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Authors: Falafel Jones

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

Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach (6 page)

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
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“Oh, so this is business, not pleasure.”

I shook my head. “When you’re involved, it’s always pleasure… but I am going to bill Ed for this.”

“Give me a few minutes to shower and dress.”

More than a few minutes later, we walked up to the dock at the Riverview Grille restaurant on Flagler Avenue and caught the water taxi. It was a fun ride and we saw a pair of dolphins swimming alongside the boat as we crossed the inlet to the Hidden Harbor restaurant. The taxi docked and we joined the small group of people leaving the boat for the bar. Mariel and I took seats at a bistro table on the deck and I could see New Smyrna Beach across the water.

I noticed a young attractive woman taking an order from a couple on the other side of the deck. She seemed to be the only server on duty. I admired the view of the river for a moment and when I looked back, I saw the waitress delivering drinks to a large group at another table. I said to Mariel, “Wow, she’s fast. Just a second ago, she was taking an order on the other side of the place.”

Mariel said. “These are a lot of tables for one person to handle. She must be very good.”

I looked for the waitress and saw her enter the kitchen only to exit a second later carrying a big tray of lunch plates. I turned back to Mariel and heard a voice behind me as the waitress placed two coasters on the table in front of us. I looked down at her feet to see if was wearing roller skates. She wasn’t.

“Welcome to the Hidden Harbor. I’m Tiffany. What can I get you?”

“Two vodka tonics, please.”

Tiffany smiled and nodded. Just before she turned away, I pulled out my phone and brought up the picture of Brenda that Ed had emailed me. I showed her Brenda’s photo and asked, “Do you recognize her?”

Tiffany took my phone and looked. “Pretty. I wish I could get my hair that straight.” She handed back my phone. “Your daughter?”

“No, did you see her here Friday night?”

“No, but maybe Amber did.” Tiffany looked towards the kitchen door and as her twin sister exited, Tiffany waved her over. Mariel and I exchanged “We should have seen this coming.” glances. Tiffany pointed to my phone and said, “Amber, you recognize her?”

Amber took my phone, handed it back and said, “Yeah, Friday night.”

I asked, “Any idea what time they left?”

Amber said, “Hang on,” and walked to the computerized cash register at the waitress station near our table. She pressed a few buttons, came back, and said, “They cashed out at 8:57 pm.”

“How come you remember them?”

“Her date tried to pay by credit card but Chuck, the manager, balked because the customer’s signature didn’t match the one on the card. Guy said he sprained his wrist fishing and paid cash. He must have been embarrassed because he left me a very nice tip.” She smiled.

“Anything unusual happen?”

Amber looked surprised by my question. “Yeah, and I just told you about it.”

“I’m sorry, I meant like any conflict between the guy and his date?”

Amber stuck out her lower lip. Then she raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “No, nothing. Just another happy couple on a date in paradise.”

CHAPTER SEVEN
 

We finished our drinks and caught the next water taxi home. When we got into the house, Mariel asked me, “Now, what will you do?”

“Well, it was a nice ride but I didn’t get anything much from the restaurant. Whatever led to Fisher’s death must have taken place after they left. I’ll see what facts I can find online. What about you?”

She reached for her computer tablet and said, “I’m going out to the pool to listen to the radio.” Mariel had an app she used to listen to talk radio programs from New York, California and Florida. I entered my office and sat down at the computer.

The first place I looked was
www.volusia.org
 where I clicked the link to the beach web cams. From there, I retrieved a list of the tides the night Drew Fisher died. Amber verified Brenda’s story that they left the restaurant at 9:00 p.m. and the M.E. told me the time of death was about 9:30. The tide table reported high tide that night at 9:46 pm. Roofies kick in after 20 to 30 minutes so Brenda’s story was starting to make sense. If drugged at or soon after dinner, she might have been in a stupor below decks while someone killed Fisher in the cockpit. The murderer could have escaped leaving the
Amante
to drift fifteen minutes or so until the incoming tide carried it into the navigation channel. It could have floated there all night until Floyd found it during his sunrise paddle.

Next, I visited
www.marinetraffic.com
 
where I searched for the
Amante.
More than one ship had that name so I located the paper Senior Chief Forest gave me and searched for the boat’s MMSI number. I found the boat’s last known position at the Coast Guard dock in New Smyrna Beach. Before docking there, it docked at the Coronado Yacht Club and before that the East End Yacht Club on Long Island in New York State. I decided to see what the New York folks knew about the dead man. I got the phone number from their web site and dialed.

“East End Yacht Club, This is Douglas. How may help you?”

“This is Commodore McCarthy at the Coronado Yacht Club. We have a Drew Fisher applying for membership and he listed your club on his application.”

“Caller ID says Max Fried.”

“Um, we’re having a membership committee meeting at the Fried compound.”

“I see. Are you asking about Drew Fisher from the
Amante
?”

“Yes.”

“Why would he list us? He wasn’t a member here, just a guest.”

Mariel entered the room and said, “Max?” loud enough for Douglas to hear.

“You sure you’re the commodore?” he asked

I said, “Max isn’t here Miss, look on the deck.” Then I asked Douglas, “But you know him?”

“Look, Admiral, I don’t care who you are. If you’re calling about Fisher, I want everybody to know about this guy. He showed up a few months ago and spent his time drinking and chasing married women. A couple of the husbands didn’t like that.”

“A couple? You mean some did like it?”

“Nah, I mean only a couple found out about it.”

“Oh, so why didn’t you give him the boot?”

