Read Murder Mile High Online

Authors: Lora Roberts

Tags: #Mystery

Murder Mile High (26 page)

“Kid—weighs—a ton,” Kyle gasped. His wrist turned under my feet, and I lost my balance, staggering to avoid ending up in the clump. The gun came up, leveled unsteadily at me.

“Look, Kyle. Give it up.” I sidestepped, and the gun followed me. Kyle was still working at getting out from under Biff. I couldn’t tell if the boy was dead or not, but I noticed a dark rivulet of blood making its way along the sidewalk. “You’re doomed. Someone’s calling the cops right now. Kill me, and you make it worse for yourself.”

“It can’t be any worse.” For a moment Kyle stopped struggling, then he heaved Biff off—toward me. The boy’s head struck the pavement with a resounding crack.

“Well, if he wasn’t dead yet—” I knelt beside Biff, ignoring the gun for a moment. His shoulder was wet with blood from a jagged hole. I pulled his T-shirt up and bunched it over the hole, pressing as hard on the wad of fabric as I could. When I looked up. Kyle was holding the gun on me.

“I just wanted you to leave town, Liz. Even if it had come to a trial, you would have gotten off light—abused wives do these days. I didn’t want to kill you. I like you.” Kyle’s expression was rueful.

“That’s nice.” I looked beyond him, where headlights beamed from a car pulled up in front of Andy’s house. I hoped all the civilians had the sense to stay away. Then another car rounded the corner and pulled up, boxing us in next to Biff’s truck. Kyle blinked uncertainly when the harsh spotlight found him. A man’s voice barked, “Drop the gun!” Kyle laid it slowly on the ground, and held his hands up.

“Liz.” It was Eva’s voice. “I’m covering you. Stand up slowly.”

“I can’t! Biff is bleeding too much. Get an ambulance.” The next few minutes passed in a blur. Two uniformed officers took Kyle away. I could hear him as they led him off, and my heart sank. He was already spinning a story to account for holding a gun on me. Maybe he would be able to turn me into his fall gal.

Eva brought an emergency kit over and nudged me gently out of the way, and then the ambulance was there. I had felt Biff’s pulse still fluttering weakly in his neck before the EMTs took over. All the same, I looked anxiously after the ambulance. Obnoxious or not, Biff had courageously tackled an armed man, and maybe saved my life.

“So, I thought you were going to lay low tonight.” Eva turned to me after the ambulance left.

Andy came up, reaching into Biff’s truck to turn off the engine. When its rumbling ceased, I realized for the first time how much noise it had made. We must have been talking quite loudly to hear each other.

“Are you okay?” Andy was awkward asking this question of me in front of an audience.

I looked down at my bloodstained hands. There was blood everywhere. I hoped I wouldn’t faint.

“Yeah, I guess so. Hope Byron makes it all right.”

“So why did you shoot him?” For once, Andy just looked puzzled, not angry. “I mean—he could be rude, sure, but—”

“I didn’t shoot him.” I turned to Eva. “Is that what Kyle was saying? Why would I try to stop the bleeding if I shot him?”

“I didn’t hear it all, but his theory had something to do with a flashback to when you shot Tony.”

“Oh, brother.” I turned back to Andy. “That guy killed Tony and this other woman. I guess I was next on the list. Biff saw him and stopped, and got shot when he interfered.”

Andy just stared at me numbly. “None of this makes any sense,” he said. “All I know is, Molly’s going to go ballistic if that boy doesn’t get well.”

“Even if he does, probably.” We exchanged wan smiles. Andy turned to Eva, showing more deference than before. “Can I move my nephew’s truck, ma’am? It’s going to get hit if it stays there.”

“In a little while.” Eva was watching the various crime scene people bustle around. “We need some pictures and stuff. Someone will let you know.”

“I’ll take the keys, then.” He pocketed them, gave me a funny half nod, half bow, and walked back down the block. A few feet away he turned and yelled, “Amy’s keeping your dog.”

I signaled my appreciation. Beside me, Eva cleared her throat. “Think you’d better tell me what happened,” she said, flipping open a notebook. “We can compare it to Baldridge’s statement.”

I shook my head in wonderment. “I don’t know why he’s bothering. If Biff makes it—”

“He had a nasty lump on his head,” Eva said. “Might not remember what happened. Baldridge is probably counting on it being your word against his. Tell me.” I told her, trying to remember everything Kyle had said, wishing I’d had Amy’s little tape recorder on me. Eva whistled when I was done.

