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) (4 page)

BOOK: Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4)
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7

Kayden let Jake take the lead to the widow’s door. They’d called ahead to let Mrs. Humphries know they’d be coming, but Jake insisted they arrive half an hour early. He said a lot could happen in a half hour.

Kayden was curious to know if that’d prove to be true. The Humphries place was a white two-story home with black shutters and a two-story porch, looking more
Gone with the Wind
than Alaskan Peninsula.

Jake rapped on the door and a young woman answered—early-to-mid twenties, petite and slender, with long dark hair pulled back in a braid.

“Deputy Wes—” Jake cleared his throat. “Deputy Cavanagh to see Mrs. Humphries. She’s expecting us.”

The woman dipped her head. “Come in. I’ll let Mrs. know you are here.”

They stepped inside the large foyer—black-and-white marble decorated the floor while white marble stairs commanded the center of the space, winding up to a secondary foyer.

“Was that the d—” A faux-blonde in her upper forties hitched at the sight of them.

Stuart Anderson followed immediately behind Mrs. Humphries, also stopping short at their presence.

“Mr. Anderson.” Jake smiled. “Nice to see you again.”

“I’m here for Vivienne, of course. To be a comfort during this tragic time.”

Jake linked his hands behind his back and nodded. “Of course.” He glanced between Stuart and Humphries’ widow. Even Kayden didn’t miss the casual affection of Stuart’s hand resting protectively against the small of Vivienne Humphries’ back.
Interesting
.

Vivienne smoothed her silk blouse. “Why don’t we sit in the parlor.” She gestured to the front room on their left, her two-inch heels clacking along the tiles as she led them in. The room was appointed with burgundy and gold furnishings. Kayden would have found the decor overbearing if it weren’t for the openness of the space. The south-facing wall was floor-to-ceiling windows, and strategically placed mirrors on the opposite wall magnified the effect, resulting in the appearance of a much larger space than what actually existed.

Stuart moved to sit beside Vivienne on the large burgundy sofa.

Jake leaned forward. “We need to speak with Mrs. Humphries alone.”

Vivienne glanced nervously at Stuart.

He squeezed her hand. “I’ll be in the next room if you need me.”

She nodded.

“It’s kind of Mr. Anderson to be here for you,” Kayden said as Stuart excused himself from the room.

“The three of us go way back.”

“Mr. Anderson mentioned that. College, I believe?” Jake said.

“Stuart and Conrad were roommates.”

“And you?”

“And me, what?” Her nose crinkled.

“Were you friends with both?”

“I met Stuart when Conrad and I started dating.”

“Did you and Stuart ever date?”

She laughed. “No. Conrad and I have been together since freshman year of college. Only other boy I dated was Rob Williams in high school.”

“I’m very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Humphries,” Jake said, taking a seat opposite her. “It must have come as quite a shock.”

Vivienne swallowed with a nod, sadness draping over her. “I still can’t believe it.”

Jake handed her a tissue, though no tears had been shed yet. “I was told you and Mr. Humphries have children?”

“Yes.” She dabbed at her dry eyes. “Two boys. Derek is fifteen, and Phillip is twelve.”

“I’m very sorry.” Kayden knew the overwhelming sorrow of losing a parent at such a tender age. She’d been sixteen when her dad had died suddenly of a heart attack, her mom from illness only two years later. Neither were murder, but the loss of a parent was the same—leaving the children feeling lost, alone, and bewildered.

“Would either of you care for a drink? Tea, water?” Vivienne asked, glancing at the young woman waiting in the doorway.

“I’m fine, thanks,” Kayden said.

“Nothing for me.” Jake shook his head.

“I’ll have a water with lemon, Amelia,” Vivienne said.

The young woman nodded as she backed from the room, disappearing down the hall with nearly silent footsteps.

“Thank you for speaking with us during this difficult time,” Jake said in a soothing tone as he leaned closer.

Vivienne responded, leaning forward too. “Of course.”

Jake glanced about the room. “You have a beautiful home.”

Vivienne smiled. “Thank you.”

“You have quite an eye for decorating.”

Color imbued her cheeks. “I try.”

“Well, you’ve done a lovely job.”

