Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery Book 3) (15 page)

Aiden nodded.

“Then we don’t need to involve Monica,” Kalin said. “Write him up, bring him in and let him go. Whatever you do, don’t let him near the lifts again. We can’t have a stoned liftie on duty.”

Kalin made a copy of the note and recorded the conversation in her notebook. “One more thing. I’d like to speak to him before he leaves. Can you ask him to come see me?”

“Sure, why?”

“I have something to ask him.”

“Um…I haven’t had a chance to say I’m sorry about your brother.”

“Thanks.”

“It must be hard having everyone talking about him.”

The stoned liftie wasn’t a complicated employee issue, so what did Aiden really want from her? “What do you mean?”

“Well, with the theft and all.”

“Do you know something?”

“No, I only wanted to say I was sorry for what happened to him.”

 

* * *

 

By five o’clock Greg Parker hadn’t arrived in Kalin’s office. She guessed he’d decided not to visit her as requested. After locking her door, she carried her cross-country skis to the ground floor of the administration building and headed toward the path leading home. The path meandered between the forest and the golf course, rising and falling with the terrain, and she loved the commute.

She unclipped Chica’s leash, and Chica bounded ahead of her. Before crossing onto the deep snow, Kalin snapped her boots into the bindings. The lights from the resort illuminated the snow-covered surface until the first bend in the path. Kalin switched on her headlamp and was about to shove off.

“Hey, Kalin.”

She turned to see Greg Parker tromping toward her. Her headlamp lit his face, and he shielded his eyes with one hand. He’d cut his hair and shaved since she’d last seen him, but somehow he still looked like the kind of guy who’d cause trouble. When she read his name on the note the crew chief wrote, she’d assumed he was the same Greg Parker Roy hung out with.

Kalin skate skied a few meters closer to the resort, back into the lights. She whistled for Chica to return to her side. “I have some questions for you.”

“You know I’ve been fired. What else do you want?”

Another person stood off to the sides in the shadows of the trees. “Who’s that with you?”

“Just a friend. I’m in a hurry, so what’s up?”

“I want to talk to you about Roy.”

He shielded his eyes from the beam streaming from her headlamp. “I’m sorry he died.”

“Thank you.” Reaching to her forehead, she turned off the lamp, giving Greg a break from the light. “Do you have any idea why he went on the mountain so early?”

Greg used his middle finger to flip his bangs to the side of his head. “Why should I tell you anything?”

Kalin pretended she didn’t notice the gesture, although the way the light from the resort fell, the shadow made his finger look as if it belonged to a giant. She felt an unreasonable urge to giggle. Wind whistled between the lodgepole pines ubiquitous to the mountain, almost as if moaning a warning, and she turned serious. “Meaning you do know?”

“Nope. I hadn’t seen him for a few days.”

“I was hoping we could make a deal. I won’t report your drug activity to the police, and you talk to me about Roy.”

Greg scanned the area, avoiding eye contact with Kalin, and spit on the snow-covered path. “What do you want to know?”

Skiing home alone in the dark didn’t bother her. Being alone on an isolated path with a guy who exuded hostility did. She’d been trapped on this path before and didn’t intend to let that happen again. “I forgot my house key at work. Let’s head that way.”

“No.” Greg shook his head once. “I don’t plan on being here long.”

Kalin faced him squarely, standing with the front of her skis touching his toes, letting him know she wasn’t intimidated. “Okay. I know you hung out with Roy.”

“I did.”

“Did you consider him a friend?”

“You’re his sister. What’d he tell you?”

Greg lifted the sides of his lips, and Kalin interpreted the movement to be a smile. She waited.

“What do I care? We were more like business partners.”

“What type of partners?”

“I sold him things.”

Behaving like a teenager, Greg played twenty questions with her. His abrupt answers annoyed her but were better than nothing. She suspected he spoke in a curt manner to appear cool. “What things?”

“I’m not spelling it out for you.”

“Drugs?” After Jack died, Roy started using drugs in Ottawa until Patricia straightened him out. Then Kalin ruined things between them. She didn’t know if Roy had gotten back into drugs while he was still living in Ottawa, mainly because she hadn’t seen him after the disaster at his engagement party. She hated thinking about that night but couldn’t help herself.

There must have been over a hundred friends and business associates gathered, all dressed for a formal garden party. When Roy was half an hour late, tensions began to rise. Kalin’s stepdad ordered her to find him as if he was her responsibility. Before she had the chance, a delivery van pulled into the driveway in full view of the guests. Roy had sent flowers to Patricia’s mother, apologizing for not coming, and Patricia was forced to tell her parents what had happened. Kalin, along with her mom and stepdad, were asked to leave. Her mom was hurt, her stepdad angry, and they both thought the disaster was Kalin’s fault.

“I don’t do drugs.”

Kalin was willing to accept the lie if she could get Greg to tell her more. “Was Roy in trouble?”

