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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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“Um, sorry, Max.” He bent to scoop them up.

“Don’t,” I said, “we have more important things to do now.”

Ed nodded and we got into his Mercedes. He lifted a brown bag from the floor and removed a coffee cup. I watched with envy as he took a sip.

He looked at me. “You didn’t eat yet, did you?”

“No, I just got up, showered, and dressed.”

Ed put his hand into the bag and pulled out a second cup, which he handed to me. Then he reached in again and removed something wrapped in paper. He gave me that too and said, “I figured as much. Coffee black and a muffin with egg and cheese.”

“Thanks, I really needed this.”

“Yeah, I know. Your mind wanders when you’re hungry and I really need you to focus.”

I was too happy about the food to be offended.

Ed drove north on Dixie Freeway until we arrived at the courthouse in Daytona Beach. We passed through the metal detector and Ed led me upstairs to an office marked “Judge Barnes.” Ed opened the door and a young man at a desk looked up and furrowed his brow.

“Mr. McCarthy?” The man reached for his desk calendar. “I didn’t see you on the judge’s appointment schedule.”

“Sorry, Raymond. Something came up.” Ed indicated the closed door behind Raymond. “Is he alone?”

“Yes, but —”

Ed interrupted Raymond by knocking once on the closed door and then opening it. Raymond rose to stop him but it was too late. I saw a man dressed in a black robe opening a door behind a desk. The man turned to face Ed, shut the door and said, “Eddie, me boyo.” Ed entered the judge’s chambers and motioned me to follow. Raymond, realizing there was nothing he could do now, closed the door behind us.

Ed and the judge shook hands and Ed introduced me as part of his “investigative team.” Judge Barnes waved Ed and me to chairs facing his desk, looked at his watch and said. “I’ve got three minutes and then I have to be on the bench. What brings you here on a day you could be out playing golf?”

Ed reached into his blazer and removed a folded piece of paper which he held in the air. “Judge, I have a case in which I need access to a crime scene.”

“Have the police finished with it yet?”

“Who’s to say? They’ve been known to return to released crime scenes all of the time. In any event, I promise there will be a police escort monitoring our presence.”

“Our?”

“Yes, Mr. Fried and me.”

Barnes reached for the paper in Ed’s hand. “I’ve got court in two minutes. I don’t have time to read this now. Can it wait?”

“Some of the evidence may be fragile, Judge.”

“Do I have to read this whole thing?”

“That’s up to you, your Honor, but, there’s no more in here than I’ve told you.”

Barnes picked up a pen, unfolded the paper, and turned directly to the last page. He hesitated a moment and said, “I don’t know…” He looked at his watch and then looked up at Ed. Ed looked back at him without any expression. The judge signed the paper and handed it back.

Ed said, “Thank you, Judge.”

Barnes said, “Next Wednesday, I’m going to win. You can’t play that well every week.”

Ed said, “I get more practice than you do.”

Barnes smiled and exited through the door behind his desk.

We left the building and I asked Ed, “So, you’ve got the court order, but you told the judge the police will monitor our visit. How are you going to get them to cooperate?”

Ed sat on a bench outside the courthouse. “I’ve got to make a call.”

I sat beside him and waited. He lit a cigarette and then dialed his cell phone. “Detective Torres, please.”

I waved away smoke as it drifted in my direction. “Detective, this is attorney Edward McCarthy…”

“Yes…”

“I’d like you to meet me at the Coast Guard station where they’re holding the
Amante
…”

Waving the smoke away didn’t help so I got up and sat on Ed’s other side.

“I’ve got a court order to examine the scene…”

“I understand that you’re not done with it yet…”

“Yes, well, I know you remember the drug case in Jacksonville…”

“Yes, it’s like that…”

“Thank you.”

Ed closed his phone. “C’mon, Max. Let’s go.”

 

Ten minutes later, we pulled into the Coast Guard station on the northern tip of the island, just past the entrance to Smyrna Dunes Park.

Ed held a piece of paper out his window. The guard at the gate read it, returned it and waved us through. We drove without speaking and I listened to the crackling sound of tires on gravel until Ed parked near a dock obstructed by yellow crime scene tape. A 40-foot powerboat named
Amante
floated next to the dock. As Ed rolled up the car windows, a man emerged from the cabin, put his hands on his hips, and watched us as we exited the car. When the boat swayed slightly due to an incoming wave, the man’s hands shot out to grab the railings. His usual dark complexion looked a little green but I could see he was Detective Leon Torres from the New Smyrna Beach Police Department.

We walked up the stairs to the boat and I stuck out my hand. Torres left his on the railings and said, “Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Fried.”

I said, “It’s been a long time.”

Torres said, “Not long enough. I got your call and I’m here. What the hell is going on?”

Ed handed him the paper he showed the gate guard. Torres held it with apparent distaste. “What’s this?”

Ed drew himself up to his full height and looked down at Torres. “It’s the court order, Detective. Granting counsel full rights of discovery.”

“We haven’t charged anybody yet.”

“Well then, if you’re prepared to sign a statement you won’t be prosecuting my daughter, we’ll just be on our way.”

“I can’t do that.”

“And I can’t delay a vigorous defense while you stack the deck against my client so that I have to play catch up.”

Torres returned Ed’s court order and grabbed the rail again. “How’d you get this thing anyway?”

“Detective, never underestimate the benefits of excelling at golf or the overconfidence of certain judges.”

“This is bogus.”

Ed held out his cell and asked, “Would you like to phone the judge and tell him that?”

Torres released his death grip on the railing just long enough to wave off Ed’s offer and said, “If you’re coming on board, I’m staying. Someone has to keep an eye on you two.”

I said, “We have no objection. This way, we’ll have somebody official to authenticate our findings.”

