Rhonda sat in a chair behind a computer monitor in the managers’ office at the Massage Soleil Spa at the St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Gary leaned over her shoulder to get a good look at the surveillance footage they were reviewing to try and find clues about Blake Adams’ disappearance and murder. Gary took in a deep breath to enjoy how pleasant and fragrant Rhonda’s skin smelled. As a country boy, he recognized the scent immediately. It was sunflowers. Issy Myake was Rhonda favorite perfume, and Gary loved the way Chinese clothing designer’s signature floral fragrance smelled on her. He resisted the urge to drift off into a daydream where he could fantasize about making sweet love to Rhonda after a picnic in a flowery meadow on a warm spring day. They had a job to do. Gary tried hard to stay focused on the task at hand. It didn’t take long for them to find surveillance footage from the day Blake arrived in Jacksonville and came to the spa for at the St. Johns Town Center for a nice morning massage.
“That looks like him walking in the front entrance right there,” Gary pointed at the screen.
“Yes, that’s him for sure,” Rhonda said, “and it looks like he’s talking to someone.”
“Look there,” Gary pointed again. “He’s wearing a blue tooth ear piece. He’s probably talking to someone on the phone. Try to turn up the audio on this footage, Banks.”
“Let me see. Here we go right here,” Rhonda said as she turned up the volume all the way.
“Ugh dammit,” Gary grunted. “I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. Can you?”
“No, I can’t hear either, Black, unfortunately,” Rhonda stated. “The best we can do is save this video on a flash drive and send it to the field office here in town to see if they can enhance the audio.”
“If my memory serves me correct, the FBI field office in Jacksonville ain’t that far from here of J. Turner Butler Blvd,” Gary recalled. “Let’s go ahead and keep watching to see what else we may be able to find out about his visit to this place.”
“Good idea,” Rhonda agreed. “Hmmm. I’m not noticing anything out of the ordinary so far.”
“Neither am I,” Gary said. “Looks like he’s alone. There he is walking up to the counter to confirm his appointment.”
“And here comes the masseuse to escort him back to the private room to get his massage,” Rhonda noted.
“Yup, and there are no cameras in the private massage rooms,” Gary pointed out.
Rhonda sighed and said, “Yeah. Let’s just fast forward to when he’s leaving to see if there’s anything else useful on this footage.”
“There he is again leaving. Looks like he’s still alone. That’s all we got, huh?” Gary asked his partner.
“Yes, our best bet is to save this footage to send to the techs in the lab to see if they can clean up the audio.” Rhonda said.
“We should also ask Jerry which one of his employees gave Blake his massage that day,” Gary suggested.”
“Of course,” Rhonda agreed. “Masseuses are a lot like barbers or hairdressers sometimes. Their clients will confide in them. We need to find out what, if anything, Blake talked about that day while he got his massage.”
Jerry had decided to take a quick smoke break to calm his nerves after he gave the FBI access to the company’s surveillance footage. He had really dodged a bullet on that one, and it really was a close call for him. He planted his secret cameras so long ago and hoped he would be able to avoid detection for a long time. The risk of jail time or losing his job did not override his overwhelming obsession with being a peeping Tom. He sat in his car and sparked up a Marlboro Ultra Light cigarette. Jerry took a long drag and exhaled the smoke slowly. Then he reached back to his back seat to retrieve his laptop. He powered it on. Special Agent Banks and Special Agent Black had no idea that one of Jerry’s secret cameras was planted in the very room that Blake got his massage in on that fateful day when he came to Massage Soleil Spa. Now Jerry was himself curious to see what might have happened in that room that day, so he perused his video files to find the secret footage from that room on that particular day. The microphones on Jerry’s planted cameras were more advanced than those on the regular surveillance cameras throughout the spa, so he could not only watch what was happening, but he could hear very clearly what was being discussed. Jerry watched Blake undress before Tim, one of his best employees, entered the room to commence with the massage. Jerry didn’t really see or hear anything in the video that was out of the ordinary. Tim was polite and cordial with Blake, just like he was with all of his clients. Blake engaged Tim with typical small talk. Blake told Tim he had just arrived in town to watch the football game and that he had managed to sneak in an early morning workout at a local Planet Fitness gym because he had a membership there. Then he a had a minor fender bender in the drive-thru at Chic-Fil-A with some women who as on her cell phone and not paying attention. Most of the videos Jerry secretly filmed were mundane like this one, and they were too boring to keep a grip on his short attention span. However, Jerry was not an idiot. It suddenly dawned on him that Special Agent Banks and Special Agent Black may want to interview Tim about his interactions with Blake that morning. Jerry quickly closed his laptop and put it back on his back seat. He hastened back inside in time to meet Rhonda and Gary who were waiting for him at the front desk.