“So now I guess we just see who’s telling a better story, you or Baldridge.” She looked at me sympathetically. “Do you want to clean up first?”

The blood had dried on my hands. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“I’ll have to stay with you. Or you can have a matron, if you want.”

“You’ll do.” I walked next to her back to my bus. The door was still open, just as it had been when Barker had jumped out—hours ago? Minutes? I couldn’t tell anymore.

I didn’t go in the house. Let Renee and Andy and Amy remain undisturbed. I stood beside my little sink and washed my hands and arms and then, not caring who was watching, substituted a clean sweatshirt for the bloodstained one. Eva picked up the discarded shirt and stuck it in an evidence bag. I shut up the bus and locked it, hoping I’d be back before long, and followed Eva to her cruiser.

 

Chapter 29

 

I spent some time making an official statement, then some more time in a small, featureless room by myself. I kept wondering how Biff was. Surely he was too tough to die. As the numbness of shock receded, I began to feel terribly guilty, as if I’d caused his death or, at least, done nothing to avert it.

Finally Eva came to escort me to O’Malley’s office. Phil was there, too, sitting at his desk flailing away at his computer, smoking a very smelly cigar right underneath a NO SMOKING sign on the wall. Eva sat down at another computer. At a long table covered with piles of paper, Kyle was sitting, sipping a steaming cup of something, and looking so normal that I could hardly believe what had happened.

The apprehension with which he noticed me was a good bolster for his story of my being some kind of weirdo executrix of men. I had a sinking feeling that such a story would be very attractive to men of a certain age, playing right into the Black Widow archetype.

O’Malley greeted me with some reserve, and seated me across the table from Kyle. “Now,” he said, glancing at each of us in turn. “There appears to be a large discrepancy here. You—” he pointed at me— "tell us what happened tonight.”

I tried to be succinct, but the fright I’d felt made my narrative shaky.

“So you claim this guy lured you down the block, threatened you, then when your nephew stopped to see what was happening, tried to kidnap both of you and ended up shooting the boy. Is that it?”

It didn’t sound too likely. “That’s what happened.” I wished I had something to drink. “What does he say happened?”

O’Malley put on a pair of bifocals and looked over some notes. “He says you had the boy at gunpoint when he stopped to see what was happening. You had evidently gotten your nephew to kill Tony and Maud for you, then you were going to kill him. Something like that.”

I looked at Kyle. “You’ll be in trouble when Biff wakes up."

Kyle leaned toward me. “Why, Liz? Why did you do it?”

O’Malley looked at me over the bifocals. “You care to answer that?”

“No, I don’t.” I felt anger warming me, stiffening my spine. “This man has killed a couple of people, and you’re letting him snow you! He told us all about it before he tried to kill Biff.” I looked at Eva. “You should search his place. And don’t bother to treat the artifacts carefully. He won’t care if you smash them all.”

Eva raised her eyebrows, but Kyle jumped up. “Don’t touch my antiquities!”

“Tony stole some from him—that’s what tipped the balance. That, and him skimming the profits from their coyote business.”

O’Malley shuffled his papers again. "That’s right. Bringing undocumented workers into the state. According to Ms. Sullivan’s statement, you’re involved in that.” He fixed Kyle with the bifocal glare.

“It’s ridiculous,” Kyle sputtered. He was either a great actor or a man with selective amnesia. “I make a good living as a stockbroker. I don’t gamble or do expensive drugs. Why would I want to do anything so unsavory?”

“Who is it that grants permits to conduct archaeological explorations on government land?” I tried to make eye contact with Kyle, but he stopped talking and stared at the table. “There’s a paper trail somewhere that ends up with Kyle shelling out big money to excavate a site he has his eye on."

"That’s really stupid.” Kyle finally looked at me. “I already get to excavate, and my experience is valued at the dig. I get all my archaeology strokes there.”

“You get a few at home, Officer Gutierrez says.” O’Malley nodded toward Eva, who turned away from the computer.

“I knew if those pots you had in your apartment were authentic, they were worth a lot of money. At first I thought it was just your expensive vice—collecting them. But asking around, I found that some folks thought you were a bit of a pothunter.”

Kyle turned white. "That’s not true! They would never say that. Everyone knows about my expertise—they ask for me—”

Eva shook her head, her face stolid. “Not everyone says that. The dig you were on last year didn’t want you back. They think you ripped off a couple of pieces.”

