Strike Out
 

 

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                                           Strike Out 

            Mystery Files: Detective Jonathan Barrett      

                            by K.J. Griffin

 

            “Strike him out!”  I yelled along with thousands of other proud LA Dodgers fans.  Early May and the baseball season is well under way, which means my work production dramatically decreases.  Dodger ball is back in town and I happen to be a season ticket holder.  Today my friend Doug has tagged along and we have great seats, directly along the third base line.

              The Dodger’s pitching ace effectively fanned the batter, ending the inning.  While the opposing team took their positions on the field, Doug had fixed his attention on two women who sat a few rows in front of us.  Whispering something about the Mets third baseman, the usual girly talk.  “Sports stars get all the kicks,” Doug said none too happy.  I laughed at the single-once -again man who didn’t quite know how to get back into the dating game, but tried anyway.  One of the women with long black hair, a fair complexion and brown eyes had caught us staring, not that we were hiding our actions, smiled and giggled in our direction. 

            “She’s smiling at me,” Doug informed me. 

            “I don’t think so.”

            “What?  She definitely wasn’t smiling at you.”  Doug cackled at the thought.

            “So what are you going do?”

            “I’m gonna go talk to her.”

            “Good luck!”  I called after him. You’re gonna need it.  Taking a long sip of my beer I watched as the events unfolded.  Mrs. Gorgeous said something, flashing a smile and Doug countered with a line that evidently was no good.  He was slapped hard enough to make me cringe.  Strike out. 

            Returning to his seat with a rather large red spot on his left cheek.  “How’d that work out for ya Slick?”

            “Not good.”  He placed his drink against his cheek attempting to subdue the sting.  I laughed at his failure.  The scoreboard flashed with the usual mumbo jumbo- pleads of will you marry me or happy birthday, but with little warning the board flashed a simple message.  Doug read it aloud; “Jonathan Barrett please report to the rotunda.”

            Doug looked at me and I shrugged in puzzlement.  Beats me.  None too happy to be missing the game, I made my way to the designated location to see what all the fuss was about. 

            Waiting for me was a pleasant blond decked out in a security uniform, smiling enthusiastically when I walked over.  “Detective Barrett, you got my message.  I knew you would be here!”  She gave me a friendly hug and I didn’t mind it a bit. 

            Niki Palmer is an old college friend and she’s been working here at the stadium for the past year.  What bothered me was being interrupted during the middle of a game to come and play detective.  “What can I do for you, Niki?”

            “I need your help.  As you have probably guessed, I need you to do a little detective work for me.”

            “Now?  Were tied in the fifth . . . “ She allowed no further room for a rebuttal. 

            “If you conduct yourself in a timely manner, you’ll return by the seventh inning stretch.” 

            “It’s my day off.”

            “Quit your whining, I already done some of the work for you.  I have three suspects that seem quite promising.”

            “Whoa, whoa.  You have yet to disclose to me what crime has been committed.”

            “Right.  Not everyone that arrives at the stadium has come for the great games; some have come to make a profit.  Several people have been the victims of theft.  An IPOD along with some other small tech devices, and two hundred dollars has been stolen.  A few of the items were found stashed.”

            “I take it none of the suspects have any of the stolen items in their possession?”

            “No, I figure they have another stash somewhere else in the stadium.  Were looking but nothing yet.”  Niki adjusted the radio on her belt.

            “The suspects were picked up in the general location of the thefts?”

            “That is correct.”

            “And you were there as well?”

                        “Yes.  All the victims came to me with their complaints.”

            “Okay, take me to the suspects.  I’ll need a word with them.”      

            “Certainly.  Follow me.”  The stadium holds well over twenty thousand people making it highly unlikely that the female security guard could correctly identify the perp., but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.  We go way back and it’s the least I can do.  Especially under the circumstances that Niki has faced in the last year and half.  Her husband was a firefighter who lost his life fighting the wildfires, leaving Niki to raise their young child alone.  Single parent working in order to pay the bills. Proud, too.   

            In a small room, where I assume the security staff hold any unruly fans until the police arrive, sat three people, impatiently waiting.  I proceeded to discuss the thefts with each one of them. 

            The first suspect is an older, cranky overweight man who was not amused to be missing the game.  I can sympathize with him.  “Sir, what is your name?”  I calmly asked.

