Part 2

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Little of any value to anyone other than Floyd. Not much to show for a life, but right now it amounted to a sight more than I had.

There had to be a reason for his disappearance. I checked the bathroom cabinet in case Floyd had been taking some sort of prescribed medication, but all I found were Aspirin and a packet of prophylactics.

On the kitchen wall was a calendar from a Chinese restaurant. That day's date had been ringed in red ballpoint and 'Steve − Lake Butler' scrawled across it. Sunning itself on the fire escape outside the kitchen door was an one-eyed cat. It hissed angrily and scratched me on the back of my hand when I reached down to read the collar tag.

The phone ringing caused me to start. I walked back into the sitting room and picked it up.

"Floyd?" a woman asked.

I didn't recognize the voice.

"I need to speak to Floyd Benedict. Is he there?" the voice snapped when I didn't answer.

"Not at the moment. Who wants him?"

The line went dead and I cradled the receiver.

The first sign that there might be something sinister behind Floyd's disappearance was the contents of the refrigerator. The carton of orange juice was two weeks old and a tray of ground beef had spoiled. It had been a while since anyone had used this apartment. That would explain the cat's testiness.

There were enough cans and dried food in the cupboards to assemble a meal from and I busied myself at the stove, relishing cooking for one for a change. The cat slipped through its flap and eyed me suspiciously. I tossed it a piece of pasta, which it sniffed but didn't touch. The engraving on its collar read, 'Jasper'.

For the rest of the evening I sat in front of the television, channel-hopping, expecting Floyd to ring at any moment demanding that I come pick him up. No one called, so a little after midnight I turned off the lights and went to bed.

CHAPTER THREE

The parole office was housed twelve floors up in the Dade County courthouse on Flagler. My appointment with Shapiro was for ten and I arrived fifteen minutes early. Unused to the apartment's quiet and growing more concerned over what had become of Floyd, I found sleep elusive and had risen at first light. Before leaving the apartment, I forked a can of chopped ham into a bowl for Jasper, but the cat was still acting like a Diva and had ignored it.

"Take a seat, Stricker. I'll be with you in just a second," Shapiro said, without looking up from the file he was writing in.

I had to lean to one side to see him behind the mountains of paperwork he had piled up on his desk. Every square inch of space was taken up with stacks of manila folders. Tacked to the walls were several discolored maps of the Metro Miami area, a couple of cheap prints, and a cluster of yellowing parole department memos. The one conspicuous exception was the wall behind his desk. It was blank apart from a photograph of much younger Shapiro in State Police uniform. No souvenir certificates, no insignia mementoes, just that one picture.

I sat down and waited. From the window, I could see Biscayne and watched a white cruise liner sail south. Probably destined for the Bahamas.

I turned my attention back to the parole officer. Dave Shapiro was dressed much the same as the day we had met in prison; a pair of cotton jeans and a tennis shirt. A slim man, he had pale skin and washed-out brown hair. The sunlight made his ears appear translucent and highlighted the thick tuff of hair growing out of them. His lips were thin. Probably five or six years younger than the fifty he appeared. There were no gold on his finger, and he had his nails eaten down to the quick. As far as I could see there were no personal photographs on his desk. His eyes lacked humor.

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