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Authors: Michael Norman

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BOOK: On Deadly Ground
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Chapter Twelve

It happened again. It was the third time in the past month that Becky Eddins had returned home late to find the same heavy-breathing, no-voice phone calls on her answering machine. The calls, coupled with an incident a few days earlier, were starting to scare her.

That night, she picked Cody up from her parents, drove home, fed him dinner, and settled him into bed. Her pueblo-style home, which sat on two acres, backed into red rock cliffs that afforded maximum privacy from nosy neighbors. It also provided stunning views from the home's covered rear portico. Until now, Eddins had enjoyed the seclusion and thought nothing about pouring a glass of wine, starting a fire in the outdoor kiva fireplace, and relaxing in the hot tub.

She poured a glass of Rosemount Shiraz, stripped out of her clothes, grabbed a towel, and walked outside for a long soak. She stayed in the hot, swirling water until she felt the stress of the day ebb away.

Her thoughts drifted to J.D. Books. If anything, he looked better now than he did a dozen years before when he moved away from Kanab. He carried what she guessed was two hundred pounds on a six-five frame. He was lean and muscular, not showing any sign of the middle-life paunch carried by a lot of men his age. His only sacrifice to middle age was the flecks of gray showing at the temples of his short-cropped black hair. She felt happy to have him back in town, although she wasn't sure why. Whatever puppy-love feelings she'd had for him in high school were long over. It probably didn't matter anyway. What interest would a man coming out of a bitter marriage have in a divorced woman raising a six-year-old boy?

Eddins climbed out of the hot tub and lay on the beach towel she had spread on the redwood deck. The cool evening breeze gave her goose bumps but felt good against her wet, naked skin. She remained motionless on her back for several minutes allowing the evening breeze to dry her. She ran her hands slowly over her breasts until the nipples stiffened. Her right hand moved lower across her abdomen until her fingers began a slow, rhythmic movement that grew faster and more urgent until she shuddered in a powerful orgasm.

As her breathing returned to normal, she heard it. It was the scratching sound that only a shoe or boot would make as it scraped across sandstone. She sat up and froze, heart pounding. She stared into the darkness for what seemed like an eternity without hearing the sound again. For just an instant, she thought she saw a flash of movement among the juniper and pinon pine near her bedroom by the corner of the house.

Eddins grabbed the towel, ran inside the house and doused the lights. Slipping on a terry cloth robe, she headed straight for the gun cabinet where she selected a Browning pump-action shotgun. At close range, this would do the job regardless of whether the critter was two-legged or four. She had grown up in a family of hunters. Guns were second nature to her.

She loaded the weapon and moved quickly through the darkened house until she reached the back patio. For a minute, she sat perfectly still, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dark. Nothing moved. Everything was quiet. She turned on the outside flood lights. They lit up the back yard and the lower cliffs like a Christmas tree. Whoever or whatever had been out there was gone. She would look for tracks in the morning.

Becky spent the remainder of a restless night in Cody's bedroom, the shotgun within easy reach. Early the next morning, she discovered a partial boot print in the red clay where she thought she'd seen movement the night before.

She hadn't told anyone, not even her parents, about the crank phone calls or the peeping-Tom incident. Until now, she had convinced herself that the calls were the work of some harmless local crackpot or the mischievous pranks of teenagers, either of whom she might have encountered in her law practice. In all likelihood, she thought, the incidents were unrelated. Still, it was time to file a report with the police department. There was little they could do, but at least there would be a record.

For the first time she felt vulnerable living alone with her son, Cody, and Felix, the family cat.

Chapter Thirteen

When Books got home, the message light on his ancient answering machine was blinking. He had four messages. One was from Neil Eddins. He knew what that one would be about. He also had a pretty good idea what the call from Douglas Case, Chairman of the Kane County Commission and Maggie's father-in-law, would be about.

The third call was from an angry Lamont Christensen, editor of the local newspaper. Christensen left Books a testy message accusing him of trying to suppress the public's right to know by using Draconian methods in dealing with the media. Ironic, since Christensen had a pipeline inside the investigation.