Just as Jerry predicted, Rhonda asked him, “Mr. Curry can you tell us which one of your employees gave Blake his massage?”
Because of his secret footage Jerry already knew who it was, but to cover his ass he said, “I’ll need to check our records from that day to tell you who gave Blake Adams his massage.” Jerry walked behind the counter and retrieved a large notebook. He quickly flipped through the pages and then pointed at one randomly and said, “Aha! Here it is. Looks like Tim serviced Blake that day. He is working here today. Would you like to speak with him?”
“Yes, please,” Gary requested.
“That won’t be a problem at all. You’ll just have to wait for a moment because Tim is with a client right now.”
“That’s fine,” Rhonda stated. “We don’t mind waiting.”
“While we’re waiting would you kind if we ask you a few questions?” Gary asked.
Jerry gulped and said, “No, I wouldn’t mind at all.”
“So were you at work on September 7th, the day Blake came to get a massage?” Gary questioned.
“I believe so, yes,” Jerry answered. “I work every Sunday.”
“Well, did you see Blake Adams on that day as you recall?” Gary asked.
“Typically I’m in the office filling out paperwork. My assistant manager Kenny Garretson mans the front counter when I cannot,” Jerry explained.
“Well, okay,” Rhonda said. “May we speak with Mr. Garretson?”
“Kenny is actually off today, but I can give you his card, and you can call him on his cell phone,” Jerry said as reached under the counter again and gave the FBI agents Kenny’s business card.
“Yes, we appreciate this,” Rhonda thanked Jerry.
“It’s no problem at all really. Tim will be with his client for a little while longer. Would you two like to have a quick complimentary massage on the house from a couple of my top masseuses while you wait to pass the time,” Jerry asked them.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Rhonda said reluctantly.
“Come on, Banks,” Gary tried to convince his partner. “That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. I body slammed a perp a couple weeks ago and have had this kink in my neck I can’t get rid of ever since that happened. A free massage may really hit the spot.”
“Well, alright,” Rhonda conceded. “If you insist, as long as our boss doesn’t find out about this, we should be fine.”
“Good. Take these robes and go help yourselves to our dressing rooms to change. I’ll summon a couple of my employees who have some downtime right now and make sure they treat you right,” Jerry said.
Jerry could hardly contain his giddiness as he handed Special Agent Banks and Special Agent Black their robes. He had one thing on his mind. He wanted to find a couple of his employees to cater to the FBI agents while he scurried back to his car to watch a live feed from the cameras he had secretly planted in the spa’s locker rooms. Jerry imagined what Rhonda and Gary would look like naked when they first walked in. Now he had an opportunity to find out, and he was stoked about it. So while Jerry got his perv on in his car with his laptop watching the FBI agents change in the locker rooms via his hidden cameras, Tim was catering to Cynthia, one of his best regular clients, with a sensual massage. Cynthia moaned lightly while Tim’s strong hands and grip rubbed her tensions away. She had a lot on her mind, but this massage was a nice escape from some of those stressors that recently started recurring in her normally carefree life. It wasn’t just the fender bender she had with Ben earlier. That unlucky occurrence was considered by her to be a blessing in disguise and a curse since it led to a chance encounter with a handsome young man she was so attracted to that it rekindled certain hazardous yearnings she hadn’t felt in a long time. Cynthia spent a long time coping with those temptations during the Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings she used to go to all those years ago where she met Jerry.
