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Authors: Rod Hoisington

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“You’re kidding.”

“Well, she ran.”

Chapter Sixteen
 

 

M
artin
was following Sandy from Bristol Trucking down Hibiscus Road in northern Palm
Beach County, when she braked unexpectedly and pulled into the parking area of
the Coral Bowling Center. She was already out of her MX-5 by the time he’d
parked beside her. Her tablet was in her hand. “Lunch time, Martin.”

“I’m ready to eat something but what are we doing
here?”

Inside she ignored the four lanes busy with midday
league bowlers. The food service area was in the far corner with a long curved
counter and booths along the wall. One woman, behind the counter, was taking
care of the dozen or so people sitting on stools along the counter.

“Is this okay?” Sandy set her tablet on the table
in a nearby booth. “Can you get me a black coffee?” She continued on to the
restroom.

Martin sat for a couple of minutes before the
server came over and took his order for two coffees. After Sandy came back and
they were served, he said, “So tell me what you found out at that trucking
place. What made you think it was Jane driving that Kia that sped out of there?”

“Okay, to start with, Boyd was working there, so
we know that. The bookkeeper is a Myra Cramer. When I went in the office and
asked for Boyd, she scrammed out the back door.”

“Why? Do you believe she’s Jane and she recognized
you?”

“Don’t know.” She shrugged and sipped her coffee. “You
want a sandwich or something?”

“Tell me again why we’re eating in a bowling alley.”

“Don’t look so bewildered. Of course, we could go
to a fast food place and get some fat, sugar and salt, but when I’m in an
unfamiliar locale, I look for a bowling alley. They always have wireless. In
the days before cell phones, that’s what traveling salesmen would do in strange
towns. Look for a bowling alley. They had your phone books and public phones. They
had your restrooms. They had your cheap food. And they had a waitress who knew
everything about the town, was off duty at seven and maybe wasn’t busy that
night. Spread your papers out on the table and have a cup of coffee.”

“A home away from home,” he added.

“Might be better than home, if you throw in the
waitress. Hey, you know a better place to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich
that isn’t fried in this area? Why drive around looking for something? You see
a bowling alley, you pull in.”

When the server came over to top off the coffee,
Sandy asked, “What’s good today?”

“Everything. I just made fresh tuna salad. Hungry?”

“I am now. How about on toasted whole wheat?”

Martin also said okay to the sandwich.

After a sip of coffee, Sandy phoned Detective
Jaworski and told him they’d located where Cal Boyd had worked at the time of
his death.”

“That’s very nice, Sandy, and I realize you’re
hunting down Jane and your money. However, I’m investigating his murder and you’re
getting close to the line where I have to pull you off of this and send in a
detective for an official investigation.”

“Not yet Eddy, please. You’re right I’m hunting
for Jane. But she might have shot Boyd. If so, then the closer I get to Jane,
the closer you are to solving Boyd’s murder. Give me another few days.”

“Okay, but I have to pretend I don’t know what
you’re doing and might cut you off at any time. So watch my back, buddy.”

She told him about the bookkeeper freaking out and
taking off at the sight of her. “Myra Cramer, you got anything on her?” She waited
while he accessed the Florida Law Enforcement database. “Is she married? While
I have you. What kind of car does she drive?”

“That’s another website...hold on.” She could hear
Jaworski busy at the keyboard. He said, “Oh, did anyone tell you, the FBI says the
blindfold was torn from a brand new T-shirt. Soaked in your sweat—no other
usable DNA. Here’s the info on Myra Cramer—”

She wrote down the information and then said, “Thanks,
Eddy. Talk to you later.”

She hung up and turned to Martin. “That brand new
Kia sedan is registered to Myra Cramer. Jane drove a dark colored SUV.”

He said, “What if she sold the SUV and bought the
Kia she’s driving now?”

“Always a possibility. And switching would have
the additional advantage of getting rid of the vehicle that might contain trace
evidence of the abduction.”

“If Myra isn’t Jane, then why did she get spooked
when she saw you?”