The fourth and the most interesting call came from Lillian Greenbriar, the victim's former spouse. She left her home phone and a cell number and asked him to call her back. Lillian Greenbriar was out of breath when she answered the phone. Books introduced himself and told her he would call back later if the time was inconvenient.

“Not at all. Sorry I'm so out of breath,” she said. “I just got back from a run with my dog. She's a middle-aged, overweight lab that my vet told me needs to lose some pounds. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure who's exercising whom anymore. Anyway, thanks for getting back to me so fast.”

“No problem. I'm very sorry about David, by the way.”

“Thank you. It was a real blow to all of us.”

“I'll bet it was. So how can I help you?”

“I called the sheriff's office this afternoon to find out who was in charge of the case. The deputy gave me your name and number. I hope it was okay to call you at home.”

“No problem.” Books lied. Actually, it was a problem. At Denver P.D., and every other police department he was aware of, providing an officer's home number to a citizen was a big no-no. A little chat with Sheriff Sutter on the subject seemed in order.

“I wanted to find out what's going on in the investigation. Have you arrested anyone? Also, I'm trying to find out about funeral arrangements. Darby hasn't given me the details.”

“I doubt it's intentional. She's in a state of shock like you and everyone else. This little community doesn't see many homicides.”

“I'm sure that's true.”

“As to your first question, I can tell you that it's still early in the investigation. We do have some physical evidence, and we're busy chasing a number of leads.”

“What kind of leads?”

“Sorry, but at the moment, I can't get into that.”

“I take it then that you haven't identified the killer?”

“That's right.”

“Can you tell me anything else?”

“Not much, I'm afraid. But I will say this. I think we're going to solve David's murder, and, I think, sooner than later.”

“I'm relieved to hear that. What about funeral arrangements?”

To Books, Lillian Grenbriar sounded stoic over the phone, emotions well in check. “I haven't heard anything. You'll want to speak to Darby about that. Nothing is imminent, I'm sure of that. The medical examiner hasn't released the body yet.” Books explained that that would happen in the next day or two once the autopsy was completed.

“I take it you're planning to attend the funeral?” he added.

“I am. As a matter of fact, several of David's old Berkeley colleagues are planning to make the trip. His lawyer plans to attend as well.”

“That would be Victor Stein?”

“Yes. Victor and I will travel together.”

“Glad to hear it. That'll save me the time of having to fly to Berkeley. I'd like to talk to both of you.”

“That shouldn't be difficult to arrange.”

“Appreciate it. Can you answer a couple of questions for me now?”

“I'll try.”

“Did you and David stay in touch after the divorce?”

“Not right away. I don't know, Mr. Books, whether you've ever experienced marital infidelity. At first, there was such a sense of hurt and betrayal that we communicated only through our respective attorneys. Then the hurt turned to anger. Eventually, those emotions receded. After a while, David and I began to talk, and in the last year or two, we've been in touch every few weeks.”

Books knew exactly how she felt, except he hadn't reached the healing part yet. He was still angry. The memory still burned.

He had just been suspended from duty because of his involvement in a fatal shooting. When he arrived home, Carrie's Explorer was nowhere in sight. Instead, an unfamiliar, silver BMW was sitting in the driveway. He parked down the street and walked behind the house, entering quietly through the back door, gun in hand. He heard them before he saw anything—the unmistakable sound of two people making love; the playful giggles, the heavy breathing, the pleasurable moans of a couple in the throes of sexual heat.

Books pushed the bedroom door open with the barrel of his gun. The stranger was lying naked on his back, and Carrie was sitting astride him rocking slowly up and down, moaning with every stroke. Books froze, like a voyeur watching a peep show, until something made Carrie glance over her shoulder. She gasped and rolled off the guy and stood to face him.

Then he lost it. Books pushed Carrie aside and threw a round-house left hook that grazed the side of the stranger's head. The guy had jumped off the bed and was standing there with his dick at half-mast. The straight right that followed connected with the middle of his face. Books heard the distinct sound of breaking bone as his fist shattered the stranger's nose. Screaming in pain as blood spurted everywhere, the man fell face down on the bed and grabbed the sheet with both hands in a futile attempt to stop the flow of blood.

The last thing Books recalled was Carrie trying to restrain him from behind. She yelled, “Christ, J.D., stop it. Leave him alone.”

