Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
“I would need access to Charlotte’s body,” I said.
“She’ll be transferred to the funeral home today. Will that work?”
“And now I need a favor from you,” I said.
“I’d like to take a look at her place.”
Audrey stuck a hand into her purse and pulled out a key ring. She tinkered with it until the shiny silver one broke free.
“1233 Powderhorn Street,” she said, and tossed it to me.
Charlotte Halliwell was a celebrity in Park City. Locals adored her for her athletic achievements and tourists respected her even more for her unyielding and tireless effort in finding them the perfect vacation home of their dreams. Her slogan,
you can ski in, but you won’t want to ski out
made an impression on people. To prove her death wasn’t an accident wouldn’t be an easy task. But in my line of business just because it walked like a duck and talked like a duck, didn’t make it one, and for the first time in a long while I was faced with something new—a challenge.
The time on my watch displayed a much later hour than I hoped. I sized up my shower for a brief moment, but there was no time for a quickie. I caught my reflection in the mirror. The hair looked decent but the make-up needed a refresher. I fiddled around for a washcloth, washed it off and reapplied, and then made a mad dash for the door.
I arrived at Moll’s Tavern at 7 pm. Right on time. Moll’s was my favorite spot for a late night rendezvous, or an early one on this particular night. I looked around, but there was no sign of Nick who ran on his own time. I waved myself past the hostess and paused to order a drink at the bar before I wandered over to my usual spot.
Moll’s offered two main dining areas, one for family and the other for fun. Tonight fun served up a live band and an open bar. Life was good.
I sat at my favorite table and tried to concentrate on my drink, but all I noticed was the haphazard arrangement of the silverware before me with the spoon to the left of the knife and the salad and dinner forks to the right. I picked up the pieces and reorganized the flatware in its correct position and then reclined back, amazed in the satisfaction that came from a little silverware organization.
“Couldn’t resist, could you?”
I looked up.
“You’re late,” I said.
“No more than usual,” Nick said.
I shot him a wink.
“About ten minutes, but who’s counting.”
He glanced at my martini.
“I see you went ahead,” he said.
I took a sip and held my glass up high.
Nick looked handsome tonight. His button-down shirt was tucked into a pair of dark denim jeans which were snug and showed off his toned physique. He had a hint of a five o’clock shadow which complemented his buzz cut. Aside from the lack of a uniform, he looked like he belonged in the military.
“Sloane, how wonderful to see you,” a woman’s voice said.
I shifted my focus to the redhead who stood next to me.
“And you, Claire.”
Claire was somewhere around her mid-fifties and of Irish descent. She had a roundish head which harmonized with the plethora of freckles scattered throughout her body. She wasn’t much taller than the pub table we sat in and entirely stocky.
“How’s the martini?” she said.
“Perfect, as usual. How’s business?”
“Can’t complain,” she said. “Ski season brought me a lot of business this year, thanks to everyone coming in to check out that new resort. You know the one.”
“That’s it. Between the fancy shmancy grand opening and Sundance, I’ve got no complaints.”
“Glad to hear it. We wouldn’t want my favorite place going out of business now would we?”
“Not a chance,” she said. “You want your usual?”
“I’ll tell your waitress,” she said, “if I can find the silly thing. As useful as a lighthouse on a bog, that one.”
“Is anyone interested in what I want at all?” Nick said.
Claire let out a full-bellied laugh and turned around.
“Why Detective Calhoun, I didn’t see you there,” she said.
He rolled his eyes.
“Sure, sure, you ladies finished yet, because I’m here to eat.”
“Aw, someone feels left out.” She patted him on the arm. “Give us girls a minute and we’ll get you all taken care of, alright? Keep your alans on.”
She turned toward me again.
“It was nice to see you Sloane, but I better get back to it.”
She gave Nick a civilized nod when she walked away.
“Detective,” she said.
“What about my drink?” he said.
He sized my martini up from top to bottom like he wanted to frisk it.
I waved over the waitress.
“He’ll have a Bulleit Neat.”
“A bull what?” she said.
My first impressions were seldom wrong, and in this case my instincts told me two things—she was the one Claire referred to earlier, and tonight was sure to be her last.
“Bourbon on the rocks,” I said. “Ask the bartender, he’ll know.”
She still looked confused. I gestured toward Nick.
“And he would like to order,” I said.
Nick placed his order and the waitress headed for the bar.
“Now where were we?” he said.
“Somewhere between OCD and my day, I think.”
“Right,” he said, “tell me about it.”
“You won’t believe—”
“Oh boy. Here we go,” he said.
“I haven’t even come to the good part yet.”
Nick folded his arms and rested them on the edge of the table.
“Better get started then.”
“What do you know about the accident at Wildwood?”
“Same as you, I’m sure. Girl died of blunt force trauma,” he said.
“Her sister Audrey came to see me today.”
“About?” he said.
“The accident, or should I say alleged accident.”
The smile on his face vanished.
“What do you mean
“She hired me to look into her sister’s death and find out what happened.”
The waitress returned with Nick’s drink and our salads.
“Another martini?” she said.
I handed her my glass.
Nick took a swig of his drink and swallowed hard.
“We already know what happened,” he said.
“Audrey suspects it might not have been an accident.”
“Let me get this straight. The woman smacks into a tree on a black diamond trail and her sister thinks it wasn’t an accident?”
“You got it.”
“Based on what?” he said.
“The fact that Charlotte Halliwell was an experienced skier. The woman won a silver medal in downhill. And before you chime in, I already know what you’re going to say. That in itself doesn’t prove foul play, and you’re right.”
“You know family members aren’t always in their right mind after losing a loved one,” he said.
“I don’t know what to think. But she’s hired me to look into it so that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t see how it can hurt.”
