The phone rang again.
“What the Hell is it now, Pike?” I asked after hitting the speaker button.
“Uh, Silas-“ the voice was uncharacteristically unsure of itself and continued with a trepidation I could sense over the phone. “This is Bob at the bank. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mr. Darien,” I said forcing myself back to calm, then setting down my pen and raising the receiver to continue the call. Robert Darien was the president of the only bank in Ramhurst, married to the richest woman in the county and trustee of the Barrington estate. He was perhaps a man even more powerful than I, at least in normal measures.
“Glad to hear it. I’m looking at this morning’s headline. There has been another murder. Are you going to charge Artemis Barrington with it?” I could hear the excitement in the phony electronic mimic of his voice.
“The deaths aren’t murders, they are bear attacks.” I replied.
“Horse shit! Black bears are not aggressive. And the bite radius is all wrong in the photos.”
“Where did you see photos of the bodies?”
“You aren’t the only cop I know, Silas.”
“It was a bear.”
“I don’t believe you. Now answer the question, is Artemis going to be charged for murder in both deaths.”
“It was a bear attack. Are you telling me Artemis can slip her skin and become a bear?”
“Do not mock me, Chief Whittle.” Darien said, but I wasn’t mocking him. That was exactly the type of lead I needed.
“The evidence doesn’t support charging her, it was a bear attack.”
“That didn’t stop you from charging her in the murder or Officer Diaz.”
“The charge was made before all the facts were in and subsequently dropped. Officer Diaz’s death was not a murder, it was-“
“A bear attack, right. I get it. Anyway, Silas, I was hoping you could help me find Artemis. We need to discuss her grandfather’s estate and no one has seen her since you two…” Darien stopped himself and changed tact’s, “since you released her. Do you know where she is?”
“I have no idea where your niece is, Bob. She left with her lawyer, so I’d suggest contacting her,” I consulted my notes and continued, “she is with a firm out of Atlanta and her name is Safi-“
“Al’Ahmari,” Darien interrupted. “Yes, I know her. But I’d rather Ms. Al’Ahmari didn’t know I wanted to meet with Artemis.” That confirmed my suspicion, he wants to strong arm her into selling her share of the company. He probably will invoke some morality clause and point out her recent detainment. No wonder he wanted me to charge her. It bothered me he would do that to her, but I pushed that feeling away. Artemis was not my problem anymore.
“Sorry, Bob, it looks like you have no other choice. So, do you need the lawyer’s number?”
“No- I’m sure I have it in a file somewhere,” Darien said in a frustrated tone, “thanks for nothing.” The call was ended the same way that Pike ended his. For a split second I was amused by the thought that youngsters will never know the satisfaction of slamming a phone receiver down when they are angry with the caller.
“Thank you, Bob,” I said to the empty office. Artemis was the loose end in Eddie’s death. Could I connect her to the poacher? How did I not consciously realize what she was before now?