Books walked down the hall, out the front door, and out of Carrie's life. They didn't see or speak again except through their lawyers.

“Ranger Books, are you still there?” said Lillian Greenbriar.

Oh, sorry. Something distracted me for a moment. When was the last time you spoke with David?”

“I thought I'd lost you,” she said. “Probably a week, maybe ten days ago.”

He asked her the usual questions. Had David expressed any recent fear about his own safety? Had he ever mentioned being threatened by anyone? The answers were no and no.

“How about his marriage to Darby—did he ever discuss that with you?”

“No. The subject of Darby was strictly off-limits in any context. We hadn't reached a comfort level where discussing Darby was tolerable for either of us. It was unspoken, but something, I think, we both intuitively understood.”

“What about his work. Did you talk about that?”

“We did. That was safer ground for us. David often wanted to know what was going on in the campus community, particularly when it involved any of his old colleagues. And I would feign interest in his environmental activities.”

“Feign interest—an odd choice of words. I take it you weren't a fan of David's environmental activism.”

“Not really. David was into protecting the environment and I'm all about rescuing animals, dogs for the most part.”

“Both noble causes.”

“I think so.”

“In your recent conversations with David, did he ever discuss what he was working on?”

“As a matter of fact, he did. David was passionate about a broad range of environmental issues, and I could always count on receiving a blow-by-blow description of whatever he was involved in at any given time.”

“So what was he doing?”

She answered without missing a beat. “Road expansion seemed to be the latest issue. At least that's what he talked the most about during the past few months. David had a real burr up his backside on that one.”

“Do you know why?”

“Not really. Tell you the truth, David would get me on the phone and prattle on and on about some issue I didn't much care about. It went in one ear and out the other.”

“I understand.”

“Why are you asking me this, anyway? Do you think it might have something to do with his murder?”

“Not sure. I do know this, though. In a murder case, if you can figure out motive, it's often easier to find a suspect.”

Books asked Lillian for the names of David's closest friends in Berkeley. It was a short list. He intended to have Brian Call contact each of them and ask whether they had tried to reach David at the EEWA office a couple of days prior to his murder. Somebody had, and maybe that somebody was the killer.

Lillian Greenbriar promised to contact him if she remembered anything else that might be important. They agreed to meet after the funeral.

Chapter Fourteen

After talking to Lillian Greenbriar, Books nuked a frozen dinner in the microwave, cracked a bottle of Corona, and began studying the murder book.

He had always been a visual sort of cop. In his former Colorado home, he filled his office walls with flip charts. In his new digs space was at a premium. He had stopped at the local hardware store, purchased some cork board, and mounted it on a small wall in his combined kitche and dining room.

He reviewed everything—crime scene sketches and photographs, police reports, newspaper clippings, and witness statements. It was premature for the lab reports, but he'd add them as soon as they came in. He was searching for any small detail that might have been overlooked. He couldn't find anything. He created four charts for his makeshift office wall, including a list of all the physical evidence recovered from the crime scenes; a list of possible suspects; a prioritized list of investigative leads that still needed follow-up; and finally, a list of completed tasks.

By the time he'd finished, it was after midnight and he had just polished off his third Corona and his second papaya enzyme tablet. He'd been getting it a lot lately—a burning sensation deep in his gut after eating just about any kind of food. Consuming any of his other regular vices, such as booze and coffee, only added to his discomfort.

As fatigue took over, he knew that clear thinking would not be possible until he grabbed some shut-eye. He crawled into bed without so much as brushing his teeth. Since his life had been turned upside nine months earlier, he often went to bed bone tired and then found sleep about as elusive as the Holy Grail.

Books had been in bed about half an hour when he heard something outside his bedroom window. It sounded like someone walking on loose gravel. He reached across the bed to a nightstand, picked up his holstered 357-magnum Smith & Wesson, and quietly removed it from its holster. Unfortunately, the box spring he was sleeping on must have been a relic from the Spanish American War—the slightest movement made the damned thing squeak loud enough to wake up Las Vegas. Books lay still and listened. It was eerily quiet.

The trailer had no outside lighting, but a full moon decorated a cloudless sky. Through the flimsy curtain, he watched a shadow move slowly toward the front door. Someone turned the door knob.

