The den’s dark paneling reeked oppressively of cigar smoke. The room seemed decorated for intimidation rather than comfort. Keisha imagined what it must have been like for Lila to grow up surrounded by trophy cases filled with daddy’s accomplishments. Apart from trophies, the only other “personal touches” were the myriad mounted fish. She had agreed to follow Lila’s lead in their conversations with Mr. Jordan.
Lila, however, sipped sherry silently, focusing on putting precisely correct amounts of brie on every cracker. She seemed subdued, even cowed, by JJ. Keisha smiled as she realized that this obese, balding CEO with hairy forearms was now her father-in-law. She chuckled inwardly wondering how he’d take that news. Keisha pointed to one of the many mounted fish. “That’s an interesting one. Looks like something from the Age of Dinosaurs! Where did you snag that guy?”
JJ’s voice was harsh and raspy. Keisha decided he loved projecting pure virility. “That’s a coelacanth. They appeared about 400 million years ago. Paleontologists thought they died out 65 million years ago. Guess what? Coelacanth are still here, hiding deep below the surface. I caught that one off the coast of South Africa. Takes patience. Bring ‘em up too fast and they explode.”
Keisha blinked. “Explode?! How do they taste?”
JJ barked a laugh. “Like crap. No real value. Slimy. Tasteless. I caught it to prove who’s king of the food chain. Same in business. Win. Everything else is bullshit.”
JJ grabbed the remote and clicked on the wall-sized TV. “Watch the Patriots if you like. But set your alarms for five.”
Keisha shook her head. “No thanks. Lila’s going to show me her latest results.” Her father-in-law shook his head sadly. Keisha added. “It’s for work. We’re developing a textual analysis program.”
JJ’s waved his hand dismissively and muttered, “FBI – glorified cops. Badge and gun. That’s all you need. Not a fit job for girls anyway.”
Keisha bit her lip so hard, she nearly made it bleed, but kept her silence.
Once the pair were alone, Lila apologized for her father. Keisha shook her head. “It’s okay. You warned me. I thought you exaggerated. But no. Anyway, I’d love to see your results.”
Keisha scanned them quickly. “Can you get me on the wireless here?”
“Sure. But why?”
“Lila, I’m not sure. But — I’m sorry to say so, but I have a bad feeling about JJ. Do you mind if I access the records and apply your algorithms to his old police statements?”
Lila frowned. “What? Why? Do you think…?”
“I just think if we’re going out in a boat alone with the guy….”
Lila snorted. “JJ’s my dad, for God’s sake. I know he’s a boor but … surely, you don’t think —“
Keisha shook her head. “Lila, I know he’s your dad. You always refer to him as JJ. Anyway, it won’t take long to run some tests. Think of it as practice. Maybe nothing will show up. Probably, nothing.”
Lila frowned again, “No, I’m telling you.” Here Lila broke off as a disturbing image loomed into her head.
Keisha spoke softly, “Lila? Are you okay? You literally like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Lila’s voice became flat. “Let’s run the tests.”
Being a CEO, JJ had excellent bandwidth wherever he went: home, limo, yacht. The algorithms spun their magic and trolled the text. By morning, they were exhausted but convinced. They also agreed that proving it in a court of law would be an entirely different matter. Textual analysis didn’t have decades of precedent like DNA testing. Convincing a DA to open up such an old case? Impossible without more direct evidence.
Keisha said, “We need a plan.” Lila agreed.
The morning fog lifted. They were soon underway. The women leaned out into the salt spray which made rainbows in the rising sun. Meanwhile, JJ hunched in his dark, dank electronic cockpit below, searching his screens for signs of fish.
From below decks, over the slapping waves they heard JJ growling, “Where the hell are you, stupid fish?!”
Keisha stared down into the cabin at the hulking back of her father-in-law. Once, he had been athletic. She wondered how athletic he might still be.
Dark clouds loomed on the horizon. Lila reported, “Father! A storm’s coming!”
She could see him shake his head. “No rain in the forecast. Just clouds. Doesn’t mean anything.”
“Father. I have to talk with you.”
JJ growled, “Nothing to say. We’re fishing!”
Keisha had never heard Lila’s voice sound so cold as she said, “I remember what really happened to Trevor and mother. I saw you.”
JJ laughed. “You were a girl! You don’t know what you saw. Anyway, nobody’ll believe you — especially after ten years of silence!”
Keisha said, “We have other evidence. We accessed your original statements to the police and ran them through our analysis programs. They are strongly indicative of fabrication and misdirection. We have your own words. It’s now admissible in court as textual evidence.”
JJ screamed, “Bullshit! You don’t have any sexual evidence. I made sure of that. You don’t have anything that would stand up in court. I’m the biggest fish out here. Face it. I’m wealthy enough, powerful enough, and smart enough to get away with murder. So I did! It’s the way of the world, Lila! Time to grow up! No-one will believe you or your so-called colleague.”
Keisha held up her cell phone. “Even with your confession streamed to our FBI colleagues?”
JJ stammered, “But I’m … “
For the first time in her life, Lila interrupted and finished his sentence for him: “A coelacanth, dad, a coelacanth.”