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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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Bucky turned back to face Torres, “What?”

Torres handed Bucky a piece of paper.

Bucky started fanning himself with it. “What is this?”

Fitzpatrick stepped forward, “Sir, we’re here to search the premises.” Torres signaled Fitzpatrick to start the search.

“Oh? For what?”

“A gold bar.”

Bucky came to attention. “Oh, that?”

Torres stepped closer to him, “You know where it is?”

“Of course, the commodore wears three of them on his dress shirt collar.” He pointed at Ed and collapsed in laughter.

Torres shook his head and went below decks. Fitzpatrick circled the upper deck. They met back up in the cockpit where the rest of us waited. Torres gave me a disgusted look and then said to Fitzpatrick, “Come on. This was a waste of time.”

Bucky held up his hands as if surrendering except he held a cigar in one and a cocktail glass in the other. He slurred his words, “Honestly, fellas, waz this allabout?”

Fitzpatrick said, “When your boat went under the drawbridge Friday night, Drew Fisher’s boat was adrift in the water.”

“Ship not boat and so what if he was adrift?”

“Somebody killed him just after you went under the bridge.”

“So?”

“I understand he took you for a half a million.”

Bucky made a face and waved his hand, “What? You think I’d kill him for half a mill? Maybe for a half a billion but for $500,000? I would have paid him that much just to leave town.”

“When you passed under the bridge that night, did you see any other vessels?”

Maddie shot Bucky a glance he didn’t seem to notice when he told Fitzpatrick. “No, I didn’t even see Fisher.”

I said to Bucky, “Did you press charges against Drew or seek a judgment to recover your money?”

“I got a judgment. Fat lotta good that’ll do me when the crook’s hidden all his money. No criminal charges. It wasn’t like that.”

“What was it like?”

“Let’s say I gave you one hundred dollars and told you to place a bet on the New York Mets to win. Let’s also say, that for some reason, you fail to place the bet. Now, if the Mets won, you’re screwed, but if they lost as they usually do, you’re ahead a hundred bucks.”

“So, the money involves a gambling debt?”

“No, no, no.” Bucky shook his head. “Drew was a stockbroker I used from time to time. I gave him $500,000 to invest for me and he never invested it. I can’t prove it but I suspect the outfit was just a shell company Drew secretly owned and created just to bilk investors. I told him I wanted to withdraw my money and he said he couldn’t get it.”

“What about seizing his boat, the
Amante
?”

“No equity there. He owes more on it than it’s worth.” Bucky started laughing. “He’s even underwater on his boat.”

Torres wasn’t amused. He said, “Come on, we’re wasting our time here,” and climbed onto the dock. We all followed and when we got to the parking lot, Torres turned to Ed and Brenda. “I’m an idiot for letting you go. Don’t go anywhere I can’t find you. Don’t leave town and make sure I can reach both of you by phone. You understand?”

Ed and Brenda both shook their heads like bobble dolls.

Torres gestured to Fitzpatrick, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

 

We watched Torres and Fitzpatrick leave and then I asked Ed, “Is Bucky so wealthy he wouldn’t care about half a million dollars?”

Ed said, “It’s been my experience that the richer a man is, the more he cares about money, but let’s see how much $500,000 means to him.”

“How are we going to do that? I can’t pull his financials.”

“No, but I can. He signed a credit check release when he rented his slip for the season.”

Brenda said, “I’ve had enough. I need a break from this.” She pulled off her T-shirt to reveal a bathing suit top. “I’m going to the pool. I’ll do some laps, clear my head.”

Ed kissed her forehead. “Try to relax. I’ll collect you when we’re ready to leave.”

Brenda nodded and left for the pool. I followed Ed back into the yacht club. We came to an office with a sign on the door that read, “Commodore.” Ed grinned. “One of the perks of office.”

He sat at a desk much neater than the one he kept in his law office and opened a drawer. After he fingered a few files, he pulled one out, placed it on his desk and then said,

“Ah, Buckminster Vanderbilt.”

Ed paged through the file and made periodic grunts as he processed the information. After a while, it got to me and I said, “Well? Find anything?”

Ed leaned back in his chair. “Yes, the man has substantial assets but no foresight when it comes to investing. He’s been losing money for at least two years. A half a million wouldn’t break him but it could put a dent in his portfolio.” Ed’s face brightened, “So, we’ve got motive, opportunity, and means.”

“We’ve got opportunity and means but unless Bucky found the gold, I don’t think he’d intentionally kill Fisher. A dead man can’t pay his debts.”

“They could have had an argument that went out of control.”

“Yeah, but the problem is we still don’t have the elusive murder weapon.”

Ed added, “… or the missing loot.”

I thought about it for a minute and said, “So, let me call Detective Snyder back at the East End PD, see what else he can tell us. Nuts, I wrote his number down at home and don’t have it with me.”

Ed typed something on his computer and then a moment later, read me the phone number for the East End Police Department. I turned on the speakerphone so Ed could hear and I dialed.

“East End Police, Officer MacAllister. How can I direct your call?”

“Detective Snyder, please.”

“Just a moment, please.”

I waited and MacAllister came back on, “Did you say Snyder?”

“Yes, he phoned me about a case. I’m calling him back.”

MacAllister said, “I’m sorry. We have no Detective Snyder here,” and hung up.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
 
 

I put my phone back in my pocket. “That’s odd. What do you make of that?”

Ed sat back and crossed his legs. “Couple of things. First, Bucky said there weren’t any criminal charges made so I don’t get why the police would be involved in a civil matter. Second, I wonder who this Snyder really is.”

I said, “Maybe Bucky can explain some of this.”

Ed stood. “Let’s see if he can.”