“Exactly. A mechanic out back made it sound as if
Myra had a special interest in Boyd. If so, then maybe she took off because I
asked for him.”

They started in on their sandwiches. Martin
especially liked the accompanying pickle and a small scoop of potato salad. “You
know I had this same lunch at The Four Seasons in Manhattan except they cut the
sandwich into cute little triangles and added a sprig of parsley. It still
tasted as though it came out of a vending machine. This is better.”

“Jaworski just told me Myra is married to Ryan
Cramer,” she said. “They’re both clean—no priors. We don’t have their photos,
but here’s their address. The husband has two commercial vehicles registered.
So he’s in some kind of business. They might be as innocent as lambs. All we
know is she hurried out when she saw me. Which do you want to go after?”

“If Myra somehow is Jane, then she’s already
recognized you and just had a tremendous shock seeing you down here. You’d be
in danger. She doesn’t know me. I’d better take her.”

“Be careful, Martin. Remember, we know Jane has a
gun, and we’re guessing she shot Boyd.”

“Where do I start?”

“Go over and check out where they live. We don’t
know if it’s a condo, a mansion or what. Take a look at the neighborhood. See
if there’s a safe place to park for a stakeout. Such as a convenience store on
the corner, or a park across the street. Definitely, don’t just park in front
of someone’s house. You know that doesn’t work. We won’t do a stakeout unless necessary
and entirely safe. Check for anything usual at their house but don’t drive
around the block more than once.”

“All that won’t take long.”

“After that go back and stake out the Bristol trucking
place. That’s a commercial area—you can park anywhere around there for hours
with no problem. Let me know if her car’s back there at the office. And if she
leaves follow her.”

“Meanwhile, you’re going to check out the husband?”

“We don’t know where he is. I’m going to sit here
awhile. Now that we have a couple of names, I’ll do some Internet searches with
my tablet. If I can’t find someplace to start, then I’ll have to follow him
from his house tomorrow morning.”

“He may or may not be in on the crime with Myra,”
Martin observed. “So, you be careful as well.” He rose to leave.

“I know. Keep in touch.”

She stayed sitting there typing, sifting through
the usual garbage. After a few minutes, she found a business license issued to
the husband, Ryan Cramer, a landscape design business—Garden of Eden.

Sandy found the business address on the Internet.
She finished her coffee, folded up her tablet and papers, and headed out the
door.

A twenty-minute drive north took her to the Garden
of Eden landscape design office on Caloosahatchee Avenue between Palm Beach
Gardens and Jupiter. Her phone rang as she was getting out of her car. Martin
said, “I didn’t find out much, Sandy. Are you still at the bowling alley?”

“No, I located Ryan Cramer’s business and I’m
there now.”

“I checked out the Cramer house,” he said. “I
don’t know if she was home. The garage door was down, so I’m not certain if her
Kia was in there. The neighborhood is a modest subdivision—winding streets,
lots of trees. They have the best-looking lot on the block—beautiful shrubs and
flowers. I didn’t want to ask the immediate next-door neighbor, but I spotted
this woman working in her back yard three houses down. So, I stopped and we talked
over the fence.”

“Sounds good...this story does have a happy
ending, doesn’t it? You’re not phoning from jail?”

“Of course not. I told her I was a lawyer and
there was a claim being made that concerned the Cramers. I wasn’t at liberty to
discuss the details—she understood. Among other things, she said the Cramers
had some new furniture delivered one day and new appliances the next. And, as
we expected...they just bought that brand new Kia she drove. None of this is
very useful is it?”

“No, it’s fine. It confirms some of our guesses. I’m
going in and confront the husband now. Meanwhile, you go back to the trucking
office and keep watching for her.”

“It seems the Cramers are spending other people’s
money faster than a politician.”

“Let’s catch them while there’s still something
left.”

Chapter Seventeen
 

 

S
andy’s
GPS had led her to the office of Garden of Eden Design, the landscape design
business of Ryan Cramer. His wife, Myra, the elusive Bristol Trucking
bookkeeper was now high on Sandy’s suspicious list for no other reason other
than she had run out when Sandy appeared and mentioned Cal Boyd. Did the
husband know anything about what was going on with his wife?

