Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said. “I’m not following anyone at present.”
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Who is this?” I said.
“Don’t act like you don’t know.”
Her voice quivered with instability.
“I’d like to know who I’m speaking to,” I said, “or this conversation is over.”
“Then I have, well, nothing to say.”
She sniffled into the phone a few times.
“Bridget,” I said. “If this is you, all I wanted was to ask you a few questions. That’s it. I’m not the police and I’m not after you.”
“If you’re not following me, then who is?”
“Tell me where you are,” I said.
“I don’t know you. Why should I tell you anything?”
“From what your boyfriend told me, you and Charlotte were close. I’m sure her death hasn’t been easy for you. All I’m asking is that you help me get her the justice she deserves. And if someone is following you then you need my help.”
I wanted to get it through to her that she could trust me and that I could help her, but she had no reason to believe me.
“I, I don’t know. I have to go.”
“Wait, Bridget please. Let’s try this, I’ll talk and you listen. You don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to and you can hang up anytime.”
There was no response, but my phone indicated the call was still connected so I persisted.
“A couple weeks ago Charlotte’s sister hired me to look into her death. At first it looked like an accident and then we discovered she was poisoned. After that I had my suspicions and, after I learned you two were close, I wanted to find you and talk to you about what happened to Charlotte. All I wanted to know was if you knew of any reason why someone wanted her dead. I know you’re on the run, and if you need my help—”
“I don’t. You said you had suspicions, who do you suspect?”
Try everyone from Parker Stanton to the evil troll lady in the dungeon of the real estate office.
“Parker Stanton, but he has an alibi that checks out.”
“Of course he does.”
“Why do you say it like that?” I said.
“Why do you think? He’s Parker Stanton III, son of Parker Stanton II, real estate tycoon and multi millionaire, blah, blah, blah.”
The way she said it sounded like he was being featured on an episode of
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
“I take it you don’t like him?” I said.
“What’s not to like? He’s a rich, snobby brat who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. It’s the Stanton way.”
“The Stanton way?” I said.
“He does whatever to whomever and doesn’t care who he hurts in the process.”
“Wow,” I said. “Do you think it’s possible that he killed her?”
“Parker, no. He’s just a sleazeball.”
I was surprised by her response.
“How do you know it wasn’t him?” I said.
“If you asked me if I despised the guy, the answer would be yes, but a killer—I don’t see it.”
I started to think she didn’t know Parker like she thought she did.
“Did he ever abuse Charlotte?”
She was silent.
“Parker was a little rough with her a few times. I was the only one she told and she asked me not to say anything to anyone. The last time he hit her she had a few bruises. She threatened to break it off and he never touched her again. And then she found out about the other women….”
“And that ended it for good,” I said.
“I know about the altercation between you and Parker at the party. Was it over the abuse?”
“I’ve already said too much, I need to go.”
I had pushed too far.
“Why isn’t anyone doing their job?”
“Calm down Audrey,” I said.
It was early on Sunday, my usual day of rest. I half opened one eyelid and looked at the clock on my nightstand. 5:53 AM.
“At least I give a damn; I guess I’m the only one who does.”
“Calm down, Audrey,” I said, again.
“Why should I? My sister is dead. No, let me rephrase that. My sister is dead because some asshole murdered her and that asshole isn’t locked up yet.”
“PCPD brought him in for questioning,” I said. “But without any proof, they couldn’t hold him, at least not yet. He’s still being looked at.”
“What do you mean?”
“Trust me Audrey, okay? I’m sorry I don’t have all the answers yet, but I will.”
“Two weeks already and no change. Do you know how it feels to sit here and wait?”
I was tired and irritated. Her lack of patience and my lack of sleep didn’t make a winning combination.
“Two weeks. Not two months, not two years, a couple of weeks. It takes time. Think of it like trying to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together and finding out you have one piece that’s not there. As soon as I find that piece the case will fall into place.”
“Do you believe that?”
And I did.
“And the cops, do they share your sentiments?”
“I would like to think so. Believe me, the more eyes we have on this the better.”
I managed to find the end button on my phone and turned over on my side. Two eyeballs stared straight at me.
“What’s her deal?” Nick said.
I pulled the covers over me and scooted next to Nick.
“She hasn’t got a patient bone in her body.”
And with that I fell back to sleep.
Morning came again a couple hours later. I turned on my laptop and waited the six minutes it took for my applications to load and then went to the Salt Lake International Airport website and searched all flights with an arrival destination of New York City. I found three, and the first departed in three hours.
I grabbed a quick bite to eat with my two favorite boys and departed for the airport. Nick and Lord Berkeley left for some male bonding at the park. It took a deal of finesse, but I managed to convince Nick that a simple chat with Kristin required no accompaniment.
The first flight came and went with no sign of either of them. I took a gamble on the security gate and hoped I chose the one closest to the terminal she flew out of. Thirty minutes later, it paid off. The two of them walked hand-in-hand toward the security gate. They hugged and then kissed and then hugged again and he walked away and then paused and turned back and blew her a kiss. What a charmer.
Kristin was a tiny woman, several inches shorter than me and petite, and when she stood sideways she almost disappeared into thin air. She had long, flowy brown hair with blond highlights and an oval-shaped face. She didn’t look like the others, but then, the others didn’t look like the others either. It was part of Parker’s game that he played. One in every size, shape, and color. I imagined he had a hard time at the ice cream parlor. So many options to choose from, it would be impossible to limit himself to one.
Kristin looked more like a woman ready to hit the clubs in her bedazzled tank top, micro mini skirt, and four-inch studded heels. I guess she hadn’t noticed the temperature outside or the fact that she was in Salt Lake City in winter.
I waited for her to take her place in line and when there was no sign of Parker, I fell in behind her.
She turned around with a look of shock on her face but didn’t respond.
