Bonespear Chapter 8
I admit it. I went home and crashed hard as soon as Kringle was done with me. I had been going on nothing but coffee and stubbornness for better than two days. The adrenaline from the shoot out, if you could call it that, had worn off, and I had gone as far as I could possibly go without rest.
As soon as I reached my bed, I collapsed into it, stopping only long enough to remove my shoes before lying back. I was probably asleep in seconds.
When I woke, it was long after dark. Of course it had been over in the afternoon by the time I got home, so that was to be expected. I realized that I had a full bladder and an empty stomach. I took care of the former, and started to the kitchen to take care of the latter, looking at my phone as I went.
It was one-thirty in the morning. I had slept at least ten hours straight, and felt even worse than I had when I went to bed, if that was possible. I had slept so hard that I was tired. Ever do that? It’s almost like sleeping is work.
I also noticed that I had fourteen missed calls. What the hell? Since when was I that popular? I scanned the call list, noticing that Moe was one of the calls. The rest were from the station. None were marked as urgent, so I ignored them. After giving it some thought, I ignored Moe’s call as well.
I was tired. I was hungry. I was not really caring about Jason Airdancer or anyone else at the moment. Sounds bad, I know. But everyone has a limit, and I had exceeded mine about twenty-four hours ago.
I made a quick meal, and literally wolfed it down. I didn’t eat at home much, preferring to just eat while I worked. We don’t get many good ‘grill’ days in North Pole, and there’s only so many heat and eat dinners to choose from. I’d had them all, ad nauseam.
Tonight I had one more, steak and gravy. One of my favorites.
My two immediate needs taken care of, I grabbed a bottle of pain reliever for my massive head ache, and a sleeping pill. It was old, but still good, something my doc had given me last year when I was having a hard time sleeping. Taking the pills with a gulp of water, I returned to bed, hoping for a more restful sleep this time.
I figured I had earned it.
I woke up to the sound of someone pounding on my door.
“Kalef! Wake up, dammit! KALEF!”
Stumbling out of the bed I noticed it was just after three in the morning. The sleeping pill hadn’t worn off, and I was a bit groggy as I made my way to the door.
“All right already!” I yelled, wrenching the door open. Thomas Angelhair’s hand was still poised to hammer my door yet again, and just missed punching me in the nose.
“Don’t you ever answer your damned phone?” he demanded, walking in uninvited.
“I do when I’m awake,” I shot back. “And please, come in. Make yourself at home.”
“I don’t have time,” he shot back. “There’s been another murder. This time at the track.” I waited for him to expound.
“And?” I prompted, when he didn’t.
“And the driver of Airdancer’s team was the victim,” Angelhair informed me. “Which you would know, if you had answered your phone!”
“I had been awake for nearly forty hours, Thomas. I had to sleep.”
“Well, while you’ve been sleeping, some of us have been working,” he said. “I know that Kringle told you not to pursue the Airdancer case except on your own, but this new murder seems to be connected to it. We’ll have to investigate it, no matter what. There’s almost no chance they aren’t related.”
I sighed, and nodded my head.
“Let me get dressed.”
The North Pole Sports Track was an impressive place, even without the lights and crowds. Three competition tracks, three exercise and practice tracks, and multiple barns dotted the area.
The scene was already two hours old, give or take. Techs were collecting and cataloging evidence, and the ME was still looking at the body.
Perhaps I should have said body parts.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said softly.
“I wish,” Angelhair sighed heavily. “We don’t have much to go on, as yet, but the scene looks a lot like the Lump. If I had to guess, I’d go with a Tolite on this one, too.”
“Please tell me this body’s been here long enough that Slashknife might be the killer,” I almost pleaded.
“No such luck,” Thomas shook his head. “Place was full of people when we took down Slashknife. No way the body would have gone unnoticed. Plus, according to the track records, the driver didn’t arrive until later in the day.”
“Tell me,” I ordered. Thomas whipped out his notebook.
