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Authors: Michael Norman

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

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BOOK: On Deadly Ground
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Now his cheek was twitching like crazy. “That was Lamont Christensen. He's the editor of the local newspaper, the
Kane County Citizen

“Somebody's leaked information to him, Charley. Was it you?”

“I sure as hell didn't. He called me at home last evening, but I refused to answer his questions.”

“Well, somebody sure as hell did,” said Books. “He had to have gotten that information from a source close to the investigation, and that's a damn short list.” If not the sheriff, Books wondered about Brian Call.

Sutter was right about one thing. CFW members and their sympathizers wasted little time before placing a deluge of angry phone calls to the BLM, the sheriff's office, the Kanab Town Council, and the Kane County Commission. Books didn't give a damn about the criticism, so long as it resulted in somebody coming forward with new information that would advance the investigation. And it actually didn't take long.

Chapter Ten

Books spent the rest of the afternoon in his office dealing with voice messages and phone calls from angry citizens and government bureaucrats. A couple of anonymous messages were predictably threatening, but most weren't. Sutter managed to disappear after leaving instructions at the sheriff's office to forward every cranky citizen call to Books. For the most part he listened patiently, allowing callers to vent and hoping for a kernel of helpful information.

Alexis Runyon phoned to express concern over how quickly Books had managed to alienate so many locals in such a short period of time. She reminded him that success on the job meant maintaining good public relations and, that so far his performance was less than satisfactory.

The help Books was seeking came in a late afternoon call from Celia Foxworthy, the EEWA volunteer who had accompanied Darby Greenbriar to the previous day's interview. She seemed reluctant to discuss specifics over the phone, so Books suggested a private face-to-face meeting later in the evening at his office. She agreed.

Soon after the call from Foxworthy, Darby Greenbriar called. She had located receipts from her Vegas trip and also wanted to give Books the name and phone number of her husband's lawyer. There was something else he wanted to ask her about, so he jumped into the Yukon and drove to the EEWA office.

The sullen widow greeted him with a strained half smile. “You look exhausted,” said Books. “Get yourself eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”

“You're right. I am exhausted. I'm going to need some sleep meds if this goes on much longer. I heard you rattled some cages at a news conference this afternoon.”

“Had your spies over there, did you?”

“You bet. Consider yourself living in a fishbowl for the duration.”

That didn't seem unreasonable to Books, considering the untidy mess he'd gotten himself into. They sat opposite each other at a rectangular mahogany table in the conference room.

She handed him a slip of paper with a name and phone number on it. “My husband's lawyer is Victor Stein. That's his Berkeley office number.”

Books thanked her. “What were you able to find out about David's estate? Did you locate a will or trust, anything on his life insurance?”

She shook her head. “I couldn't find anything. The more I thought about it though, I think David maintained a safety deposit box in town. He was always paranoid about somebody breaking into our home and snooping into our personal affairs.”

“Which bank?”

“Wells Fargo, I think. That's where we bank. Victor would know for sure.”

“You mean your name isn't on the safety deposit box.”

She hesitated. “I don't think so.”

Books couldn't recall a murder case he'd worked where the spouse knew less about the family estate than Darby did. He wondered if she was telling the truth.

“I've been thinking about something,” said Books. “Who, besides you, knew that David was hiking in the Kaiparowitz Plateau?”

“The only person I recall telling was Celia, and I think I mentioned it during dinner on Friday night.”

“The night before you left for Las Vegas?”

“Right. Of course David could have told any number of people.”

That was true.

“If you don't mind, I'd like to ask the office secretary,” said Books. “Maybe she shared David's hiking plans with somebody.”

“All right. Let me get Cathy before she locks up and goes home.”

“While you're up, there's something else.”

“What's that?”

“I recall seeing David's day planner in his office. Mind if I borrow it?”

“Sure, if you think it'll help. I'll send Cathy in and go get the planner for you.”

Books had spoken with Cathy Carpenter previously but hadn't officially met her. She had been a part of the EEWA from the beginning, first as a volunteer and then as office manager once the organization could afford a full-time, paid employee. Books asked her whether she had shared David's weekend hiking plans with anyone besides Darby.

“As a matter of fact, I did. One of our members, Lance Clayburn, called Friday afternoon looking for David. When I told him David wasn't in, he wanted to know whether David planned to come into the office on Saturday.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That David was hiking the Kaiparowitz and wouldn't be back until Sunday evening.”

“What did Mr. Clayburn want?”

