Home > The Last Move(2)

The Last Move(2)
Author: Mary Burton

When Sherry announced the move days after they signed the final divorce decree, family, friends, and colleagues had expected him to stay behind and take frequent trips south to see his kid when he could. No one had predicted he would walk away from the job, the pension, and family. But he had only one surviving child, and he wasn’t letting anyone take her away.

Gravel crunched under his loafers as he moved toward the yellow crime-scene tape and the uniformed officer standing guard. Across the highway on the northbound side, several news vans had already taken up their posts on the access road and were running film.

Mazur moved along the side of the road, nodding to the officer. His nameplate read Jericho.

“Nothing like pulling duty on Thanksgiving weekend,” Mazur said. All cops worked some holidays each year, but as he was now low man, he was on all weekend. This meant his holiday had amounted to a drive-by to see his kid on the way back from investigating a stabbing.

The patrolman looked him over and shrugged, clearly not giving a shit about making small talk with the man whose arrival had snatched a local boy’s spot on the homicide team. “It happens.”

Mazur did what he did best when he was pissed. He smiled. “Maybe there’s hope for the rest of us at Christmas. Personally, I’m angling for New Year’s off.”


Mazur’s smile vanished as he fished latex gloves from his pockets and slid them on. “Who was the first responder?”

“Me. I’ve been here since three a.m. Answered a call from the victim’s husband.”

“How did the husband know to find her here?” Mazur asked.

“She called him. Said her car broke down. Rattled off the last exit she’d passed before her phone went dead.” He glanced at a small notebook. “Husband is Martin Sanchez. He says the victim is his wife, Gloria Sanchez.”

“I’ve heard that name before.”

“She and her husband own four car dealerships. She does all kinds of commercials. She’s the Queen of Cars. Always spouting catchy sayings.”

The association triggered the image of a sultry brunette in a red sequin dress holding a scepter and singing a slightly off-key song about Christmas in July. “Where’s the husband?”

“In the back of the squad car.”

He glanced toward the black-and-white and caught the silhouette of a man in the backseat. His head was tipped forward into his hands.

“Okay, I’ll get to him in a minute. Any problems with keeping the scene secure?”

Jericho looked toward the access road on the other side of the northbound lane. “A couple of the reporters were trying to get under the tape, but we chased them off.”

The I-35 Highway, or simply “interstate” to the Texans, ran north and south, stretching the fifteen hundred miles from Laredo, Texas, all the way up into Minnesota. The major trucking route was known for high-speed traffic and crashes. He’d responded to a few deaths on the strip in the last couple of months, but all had been accidental.

“How did she die?” Mazur asked.

“Shot point-blank in the chest.”

He looked out over the endless horizon of orange-brown dirt and scrub trees. Miles back, there was an exit with a convenience store and a few fast-food joints, but here she was out on her own.

“She couldn’t have picked a worse place to break down,” Mazur said to no one. He turned back to Jericho. “Who’s working the forensic investigation?”

“Jenny Calhoun. She’s been here a couple of hours.”

A familiar name. Friendly from what he remembered. Good. He’d had his fill of passive-aggressive bullshit for the day. “See anyone near the scene when you arrived?”

“Only the husband’s car.”

“Gloria Sanchez was driving the white four door?” Not the kind he’d expect a fancy auto dealer to drive.

“She was.”

“Thanks, Jericho. Don’t be such a chatterbox next time.”

As his long legs chewed up the twenty feet to the car and Calhoun, he noticed the back right tire was completely flat. There were no other signs of damage on the car.

The forensic technician was a tall, lean woman with blond hair she’d pinned up in a tight bun. He’d worked with Calhoun on a couple of cases in the last few months and found her dedicated.

She didn’t look up from the camera’s viewfinder as she snapped pictures. It gave him a moment to study what remained of Gloria Sanchez.

The victim’s white silk blouse was doused in crimson blood. Her right hand, draped over her left thigh, was ringed by a collection of narrow gold bracelets that winked in the morning light. A four- or five-carat diamond encircled her well-manicured ring finger, a pearl necklace hung from her slim neck, and her designer black purse lay on the floor of the passenger side. Her wallet was exposed along with a checkbook. Whatever the motive for killing her, it hadn’t been robbery.

The chest wound had to have been instantly fatal. Bloody fingerprints smudged the outside of the door as well as the left side of her neck. He pictured a panicked husband yanking open the door and checking for a pulse. The driver’s side window was open, but there were no bloodstains on the button. Had she opened the window for her killer?

Calhoun looked up and smiled. “Detective.”

Latex snapped and crackled as he worked his fingers deeper into the gloves. “How’d you get so lucky to pull this shift?”

“I volunteered. No family. Might as well work.”

“You’re a good soul. Tell me what you have.”

“As you can see, she was shot in the chest.”

“I see bloody fingerprints.”

“Husband panicked and touched the victim.”

“Her window is open.”

“It is.” She wrinkled her nose as if it itched and rubbed it against her shoulder. “Husband said it was open when he arrived.”

“She trusted the killer,” he said.

“Out here, alone, with a broken-down car, what choice does she have?” She held up a plastic bag that contained a cell phone. “I did find this in her lap. I’ve dusted the phone and pulled a few prints. Husband gave me the pass code.”

The phone’s screen saver displayed a grinning Gloria Sanchez, standing beside the Texas governor. Her thick hair draped her shoulders and a blue dress hugged her curves. “Jericho said she called her husband but the phone went dead. What’s the charge on her phone?”

She checked. “Fully charged. But it’s not uncommon for calls to drop out here.”

Calhoun nodded toward the passenger side of the car. “There was a second phone on the passenger seat floor. Less expensive. No pictures or screen savers. Fully charged.”

“A burner?” Burners were prepaid phones that could be bought at any box store for cash. They could be used and tossed, leaving no trail back to the user.

She shrugged. “That would be my guess.”

He studied it. “What would Mrs. Sanchez be doing with a second phone?”

“Maybe it wasn’t her phone. The car is a loaner from the dealership. Maybe it was left in the car by the last person who drove it.”

Mazur grinned as he nodded. “You sound like a detective.”

“Making detective is just one rung on my way up the ladder to chief.”

Mazur smiled. “Don’t forget the little people.”

A begrudging grin followed. “I won’t forget you.”

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