Read Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach Online

Authors: Falafel Jones

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

Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach (8 page)

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
4.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“And the result was?”

“Recently she started dating. I mean dating like it was a competitive sport.” He lifted his hands chest high with his palms up. “She never did anything halfway.”

“Any local ex-boyfriends?”

“Maybe.”

I pulled out my pad and a pen. “Names?”

“Gee, Mr. Fried. I don’t know…”

“Look at it this way. We really need to find her and maybe she’s with him.”

“Um, OK. She wouldn’t be with him but her last ex was Scott Barker. Owns the coffee shop down the block.”

“Do you know if he still has feelings for her?”

“Yeah, I buy coffee from him and at least once a week, he asks about her.”

“Why is he an ex?”

“He had anger management issues, so she dumped him.”

“How did he take it?”

Bryan gestured towards the front door. “New glass. Installed after his last visit.”

CHAPTER NINE

We thanked Bryan for his help and flew the coop. Out on the street, I said to Mariel, “C’mon. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”

She took my arm. “Thanks, Sport.”

We entered a shop named Thanx a latte and I saw a young man, about Brenda’s age, behind the counter. He perked up when he saw customers and said, “Hi, folks. How can I help you?”

I noticed a sign behind the counter that read, “Unattended children will be given an espresso, a drum, and a puppy to take home.” A couple of professorial types sat at a table covered with papers and two laptops. The place was a quiet as a library.

I said, “Two small lattes with skim milk, please.”

“Sure thing.”

The man busied himself at the espresso machine and I asked, “You the owner?”

With apparent pride, he said, “Yes, I am. Scott Barker. Been open two years now. Don’t recall seeing you before. You on vacation or new to the area?”

“Nah, we just don’t spend much time on the mainland. Hey, maybe you know our friend, works down the block, Brenda McCarthy?”

The espresso machine went quiet and the man turned to look at us. “You her folks?”

One of the learned looking customers at a nearby table lowered her book and looked at me over her reading glasses.

I turned to her, “Do I look old enough to have a daughter with a Master’s degree?”

The woman raised her eyebrows at me and made a show of going back to her book.

I turned to Scott and pointed at Mariel. “OK, maybe I might look old enough but she certainly doesn’t, does she?”

Scott looked uncomfortable about the apparent need to state his opinion on this topic. Mariel let him off the hook when she said, “We actually have a daughter in California a few years older than Brenda, but no, we’re not Brenda’s parents.” The woman with the book smiled at Mariel and nodded what seemed to be her approval of Mariel’s attempts at preserving her youthful looks.

Scott dropped his hands to his side and formed fists. “You’re not here for coffee are you? What do you want?”

I said, “Actually, we really would like some coffee but since you asked, do you know where Brenda is?”

Scott went back to making our drinks. “Haven’t seen her since she dumped me.”

“You mean since you broke the glass door at the Co-op?”

Scott stopped making coffee and turned to face me. “Look, I got upset, made a mistake. No one got hurt and I paid for the door. It’s over. It’s all over.”

“Good, then where were you Friday night?”

He placed our lattes on the counter. “What? Where was I? Where were you?”

I pointed to Mariel with my thumb. “With her. Your turn.”

Scott shook his head. “You crazy? Why do you want to… oh, hey, was that when that guy was killed on the boat? The one Brenda was on. You think I had something to do with it? Man.”

“Prove me wrong. Where were you?”

“Here man. I’m always here. The curse of the small business owner. I might as well sleep here too.”

“Any proof?”

“Yeah, the local beat cop. He was in and out all night for coffee and to use the facilities.”

“What’s the cop’s name?”

“Colletti. Officer Colletti. Complained he was working a double and needed caffeine.” Scott put our coffee in a bag and placed it in front of me. “That’s seven fifty. I made your order to go.” I paid him and we left. That’s me, spreading cheer wherever I am.

