Read On Deadly Ground Online

Authors: Michael Norman

Tags: #FICTION, #Mystery & Detective, #General

On Deadly Ground (5 page)

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
11.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Chapter Nine

As Books crossed the restaurant parking lot, he heard the unmistakable sound of a cat-call whistle, followed by a distinctly female voice saying, “What's your hurry, cowboy?” Certain that the whistle and suggestive tone weren't directed at him, he continued without turning.

Then he heard the same female voice again, closer this time, “I'm talkin' to you, cowboy.” Embarrassed, Books glanced tentatively over his shoulder. It took him a moment to place the attractive woman smiling at him from a few feet away.

“Rebecca Eddins, all grown up.” Books returned the smile.

“You had me a little worried, J.D. I was afraid you might have lost your hearing.”

“Cutting me a little slack might be nice, don't you think? It's been what, twelve, maybe thirteen years since we last saw each other?”

“Something like that, yeah. You were a senior in high school and the star of the football and basketball teams. I was the skinny little freckled-face girl in the tenth grade who had an enormous crush on you but couldn't get your attention.”

“Sorry, Becky. I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes.”

“Forget it—ancient history now anyway.”

“Guess so.”

She definitely had Books' attention now. No longer a skinny high school tenth grader, standing in front of him now was a beautiful, fully grown, and fully developed young woman. She was tall, five-eight or nine, he guessed, with long black hair and penetrating green eyes that looked at him with bemused curiosity. She was bare-legged, wearing a denim skirt, pink blouse, and sandals. Her squash-blossom necklace was accented by matching turquoise earrings.

Becky Eddins looked fine.

He glanced down at her left hand and didn't see a wedding ring. She noticed the look. “I was married once, but it didn't last. We met in law school and got hitched at the end of our first year.”


“One. A beautiful little boy. He's six now and looks every bit a member of the Eddins clan. Speaking of family, how's yours?”

“I'm sure you see more of them than I do. Sis and her family seem to be doing just fine. Maggie always sent pictures of my nephews, Jeff and Chad. I swear they've grown like weeds. We stayed in touch.”

“What about your father?”

“Good question. I haven't seen or spoken to him since I got back.”

“Ah. Sorry about your mom. I know she was really sick those last few weeks. And I felt bad that I wasn't here for the funeral. I was in Europe at the time. Dad called me in London with the news.”

“Your folks came to the funeral, and they extended condolences on your behalf,” said Books. “Your dad's a good man. I always liked Neil, although he and dad sure went the rounds.”

“That's for sure.”

“Has anything changed on that front?”

“Not really. The land management issues always take on a life of their own. You know that. After Clinton and his gang of thugs declared the Grand Staircase a national monument without any local input, the BLM has caught most of the flack. It's a never-ending battle—only the players change. Since your dad retired, he's no longer on the receiving end of the criticism. That privilege now belongs to your new boss, Alexis Runyon.”

“And what's the local gossip saying about my return to town?”

“You want it straight?”

“No reason to sugarcoat it.”

“Okay. Some locals will give you the benefit of the doubt because you grew up here, but not everybody. Some radical members of the movement don't care that you were raised here. To them, you represent a federal bureaucracy they hate. You're the first BLM law enforcement officer assigned here, and a lot of folks resent it. And it sure doesn't help that your first official act is to plant yourself square in the middle of a murder investigation. The best advice I can give you is to keep your eyes open and watch your back.”

“By ‘movement,' you mean that group of local ranchers and business people headed by your father, Neil, and your uncle, Boyd—the Citizens for a Free West.”

She nodded.

“Well, I asked you not to sugarcoat it.”

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn't mean it to sound so harsh.”

“It's okay, really, it is. What's the local gossip saying about me?”

She stiffened at the question and momentarily looked away. “This is a small town, J.D. People like to talk. The story going around is that you were forced out of the Denver police department because of two fatal shootings. Rumor has it that after the second one, you went home and caught your wife in bed with another guy and almost killed him.”

“Except for a couple of details, the local gossip is pretty much on target.”

They promised to get together after things calmed down.


Books drove to the office and began organizing the murder book. He divided a three-ring binder into sections. In Denver, he'd learned the value of recording every thought, note, and report pertinent to the investigation in the book, no exceptions. It helped him stay focused and organized.

As much as he hated to admit it, his penchant for organization was a learned trait driven into him by his father. Bernie was obsessed about organization. It didn't matter whether it was clothes in his closet, which were always neatly arranged, or tools in the garage. Everything for Bernie had its place. Books learned from an early age that if he borrowed a screwdriver from Bernie's workbench, he'd better put it back. It didn't take long for Bernie to notice any misplaced tool. Unpleasant consequences always followed.

From the start several things about this case had Books concerned. He could feel the town hunkering down, waiting for the out-of-town press to leave and for the heat from the ongoing investigation to blow over. He needed to do something that encouraged people with information to step forward and cooperate.

And then there was the homicide itself. He wondered why anybody would risk moving the body miles from the kill site. Hanging a dead man and pinning a note to his shirt was symbolic, designed to frighten and perhaps paralyze not only the Escalante Environmental Wilderness Alliance but other environmental groups as well. As the news of Greenbriar's murder swept across other Western states, it might have a chilling effect on the environmental movement. Maybe that's what the killer intended. On the other hand, the killing might provoke an angry, violent response from environmental activists.

And there was more. How did the killer know where to find Greenbriar? Had he been followed? Had somebody with inside knowledge tipped the killer by providing Greenbriar's hiking itinerary? Books decided to contact Darby and find out who, besides herself, would have known where and when the victim went hiking.

The killer also had to know that the police would have little difficulty locating the spot where the fatal shot was fired. So why leave traceable physical evidence at the murder scene? The murder had an amateurish feel about it that didn't make sense.

