Uniformed Response: Book Two

Chapter Four

Our first appointment was for Saturday morning at 10 and the pool cover guy was right on time. A really well put together guy and he had a younger version of himself working with him. They weren't related, but Sam and I agreed they were definitely a couple. He had already worked up an estimate, as we had asked, and the price was comparable to what we had researched on the internet. We didn't want one of those lightweight bubble wrap things; we wanted something installed on outer edges of the pool apron that would roll out and create a cover over the entire pool and the five-foot apron all around. We wanted it so sturdy that someone walking on it wouldn't fall through into the water below.

We asked how long it would take to install and he said he could have one just the size we needed driven down from Miami over the weekend and he and his helper could install it Monday, starting about 8 AM and hopefully finished by 4 PM or soon after. I wrote him a check for half of the estimate and he called the supplier while we stood there, and he arranged for the cover, tracks, and the mechanism to open and retract it to be here on site by 8 AM Monday. When those arrangements were completed, he then gave us some really good news, as new residents he could give us a 10% discount, and as we were "family" he would be glad to give us a further 20% off the final price. He then told us that his Aunt Sharon had asked him to say hello for her. We thanked him and told him we'd probably be seeing Sharon in a little while, as we had a new "son" for her to meet.

At 1 PM we had a meeting with the storm shutter company and they too had had their measurements taken during the previous week and their estimate, although high, was less than we had planned on and also included the two windows on the sheds out back which we hadn't thought about. He said he was prepared to start on Monday and it would take up to three days to complete the job, but with months to go in hurricane season, and since we didn't yet live here year-round, it would even help with our insurance rates. We told him about the pool cover guy giving us a 10% discount and he told us he would, too, and then asked if we knew Sharon. We both laughed, and he said since we were family, he could give us another 20% off as well, as he knew the pool guy had, he said. I gave him a check for half the price quoted and he said he'd be back with his entire crew on Monday and maybe with all of them, since we had fairly common sized windows, they could be done at the end of that day, if not the next morning.

By then it was time to get lunch rolling so we set up the barbecue by the pool fence and by the time the buns were toasted, and the French Fries browned, and the cheese was melting on the burgers, the three boys and Stu and Rico were home for lunch. Of course, Stu and Rico had to return to work, but we told them all about the work to be started after the weekend and that we should all be here to see it all finished. Looking around the yard I realized that while we had been making big investments to reduce the damage done by a storm, we still had a wide open two car carport, with six sturdy looking columns holding up a substantial roof. I mentioned this to Rico and Stu and Rico mentioned that if he thought about it long enough, he could come up with a way to make the structure more storm worthy, but to enclose it would be adding to our tax base as it would be considered an enclosed structure. I asked what the difference in the money amount would be and Stu said maybe one to two thousand a year. Sam smiled at me and I told the guys that as long as the exterior looked as nice as the house did, we didn't care about a thousand or two here or there. Not that we were spendthrifts, but if it made the property more secure, I say go for it. Rico said he'd do some drawings and then get some estimates for us. Sam told him to make sure there would be room for three vehicles in the garage space, maybe by parking one of the vehicles across the front of the other two parking spaces in the new carport.

Rico suggested that double swing out doors could be added to the side least affected by storms and then a regular two cars wide overhead door on the front and a solid wall on the west side, the one facing toward the gulf, three blocks away. I again told him to go for it and by then it was time for them to return to work and for us to clean up a bit and take the boys to see Sharon.

When we told the boys, we were going to walk down to see Sharon, Julian asked if he could take his clarinet and we said sure as it was unusual for us to see him without it at home, we just figured it was like a security blanket for him. When we got back to the deli section in Fausto's Sharon was waiting on someone, but acknowledged us with a huge smile and a wave and then Julian opened up his instrument case, assembled his clarinet and began to play Joni Mitchell's "A Song for Sharon". The whole store applauded when he was through and Sharon came out from behind the deli counter and gave him a huge hug. It wasn't a peppy song, but more bluesy. I'm sure many didn't know what he had played, but it had a hauntingly romantic sounding melody and it was appreciated by many in the store.

