Thursday, March 10, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 23 - Part 1

"Hey, boss, we got a wild one on the line this time. She says she's the roommate of Ms. Joyce, and she wants to talk to whoever's in charge of the murder investigation."

Irritable at the frequent interruptions, Jason picked up the phone and reminded himself to be nice. "Sheriff Pratt here. How can I help you?"

"My name is Amber Slofkosky, and I share a house with Linda Joyce, in Flagstaff. I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard the news about the murders in Fredonia and – well, I know this'll sound a little crazy – but I wanted to make sure Linda was alright. See, she's doing some sort of bird study up there for the Arizona Game & Fish Department, and the thing is, like, she usually calls me every couple days to sort of check in – you know, just say "hi", that kinda thing. But I haven't heard from her in a while, and like, well, you know, I was just worried about her and all. You haven't seen her, have you, Sheriff?"

"Why would you think that your friend had anything to do with the murders of our two Paiutes?"

"It's just that I got bad vibes when I heard about the murders, you know, with Linda working up there all alone. See, I got this call yesterday morning from this guy who said he was one of Linda's bird-watching friends. I never heard his name before, and Linda talks about all the people she works with – especially the guys, you know?"

"I know exactly what you mean, Amber. What did this fella say his name was?"

"Well, I'm not exactly sure. See, I was late for work, and you know, at the time I didn't think too much about it. But like, there was just something about him that makes me wonder now. I'm sure he said his first name was Bobby, but I'm not so positive about the last name – James, I think. I know it was something like two first names. He said they called him B.J. I'm pretty sure about that. And he told me he worked for Arizona Game & Fish people, I do remember that. Otherwise I wouldn't have, you know, talked to him, or anything."

Those initials sounded familiar, but from where? "What did this fella say he wanted, Amber?"

"He said he was supposed to meet Linda at some place near the Grand Canyon and she hadn't showed up. So, he was trying to find her. He asked if she had called home, and I told him no, and that I didn't know how to get ahold of her."

"Was there anything else?" prodded Jason.

There was silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds. "Well, there is one other thing. I gave B.J. the name of Linda's boyfriend. Now I'm thinking that maybe that wasn't such a good idea. You know? I was just trying to help. I guess I really wasn't thinking; he caught me by surprise. I didn't have any clothes on – you know, from just getting out of the shower. And anyway, I was in a big hurry 'cause I was late for work – as usual – and I just gave him Ken's number so I could, like, get rid of him. You know?"

"Look, I wouldn't worry about this, Amber. But why don't you give me the boyfriend's name and number, just in case."

"God, I hope I did right, Sheriff. I mean, I wouldn't want to get anybody else in trouble, or hurt. That'd be so uncool."

Jason tapped the pencil on the desk top impatiently. "Yeah, I'm sure it would, Amber, but don't attach too much significance to this one phone call. Now, if you could just give me the name and number of Ms. Joyce's boyfriend, then I can let you go."

"Oh sure, I understand, you're probably real busy, right?" said Amber with obvious embarrassment. "His name is Ken Jarvis, and he's a geology professor up at Southern Utah State College, in Cedar City. His phone number is 643-2273."

"Well, thank you, Amber, we always appreciate any help we can get from the public. As the news reports pointed out, the recent killings up here have been confined to our local Indian population. No Anglos have been involved, as far as we know. I'm sure everything is okay with your roommate, and you'll probably be hearing from her soon."

"Yeah, maybe," sighed Amber. "Boy, I know I'll feel a lot better when I hear her voice again. Right about now I'm really starting to freak out. You know?"

Jason hung up the phone and exhaled loudly. "Geez, what an airhead."

Deputy Mutz walked into the office with a can of Pepsi in his hand. "What was that all about, Sheriff? Another nut case?"

"She said she got a call from some strange man, asking if Linda Joyce was around. That would have been the day after the murder in Jumpup Canyon. The guy went by the name of B.J. and said he works for the folks over at Arizona Game & Fish. Ring any bells?"

Tom shook his head. "Nope, but then, I don't know most of their people – other than the locals, that is." Tom turned to leave when a thought struck him. "Say, wasn't there a B.J. on the pilot list you got from ASN?"

Jason felt like he had just been stuck with a pin. He fumbled in his pocket for his note pad. He scanned the names of the nine pilots.

"You're close, Tom. There's a B.T. Saunders."

"Do you think it could be the same guy who called the roommate?"

"It's probably a coincidence, my friend. But as soon as I get back from the airport, I intend to find out who's who. In the meantime, you give Game & Fish a call and find out if they have someone named B.J. who's working this area."

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