Read Murder Mile High Online

Authors: Lora Roberts

Tags: #Mystery

Murder Mile High (8 page)

“Can you tell me the applicant’s name? We have two Kyles here.”

“It’s Anthony Naylor.” I held my breath hopefully.

“Naylor, Naylor,” she muttered. “Was he recently employed here?”

“The date he left is smudged, but the start date was several years ago.”

“Oh, Tony. Tony Naylor. He was—terminated—over a year ago.” Her voice was a blend of curiosity and formality. “It must be Kyle Baldridge he put down as a reference. They were always close.”

“Was Mr. Baldridge his supervisor?”

"No, that was Mr. Tobin—Leonard Tobin. He recently retired. And Kyle’s been on leave for the past month—he won’t be back until the beginning of October. Just a minute.” She put me on hold, long enough to make me wonder if she had some way of tracing my call. I fed the phone when the digitized voice told me to, and hoped it wouldn’t ask for more.

“Sorry about that.” She was back. “When did you get an application from Tony?”

Someone had obviously just filled her in. Suppressed excitement simmered in her voice.

“It was a couple of weeks ago.” I made my voice sound apologetic. “I’ve been on vacation, too, and it came in while I was gone. I can’t get hold of Mr. Naylor to verify these names.”

"That’s because he’s dead,” the woman in personnel said triumphantly. “Gladys just told me that the police were here this morning, trying to find out where he’s been working since he left.”

“Goodness, I’d better get in touch with them. And I guess I won’t need to check references after all. The police have probably already talked to this Kyle person.”

“I don’t know if they have.” She sounded thoughtful now. “He’s volunteering on a dig in the Four Corners area—he likes that archaeology stuff.”

"Thanks for your help.” I hung up quickly, before she could demand information from me. At least I had gotten Kyle’s last name—and I remembered Leonard Tobin, too. I’d met him at one of those functions, and then Tony had railed loudly about him more than once, about Leonard taking his credit and obstructing his advancement. I hadn’t paid much attention—Tony suspected most people of those crimes. I didn’t think Tobin was that much older—certainly not retirement age. But perhaps, as senior broker, he’d made his pile and was ready to spend it.

Back to the phone book again. This time I was lucky. Both Kyle and Leonard were listed, Kyle in the chic old section near downtown that Amy had referred to as LoDo, for Lower Denver, and Leonard in the Cherry Creek area. I wrote down their addresses and phone numbers and went back to the bus, where Barker munched dog food while I munched peanut butter and jelly, trying to figure out how I would talk to these people, and hoping that somehow what I heard could help me.


Chapter 9


Since Kyle Baldridge was out of town, I decided to head for Cherry Creek to see if Leonard Tobin was at home. After my experience with Maud, I didn’t phone first. It’s too easy to hang up on someone.

Leonard Tobin lived in one of those subdivisions with roads winding through landscaping that captures the dichotomy of Colorado—one house sprawls in a Southwestern jumble of cactus, sand, boulders; the next one is a mock Tudor enveloped in a lush cottage garden. Tobin’s was discreetly middle-of-the-road ranch style, with foundation shrubs and a brick path to the door. A FOR SALE sign swung in the front yard.

I parked on the street. My bus was an anomaly among all the gleaming Cadillacs and sport utility vehicles that ornamented the driveways. There was no car in Tobin’s driveway; the garage was shut.

The doorbell made a hollow sound inside the house. I was about to turn away when the door opened.


I suddenly felt jittery—I hadn’t really thought he’d be home, framed the right approach.

“Uh—Mr. Tobin?”

“Yes?” He peered at me suspiciously. I recognized him when he moved into the sunlight: the thin face, the high-bridged nose. His hair was much sparser. “What do you want?”

“I’m Liz Sullivan. Tony Naylor’s ex-wife.”

His face changed; for one instant, fear lanced out. Then he looked down. “Sorry. I don’t know you.”

The door began to close. “Wait. Mr. Tobin—I just want to ask you some questions. Tony’s dead. Did you know?”

He froze, one hand on the doorknob. “Dead?” His other hand passed, trembling, over his mouth. “I—didn’t know.” He looked up again. “What do you want? Why have you come here?”

“Some answers.” I could see I was losing him. “The police suspect me.”