Books jumped out of bed and ran toward the door just as a large rock, about the size of a softball, smashed his front window. Shards of glass scattered everywhere. He got out the door in time to see the taillights of a pickup truck in rapid retreat toward the county road. In the dark, Books couldn't make out the color of the rig, much less the number of occupants. One thing for sure: the engine had the gravelly sound of a big diesel.

The lights inside Ned Hunsaker's home flicked on, and Books saw the old man trotting in his direction carrying a pump action shotgun. “You okay, J.D.? I dialed 911 as soon as I heard the commotion.”

“Yeah, I'm fine. Did you happen to get a look at that pickup truck?”

“Not a close one,” said Hunsaker, “but good enough to think that it just might belong to one of Tommy McClain's nitwit friends, Derek Lebeau.”

“How certain are you?”

“Fairly. Lebeau owns a silver Dodge pickup, a high-rider with big tires, similar to the one that just roared out of here.”

“Does Lebeau's have a diesel engine?”

“Not sure, but I think so.”

Was McClain along for the ride? Books intended to find out. “Do you know where Lebeau lives?”

Ned frowned. “I hope you're not thinking of going over there right now. That wouldn't be such a good idea.”

“Damn straight, I am.”

“Well then, count me in. I'm going with you. I don't want you going over there by yourself.”

At that moment, a Kanab City police car pulled on to the property with its emergency lights flashing.

Ned glanced over and said, “Son, you might want to go inside and put some pants on.”

Books glanced down and felt a bit foolish. He was standing there holding a firearm, wearing only a T-shirt and Jockey shorts. When Books returned, he was carrying a fist sized rock with a note taped to it. He removed the tape and gingerly opened the note with a pair of tweezers to avoid adding his own fingerprints to the paper he hoped might contain the suspects'. The note read: ‘
Go back where you came from, killer—you ain't wanted here.'
Short and to the point—a clear reference to his recent troubles in Denver.

Ned exchanged greetings with the Kanab cop and then introduced him to Books. His name was Lloyd Wiggins. Wiggins was a barrel-chested man in his mid- to late forties who seemed unconcerned, almost amused by the incident.

“Probably just teenagers,” he said. “A lot of them take their cues from Mom and Dad —hate the feds. You know how it is.”

“I'm learning real fast,” said Books.

“Sorry I can't take a report for ya,” said Wiggins, “out of my jurisdiction, ya know.”

Books glanced at Ned, wondering why Officer Wiggins had bothered to show up at all. Ned explained. “I live right on the edge of the town limits, J.D., but just outside. It's actually the sheriff's jurisdiction by a few hundred yards.”

Despite Ned's explanation, Books continued. “I'm curious about something, Lloyd. How come you responded?”

“It's close to the town limit, and I thought Ned might be in some kind of trouble—didn't realize you lived out here, though. Besides, you might not see a sheriff's deputy for quite awhile. There's only one on duty during the graveyard shift, and he could be eighty miles from here. You just never know.”

The implication was clear. Wiggins came out of concern for Ned's well-being, not his. Although Wiggins didn't come right out and say it, Books was left with the distinct impression that Officer Wiggins wouldn't have come to his aid.

“Did you get a look at who did it?” asked Wiggins.

“Never saw a thing. All I heard was the sound of shattering glass and a vehicle making a hasty exit.”

“Too bad,” muttered Wiggins. “Like I said, it's probably just teenage pranksters out havin a little fun.” With that, he climbed back into his cruiser and drove away.

Books glanced at Ned and shook his head. “Now there's a piece of police work straight from the pages of Mayberry and Deputy Barney Fife.”

Ned chuckled, “Congratulations, J.D. You just met one of Kanab P.D.'s finest. As you can tell, they're here to serve and protect.”

Books shook his head and walked back to the doublewide.

He got into his uniform while Ned swept up the broken glass and rigged a piece of cardboard to plug the hole where the front window had been. A record check on Derek Lebeau revealed several prior arrests, all misdemeanors. Most involved alcohol—drunk and disorderly, DUI, domestic violence, and an assault beef resulting from a bar fight. Books also discovered an outstanding $250.00 arrest warrant from Salt Lake County on a traffic ticket Lebeau had failed to pay.

