Tommy Allen got out of his truck in the market parking lot and walked towards the door. He had quickly put on his deputy uniform’s shirt and tucked it into the shorts he had been wearing but didn’t care as he was off duty. He walked in, said, “Hi, Becca,” and asked where Jake was. He followed her pointed finger back to the office.
“Hello, Jake?” he said as he pushed the door open.
“Tommy, thanks for stopping by,” Jake said getting up to shake his hand.
Ashley stood in the corner with her hands clasped and her head guiltily down.
“Thanks, Ashley, that will be all,” Jake said.
“Ok, see you Monday,” she said trying her best to avoid the deputy on the way out of the small space.
“This about some kind of employee problem, Jake?” Tommy asked after she left.
“No, it’s about Eden’s accident.”
“What about it?”
“I think there was a second car.”
“A second car. A second car doing what?”
“I don’t know.”
“Who was in this second car?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“What do you know?” Tommy asked exasperated.
“Let me show you this,” he said turning on the tape.
Being the third time today he had shown the footage to another person, Jake was an efficient narrator. He played it at regular speed noting the time to Deputy Allen, then in slow motion carefully pointing to the jerking dots and explaining what he saw. When it was done, Tommy rubbed his eyes.
“What’s your point, Jake?” he asked again.
“My point is that someone else was involved!” Jake stammered on the verge of hysteria. “How can you not see that?”
“Let me tell you what I see and understand we’re talking as friends right now. I’m in big trouble if anyone finds out I told you this. Number one: Eden’s bloodwork came back yesterday. She had a .186 blood alcohol content. You know what the legal limit is in Florida? .08 That means she was more than twice as drunk as it would take to get arrested and way beyond what it would take to impair her driving. Number two: there is no evidence of anyone else being involved in this in any way – no evidence in the car, no evidence on the road, no witnesses, nothing.”
“What about Mrs. Stanley?” Jake shot out.
“Everyone knows Mrs. Stanley is a sweet old lady, but she’s pushing ninety and not in the best of health mentally.”
“What do you mean?”
“She calls in complaints of fireworks being set off on the beach in front of her place year round. Year round. When it’s raining she calls, when it’s daytime she calls. Last year during Hurricane Otto, she called to complain that someone was shooting fireworks off on the beach.”
Jake stood silent.
“And number three: the accident was called in at 2:28 which means it happened before then, but you’re showing me a tape from 2:34 that you say proves someone killed Eden Brockwell.”
“That tape is right. I set it up myself.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean you set it up yourself?”
“I installed it myself. I know it works.”
“You’re not supposed to install it yourself. Didn’t the sheriff give you the name of the company you’re supposed to call?”
“Yeah, who just so happens to be the sheriff’s cousin Floyd up in Freeport,” Jake said.
“Well, guess what. The time stamps no good if you installed it yourself,” Tommy told him.
“Look, if you don’t believe me, go get the tape from over at the Redwood. It’ll show you the same thing and I’m sure it was professionally installed.”
“I can’t do that, Jake. I need a warrant to look at their tape and I don’t have any reason to get one.”
“Just ask him to look at the tape,” Jake pleaded.
“You ask him to look at it,” Tommy shouted back.
“I tried that. He won’t show it to me.”
“Well, neither would I.”
“Tommy. . . Deputy Allen, please. This wasn’t like Eden. Something is wrong.”
“Jake, let it go. It was a bad thing, but when bad accidents happen, you just have to buck up and say to yourself, ‘Something happened, let it go.’”
Jake stood, red in the face but silent.
“Now, I’ve got some harvesting to do. Is there anything you really need me for?”
“Jake, I’m sorry. Everyone’s sorry. Ya’ll had a close relationship. Something happened, let it go.”
He turned and walked out of the office.
Jake just stood and stared at the frozen frame on the monitor, his face still red.
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 17