As the daylight crept through the narrow space between the curtains on the hotel room windows, my Saturday morning began. I went first to the coffee pot and tried to figure out how to get it to brew something strong. This was an easy task.
I then lowered the air conditioner as it became so cold in the night; I had goose bumps on every inch of my skin. I opened the door, grabbed the daily paper and propped myself back on the bed. It needed to have a slow start to this day.
A few moments later, coffee cup in hand, my phone began vibrating on the night table signaling an incoming call. It was my parents.
“Morning, mom. How are you doing today?”
“Hi. It’s actually your father.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t expecting him to call. I wasn’t ready to talk to him, either.
“Your mother was hoping you’d come over for lunch today. She really misses you and is very upset about last night. She’s at church now praying for that poor girl who died last night. Awful thing, huh?”
“Lunch, sure, I can do that. I’m meeting Evelyn for an early breakfast. Why don’t I come over around 1ish?”
“That’d be great. I am really looking forward to seeing you. I know we’ve had our troubles in the past, but I think we need to just bury those things. If you can’t do it for me, do it for your mother.”
“Yeah, Dad. I hear what you’re saying, but there are some things one just can’t bury. I’ll be there at 1.” I hung up the phone. He had no right to ask me to forget about the past, especially when it was mostly his fault.
I sent Evelyn a text message and we agreed to meet for breakfast at her favorite diner in Lindenhurst. Ollie’s Place was out on Sunrise Highway and had tolerable food. It was actually known for its charming atmosphere rather than its culinary skills. The diner was all decked out in Roaring 20s style and the even hired actors as the wait staff so they could practice their art and entertain customers.
I quickly showered up and made the 10 minute drive. At 8am on a Saturday, I was fairly sure there’d be no traffic. When parking the car, I could see Evelyn sitting in our old favorite booth; however, someone was sitting across from her. I couldn’t tell from the back who it was.
As I opened the front door, a 30 something girl in full flapper costume walked right up to me, grabbed my arm and said, “Well hello there, darling. You must be here to see me. I got a table right in my section for a man the likes of you. You’re a regular Rudolph Valentino. She flicked her hips against mine and planted a kiss on my cheek.
I smiled and waved in Evelyn’s direction. I could see now that it was our Uncle Harry sitting with Evelyn.
The waitress, whose name appeared to be Natacha from the name tag on her blouse, danced me over to the corner booth and sat me down next to Evelyn. “You sure are lucky to be with this here fellow, girlie. He’s a keeper.” She glided away and pounced on another customer who had just walked in.
“Brody, my love, so good to see you this morning. I thought I was going to have to share you with Natacha, your perky little waitress friend. Now they’ll be none of that! You owe me your full attention after being gone so long. Wasn’t last night just awful? I was so horrified that I went home immediately and soaked in a hot bath.”
Evelyn looked much different this morning. Her hair was up in a bun, she wore jeans and a flowery dress on top.
“Jeans? I’ve never seen you in jeans.”
“Yes, I decided to give it a shot earlier this year, and what do you know… it works on me!”
Harry jumped in, “Brody, what a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see you this morning. Evelyn didn’t mention you were coming.”
“I didn’t have a chance to tell you, Uncle Harry.” She turned to me. “Uncle Harry was here with a buddy of his from down at the precinct.”
“Yes, we were just leaving when I saw Evelyn sitting down and thought I’d pop over to say hello. I was just about to tell her what I learned this morning from one of the guys I used to work with. His name’s David Tate. I think he was one of the officers at the country club last night taking people’s statements.”
“Yes, I remember him,” I began. “He had blonde hair, young guy, maybe 30 or 31. About 5-10 or so?”
“You should have been a cop, Brody. You really pay attention. That’s him. He was on duty all night, just got off a little while ago. I am trying to stay away from the place after retiring last year, especially since I moved out to Pennsylvania. But I figured since I’m back in town for a few days for Evelyn’s party, I should stop in to see if any old friends were working this morning. Tate was, so I bought him a cup of coffee before he headed home and he spilled a few things to me about the case even though I don’t work there anymore. That poor girl, she was real pretty. Jeremiah’s probably all messed up about it.”
