‘Hi kid,’ he said. ‘How you feeling?’
I had passed the stage where I felt sorry for myself. I was heated, and wanted to nail the scum who had set me up for the rap.
‘Don’t call me kid. I’m Shayne.’
He held up his hands. Neat manicured nails. ‘That bad, huh?’
‘Want to tell me about it?’
I studied him awhile. Shook my head. ‘Mister Taylor, I’m busted ... no cell phone, even my surfboard’s been impounded.’
He grinned, showing a row of perfectly white teeth. ‘My boy Joe took a shine to you, Shayne. Said you were polite. He respects that, and he’s picking up the tab.’
It turned out that Smokin’ Joe Hardy - a heavyweight boxer, named after the legendary Joe Frazier - had invested his fight purses well, made a few million bucks over the years.
And Taylor had a reputation for getting athletes off the hook.
He laid it on the line. ‘I’m representing you, now. You don’t have to tell me whether you are guilty or not, but I need to know how to play it if I put you in front of a jury.’
I didn’t hesitate. ‘Mister Taylor, you have my word that I never killed Linda Adams.’
He nodded as if that was one hurdle overcome.
He switched on a mini-recorder and gave me a nod. ‘So open up, Shayne, the clock’s ticking.’
‘I took a house-sitting job … paid plenty … and it came with a hot babe...’ He listened throughout, made some notes on a pad while I recounted events - including the evidence stacked against me. I shrugged. ‘That’s it’.
He looked at me.
‘Let’s recap. Do you know why Van Grossman, a faggot … your words … would have a girlfriend tagging along?’
I thought back, tried to remember what the matchstick had said. ‘She was some kind of cover. Maybe the fags wanted to keep their relationship quiet.’
Taylor made another note.
‘Tell me about the phone call. One minute Linda was acting hard to get, the next, she was all over you. Why?’
I racked my brains. ‘I got the sense it was someone she knew … not a friend….’ The realization hit me – and it did nothing for my ego. ‘Looking back, I think someone told her to come on to me.’
Taylor rapped his pen on the table. ‘That’s what I thought … maybe a premeditated plan. In other words, it was intentional.’
I rubbed my eyes, and reached for the water pitcher. ‘Why?’
‘That what we need to find out. First, I need to get you out of here before the trial comes up. That’s not easy with a first-degree charge. So I need to plant doubt in the DA’s mind. Get him to accept your bond.’ He stopped, looked at me. ‘I want you to try and remember every detail, however insignificant.’
I poured out a glass of water and took a drink. ‘I’ve already done that. There’s nothing else.’
He smiled. ‘There will be. I’ll get a hypnotist to put you under. Then I’ll get Janet on your case. She’ll ask you personal things, and run background checks on Linda Adams and these two guys, Van and Pat. Something will come to light. Something that the cops failed to spot.’
He convinced me. I found out that some of his methods - like the hypnotist - were unconventional, but he got results. Janet, his sister, headed a one-woman detective agency; she had this knack of producing fresh evidence that the cops had not pursued, missed, overlooked, or disregarded. Follow the money, was her motto.
She was the District Attorney’s nightmare.
But also hot.
When she first walked into the interview room, the next day, I held my breath in case her perfectly formed being fell apart. It didn’t, and she smiled as though she knew what was going through my mind.
‘Hi, I’m Janet Taylor. Detective to you,’ she said with a twinkle in her eye as she handed me her card. She pulled up a chair and poured out two cups of water from the pitcher on the table. Then she stared at me.
Her deep brown pupils bored their way into my mind in the same way her brother’s had done. It would be a waste of time; I had no secrets to hide.
‘Shayne ... Shayne Reeves. Pleased to meet you, detective.’
Pleased – I was delighted. Linda had been special, but Janet matched her looks - except Janet had light ebony skin and dark curly hair down to her shoulders. Just how I liked it. I placed her around late twenties – younger than me – and she dressed cool.
And she didn’t mess around. ‘How did you screw up, so bad?’
Patterson hadn’t asked me that question; he had other priorities. Once he established I worked twelve-hour shifts at Sandy’s bar most week-ends, in return for living expenses and a mattress in the utility room, he couldn’t give a damn if I’d come from outer space. He was through.
‘I’m a loser ... gambled my life away,’ I said, and took a slug of water to ease my throat.
‘And I needed the bucks. And Linda died.’ I had guilt written in big letters across my face. It hurt and would continue to hurt.
At twenty three, I was taking a master’s degree when I inherited a trust fund left by my parents, both long gone. The money went to my head; I couldn’t cut it, and dropped out of school. Over the next few years, I blew my load, and became a surf bum. No casinos in the Hawaii Big Island to tempt me; I played penny-ante games on Napoopoo beach and surfed the big waves on the falling tide. Now thirty two, and not much to show for it except a permanent tan.
I told Janet the rest; it wasn’t much. I had no regular girl, just my Sweet Spot board and my beaten-up Dodge parked up in the lot at the back of Sandy’s bar.
She seemed to connect with my emotions, winked at me. ‘I jumped the gun. Rupert’s been booked to unscramble your brains.’ She laughed, reached across the table, gave me a punch on my arm. ‘Is that okay?’
I needed a boost, and I felt better by the minute, even with the cuffs on. Janet was good - damned good. I felt like I’d known her for years.
But I was curious. ‘Rupert?’
She sat back and crossed her arms, a more serious look on her face. ‘Your hypnotist. Rupert’s a one-off, cool dude. Got more credentials than the president, but he junked his consultancy ... now it’s mainly gigs in Honolulu. He’ll fly Island Air when I give the signal.’
I surveyed the room, again. No windows, police guards outside the door. I felt hemmed in, no space to breathe.
‘Rupert can dig as deep as he likes ... anything to get me out of custody.’
Janet stopped smiling, reached out and touched my hand with her long fingers, maybe to reassure me, maybe to warn me – hell, I wasn’t sure.
‘Look, Shayne, you’re facing first degree ... Rupert’s the beginning of Route 66 - Chicago to LA - a heck of a long haul.’
All I could feel was her hand on mine.
Warm and comforting.
And a 20 year stretch if I was convicted...