Even the Score(101)

By: Beth Ehemann

“Morning, everyone. What time is it?” She looked over at the clock, and her eyes bugged out. “Oh my God. We have to leave in like fifteen minutes.” Then as quick as she came, she was gone. She turned and disappeared up the stairs while I spent a few more minutes with the kids.

Twenty-five minutes later we were ready to walk out the door. I was ready in time to get us to the police station on time, but Dani insisted we take the extra couple of minutes and walk the kids to the bus stop, not so much for a safety concern, but she wanted to spend time with them. We rode in silence to the police station, both of us no doubt thinking about that little blue card that sat between us in a plastic bag.

When we walked through the door, Detective Larson happened to be walking near the vestibule. He waved to us and buzzed the security door open. We followed him down a long hallway, past several small conference rooms.

“Here, let’s take this one at the end.” He pushed the door open and flipped the light on but didn’t go in. “I have to grab something. I’ll be right back.”

We barely had time to sit, and he was already back with a blue folder in his hand.

He sat down and took a deep breath, looking back and forth between the two of us. “First of all, it’s good to see both of you again, I’m just sorry about the occasion. You”—he directed his attention to Dani—“look fantastic considering the week you’ve had, and I’m not sure any other woman I’ve ever met would be handling this with as much grace as you are.”

I slid my hand onto her knee as she pressed her lips together, nodding at Detective Larson. “Thank you for that.”

“Now, I don’t know about you two, but I could hardly sleep last night. I racked my brain over and over, trying to figure this out. I left my house at four o’clock this morning to sniff out what I could before you got here. First of all . . . the flowers. I’m assuming you brought the card?”

I reached into the breast pocket of my jacket, pulled out the bag, and set on the table in front of me.

“Thanks.” Detective Larson slid it off to the side. “I’ll have my team analyze it, but it won’t give us anything because he never touched it. The order was called in and paid for using a prepaid Visa card.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Flower shops open early. On a whim, I swung by there on the way in, and there were two employees already there, one of whom remembered taking this order.”

Dani put her hand on mine and squeezed gently.

“She didn’t remember if it was a man or a woman, unfortunately, because they get so many orders each day. This individual ordered the flowers, and when the flower shop employee asked what they wanted written on the card, she was uncomfortable with the answer. That answer,” he said, pointing toward the bag.

“So why did they even fill the order?” I growled, annoyed with the flower shop’s incompetence.

“Let me finish. Because she was a little taken aback by the answer, she asked the person ordering to provide their address, something they never do, but as soon as she did, they hung up.”

I sighed, worried that our lead just flew out the window.

“She filled the order because she was afraid she’d lose her job if she didn’t, but . . . it just so happens that this employee is a young girl in college, majoring in criminal justice, so she made a note of the exact date and time the call came in.”

“You’re shitting me,” Dani said incredulously.

“No, I’m not.” He shook his head with a crooked grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. “It took all of my self-control not to offer that kid a job on the spot. Anyway, with her information I was able to go to the jail and pull the phone records, which is how I found out that not only did Javier not make the call, he hasn’t used the phone one time. Literally. He’s never even been in the same room with the phone.”

I inhaled sharply, flaring my nostrils on purpose. “So we’re back to square one?”

“Not really,” he said excitedly. “Because of that flower order, I was able to obtain a warrant for his financial records, and due to a judge who owes me a couple of favors, I have them already. In this blue folder.” He slid the folder in front of him and rested his hands on it. “So this guy lives in a pretty slummy area on the outskirts of Minneapolis. Lots of crime and drugs there. He’s a construction worker without a steady job, and his apartment is modest at best, with run-down furniture and secondhand dishes. He definitely doesn’t live like a rock star.”

My neck felt hot, and the walls felt like they were closing in on us. I didn’t give a flying fuck what was on his dishes or if his couch was comfortable. “What’s your point?”