“You didn’t take this case because of Gabrielle, did you?”
I picked at my salad and tried my best not to stab it.
Nick reached over and wrapped his fingers around my wrist.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”
“She was your sister. It isn’t nothing.”
“Maybe, but that’s not why I took the case.”
And that was true, for the most part.
Our dinner arrived.
“Another ummm, drink?” she said to Nick.
Nick cracked his lobster. I sliced and diced my steak. Nick finished his drink. I finished mine.
“So what’s the plan of attack?” Nick said.
“The usual. Talk to people she knew, check out the ex-boyfriend, take a look at her place and see what turns up.”
“Let me know what you find out,” he said.
The check came and I stood, or tried to stand, and in the process I noticed my vision had changed since I first arrived.
“Where do you think you’re off to little lady,” Nick said.
“Home,” I said.
“You don’t plan to drive yourself.”
I smiled and shook my head.
It took a moment, but somewhere in Nick’s head a light went on.
The next morning I exercised my options and phoned a friend.
“I’m calling in a favor Maddie,” I said.
“Big one or little one?”
“Not sure yet,” I said.
“Well girl, it’s gonna cost ya.”
“How about a ladies night out?” I said. “Just the two of us, I’ll pick up the tab.”
“Throw in a weekend in Las Vegas and you’ve got yourself a deal. Although, I should ask what I’m getting myself into first.”
“I’m not sure I even know the answer to that,” I said. “I took a case and it’s on the unusual side.”
“My favorite kind.”
The phone made a distinct cracking noise. At first I blamed it on a bad connection until I recognized the sound of Maddie chomping away on a piece of gum like a cow chewing its cud.
“Did you hear about the skiing accident at Wildwood a couple days ago?” I said.
I filled her in on the details and got her up to speed.
She popped a bubble into the phone. At times it was hard to believe she graduated college at the top of her class.
“Do you believe her? I mean, that sounds kind of far out, you know.”
“I don’t know what to think yet. But there’s a disgruntled ex so I already have a good place to start.”
“Isn’t there always?”
“Can I count on you to help me out then?” I said.
“What do you need and how soon do you need it?”
“They’ve transferred her body to the funeral home. Your team can do the autopsy there.”
“Didn’t the ME order one?”
“He did and so did she, but no one knows when the results will come back, and let’s just say weeks don’t register in her vocabulary.”
“Not the patient type, eh?”
“Not in the least,” I said.
“You two should get along famously then.”
“I figure I’ll poke around and see if there’s anything that can back up her suspicions, and if I don’t find anything, at least I can give her some closure.”
“Did they find anything on the body?”
“Right now it looks like an accident,” I said.
“I’ll get my boys over there right away.”
“The funeral is in two days,” I said.
“We’ll work it in, no worries.”
“You’re the best Maddie.”
She popped another bubble into the phone.
“Don’t I know it.”
“Listen, I need to run, but let me know what you find,” I said.
“Will do,” she said, “and give Mr. Studly a big kiss for me.”
Marty stood at the front desk and looked out into the parking lot. His eyes had deep-set bags under them and he looked tired, but he did his best to muster up a smile when I came through the door.
“Thanks for seeing me,” I said.
“Not at all, I always have time for you my dear.” He gestured toward his office. “Let’s sit for a minute.”
Marty’s office resembled the rest of the place. I sat across from him in a chair that was designed more for its looks and less for comfort.
“I wanted to talk to you about Charlotte Halliwell,” I said.
“When Audrey came to me and asked for your number, I expected I’d hear from you again.”
“I met with her yesterday,” I said.
He raised an eyebrow.
“She wanted to talk about what happened to Charlotte.”
“It’s a shame, really. Charlotte was such a sweet girl. I’ve known the family for years. Her father was a big supporter when I ran for mayor and donated to my campaign. Not long after that he passed away from cancer.”
I transferred the weight from one of my butt cheeks to the other. It didn’t help.
“That’s what I came to talk to you about,” I said. “Audrey believes Charlotte’s death wasn’t an accident.”
Marty’s eyes broadened. He leaned all the way back in his chair and hung there for a brief time before he moved his body forward again.
“I don’t understand. What happened here was a tragedy, a horrible accident. What proof does she have to suggest otherwise?”
“That’s what she hired me to find out,” I said.
“Do you think she’s just in shock and doesn’t want to accept what happened to her sister?”
“It’s hard to say,” I said.
He shook his head back and forth a few times.
“I don’t know what to say. What can I do?”
“Can I take a look at the crash site?” I said.
“I doubt it’ll do much good.”
“Did Charlotte keep a locker?”
“Her sister will be in later to gather Charlotte’s personal effects.”
“I’d like to take a look at it too before I go,” I said.
“And I have one more request. I would like to talk to your staff and find out if anyone interacted with Charlotte the day she died.”
Marty ran his forefinger and thumb across his jaw a few times. He examined a picture that hung on the wall of a skier plowing his way through the trees. He stared at it for a minute and then looked back at me.
“Can you hold off on that last request for now?” he said.
“I suppose, it sure would help me though.”
“I’d like to keep your investigation under wraps for the moment. We opened not long ago and I don’t want a bunch of different stories going around about this place before there’s proof about what happened. I don’t believe you’ll find she died any other way, but for the sake of your investigation, I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily. You understand Sloane, don’t you?”
I was disappointed, but he had a good point and I agreed to hold off—for now.
Marty escorted me out of his office and toward the gondola lift. The sun peeked through the trees and did its best to accommodate me. I bundled up like a stay-puff marshmallow, but the pricey snow gear designed to keep me warm did a half-ass job at best. Marty threw a thick black jacket over his suit and changed out of his dress shoes into a pair of snow boots and followed me out the door. And we were off.