork, and poured two glasses. I brought the wine and two plates to the coffee table in front of the big screen TV in our living room, sat on the couch, and waited for the food to arrive.

Just as Mariel finished with the restaurant, the phone rang while still in her hand.

“Yes, just a moment please.”

She handed me the phone. “Detective Snyder for you.”

I took the phone. “Hello?”

“Fried?”

“Yup.”

“Detective Snyder. I called Torres like you suggested.”

“Yeah?”

“I got bupkis. You know what that means? Bupkis?”

“Yeah, nothing.”

“I was doing great… until I mentioned your name but you knew that would happen didn’t you?”

“Really? I’m hurt. I guess Leon and I aren’t as close as I thought we were.”

“You did this on purpose, didn’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You figured that if you burned my contact with Torres, I’d have to deal with you and trade what I know for what you know.”

“Wow, never occurred to me but since you mentioned it, maybe we can help each other.”

“Depends, whaddya got?”

I told Snyder about what we saw on the boat and what we got from the M.E.

He said, “You didn’t find any loot?”

“Loot?”

“Yeah, Fisher ripped off one of the locals here. Investment fraud. We can’t prosecute a dead man but we can try to recover what he stole.”

“What did he take?”

“About a half a mill. Rumor is he invested the cash in gold and ran with it. You trip over any gold bars?”

“No, but that’s one place I wouldn’t mind stubbing a toe.”

“You and me both. Listen, you find anything, you gimme a buzz. It’ll give you a chance to stick it to your friend Torres.”

“I don’t know what you mean, but I’ll call if I find anything.”

I hung up and told Mariel about the missing gold.

“Well,” she said, “that could be a motive. Maybe someone killed Fisher for it.”

“Maybe, and if that’s the case, finding it would go a long way to finding the killer.”

“Did you see any gold on the boat?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.”

“Do you think this clears Brenda?”

“Not if she has the money or the gold.” Then it hit me. “Geez, this just makes things worse for her.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s bad enough the police think she killed Fisher and no one can find her but now, there’s also a half a million dollars of Fisher’s missing too.”

The doorbell called me to duty and I paid the pizza boy. Mariel and I sat and ate in silence in front of the TV but all I could think about was Brenda. After dinner, after coffee, and even after I lay down in bed waiting for sleep she occupied my thoughts. A young woman with sailing experience and $500,000 in gold could go anywhere she wanted.

CHAPTER TWELVE
 

The ringing phone woke me up. Due to a years-old negotiation with Mariel, our phone has always been on my side of the bed. Long ago, she decided I was better equipped to deal with calls in the night, the time when bad news usually arrived.

Now, it was daylight and I heard Sheila’s voice on the other end, “Max? Is Ed with you?”

“No, why? Did you find Brenda?”

“No, not yet and last night, Torres called to move her appointment up to seven a.m. Ed said no. I mean how could he say yes? We don’t know where she is. Ed told him to back off and leave her alone unless he was going to arrest her. Then later, we heard Torres tried to get an arrest warrant.”

“Geez, I’m sorry. Did he get it?”

“No, the D.A. shot him down because he didn’t have enough to make an arrest stick and warned him about harassment.

“So, that’s good news, right?”

“Yes and no. Good that the D.A. said, ‘not enough’, but bad that he also said, ‘keep digging’. Torres is still trying to put together a case. In addition, he’s going after Ed.”

“Ed?”

“You know his magic paper? The court order?”

“Yeah.”

“Torres complained to the D.A. who complained to the chief judge and the chief complained to Judge Barnes.”

“I remember. Barnes was the guy who signed the order.”

“Yes. Barnes says he never read it and that Ed misrepresented what he gave him to sign.”

“Did he?”

“Who knows? You think Ed let me read it?”

“So what’s the outcome?”

“Ed has to appear before Barnes this morning and get his hand slapped before the complaint goes on to the bar association.”

“Geez, I’m sorry.”

“You already said that but it doesn’t matter. Even if Ed loses his license to practice, it’s worth it to save Brenda, but that’s not the problem I’m calling about.”

“What’s up?”

“Ed’s not at home and he has an important meeting with the judge.”

I knew I was half-asleep but even so, Sheila’s comment made no sense. “What are you talking about?”

“When I woke up this morning, he was gone.”

“Maybe he left for his meeting?”

“Can’t be. The suit he laid out last night is still here and his boat shoes are missing.”

“Did he eat breakfast before he left?”

“What? You’re asking me about food. How the hell should I know? What difference does it make?”

“Ed never cleans up after himself. If he made breakfast, you can tell by looking in the kitchen. If he didn’t eat, then I know where to look for him.”

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