As the investigation continues, acid-tongued oil baroness Janet Strickland makes mincemeat of Deputy Sheriff Jake Briggs in a verbal spar at the mansion. Read this except:
Janet seemed to relax when he asked for a beer. “What brings you out this way today?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.
They both knew why he was there, but it was easier to play along with Janet Strickland’s game. He’d learned last time he interviewed her that although she was not above game-playing, she expected forthrightness from him. It was best not to beat around the bush. “Two things: one, as you know, we have another murder on our hands, and two, we want to get your take on the racial unrest in the community.”
“The sheriff’s department. My colleagues.”
“And that Dunning woman, I presume?”
“I hear you two have become quite…chummy.”
Jake felt himself flush.
“Oh, don’t be so uptight,” she chortled. “If you weren’t involved with some woman, I’d think something was wrong.” Her gaze skittered to his crotch area before darting in another direction. “And you think I might know something about either of these…issues?”
“We’ll never know, if we don’t ask.” He cleared his throat. “Did you see anything of interest the day of the murder?”
Felipe came back into the room carrying a tray. He delivered a glass of wine to Janet, and the beer to Jake.
Janet waited until Felipe was out of the room to respond. “You mean, did I kill Glenn
He paused and took a drink. “Did you?”
“Why would I,” she asked, taking a drink of wine.
“Maybe you were angry.”
“Angry you couldn’t have Glenn Sanger.”
She tossed her head back and laughed again. “Your presumptions are erroneous, Deputy.”
“That you were angry?”
“That I couldn’t have Glenn Sanger.”
“But you said the last time I interviewed you that Glenn Sanger rebuffed your advances.”
“Rebuffed? That’s a rather strong word, don’t you think?” She took another drink and sat back in the chair. “A lot has happened since the last time we chatted.”
A jumble of thoughts rammed through Jake’s mind. If he understood Janet correctly, she and Glenn Sanger had consummated an affair. That idea raised a lot more questions.
Did Peggi Sanger know? Did Janet feel compelled to cover her tracks? Did someone else see them together? It could mean a lot of things.
“Any idea who might have killed Sanger?”
“Who the hell knows,” she shot back in her characteristic acerbic style. “We don’t have a shortage of idiots in this town. You ought to know that by now. How many pickups do you see without a gun rack in the back window? Hardly any. Not to mention all the people who drive around in cars with guns tucked under the seat.”
“Can you account for your whereabouts the day of the killing?”
She laughed again and lit a cigarette. “Do I need to call my lawyer?”
“Up to you.”
“I didn’t kill Glenn Sanger, okay?” she said in an exasperated tone. “If I wanted Glenn dead, I would have hired someone to do it.” She glared at him. “But before you ask, no, I didn’t do that, either.”
“I had to ask.”
“I know.” She took another sip of wine. “No hard feelings.” She met his gaze again. “I hope you’ll reconsider my offer.”
“The job offer?”
She tossed her head back and laughed throatily. “I don’t believe I made any other offers; at least not verbally.”
He felt his face flush again. “I might reconsider…the job offer.”
“Oh, I see. You want more money. How much? Three times your present salary?”
His heart raced. “That would help. I’ll think about it.”
“Wait a minute,” Janet said after a brief pause. “I thought they had already charged the Sandoval boy with the murder.”
“That’s true. But the Mexican-American community thinks he’s innocent.”
“Innocent? My God, he was driving Sanger’s car. How much more proof do they need?”
“It’s all circumstantial evidence at this point. The murder weapon has not been found.”
She glanced at him again. “You know, if you and that Dunning woman are hell-bent on finding another suspect, I’d suggest you take a look at Glenn’s widow. That mousy woman’s middle name is trouble, if you ask me.”
“Trouble? Why do you say that? She seems genuinely distraught over her husband’s murder.”
“And you believe that crap? Have you forgotten everything you learned in those criminal justice classes? Peggi was one of those damn hippies the University of Texas has been spitting out the last few years.”
Jake took another drink of beer and soaked in everything Janet had said. At least he’d gotten in to see her. And she had revealed an important key fact that might impact the case.