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Authors: Michael Norman

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BOOK: On Deadly Ground
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Chapter Twenty

Books left the office and stopped at the post office to pick up his mail and buy stamps on his way home. He had a stack of unpaid bills lying around that required his immediate attention. After that, he'd go to work on the search warrant affidavit for Lance Clayburn's home.

On impulse he drove into west Kanab past the home of Rebecca Eddins. Her SUV was parked in the driveway. He stopped, got out of the Yukon, and knocked on the front door.

Moments later, Eddins opened the mission-style door. She broke into a broad smile when she recognized Books. “What a pleasant surprise! How are you, J.D.?”

“Good, Becky. And you?”

“Fine. Please come in. Your timing couldn't have been better.”

“Yeah, how come?”

“You're just in time for dinner.”

“I don't want to impose….”

“You're not imposing. In fact, I'm going to put you to work. Follow me.” Books followed her into the kitchen.

“Nothing fancy, but Cody and I were just about to sit down to beef tacos and corn on the cob. You can shuck the corn.”

He smiled. “You always this bossy?”

“Always,” said Eddins. “In fact, that was one of my ex's biggest complaints about me—that I constantly drove his car, as he liked to call it.”

“Did you?”

Becky sighed, “Yeah, I guess I did. But in my own defense, if ever there was a guy who needed somebody to drive his car, it was Clark Porter.”

“Porter. That was your married name?”

She nodded. “Once I had the baby, it felt like I had to raise two kids.”

“That couldn't have been much fun.”

“Trust me. It wasn't.”

Books stood over the sink and shucked three ears of corn. “There's nothing better than sweet Utah salt-and-pepper corn on the cob during late summer. I've been gone a long time, but I still remember that. You don't know it, but you saved me from another frozen TV dinner—they get old real fast if you're eating them often enough.”

She smiled. It was a great smile. “We're glad you could join us. So what can I get you to drink? I'm drinking Australian Shiraz, or I can get you a beer or ice tea.”

“A glass of the Shiraz, please. Tell me something, and pardon me for being so nosy, but what's a nice young woman who grew up in the Mormon faith doing with a refrigerator full of beer and a nice rack of wine?”

“I guess somebody in the family was destined to become a rebel, and it turned out to be me. Clark grew up in the church, but his family was never very active. After we married, neither of us showed much inclination to remain involved.”

At that moment, a stranger walked in. He was wearing a two-gun rig around his waist, leather chaps over his jeans, a cowboy hat, and a sheriff's badge pinned to his shirt. Becky said, “Cody, I'd like to introduce you to an old friend of mine. Can you say hello to Mr. Books?”

Looking up, Cody said, “Hello, Mr. Books.”

Books extended a hand and Cody tentatively reached out and shook it. “Nice to meet you, Cody. I really like that two-gun outfit you're wearing. Where'd you get it?”

“Grandpa gave it to me for my birthday.”

“That's just what grandpas are for.”

Books glanced from Cody to Becky. “I can sure see his mother in him.”

“He's an Eddins from head to toe,” said Becky.

They ate dinner outside under the covered portico. After dinner, Cody headed off to play while Books and Becky remained outside to enjoy pecan pie and coffee.

“By the way, thanks for organizing the homecoming party,” said Books.

“Glad to do it. We're really looking forward to it.

“Heard you had a visitor the other night.”

“Sure did. I'd spent a brutal day in juvenile court in St. George on an ugly child custody case. By the time I got home, I was beat. I'd put Cody to bed and was relaxing in the hot tub when I heard someone or something walking across the sandstone.” She pointed to an area toward the back and side of the house.

“Did you see anybody?”

“Not really. When I looked at where the sound came from, I thought I saw something move in the shadows, but I wasn't sure.”

“What'd you do?”

“I was out of the hot tub in a flash—ran back to the house, turned on the outside lights, and headed straight for the gun cabinet.”

“You didn't dial 911?”

“Nope. I'm a big girl, and I can take care of myself, thank you very much.” She sounded defensive. Books let it pass—none of his business anyway.

“Any idea who the visitor might have been?”

“Not a clue. I've also had some strange phone calls lately, no voice, heavy breathing, that sort of thing. I'd dismissed it as the work of some crackpot, maybe even some kid I'd dealt with in my law practice. Now I'm not so sure.”

They talked a while longer. By the time he left, Books thought he'd convinced her to dial 911 if she experienced another incident. In turn, he promised to keep an eye on the house whenever he could. She seemed relieved and thanked him. At the front door, she put her arms around his neck and gave him a hug. She kissed him lightly on the lips, holding the kiss long enough that Books felt a stirring he hadn't experienced in nearly a year.


