Harry stared at the watch for a few seconds trying to figure out his next move. Orville had left this up to him assuming he discovered what this new evidence was. He knew he had to make a quick decision as Kennedy could arrive at any moment and explaining why they had damaged the wall would be impossible to explain without having the police called. But what to do now? The blood on the watch would need to be tested, if it was not too degraded that was, and if possible getting a DNA analysis as well. The blood would not be definitive but if by any chance Finley was in the criminal system he might have a DNA profile on record and that would be. He had to get the watch in to the proper hands for this, but there was zero chance he was going to get the police over here to break apart the wall again as he had just done. Even with his vivid imagination, Harry could not begin to come up with some justification for that.
With no other options coming to him at the moment, he slipped the watch into a plastic evidence bag he had brought and dropped the sealed bag into his pocket. He could at least get it out of the apartment for now and then figure out later how he could get it to a good lab and create some story so that if his suspicion on the owner of the watch was true the legal system would get interested. From behind him, though, Barb whispered in his direction.
“Better wrap it up, Harry. I hear footsteps on the stairs.”
He nodded and quickly replaced the dislodged panels as best he could making sure that only a very close inspection of the area would reveal that it had been disturbed lately. Harry then checked around for any debris or dust that might have gotten left on the floor and when he was satisfied that he had covered his tracks he walked to the living room and joined Barb. They were wandering around the room aimlessly as if they were still looking over the vacant apartment when Kennedy knocked softly on the door before coming in.
“Sorry it took me so long,” He began, “that leak was a bit more serious than the last time I sealed it. Looks like I may have to get a plumber in here after all.”
“No problem, Sid,” Harry replied. “It gave us time to really look the place over.”
“So what do you think?”
“Honey?” Harry asked, looking at Barb with raised eyebrows.
“Well, Sid,” Barb said, “it’s a nice unit and all but it just is not quite what were looking for I guess.”
Kennedy felt his hopes for some relief on his mortgage obligations fall.
“Oh? That’s too bad. Too small or is it something else? Maybe something I can change for you?”
Barb was relieved at this offer since she was not quite sure what to say as to why they were not interested. But Kennedy had given her a built-in reply.
“No, Sid…nothing you could do I am afraid. It’s just a bit too small for us I think. Sorry.”
“I see. No problem. My last tenant was a single man so I get the space issue. Let me walk you out.”
Harry and Barb returned to the car and drove off a few blocks before Harry pulled over in case Kennedy might see them talking and get possibly get curious.
“So?” Barb asked.
Harry held up the bag containing the watch and smiled.
“Yeah…it’s a watch. So what?”
Harry spent a few minutes explaining the engraving on the back and that it looked as if there was some blood along the edges of it.
“So, you’re thinking maybe it came off when Finley planted the murder weapon in that hole? And that he maybe cut himself in the process?”
“Seems likely. But I will not know anything for sure until I can get the blood tested and a DNA panel run. And then we have to hope Finley has some sort of rap sheet serious enough to have been required to submit a DNA sample and see if there is a match.”
“And how exactly do you plan on explaining the discovery of the watch in the first place? Not like you can just say you found it in the wall of the apartment.”
“Yeah, I know. If this comes back with a match, then I’ll figure something out. But from what I have so far I think I had better give this some serious thought. I would be shocked if there is not a match.”
“Does Finley have a criminal record that you know of?”
“He does. As does his partner, Thomas Robertson. They both got arrested a couple years ago for some other B&E charges, but I have no idea if they got swabbed for DNA at the time. From my investigation prior to the trial, I know they were arrested but not held due to lack of solid evidence, but maybe their DNA got into the system anyway.”
“We can only hope. You know of someone for testing?”
“I do. I have a good friend in a forensic lab that the police use for overflow work who owes me a favor. I am sure I can get her to rush this through without the normal multi-month waiting period that DNA testing often takes.”
“Time to fill Orville in yet?”
“I’d rather wait until I get the lab results back before getting his hopes up. Please just keep this between us for now, OK?”
“Anything for my beloved…” Barb replied in a way over-the-top southern drawl as she batted her eyelashes at him.