Ed and I walked back out to the docks. When we arrived at Bucky’s ship, we found him alone, sitting on a deck chair, and smoking his cigar. He waved us over. “Gentlemen, come on aboard. Keep an old sailor company for a bit.”

Ed said, “Thank you, Bucky. Be glad to.” We climbed aboard and I sat on the bench seat where I could watch Bucky’s face. Ed pulled his cigarettes from his shirt pocket, lit up and leaned against the cabin door. Bucky looked at me. “Max, you look like you have something on your mind.”

Ed chuckled, “That’s why I love to play poker with him. You can always tell what’s going on with Max just by looking at him.”

Bucky smiled in apparent appreciation of Ed’s comment. It was bad enough folks could tell what I had for lunch by looking at my clothes. I didn’t need to be so transparent in my thoughts but it wasn’t a matter of choice. I’m not cut out for guile. “Yes. I do.”

“Well, shoot, boy.”

It’s been a long time since anyone called me boy but at Bucky’s age, he could get away with it. “OK. Did I hear you correctly earlier? You never filed any criminal charges against Drew Fisher?” It would be too easy for me to verify his answer so I expected Bucky to tell me the truth.

“Yes, that’s correct. No criminal charges, just that civil judgment to recover the money I gave him to invest. The money he never invested as instructed. Why do you ask?”

“I got a phone call from a man claiming to be Detective Snyder of the East End Police Department. I called him back and learned there’s no such person in the East End police.”

“Oh, that…”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Snyder is a detective. He’s located in East End, but he’s not with the police department. He’s a private investigator I hired to locate the money I want to recover.”

“Snyder mentioned a gold bar.”

“Well, Snyder saw some equipment he thinks Fisher used to reshape some gold for transport.”

“Why wouldn’t he just deposit your money?”

Bucky looked at Ed and they both shook their heads in sympathy. Bucky said to me, “You don’t get it, do you? You see, you can’t win with IRS. You don’t declare income, they get upset. You declare earnings from theft and someone tries to arrest you.”

Ed added, “Plus, gold appreciates in value and doesn’t have serial numbers. It’s a great way to sock away some funds. It also travels well. You can use it in any country without worrying about exchange rates.”

Bucky said, “And Fisher had a boat. He could dock in Panama, Costa Rica, any number of places and start a new life.”

I said, “So that’s why you had to stop him. Florida was your last chance to recover your money. Is that why you told Snyder to call me?”

Bucky shrugged. “I haven’t spoken to him since I left New York.”

“Then how did he know about me?”

“I don’t know. Did you speak with anyone back in East End?”

“Yeah, Douglas at the yacht club.”

Bucky laughed and slapped his hand on the arm of his chair. “That boy couldn’t keep his mouth shut if you wired it closed.”

 

I left Ed at the yacht club and as I drove home, I thought that Bucky was worth a closer look. Mariel said that on Bucky’s first night in town, he dined at the Grille in the Riverview Hotel so Mariel and I drove up for a visit. We entered the riverfront bar there just as Gunther, the bartender, carried in a bucket of ice from a back room. He emptied the ice into a cooler full of beer and then reached across the bar to shake our hands. “Max, Mariel, welcome to my office.” He made a sweeping gesture indicating the view of the docked boats and the drawbridge.

Mariel and I said our hellos and Gunther tossed a cocktail napkin with a twist so it spun before it landed on the bar in front of Mariel. Then he did the same with me. He wet his finger, held it up, and said, “Less than 80 but more than 60 degrees?”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

“One malbec coming up.” Gunther knew that when it was hot, 80 degrees or more, I preferred a cold beer. He also knew my conviction that any temperature below 60 degrees demanded a single malt scotch, neat. Since today was in between the two extremes, I had my usual dry red wine, a malbec. Mariel had the same drink no matter what the weather, but she gave up vodka tonics for vodka and club soda to save a few calories.

After he brought our drinks and we exchanged pleasantries, I asked him if he worked dinner the night Drew Fisher died.

“Yes, I had the two to closing shift. Quiet night, except for some snowbirds on their way to the yacht club. One of them had a beautiful ship. Huge. Called it the
DeepSea Doodle
.”

“Bucky?”

“Yes, that’s right. You know him?”

“We’ve met. He dined alone?”

“Yes, no wait. He arrived alone and then a woman joined him. Marilyn, no Maddie, she came on her own boat. They both tied up over there.” He pointed to one of the docks just over the railing that surrounded the bar area.

I turned to Mariel. “I’ll need to go back and check the bridge tender logs for her boat.”

Gunther said, “There won’t be any log entry. She has a nice boat, but it’s not tall enough to require a bridge opening.”

“So, she could have passed under the bridge at any time?”

“Sure.”

“Any idea what time she and Bucky were here?”

Gunther gave me a look, “You do realize that I’m a bartender?”

“Sure.”

“And you know my customers expect a certain amount of privacy?”

“Yes, Gunther. I do and I apologize for not explaining my interest first. Ed McCarthy’s daughter is in trouble. The cops think she may have killed that guy on the boat, Drew Fisher. I’m working on an alternate theory that might help clear her.”

“Brenda’s in trouble?”

I nodded.

Gunther said, “I’ll be right back,” then disappeared into the room behind the bar. He came back a moment later thumbing through credit card slips as he walked. He slapped one down on the bar and said, “He arrived at 9:25 p.m. and they both left at 10:30. I don’t have any record of her arriving but I recall Bucky was on his third scotch, Glenlivet neat, when she had her first. This help?”

I looked at the charge slips and then I turned to look north out the window at the drawbridge. The Coast Guard recovered the
Amante
on the south side of the bridge. If Bucky passed under it during the 9:20 opening, tied up the
DeepSea Doodle
at the restaurant dock, and opened a tab at the bar at 9:25, he couldn’t have killed Fisher.

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