Back home, Books began writing the search warrant affidavit for Lance Clayburn's home. It became clear that he'd overlooked something important. Did Lance Clayburn own a .30-06 caliber rifle? The shell casing found at the murder scene came from a .30-06. In the morning, he'd check the firearms registration records of the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification.

The legal case against Clayburn already looked strong, and the possibility of complicity with Darby Greenbriar couldn't be ruled out either. Short of a confession, nothing would strengthen the state's case more than finding the actual murder weapon. There was no denying that physical evidence found at the murder scene put Clayburn there. Both he and Darby Greenbriar had lied about their relationship, and Darby stood to inherit significant financial assets from David's estate. From what Books had learned from Victor Stein, Darby had even lied to him about her knowledge of what was in the estate. And now there was the matter of a possible pregnancy. Was David Greenbriar the father or could the father be Lance Clayburn? He had to find out.


Around midnight, Books surrendered to fatigue and went to bed. The nightmares started again as they did with alarming frequency—the adrenalin rush, the sound of gunfire, the agonizing screams of an innocent victim's bereaved widow as she held his head in her lap and rocked back and forth watching her husband's life blood stain the snow a dark crimson.

His memory of that awful day, his last day as a member of the Denver Police Department, remained as vivid as if it happened only yesterday:

Books and his partner, Detective Beth Guzelman, had just left police headquarters on their way to an east Denver hospital to interview the victim of a recent robbery. They drove south along Broadway until they reached Colfax Avenue. The state capitol rose up in front of them like some Gothic castle from medieval Europe. Its crowning gold dome sparkled like a smooth nugget etched into a clear blue sky, as if it had been painted on canvas. The January day was frigid but sunny. A blast of arctic air following a snow storm left a dusting of the white stuff.

Radio traffic seemed routine for a weekday morning—the usual assortment of fender benders, stalled cars, and traffic gridlock. And then it happened.

The radio crackled and was followed by three distinct beeps, a warning used only for in-progress felonies. The 911 dispatcher barked out the call to the patrol car: “Robbery in progress at the Stop & Shop convenience store, corner of Colfax Avenue and Pearl Street, shots fired, code three. Other units that can provide backup?”

Guzelman said, “For crissake, we're almost on top of it” as she tossed the last few swallows of a lukewarm cup of coffee out the car window. They would arrive ahead of any uniforms. It wasn't unusual in the winter months for robberies to happen during, or shortly after, snow storms. Inclement weather slowed police response time, something well understood by bad guys. But not this time.

Books grabbed the mike. “RH211, we're almost on scene. Any suspect descriptions?”

“Stand by,” said the dispatcher.

There was no time to stand by. Nothing was more unnerving than rolling into an in-progress felony with no suspect information.

Beth maneuvered the Chevy Corsica into the icy convenience store lot and jammed it into park just as a suspect launched himself out the store's front door carrying a bag in one hand and a pistol in the other. She angled the vehicle so that Books could jump out the passenger side and remain protected by the car's engine block. That left Guzelman exposed, closer to the perp than Books, and with nothing more than the driver's side door for cover.

The perp fired three shots one of which shattered the driver's door window, showering Guzelman with fragments of glass.

“Christ,” she yelled.

They returned fire and struck the suspect in the upper torso. He yelled something unintelligible as he went down. The handgun skittered away on the snow-covered parking lot. At the same instant, a second gun-toting suspect ran from the store in the same direction. He fired one round from a snub-nosed pistol, although Books later recalled thinking it was hard to discern where he was aiming. Books fired two shots in rapid succession from his nine-millimeter semiautomatic. The first shot missed, but the second struck the suspect in the chest. He ran several more unsteady steps and then collapsed on his side. The entire shooting incident was over in seconds.

The detectives moved cautiously forward in a low combat crouch ready to fire again if necessary. They kicked the handguns out of reach of the suspects. One lay on his side groaning. He slowly rotated his legs as if trying to command them to do something they couldn't. A brown paper bag was lying next to him. They could see loose cash inside. The second perp hadn't moved at all, and as Books and Guzelman moved closer, they could see a growing blood stain in the area near his heart. His mouth was open in a grotesque sort of way as though desperately seeking oxygen. His eyes had rolled back in his head.

As the adrenalin rush started to subside, a middle-aged woman rushed out of the store crying hysterically. She ran to the body of the second suspect. She knelt beside the man, cradling his head in her lap. She spoke rapidly in Spanish. Books couldn't understand what she said. Guzelman, however, did.