“And you want to throw suspicion on me?” His face tightened. I could see that the past decade had left a heavy mark on him. “Look, if I’d killed Tony, I would have done it awhile ago, when it would still have benefited me. But now—” he pointed at the sign on his front lawn—”now there’s no reason. I’ve already lost it all. My job. My wife. My home’s next to go.” He leaned toward me, his mouth twisted, and I smelled the whiskey on his breath. “He won, you see. He won over a year ago. Why would I wait so long to kill the bastard?”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say. “But weren’t you his boss? How could he get that much power over you?”

“You’re his wife. Didn’t you know?” For the first time he seemed to see me. “Oh, you might as well come in. I’ve got to leave in a little while—the realtor is showing the house. But you might as well have a drink.”

I followed him down the hall; he staggered a little. The living room contained a couple of plastic lawn chairs with a brass-and-glass coffee table between them, and some nicely framed and matted photographs on the wall. “My wife took most of the furniture—my ex-wife,” he said, settling into one of the lawn chairs. “Yeah, now I remember. You shot Tony—tried to kill him a few years ago, right? He was on sick leave for a couple of months. So were you more successful this time?”

“I wasn’t even in Denver, but the police think I was behind it somehow.” I sat in the other chair, uninvited. A huge bottle of Jack Daniels stood on the coffee table, next to a glass.

Tobin poured himself a drink. He didn’t offer me one.

“That Naylor. What a bastard.” He raised his glass in a salute, then drank half the whiskey.

“I wondered where Tony had been working recently. Can you tell me? I gather he was fired from the brokerage.”

“He was blackmailing me, you know.” Tobin looked at me earnestly, clutching his glass. “Just a little mistake—little bad margin call on my part. Had to cover myself. Dipped into a trust fund I was managing.” He took a morose sip. “Tony found out somehow. I was a VP by then. Couldn’t let them know.”

“So what did he want?”

“Money.” Tobin gave me a sharp look, the muzziness momentarily gone. “And immunity from his own depredations. I told him I couldn’t protect him forever, but he pushed. Got found out, and took me down with him, the bastard.” His hand clenched on the glass. “God, I hate him.” Then he focused on me again. “But I didn’t kill him. Didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. I had enough trouble on my own account.” He sloshed a little more whiskey into his glass.

“Do you think Maud Riegert might know more? Were they still—friends?”

He shrugged and tossed off his drink. “Good old Maudie. She moved on a few years ago. Dunno if she still saw Tony. Got a job in another firm.” He giggled a little. “She had a black eye once, you know. Said she got it in the shower. Then she left. Nice little ass that girl had.” He made a vague gesture in the air and reached for the bottle, but his hand groped without finding it. Then slowly, peacefully, his eyes closed. A breathy snore bubbled out of his mouth, followed, in a moment, by another.

I pitied the real estate agent who was bringing a client over. And though I had gotten some information, it wasn’t the information I wanted.

Tobin slumped farther in his chain. His sport coat fell open, revealing a small notebook in the inside pocket. As I looked at it, he snored again.

He didn’t move when I stood beside him for a while. So I fished the notebook out. It was one of those little pocket daily calendars with an address section in the back. Maud Riegert’s address and phone number were written down under R. The phone number was the same one I had reached her at earlier. I copied the address, and then leafed through the book again. Kyle’s name was there, but I already had his location.

Tony was in there, too—with several scratched-out addresses under his name. The last one, with a big angry X drawn through it, was the same as Kyle Baldridge’s. So Tony had moved in with Kyle at some point. Perhaps he had still lived there at the time of his death. I had looked at his driver’s license but I couldn’t remember now what had been written there, and I knew from my own experience that licenses weren’t always accurate.

I needed to talk to Kyle, even if I had to drive to the Four Corners to do it.

Leonard Tobin snored again. I tucked the notebook back into his pocket and tiptoed out of the house.


Chapter 10


Maud Riegert was a lot closer than the Four Corners. I drove back across town to her apartment, which was near the Capitol Hill area of older mansions and elegant apartments.

I found a place to park on the street. Barker let me know in no uncertain terms that he was growing tired of staying alone in the bus. I promised him a nice walk later, and went into the lobby of the building. The marble floor shone, and so did the plate glass of the locked door between me and the elevators. I wondered if Maud would let me in.