Now Cynthia’s eyes were closed. She squirmed a little as sensations of pleasure started to surge through her body. Cynthia was getting aroused and Tim could sense that as he rubbed his hands all over her supple body during the massage. Her smooth skin and body was completely exposed to him other than a small white towel that was placed across her plump rump. Tim placed his hands firmly at the small off Cynthia’s back and squeezed near her spine. Cynthia let out another soft moan. Tim cleared his throat and slid his hands slowly down lower to the backs of her hips at the top of her buttocks. Cynthia moaned again. Tim wanted to be cautious, but this was not his first rodeo. Things could get hot and heavy during massages sometimes, and Tim was not ashamed at all of the fact that situations like this often led to some pretty passionate, lustful, and intimate no-strings-attached encounters in the massage room with some of his more free-willed and promiscuous female clients. Tim knew he had to be cautious. Discretion was always the key in situations like this. Typically he tried to avoid situations like this and would opt to just keep his own arousal in check long enough to complete the massage. Then he would give his client a card and suggest coming to their home where he could give them a private massage without the risk of losing his job if things got a little to risqué. This time, however, he wasn’t sure if he could resist. Cynthia was an older woman, but her body was immaculate. Her breast were so ample as they spilled over the edge of the massage table. She was in great shape. He wanted to explore every curve and treat her body like a wonder land. Cynthia was not resisting at all as things progressively got more provocative during the massage. The moaning. The squirming. Cynthia’s breathing became labored, and Tim’s did too. They both were mutually approaching that pinnacle of arousal that was near the point of no return. Tim made his mind up. It was now or never. He leaned down and kissed the nape of Cynthia’s neck softly.
“Yes, Timothy, yes” Cynthia whispered seductively. “Just like that.”
Cynthia pulled off her towel to expose her nude body to Tim. It was quiet a view from behind. That was the green light Tim needed. He didn’t waste any time, and removed his pants and shirt so they were both now nude. He intended on giving Cynthia what she wanted and all she could handle. First he just slid his left index finger inside of Cynthia before he slowly slid all of himself inside of her. The love making started off slowly and sensually. Then it started to intensify as the two of them fell deeper into the thralls of passion. It was difficult for both of them to remain quite enough as not to alert anyone else inside the Massage Soleil Spa. They were being naughty, but it felt so good. The speed of Tim’s pelvic thrusts increased as he approached his climax. He could tell Cynthia had climaxed a couple of times already. He wanted her to orgasm one more time before he himself did, and one long moan that came from Cynthia right before Tim came was a hint that he had succeeded.
“Aaaaaaah,” Tim exhaled a long sigh.
“That was absolutely wonderful, Timothy,” Cynthia complimented.
“Wooo, that was fun,” Tim said.
Cynthia stood up and draped herself in her robe. She handed Tim a crisp one hundred dollar bill as a tip before she left the room to go to the locker room and change back into her clothes. Tim grinned as he slid back into his own clothes and put the money in his pocket. He noticed that Cynthia had also included one of her business cards inside the folded bill. The large tip made Tim feel a little like a gigolo, but he felt neither ashamed nor degraded by this. He was quite content with how that intimate encounter with an affluent older woman went. He’d always joke with his friends at the bar about how he needed a sugar momma. Now he might have found one and that tickled him to death. After performing the routine sanitation tasks in the massage room, Tim made his way back to the front counter where Rhonda and Gary were waiting for him.
They flashed their badges, and Rhonda said, “I’m Special Agent Banks, and this is Special Agent Black. We are with the FBI.”
“Oh shit,” Tim let that obscenity slip.
“Don’t be alarmed, we just need to ask you a few questions about a client you saw last Sunday morning,” Gary said.
“Oh okay,” Tim was relieved. “Who might that be?”
“Do you recognize this man?” Rhonda showed Tim a picture of Blake Adams on her cell phone.
“Yeah, that guy,” Tim remembered. “I remember giving him a massage Sunday morning. He was into politics or something as I recall.”
“That’s right,” Gary said. “He’s Blake Adams, the son of Senator Bill Adams from Miami, and he’s been murdered.”
“Holy shit,” Tim cursed again. “I definitely didn’t kill him.”
