By Robin Story
Woody pulled into the parking lot of the Sloop Harbor Police Station just as the sky blackened with storm clouds.
“Well, no ‘sunset cruise’ for you, kid. “ she thought. She was having second thoughts about the whole thing, anyway – “What, are you crazy? Going out on a boat with a perfect stranger, and right after two unexplained deaths in that spot…Jeez, Woody, you are not THAT desperate!” She would run down to the marina and let who? Oh yeah…Booth…know that she wouldn’t be cruising or anything else that night…but she thought she’d still keep the door open…maybe she was a little desperate and he was kind of cute.
The police department was located in a building that had been a bank when Sloop Harbor had its first big boom. Now the modern, cookie cutter banks were moved out to the busy thoroughfares away from the quaint old downtown. Probably the police department got the crumbling brick building for little or nothing and they had to “make do.”
This was Woody’s second visit to the police department – the first involving an unfortunate incident of being in a hurry and not looking carefully before backing up…well, water over the bridge now…
“I’m here to see Mr. Starboard,” she said – rather more loudly than normal since the female officer sat behind a (bulletproof?) window.
“Do you mean LIEUTENANT Starboard?” the officer answered, giving Woody that look normally reserved for dirtbags.
“Oh, sorry… yes, sir…I mean ma’am – right, LIEUTENANT Starboard. Is he in?”
As if by magic – had he been peeking? – Lt. Johnny Starboard burst out through a very secure looking door on one side of the lobby.
“Ms. Kapok!” he boomed. “Right this way…thanks for stopping in.” He held the door open and then opened the door of a small room and motioned for her to sit in a spartan chair at a spartan table. The small room was bare, smelled of coffee, and had a vague aroma of body odor. One wall had a large mirror, and as she checked her hair, she reminded herself to get a haircut SOON.
Lt. Starboard, still standing, picked up a clipboard from a small table in the corner.
“Can I get you something? Coffee?” he asked in such a perfunctory way, that Woody quickly shook her head.
“Do you mind if I put on the recorder? It’s easier than taking notes and my handwriting is so bad I can’t even read it myself…” he flashed a smile and gave her a wink. Again Woody shook her head. He pushed a button on a small machine on the table and then sat down.
“Your full name is Matilda Kapok, correct?” he asked, while glancing at the top sheet of paper.
Woody made the grimace she had made hundreds of times in her life when she heard her legal name spoken out loud.
“It was one of those obligatory relative names,” she sputtered, knowing full well that Lt. Starboard couldn’t care less. “Luckily my last name was Woods, so I’ve been Woody practically since birth. Please call me Woody.”
Johnny revised his interview plan right then and there. This woman would require direct questions or he’d hear a lot more than he cared about. She was one of those women who loved to talk.
“Ok, Woody… now I just have a couple follow-up questions to our interview, so this won’t take long. I’m sure we both have things to do. These boats of yours…are they all powered by wind?
Woody caught the not-so-disguised hint and answered, “Yes, that’s right.”
“What happens if the wind dies down? How do you get back to shore?”
“Our sails are pretty big so we can generally get back - but maybe slowly. We do always have a motorboat out with us and they can tow a boat that has a problem. “ Woody suddenly thought - “Hey, that’s no mirror – that’s one of those two way things – someone might be over there watching me!” Subconsciously, she sat up straighter and smoothed back her hair.
“So, no one carries an oar or paddle to get back?” Lt. Starboard continued.
Woody brightened. “There really isn’t room in our boats for a regular paddle. But I just got the cutest little paddle that fits in the waterproof hold in the front of the boat. I was just showing it to the others last week. You see, my birthday was last week and Cleat – he owns the Sunny Sailor boat shop – he gave me this special little paddle - that was so nice…. It kind of fits over your arm and you grab a little bar – it really works if you need to get back to shore and the wind dies. It’s small but works pretty well. No one else had ever seen one. It’s bright orange and it floats, so it would be easy to retrieve if I dropped it. I put my name on it, too.” Woody could have gone on and on about the little paddle, but she sensed that was all he wanted to hear.
“When did you see your paddle last?” asked the lieutenant, his eyes suddenly hard.
“I guess it would have been last week, since I didn’t have a chance to get it out before Flora plowed into me.” Woody frowned, but then immediately thought of poor Flora and tried to turn the frown into a concerned look. She was beginning to feel a bit uneasy.
“Excuse me for a minute, Ms. Kapok…” He got up and stepped out into the hall. Woody stared at the mirror…what the heck was going on?
Woody checked the time, her fingernails, and then noticed the hum of the tape recorder on the little table. She was tempted to sing a bit of “Bad boyz, bad boyz, whatcha gonna do?” but thought better of it. She had just pulled out a piece of paper to write a grocery list, when the door opened suddenly and Lt. Starboard stood holding her orange paddle. It was inside a plastic bag, but she could plainly see “Woody” lettered on the side of it. She also noticed some gloppy stuff on the end of it.
“Matilda Woods Kapok, you have the right to remain silent….”