Harry laughed as he pulled up to the bookstore to drop her off.
“Thanks again, Barb. Couldn’t have done this without your help.”
“My pleasure, Harry. Let me know as soon as you know?”
“You bet, Keep your fingers crossed.”
She waved to him as he drove off praying she had been a vital part in getting her boss’s name cleared and out of jail.
Harry drove immediately to Pinehurst Forensics after calling Victoria Wells, the director of the lab, and a good friend of his for many years. He had met Vicky when they were both just in their 20’s, she fresh out of an undergraduate program in medical sciences at the University of Tennessee and him having been excepted to law school at Vanderbilt. For both of them their ambitions for life were high, though neither had ended up where they thought they each might be. In Vicky’s case, she had bounced around in various university and then private research facilities but just could not find her niche. The university setting was too political and too dependent on kissing the right professor’s ass for advancement to her taste, while the private research field ended up being way too volatile and financially unstable for her liking.
After the third biotech start-up she signed on with went belly up she had had enough. The field itself was tenuous and unpredictable by nature and though the combination of risk and reward had been enticing and exhilarating when she was younger, she soon lost her zeal for the crap shoot. As she moved into her thirties, Vicky was no longer so enamored of it all and took a generous buyout of the last one as she had been around long enough by that point to see the walls crumbling. Many of her colleagues held out seeing a payoff that Vicky had a feeling was just a pipe dream, and while many of them were headed to the unemployment office when the firm finally collapsed, she had found her true calling.
For a few years, Vicky had been keeping her eyes on the rapidly growing need for forensic screening labs, and through a detective friend of hers she caught wind of how the city forensic lab was constantly behind and had requests piled high that they could not keep up with. With this in mind, and using her contacts through this detective, Vicky took a short coursework program in forensic science and used her buyout from the last gig plus a small personal loan to found Pinehurst Forensics. It was a bit of a struggle in the early days, as was most any new scientific facility, but soon the Laconia police as well as few other nearby law agencies began to come to her on a regular basis when a more expedient result was needed than the county or state lab could promise.
She was not making millions like some of the other private biotech entrepreneurs around were—or at least claimed they were—but she was running a very profitable and well-respected organization. In the last year, in fact, her name and reputation had become so ingrained in the minds and hearts of local police that she was even taking calls from Tennessee State detectives and even an occasional bit of work from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). This along with being called to court to testify on the results her lab was providing kept her hopping.
In Harry’s case, it was a similar change of career paths but a bit more out of necessity than choice. Harry had begun law school at Vanderbilt with high hopes and dreams, but after his first year he was not so sure anymore. All that was required to get through law school was beginning to wear on him after just the first year. He could not imagine staying on this track to finish up. Harry was more of a doer than a researcher and a student stuck in a classroom. And during the summer between his first and second years, he just pulled the plug. The thought of going back for another year of that drudgery and a paper chase made him feel ill. But like many, Harry had never really had a plan B in mind when he began law school.
But as also often happens in life, circumstances arrive that are perfectly timed. Harry’s father was a retired cop and took on some private investigation work after his 20-year stint with the police. He was no longer willing to put his life on the line as he had when younger and he took his pension and ran. But retirement was not sitting well with the elder Doyle and he got licensed as a PI. Harry had watched this transition from afar with curiosity, but not giving it much thought with his eyes set on a law degree. He did, however, talk with his father from time to time about cases he had been hired to help with and Harry had to admit it was intriguing and curious to be around and even exciting and thrilling on occasion.
During the summer of his final decision to not return to law school, Harry was at loose ends. He had an undergraduate degree in sociology and history but had absolutely no interest in trying to use either of those to support himself with. His disenchantment with law school led him to a discussion with his father one night and out of the blue Sam Doyle asked if Harry might be interested in coming on board with him. Harry was initially hesitant, but the more he thought about his situation and what he had observed his father doing since setting up his own PI practice, the more he just said, “why the hell not?” He figured it would still give him a taste of the legal system he had been drawn to in the first place and his father sure seemed to like it.
“Like when I was a cop, but without the hierarchy and BS…” Sam Doyle told him.
