Read Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4) Online

Authors: Dani Pettrey

Tags: #FIC042060, #Alaska—Fiction, #Murder—Investigation—Fiction, #FIC027110, #Mountaineers—Fiction, #FIC042040

Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4) (2 page)

BOOK: Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4)
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3

“You know . . .” Booth offered Jake a stick of gum after they’d finished loading Conrad Humphries’ body into the rescue vehicle. “When I moved up here twenty some years ago, I thought I was in for a quieter life, but this past year is proving me wrong.”

“You and me both,” Jake said, folding the gum into his mouth. When he’d first arrived, Yancey had seemed like the perfect small town to hide away in for a while before he moved on again. But now . . . He looked over at Kayden, the rain dripping off her hood. He couldn’t leave if he wanted to. His heart belonged to her.

As Landon approached, Booth said, “If Kayden’s right about the chalk being off, looks like you could have your first murder case as sheriff.”

“Let’s not go tossing around that word just yet—not until the tests on the chalk come back.”

Booth looked over at Kayden. “If I were a gambler, I wouldn’t bet against the lady.”

Neither would Jake.

“She knows her stuff,” Booth said.

“That she does.” He smiled in her direction.

“How long until you have the results?” Landon asked.

“Hopefully tomorrow morning,” Booth said.

“Great. I have yet another meeting with Mayor Cox and the town council that will probably last well into the afternoon, so I’ll have to send a deputy over as soon as you get your results.” Landon’s gaze rested on Jake.

“Oh no,” Jake said. He knew that look. Ever since Landon had discovered the truth of his investigative background, he’d been trying to get him to join the force. With Slidell’s departure and Deputy Tom Wilkinson following suit, Landon was short two men.

Jake understood why Landon wanted his help. It was a rough spot to be in. He couldn’t deny he’d been invigorated by the
Bering
-cruise-ship case they’d recently solved, but he needed to stifle those urges, to get the thought of returning to the job he loved out of his mindset, because it couldn’t happen. He’d thought he was born to be a detective until his pride and singular focus on the job had cost Becca her life—along with that of their unborn child. Clearly his priorities had been wrong. Clearly God hadn’t intended for him to be a cop.

Landon broke the silence. “Jake, I know we talked about this when I got appointed, and you—”

“I told you, I’m out of the game.” He had to be.

“I understand, but I could really use your expertise. Especially with Mayor Cox bogging me down in paperwork and meetings. What if it was just a temporary assignment? Just
until this gets sorted out?” Landon exhaled. “I could really use your help, man.”

Jake’s shoulders dropped. How could he say no? Landon was like family, and he needed him. He’d helped with the
Bering
case, and nothing had gone horribly wrong. . . . Maybe enough time had passed. Maybe he could help on just one more case. He wavered, fearing he was going to regret it, but he couldn’t let his family down when they needed him. “All right, but just until this gets sorted out.”

“That’s a yes?”

Jake nodded and watched some of the weight lift from Landon’s countenance.

“Thank you, Jake.”

“Just this case,” he reiterated, knowing Landon hoped he’d get hooked and stay on.

Landon smiled. “Fine. You can start by going with Kayden to interview Stuart Anderson. She’s got the climbing expertise and will know if he’s lying about anything related to the climb.”

She stepped beside him. “Sounds good.”

Jake looked over at her. She seemed to be pleased.
Interesting.
Was she happy he was going to work the case?

“Before you go, I need to swear you in,” Landon said.

“Is that really necessary?” Jake asked, his mind flashing back to his first swearing-in ceremony. He’d been so young and cocky. Life had kicked that out of him—or at least a good portion of it.

“Gotta make it official.” Landon proceeded with deputizing Jake as Kayden and her siblings watched.

When they wrapped up, Landon grabbed a gun and badge from his truck’s glove box, handing them to Jake.

Jake cocked his head. “Were you that confident I’d say yes?”

“I knew if I ever really needed your help, I could count on you.” Landon clapped him on the back.

Jake prayed that was true, but Becca had believed she could count on him, too, and he’d let her down terribly.

4

Jake held the door for Kayden as she stepped into Tariuk’s Ranger Station Four. Having worked search and rescue for years, Kayden and all of her siblings were well acquainted with the various stations and the rangers who staffed them. Ryan Aikens stood at the communications station, relaying the incoming weather report to the rangers out in the field. “Weather service says a stronger front is moving in. High winds and heavy downpours.”

“Roger that,” the men replied, almost as one voice.

Ryan set the radio back on the clip and turned to face them. “Hey there.”

“Hey, yourself,” Kayden said.