It was time to stir the community pot, and Books had an idea what might do it. He also wanted the names of EEWA and CFW members. Citing privacy concerns, Darby Greenbriar had already refused, and Books expected Neil Eddins would do the same. He placed a call to Sheriff Sutter. After a couple of minutes on hold, the sheriff picked up.

“Morning J.D., what's up?”

“I need your help on a couple of things, Charley.”


“I'd like you to schedule a press conference this afternoon. I'll prepare a written statement, but I'd like you to be there with me.”

“Suits me. They've been hanging around my office like vultures circling a dead carcass. Maybe this will get them off my back for a while.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it. I've got a couple of them camped in front of my office, too.”

“What are we going to tell them?”

“I'm working on that, but let's agree on what we're not going to tell them. We're not going to reveal any specifics about the crime scenes or any evidence we've collected.”

“Okay. It's your show. What else?” asked Sutter.

“Has your department monitored the activities of the EEWA and the CFW?”

“Call tries to keep track of the EEWA. He might even have surveillance photos.”

“Good, get them for me. I'd like to see them. What about the CFW? Do you have surveillance photos of them as well?”

Sutter fumbled for an answer. “Well, I'm not exactly sure.”

“Find out, Charley, and then sit down with Call and make a list of everybody you know or even think might be a member of either organization.”

“I don't see why you need all that—almost seems like an invasion of privacy if you ask me.”

“Humor me, Charley. It's important to identify the members of each group. It might lead us to our killer.”


“Charley, just get me the lists. Okay.”

There was a long pause before Sutter spoke. “How soon do you need them?”

“Yesterday. I'll see you at your office a few minutes before the news conference.”

“I'll see what I can do.” Sutter's line went dead.

Books sensed that Sutter's reluctance to identify members of the rival groups applied only to the CFW. He was certain that Sutter would be more than willing to identify suspected EEWA members. Was Sutter a card-carrying member of the CFW?


Books spent the next little while pouring over his case notes. There was a lot to do.

Assuming everything checked out, Darby's weekend trip to Las Vegas would provide her with a rock-solid alibi. Books also wanted to find out a little more about Darby's Las Vegas girlfriend, Erin Rogers.

He called an old acquaintance from the homicide unit of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Books had assisted Detective Sergeant Grant Weatherby on an old murder case, so Weatherby owed him one. Books asked him to check credit card receipts from the Hard Rock Hotel Casino to corroborate Darby Greenbriar's presence there and run a background check on Erin Rogers. Weatherby promised to get back to him as soon as he had something.


At one-thirty, Books and Sheriff Sutter met with the assembled media in the Kane County Commission chambers. Sutter hadn't been exaggerating when he complained about the amount of interest the case was receiving from various news sources. There were print, radio, and television representatives from all over Utah as well as from Las Vegas and Denver.

The sheriff made the introductions and explained that the investigation would be a joint operation between his office and the BLM. He then turned to Books, who agreed to answer questions after reading a brief statement:

“As you know, the BLM, in cooperation with the Kane County Sheriff's Office, is conducting a death investigation involving a local resident, Dr. David Greenbriar. Dr. Greenbriar's body was discovered yesterday morning by a group of tourists visiting the old West movie set at the Paria townsite east of Kanab. While we are awaiting an official report from the Utah state medical examiner's office as to the specific cause of death, we have reason to believe foul play was involved. Therefore, we are treating the case as a homicide. We'll take your questions now.”

Hands popped up all over the room. Books had been involved in these kinds of news conferences many times in Denver, so he wasn't surprised by the questions. The press wanted to know what kind of evidence they had, whether any suspects had been identified, and how close they were to making an arrest. Books answered some questions and declined to answer others.

One reporter caught him off-guard. The moment this guy began asking questions, Books realized someone close to the case had already leaked sensitive information. The reporter knew specifics about the investigation that hadn't been made public: that there were two separate crime scenes; that there was a note pinned to the victim's shirt; even that they found a shell casing and other physical evidence.

The investigation had already been compromised, and Books was angry. Near the end of the news conference, he finally got the question he was hoping for. A female reporter seated near the back of the room asked if they had developed a motive for the murder.

“While we want to emphasize that we are keeping an open mind concerning possible reasons for Dr. Greenbriar's murder, it's no secret that his involvement in the environmental movement as president and chairman of the board of the Escalante Environmental Wilderness Alliance might have provided the motive,” said Books. “It is also clear that there are elements in the local community who were hostile toward Dr. Greenbriar and his organization. We urge everyone in our community to put differences aside and help us solve this horrific crime. If anyone has information pertinent to our investigation, please contact either Sheriff Sutter or me.”

Books never mentioned the CFW by name, but he didn't have to. Moments after the press conference, a visibly angry Charley Sutter cornered him in the hallway outside the commission chambers. Books had noticed that when Sutter got upset, there was a visible twitch in the cheek on the left side of his face.

“Do you have any idea what you just did in there?” He didn't wait for an answer. “You did everything but accuse members of the CFW of complicity in Greenbriar's murder.”

Books listened patiently to Sutter's tirade before firing back. “Somebody in this town knows what happened to David Greenbriar, and they need to come forward. And I would think, Charley, that you ought to be more concerned about finding his killer and less concerned about whether we ruffle some feathers in the process.”

Sutter snorted, “Maybe so, but you better understand, you've just set us up for a shit-storm of public criticism.”

“I'll try not to lose sleep over it, Charley, and neither should you. By the way, who was the reporter sitting in the front row who asked the pointed questions about our case?”

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
11.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Person or Persons Unknown by Bruce Alexander
Oathen by Giacomo, Jasmine
The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley
Quarantine by Jim Crace
Yield by Cari Silverwood
Red River Showdown by J. R. Roberts