“Narvel Northstar, aged seventy-three, son of Brand and Dix Northstar.”
“Let me guess. Privileged.”
“Got it in one,” Thomas nodded. “And from one of the larger, better connected families, too.”
“Of course he is.” My headache was returning. Big time.
“Been driving for the Airdancer team for three-and-a-half years,” Thomas went on. “Pretty good record, considering.”
“Considering what?” I asked.
“Well, it’s not a first tier team, for one. They were making strides in that direction, but hadn’t made it as yet. He was competing with a lot of other guys who wanted to make it to the higher class. There’s a lot more talent in his current class than in the lower tiers.”
“For another, Northstar had never driven before. This was his first gig. Almost unheard of for someone to make it this far without at least ten years in the sport.”
“Good for a motive?” I asked, hopeful.
“Not unheard of,” he admitted.
“But you don’t think so,” I prodded.
“Well, there’s always a chance that someone saw that Airdancer was gone, and thought to take advantage of that to get rid of Northstar,” he allowed. “Possible that they staged this to look like the Tolite did it, I guess.”
“But we know that won’t fly, since we took Slashknife down before this was done,” I concluded for him.
“But whoever staged this might not have known that,” Thomas pointed out. “If it was staged, I mean.”
“Well, that might work for us,” I sighed. “I want to make sure, and I mean sure, that none of this leaks out. Not one thing. Lock this down tight, and keep it that way. If someone we interview mentions the Tolite, then maybe that’s an in we can use.”
“I’ll see to it,” Anglehair nodded, and went to work. I took my phone out, and looked at all the messages I’d missed. Two more were from Moe. All the rest were from Angelhair, or someone else at the office trying to reach me.
I called Moe.
“Where in the hell have you been?” Moe demanded, answering on the first ring.
“Sleeping,” I replied. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Funny. Real funny,” he snorted in reply. “Listen, I got some news for you. I told you this thing was big. And it is. This is all I got, and I’m not lookin’ for nothin’ else, not even for you Kalef. Airdancer was into more than just juicin’ it looks like. He was bettin’ heavy on his team. Only he wasn’t bettin’ to win. Follow me?”
“Betting to place, then?”
“You got it. And, every once in a while, betting on someone else. No real pattern with it, just depended on who was in the same race with his deer. You think far enough ahead, and you can make a picture.”
“Now, I’m going on a vacation. Ain’t healthy around here. You watch yer ass, boy. Seriously.” With that, he hung up.
I went to the office and started making notes. There was a lot going on here. Two killings that were almost certainly connected. A privileged elf, with another privie driving a reindeer team he owned. Both now dead.
Working the spread, gambling on themselves. Not entirely illegal, but with Airdancer the owner, it was a racing violation. Could have cost him in fines, penalties, even suspensions. A lot to risk. And for what?
Airdancer didn’t need the money. Good job, and came from family. He had all the connections. According to his farther, the team was a gift to keep Jason from competing on his own. To keep him from driving.
In other words, to keep him under heel, and in the proper place for a family of their standing.
Northstar was much the same. I had checked on his family. If anything, they were even better placed than the Airdancer clan. The Northstar family had been represented on the operators board for nearly three hundred years. You don’t get more connected than that. Period. Not in Pole.
For an elf, Norvel Northstar was still in his youth. About the right age for silliness like deer racing. Nothing unusual about that. I wondered, suddenly, if the Northstar clan had any interest in Airdancer’s team. Vested interest, I mean. Like, say, part owners. Or sponsors. It wouldn’t be the first time that two families had worked on a project together for their children.
There were just too many unknowns. I sighed, and stood up. I needed to get home, take a shower, and change clothes.
It would soon be time to talk to Northstar’s parents. I didn’t look forward to that.
Brand Northstar was old even by elf standards. There were rumors that he was one of the original elves. The ones who had helped Fatboy start his empire. Judging by the wealth evident in his mansion, I figured there was a chance the rumors were true.