Sharon knew what the song was, and she demanded to know where we had hired this young handsome musician from, as she cuddled him from behind while giving the twins hugs on the side. Sam laughed and introduced Sharon to Julian and told her he was a recent addition to our family. She congratulated Julian on his good choice in families and in music and I ordered the tray of pork barbecued ribs in the case and sides of coleslaw to go with the ribs. This would give Stu and Rico a break from cooking tonight as they had worked all day. When we checked out even the staff in front applauded Julian, he walked with the twins with his head high. We were anxious to hear from Cal next week as he was going to check out a clarinet teacher at the University to give Julian some advanced lessons on his clarinet once classes resumed in a few weeks. We wanted it to be a special surprise as we had found out his birthday was in late September and we knew this might be a tough one for him.

We arrived back to the house and set the tray of ribs in the oven to stay warm and I added a bit of maple syrup to the batch and recovered them in foil to keep them from drying out, I'd have to up the temperature about an hour before we ate. We had asked Joe from Angel's house to join us as a way of thanking him for all he had done to contribute to our great time in Key West on our honeymoon and shortly after 6 he arrived with Stu and Rico, as they all worked together, and it was Joe who had recommended Stu and Rico to us. He was a strikingly good-looking man, maybe a couple of years older than Sam and I, but like Stu, not what you'd peg as being a librarian. This guy looked like he spent a great deal of time in a gym. Not hugely muscular, more like a lean mean muscle machine. Rico introduced Joe to the rest of us and so began some lively conversations.

Joe mentioned that a friend was going to be stopping by shortly to get something from him, but we were still wondering what was going on when a police car with "Chief" markings rolled onto the brick paved parking pad in front of the carport, bubble lights flashing and one whoop of his siren. Joe hopped up from the outdoor dining table we had been sitting at and the boys ran over as soon as the patrol car came to a halt. Out of the vehicle stepped a dark-haired version of Joe's reddish-brown haired body. A very fit uniformed Chief of Police, looking to be about in his mid-thirties. I hoped they knew each other well, because the way these two guys greeted each other was like the beginning of a porn movie, the way their tongues were wrestling with each other was really erotic, not that the kids minded, their attention was centered on the police cruiser.

Joe brought his friend over and introduced him to us as Chief Lee Daniels, his boyfriend of three months.  What was nice about Joe's introductions was that with Sam and me he used our correct ranks and departments and that went a long way in breaking the ice and since he was not on patrol, he was on his way home when he stopped for a packet of research Joe had for him, we asked him to join us in our casual ribs and slaw dinner. It was a fun meal and I don't think that the boys realized that someone who looked as young as Lee did could be a police chief, but as Lee said, he had the badge and the chief car to prove it.

It was great to be sharing time with these guys who had, for the most part, spent all their adult lives in this town and some of the history and the stories were extremely funny and had us all in stitches for most of the meal. Lee let the twins' paw through his patrol car for a while after dinner and answered their million questions as he sat in a lawn chair next to Joe's and they held hands through the boys' interrogation. After the twins went in the house to listen to Julian's practice on his clarinet Lee asked how we became the parents of three great boys and we told him about how we were left custody of the twins and how Julian had come to us. He had tears in his eyes when Sam and I were finished with our reconstruction of the tragic events that had allowed us to father the three boys, but he said if I ever wanted to move here permanently there would be a position on his force for me, should I want it.

We had a relaxed Sunday, sitting around and occasionally joining the boys in the pool, tossing them around toward the deep end where Stu was diligently keeping an eye on their landings sometimes catching the younger ones and throwing them back at Sam and me. Rico was quite the figure in his little Speedo swimsuit. I wondered how he kept all of his big cock and full scrotum packed in that little suit and Sam whispered to me that he was wondering the same thing. Just around 3 in the afternoon Joe called over the fence and asked if we had room for two more and when we told him to come on over, that's exactly what they did, they both vaulted over the fence and landed gracefully and held hands as they walked across the yard and came into the fenced pool area. Two sleek and highly toned males, muscles rippling and soon all wet as they joined in the fun in the pool. Sam and I took the opportunity to escape into our bedroom for a half hour or so, enjoying the alone time.

