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Authors: Falafel Jones

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

Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach (18 page)

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
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Bucky slowly nodded. “I walked into that one. OK.”

Ed said, “I can get the information faxed from New York and then I can file papers here.” He glanced at his watch. “Should be able to do it all today.”

“Great. Thanks, Ed. My next problem will be locating my $500,000. Max, Ed tells me you’ve handled asset location for him before.”

I hesitated. The last time I did that for Ed, I almost lost Mariel. This time, I looked to her for an answer. She nodded her approval so I said. “Yes.”

Bucky said, “Good, good, just like in New York, the job will pay only a contingency fee. You find a half a million in assets I can seize, I’ll pay you ten percent. That’s $50,000. You find nothing, I pay you nothing. Ed can draw up a contract and you can start as soon as it’s signed.”

I didn’t need Bucky to tell me ten percent came to fifty grand. After his earlier remark, I wondered if he thought I wasn’t smart enough to do the math. Well, I was sharp enough not to let a prospective client know he was getting on my nerves so instead, I asked, “What do you mean, ‘same as in New York’?”

“Oh, I hired a PI there. I think you said you talked to him. Snyder?”

“Yeah, he claimed to be with the East End PD.”

Bucky shook his head. “Like I told you, he’s not. We had a contingency deal for him to find my money, but he had to do it within 60 days. He didn’t. Since the time limit’s passed and he’s not licensed to work in Florida, I need someone new, you.” Bucky held out his hand. “Deal?”

I shook it. “Deal. Any ideas where to look?”

Bucky put down his glass and looked excited. “Yes. Snyder discovered that Fisher purchased gold, a small furnace, and molds that he could use to melt and shape metal. Snyder’s convinced there’s a half a million dollars worth of gold floating around. At first, he thought it was inside the fish net. Now we know that was a decoy, he thinks Fisher made something else out of gold and disguised it.”

“Disguised? Do you mean something like replacing the steering wheel on his boat with a gold one?”

Bucky brightened, snapped his fingers, and pointed at me. “Exactly!”

I’m slow sometimes so it took me a minute to pick up on something Bucky said earlier. “So, Snyder knows about the fish net being fake?”

“Yes, I phoned him. I also told him I wasn’t going to extend his contract.”

“How’d he take that?”

Bucky waved his hand. “Ahhh, he wasn’t happy. He bitched about his expenses and how he’s getting shafted but business is business. He didn’t produce. I had to let him go.”

Ed stood and said, “Well, it looks like I have some office work to tend to. Max, if you want to come, I can draw up your contract with Bucky.”

Bucky said, “Good idea. I’ll stop by after I eat and I can sign it sign then.”

We all nodded agreement. Then Mariel and I followed Ed out to the parking lot.

 

We got into Ed’s car and he pulled his phone from his pants pocket. When he tossed it into a cup holder, his gesture reminded me of the problem I had retrieving mine while wearing my seat belt. I took my own phone out and transferred it to my other pocket. I noticed Ed’s phone display was blank and asked, “Did you turn that back on after we left the courtroom?”

“Geez, no.” Ed plucked his phone from the cup holder and turned it on. As soon as it booted up, Ed said, “Damn. A message.” He pressed some buttons and a voice said, “Ed? This is M.E. Investigator Forsysthe. I’ve… We’ve got some new information… um corrected information. Please call.”

Ed dialed a number and I asked him, “You already have her number?”

He gave me a look and then asked me, “You want to hear this?”

“Yeah.”

Ed put the phone in speaker mode and Mariel leaned forward in the back seat.

“This is Linda Forsythe.”

“Linda, Ed McCarthy. I got your message.”

“Hi, Ed. How have you been?”

“Fine, thank you. You said you had some information?”

“Yes. It was nice seeing you again.”

Ed looked at me and raised his eyebrows as if to say, “What am I supposed to do?”

I just grinned at him.