“Landon said you found the downed climber?”

She nodded.

“Anderson’s pretty upset, but I didn’t tell him his friend is dead.”

She nodded. “Probably for the best.”

“Where is he?” Jake asked.

“Back in the break room. Wasn’t the least bit happy about being told to stay put.”

She sighed. “That should make this go a whole lot smoother.”

“Landon coming?” Ryan looked past Jake.

“Nope. Just me and Deputy Jake,” Kayden said with a smile.

Ryan crossed his arms with a grin. “So Landon finally talked you into signing up?”

“Just until this gets sorted out.”

“Uh-huh.” Ryan chuckled.

“You got anything warm to drink?” She asked, a chill nipping at her.

“Coffee’s in the kitchen, and there’s hot water if you wanna make tea or cocoa. Matt brought some of his herbal junk in yesterday.”

She moved toward the kitchen. “Ignoring the insult in that. Herbal tea’s a whole lot better for you than coffee.”

“Knew that’d push a button.” Ryan chuckled to Jake, and she slowed her step to hear if he responded. If he did, it wasn’t verbally, and his footsteps came quickly behind her.

“How do you want to approach this?” she asked, her gaze pinned on the break-room door.

“You start with the climbing questions. Approach him as you see best, and I’ll jump in if necessary.”

“All right.” Never in a million years did she think she’d be paired with Jake on an inquiry.

She pushed open the door to find a man pacing. “Mr. Anderson?”

He looked up. “Finally.” He rushed forward. “How’s Conrad?”

“Mr. Anderson, I suggest you take a seat.” She gestured to the round wooden table and the four mismatched chairs encircling it.

“No.” He shook his head. “Not until I get answers. I’ve been waiting for hours.”

Kayden looked at Jake, and he nodded. She exhaled. She hated this part. “Mr. Anderson, I’m very sorry to inform you that Conrad Humphries is dead.”

“Dead?” His face paled. “I knew it was a hard fall, but . . .”

Kayden pulled out a chair. “Why don’t you sit.”

He looked at her, confused. “Who are you?”

She extended her hand. “Kayden McKenna.”

He was older. Upper forties, perhaps early fifties. Tall, lean, slightly balding. He shook her hand, but instead of meeting her eyes, he stared straight past her at Jake. “And you’re the sheriff?”

“No, I’m a deputy.”

She’d witnessed a glimpse of Jake as investigator during the cruise ship case. He was highly enticing in his natural element, even more than usual. And now she had been given the pleasure of investigating with him. A tingle of anticipation shot through her.

Stuart shook his head. “I can’t believe . . .” He swallowed. “Vivienne. Have you told Vivienne yet?”

Kayden arched her brows. “Vivienne?”

“Conrad’s wife. She’s going to be devastated. I should go to her.” He started for the door.

Jake intercepted his path. “I’m afraid we need to ask you some questions first.”

Stuart stilled. “Questions? About what?”

Kayden moved to face him. “What happened on today’s climb?”

“What about it? I already told the ranger and the sheriff over the phone.”

“I’m going to need you to tell
us
,” she insisted.

“You just told me my friend is
dead
, and you want me to answer
questions
?”

“I’m afraid it’s necessary.”

He once again looked past her at Jake. “Seriously?”

“It’s important, Mr. Anderson,” she said, holding her ground.

After a moment’s hesitation, with a stiff exhale, he dropped into the chair Kayden had pulled out for him. “All right, but let’s make it quick. I need to get to Vivienne.”

“We’ll go as quickly as we can. Now, would you please tell me how your day started?”

“Conrad and I went for a climb. Things were going fine. Conrad made it over the outcrop, and I lost visual. A minute or so later, I heard him scream and then . . .” Stuart’s eyes flicked wide.

“And then?” she pressed.

Stuart squeezed his eyes shut. “A horrible thump.”

She paused a moment, letting him absorb the trauma. “And after that?”

He looked up at her. “You really expect me to go back through that?”

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to need you to go through it step by step for me.”

Stuart’s eyes narrowed. “Who, exactly, are you?”

“Kayden Mc—”

He waved his hand. “I got that part. What I mean is why are
you
questioning me? Are you a deputy too?”

“No. I’m the one who found Conrad.”

“Oh.” Stuart swallowed. “Was he . . . ?”

Jake nodded. “I’m afraid your friend was already gone by the time Kayden reached him.”

“Look . . .” Stuart clasped his hands together. “I need to get to Vivienne. I don’t want her facing this alone.”

“I understand, but we have a few more questions.”

“Conrad had a tragic accident. What more do you need to know?”

