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Authors: Michael Norman

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

On Deadly Ground (8 page)

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
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Chapter Fifteen

Chief Deputy Brian Call sat across from Books' desk in an old beat-up leather recliner that another BLM employee had donated to him. Call looked decidedly uncomfortable. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they hadn't had time to develop trust in one other and in their new alliance.

Books arranged to meet early so Call would still have time to make the seventy-five mile drive to St. George to attend David Greenbriar's autopsy later in the morning.

“Heard you had a run-in with Derek Lebeau last night,” said Call.

“News sure travels fast in a small town—not exactly used to it, either.”

“It ain't like the big city, that's for sure.”

Call reached across the desk and handed Books a file. “You asked for a list of possible EEWA members. This is what I came up with.”

Books scanned the list. He didn't bother to tell Call that Darby Greenbriar had provided an official EEWA membership list the day before. Now he would have the opportunity to compare the official list with the one Call had produced. There were about twenty names on Call's list. Some were familiar, many weren't.

“Has the sheriff had a chance to see these names?”

“Yeah, I gave them to him yesterday and asked if he could think of anybody else who ought to be on it. He came up with a couple of additional people I wouldn't have thought of.”

“What was the source of your information?”

Call frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Who gave you these names?”

“Oh, sorry, didn't follow you there for a minute,” said Call. “The department maintains an intelligence file on the EEWA.”

“That's good. I assume you have a similar one for the CFW.”

Call drew back. “I don't know. You'll have to talk with Sheriff Sutter about that.”

“So you don't have the CFW list?”

“Uh, no, I don't. Sheriff Sutter wanted to put that list together himself.”

“Okay, I'll talk to Charley about it when he gets in.”

Call nodded.

“Let's start with ballistics. We should have one shell casing and a recovered slug from the murder scene undergoing ballistics testing. Is that right?”

“That's right. I asked them to check the shell casing for prints before it went to ballistics.”

“Good thinking. Glad you remembered to do that.”

Books continued down the list of evidence. “I'm showing that we've got two empty beer cans, Guinness, one plastic baggie, and the note that was pinned to Greenbriar's shirt, all being run for latents.”

“That's right. What do you want me to do with the soil samples we took from the crime scenes?”

“Nothing for now. Just hang on to them. If we need to have them analyzed later, we can.”

“Okay. While I'm in St. George today, I'll drop by the lab and press the techs for test results.”

“It may be too soon, but tell'em we needed those lab results yesterday.”


Books sat at his desk thinking about the investigation and about Brian Call. Maybe he'd underestimated the guy. So far he was pulling his own weight, showing himself to be a guy with a solid grasp of investigative procedures and a good head for details.

Books had sensed that getting a list of EEWA members from the locals would be a damned sight easier than getting one on the CFW. Charley Sutter had taken it upon himself to put the CFW list together, and Call seemed more than happy to put distance between himself and the sheriff on that issue. How long would the sheriff stonewall him before he produced something?

The phone rang. It was Grant Weatherby from Las Vegas P.D. “Good morning, Ranger Books. I'm having a difficult time getting hold of your new handle.”

“You're not the only one, Grant. How are things in Sin City?”

“Same shit, different day. Things move so damn fast in this town that it's impossible to stay ahead of the curve.”

“It's that kind of town all right. What did you find out for me?”

“Several things. For starters, Darby Greenbriar was a guest at the Hard Rock for two nights, Saturday and Sunday. She registered as a single. Her bill shows several room charges, phone calls mostly, a gift shop purchase, and several meals.”

“That jibes with what she told us. Got a list of the phone numbers she called?”

“Sure do, all right here in front of me. She called Erin Rogers twice, once on Saturday night and again early Sunday afternoon.”

“That's what she told me, too. Claimed she never got hold of Rogers.”

“That's true. She left messages both times. Rogers confirmed that. I spoke with her late yesterday afternoon. She just got back from LA, where she'd spent the weekend with her boyfriend. When she returned, there were two messages from Greenbriar, hoping they could get together while she was in town.”