“It was good to see you too. What kind of information do you have?”

“Well, do you think you could stop by and we can discuss it in person?”

“I’m really busy today. Does this relate to the Drew Fisher case?”

“Yes, it does.”

“Then it must be important. Can’t you tell me over the phone?”

“Well, I guess I can.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“What is the corrected information?”

“Dental records came in. It turns out the dead man isn’t Drew Fisher after all.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
 

“What? Who is… was he?”

“Nobody knows. Police are speculating he might have been an intruder on Fisher’s boat. He had Fisher’s credit cards and some people think he and Fisher fought and both ended up dead in the water, literally.”

“You mean both went over the side and only one washed up on the beach?”

“Could be. Coast Guard just started searching the area for additional bodies.”

Ed looked shocked. He ended the call without saying another word.

After a period of silence, Mariel asked, “So who did Brenda have dinner with? Fisher or the other man?”

Ed said, “I don’t know. I don’t care and I’m not going to subject her to viewing that mangled dead body.” He shuddered. “Forsythe had Fisher’s DMV license photo and still couldn’t tell if it was him.” Ed put the car in gear and turned left out of the parking lot.

 

When we arrived at Ed’s office, he pointed to a pair of chairs facing his desk. “Please sit, this won’t take long.” Mariel and I took the seats we occupied the day we first met Ed. Except for the wall calendar, his office looked the same as it did over a year ago. Even the clutter on his desk looked untouched.

Ed sat and squinted at his computer screen. “I’m looking for a copy of your last contract.” He manipulated his mouse for a while and then said, “Ah, found it. It’ll just take a minute to change the terms on this to match Bucky’s case.” Ed started typing.

Mariel asked, “How long will it take the Coast Guard to search for a second body?”

I said, “It doesn’t matter. They’re not going to find one.”

“How do you know that?”

“Ed already hired divers to perform an extended search. If there was another body, they would have found it.”

“Then why is the Coast Guard searching?”

“Ed’s search wasn’t officially sanctioned. The authorities have a protocol they’re required to follow.”

Ed’s printer started making noise and he sat back in his chair. “Bucky should be by in a bit to sign too. After I finish with this, I’m going to the courthouse to file papers for a Florida lien. I’ll call you after everything’s in order and then you can start the search.” He pulled the contract from the printer and gave it to me. I signed it and then Mariel and I were ready to walk home. Just before we left, Mariel sat still for a moment and asked, “If that’s not Drew Fisher in the morgue and he’s not in the water, where is he?”

I said, “I don’t know, but if I find him, I might be able to recover Bucky’s money and maybe get a handle on who killed the dead guy.”

 

Back at the house, Mariel exited the back door to lounge by the pool and I went to my office. I didn’t know where to find Fisher, but I had some ideas about where to start looking. I recently signed up for one of the database services that cater to private investigators, process servers, bail bondsmen and repo people so I sat at my computer and logged on. I ran a search for all the Drew Fishers who had New York addresses and found three. One lived in upstate New York and another was 87 years old so I excluded them from my list. Drew number three lived in a waterfront condo in Shirley, New York. Shirley is on Long Island, not too far from East End.

If Fisher actually owned the condo, Bucky might be able to seize it as partial payment for Fisher’s debt. I did a quick check of the Suffolk County property records only to find the owner was a property rental company.

I looked back at my computer screen, found Fisher’s phone number, and dialed it. The phone rang three times and then I heard, “Hi, this is Drew.” I started to say, “Mr. Fisher, my name is” but realized I was listening to a recording and hung up. I clicked a button on my computer to charge my account $14.95 so I could see all of Drew’s details and obtained a list of his family and neighbors. He had no spouse or children but his list of neighbors looked promising. The report listed all of the names and phone numbers for all of the other occupants on his floor.