It started with paying a lot of attention to our chests, each of us being hard-wired to our nipples, and man it was sometimes a temptation to stay on them, but this afternoon we ended up in a 69 that left us both drained and very satisfied. We did a quick rinse off in the shower and put our swimsuits back on and returned to the pool. We had plenty of hamburger, so we offered to grill cheeseburgers for a cookout dinner, so Stu hopped out of the pool and began to get the leftover Coleslaw and a green salad ready to be served and Julian went to get the paper plates and plastic cups for the big table. The table was big enough for the nine of us with room to spare and it was another evening with a lot of stories swapped back and forth.

Monday morning, we decided to take the boys off the property for their own safety, and so the workers wouldn't be hampered by having the kids running around, especially as the twins were constantly asking them questions. The pool cover guys had stopped the setup once before I could corral them and then we decided to take them off property, we decided to take the small SUV that Stu loaned us for a ride to North Roosevelt Blvd., the big shopping strip on the gulf side of the island. There was a Home Depot, a KMART, and just about everything in between. We stopped at the three big car dealers and shopped for a vehicle we'd be comfortable having down here at the property so we didn't have to borrow or rent one every time we visited, and we found a mid-sized KIA Soul at one of the dealers we liked the feel of and it would hold all of us and then some, although it could be tight if we had company so we looked around some of the other dealers and found a new Chevy Tahoe that had folding seating so the back could seat 6, 4, or 2 comfortably and still have space for a lot of shopping. It was just a little longer than what I was used to, but for Sam, it was smaller than either the ambulance or the rescue vehicles he was used to. He assured me I'd be fine in it, so we paid for it and told them we would pick it up in a few hours as we still wanted to do more shopping.

We did do some grocery shopping, but we avoided the deli section, so we'd have an excuse to go see Sharon again. We stopped in at Home Depot and picked out some plants for the foundation beds around the front of the house and some hand grip bars for our shower, so we had something to grab onto if we got rambunctious while showering together. We stopped at Kmart and bought a cooler for the car and went to a gas station for a bag of ice to put the very few cold items in we had picked up at the grocery store, because I thought we'd use up another hour before returning home so we then drove to show Julian the other side, the So. Roosevelt side where we had done some Parasailing over the water and we stopped for some ice cream cones and sat on the seawall eating them and watching the Atlantic side beach and the people on it.

I then drove us back to the car dealership and Sam and I signed the final paperwork and Sam drove the new vehicle back to the house as the boys and I followed behind. It wasn't that far, in fact, nothing was that far here on the island, it was only about 2 miles by 4 miles and our only concern was the amount of vehicles parked along both sides of the road, thank goodness we had a lot of off street parking on our lot. When we pulled in it looked like both our projects were finished, but as we started to unload our grocery shopping, we noticed that both contractors were over by the pool, so we bustled in and deposited the cooler and the dry goods in the kitchen and went out to talk to the two installers.

First was the pool cover man and he presented six keys to us as we looked at the closed cover on the pool. He showed us how to use the key to start the motor that would retract the cover and to reverse it and close the cover. He said they had encountered no problems and I cut him a check for the balance due as we thanked him for the speedy installation and the very neat job he had completed.

The storm shutter installer had only the sliding patio door on the back of the house to finish tomorrow morning, but as he had stated, having his entire crew here today had gotten 99% of the job completed and he just wanted us to know how to operate the sliding shutters and to know how to lock them in place, either opened or closed. It was a pretty easy operation as the accordion pleated metal sliders slid in tracks installed on both the top and bottom of each opening, each opening having a right side and a left side and a locking mechanism to connect them in the middle to secure them in place, when opened they looked like wide molding on each side of the windows. He told us he would be back in the morning to install the shutters on the big slider off the weight room and we bid him a good night and we'd see him in the morning.

When Rico and Stu got home, we showed them how to operate the pool cover and the hurricane shutters and we turned over the keys to them, as they were here the most. Rico had made tags for them and then hung them on a key rack he had installed on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door, where extra keys for the sheds and gate already hung. Stu suggested we all go out to eat tonight as there was a really good Chinese restaurant almost across the street from the grocery store and that we let he and Rico treat us to dinner tonight. We gladly accepted, as we hadn't been able to start any dinner what with learning how to operate the pool cover and the shutters, so after everyone had a chance to clean up we strolled down to the China Garden for dinner.