An expertly lettered sign on the small office
building announced:
Our Designs Combine Nature & Culture
. Two men
were inside busily working. A forty-something man was at a desk in the corner office
busy talking on the phone and a younger man sat working at a large drafting
table with a computer at hand. Sandy walked over to the younger, “Ryan Cramer?”

The young man pointed a protractor at the man in
the corner office. After talking another three minutes, the man hung up the
phone and stepped to the office door to greet her.

“May I help you?” He was all smiles.

How should she start this conversation with him?
She’d like to ask him what his wife was up to, but instead she said, “How’s the
landscape design business these days?”

“We’re hanging in there. We do condo landscaping
mainly, plus some smaller contracts. Many of the big commercial jobs we used to
get, now do everything themselves with design software. Of course, they don’t
get the result they’d have using us.”

“Of course not.” If she mentions something
relating to Boyd, money, or extortion, will he start swinging, head out the
door like Myra, or what? “Sorry, Mr. Cramer, I’m not a customer. The good news
is I’m not a salesman either. Can you give me a minute?” She didn’t wait for an
answer. She took out the printout of Boyd’s driver license Jaworski had sent
her, handed it to the man and waited for a reaction.

He flinched and the color left his face when he examined
the photo. He closed his eyes tightly. His reaction scared her for a second. He
was boiling inside, she could tell, and she didn’t know what he was about to do
physically. Nevertheless, he composed himself quickly. “We need to talk.”

They stepped into his office and she took the
offered chair next to his desk. He appeared to be late forties. A pleasant face
and a balding head. The sleeves of his open-collared shirt were rolled up. Too
young for his shoulders to be stooped like that, perhaps shaped by years of
leaning over a drafting board.

They sat and, after he caught his breath, he
leaned forward confidentially. “Are you his wife?”

She thought that was a useful assumption; she’d go
with it. Something was going on but she had no idea what. She put an
unemotional expression on her face. “How do you know him?”

“I just knew this was going to get all messy.”

Let him assume she knew many ominous things—worth
a try. “I know you’re involved.”

“I suppose I could have done more. Lord knows I
tried to discourage her.” He sat back and slowly shook his head. “I should have
had more backbone.” He looked away from her.

“Yes, you certainly should have.” Not a bad
response she thought, considering she was still trying to make sense of it all.

“One night your husband actually slept in our
house—on the couch. He brought Myra home late and she told him he could sleep
on the couch. Did he tell you that? The three of us, my wife, her boyfriend and
I were there in the house. Unbelievable? Maybe he actually slept with her. I
was in the other bedroom, of course. Sorry, you don’t want to hear that.”

So there it was. An affair between this guy’s wife
and Boyd. The bookkeeper was screwing around with one of the employees. No
wonder she took off when Sandy showed up looking for him. Was that all there
was to this? One thing was certain—the husband wasn’t talking about abduction
or extortion. She felt sorry for him, but she wasn’t interested in hearing
about his private soap opera—unless the two collaborators were also hooked up together
in crime. Sandy knew Boyd was criminally involved, but what about Myra? Was she
just something Boyd had on the side? Sandy needed to hear more, and she didn’t
need to trick this guy into talking; he seemed quite willing to put it all out
there.

He said, “I’m very sorry for all the anguish this
must be causing you...what’s your name?

She hadn’t actually said she was Boyd’s wife
although she hadn’t corrected his assumption, which was just as bad. Even so,
she didn’t want to flat out lie. She answered, “Sandy Reid.”

“I see you’ve taken off your wedding band. You have
to realize that I’m going through exactly what you’re going through, Mrs. Reid.
First came denial...then the rage. Next came all the pain and humiliation. Am I
right? Isn’t that the way it was? I suppose the images of them together are the
most difficult. I don’t know how you get rid of those.”