Fisher occupied unit 307 and his next-door neighbor in 309 was Fiona Waters, age 32. I dialed her number but got her answering machine too, so I hung up without leaving a message. Elizabeth Hughes lived in Unit 305 so I tried her next. She picked up after the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Hughes?

“This is she. Who is calling please?”

“Ms. Hughes, I’m calling about your neighbor, Drew Fisher.”

“Yes, such a nice boy. Do you know? Whenever he sees me with my groceries, he insists on bringing them in for me.”

“Yes, ma’am, he’s a nice young man and that’s why I’m calling. I’m concerned that he doesn’t answer his phone.”

“Ooooh. Now that you mention it, I didn’t see him last Wednesday when I came home from the grocery store. I just assumed he was either busy indoors or out for the day.”

“So, the last time you saw him was…”

“The Wednesday before. Wednesday’s the best day to shop. That’s when all of the produce comes in but you have to go in the afternoon so they have a chance to stock the shelves. That’s the only day I go out except when my daughter comes by. I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”

“Oh, I’m just a friend of Drew’s. Thank you very much, ma’am. Bye.”

So far, all I knew was that Drew wasn’t home and his neighbor hasn’t seen him for a while. On the other hand, Ms. Hughes didn’t seem to go out very often. No one knows your comings and goings like the people who live across the hall from you so I dialed unit 308.

“Yeah?”

“Hi, I’m calling about Drew Fisher.”

“He’s not here. Did he tell you this is where he’d be?”

“Um, no. I’ve been trying to locate him —”

“And you figure since he’s been sleeping with my wife, you could find him here. You tell that SOB if I ever see him again, he’s dead. You got that? Dead.”

“So, he hasn’t been around a while?”

“That damned yellow pages book they delivered last week is still leaning against his door.”

“What day?”

“What day what?”

“What day did they deliver the yellow pages?”

“I dunno. I got mine let’s see… Wednesday. The bastard’s been gone since at least Wednesday.”

I hung up without asking if he knew where Drew was because if it were up to him, the answer would be “Dead.”

 

PI databases are great if you need to locate a witness or somebody who skipped out on a debt or legal obligation. You can determine where your subject lives but the databases won’t tell you where the person is at the current time. All I could find out is that a neighbor saw Fisher in New York ten days ago and that he left home at least a few days before the murder on his boat. I Googled “How long to sail from NY to Florida” and found several postings that the trip required three to four weeks. While Drew couldn’t have cruised to Florida, he could have arrived by plane or car in time to kill someone on Friday night.

I was stumped. I didn’t even know who the dead guy was. I visited
http://pas.fdle.state.fl.us/pas/person/displayMissingPersonsSearch.a
to see who in Florida had been reported missing. The site required me to type in the missing person’s name but I didn’t have that. Since I was already at that web page, I typed in Drew Fisher but got no hits. The same website had a link I could click to search for wanted persons. Again, I tried Fisher and again, I got no hits. I visited
http://someoneismissing.com/florida/missing.htm
but found no missing men that matched the meager description I got from the M.E. I thought about other ways I might find out who he was but I came up empty. The ringing phone startled me.

“Hello?”

“Max? Ed.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m at the courthouse. Bucky signed the contract and I’ve filed his lien against any Floridian property Fisher may have. You can start looking for assets to seize.”

“OK.”

“Guess who I saw in the hall?”

“I have no idea.”

“Helmsley. We got to talking about what a great job he was doing for Maddie’s case. Well, he got to talking about how good he was. I just listened. He went on and on about how they couldn’t bust Maddie for murder because the evidence against her is only circumstantial. All they can prove is she was at the scene and she touched the murder weapon. “

“Isn’t that enough?”

“They can’t prove she killed anybody. There’s too much reasonable doubt to go to trial yet. There was no blood on her clothing and in addition to hers and Fishers, there are unidentified finger prints on the fishing net. Torres is still trying to tie up the case but he’s running out of time. Hell, they still don’t even know who the dead guy is.”

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