Lovely job? Had Jake—mountain man, tracker—just said
lovely job
? Landon had mentioned Jake’s parents were members of Boston high society, but somehow the knowledge was incongruent with the rugged outdoorsman she knew.

Amelia returned with Mrs. Humphries’ water.

“Thank you, Amelia.” She took a sip, and then waved her hand. “That will be all.”

Amelia disappeared as quickly and quietly as she’d come.

“Are you certain I can’t offer you anything?” Vivienne smiled at Jake.

“No, ma’am. I’m fine, thank you.”

“Ma’am?” She chuckled. “People call my mother
ma
’am
.”

Kayden narrowed her eyes. Was the woman actually
flirting
with Jake?

Jake smiled slowly. “I only meant it as a sign of respect.”

Mrs. Humphries shifted, the sleeve of her sheer peach silk blouse draping over the burgundy sofa arm. “
Vivienne
will be just fine.”

Jake dipped his head. “
Vivienne
it is, then. Could we begin with you sharing the events that led up to Conrad’s climb?”

Something shifted in Vivienne’s demeanor, as if she suddenly recalled the circumstances surrounding their meeting.
“I suppose.” She sat back, folding her hands in her lap, the water resting on a coaster beside her.

“Wonderful.” Jake pulled a small notebook and pen from his shirt pocket and flipped to an empty page. “When did you first learn of Conrad’s plans for the climb?”

“He informed me of his intentions on Thursday morning.”

“His intentions?” Jake asked.

“Said he and Stuart were heading to Tariuk on Saturday. They were going to spend the day climbing some . . . face.”

“Stoneface,” Kayden said.

Vivienne waved her perfectly manicured hand. “Whatever, dear.”

“Did it come as a surprise?” Jake asked.

“That he was going climbing or that he dumped something on me last minute?”

“Either.”

“No, on both accounts.” She lifted her water glass. “Conrad had a nasty habit of informing me of his plans with very little notice. Never mind that he’d promised our son he’d be at his soccer game. Never mind that I had a luncheon that had been planned for two months. No, he decided to go climbing, and I had to take a disappointed Phillip to his game. No consideration for anyone other than . . .” She shook her head, as if remembering who she was talking to “Forgive me. Where are my manners? It’s wrong to speak ill of the dead.”

“It’s fine to speak the truth,” Jake reassured her. “Do you think it was a last-minute decision to climb or that Conrad simply waited until the last minute to tell you?”

“Stuart said they’d had it planned for some time.”

“When did he tell you that?”

“When he came here last night.” With a slight catch in her throat, she added, “After the accident.”

Jake cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to inform you that Conrad’s death wasn’t an accident.”

Vivienne blanched. “I beg your pardon?”

“Forensics confirmed our hunch this morning. Conrad’s equipment was compromised.”

“Equipment. What equipment? Conrad went on and on about being one with the rock. The power of bare human hands.”

“Not completely bare,” Kayden said.

Vivienne’s gaze shifted to her. “Excuse me?”

“All climbers, whether free climbers or boulderers, such as your husband, use chalk.”

“Chalk?”

“Yes, ma’am. It helps you grip.”

“I was a gymnast. I understand the concept.” Interestingly, she didn’t mind Kayden addressing her as
ma’am
.

“Then you understand its importance. Its necessity.”

Her gaze swung back to Jake. “What does any of this have to do with Conrad?”

“His chalk was compromised.”

“Compromised? How?”

“I’m afraid we cannot divulge the details, but rather than being a help, your husband’s chalk became his murder weapon.”

“Murder?” She swallowed. “Are you saying . . . ?”

“Your husband was murdered, Vivienne.”

She blinked, then stared at the water glass in her hand. “On second thought, I believe I’m going to require something a bit stronger. If you will excuse me.” She stood and swiftly exited the room, her heels clicking along the marble floor.

Kayden scooted to sit beside Jake. “That didn’t seem like a typical widow reaction.”

“There’s no
typical
when it comes to death. Though Stuart’s presence is intriguing.”

She glanced toward the hall. “Doesn’t sound like Conrad and Vivienne had an ideal marriage.” Rather far from it, if Vivienne’s behavior was any indication.

“No.” Jake shook his head. “It certainly doesn’t.”

“You think their shaky marriage could be motive for murder?” She couldn’t help wondering what his and Becca’s marriage had been like, brief as it was.