“What can I do for the police so early in the morning,” Northstar managed to make the demand sound friendly. Like I said. Old.
“Sir, is Norvel Northstar your son?” I asked quietly.
“He is,” the old elf nodded. “Is. . .why?”
“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, sir. There’s no really good way to break this to you, but your son was murdered sometime last night at the Pole Racing Complex.”
“Wh. . .what?” The old elf’s face paled, and he actually had to work to settle into his seat.
“I am sorry to have to bring this news to you, sir,” I said gently, helping him into the chair.
“I don’t. . .are you sure?” he stammered.
“I’m afraid so, sir,” I nodded, sitting across from him. “I waited for a positive ID before coming here. It happened sometime yesterday evening, after the track had closed for the day.”
“How. . .how did it happened?” he asked.
“As I said, sir, he was murdered. I won’t know the exact cause of death until I hear from the Medical Examiner. I hope to have that information today. Tomorrow at the latest.” I paused for a moment.
“Sir, I know that your son drove for the Airdancer sleigh team. And I’m sure you know what happened to Jason Airdancer, three nights ago?”
“Yes, he was. And I had heard about Jason,” Northstar nodded.
“Sir, I have to ask. Was there anyone who might have wanted to take your son’s life? Had he received any threats you’re aware of, or had any altercations with anyone in recent weeks?”
“He was a sleigh driver,” Northstar snorted. “Of course he’s had altercations. And threats. But none. . .nothing about killing him, not that I know of.” He looked up at me sharply.
“This has something to do with that damn Jason Airdancer, doesn’t it?” His tone was harsh. This was the first time anyone, well, other than Moe, had said anything that might even hint at anything about Airdancer other than he loved babies and puppies, and all rainbows originated from his ass.
“Sir? Do you think this is related to Airdancer in some way?” He eyed me somewhat belligerently.
“You’re seriously telling me you aren’t aware?” he demanded crossly.
“I’m telling you that no one’s told me anything other than Jason Airdancer was an angel, sir,” I replied evenly. “If you have information that might help me, I would appreciate your sharing it with me.”
“You’ve spoken with his father, I’d imagine,” Brand Northstar said after a moment.
“And he told you how he started the team to placate his son’s interest?”
“He did. Almost word for word.”
“And did he tell you that he was most unhappy with the success of the team?” the old elf demanded. “That he wanted it to fail, to stay in the lesser tiers, to discourage his son’s interest?”
“Ah, no. No, he neglected to mention that,” I replied.
“I’m sure he did, the bastard,” Brand bit out. “He tried three times to dismiss my son. My son wanted to race, but he didn’t want the complication of team ownership. I offered time and again to set him up with a team of his own, but the boy was stubborn. He wanted to earn his way driving for others, not have his way in bought by his family.”
“That’s very admirable, sir, if I may,” I offered. Northstar’s look softened ever so slightly.
“Yes, it was. And thank you for saying so. Norvel wasn’t raised to be a spoiled brat, living on his family’s money. The money was here for him, of course, but he was taught to be responsible for himself. To make his way in the world on his own.”
“I know how many people look at us, Detective,” he went on. “Likely yourself included. And that’s alright. Being a privileged Elf used to mean more than someone who got away with things no one else could, you know. It once meant responsibility that went beyond one’s own desires, or even one’s own family.”
“It meant that you were willing to take responsibility for getting things done. That when you said something, it was a solid as a marble pillar. You’d make it happen, no matter what it took. Your word was solid.”
“It was once said, many years ago, that the word of a Privileged Elf was as good as money. It. . .meant something. It was. . .tangible. I fear those days are long behind us.” His tone showed regret, and maybe something more. Disgust.
“My son was not going to be like that,” he sighed, his voice cracking slightly. “I raised him by the old ways. And he was a good boy, until he started driving for Jason Airdancer.”
“What changed, sir?” I asked, leaning forward. He looked at me, eyes full of hurt and bitterness, and said one word.