The detectives showed him a picture of the pen. Puddie realized why he was there and what he had done. He never thought the investigation would come this far, and the weeks since the incident had only magnified the damage. He told the detectives that the pen was in his apartment.
They drove him home immediately in the back of a detective's unmarked car. When they got to his girlfriend's home at the Isles in Plantation, he asked the detectives if they could let him go in alone, because he didn't want his girlfriend to know what was going on. They obliged, waiting outside.
"You're home early!" called Puddie's girlfriend from another room.
"Yeah, I just had to come get something," Puddie called, looking around for the pen. "I've got to rush back to work." He left without seeing her and handed over the pen.
During the drive back to the airport BSO office, he thought he heard one of the officers say to the other, "Great job."
Did that pen belong to you when you took it?"
"No, it did not."
"Do you know who it belonged to?"
"During the course of the day that you were working... did anybody ask about a pen?"
"No, nobody." Puddie, who had just signed away his Fifth Amendment rights in a bout of obedience, began to cry.
"What happened on the following day? What did they say?"
"Somebody just said that... if you find somebody's property, to bring it to the office, because somebody lost a pen the day before," sniffed Puddie.
"At that point when they made the announcement, did you realize that you... in fact, had that pen?"
"Yeah. I had the pen."
"OK, and why did you not return it at that time?"
"I was scared."
"Have you ever done anything like this before?"
"Can you tell me why you did this?"
"I don't know. The pen is a, the pen is, the pen is a g — , nice pen."
Puddie had to take off his blue TSA shirt before deputies led him, handcuffed in back, to the police car, then did that cop-show thing where they pushed down his head to help him get into the back seat. A judge let him out of jail the next morning to await prosecution. The charge: grand theft, which can be levied in Florida for values as low as $300.
TSA officers inconvenience everybody. They don't know you, what you've accomplished, who you love, the things you say when you get drunk. They don't know whether you're terrified of flying, where you're going, how you made your money, how you spend it. They are nameless with nametags, faceless with unsmiling faces, scanning your baggage and touching your thighs.
If you're wearing jeans and a business shirt, carrying a laptop and some shaving supplies, Toussain Puddie could look at you and know you're probably not traveling for long. If you're dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and a sunburn, you might be carrying bags of Florida sand. If you're dressed in a black-and-white silk shirt with black trousers, with a Montblanc pen?
Puddie had never seen Rick Case until he saw his name on the report accusing him of theft. Then he Googled the name and found a promotional photo: Rick and Rita in their dealership shirts, sitting in a convertible, flying high over a backdrop of clouds.
Puddie has moved back in with his parents until this thing blows over, which it might not do anytime soon, because he's been hesitant to accept the state's offer. He would need to admit guilt, accept probation-style monitoring for a year, and send a written apology to Case. After completion of that program, he could apply to the court to have the criminal charge expunged.
He told his lawyer, Leland Garvin, that he wants to go to trial. At first, it was because he wanted to get his job back. Now that he's warming up to the idea that the TSA might never rehire him, it's largely because he has nothing else to do.
When the State Attorney's Office first got the case from the sheriff's office, Felony Division Chief Jeff Marcus had his doubts. All this for a lost pen? He gave the file a read-through, though, and when he got to Puddie's confession that he knowingly kept the pen, he decided the charge was legitimate.