She hoped all this emotional release was heading
somewhere. It seemed unlikely this guy was personally involved in the kidnapping
and extortion, but did he have any knowledge of it? “When did you first realize
she was cheating on you?”

“Only suspicions at first, of course. I guess the
same as you. One begins to notice little things. Happenings that you later realize
were clues after you become conscious you’ve been humiliated. Looking back, I remember
one of the first signs was—now this is going to seem silly. I seldom drive her
car but that day I was taking it in for servicing. When I started it, this loud
music blasted away. That rap crap. We’ve always been kind Soft Rock people. I
pushed the radio button to change it—she’d set all the buttons to those stupid
stations. I actually looked around, thinking for an instant I was in the wrong
car. Within weeks, her hair had gone blonde with a complete change of style.
Some wild frenzied look from the cute bangs she’d worn all her life.”

“Might have been something physical, mid-life
stuff maybe.” Sandy didn’t want to interrupt him.

“I suppose the age fits. I don’t know about that
stuff. Possibly my fault I didn’t get her help. At first, I didn’t confront her
about her behavior. Early on, I didn’t mind, in fact I encouraged her. She had
seemed so down. Hated her job and all that. Yet, it seemed so sudden. One day,
she didn’t want to look at herself in the mirror and the next she’s a blonde-haired
vixen ready to vamp. Wouldn’t have been surprised if she showed up with a
tattoo. Maybe she did get one. I didn’t see any of her body from then on.”

“So, she didn’t like her life and was doing
something to change it. Still, we’re talking about cheating. Where does Boyd
come in?”

“That’s what I was getting to. Sadly, I
discovered, she’d done none of it for my benefit.” He paused and stared at her.
“You call your husband Boyd?”

“Ah...sometimes. Silly isn’t it?”

“Look, I’m not suggesting it was all your
husband’s fault. I don’t blame you personally for any of this. Your husband is
fifteen-years younger than my wife. I can see where she’d be excited about all
the new found...attention. Oh, I’m sorry. This has to be painful for you to
hear me talk about him. You most likely had no more control over Cal than I had
over Myra. In fact, it might all be my fault. I should have given more thought
to her...physical needs. But after years of marriage...well, you’ve heard that
old story before.” He glanced over wondering if his employee could overhear.

“I didn’t catch on to everything all at once. She began
going to a health club working out trying to lose weight. And I noticed she was
getting all dolled up for work. Bought some new things. Might as well get some
use out of them, she said. I guess you know she’s a bookkeeper for a trucking
company. Jeans with a nice top are fine for the women there. She started
wearing shorter skirts and blouses like an uptown office.”

Sandy was trying to maintain her bland expression.
Yet, she felt sorry for the guy and couldn’t help screwing up her face at some things
he said.

“Almost immediately, I began to lose track of her.
She’d go in early, come home late. Suddenly, she’s a social butterfly, to hear her
tell it. Always off to some girl’s shower or birthday party. ‘All the girls are
dressing up,’ she’d say. She’d skip dinner, or go out after, to do something. I’d
ask where she’d been, she’d say out for a drive. Then she’d have sudden
outbursts. She’d start an argument and then say she had to go for a drive to
calm down. She always put on lipstick and perfume to go for one of her drives.”

“From the sounds of it, she wasn’t very good at
cheating. At any rate, she took up with the new guy at work.” Sandy was
sympathetic but wished he’d talk about Cal and money. “How did you find out
about it?”

“My sister, Gail, told me Myra confided in her,
they had always been quite friendly. Myra admitted she had been seeing some guy
at work for about six months and started sharing intimate details. Even though
I had my suspicions, it really hurt to have it all confirmed. Gail didn’t like
what Myra was doing at all. Still, she couldn’t resist listening to the
play-by-play accounts. She met him once at the house. Just a dumb overgrown kid,
she said. Couldn’t see what Myra saw in him.”

“What’s Gail’s last name?” Sounded like his sister
might be a good source of information.