“Not going there. I’ve told you all I’m going to. If you want to call the cops, that’s up to you. I’m done here.” Greg walked back toward the resort, leaving Kalin to decide whether to follow or head home. She turned on her headlamp and aimed the beam at Greg. The light hit him just as he joined Eric Wilson and headed back to the resort. Eric was the finance center clerk. She didn’t know much about him except he came from Australia. Did this mean Roy and Eric had known each other?

She skied away from the resort, pumping her arms hard, and picked up speed.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

Kalin snowshoed to work and simultaneously tapped the screen of her smart phone. She searched the security database for the date Roy disappeared. The sun had yet to rise over the peaks, and the screen glowed.

Considering what Simon said when she’d fired him, the radio transcripts might give her some insight. She scanned the database until she found a link to the incident reports. She clicked the link. Roy’s name, written in crisp black letters, jumped off the screen.

Kalin’s snowshoes crunched in the snow. Tapping on her phone and snowshoeing at the same time slowed her progress, but she was almost at the parking lot near her office.

She read an entry by one of the patrollers. Over the radio he’d said, “Figures it’s Roy. It’s always something with him.”

Kalin inhaled sharply. How cruel.

Turner stepped from a dark corner of the administration building. “You’re here early.”

Surprised by the unexpected interruption, she dropped her phone into a snow pile. “Don’t do that,” she snapped, then remembered she was talking to her boss. “Sorry. You startled me.”

Turner didn’t make a motion to retrieve her phone or apologize for scaring her, so she bent her knees and stuck her hand in the cold snow. She checked the display, and the phone didn’t seem to be damaged.

The way Turner snuck up on her in the dark gave her one more nudge in the direction of accepting the job at White Peaks. She just had to prove Roy’s innocence first. And talk Ben into moving.

“Has the RCMP asked you for anything regarding the theft?”

“They asked for a copy of Roy’s personnel file along with the files for everyone who had access to the safe combination and the office key.”

“Anything else?”

“Just what you already know about Simon Crane. He’s friends with Jessica Scott. So’s Simon’s wife, Natalie. Helen’s also friends with her. Did you know that?”

“No, but I see where you’re going with it. You know I don’t want you involved in the investigation. You can relay information to me if you happen to stumble across something but don’t go actively looking.” Turner rubbed his hands together as if he was cold. “Simon’s uncle called me. I know him from the Chamber of Commerce meetings. Are you sure you had just cause to fire Simon?”

“I am. What did you tell his uncle?”

“That I couldn’t divulge private information, and he’d have to talk with Simon.”

“I hope that goes okay.”

“It didn’t. Another of Simon’s uncles owns the Laundromat in town. They’re going to cancel our linen contract if we don’t hire Simon back.”

“Are you serious?”

“Very.”

One by one, the lights in the administration building turned on. The glow flooded the area where she stood with Turner. He wasn’t wearing a jacket, so had he come outside to catch her unawares? “Is there another company we can use?”

“There are companies in Calgary but none closer.”

“How much time did they give us?”

“There’s a one-month out clause in the contract. They’ve notified us they’re going to cancel then.”

“That’s blackmail.”

“It’s a small town.”

Kalin couldn’t believe Turner would give in to blackmail. He liked being in control and holding the power. So submitting? Where was the alpha now? “What do you want me to do?”

“Let’s give the lodging team a chance to find another provider. If they can’t do that in a couple of weeks, we’ll have to hire Simon back.”

“We can’t.”

“There’s no other choice. We can’t run a lodging business with dirty sheets. And they know it.”

The ethical action was to fire the Laundromat and report Simon’s uncle to the RCMP, but she was quickly learning Turner didn’t care about ethics. “Is there something I should know about Stone Mountain?”

“Like what?”

Now or never. Just ask.
“Is the resort for sale?”

Turner stepped closer to Kalin. “Why would you ask that?”

“It’s just a feeling I have.”

“Well it’s not,” Turner said.

“But—”

Turner checked his watch. “I need to go. You won’t mention this to anyone.” He stepped backward and disappeared as abruptly as he’d arrived.

 

* * *

 

“I need to speak with you.” Aiden wore his liftie uniform, and the Gortex material crackled from being outside and cold. A slight sheen of sweat covered his forehead.

Funny, Kalin had just been reading about him. She clicked the security database closed and twisted her monitor away from Aiden. She was going to find a quieter place to review the database entries since her office seemed to be open to anyone anytime. “Sure. Come on in. It’s not like I was doing anything.”

Aiden ignored her sarcastic answer. “One of our guest services attendants said a teacher reported a liftie having a fight with a student from the Holden high school.”

Kalin didn’t get Aiden’s motive for involving her. He seemed to be finding excuses to spend time with her, but she would hear him out. Fighting on duty was a serious charge, and Aiden making a mistake in dealing with the situation would be a disaster. More negative media attention would anger Turner. “What happened?”