“Christ, J.D., the man we just shot is her husband. He wasn't one of the perps. He's the store owner. I think we just shot the victim.”

Books felt numb, temporarily unable to think or move. He recalled two patrol cars arriving within seconds of the shootout, followed by paramedics, crime scene techs, and a team of detectives from robbery/homicide unit. The victim's wife had to be pulled away so paramedics could begin treatment.

Books turned to Beth and said, “Did you fire at the second guy or was it just me?”

“I didn't fire at the second guy, but I'm not sure why. Something just didn't seem right.”

Books felt desperate. “Like what?”

“I don't know,” said Beth. “I guess it was a hunch.”

“I wish to God I'd had the same hunch.”

A couple of hours later, the detectives had reconstructed the incident as best they could. They had been interviewed and re-interviewed by the internal affairs detectives. Both were placed on paid administrative leave pending a review of the incident by the department brass and by members of the Denver County District Attorney's Office.

Suspension from duty was routine in shooting incidents, but what wasn't routine was that Books had accidentally shot and killed a crime victim. It wouldn't help that this was the second fatal shooting he'd been involved in during his eleven years on the force.

The first incident occurred when Books was a rookie patrolman responding to a domestic violence call. A jilted ex-husband had broken into the home of his former wife, caught her and her new beau in the sack, and shot them both to death. Books and another officer killed him in a shootout after a high-speed chase. Shooting an armed suspect in the act of fleeing from a violent crime was one thing, but gunning down an innocent crime victim by mistake was something else entirely.

Books awoke and sat up in bed. The clock said it was three in the morning. His heart was pounding, his breathing labored like a man at the end of a long uphill run. Sweat poured from his forehead and soaked his tee shirt, leaving him chilled in the cool trailer.

He couldn't get back to sleep. He tossed and turned for a while, then got up, went to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. He settled on an old recliner in the living room and spent the next two hours reflecting on his decision to become a cop in the first place, and his more recent decision to continue his career as a BLM law enforcement ranger.

When Books entered college, he hadn't the slightest idea what he wanted to do for a career. By chance he enrolled in a criminal justice class. After that, everything came into focus. He knew that he wanted a career in law enforcement. After two years of college, when he had reached the requisite age of twenty-one, Books saw a recruiting advertisement for officer positions with the Denver Police Department. He applied and was subsequently hired. Eleven years and two fatal shootings later, that job was over.

And as much as he hated to admit it, dear old dad probably had a hand in getting him the BLM position.

Chapter Twenty-one

Early the next morning, Books put the final touches on the search warrant application in his office. Under normal circumstances, he would have taken the paperwork to a deputy district attorney to ensure that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed before making an appearance before a judge. In this instance, he decided against following normal protocol. The DA's office in Kane County was a one-horse operation run by a guy named Virgil Bell, a part-time prosecutor who also ran a private law practice. Books didn't know him and therefore didn't trust him. What Books wanted to avoid at all costs was a leak about the search warrant to a hungry news media. For now, the fewer people who knew about the warrant, the better.

Books glanced up as Brian Call walked into his office carrying two steaming cups of black coffee and two apple fritters. “At the risk of sounding ungrateful, Brian, nothin like starting our day with a low fat, highly nutritious breakfast.”

Call laughed. “Hell, J.D., I didn't want to spoil the public stereotype of cops sitting around drinking coffee and eating donuts on the taxpayer's nickel.”

“Wouldn't want to do that. Pass me an apple fritter.”

Call pushed a fritter across the desk and handed Books a cup of coffee. “Wasn't sure how you take your coffee. Hope black is okay.”

“Black'll work just fine. Thanks.”

Books set a meeting with Call and Sheriff Sutter for nine o'clock to create a coordinated plan of attack allowing him to conduct back-to-back interviews with Darby Greenbriar and Lance Clayburn. While Books interviewed Lance, Call, Sutter and a team of deputies would execute the search warrant at Clayburn's home. If the search produced additional incriminating evidence, Books intended to arrest Clayburn on the spot. If the search came up empty, he would temporarily release him and keep digging. They were close to breaking the case wide open.

Books dispatched Call to check firearms registration information from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. If there was a record of Clayburn having purchased a .30-06 rifle, he wanted the gun for ballistics testing.

Books spent the next few minutes trying to locate Darby Greenbriar. He called her home, but nobody answered. He didn't leave a message. He then called the EEWA office. The office secretary, Cathy Carpenter, answered. “Good morning, J.D. What can I do for you?”