Over dinner, Rico showed us his drawings of what he had been talking about having done to the carport to make it an enclosed garage and the drawings looked really good. Because of the column in the middle of the front, he had made his drawings to show two roll-up doors in front instead of one big one two bays wide. It actually looked better that way too. He said he had costed out materials and estimated labor costs and showed us the figures. It was way less than we had guesstimated, and he told us that that figure didn't reflect a local's discount or a Sharon discount, so the final price could be less. He explained that there would have to be a building permit pulled, but the contractor would have to do that and arrange for the inspections also. They had a good look at our new vehicle when we returned home after a stroll down part of Duval Street for fudge and chocolate covered cookies for dessert.

Rico had managed to get a licensed contractor to give an estimate for enclosing the carport before we left, and we had agreed with Rico, that this was going to work out for the best and make for a secure place to stow our vehicles during bad weather. The contractor assured us it would be a two-week job at most and he would take care of any permits required and be there for any inspections. We were home for three weeks and the boys were all in school when we received an email from Stu with photos attached of the newly finished garage. It looked even better than Rico's drawings depicted. Then the shit hit the fan.

It was the week after the completion of the garage project when we began to hear about a new storm streaming across the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma. We began to make daily, and sometimes twice daily calls to Stu and Rico when the storm was predicted to indeed hit parts of the northern coast of Cuba, but then take an almost 90 degree turn right up to the Florida Keys and Key West. We encouraged them to secure what they could, and they told us that by Wednesday that had been done and that Joe and Lee were going to be spending the storm at our house with them. We told them we'd buy them airline tickets to come up to be with us, but they said that everything was well taken care of. They had helped Joe secure Angel's house and worked together on ours, supplies had been purchased and secured in our house, they had plenty of flashlights and water stored and the cars were all stowed in the new garage. We did ask them to make one more purchase, as big a generator as they could find, and put it on the household account. Stu promised to do that and to gather as much gasoline to fuel it as he could get.

He warned us that if the cell towers were downed that we might not hear from them for a week or more as the internet and Wi-Fi was also tied into the services for the cell phones down there and sure enough, just as they were describing the wind impact on Saturday night about 9 PM, our phones were cut off. After two or three days of not hearing anything positive on the news reports, we got a call from the guys. Lee had been being run ragged since before the storm hit and on the recommendation of his staff, Joe drove to the emergency center and convinced him to come to the house for 8 hours to rest and eat, and Lee had a satellite phone and he encouraged Joe and Stu and Rico to contact their families and let them know they were alright and safe.

After assuring their families, they called us and tried to calm us down. They had plenty of fuel for the generator, and after Rico had figured out how to connect and run it, they now had electricity to the house which meant air conditioning, a running fridge, working water pumps which meant running toilets, which over 90% of the neighborhood did not have. We told them to let all the neighbors know that if they brought their own containers they could have as much pool water as they needed, to be able to flush their toilets. The library was closed because of a blown transformer, so the guys told us they had been spending their time clearing both properties of limbs and debris blown in from a certain neighboring property where the owner, a recently retired race car driver, was well known in the neighborhood for not taking care of the wildly overgrown trees on his property and when either he or his guests were using his personal house they partied late to very loud country music. When after five days the power was returned, about 7 hours later the cell phones were restored and a few days later the internet was again functioning in some of the downtown areas. That night we had an email flurry with Stu and Rico answering our questions and sending us pictures of the property before their clean up and after. The mounds of limbs and debris were over ten feet tall and took up about 14 parking spaces out in the street.

The guys told us there were no grocery stores open and they were about to run out of bottled water, the only water safe to drink and cook with. They had been informed that the military was starting to distribute bottled water and MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) at two distribution areas on the island, but that parts of Big Pine and Cudjoe Key were even more devastatingly hit and it would take them years and years to recover. We all had been exceedingly lucky, there were no deaths in Key West reported.

