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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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The woman held out her hand. “OK, leave that with me and I’ll have legal review it. If everything’s in order, they’ll contact you in a few days and schedule your visit.”

Ed pulled back his hand. “I think not.”

The woman shrugged, “Have it your way.” She glanced down and then looked Ed in the eye. “Move your foot. I’ve got work to do.”

Ed hesitated and the woman’s eyes moved from Ed to look over my shoulder. She said, “Deputy.”

I turned and saw a sheriff’s deputy standing behind me. “Sarah, these two a problem?” Ed moved his foot.

“Nah,” She opened the door fully. Ed and I stepped aside to let the deputy pass and I watched him disappear into the building.

Sarah closed the door and walked away. Ed was outmatched.

I said, “C’mon, Ed. Let’s go. Maybe we’ll get another shot at this later.”

Defeated, he looked down at the ground and followed me back to his car.

 

On the way back to Ed’s, we stopped and bought an ink pad. When we arrived at his house, Brenda and Sheila were still there.

Sheila slammed her hand down on the table. “No, Ed. We based our entire defense on making the state prove their case. We shouldn’t be exposing more evidence they might use against her.”

Ed put his hands on her shoulders and spoke softly. “That’s why we need to know what they’ve got. We need to know the same things they know so we can be prepared.”

Sheila gestured in my direction. “What about him?”

“He’s bound by confidentiality rules just as we are.”

“Yes, but can you trust him?”

Ed’s eyebrows went up. “I’m not even going to answer that.”

Brenda said, “Stop. I want to do this. You don’t know how horrible it is not to know if you’ve killed someone. I have to know… either way, I have to know.”

She slipped off her shoes and placed the ink pad on the floor.

I said, “We only need a print of the left foot.”

“Here doll, hold onto me.” Sheila put an arm around Brenda to balance her while Brenda dabbed her foot on the ink pad and then on a piece of white paper I took from Ed’s printer.

I bent and picked up the paper. The print looked good. “Now, Ed, can you send that footprint photo from the boat to your home computer?”

“Ummm, sure, yeah.” He grimaced as he pressed icons on his phone. “Done.”

I followed Ed into his home office. “May I?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I sat at Ed’s computer and brought up the footprint photo, changed it into a black and white image and increased the contrast. “Your printer on?”

Ed reached over and pressed a button. “It is now.”

I clicked the print button. “OK, let’s see what we’ve got.”

It seemed like it took forever for the image from the boat to print. When it finished, I pulled the page from the printer and placed it on Ed’s desk next to Brenda’s footprint.

Ed leaned over to look. Sheila shouldered her way in to see too. Brenda held back by the door, her hand on her stomach.

Ed said, “I don’t see it.”

Sheila said, “Me neither. There’s no match.”

I looked at both images. I had no scale against which to match the size but the patterns on Brenda’s foot didn’t match the photo.

Ed leaned back against the wall. “This clears her. It’s not her print. We need to call Torres.” He stood straight and went to embrace Brenda.

Sheila said, “No, it doesn’t. All it proves is that somebody else was on the boat. Maybe they’re even Drew’s.”

“No, they’re not his,” I said. “The M.E. reports Drew had his left shoe on when they found him. There had to be a third person on that boat and they had to be barefoot.”

Brenda asked, “Can the police match that footprint and find out whose it is?”

Ed rubbed her back. “No doll, not unless they have someone to compare it to. There’s no footprint database like there is for fingerprints.”

I said, “If we know the print isn’t Brenda’s, Torres probably knows too.”

“Then why does he still suspect me?”

My phone rang. “He may think the print is from an accomplice. Excuse me, please.” I answered the call.

“I got your text about the 911 call.”

“Can I put you on speaker?”

“Sure. I won’t say anything dirty. I’m at work.”

“Can you email me the recording?”

“Is that all you want?”

“What do you mean?”

“The recording’s public record but the caller information is exempt so it’s deleted. If you’re working a case, I’d think you’d want that information too.”

“Yeah, I do. Can you get it?”

“Sure, anytime I want to be fired and maybe prosecuted.”

“Geez, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I apologize.”

“Nah, no sweat. Look, you working with an attorney on this?”

“Yes. Ed McCarthy.”

“Tell him we just need is a subpoena and we’re all good.”

I looked at Ed and he nodded, “Ed heard that. Thanks, man.”

“Wait. Let me make sure we have the tape you want.”

I gave him the time, date, and reason for the call.

“Yeah, it’s in the log. Gimme a minute to bring it up on my screen. Hold on, did you say Ed McCarthy?”

“Yeah, why?”

“He related to Brenda McCarthy?”

“She’s his client and daughter.”

“She there with you?”

“Yeah, what’s going on?”

“Have her write and sign a request for the tape. Scan the letter and her driver’s license. Email it all to me. You don’t need a subpoena.”

“I don’t? How come?”

“The call came from her phone.”

CHAPTER FIVE
 

I hung up and looked at Brenda. She seemed dazed, “What? How could I have made a call? What did I say?” She turned to Sheila and hugged her. “Oh, Mom, you’re right. What if I did push him overboard?”

Sheila patted Brenda’s back and then smoothed her hair. “If you did, the bastard got what he deserved. Don’t feel bad about protecting yourself. This was his fault.”

Ed handed Brenda a piece of paper and a pen. “Sign this. Do you have your driver’s license?”

Brenda signed the paper and fished the license from her bag.

Ed busied himself at the scanner while I signed onto my email account.

Ed stood. “Got it?”

“Yes.” I sent the email and sat back to wait for a response.

We stared at each other in silence. Each moment seemed longer than the one before. When I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, I stopped to think about how much worse it must be for Ed, Sheila, and Brenda.