 

We strolled east on Canal Street until we reached Riverfront Park where we took occupancy of a fine bench with a river view. I had a nice cup of coffee and a beautiful woman by my side. There was even a clean public restroom nearby. I was all set to spend some time here. Mariel smiled and I could tell she was enjoying the action on the water. As a sailboat motored towards the drawbridge, she said, “This is nice but I feel bad having a good time while Brenda is missing. We should be looking for her.”

I said, “It sure is nice, but we are looking for her.”

Mariel gave me puzzled look and I said, “What if Ed’s right? What if her disappearance has something to do with Fisher’s murder? Couldn’t it be that a jealous former boyfriend with a temper killed Fisher and then abducted Brenda?”

“How would we know?”

“We can start by checking Scott Barker’s alibi.” I pulled out my phone and browsed to the cityofnsb.com website. I located the phone number for patrol and dialed it.

“New Smyrna Beach Police, Patrol Division. How may I direct your call?”

“I’d like to speak with Officer Colletti, please.”

“In reference to?”

“A case.”

“Do you have the case number?”

I thought about that a moment before answering. I decided it wasn’t my fault if she wanted to assume it was a police case and not a PI case. “No.”

I guess she was used to callers not knowing case numbers because she didn’t skip a beat when she said, “Your name, please?”

“Max Fried.”

“Phone number?”

I thought that odd since she probably had caller ID but I gave it to her anyway and then I said, “I’m in Riverfront Park, on a bench in front of the restrooms. Is it possible I could meet Officer Colletti here?”

“Just a moment.” She put me on hold a bit and then said. “He’s on patrol in that area today. Sit tight and he’ll meet you.”

I thanked her and hung up.

Mariel and I sipped our coffee and by the time I saw the bottom of my cup, a police officer approached. “Mr. Fried?”

I stood, “Yes, Officer. Thank you for coming.” I showed him my PI license and he squinted to read the fine print. Colletti returned my license and when I said, “I’m trying to verify an alibi,” his eyebrows went up.

He smiled and asked, “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”

I gave him my “What can I say?” gesture. Both palms in the air, waist high and facing up. I even raised my eyebrows for extra effect. “How ‘bout, you can ask me next time.”

Colletti looked around. “Where’s the camera?”

“Huh?”

“Isn’t this one of those hidden camera shows?”

I looked at him and tried to figure out what he was talking about. “No, no cameras. I’m a real PI and I’m trying to verify Scott Barker’s alibi.”

Colletti nodded and showed me a big grin, “Barker, guy owns the coffee shop. He sponsoring the show?”

“No, there is no show. Barker says he was at his shop all night on Friday and that you could verify his statement.”

“No show?”

“No.”

“So it’s a private prank, huh? Like for You Tube? That wise-guy Wagner in dispatch the one put you up to this?”

“No, Officer. No prank.”

“Yeah, sure. That’s OK. I can be a good sport. OK, I was in and out all night. I must have bought and… unloaded three cups of coffee that night. I saw him each time I went into the shop.”

“So, Barker’s telling the truth?”

“Yes and no.”

“Yes and no?”

“Yeah, I entered that shop maybe three, maybe four times but it was over an eight hour shift. He had a couple one-hour periods and maybe one two-hour slot to do whatever he wanted. What’d he do?”

“Nothing that I know of yet, but I needed to know if he warranted a closer look. Thanks.”

“No sweat. We done?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“No problem. Hey, can I see the tape now? See how I look?”

“I’m sorry but there is no tape. This was for real.”

“For real?”

“Yup.”

Colletti seemed embarrassed as he nodded towards the river. “Great view, huh?”

“Yes. Thank you for your help.”

Colletti pursed his lips and nodded. Then he turned and strolled back to his patrol car.

 

Mariel said, “Do you think Barker’s the killer?”

“He could be. I don’t see why’d he’d give us a bogus alibi unless he had something to hide.”

Mariel nodded her agreement and I said, “Let’s talk to Brenda’s BFF.”

