There were three messages on Blow's cellphone when he checked after leaving the cigar klatch with Callahan. He hadn't looked when it vibrated several times then because he'd been getting junk calls of late and none of the spammers ever left a message. Two now were caller identified: Nancy Gunther and the Daily Herald's Mel Watterman. The third wasn't but it was a local number. He pressed play for the unknown caller.
Mr. Stone, this is Buddy Leigh? Up at Leigh Stables? I believe you know my daughter Jody. You all were classmates. Anyways, sorry to bother you but your client, Mrs. Gunther, is threatening to sue us and it's just a misunderstanding and I'm sure we can work it out without all the trouble of going to court and all. Can you call me, please? I'd be much obliged.
Blow chose the reply option and soon learned the misunderstanding involved the whereabouts of a set of keys. The keys had belonged to Newt Gunther. Leigh said he gave them to a sheriff's deputy who arrived after Leigh himself had brought Gunther's horse back at the stables, where the high school principal/reenactor had boarded it.
“So I called Mrs. Gunther to ask her what plans she had, if any, for Banastre, that I had an offer for him if she was interested in selling. She told me to continue boarding him for the time being. Then I asked her if she could come and pick up her husband's truck. The trailers are ours, but we really don't have room for extra vehicles. She asked me if someone could bring the truck home and that she would give them a ride back to the stables. I told her I didn't have the keys, that the deputy said she would be returning them to her. That's when everything went south, Mr. Stone.”
“She never got the keys?”
“Said she never saw no deputy. Got a call from Sheriff Oglethorpe, she said, but no deputy ever came to the house.”
“Do you remember which deputy came to the stables, Buddy?”
“Pretty young thing. I've seen her around. She said her name. Sounded Spanish or Mexican. Damndest eyes. Sorta green and brown mixed. Seemed to glow. Sorta grabbed me by the...well, you seen them eyes, you won't forget 'em.”
Blow's head went into overdrive. He mumbled something appropriate, promised to talk with Nancy Gunther, and disconnected. He knew intuitively the “deputy” was not Connie Rodriguez. He'd check with her to make sure, but he had no doubt what her answer would be.
Made sense now, who broke into the high school and how they got in. She'd have the key to Gunther's office, too, but broke the window to make it look as if the burglar had a key to only the building. Make it look like a teacher, frame Andrew Salzwedel, which would explain why his door was jimmied half-assed so it would seem he wanted it to look like a break-in. But if that were true wouldn't he have done the same to some other classrooms to make it look random? Nah. She was in a hurry and probably counting on inept police work.
The question now: What was Cynthia Snow, aka Jamie Moriarty doing back in Leicester? And the fake insurance adjuster. Apparently Gunther had something they wanted, or Salzwedel does. And if Andy has whatever it is, he doesn't seem to know he has it. So what is it?
Blow decided to call Watterman first. Get him out of the way and then stop by and talk with Nancy Gunther again. It occurred to him she might be in danger herself, especially if Snow/Moriarty had Gunther's key ring. Curious, though, why she hadn't yet moved on the widow.
“Daily Herald. Watterman.”
“Mel, Joe Stone.”
“Well, hello there, Counselor. So what the fuck's going on up there?”
“Beg pardon, what? Don't be tightass with me, Stone. I used to smoke dope with your daddy. So what the fuck's going on up there?”
“First of all, Watterman, you never smoked shit with my father. He has good taste. Wouldn't trust a sleazy asshole like you, and he passed his jaundiced eye down to me. I returned your call as a courtesy, so, to use your sophomoric vernacular, what the fuck do you want?”
“Ooo ooo ooo, easy, Joe. Dial it down, OK? No offense intended. I'm on fucking deadline, and that makes me kinda crazy. Get so hyped I pee my pants. Gotta wear Depends these days. Sorry, buddy. Hey, I just figured you could fill me in on the dead guy. Nobody's talking.”
“You're a little late. That was a couple days ago. You can read all about it in the Messenger.”
“No no no, not that dead guy. I'm workin' on that one, too. Today's dead guy. They found him at the Duke of York a little while ago, in his room. Strangled. He had a few business cards in his wallet. One of 'em is yours.”
“Now we're gettin' somewhere, my friend. You know the guy, huh? Himmler? Can you believe it?”
“Yeah, I can believe it. Don't know the guy, though. I hand out my cards at ball games. Hell, I probly gave you one. Oughta know better, huh.”
“C'mon, Joe. Don't be an asshole. Who is this fucking guy? Himmler? C'mon, gimme a break.”
“How much does the Herald pay for information these days, Watterman? Oh, that's right, the Herald's sinking like the Lusitania. That's why they keep you on. Still paying you in grocery coupons?”
“Fuck you, Stone. This is all on the record, you know. I'm gonna quote every fucking word.”
“Make sure you spell my name right.”