“Morning, Cathy. I'm looking for Darby. Has she been around this morning?”

Carpenter lowered her voice. “She's here, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a message. She's indisposed at the moment.”

“I hope she's okay.”

Carpenter hesitated. “She's not feeling well this morning. I've got her lying down on the couch in the conference room. Can I have her call you back?”

“Yeah, that's fine. Tell her it's important.”

“I'll give her the message,” said Carpenter. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Not really. I've got a few more questions I need to ask her.”

“I'll tell her to call you ASAP. And by the way, there's going to be a memorial service for David at Blanchard's Mortuary the day after tomorrow at one in the afternoon.”

“Appreciate the heads-up. I'd like to attend.” He thanked her and hung up.

Books called Lance Clayburn's home phone but got no answer. He dialed his cell, and Clayburn answered on the first ring. “Talk to me,” said Clayburn.

Books could hear a lot of background noise and wondered where Clayburn was. “Hi, Lance. This is J.D. Books. Can you hear me?”

“I can, J.D. Sorry about the noise but I'm on the highway to St. George—gotta meet somebody for lunch. What can I do for you?”

“I've got a few more questions. Do you think you could you drop by my office when you get back—should only take a few minutes?”

Clayburn paused before answering. “Sure, I can do that. How about three o'clock?”

“See you then.”

Books replaced the receiver and sat back in his chair. The meeting was set. He sipped the coffee and ate a bite of the apple fritter. The coffee got a C–, the fritter an A+.

Sutter walked in with Brian Call at his side. Both men were smiling like two guys holding a winning lottery ticket. They sat down without a word. Call pushed a sheet of paper across the desk in front of Books. On it was a registration number for the purchase of a .30-06 Remington 700 SPS rifle. The gun had been purchased on March 26, 2008, from the Cabela's sporting goods store in Lehi, Utah. The owner was Lance Clayburn.

“Well, well, the noose grows tighter by the hour,” said Books.

“So it seems,” said Sutter. “Are the appointments set?”

“Clayburn'll be here at three. Darby hasn't returned my call, so I'm not sure about her.”

“Any preference as to whom you want to question first?” asked Call.

“Doesn't matter,” said Books. “What I want, though, is to interview them one after the other so there's no time for them to compare notes.”

Sutter nodded. “So you want us to search Clayburn's place while you're questioning him?”

“That, or he can go out to the house with you after we're finished.”

“I don't see the point in that,” said Sutter. “He'd just be under foot.” Call agreed.

“Maybe not,” said Books. “If he has to stand around watching a bunch of cops turn his house inside out, it might be enough to push him over the edge. If he is involved with Darby in this thing, maybe he'll decide to give her up and try to cut a deal for himself.”

“I doubt that. Besides, I'm not interested in cutting any deal with a killer,” said Sutter.

“Your call on this, Charley, but I want to be smart about how we do it. What I don't want is to drop a search warrant in Clayburn's lap before I try to question him. He might panic and decide not to answer any of our questions. We don't want that.”

“Makes sense to me, Charley,” said Call. “If we hit the mother lode with the search, you can arrest him on the spot and hold a press conference afterward.”

Sutter liked that idea. “Okay, J.D. We'll do it your way.”


By early afternoon the local district court judge had approved the search warrant. Books still hadn't heard anything from Darby Greenbriar and he was starting to get worried. If he didn't hear from her soon, he intended to go find her. Sheriff Sutter was standing by with a small contingent of deputies ready to execute the warrant once Books finished questioning Clayburn.

At one-thirty, Books grabbed the keys to the Yukon and drove to the EEWA office. The office was locked and there was no sign of Darby Greenbriar. He drove to her home. Nobody was around. It occurred to Books that maybe Lance Clayburn's lunch appointment in St. George had been with Darby. He hoped not. On his way back to town, his cell phone beeped. It was Charley Sutter telling him that Darby had just walked into his office looking for Books.

They met in a small conference room in the sheriff's office. Books laid a tape recorder on the table between them. “Hope you don't mind, but I'd like to tape-record our conversation today.”

She shrugged, “Fine by me.”

“Hot out there today, isn't it? Can I get you something to drink before we get started?”

Darby shook her head. “No, thanks.”

“How are you feeling today, Darby?”

She looked at him quizzically before answering. “Fine, why do you ask?”

“When I called your office this morning, Cathy told me you were ill.”

“Just a touch of indigestion, I think. I'm feeling much better now, thanks.”


Books turned on the tape recorder. “Darby, why did you tell me that you didn't know what was in David's estate?”