“He never said. I mean it's not unusual. People call all the time wanting to talk with David—members and nonmembers.”

“Okay, anybody else?”

She started to say no and then stopped. “Come to think of it, there was another call. I remember it because I was standing at the front door ready to lock up when the phone rang. I debated about whether or not to answer it.”

“Who was it?”

“Don't know. The guy didn't give his name.”

“What did he want?”

“He said he was one of David's old colleagues from Berkeley and that he was passing through town and hoped to see him.”

“What did you tell him?”

She paused momentarily trying to recall the conversation. “I'm pretty sure I told him David was out of town for the weekend.”

“Did he ask where David was?”

She paused again. “Damn. I don't recall that he did, but I'm not sure.”

“And you're sure this guy didn't leave a name or a call-back number?”

She shook her head. “No, he didn't. I'm certain of that.”

“Did you notice anything unusual or anyone hanging around the EEWA office in the days leading up to the murder?”

“Not that I recall.”

Books had one last question.

“In the days before David's death, did you notice anything different about him? Was he behaving differently, acting fearful, anything like that?”

“No, and I think I would have noticed. Other than Darby, I knew David as well as anybody. I didn't see any change in him.”

Books thanked her, gave her his business card, and asked her to call if she remembered anything else.

Darby returned and handed the planner to Books. “You'll get this back to me when you're through with it?”

“You bet.”

She opened a file folder and looked at him. “I want to ask you something, and I'd like a straight answer.”

“Sure thing.”

“If I were to give you a copy of the EEWA membership list, would I have your word that it would be for your eyes only—that it wouldn't end up in the hands of the press, the CFW, or anybody else?”

“You have my word on it. I'm curious, though, why the change of heart?”

She hesitated a moment as though carefully composing what she wanted to say. “I don't know whether you can understand this, Ranger Books, but my husband had a dream. His dream was to preserve these wild lands in their natural state for the enjoyment of this and future generations. He understood that to fulfill that dream, he'd have to take on groups like the CFW and the ATV crowd. He was willing to do that, and in the end, it cost him his life. I intend to make sure his death doesn't put an end to his dream. If my turning over our membership list helps you find his killer, then it'll have been worth it.”

He thanked her for her cooperation and her trust.

The compliment brought a weak smile. “I'm also being pragmatic. I suspect you could compel us to surrender the list with a court order.”

She was right about that. If Books couldn't obtain membership lists from each group voluntarily, he had planned to go to court. At least now he wouldn't have to do that with the EEWA. He intended to use this gesture from Darby to brow-beat Neil Eddins into voluntarily surrendering the CFW membership list.

“Was Cathy able to provide any assistance?”

Books told her about the anonymous caller claiming to be an old university colleague. “That doesn't sound right to me,” said Darby. “In all the years we've lived here, David has never had so much as a phone call from any of his old colleagues, much less from one passing through town wanting to stop in for a visit.”

Books shrugged. “If you'll give me a list of his closest friends from the university, I'll call and inquire if any of them phoned David.”

“I'll do that, but you should also ask David's ex. She would know his former colleagues a lot better than I do.”

“What can you tell me about an EEWA member named Lance Clayburn?”

The mention of his name brought a subtle and yet visible reaction to her face—shock or surprise, maybe. “How did Lance's name come up?”

“He was the other person who called Cathy asking about David's weekend schedule. Why? Does that surprise you?”

“No, not really. I can't tell you much about Lance because I don't know him all that well. He joined the EEWA about a year and a half ago. He doesn't miss many meetings. Other members seem to like him quite well.”

Books had never heard of him. “Where's he from, do you know?”

“Seems like he mentioned Vermont or Connecticut, somewhere in New England. I'm not really sure.”

“What does he do for a living?”

“From what I hear, he isn't employed. He's a trust baby who comes from a family with a boatload of money.”

“Did he get along with David?”

“He seems to get along with everybody, including David.”

Books told her he'd pay Clayburn a visit, thanked her, and left. When he got back to the office, he found Celia Foxworthy waiting in the reception area. She was a few minutes early. He also found a voice message from Sergeant Grant Weatherby asking that he call as soon as possible. That might mean Weatherby had discovered information about Darby's trip to Las Vegas, although the receipts she had provided seemed to show her presence in Sin City.

Chapter Eleven

Celia Foxworthy was a transplanted Californian who had moved to southern Utah more than four years before. The roots of her environmental activism began years earlier with the Sierra Club when she'd lived in Lake Tahoe. She was an EEWA volunteer and a neighbor of the Greenbriars. After several minutes of getting-to-know-you small talk, Books brought the conversation around to the investigation.

