Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind 26

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  Richard and I turned Brenda loose in the home decorating section of Buffalo’s Central Library; then we attached ourselves to microfilm machines. We were able to backtrack Walker Construction’s downfall from articles in the financial section of The Buffalo News.

  We split up the work. Richard looked into the company’s history, while I concentrated on the people.

  Watching Richard work, I realized he would’ve made a damn good investigator. He thrived on digging through minutia—a necessary evil. No wonder he missed his research job.

  We lost track of time. The librarians literally had to bully us off the equipment to get us out. By that time, we were starved. We found Brenda in the main lobby, loaded down with coffee table books. It took no persuasion at all to convince her to go out for an early dinner. We settled on the Red Mill, because Brenda thought its paddlewheel looked quaint.

  Richard and I brought along our research to compare notes. His pages were well-organized, and he bucked the old physician’s cliché by writing in neat script. Mine looked no different from what I’d done in high school—haphazard. But I could read them, and that’s all that mattered.

  After ordering drinks, Richard settled a pair of reading glasses on his nose and shuffled through his notes. “Walker Construction’s financial problems began after they contracted to build a shopping mall on the outskirts of Cheektowaga,” he began. “The land was purchased, but the permits were delayed time and again when environmental studies got bogged down in red tape. They’d already ordered extra equipment and building materials, but every time construction was slated to start, something else would crop up to halt work.

  “Another shopping mall was proposed on a site on Walden Avenue,” he continued. “Despite the same delaying tactics, Pyramid Construction weathered the bureaucratic storms better than Walker. Walker Construction’s loans were called, penalties were levied, and the company was strangled. They ended up laying off fifty percent of their work force under Chapter Eleven bankruptcy. That was the beginning of the end.”

  “I got the names of five company officers, including acting company president Sharon Walker,” I said. “I want to interview as many of them as possible. It might take a few days.”

  “What did you learn about Sharon?”

  “She took control of the firm after her father’s fatal heart attack in the midst of the bankruptcy proceedings. I found the others in the city directory or the phone book. Now I have to figure out exactly what I want to ask them.”

  “Not bad for an afternoon’s work,” Brenda said.

  The waitress arrived, forcing us to consider the menu.

  “I was busy, too,” Brenda said after we’d ordered. She produced a handful of glossy brochures. “Richard, you never told me there’s a ton of great stuff to do in Buffalo. Did you know there’s a theater district downtown? And the Albright Knox Gallery. It probably isn’t the Huntington, but won’t it be fun to find out?”

  I remembered Richard’s comment days before about broadening his horizons. Instead, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car. I tried not to smirk, but I was glad it was him and not me.