“Because I don't know, simple as that.”

“You didn't participate in multiple meetings with David and Victor Stein concerning estate matters?”

“No, I didn't,” she snapped.

“Victor Stein says otherwise.”

“Then he's mistaken.”

“Stein not only says you attended but that you took more than a passing interest in what was in the estate.”

She sighed. “Let me tell you something about Victor Stein, Ranger Books. Victor has been a close personal friend of Lillian Greenbriar for many years. David even wondered if they were having an affair. Victor blamed me for the divorce and hasn't been civil to me since. It got so bad that David considered changing lawyers. Now I wish he had.”

“You haven't spoken with Victor Stein since David's murder?”


“So you don't know the size of the estate or how much you're going to inherit. Is that what you're telling me?”

“That's right. Now let me ask you something. What do these questions have to do with solving David's murder?”

“It's a fair question, Darby. Let me answer it this way. People fall in love, get married, and, after a while, sometimes they fall out of love and get divorced. In a few cases, one spouse decides to kill the other or have someone else do it. It happens out of anger, hatred, greed, money, or falling in love with somebody else.”

“What's your point?”

“Well, you stand to inherit a large sum of money. You claim to be oblivious about it. If I'm to believe what you're saying, I have to accept something that is counterintuitive for starters and is also contradicted by the estate attorney. It just doesn't track. Can't you understand how it looks?”

“And why can't you understand, Ranger Books, that, at this moment, I'm grieving for the loss of my husband, someone I loved very much. It's a matter of priorities. Whatever money there is isn't going any place. Right? It'll still be there next week, next month, or next year. It simply doesn't matter to me right now.”

Books knew going in that this wouldn't be an easy conversation. “Look, I know it's a difficult time for you, but if I'm going to find out who killed David, I've got to stick my nose under every rock, including this one.”

Darby rolled her eyes. “Are we about finished because…?”

“No, we're not,” Books interrupted. “I have reason to believe that Lance Clayburn may have been involved in David's murder and that you're having an affair with him. Care to tell to me about that?”

A wave of shock, followed by guilt, etched her face. She broke eye contact and sank down as though she wanted to disappear into the woodwork. “Well?” Books prodded.

Darby ignored the question. “I don't believe Lance had anything to do with David's death. What makes you think he did?”

“Because we found physical evidence at the crime scene that directly links him to the murder. How long have you and Lance been involved?”

She stared at the floor and muttered, “About six or seven months. How did you find out?”

“Let's just say you haven't been as discreet as you might have thought. It's a small town, Darby, people talk. We've also got witnesses who can place Lance in your hotel room in Las Vegas this past weekend.”

She didn't say anything.

“What time did Lance join you on Saturday?”

She hesitated, “I don't recall exactly. Noon, maybe.”

“And he left Saturday night sometime?”

“No. He stayed over and left Sunday morning.”

“What time did he leave Sunday?”

She was thinking about it. “Not sure, midmorning, maybe nine or ten.”

Books nodded.

“I still don't believe he had anything to do with David's murder.”

“We're about to find out about that. Were you planning to divorce David and marry Lance?”

“Of course not, and I didn't have anything to do with David's murder, either. That's what you're implying, isn't it? That I had Lance kill David so that I could have his inheritance and then run off with Lance.”

“It's been known to happen.”

“Well, it's not true—none of it is.”

“Are you pregnant, Darby?”

Books hit a nerve. The tears came in buckets. Books left the conference room and returned with a box of tissues. She wiped her eyes.

“God, how I wish there was a single strand of something in my life that I could hold close and keep private, but I can't even protect my baby.”

“I'm sorry, Darby. Would you like to take a short break?”

She shook her head. An awkward silence filled the room. Finally, Books asked, “How far along are you?”

“Eleven weeks.”

“Is David the father?”


“How can you be sure of that?”

“The calendar, Ranger Books. I know when I was with David and I know when I was with Lance. David has to be the father.”

Was she telling the truth or lying to cover up for Lance Clayburn? There was no way to tell short of a paternity test. Books wondered whether Darby would go along voluntarily, or whether he'd need a court order to force the test.

“Are you going to arrest me?”

“Not today. As to the future, I can't say. I learned a long time ago that it's about 20 percent common sense and 80 percent following the evidence. The evidence almost never lies.”

Darby stood to leave. “It has in this case.”

Books stood. “Look me in the eye, Darby, and answer two questions. Did you have anything to do with planning David's murder? And do you have any personal knowledge of whether Lance killed David?”

“No and No.”

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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