He ignored her. “Eventually, it became blatant. Myra
would talk with him on the phone in front of me. She didn’t like sneaking
around, she said. So, to show how much she loved me, she wanted to be open and
not deceive me anymore. I discovered he was coming to the house, when I wasn’t
there. Gail told me she was there one Saturday talking to Myra when he waltzes
in. Like he did it all the time—didn’t even ring the doorbell. Gail yelled and
told him to leave, even followed him out and gave him a long talking to at the
curb. I started staying at the office and sleeping there. My sister just bought
a new condominium, so now I can stay over there if I want.”

“A new condo, you say.” Anything related to money
with this group was of interest to Sandy.

“Yes, just last week. And near the ocean too. I
didn’t even know she was looking. In fact, I’m going over there for dinner and
probably stay with her tonight. She’s very sympathetic. I’ve told her
everything. She liked Myra to start with but lately has been angry about how
I’m being treated. Myra can’t resist bragging about everything Cal Boyd does,
and Gail can’t resist listening.”

“Your wife was observed spending money big time.
Bought that new car, new furniture and appliances. Where did you suppose that
money came from?”

“Running up credit cards, I suppose. She hides the
bills. I know she spent a lot of money on him. According to Gail, she bought
him clothes, paid for a major repair on his truck and got him a new bike. I
tried to talk with her. Couldn’t she see this guy was just using her to get
money or something? Didn’t she understand she was paying for the sex she got?
She really didn’t like that comment. She said money had nothing to do with his
love for her, and they might run away together.”

“Yes, I saw the bike. Why’d he want a bike?”

“You tell me. He’s your husband.”

“Be thankful he didn’t want a motorcycle.”

“I suppose it’s good you can find some humor in
it.”

Sandy was uncomfortable pretending to me Boyd’s
wife, yet she was getting some good information. “Tell me about your sister
Gail. Is her new condo nearby?”

“Why are you interested in her?”

“I’m not. Is her last name Cramer?”

“Holman.” He was annoyed. “Look, this has nothing
to do with my sister.”

“I guess she’s married, huh?”

He ignored the question. “One morning I came out
of my bedroom and Myra was holding a gun she found in the couch cushion. He’d slept
there at least once. I know nothing about guns, but it was black and ugly. Scared
the hell out of us. She set it up on a shelf to give back to him. I said I
didn’t want his kind of dirt in the house, so I took the gun and I locked it up
here in my office safe. Still in there... over there.”

She shook her head. “Why are you putting up with
this bullshit?”

“Why are
you
putting up with it? You don’t
have to answer. I don’t really want to divorce her, but what’s left? I talked
with my lawyer, the guy who handles my business stuff. We both agreed I simply
couldn’t afford the expense of the divorce and the loss of my hard-earned
savings. It would take years for my business to build back up and for my
finances to recover. He advised me not to move out. Myra would clean me out and
take the house. I wish she’d just disappear.”

“So, you’re in limbo. Emotionally separated but mostly
sleeping at the office or at your sister’s.”

“He hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. Maybe
the affair is over. Maybe they got tired of each other.”

“If he’s out of the picture for good, would you
take her back?” Until Sandy was certain where Ryan fit into all this, she
wasn’t going to tell him that the guy was already out of the picture and on a
slab in Park Beach.

“Even if I did, how would I get the images out of
my head? He has treated you badly also. Are you going to take him back?”

She turned away from him.

“What did you say your name was, Reid?” He was
puzzled and stared at her. “I thought Cal’s last name was Boyd.”

She hesitated for a full minute before answering, “I’m
not his wife. Cal Boyd was never married.

“You’re not!” He had to stop and think. Then his
eyes widened. “Dear God, this is monstrous...why did you let me embarrass
myself like this? None of this is any of your business.”

Sandy felt ashamed. Terrible how she’d led him on like
that. There might have been a more straightforward way of getting the same
information out of him. She’d taken the easy way using pretension and deceit. “Ryan,
you have my sympathy, but I’m not the one the one to guide you and offer you
any healing. You seem to have a good relationship with your sister. Have you
opened up and talked all this over with her?”

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