“We need to be thorough, Mr. Anderson, and we’d appreciate your cooperation. It won’t take long.”

Rain pelted the glass on the front windows, the storm finally hitting its full fury.

“I’ll give you five more minutes, and that’s being generous under the circumstance,” Stuart said.

“Take all the time you need,” Jake whispered in Kayden’s ear as he pulled out a chair for her.

The warmth of his breath on her neck sent shivers up her spine—the good kind—making it extremely difficult to focus on the task at hand. She scooted her chair in, the metal legs scuffing along the wooden planks, directing her attention on Stuart Anderson.

“How did you know Conrad?”

He gaped at Kayden. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Jake crossed his arms over his chest. “Just answer the lady’s questions.”

Stuart exhaled. “We went to college together. Been friends for twenty-nine years.”

“Do you live on Imnek as well?” She didn’t know everyone on the island, but she did know most of the climbers, at least by sight, and she’d never seen or heard of him.

“No. I’m up in Anchorage. What does any of this have to do with Conrad’s accident?”

“I’m just trying to establish the events that led up to the
climb, your relationship with the deceased, both of your climbing experience . . .”

“I had business in Spruce Harbor and figured I’d spend some time with Conrad while I was down here.”

“When did you plan the climb?”

“We first talked about it a couple months back, when I learned I’d be in town.”

“What kind of business are you in?”

“Real estate.”

“So you were in town for business, and . . .”

“I stayed through the weekend so we could do some climbing.”

“And the trip had been planned for two months?”

“More or less.”

So there’d been plenty of time for someone to compromise or tamper with Conrad’s chalk. “Who knew you two were planning the climb?”

“Well . . . Vivienne, and my wife, Gail.”

Surely more people knew than that. Climbers liked to discuss their upcoming climbs, to get feedback and generate excitement—it pumped them up for the climb ahead. “How long have you and Conrad been climbing?”

A chill whisked through the break room, the wind gusts rattling the window frame.

Stuart looked at Kayden.

“Please continue,” she said, wishing she’d taken the time to make that cup of warm tea.

“I’ve been climbing for seven years and Conrad for three.”

Only three years?
“Was he proficient enough to be out on Stoneface?”

“It’s a tough climb, but yeah, we were both up for it.”

“Was it his first time out there?”

“Yes.”

“And yours?”

“No. I climbed it last summer. Told Conrad about it and he’d been raring to go ever since.”

“Did he train for it?”

“Sure. Conrad was at that gym of his nearly every day. Went right after work.”

“That’s great, but we both know climbing indoors is nowhere near the same as out.” Outdoors you had to take into account the weather, natural erosion, shifting rocks . . .

“Conrad said he was ready for it.”

“Any physical signs to indicate differently?”

“Like what?”

“Pacing before the climb, perspiring . . . ?”

“He was going through his chalk pretty good, but I figured he just wanted the extra grip.”

“Was he perspiring excessively?”

“Not that I noticed.”

“But you did notice him using his chalk quite a bit?”

“Yes, I’d glance up from time to time and the farther up he got, the more he dipped his hand in the chalk bag.”

“How were his handholds?”

“Handholds? Are you actually asking me to critique my buddy’s final climb?”

“I’m asking if he was having trouble gaining grip.”

“I don’t know. We weren’t side by side.”

“Was he complaining about anything?”

“I don’t know about women, but men don’t chitchat while climbing.”

She pushed past the insult, knowing she could outclimb him any day. “Do you know where Conrad bought his chalk?”

The light dimmed as the sky darkened a deeper shade of charcoal gray. Jake moved to the light switch situated by the door and flipped it. An older yellow droplight flicked to life overhead, bathing the room in a golden glow.

“I’m guessing the gym he always climbs at. They have a shop in the front.”

“Which gym?” Imnek only had one, so chances were . . .

“Rocktrex.”

That’s what she was afraid of.
Brody’s gym
.

“What about you?” Jake asked. “Did you use the same chalk as Conrad?”

“I always bring my own gear—shoes, chalk bag, chalk.” He glanced at his watch. “Are we done here? I really should be with Vivienne.”

“We’re done for now. How can we get in touch with you?”

“I’m staying at Vivienne and Conrad’s.” He fished something from his pocket. “Here’s my business card.” He scribbled a number on the back. “That’s my cell.”

“Thank you, Mr. Anderson. We appreciate your help.”

He gave a curt nod.

Kayden glanced over at Jake as Stuart exited the room. “What do you think?”

“Sounds like Conrad Humphries should never have been making that climb in the first place.”

BOOK: Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4)
4.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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