“I’ve seen murders committed for far less.”

“Do you think she’s telling Stuart what we said?”

“Most definitely.”

“And that’s okay? I mean, letting the two chat?”

“Vivienne’s demeanor after speaking with Stuart will tell me a lot.”

“Such as?”

“What do you mean Conrad’s death was murder?” Stuart asked, surging into the room, followed by a very agitated Vivienne.

Jake stood to meet Stuart eye to eye. “Exactly that. Conrad was murdered.”

“Are you forgetting I was there? No one was holding a gun to his head.”

Jake crossed his arms. “I never suggested there was.”

“Then what exactly are you suggesting? You aren’t implying
I
had anything to do with Conrad’s death?”

“I’m simply stating the fact that Conrad Humphries’ death was murder.”

“He fell. How on earth is that murder?”

“His chalk was compromised.”

“What?” Stuart paled. “When, how?”

“That’s what we’re trying to determine. You said you didn’t use the same chalk as Conrad?”

“No, I told you—” He stopped. “I see what you’re doing. You’re twisting Conrad’s fall to call it murder and trying to pin it on me. What? Do you not get enough crime out here? You need to invent some so you can look like real cops?”

“Mr. Anderson, I suggest you settle down.”

“And I suggest you speak with my lawyer if you have any further questions.”

“No one is suggesting you had anything to do with Mr. Humphries’ death. We weren’t even questioning you. We’re simply trying to determine who had access to Conrad’s chalk before his climb.”

“Which would be me or Vivienne.”

“Or whoever worked at the shop where he bought it,” Vivienne added, placing a calming hand on Stuart’s back.

Jake followed Vivienne to the utility room, where Conrad kept his climbing gear, but as he suspected, no chalk remained. Conrad must have filled his bag, leaving none left over.

“Where did Mr. Humphries purchase his chalk?”

“I already told you that,” Stuart said, impatiently. “Vivienne, this is highly irregular. You shouldn’t allow them to search your home. They need a warrant.”

“Mr. Anderson, I asked you to wait in the front room.”

“I don’t want Vivienne alone after hearing such shocking news.”

“She’s not alone. Miss McKenna and I are right here.”

“She needs a friend with her. Not a cop and his assistant.”

“Kayden’s not my assistant. She’s a renowned climbing expert.”

“McKenna.” Stuart snapped. “That’s where I knew you from. You’re the gal that holds the free-climbing record for Stoneface.”

Kayden nodded.

“I find climbing to be such a masculine pastime,” Vivienne said.

Kayden ignored the insult.

“Mr. Anderson,” Jake said, stepping between him and Conrad’s utility room. “I appreciate you wanting to be here for Mrs. Humphries, but I assure you, she’s in good hands, and we won’t be long.”

“It’s all right, Stuart.” Vivienne rubbed her arms as if she’d caught a sudden chill. “Go on and wait in the parlor. I’ll be fine.”

He inclined his head. “You’re sure? You can say no.”

“I’m positive.”

He glared at Jake before leaving.

“He’s very protective of you,” Kayden said.

“Like I said, the three of us go way back.”

“Do you know where Conrad bought his chalk?”

“I assume at the climbing gym, but I don’t pay attention to that sort of thing.”

“Do you know when he purchased it?”

“Couldn’t tell you that either, but I know he went climbing at the gym the day before he went to Stoneface. Actually left work early to do it and then had to go back in after dinner to finish his work. It was ridiculous. Who does that?”

“So to your knowledge, Conrad left work early, went to the gym, came home for dinner, and then went back to the office?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“Maybe an hour, an hour and a half. His secretary, Amber Smith, could confirm it. He requires she be there whenever he is working in the office—in case anything comes up.” She crossed her arms and looked up at the ceiling. “He’s particular about that.”

She turned her attention back to Jake. “Stuart was here, and he took off just like that. It was quite rude, if you ask me. Luckily Stuart and I are friends. It could have been very awkward if it were any other of Conrad’s friends, you know.”

“Yes. You and Mr. Anderson seem quite close.”

“Like I said, we go way back.”

Sure seemed to be more to it than that.

BOOK: Silenced (Alaskan Courage Book #4)
13.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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