“The teacher said one of my lifties, Justin Bradley, shoved a student when he tried to get on the lift. Another student said she saw him do it.”

Kalin scribbled notes. “Did anyone else witness the event?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was the teacher there?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What’s your take? Is the behavior consistent with Justin’s personality?”

“I don’t know him well. He works hard and is friendly, but my only experience with him is on the job.”

“Is there anything you do know that you’d like to share with me?” Kalin raised her hand to stop him from talking. “Don’t answer that.”

The situation seemed fairly clear, so Aiden’s motive for involving Kalin again in the termination of a seasonal staff member was suspicious. She’d let the scene play out and see where Aiden led her. He was good friends with Jessica, so maybe he had access to the finance center, and she’d read in the radio reports that ski patrol couldn’t find him on the morning of the avalanche. “We need to talk to Justin.”

 

* * *

 

Aiden radioed the crew chief and instructed him to send Justin Bradley to Kalin’s office.

Kalin cleared her desk of papers while they waited. “I understand you were late for work the day of the avalanche.”

A flash of anger crossed Aiden’s face. “Not by much. I’d been out late at a party.”

“I’m thinking that’s not a good example for you to be setting.”

“Are you reprimanding me?”

“No, just filling time. So whose party were you at?”

“A friend’s. What’s with the questions?”

Before Kalin could answer, Justin arrived.

“This must be serious if you’re both here.” Justin flopped into a chair, relaxing against the backrest. He took off his toque and ran his hand through blond, curly hair. He had the same face tan all lifties acquired, white around his eyes and below his chin, but bronze everywhere else.

“How was your morning?” Kalin asked.

“Fun. Why?”

As Kalin waited for Aiden to question Justin, she studied the employee. He was slightly scruffy in appearance, with peach fuzz growing on his upper lip, more skin showing than strands of mustache, not enough to shave but enough to exude an image of a young man struggling to leave puberty but never quite getting there. When it became apparent Aiden was going to remain silent, Kalin spoke to Justin. “Did anything unusual happen during your shift this morning?”

Justin sat with his fingers tucked under his armpits and his thumbs pointing toward his shoulders. “Nope. There was a ton of new snow, and I had a snowball fight with some school kids.”

He appeared too relaxed for someone in trouble. “Did you wear your name tag all morning? Or wear anyone else’s?”

He tossed a smile in Aiden’s direction. “I wore mine. Aiden doesn’t allow us to wear someone else’s.”

“No one wore your name tag at any point? Maybe borrowed your jacket?”

“No.” He shifted his gaze between Kalin and Aiden.

“So if someone referred to a lift operator named Justin that would have to be you?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“What time did you start work today?”

“Seven thirty.” Without asking, Justin took a candy from the jar on the desk and popped it into his mouth. Cherry scent filled the room.

“What lift did you work on?”

“What’s with all the questions?” Justin continued to suck on the candy, sliding it from one side of his mouth to the other. “Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on?”

“Did you get into a fight with one of the guests?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Kalin and Aiden waited.

“Nothing happened.”

“This is serious. I don’t think you fully understand what’s going on. We’ve had a formal complaint against you,” Kalin said.

“I’m telling you, nothing happened. I want to know exactly what was said about me.”

Kalin glanced at Aiden, thinking he might step in and contribute. Apparently too much to hope for, so she said, “A kid from the high school said you shoved him when he tried to get on the lift.”

“I didn’t do that. I never would. I sometimes have to touch people to help them get on the rope tow. I can’t believe this. Why aren’t you worrying about something important instead of this crap?”

“This is important.”

“More important than the theft? My roommate just got a new Go Pro and a top of the line smart phone. Said his dad sent it to him.”

“Who’s your roommate?”

“Eric Wilson.”

One more tidbit for Constable Miller. One more piece of information to drive suspicion away from Roy. As a junior cash office clerk, Eric had keys and the combination. “That’s very interesting, but here’s how we’re going to proceed. I’m suspending you from duty, with pay, until we sort this out. We can’t take the risk of having you work when there’s an outstanding charge against you. We’re not saying you did this, only that we have a liability if you work the lifts. In the meantime, I suggest you be on your best behavior.”

“When can I come back to work?”

“When we have this resolved. Give Aiden a call tomorrow, and we’ll see.” Kalin stood, indicating the meeting was over.

Justin faced Aiden. “This sucks. What am I supposed to tell people when they ask why I’m not at work?” He waited, and when neither Aiden nor Kalin responded, he picked up his mitts and bolted from the room.

Aiden shut the door behind Justin.

“I have to tell you in this type of meeting you should be driving the conversation. I’m here for support and as a witness. I’m not here to do your job.”

“Sorry. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Let’s talk to the other lifties who were working nearby. Maybe one of them saw something.” Aiden radioed to set up appointments with the relevant lifties.

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