“This is crazy,” Sheila said. “Come, Brenda. We’ll make some coffee.”

As soon as they reached the door, I heard a “Ding!”

Brenda whirled around. Sheila looked back over her shoulder. I sat forward to read the screen. “I’ve got it. Wait.” I clicked the file attached to the email and heard a woman say, “911. What is your emergency?”

A slow speaking man answered, “Um, is this 911?”

Ed said, “Your friend sent us the wrong recording. That’s a man. That’s not Brenda.”

Brenda said, “Wait. I think I know that voice.”

I rewound the recording to where they interrupted.

“Yes sir, this is the 911 operator. How may I help you?”

“Well, there’s a boat… in the channel… and it’s all bloody man.”

“What channel is that?”

“Ponce Inlet.”

“Is anybody hurt?”

“Nah, nobody’s onboard. I took Brenda home.”

“Caller ID places you on land. How do you know about this?”

“We were there, man. It was horrible. I took her home cause I didn’t have a phone.”

“What’s your name, sir?”

“You better get someone out there. Bye.”

The recording ended.

Brenda said, “That’s Floyd, my neighbor.”

Ed asked, “He lives in your building?”

“Yes, across the hall. He’s about my age and lives with his mother. She works days and he, um, smokes a lot of weed.”

Sheila asked, “Are you friends?”

“No, I just know him from the building. Sometimes, I catch him watching me.”

Sheila crossed her arms. “Sounds like a stalker.”

Brenda frowned, “No, I think it’s just puppy love.”

 

We surrounded the door to Floyd’s apartment and Ed pounded the door with his fist. No one answered. Ed started banging again and Brenda pressed the doorbell. After this second attempt to alert someone inside, we stood in silence listening for sounds of activity. About when I decided no one was home, the door opened and a short, skinny, bleary-eyed man with blond dreadlocks peered out. He looked up at Ed filling the doorway and said, “No solicitors, man.

As the man started to close the door, Ed stuck his size 12 boat shoe in the way. The man stared down at Ed’s foot as if trying to comprehend what it was and why it was there.

Brenda said, “Floyd?”

Floyd looked up from the shoe and peered around Ed. “Yeah?”

Brenda pressed forward, “Floyd, can we come in, please?”

Floyd perked up and adjusted his board shorts when he saw Brenda, “Sure, C’mon in.”

I closed the door behind us and Floyd asked Brenda, “Who are these Gilligans?”

Ed said, “I’m her father.”

Floyd stepped back. “Oh, what do you want man? I never even kissed her.”

I said, “You were on that boat and made the 911 call?”

“Yeah, man. Hey, are you that PI guy? Some cop called and told me not to talk to you.”

Ed left the foyer and sat on the couch. He leaned over the ashtray on the coffee table and lifted out the remnants of a joint. “OK, so we won’t talk. How about I just call the police and show them what I found in your ashtray.”

Floyd’s chest swelled with confidence. “Can’t do that man. Illegal search and seizure.”

“I’m familiar with that concept but that won’t help you. You see, I’m a lawyer, not a cop. You invited us in and I saw something illegal that I feel compelled to report as an eyewitness. Totally admissible.”

“Your word against mine, man.”

Ed smiled, “Really? Your word against an attorney, a private investigator, and a beautiful young woman? You must be stoned.”

Floyd seemed deflated as he collapsed onto the couch next to Ed. “Aw right, aw right. Whaddya want?”

I said, “Just tell us what happened.”

“OK, man.” Floyd snatched the roach from Ed’s hand. “I was on my paddle board doing my dawn patrol thing, you know, watching the sunrise after my morning smoke. Then I saw this boat coming at me. I paddled like mad to get out of the way and the boat just kind of drifted up close. Too close.”

Floyd started pulling apart the roach in an apparent attempt to reuse the remains.

I snapped my fingers. “Floyd, Floyd, focus.”

“What?”

“What happened next?”

“Oh, yeah, man. I was bummed so I grabbed hold of the boat ladder and climbed on board, only nobody’s there. Just a mess on deck and a whole lotta blood. I looked inside the cabin and there was Gidget here.” Floyd indicated Brenda. “I didn’t know how to drive the boat, so I paddled her home.” He looked up at Brenda. “Sorry about getting your purse wet. I kinda slipped cause my foot still had some blood on it.”

“Why didn’t you take her to the hospital or call the police?”

“She seemed fine, man. Just a little drunk and I did call the police. I called 911.”

“What color is your paddle?”

“Black, man.” Floyd leaned over the back of the couch and came up with a paddle in his hand. “It’s like the best.”

Ed took the paddle from him. Floyd reached for it. “Hey, gimme that.”

Ed turned his back to Floyd and hefted the paddle. “Black metal. Light but long enough to do the damage we saw.” He turned back to Floyd. “We’re going to borrow this and show it to our friend, Lieutenant Torres.”

“You can’t do that. That’s mine.”

Ed stood up holding the ashtray and the paddle and held one in each hand like a human scale. He moved his hands up and down. “I’m bringing one of these to the police. Which one is it going to be, Floyd?”

Floyd sat back on the couch, “Take the paddle, but I want it back. It’s the only one I got.”

 

Ed and I dropped Brenda at Ed’s place and then drove to the police station on Dixie Freeway next to the Jack Bolt Municipal airport.

Something nagged at me about Floyd and his paddle. After a while, it hit me. “I think Floyd’s telling the truth.”

Ed turned to look at me. “What?”

“You gave him a choice between handing over his drugs or what could be a murder weapon.”

“I see. You’re thinking, ‘Why would he give us the paddle if he knew it was the murder weapon? The drug charge would be nothing compared to a murder rap.’”

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