Evelyn looked up, “Yeah, I imagine so. Do they know who did it yet?”
“No, no, too early for that. But there were a few things that might help figure it out. I hope they find the bastard who hurt her. They found the gun buried under one of the bushes behind the fountain. 36 mm. 2 shots fired.”
“That’s great that they found the gun,” I added. Doing a ballistics test now?”
“Yes. They also checked the recent calls on her cell phone and there were two out-going calls made within minutes before we found the body. I mean they found the body… still hard to let go,” Harry added.
“Well, that might be helpful. Hopefully they get a good lead off that. I feel so bad for Jeremiah,” Evelyn responded.
“I do, too. I talked to him last night. He wants me to help him investigate to figure out who did this to her,” I noted.
Evelyn looked at me, “That’s a good idea; maybe it’ll keep you here longer.”
Harry interrupted, “Well, to be honest, Brody, that might be a good idea. I’m not really around for too long to help out, but someone should help Jeremiah figure out who killed Gwen. There’s one other thing that I found out from Tate. It’s a bit odd, too. A cocktail waitress claims she saw someone with blood all over his shirt. From the descriptions, it sounds like it was Geoffrey that she saw.”
Evelyn noted, “Yeah, well he went up to pull her out of the fountain.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant. Uncle Harry was acting a little odd, seemed somewhat too close to this case. “What are you saying, Uncle Harry?”
“Well, this waitress was out on the patio setting up the tables when we all started to walk out. She says that she was standing on the far side when she heard Evelyn scream. She looked up and saw someone running to the fountain and opening his jacket. When he opened his jacket, it had red stains all over the front of it. She didn’t know what it was at the time.”
Evelyn spoke, “So she thinks that Geoffrey had something to do with the murder and got blood all over his shirt? It must have been after he pulled her out of the fountain and got blood on him then.”
I added, “Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. She must be mistaken about the timing.”
Harry finished, “No, she was quite sure it was beforehand. She even remembers seeing him running back towards the entrance just before that buttoning up his jacket and entering the bathroom. I’m not sure what to make of it, yet. Did either of you talk with Geoffrey since it happened?”
Before either of us could respond, our waiter, a Montgomery Clift look-alike who had the voice and mannerisms down perfectly, approached the table.
“What can I get for you all?” he questioned.
Evelyn ordered an omelette minus the hash browns.
The waiter, whose name tag read Monty, then looked towards me. “And what about you, cowboy? Aren’t you looking stylish today! That’s Kenneth Cole you’re wearing, right? Looks great on you.”
“Yes, it is. Good eye, my friend. I’ll have chocolate chip pancakes and a glass of orange juice. Thanks.”
“And for you Officer Lynd? Anything else or are you done for the day?
“I’m good, just on my way out,” Harry answered. As Monty wandered off, Harry turned to Evelyn and said, “By the way, Evelyn, are you still friends with the guy who works at the phone company? I got the numbers from Tate. Maybe you could look it up to see who the two calls were made to?”
Evelyn nodded and took the paper from Harry. “Sure, I could probably find out.”
Harry turned towards me and said, “Don’t be such a stranger now that you’re back.” Harry abruptly said his goodbyes and said he’d be in touch.
“Evelyn commented, “Well that was odd. I didn’t expect to run into him, nor to find out he’s already got information on the case. When he moved out to Pennsylvania, he said he was done with being a cop. I wonder if he’s bored with Aunt Sarah out in farm country.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. But that was pretty weird about what the cocktail waitress said about Geoffrey. She must have been mistaken about the times,” I replied.
“Likely. And the two phone calls right before the murders. Why does he want me to find out who the calls were made to?”
“Maybe he thinks we can help Jeremiah figure out who killed Gwen. You know how the police are around here, they won’t give any information out to anyone and they always take forever in capturing the criminal.”