Harry laughed but not that hard. He went ahead and joined up with his father more on a lark then anything else but before he knew it, much like Vicky Wells, he had found his niche as well. He eventually got his license and he and his father worked side by side on cases until Sam had an unexpected stroke one day while in the field. Harry and Sam had never been that close when Harry was growing up, finding little in common to create a strong father/son bond that many of Harry’s peers enjoyed. But after he came on board and began the PI work in tandem with Sam, that all changed. Harry developed a great respect and admiration for this man he had never been able to understand or communicate with as a teenager and young man.
His sudden death was a crushing blow to Harry who felt he was just beginning to experience what he had been missing all those years when he and Sam seemed to be almost strangers living under the same roof. He supposed he could have shuttered the doors to the practice following Sam’s death, but the whole PI gig had gotten into his blood. He was hooked. And following his mourning of Sam, Harry threw himself into the practice with a vengeance. Like Vicky, Harry’s name began to circulate widely and he was soon busy—not overwhelmed with work by any means—but always something on his plate it seemed.
The one thing that Harry detested about the business was getting new clients. He hated trying to market and promote himself, but likewise he also hated sitting back and waiting on new work to come to him by word-of-mouth or a referral. And when Alberto Winter came calling one day, Harry went a new route and never looked back. Winter was an ambitious and motivated young defense attorney that Harry knew of peripherally. Harry did not limit himself to one side of the other of the courtroom in taking on clients, but when Winter offered him an opportunity to be his sole PI it relieved Harry of most of what kept him up nights as a PI.
Winter’s practice was growing exponentially, it seemed, and the offer he made to Harry was generous to say the least. Harry was sure initially that it was just one of his buddies pranking him when Winter called, but when he found out it was indeed for real he jumped at it. No more advertising, no more financial troughs and crests when he was either slim on clients or brimming with them, and no more sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or a new case to come into the office. He would be exclusive to Winter. That was the attorney’s only stipulation. No outside freelancing. And it was likely he might be called at inconvenient hours and any day of the week for work. But the compensation that Alberto was offering made up for all that, Harry figured.
After calling around and seeing what lawyers, cops, and even a judge or two that he knew thought of Alberto Winter, Harry accepted and he and Alberto had been a well-oiled team ever since. As Harry was driving the watch over to Vicky’s lab, he guessed that Alberto could call him on this being technically outside the purview of his exclusivity agreement. But seeing as how this related to Sarah Holding, he figured Alberto would not mind. He pulled into the parking lot and asked the receptionist to let Vicky know he was here.
He looked up and spied her familiar form coming his way smiling as she always did…if Vicky Wells ever had an off day or one where she was down, Harry had yet to see it. He waved as she opened the door that led down the hallway from the reception foyer.
“How have you been, Harry?” she asked as they walked.
“Never better! So…you finally cashing in that chit I owe you for the Anderson abduction?”
“Always right to the point, huh, Vicky?”
“One of my many character flaws I am afraid.”
Harry laughed with her as she led him into her office and they sat.
“What do you got Harry?”
“You familiar with the Sarah Holding trial that just wrapped up?”
“Of course. I cannot imagine there is anyone in Laconia these days who is not. I still cannot believe it.”
“Do you know Sarah?”
“Just to say hello on the street.”
“What would you say if I told you it was all a frame up?”
“Oh? And I assume whatever it is you have brought me is part of proving that?”
Harry spent a few minutes explaining his reservations as to the validity of the testimony of Finley and Robertson. He then went on to say her analysis of blood and a DNA panel might make that skepticism more solid.
“And get Sarah Holding’s verdict overturned?”
Harry just smiled.
“OK, Harry. This is too intriguing to pass up. I am guessing you need the results ASAP?”
“Yesterday would be good.”
“It’s just that Sarah is sitting in jail now awaiting sentencing and I’d like to get an answer here before that happens or even worse before something happens to her in jail.”
“I get it. Let’s see…I can’t do yesterday, but how about day after tomorrow?”
“You’re the king…I mean queen, Vicky!”
“Ah…still the same silver-tongued devil, I see…”
He laughed and shook her hand as she took the bag with the watch and told him she would call as soon as she had something.