“Thanks for contacting me, Celia. If we're going to solve David's murder, we need citizen help. So what brings you to see me today?”

“Well, it might be nothing, but I felt someone should tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“During the past year, there's been a lot of internal conflict in the EEWA, a power struggle I guess you'd call it.”

This was the second time Books had heard this. “Please go on.”

“You may know the EEWA is governed by a board of directors, with David serving as chairman. In recent months, he and another board member, Barry Struthers, have been in a great deal of conflict over the direction of the organization.”

“What kind of conflict?”

“Verbal mostly, raised voices, shouting on a couple of occasions during board meetings.”

“What were they fighting about?”

“I'm not sure how to say this, but Barry, I think, has grown frustrated over the past year that goals in the organization aren't being as aggressively pursued as he thinks they should be.”

Books frowned. “Are you trying to tell me that Struthers advocated using more extreme tactics that might include breaking the law?”

“I wouldn't go that far. Let me put it another way. David was far more patient than Barry. He was tenacious in pursuing EEWA goals, but he was willing to take the long road to get there. Not so with Barry. Barry is an impatient guy who expects results yesterday—different styles, I guess you could say.”

“As far as you know, had Struthers ever threatened David?”

“Not that I heard. But at our spring picnic in May, everyone had been drinking. David and Barry exchanged words, and the two had to be separated.”

Books looked surprised. Darby hadn't mentioned this. “Did you overhear the exchange?”

“No. By the time I noticed what was going on, David and Barry were tangled in a wrestling match, and other members were separating them. Unfortunately, the incident put a damper on what should have been a pleasant social outing.”

“I'll bet. In your opinion, was David in danger of losing control of the organization?”

“I don't think so. It's a seven-person governing board, and Barry had one other member solidly behind him. That still gave David a commanding five-to-two majority in board voting. But things had become so disruptive in recent months that other board members were talking among themselves about whether the organization would be better off if David stepped aside.”

“That couldn't have made him very happy. Who was the other board member supporting Struthers?”

“An ex-BLM guy by the name of Richard Hill. Rich retired from the BLM a couple of years ago and immediately joined the EEWA.”

Books decided to change direction, and his next question caught Foxworthy off-guard. “How was the marriage between David and his wife?”

She shrugged her shoulders, avoiding eye contact. “Like most marriages, I think they had their ups and downs.”

“What kind of ups and downs?”

“I'm not sure that's a question I'm qualified to answer.”

“It might turn out to be important.”

“Maybe, but it would only be speculation on my part—nothing I know for sure. It makes me feel like a gossip.”

“If it makes it any easier, I promise that I'll hold anything you tell me in confidence.”

She gave him an exasperated look. “Are you always so persistent?” It sounded like a rhetorical question. He waited.

After an uncomfortable period of silence, she said, “Darby is a beautiful young woman, outgoing, and always flirtatious in an innocent sort of way, I think. And of course, they were years apart in age.” She paused, carefully gauging what she wanted to say next. Books had a pretty good idea where this conversation was headed. Personal experience made it painful to hear nonetheless. “Rumor has it that Darby has been having an affair with a fellow EEWA member.”

“And who might that be?”

“His name is Lance Clayburn.”

Books didn't react. “Anything specific to substantiate the rumor?”

“Nothing very concrete—the way they look at each other and the amount of time they spend together. I have seen Lance's truck at the Greenbriars' house a couple of times when David was out of town.”

“You live next door, right?”


“Two questions,” said Books. “How long do you think the relationship has been going on, and do you think David knew about it?”

“Seven or eight months, and I doubt that David knew.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Well, I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I just don't think most guys would notice. There's been a glow about Darby these past months—like there's something new and exciting going on in her life. Call it woman's intuition, if you like.”

Books' own intuition told him that Celia Foxworthy knew something else she wasn't telling him, but he decided to let it go for now.

Foxworthy confirmed having had dinner with Darby the previous Friday night. The timeline was consistent with everything Darby had told him. Two things piqued his interest. The first, and arguably most significant, was that Darby might be having an affair with the guy Books knew was trying to track the whereabouts of her husband shortly before his murder. That might also explain her unease and evasiveness when he mentioned Clayburn's name. The second was why Darby seemed to have deliberately downplayed the seriousness of the conflict between her husband and Barry Struthers.

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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