One of Sam's coworkers had a relative on the gulf in Alabama and we arranged with him to hire his cabin cruiser and fill it with five thousand dollar's worth of food and water and as soon as the yacht harbor was cleared of obstacles he took his boat to Key West and in two days was able to call Stu's cell from the docks and Stu, Joe and Rico drove our new SUV to the harbor and received our thank you gift, along with the three thousand in cash we were able to send to them. The food they distributed to neighbors who could not get to the distribution center, but a lot they cooked up and served on the big patio table for people they came across on the street who didn't have the resources to be able to get fresh food for themselves.

All in all, Rico told us, it was a very rewarding experience for the families served, and for Stu and himself, he told us that Stu had proposed one night while Rico was making love to Stu and if we didn't mind, they wanted to be married while standing on the pool cover sometime over the holidays. He said if it was a nice enough day, they would then open the pool for the guests. We told him to go for it, and we would all like to be there if possible, for their big day. He said they would both like that a lot and any of their families attending would be staying at Angel's anyway, as they just didn't need them hovering on their special day.

We couldn't get plane tickets for the time we wanted to take off from work, so we bought into a private jet service that guaranteed flights within 24 hours of flight time requests, and with a few months booking ahead of time we were guaranteed drop off and pick up times. It cost a bit, but we were told by Becca that in three years it would pay for itself. We now knew where we would be spending Christmas and New Year's, as this was to be a two-week vacation since all the boys had that time off from school.

Julian was resettled in school and just after the hurricane, we celebrated his 12th birthday, proudly presenting him with a clarinet tutor from the University's Music Department, for which he was extremely grateful. We let him have several friends over for a cookout as it was still delightful out and we were still able to use the pool and the outdoor cooking facilities. Our new 12-years-old entertained with a number on his clarinet and his buddy from down the street, John, who was in the school band, ran home and returned with his portable electric keyboard and the two of them entertained us all for almost an hour before Sam said the meal was ready and of course being boys the food was more important so Julian and John left their instruments and gathered their friends over to the food area away from the pool.

By the end of the first week in October everything had settled down and Sam and I had put in for our two weeks off in December. Sam had a new class of first responders to drill and I had the usual, small store hold-ups and a couple of gas station robberies. Then I got a puzzler, an embezzlement case. This was one I hadn't experienced before. It was a family run business, a local contractor, his wife the bookkeeper, and the older son who had joined his father's firm as an estimator and company representative when meeting with prospective clients, along with his dad usually. There was a high school boy who did odd jobs about the office and the workroom where they made custom woodwork for some of the jobs they worked on.

The father, Dom (Dominic)and his wife, Janet, had called the station when they realized that about 30 thousand dollars could not be accounted for in their bookkeeping. They had solid evidence the money had been properly recorded when it had been paid into the company either for work completed or for jobs where a deposit was required. There was a total on the accounts receivable pages that didn't jibe with the account's payable pages. Janet couldn't explain the discrepancy, she had wrestled with it for three days before she asked Dom to look over her figures and they even had searched her desk area for some missing receipts or something to explain why their bank balance was so far off. In the meantime, they had issued a check labeled "shortfall" from their personal account to cover the missing money so none of their outgoing checks would bounce. They called for me on the fourth day after they had replaced the missing money from the business accounts.

They seemed a very nice couple and we found out they knew people on our street and that is how they knew about me being a detective on the police force. As I sat there in their business office listening to their explanations of their bookkeeping procedures, I got to meet first the college graduate son, Seth, and then the high school student, Sean, a bit later. One thing struck me right away about the sons, they each showed signs of being "on" something. It didn't appear to be the same thing though, one's eyes were bloodshot, and the pupils dilated, Seth, and the other Sean, had the bloodshot eyes and tremors in his hands, as if he was highly excited and was trying to hide it. They each had work to do in the office, so I motioned for Dom and Janet to go outside with me where the three of us sat on a bench in a small garden area to the side of their work building. I told them that I had some suspicions, but I wasn't going into it right now, that I'd take the offered copies of their ledgers and have the forensics department go over them just to make sure none of us missed anything. They agreed to that and to not tell ANYBODY what my real reason for being here today was all about, let their sons think I was asking about an addition to my house or something, but do not tell anyone they'd called in the police.

As I suspected, there was nothing wrong with Janet's bookkeeping, but I just couldn't help but thinking that one or both of the sons were involved.

Comments, suggestions, and even criticizms appreciated at Art West