“I didn’t steal them.” Kyle was vehement. “I’m keeping them safe! You don’t understand. The best things always get stolen. Those would have been stolen, too, if I hadn’t protected them!”

O’Malley was watching Kyle with a kind of fatherly detachment. “You see, the problem is, Mr. Baldridge, that we’ve been paying a lot of attention to Ms. Sullivan's movements. She’s been traced all the way back to California, from the campgrounds she stayed in to the place her car was repaired, and then to her brother’s house—right before the time Naylor was shot, the pathologist says. No way could she have killed him. So unless the two of you are working together, she didn’t do him. And it would be pretty hard for her to have done Ms. Riegert, either. And it sure doesn’t look to Phil and me like the two of you are working together.”

“It doesn’t have to be me, if it’s not her!” Kyle’s control had been shaken. “Her nephew—the one that got shot. He threatened to kill Tony—Tony himself told me about it!”

“When was this, Mr. Baldridge? According to the statement you gave Officer Gutierrez Thursday, you hadn’t seen Mr. Naylor for some time.” O’Malley glanced at Phil, serene in his noxious cloud. “For God’s sake, Phil, put that thing out. We’re all dying here.”

“Sorry, O’Malley.” Phil got up and carried his cigar out of the room.

Kyle watched him go. He took off his cracked glasses, looked at them as if he’d never seen them before, and then cleaned them. “I—might have just seen him in passing recently. A week or so ago. And he told me this hulking kid had declared a vendetta against him. It actually worried him.”

“You told us tonight he thought it was funny.” I put in my two cents’ worth.

Kyle shot me a glance of entreaty. “Liz, don’t make it worse.”

“It is worse.”

“I’m sorry I said it was you trying to kill your nephew. Maybe you were just trying to defend yourself from him. He could have been threatening you, saying if you didn’t back off trying to find out who killed Tony, he’d get you. Right?”

“No, Kyle. That’s not the way it was. Try telling the truth.”

A uniformed officer came in. "There’s a woman here demanding to see whoever’s in charge of the Naylor investigation,” he said nervously. “Don’t know what you want me to do with her.”

He didn’t have to do anything. Molly barged into the room, pushing him out of the way.

“Where is he?” Her hair was wild, as if she’d driven fast with the window down. “Where’s the scum that tried to kill my baby?”

Eva was on her feet. “Mrs. Fahey! How’s Bryon doing?”

“He’s alive.” Molly gulped convulsively. Her makeup was smeared around her eyes, making her look like a wild Celt ready for battle. She turned that bleary, molten gaze on O’Malley, who visibly quailed. “Is that the slimebag? He deserves to have his balls ripped slowly off and roasted over an open fire!”

“Molly—” It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done, to get in the path of her slow, mesmerizing stalk toward O’Malley. “Molly. Doesn’t Biff need you? Shouldn’t you be by his side?”

“They threw me out.” She switched the basilisk glare to me. "Told me I was upsetting him, so I left the hospital. Renee said there was some kind of fight on the corner, that they had arrested everyone involved. Were you involved, Liz?”

“Byron saved my life,” I said.

Her eyes narrowed further. “Why did you make that necessary, damn you? If you hadn’t come back, none of this would have happened!”

Eva cleared her throat—she also seemed to feel brave. “Actually, Liz saved your son’s life, too, probably. He lost a lot of blood, if she hadn’t acted quickly, he would have lost more—maybe too much.”

Some of the red faded from Molly’s face. She’d always had a talent for a good rage, but I had never seen her like this before. “Did you?” She faltered a little. “His blood—”

I pushed her into my chair just before her legs turned to rubber. Eva bustled around, finding a glass of water. O’Malley wiped his balding head with a handkerchief.

“You’ve had a shock tonight,” Eva said, handing Molly the water. “Is your husband at the hospital? Do you want me to call and let them know you’re here?”

“That—that would be kind.” Molly gulped the water and seemed to revive. “I wasn’t doing poor Byron much good. He was just covered in blood—his own blood!”

“He’ll be cleaned up when you go back,” Eva said soothingly. She was dialing from O’Malley’s phone, and turned her back to talk softly into the receiver.

Molly drew herself up, and I hastened to introduce O’Malley. “This is the detective in charge of Tony’s murder.”

She looked him over and didn’t seem impressed. “And you did arrest someone for shooting my son?” She noticed Kyle, who had been very quiet, as if hoping to be forgotten. “Why, Mr. Amador.”

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