“Are you Kristin Tanner?” I said, again.
“Who wants to know?”
“My name is Sloane. Sloane—”
“I know who you are. Parker warned me about you. What do you want?”
Her tone was sharp and she didn’t smile.
“Can I speak with you for a few minutes? I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind. I promise you won’t miss your flight.”
She slung her carry-on bag over her shoulder and grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out of the line. I shook her off and we walked to an unoccupied corner of the room. She reduced her voice to a whisper as if someone could hear our conversation over the continual announcements going off overhead combined with the instrumental airport music.
“I have nothing to say to you and this is outrageous!”
“Because I want to ask a few questions?” I said.
“You followed me here, how ridiculous. You need to get a life.”
“I wanted a few minutes of your time and this seemed like a good way to get it.”
“Away from Parker, you mean.”
“If you say so,” I said.
“Well, I’m not talking to you so you’ve wasted your time coming down here like this.”
“I don’t think so.”
She placed one hand on her hip and sneered at me.
“Stay away from me and leave Parker alone.”
“And if I don’t?” I said.
“Then if I were you, I’d watch your back.”
“Is that a threat?” I said.
She flicked her hand through her hair.
“Count on it.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to protect innocent women from the likes of Parker Stanton,” I said.
“You’re so stupid. You don’t know anything.”
“I know you’re with a womanizing manwhore,” I said.
It wasn’t how I intended to conduct my Q&A session, but I needed her to talk, and it was obvious that her personality type required a steady amount of pressure to rev her engine. All I needed was one slip up.
“I won’t stand here another minute and listen to your outlandish lies.”
“You don’t believe Parker cheats?” I said. “Wake up.”
“How dare you.”
She stood her ground and I stood mine. I needed to press harder.
“How long have you been with him?” I said.
“What’s it to you?”
“You know nothing about the others I take it.”
“I find it pathetic that you need to make up a bunch of stuff in order to what, bust him? I know all about you. I know how you went to his house, physically attacked him, and then broke his fingers. You plan to break mine too?”
“If that’s the story you want to believe, it’s up to you,” I said.
“And you don’t even deny it.”
“It doesn’t matter what I say,” I said. “Your mind’s made up.”
“He offered his help to you with this investigation and what did he get in return? Harassed and physically assaulted. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“And you shouldn’t be so naive,” I said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The woman, Charlotte. She was his fiance and they had a relationship for the past couple years.”
She shook her head.
“You’re so full of it.”
I reached in my coat pocket and pulled out a photo of Parker and Charlotte that I lifted from her house. I handed it to her.
“There were others too, at least two that I know of besides Charlotte,” I said.
She glanced at the picture for a second and then looked away.
“You’re a liar. So they were in a photo together, big deal. They were just friends.”
“I’m a PI. My clients pay me to uncover the truth, like it or not,” I said. “You need to stay away from him.”
“And if I don’t he’ll what, kill me.” She threw her head back and laughed. “Get real.”
“Maybe he won’t go that far, but he might hit you if he hasn’t already,” I said.
Her eyes bored into mine and I imagined she would slap me. She didn’t. Instead she pivoted on her studded heel and made a beeline for the security gate. I followed.
She took her place in line.
“I hope you enjoyed you time with Parker,” she said. “You won’t get any more of it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, is he going somewhere?” I said.
She showed her information to the security person and looked back at me before she went through to the other side.
“You’re the PI. You figure it out.”
What had she meant when she said I wouldn’t get more time with Parker? For whatever reason, she thought I was going in the wrong direction. I wrestled back and forth about my next move, but it didn’t take me long to decide that I needed to see if Parker was still around. I flipped my car around and headed toward his town house in the city. He wasn’t there.
It took forty-five minutes for me to get back to Park City and over to Parker’s house. When I drove up his street and parked in the driveway one of the neighbors noticed me and watched me exit my car and approach the doorway. I looked over and he nodded. I returned the sentiment. Then I knocked on Parker’s door and waited. There was no answer. I knocked again. Still nothing.
On the side of the house a series of small windows lined the length of the garage. They were almost six feet up from the ground, but on my tip toes I could see inside. His car wasn’t there.
I walked back to my car and got in and checked the time. About an hour and a half had passed since he dropped Kristin off at the airport. Maybe he needed a bit more time.
I ran a few errands in town and by early evening it warmed up enough that I took Lord Berkeley for a walk along the Rail Trail. He scampered down the path and sniffed old friends along the way and made some new ones. We passed a much larger mangy-looking dog that was all black and showed no interest in a bond of any kind. Lord Berkeley got close enough to invade his personal space and he sounded the alarm. Boo, oblivious to his actual height or lack thereof, steadied his approach, much to the chagrin of the dog and its owner who shook her head at me like I was an unfit parent. Lord Berkeley didn’t seem to care and neither did I. He wagged his tail and did a few spins for his newfound friend. The other dog remained unimpressed. I looked at my watch. Time to go.
I dropped Lord Berkeley back at home and made my way back over to Parker’s house. With Nick at work I could do my job with no interruptions.
The lamppost across the street was still broken when I approached, and Parker’s house was draped in black. I stepped out of my car and when I shut the door my keys fell from my hands and clanked down on the icy pavement beneath me. I bent down and ran my hands along the area where I stood but only felt ice. I reached into my car and grabbed a mini flashlight out of the center console and cupped it in my hand and turned it on. My keys had lodged behind one of my tires. Crisis averted.
A noise ruffled through the hedges in Parker’s yard. I took a few steps back and crouched down behind the side of my car. The sound came again and this time there was movement. I pulled my gun from its holster and flicked the switch on my flashlight and aimed it at the bushes. Two beady eyes stared at me in horror and then a large mass of fur leapt over the hood of my car and faded into the night.