Ed brushed past Torres and I followed. Blood had splattered the cockpit and dried. All of the storage doors were open and cabinet contents cluttered the deck. Somebody really wanted to find something. As I looked over the items at my feet, I realized none were covered with any blood. I pointed down. “Ed, it appears the search took place after the attack.”

Ed tilted a box of emergency flares with his foot. There was dried blood underneath it. “Yeah, hmmm.”

I pulled on a pair of latex gloves and opened the cabin door. I peered inside. A bunched up blanket lay on the bed but otherwise everything looked untouched, nothing out of place.

Torres said, “We found one of Brenda’s earrings on the bed,” then he pointed to the mess on the deck, “but figure the conflict took place out here.”

Ed asked, “How do you know it’s her earring?”

“She had the other one on when we picked her up.”

I closed the door and looked around the cockpit. A lot of blood covered the starboard wall and deck. On the port side of the boat, a pair of pole hooks held a black four-foot long gaff. Above the gaff a second pair of hooks held nothing. I looked on the deck for the missing pole but didn’t see it.

“Ed.” I pointed to the empty hooks.

Torres said, “Yeah. It’s missing. Probably a matching net. We think it’s the murder weapon and she, I mean the killer threw it overboard.”

I picked up the gaff from the pole rack. “Pretty light. Aluminum?”

Ed nodded. “Looks it. They’re usually that, fiberglass or bamboo.”

I replaced the gaff on the hooks. “Do these float?”

“Some do.” Ed shrugged, “Some don’t.”

“How about this one?”

“Even if does, it doesn’t mean the other pole can.”

I pointed with my chin. “That’s a lot of blood for a strike with a short, light, hollow pole.”

Ed bent over the blood and then looked up at Torres. “Did you match that footprint?”

Torres said, “Look, McCarthy, I get it that your daughter was on this boat. You’re worried about what happened here, so I let you on but there are limits. I can’t have you interfering with –”

A loud passing speedboat cut off his sentence. After the boat passed, Ed finished it for him. “An active investigation.”

“I was going to say, ‘ongoing’ but you obviously get my point.”

I pulled my camera from my cargo shorts and aimed it at the bloody footprint.

“Oh no you don’t,” said Torres as he grabbed the camera from my hand. “The lawyers can spin things all they want in court but we’re going to have only one set of facts.”

The wake from the speedboat hit the
Amante
and made her rock. All the color drained from Torres’s face. He shoved my camera into his pants pocket and ran for the water facing boat railing. As he leaned over the side, Ed photographed the footprint and the bloody, cluttered deck with his cell phone.

After Torres recovered, he came back, and handed me my camera. “Put it away.”

Ed displayed an evil grin and said to Torres, “When you leaned over the side, did you see somebody you knew?”

Torres looked at Ed as if Ed were crazy. “What? What are you talking about?”

Ed shrugged. “I thought I heard you calling out to someone named Ralph.”

The boat swayed again as another wave hit the shore and Torres turned green. “You boys going to be much longer? I’ve got work to do.”

“OK.” I said. “We’ve seen enough for now. When can we see the autopsy report?”

“Not my table. Call the M.E.”

Torres held out his hand towards the steps leading off the boat. “Gentlemen.”

Back in Ed’s car, we saw Torres watching us from his cruiser and waiting. When Ed pulled out of his parking spot, Torres followed. When Ed slowed down, Torres slowed down. When Ed stopped a few feet down the road, Torres stopped too. Ed started up again and when we exited the Coast Guard compound, Torres followed us out.

Ed drove about a mile south on Peninsula Avenue until we came to his house and pulled into his circular driveway. He stopped the car but when I reached for the door handle, he held up his hand. “Wait.”

CHAPTER THREE
 

I waited and in the side view mirror, I saw Torres drive past. Ed said, “OK,” and drove back onto Peninsula Avenue heading north. When we got back to the gate at the Coast Guard station, Ed rolled down his window and asked the guard, “Senior Chief Forest on duty?”

“Yes sir.”

“Please tell him Commodore McCarthy is here to see him.”

The guard looked surprised but saluted and said, “Please wait here, sir.” Then he went back into the shack and picked up the phone.

“Commodore?” I asked.

“Yup, I’m the commodore of the Coronado Yacht Club. Forest is a member. He may run this place but there, I outrank him.”

The guard emerged from the booth and pointed to a shoebox shaped, concrete block building flying an American flag. “You can park in front, sir. Someone will meet you.”

When we emerged from the car, the building door opened and young uniformed woman stepped out. “Commodore?”

Ed stuck out his chest and saluted. The woman suppressed a giggle. “This way please. The senior chief will see you now.”

She led us down a hall into a large office. The senior chief had a beautiful view of Ponce Inlet and the lighthouse. She left us alone and a tall, slim man rose from behind a huge, wood desk. He indicated the woman who just left. “Chief O’Reilly’s been with the guard ten years now. Says this is the first time she’s ever met a commodore.”

He and Ed shook hands and Forest looked Ed up and down. “I do like the uniform though, but then, I always liked khakis with a navy blue blazer.”

Ed raised his hands in submission. “OK. OK. I just didn’t want the gate guard to know I’m a friend from the yacht club. Didn’t want to reflect poorly on you for getting what looked like a social call while on duty.”

Forest sat behind his desk and gestured for us to sit. “Is that what this is?” He smiled, “Good, I was afraid my dues check bounced.”

Ed said, “No, no” and nodded in my direction. “This is Max Fried, a private investigator looking into the death of that boater who washed up on the beach.”

Forest frowned. “How can I help?”

Ed said, “Well, the police say he owned the boat you’ve got tied up beyond the crime scene tape.”

Forest said, “Yes, the
Amante.
” Then he looked at me. “The boater have a name?”

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