“Okay, anything else?”

“Yeah, one thing, and I think you'll find it interesting.”

“Hmm, and that would be…..”

“Mrs. Greenbriar had a male guest for dinner Saturday night in her room, an intimate dinner for two, or so I was told by the room service staff. Probably a sleepover, I'm thinking. What do you make of that?”

“The loyal wife—husband goes hiking while the Mrs. goes trolling in Vegas—very interesting. You didn't happen to come up with a name for me, did you?”

“Sorry, hoping you might be able to fill in the blanks on that one.”

“Afraid not, at least not at the moment.”

“It appears that no expense was spared on the dinner—champagne, caviar, all rather pricey, and probably not something you'd do for your Uncle Burt. The whole thing was charged to Darby's hotel bill.”

“So I take it we have no idea who her knight in shining armor is?”

“I'm working on it. I spoke to the room service attendant who delivered the fancy dinner.”


“The attendant said Casanova answered the door in one of the hotel's fluffy bathrobes. His hair was wet, like he'd just gotten out of the shower. The attendant said he was a Caucasian male, early thirties, slim build, medium height, with short, sandy blond hair. Casino security is checking their tapes to see if the room service staff can identify the guy. I'll have to get back with you on that one.”

“Not quite as good as a name, but close.”

“My sentiments, exactly.”

“And your take on Darby's friend, Erin Rogers?”

“A real classy dame, I can tell you that. And a damn fine-looking one too—registered a solid nine on the Weatherby ten-point peter meter. She's thirty-one, a Las Vegas native, and a show girl at the Venetian.”

“I had her working for the Mirage.”

“Used to, but she moved to the Venetian about two months ago—not unusual for Vegas show girls. They tend to be quite mobile.”

“Any priors?”

“Nothing recent except a couple of traffic tickets. She got popped about seven years ago for possession of cocaine. The charge was reduced to misdemeanor possession. She served a year on probation and paid a fine.”

Weatherby promised that he'd dig a little deeper into Erin Rogers' background and get back with Books if he learned anything new.

Chapter Sixteen

Alexis Runyon walked in and closed the door. She didn't look happy.

“Morning, Alexis. What's up?”

She gave him a curt nod. “When I walked into the office this morning I found three urgent messages, one from Doug Case, another from Lamont Christensen, and the third from Thomas Boggs. I got the general drift of their concerns, but I thought I'd better hear your side before I call them back.”

He knew who Doug Case and Lamont Christensen were, but he'd never heard of Thomas Boggs. “I assume this is more whining about the press conference. Charley wasn't too happy about it either. Who's this Thomas Boggs, anyway—afraid I don't know him?”

“He's a local attorney hired to represent the guy you assaulted last night, Derek Lebeau.”

“Whoa, time out. You mean ‘allegedly' assaulted, don't you? Actually, he's the guy who was injured last night while resisting a lawful arrest. There was a warrant for him out of Salt Lake County.”

She looked somewhat relieved. “Tell me about it. Who is Derek Lebeau and how did you manage to get tangled up with him?”

Books spent the next few minutes walking Runyon through the events of the previous night. When he finished, she still didn't look pleased.

“It sounds like we're on solid ground so far as the treatment of Lebeau is concerned,” said Runyon, “but now you've given me something else to worry about.”

“And what would that be?”

“This is the first time we've ever had a BLM employee attacked in his own home. That kind of thing has happened in Arizona, Nevada, and some places in California, but never here. It's a disturbing trend.”

“Let's not get carried away. First off, it's not a trend. It's one isolated incident that may have a lot to do with Greenbriar's murder and my involvement in the investigation. This is what happens when you stir the pot. Creeps like Derek Lebeau start coming out from under rocks.”

“That's my other concern. You seem to be a lightening rod for these kinds of incidents. I'm sure you've heard the old saying that perception is reality.”

Books nodded.

