Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind 20

  * * *

  Richard dropped me at Ted’s Place, a little diner across the street from the main branch of Bison Bank in downtown Buffalo. He and Brenda were headed to a much more upscale restaurant down the street, where linen napkins and salad forks were standard at every place setting.

  I stood in the cafe’s crowded entryway, waiting for a table to open. The place smelled of bacon, coffee, and greasy fries, and was an obvious favorite with downtown office workers who’d donned heavy coats and boots to trudge past thigh-high snow banks to get there.

  A waitress seated me in the last booth. As I perused the menu, Maggie flopped down across from me.

  “Hi! Sorry I’m late. You order yet?”

  I shook my head. “Good to see you.”

  She struggled out of her bulky down coat and set it beside her on the bench seat. She wore a navy knit sweater over a dark wool skirt. The thin gold chain around her neck made her look dressy yet casual.

  She glanced over the menu. “I’m starved. I had to shovel the driveway, so I didn’t have time for breakfast, and nobody brought in doughnuts. God, I hate winter.”

  “I guess I shouldn’t mention that some guy in a pickup with a plow did our drive about six this morning.”

  She stuck out her tongue at me, then went back to the menu. The waitress showed up with steaming coffee pots—regular and decaf—in each hand. We ordered, Maggie settling for chicken salad, and I asked for beef on weck—rare roast beef, piled high on a salty, caraway seeded kimmelweck roll, served with a Kosher dill, sinus-clearing horseradish, and au jus. For me a New Orleans po boy or a Philly cheese steak sandwich would never beat Buffalo’s beef on weck.

  After the waitress had gone, Maggie opened her purse and took out a sheaf of folded papers. She looked around, decided it was safe to speak, and motioned me closer. “I could get fired if anyone found out about this.” She handed me the pages.

  “I won’t say a word.”

  The first was a typed list of the three names I’d given her. The Ryans had a VISA account with the bank, the Prystowskis had none. Under the third name was a lengthy paragraph, which I skimmed.

  Sharon Walker had no current accounts with the bank, but her father’s construction business had many loans with Bison Bank over the previous two decades. The text concluded with a terse statement: Walker Construction had gone bankrupt three years before. At that time, Sharon Walker headed the company. Matt Sumner was the executive in charge of those loans. I wondered if that alone could get Maggie fired, and swallowed a pang of guilt. As I stared at the Walker woman’s name, something in my gut twisted.

  I shuffled through the next several sheets, photocopies of Sumner’s appointment calendar the week of his death. Interesting.

  “I had to do some digging on that third name. I threw in the calendar as a bonus. Hope it helps.”

  I folded the papers and put them into my coat pocket. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

  “No problem,” she said, but sounded nervous and quickly changed the subject. “Hey, your cast is gone.”

  “The brace is better. And I only have to wear it another twenty-seven days.” I took a sip of my coffee. “You never told me exactly what you do at the bank.”

  “I’m an administrative assistant—a glorified title for secretary, except that I have a secretary. She does all the piddly work, I deal with the directors and handle the more complicated assignments—like coordinating this conference, which is driving me nuts.” She paused to sip her decaf coffee. “I’ve been there fourteen years. The way things are going, with so many banks consolidating, you never know how long you’ll last.”

  “A familiar story. I worked my way up to supervisor, only to be busted back to field investigator, then out the door, after a major re-engineering at Travelers. Thinking about it depresses the hell out of me.”

  The sandwiches came, but I was more interested in listening to Maggie than eating. She seemed nervous and began to chatter.

  “If you need a dentist, my brother-in-law has a practice in Tonawanda. He’s wonderful. Totally painless.”


  “Well, it depends on how well you take care of your teeth.”

  “You live in Tonawanda?”

  “Out in Clarence. Me and my dog, Holly, a golden retriever. I got her for Christmas a couple of years ago. She’s a big dog and needs to be walked at least once a day. Then there’s the yard work.” She rolled her eyes, making me laugh.

  We talked while we ate: the Buffalo Bills, the weather, how she dabbled in interior decoration as a hobby. Occasionally she’d look down at her plate, bite her lip like something bothered her. Then she’d find another safe topic and start again.

  The check arrived and I grabbed it. Brenda, bless her heart, had slipped me a twenty.

  Maggie donned her jacket and pulled a white knit beret over her hair. I stood to follow her and pay the check at the register.

  “Bye. Thanks for lunch,” she said, took a few steps, and turned back. She gave me a quick hug before hurrying out the door.

  People crowded past me on their way in or out, but I hardly noticed. I just stood there and smiled.