“We know that. You are not a suspect,” Rhonda assured him. “However, this spa was one of the first places he came the day before he disappeared. We are trying to retrace his steps to find some clues about his disappearance and murder.”
“Right, how can I help?” Tim asked.
“Did Blake talk to you at all about what he had planned while he was in town, or anyone he was going to visit during his time in Jacksonville?” Gary questioned.
“Let me think,” Tim paused. “He said something about skybox seats for the Jaguars game.”
“We already know about that. Did he talk to you about anything else?” Rhonda asked.
“Ah, hmmm….,” Tim thought hard. “He said something about a minor a fender bender he got into while he was in the Chic-Fil-A drive-thru for breakfast before he came here. Some lady was on her cell phone and rode right into the back of him while he was waiting in the drive-thru line”
“That’s good info,” Gary said. “Now, did he say anything about that incident?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact he did,” Tim said. “He said the lady that crashed into him was very polite, very well spoken, but insisted that they not call to report the minor accident for some reason. She pulled some cash out of her purse to pay for the damage, but Blake refused and instead suggested maybe she could just buy him lunch later, and just call it even at that. He said they set up a lunch date at a restaurant at the beach.”
“Where were they supposed to meet? Which restaurant? Do you remember?” Gary asked.
“I don’t really remember. All I know is he said something about wanting to get some seafood somewhere at a restaurant at the beach,” Tim told them.
“Did he give you a description of this woman? What kind of car was she driving?” Rhonda asked.
“He said she was obviously well off and fairly attractive and in good shape for an older lady. He called her a cougar,” Tim told the FBI agents. “I don’t really remember what else he said about her, but he did say she was very flirtatious and felt that they hit it off which is why they had planned to meet each other for lunch later.”
“Is that all?” Rhonda inquired.
“Yeah, that’s all I can remember. I’m so sorry,” Tim apologized.
“Don’t be sorry, you did fine, and we appreciate your assistance,” Rhonda said.
“Yeah, my partner is right. Thanks, buddy,” Gary said. “Take my card and call me if you remember anything else. What you told us so far will definitely be of great help in this investigation.”
“No problem,” Tim said.
Rhonda and Gary left spa and made their way to their Crown Victoria. They both were jotting down details in their notebooks while they were talking to Tim about the case. Now was when they took the time to just sit in the parking lot and compare their notes.
“So, what’s our next step, Banks?” Gary asked.
“Well, obviously the woman that Blake met in the drive-thru after that fender bender is a person of interest,” Rhonda stated. “We should continue working to reconstruct the timeline that led up to his disappearance. The only thing we knew before was that he came to town to watch a football game and then went to Daytona to party afterward. Then he disappeared and turned up dead in a field in Middleburg which was obviously just a dump site. All we have confirmed other than that so far is that he landed in Jacksonville, went to breakfast, then got a massage before meeting this mystery woman for lunch at the beach.”
“And we haven’t gotten any leads yet on Blake’s missing vehicle, have we?” Gary asked.
“None at all actually. It can be anywhere from here to Middleburg or even Daytona,” Rhonda said.
“We need to track that car down. I get the feeling that if we find the car we may be able to find the scene of the crime where he was murdered,” Gary said.
“So our first step will be figuring out where he went to get lunch.”
“Gosh, that ain’t gonna be easy either. There’s gotta be at least two dozen seafood restaurants in the vicinity of Jax Beach.”
“That means we have got quite a bit off footwork and pavement pounding to do then, don’t we, Black?”
“Yup, it sure does look that way, partner. Let’s try to knock out half of them today. Then we can get a room and tackle the other half tomorrow.”
“That’s sounds like a good idea.”
Gary grinned and crossed his fingers the way he always did in this type of situation. Gary and Rhonda worked a lot together alone on the road all over the country. They stayed often in hotels on the road when working on big case. They typically would get one room with double beds, but sometimes those rooms would be booked, and they’d have to get a single king. It felt so good to him to sleep next to her, and every once in a while when Rhonda was deep in R.E.M. sleep and dreaming hard she would snuggle close to Gary so he could nestle her and hold her gently, but he made sure not to ever cross a line or do anything appropriate. His crush on her was awkward enough already as is. He didn’t want to ruin their relationship by being all handsy and weird. Still, one day he hoped he’d have the guts to tell her how he really felt about her, to tell her how much he yearned for her, but for now, he had to be content with the fantasies in his own head.