Mariel looked surprised. “Brenda has a BFF?”

“Well, she did about a year ago when I saw her before all this current business. Why?”

“I don’t think they’re still friends.”

“Why not?”

“Has this girl been with Brenda since Fisher died?”

“No, not that I know of. What difference does that make?”

“Plenty. If Brenda had a BFF, the girl would have been at the house when you went over last night. She’d probably still be there.”

“How do you know that?”

Mariel gave me that pitying look wives gave clueless husbands all over the world. “OK, let’s go see her. Where is she?”

“She works in the family business downtown.”

We collected the car from the Business Co-op and drove down Canal Street to Dixie Freeway. A right turn and a block later, I pulled into the lot at Best Appliances. The banner in the window proclaimed, “Get your Best values here!” We entered the store and a middle-aged man in a short-sleeved white shirt and a dull brown tie approached us from in between a pair of ovens. A fringe of closely cut, blond hair sat on his balding head like a horseshoe.

“Hi, there,” he said. “Welcome to the Best appliance store. What do you need? We’ve got next day delivery on warehouse stock at no extra charge.”

I said, “We’d like to see Kimberly Best. Is she here today?”

The man looked like somebody hit him in the stomach but then quickly recovered. He stuck out his hand. “I’m Art Hingle. I can give you the same deal as Ms. Best. What are we looking for today? Oven? Fridge? We have some great buys on washers and dryers.”

“Thanks, Art but we’re not here to buy anything. We need to speak with Kimberly about something.”

Art finally seemed to realize there was no commission for him to earn and said, “Just a minute. I’ll tell her you’re here.” He disappeared through a door in the back of the store and returned a minute later followed by Kimberly Best.

As she approached, she stuck out her hand and said, “Welcome to the Best appliance store. How may I help you?”

“I’m Max Fried. This is Mariel, my wife. I’m a friend of Ed McCarthy’s and —”

Kimberly brightened, “Yes, I thought you looked familiar. We met at the McCarthy’s a couple of times. It’s so nice to see you but Art here can give you as good a price as I can. Our regular prices are so low, there’s no need for any special discounts. Shop around and you’ll see.”

“We’re not here to buy. I’d like to ask you some questions?”

“Oh, Art knows our stock better than I do.”

“I wanted to talk about Brenda.”

“Brenda?”

“Yes, you heard about the murder on that boat Friday night?”

Kimberly nodded.

“Well, Brenda was on that boat and now she’s missing. We’re worried about her. Any ideas where she might be?”

“No, I haven’t seen Brenda in, geez, I don’t know, six months?”

“How come?”

“We just sort of grew apart.”

“We’re worried that maybe an ex-boyfriend may be involved. Do you know Scott Barker?”

She bit her lower lip when I mentioned Barker’s name. “Scottie? Um, yes, why are you asking about Scottie?”

“We understand he’s got a bit of a temper and his alibi for Friday night doesn’t hold up.”

“Where did he say he was?”

“At the coffee shop.”

“He was.”

“How do you know that?”

“I was there. In the back, doing the books for him.”

“How come he didn’t tell us that?”

“Probably because I told him not to tell anyone about us. I didn’t want Brenda to know we’re seeing each other.”

“Why not?”

“I started dating him after that incident with the broken door at Brenda’s office. She insisted he was a loser and got upset with me when I told her I went out with him. I didn’t want her judging me so I told him not to tell anyone. Then after a while, Brenda and I drifted apart.”

BOOK: Falafel Jones - Max Fried 02 - Payback's a Beach
4.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

New Species 06 Wrath by Laurann Dohner
Rose Blossom by Travis, Renee
Lord Barry's Dream House by Emily Hendrickson
The Celestials by Karen Shepard
Witness the Dead by Craig Robertson
Drive-By by Lynne Ewing
The Bonded by John Falin
A Twist of Fate by Joanna Rees