On the drive to Lebeau's home, Hunsaker broke a long silence. “I know you're busy as a bird dog right now, but I heard something in town this afternoon that you might want to know.”

Books arched an eyebrow. “And that would be?”

“When I went into the county building this afternoon to renew my truck plates, I ran into Beulah Wood.”

“Who's Beulah Wood?”

“One of the sheriff's dispatchers.”


“She told me that Becky Eddins filed a police report this morning claiming somebody may be stalking her. It seems she had an unwanted visitor of the two-legged variety at her house last night.”

“A prowler?”

“Prowler, a peeping Tom, I'm not sure which.”

“What happened?”

“Don't know for sure.”

“Boy, that's not good,” said Books, “considering she lives alone with her son. I wonder if she got a look at the guy.”

“Don't know that either. I hear she's been getting some strange phone calls lately—heavy breathers, no voice, that sort of thing.”

“Maybe she ought to consider moving home for a while.”

“I guess Neil wants her to, but she won't have any part of it. Stubborn gal, that one.”

“I'll drop by and see her as soon as I can. In the meantime, I'll try to keep an eye on her home.”

“I'll do the same,” added Ned.

Lebeau lived in a mobile home several miles east of Kanab off Highway 89. The lights were still on when Books and Ned arrived. A 2004 Dodge pickup truck registered to him was parked next to the house. The truck was jacked up so high that Yao Ming couldn't have gotten into it without a stepladder. The truck also had a diesel engine.

“Does this look like the rig you saw running from my place?”

Hunsaker nodded. “Sure does. Tall one, isn't it?”

“Wait here while I pay our friend a visit.” Ned looked like he was about to argue but changed his mind.

Books ran his hand over the hood of the truck on his way to the porch. The engine was still warm. He climbed two makeshift steps to a rickety front porch and rapped on the front door.

“Who's there?”

“Mr. Lebeau, it's the police. Open up.”

Books heard the door unlock and then it opened a crack. Obviously intoxicated, Lebeau stood on the other side of the screen door wearing a white muscle shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He was holding an open can of Budweiser. He hadn't shaved in several days and reeked of BO and alcohol.

“Who are you, and what the hell do ya want?” slurred Lebeau.

“Answers to a few questions. I'm investigating a vandalism complaint that happened at my home a while ago. Your pickup was observed leaving the scene not more than an hour ago. What can you tell me about that?”

“Bullshit. That truck's been parked right here since I got home about six o'clock this evening. You're that new fuckin ranger, aren't ya?”

Books ignored the question. “That's odd because the engine is still warm. Somebody drove it, and recently, too. You didn't happen to lend it to someone, did you?”

“You callin me a liar,” he said, stepping out on the small front porch.

“Yup, as a matter of fact, I am.”

Lebeau caught Books off guard. He lunged at him and threw a wild left hook. Books tried to duck, but the blow caught the top of his forehead just below the hairline. He was thrown off balance and started to bleed where Lebeau's ring hit him. Books swung his oversized mag flashlight and caught Lebeau flush on the shin bone of his left leg just below the knee. The man cursed and began hopping up and down on his good leg. Books swung the flashlight again and connected with the shin bone on the other leg. Lebeau howled in pain but managed to get off a wild punch that struck Books high on the left shoulder.

Books feinted to his left, came up under Lebeau, and struck him under the chin with the grip end of the flashlight. Lebeau staggered and his knees started to buckle. He cursed some more. Books tackled him and they went down in a tangled mass of arms and legs. Despite the pain, Lebeau still had fight left in him. Ned jumped into the fray and pulled Lebeau away. Together, the men managed to get Lebeau's hands behind his back and slap him in handcuffs.

Books spent the next two hours getting medical treatment for Lebeau at the community hospital in Kanab and then booked him into the Kane County Jail. By the time Lebeau sobered up and the pain subsided, he'd realize that he was neck deep in cow dung. Besides the outstanding arrest warrant, he would also be charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and vandalism, assuming Books could pull the case together.

Books made it home at four in the morning, slept for three hours, and was back in his office by eight.

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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