Meanwhile, in the upscale Summer Brook subdivision on the East Arlington side of town, Ben was wrapping up some work for one of his favorite and most regular clients that often contracted him to repair the plumbing in her extravagant two-story house on the quiet cul-de-sac off Tropic Drive. The client was a tiny and charming elderly woman named Carolyn. Her house was huge, eight bedrooms and 3 and a half bathrooms. Carolyn didn’t work, but rather she rented out all the spare rooms to mostly displaced folks or people in need of transitional or temporary housing. She noticed an uptake in prospective tenants during a recession of course. Carolyn was a classically trained dancer, was well-traveled, and had a knack for interior design. The layout of her large house was beautifully ordained, and the furnishings of the house really impressed Ben. Carolyn’s exuberance and undying optimism was a breath of fresh air for Ben, who was so often engrossed in taxing conflicts and baby momma drama. Ben loved his daughter Destiny. However, he was convinced the mother of his daughter and ex-girlfriend Crystal was the spawn of Satan. If Crystal was the devil incarnate sent to be the bane of his existence, then Carolyn was like a fairy godmother to Ben. Even when business was slow for Ben, he could count on Carolyn to hire him for even some minor jobs here and there to help him make ends meet. And if the straits were dire, she’d even lend him money as an advance on future jobs. He was so grateful for her and tried to give her hefty discounts on his work when he could, but she was resolute and always wanted to pay full price. Carolyn stepped out to grocery shop when Ben started his work that day, but returned shortly before he completed the repairs.
“Oh, hello, Ben,” Carolyn greeted him warmly as she popped her head into the one of the downstairs bathrooms to check on him. “It looks like you’re almost done in there. You really are talented at what you do, and your work is always top notch. I also really like how you clean up and make sure everything is nice and tidy when you’re finished. Let me tell you some of the other contractors I hire or so messy, and so brash, no manners at all.”
“It’s not a problem, Carolyn,” Ben said. “I always clean up after myself and treat my clients with the utmost respect. It’s how my Dad did it, and it’s how he taught me to do it.”
“I haven’t seen you in a little while. Tell me how things have been going with you.”
“Oh, I can’t complain. I’m maintaining.”
“And how is your little girl, your daughter? Destiny is her name, right?”
“Oh, she’s great, growing faster than all get out. I wanted to see her today before I got here, but…”
“Her mother? She still giving you trouble?”
“Yeah, she seems to love to find new ways to be a pain in my ass, excuse my language.”
“Well, I pray for you and your family every day, Ben. You’re a good and descent young man and deserve the best in life. Things will work out for you I’m sure. With your work ethic and devotion to leading a good life, God will bless you I’m sure.”
“Thank you, Carolyn. Well, I’m all done here. You shouldn’t have any more problems with the toilet. Just make sure your tenants aren’t flushing tampons or cigarette butts, or anything else crazy down the toilet and it will work fine.”
“Great, let me just grab some cash out of my purse so I can pay you. How much do I owe you for your work today, Ben?”
“Uhhh, this really wasn’t a major job. I didn’t spend much time on parts, and it didn’t take me long to do what I had to do…”
“Don’t give me that. You’re a trained and skilled professional in a trade that isn’t easy to master. How does five hundred dollars sound?”
Ben cleared his throat. Then, he just reluctantly nodded in agreement. Even if he named a price he would have typically quoted a job like this, which would have been around three hundred dollars or so, Carolyn would have had that five hundred dollar figure in her head and demanded he take that much for the cost of his labor and parts. He really needed the money too. Since he didn’t report that accident he got into earlier, he would have to come out of pocket to make the repairs to his bumper. That reminded him. He needed to call Cynthia about working out their little agreement to resolve that issue. He usually didn’t like trading services in barter-like situations, but in this case, it was in his best interest to avoid a hike in his car insurance premiums. He pulled out his cell phone and searched for the card that Cynthia handed to him earlier after the little wreck they had just outside of his baby momma’s driveway.