“This is a small town, J.D. You arrived with plenty of baggage to begin with, and this latest incident only reinforces that perception among locals. Keep that in mind as you go about your business.”


After the exchange with Runyon, Books felt he'd be wise to get on the phone with Neil Eddins and Doug Case to see if he could smooth things over. However, at the moment he had bigger fish to fry.

Books hopped in the Yukon and headed north on Highway 89. Lance Clayburn owned a home in Angel Canyon. His name had come up several times in the investigation. It was time to see what he had to say.

Clayburn owned a large, single-level home that, at first glance, looked like the typical imitation adobe commonly used in the Southwest. Upon closer inspection, Books concluded that the uneven texture was adobe rather than stucco. Building it had to have cost a fortune. The house stood on several acres with unobstructed views of the Grand Staircase to the east. Books could see solar panels on the roof. A Toyota Prius was parked in a circular gravel driveway next to a ratty old Chevy pickup. It was just the kind of home a wealthy trust baby might own.

He parked the Yukon behind the Prius and got out. One bay of the detached double car garage had the door up, and Books could hear the buzz of a power saw cutting lumber. Moments later, a guy in jeans and a black muscle shirt wearing safety goggles appeared. He wiped his sweaty face with the end of his muscle shirt. He gave Books the once-over, and extended a hand.

“Lance Clayburn. And you are?”

Books introduced himself and explained the reason for his visit. Clayburn nodded as if he'd been expecting somebody else. He invited Books inside, leading the way through a long tiled entryway and into the home's great room. Expensive oriental area rugs provided a pleasant contrast against dark brown Saltillo tile. Books sat in a fine-grain leather chair while Clayburn washed his hands in the kitchen sink.

Grant Weatherby's physical description of the unknown subject who'd had dinner and breakfast with Darby Greenbriar at the Hard Rock was a dead ringer for Clayburn.

“Can I offer you something to drink, Ranger Books?”

“What have you got?”

“About anything you want—ice tea, soda, water or beer.”

“In this heat, a beer sounds awful good.”

He smiled. “Good choice.” He disappeared into the kitchen and returned moments later with two cans of Guinness. He handed one to Books and took a seat on a leather sofa directly opposite.

“Now,” he said, “about those questions.”

They exchanged polite niceties over the tragic murder of David Greenbriar. Clayburn's demeanor suggested genuine sorrow over the death. Books asked Clayburn where he was from and how long he had lived in the Kanab area.

“I'm originally from New Hampshire; at least that's where my family is from. I discovered Southern Utah ten years ago, when some of my Princeton University frat brothers and I came out to Moab during spring break for some mountain biking. I fell in love with the place. After I graduated, I moved to Moab, but it was a bit touristy for my taste. I settled permanently in Kanab.”

It was true that much of southern Utah was undergoing a transformation with tourism driving the economic engine.

“And your family in New Hampshire, are they pleased you've settled here?”

He grunted. “Hardly. Look Ranger Books….”

Books interrupted. “Why don't you call me, J.D, most people do.”

“Okay, J.D. As I was saying, I come from a long line of blue-blood Clayburns from New England. My family made its fortune in the financial services industry, and they've got more money than God. My father, Reginald Clayburn, is so conservative that he makes Rush Limbaugh look like a flaming liberal. He hates my lifestyle and what it represents.”

Books shrugged. “Well, the money can't be all bad.”

“Damn straight, it's not. It gives me a luxury most people don't have.”

“And that would be….?”

“Time and freedom, J.D.—freedom to dedicate myself to the kinds of political and social issues that are important to me, and the time to engage those passions fully.”

“That would explain your environmental activism and your involvement with the EEWA.”


Books shifted gears. “The EEWA office told me you called Friday afternoon inquiring about the whereabouts of David Greenbriar. Is that true?”

“It is. I chair a committee for the EEWA that's in charge of fundraising activity. I was trying to reach David to schedule a meeting with him.”

“A meeting concerning fundraising activities?”

“Exactly. There's some grant money coming available in the next few months that I thought we should discuss.”