The elevator on the other side of the glass door opened and a rottweiler charged out, towing a woman in jogging clothes. She pushed the inner door open, and as the dog pulled her inexorably toward the sidewalk, I caught it before it could close.

Maud was on the sixth floor. I rang the doorbell, waited, rang again. The door had a peephole, but she probably wouldn’t recognize me—it had been a long time, and we hadn’t seen that much of each other. I might not recognize her, if given the chance.

The door opened to the length of the chain lock; a narrow sliver of suspicious face appeared in the opening. “Who are you?”

“Ms. Riegert?”

“What do you want?”

I cleared my throat. “The county has some questions. About the death of Tony Naylor.”

She sighed. “I’ve already talked to the police. Can’t you get your information from them?”

“It’s better if I talk to you.”

The one visible eye looked me up and down and found me non-threatening. My anonymous outfit—khaki pants and windbreaker jacket from the Junior League Thrift Shop—makes me look like thousands of other nondescript women in their mid-thirties who can’t be bothered to fix
up. She shut the door briefly and then opened it without the chain.

“Come in.” She hustled me into the living room. “Make it snappy, can’t you? I’m busy.”

She certainly was. Through an open door I could see her bedroom; the bed was piled high with clothes and suitcases. A big cardboard packing crate took up center stage in the living room.

“Are you moving?”

She gave me a sharp look. “I’m going on sabbatical for a little while, and I don’t want the sublet to ruin my things.”

“That’s sensible.”

“You don’t mind if I work while we talk, do you? I don’t have long before the truck comes.”

“It’s fine.” I fidgeted with the notebook I had taken out of my knapsack in the interests of verisimilitude. “Actually, I’m not from the county, although I imagine they do have questions about Tony’s death.”

She froze in the act of wrapping a towel around a watercolor depicting the quaint Main Street of an old mining town. “Who—what—”

“I’m Liz Sullivan. I called you earlier, but you wouldn’t talk to me. I really need to know some things, Maud.”

“Liz?” She put the watercolor down and peered at me. “You don’t look at all the same. Your hair’s short, for one thing.”

I could see by her expression that she had no great opinion of my hairstyle. “It’s low-maintenance. Do you know where Tony’s been working lately?”

She sat down on the love seat opposite the one I occupied. “You don’t beat around the bush. Why do you care? You’ve been out of the picture for a while.” Her eyes narrowed. “Say, how long have you been back in Denver, anyway? Do the police know you’re here?”

“Yes. They think I had something to do with Tony’s death.”

“Did you?” Her gaze turned speculative. “You tried something like that before, I recall.”

“I had nothing to do with it.” I cleared my throat. “Can’t even quite take it in that he’s really dead.”

She shook her head. “I know. It—it’s been a shock.”

“Is that why you’re going away? Because of grief over Tony?”

“Grief?” She laughed, a harsh sound. “It’ll be a warm day on Pikes Peak before I spend any tears on that two-timing, lying bastard.”

“Then why are you going away?”

She laughed again. “Boy, you don’t give up.” Her voice held a contemptuous tolerance. “Honey, you never did have a clue. The times Tony and I had sex in your bed while you were out at your dreary job! I had him in his car, in my car, at my place—even at the office, one night, on the vice president’s desk.” She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself and smiling. “He was quite a guy, Tony. You didn’t have a prayer of handling a man like that. He liked it rough and wild, and so did I.”

“Did you like the black eye, too?” I studied her thin, well-toned body, picturing her with my husband in all those places she’d mentioned. It stirred nothing but a faint wish for a nice hot shower.

“Who told you about that?” She jumped up. “The bastard. He was writing you about me or something, wasn’t he?”

“I know a bit about it.” I fiddled with my notebook. “You left the brokerage firm after that.”

“I told him off, and I got a new job.” Her gaze slid away. “Oh, hell. You might as well know. He was scaring me a little—really acting out of control, and talking wild about how he could make people do anything he wanted them to. I heard later that he was caught cooking an account, and he implicated poor old Leonard. That was mean.”

“So when he blackmailed you, it wasn’t a total surprise.”

She collapsed back into the love seat, her eyes blank. “How did you know that?”

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