            “Marshall.  Andrew Marshall.  And you are?”  He sat there with his arms folded across his chest, wore a Dodgers shirt with a camera around his neck.  Still using film.  Somebody has a problem keeping up with the times.

            “Detective Jonathan Barrett.”  I extended my hand in a friendly gesture, but he failed to move an inch.  “Mr. Marshall you have been brought here on the suspicion of thievery.”

            “That’s preposterous!  I’m here with my grandson.”

            “How old are you, sir?”

            “Sixty-one.”

            “I see.  Well I am sorry to have wasted your time, as well as your grandson’s.”

            Without a word, he stormed out of the room, not before looking over his shoulder one last time to glare at me.  Upon seeing the second suspect I was mildly surprised. 

            It was a kid, no older than eleven.  Call me old fashion but I have a hard time in believing that a kid could commit a crime.  I still believe in the age of innocence.  He was an African American with a smile that seemed endless and an energetic attitude. 

            “Glad to be at the ball park?”  I like to try a different approach when dealing with children, especially when the parents are absent.

            “Yes, until I was brought here.”  A brief pause before asking, “Am I in trouble?” 

            “No.  I just need to ask you a few questions.  What your name?”

            “Justin.” 

            “You catch any fowl balls?”  His glove was on the desk.

            “Nope.  Got close.”  He wore a Dodgers jersey and ball cap.

            “Who’s your favorite player?”

            “Russell Martin. You?”

            “Same here.”  We exchanged high-fives.  Justin smiled as we continued to discuss the ball club.  In five minutes, I had collected enough evidence. 

            The last suspect was from out of town, New York to be exact.  A Mets fan.   He was a white man, single- no wedding band, mid-twenties and an easiness that made him likeable.

            “What’s your name?”

            “Derek.  What seems to be the problem?”

            “Just need to ask you some questions.”

            “Sure, whatever.”  The bottom of the fifth and he was well on his way toward insobriety, having consumed an undisclosed number of adult beverages. 

            “You enjoying yourself?”

                        “Yeah, man.  Just taking it easy.”

            “Hmm.  You spent a lot of money to get here, didn’t you?”

            “Yeah, my friends and I are here on vacation. Thought we would squeeze out just enough doe to make a ball game.”

            “Short on money.”  It was an observation that I put forth for him to comment on.

            “Aren’t we all?”

            Good point.  I excused Derek.  Rising from the chair he attempted to walk up the stairs in front of the exit.  Stumbling on the first step, grabbing the rail just in time to keep him from falling to the floor.  Grabbing Derek by the shoulder I helped him up the stairs. I laughed as the gregarious Derek stumbled along the walkway. 

            Trying to find Niki in the crowd was not working out for me and I decided to let her find me.  She did it once. She can do it again. The crowd roared and I had to know what was going on.  Doug was on his feet rooting for the home team when I arrived. “What’s going on?” 

            “Ninth inning and were still tied.  Were going into extras.”  Doug owns a contracting company- a very successful company- and recently went through a messy divorce.  No children, but he was married to Cruella De Vil.  Average height, dark black hair and eyes, medium build, and a brilliant businessman to boot.  His personality . . . well it’s topsy- turvy.  Funny, witty, and corky.  As we have already found out, none too impressive with the ladies, but he’s the type of guy that is more than willing to go out of his way to help a friend.  Explains why we have been friends for over a decade. 

            “I’d like to watch it,” I muttered like a little kid.

            “What’s going on anyway?”  Doug took his seat and looked at me for answers.

            “Remember Niki Palmer from college?”  He perked up.  “She’s a security guard and she needs my help solving a crime spree.”

            “How is she doing?”  Referring to the death of her husband.

            “I assume not well.”

            “Why do you say that?”  He was concerned. 

            I didn’t have the opportunity to answer the question; Niki poked me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow her.  “Gotta go,” I sputtered.  We found a place where we could talk.

            “Who’s the thief?”  She wasted little time.  “Or don’t you know yet?” 

            “I know who stole the items.  It was an easy case to solve.”  Another solved crime to put under my belt.  I have yet to be challenged and this is getting kind of old.  I had grabbed a number long ago and am still waiting in line for a foe worthy of my talents. 