“Couldn’t, one of the board members invested money with this jerk and wanted to keep his eye on him plus Fisher’s ladies kept his slip rental fees up to date.”

“You couldn’t declare him undesirable?”

“You kidding? If we had a morals clause in our contract, we’d have no members. At least the other guys only chase the single women. We have plenty of content ladies here.”

“Any idea why Fisher left when he did?”

“No, but I’m glad. I thought he’d never leave.”

“Who’s the guy who invested with him?”

“Bucky Vanderbilt.”

“Bucky?”

“Yeah, one thing I learned here. The richer the member, the goofier the nickname.”

“Do you know how I can reach him?”

“He’s one of those boating snowbirds. If he’s not in Florida by now, he’s probably due in the next day or so.”

“What’s the name of his boat?”

“Not a boat, a ship and a big one at that. He calls it the
DeepSea Doodle
. Hey, do you know if the Coronado has any job openings? These New York winters are killing me.”

I told him no and we went back and forth a bit on the topic. Finally, he let me hang up after I promised I’d inform him of any local yacht club jobs.

Mariel said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were on the phone.”

I said, “It’s OK. It didn’t make any difference,”

She asked what I found out and I told her.

“So where is the
DeepSea Doodle
now?”

“Let’s see.” I navigated to the web page I used to track the
Amante
and typed in DeepSea Doodle”. Douglas was right. The ship made it to Florida and now occupied a berth at the Coronado Yacht Club. In fact, several ships currently at the Coronado previously docked at the East End. I reviewed the ships departure dates and they all left within a few days of each other but the
DeepSea Doodle
dates caught my attention.

Mariel must have sensed my surprise. She leaned in to view the computer screen. “What is it?”

“The
DeepSea Doodle
left Long Island one day after the
Amante
but it arrived in Florida the night Drew Fisher died.”

“That may not mean anything. You said Douglas told you several snowbirds come down by boat around now.”

“Yeah, but I don’t see any of them arriving that night except for the
DeepSea Doodle
.”

We stared at each other in silence until it hit me. “You know how I listen to the marine bands on my ham radio?”

“Yes?”

“Well, while my radio is scanning, I pick up the county bridge tenders on the North Causeway drawbridge.”

“So?”

“So, to get to the yacht club, you need to travel south under the drawbridge. The bridge opens every hour, twenty past the hour, and twenty to the hour assuming somebody radios and asks for an opening. I’ve heard the bridge tender ask people to spell the names of their boats. There must be a log somewhere showing who passed under the bridge that night.”

“Where can you get that?”

“Ed’s been going nuts trying to find a way to clear Brenda but he’s not getting too far. This sounds like something a lawyer can handle.” I reached for the phone. “I’ll call him.”

“And what will you do?”

“I’m going to visit Bucky at the yacht club.”

“And do what? Ask him if he killed Drew Fisher?”

“Yeah, not too smart. I got carried away, but I do think I ought to at least visit the club, see if anybody knows anything that might help.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“I don’t think so.”

Mariel gave me a look of pity and then smiled. “Max, you know I love you but look at us, to whom do you think the sailors would rather talk?”

She was right. Not only was she good looking, she had personality and smarts. “OK, you gave me an idea. I’ll have Ed phone ahead and tell them you’re a prospective member, a rich widow.”

“Max, don’t talk like that.” She paused. “Just tell Ed to say wealthy and single. Give me a minute to do my hair and makeup.”

I nodded assent.

While Mariel got ready, I phoned.

We finished about the same time. Mariel’s long black hair hung loose down her back and her shoulder-less sundress not only highlighted her workout routine, it coordinated nicely with her deep tan. Then I noticed her hand.

“Where are your wedding and engagement rings?”

“I thought I’d be more approachable without them.”

“You’re right.” I took my wedding band off and placed it in my dresser drawer.

 

We drove west over the South Causeway, made a left onto Riverside drive and turned into the parking lot for the Coronado Yacht Club. It looked somewhat pedestrian for such an ipsy pipsy place. I parked and Mariel exited the car.

She said, “How do we do this? I mean do we go in together?”

“Yeah, if you’re from out of town, there’s no reason why a friend wouldn’t accompany you. Besides, I don’t want you out of my sight.”

“Why? Are you worried something might happen to me?”

“Partially, but mainly because I like to look at you.”

She smiled and said, “Do you want me to wander around, meet people and get them to talk to me?”

“Of course, that’s the plan.”

“Then have a seat at the bar and wait for me.”

I didn’t want to do that and while I tried to think of a reason to refuse, she said, “Do this for Brenda.”

I nodded and followed her into the club.

I took a seat at the club bar while Mariel wandered down one of the docks where they kept the larger ships. A bartender approached and placed a round coaster on the bar. “What’ll it be?”

“Amberbock, please.”

The man nodded and busied himself behind the bar. I looked around and saw only one other person. A good-looking woman about my age sat alone at the far end of the bar, looking out at the water. A handsome young man with abs of steel apparent beneath his golf shirt came in from another room and took the seat next to her.

I didn’t hear what he said but I could see the woman shake her head. Then the young man shrugged and left. The bartender brought my beer and walked down to the woman. He pointed to her empty glass. She nodded and said, “I’m sick of these young boys.” She must have noticed me watching and asked me, “Why is it they think every woman wants them?”

Not knowing what to say, I said, “I don’t know.” Apparently, this was the response she wanted or was at least close enough because she picked up her empty glass and sat down next to me.

She held out her hand and in a whiskey voice said, “Hi, I’m Madison. Call me Maddie.”

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