“And are you also the organization's grant writer?”

“No, I'm not,” said Clayburn. “I could, but it's not necessary. We are fortunate to have a member who once managed a nonprofit, and she's a good grant writer.”

“Please don't be offended at my next question, but I'll need you to account for your time this past weekend.”

“Not a problem. I was home most of Friday working around the house. On Saturday morning, I got up early and drove to Vegas to do some shopping. Don't get me wrong, I love Kanab but if you're in the market for some new clothes, this isn't the place.”

“You're right about that. Anybody go with you?”

“No, I went by myself.”

“Did you happen to see anybody in Las Vegas you knew—somebody who could verify your presence?” Someone like Darby Greenbriar?

Clayburn waited, maintaining eye contact and trying to figure out whether Books knew something he wasn't saying. “You got me. Afraid I don't have an alibi. Are you going to arrest me?”

Books smiled. “Not today, I'm afraid. How about receipts for items you purchased? You must have some of those lying around.”

“Now those I've got.” He got up and walked over to a large rectangular dining room table, where he rummaged through a stack of mail and assorted papers. He returned with several receipts.

Books thanked him. “Can I hang onto these for a while?”

“Sure. Keep them. I won't need them back.”

“So what did you do the rest of the weekend?”

“I drove back to Kanab late Saturday night—got in just before midnight. I slept in on Sunday and then grabbed a late lunch at Escobar's. I picked up a few groceries at the Jubilee and then came home. I was here until late Monday morning, when I went into town to run some errands. That's when I heard about David.”

“What time did you have lunch at Escobar's?”

“Around two o'clock or thereabouts.”

“Were you alone from the time you arrived home Saturday night until you came into town Monday afternoon?”

“Afraid so. Wish I had somebody who could verify that for you.”

“Oh, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think we can work around it.”

“Hope so.”

“Any ideas about who might have killed David?”

Clayburn shook his head. “Sorry, I wish I did. David was a polarizing kind of figure. People either liked him or they didn't. At times his style came across as abrasive, even to people in the movement.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think it was just his personality. David knew what he wanted to accomplish, and he didn't always listen attentively to others, particularly if their views were contrary to his own. I don't think he intended to, but sometimes he projected an attitude that said ‘I'm a hell of a lot smarter than you'll ever be.' And some people resented him for it.”

Books listened without interruption until Clayburn finished. “You know, Lance, you seem to be making a pretty good case that David might have been killed by somebody inside the environmental movement.”

“As opposed to…”

“As opposed to some angry rancher who hates environmental groups like the EEWA.”

“That's not what I meant. David could just be hard to get along with. I didn't mean to imply that one of our own would've killed him. I don't believe that.”

Books had one last question. “Which issue or issues was the EEWA focused on at the time of David's murder?”

Clayburn had to think about that for a moment. “I'd have to say grazing. That's the one issue that never seems to go away. That's because we live in the West where cattle grazing is king. The local welfare ranchers with their federal grazing permits cause many of the problems. Their filthy cattle erode the soil, destroy plant life, and pollute the water. The miserable critters piss and shit everywhere.”

Clayburn sounded downright angry, thought Books. “Anything else?”

Clayburn sighed. “Yeah, roads, I guess would be the other issue. The local crackpots are trying to claim that every game trail or cow path is a navigable road that belongs to the state of Utah. It's just another attempt to open the back country to more kinds of economic exploitation. Anything to make a buck, you know, and to hell with the land and the creatures that live on it.”

Books liked Lance Clayburn. He seemed genuine, dedicated to the things he believed in. He struck Books as a guy who was willing to walk the walk. On the other hand, Books felt certain that Clayburn was lying about not seeing Darby Greenbriar in Las Vegas. And then there was the matter of the Guinness beer. Two empty Guinness beer cans had been found at the kill site. Would the prints from those cans match the prints Books planned to have lifted from the beer can he just took from Lance Clayburn's home?

BOOK: On Deadly Ground
7.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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