            I clearly know whose behind the criminal mischief.  The question is . . ., do you?  I’ll give you a moment to weigh in on the facts that have been laid out before you.

            Those of you whose magnifying glass and trench coat failed to discover the truth-do not fret.  I will assist you and reveal the clue.  Take five.

 

Solution to the Crime: Who did it?

                                                Niki Palmer

The resolution:

            “Their was really four suspects in this case, wasn’t their Niki?”  I inquired. 

            “I don’t know what you mean.”  She retorted unable to make eye contact. 

            I’m frustrated. This is the first time a friend has been found guilty of a crime. It’s personal and I was unsure on how to proceed.  “This stadium is huge, packed with people. It is highly improbable that you could pick three people at random and deem one of them guilty of a crime, without proof of some sort.  You were present for every robbery and you have easy access and quite simply no one would suspect you.  Using the distracting action of the game, you stole from them when they weren’t looking.  Then you try and blame three unsuspecting fans.  A lame bunch at that.  Grandpa is so old and out of touch that he doesn’t even know what an IPOD is.  Mr. Met was so intoxicated that he couldn’t even stand much less pull off a heist.  And the kid?  The only crime he’s guilty of is sneaking into the stadium without tickets.”  I paused to catch my breath.  “You have the motive.  You need the money in order to survive.  I know it’s hard but theirs a better way.”

            “How?  You think I want to do this?”  She was upset, tossing her hands in the air in a clear sign of surrender.  Good people do stupid things.

            “You wanted me to catch you.”

            “What?  Why would I want that?”  She tucked a blond strand behind her ear.

            “Why else would you call a detective to help you?  You could have written this up as a crime that could not be solved.  It would make sense with the crowd and the lack of evidence.  Take the money, pawn the devices, and get away with it.  Perfect crime.  But no, you call your friend- whom you know to be an ace detective.  You wanted to be caught.  You want me to stop you.  Crime just isn’t your thing.”  I was sympathetic.

            She removed a small wad of cash from her pants pocket.  Handing it to me, I counted two- hundred dollars.  “I’m ashamed. I truly am.”  Her eyes were watery and her lip quivered. 

            “Give the items back to their respected owners and we’ll pretend this never happened.  I’ll help you get the money you need.  I have some extra.”  She wouldn’t hear it.

            “No, I don’t need your charity.”

            “Swallow your pride!  It’s not charity.  It’s called a friend helping a friend.  It would be my honor.  As long as I’m referred to as ‘Uncle Jonathan’ for now on.”

            She laughed at the idea of having to adopt me into the family.  Her smile was genuine and it made me feel better.  I don’t do tears.  Niki followed me to my seat, where Doug was going crazy.  “Did I miss anything good?”

            “If you call a grand slam in the tenth to break the tie and steal the win -good . . . than yes!  You missed a hell of a game!”

            “Damn it!  Who hit the slam?”

            “Blake DeWitt.”  Beginning to curse softly under my breath at having missed a game to solve a crime that didn’t need to be solved in the first place, I was surprised to look up and see Doug and Niki leaving together. 

            “Where you going?”

            “Niki and I are going out.  It’s been a while and we need to catch up.  See you at the next game.”

            “Thanks for everything, Jonathan.”  Niki pecked me on the cheek. 

            “Bye.”  I said absent mindedly, slumping dejectedly in my seat, as people made for the exits.  Gazing at an empty field, the final score: Dodgers 9, Mets 5.  Still fuming, I was surprised when someone sat in the seat next to me.

            “You plan on staying here until the next game?”  The voice quizzed.

            “Maybe.  What’s it to you?”  I spoke before looking at the visitor.  She had long black hair, fair complexion, and beautiful brown eyes.  Mrs. Gorgeous.  “Excuse my rudeness.  My name’s Jonathan Barrett.  And you are?”

            “The girl with your hat.”  She playfully removed my LA Dodgers cap and placed it on her head, backwards like I wear it.  She smiled and bit her lip.  Usually stealing my prized ball cap is an unacceptable crime; I figured I could make an exception.  I laughed as my head was filled with thoughts.  We won’t go there. 

            “So what is your name?”  I asked again. 

            “Eva Gutierrez.”

            “Well, Eva how about we get a beer to celebrate the win?”

            “But I’m a Mets fan.” 

            “We can work on that.”