The Last Move

Page 30


“Sure. Mr. Sanchez supported Gloria one hundred percent. We all understood that without her, none of this would last. She had a sharp mind for business. Always thinking ahead.”
“He wasn’t wearing his wedding band yesterday,” Mazur said. “Was he having an affair?”
Absently she tugged at the cuff of her blouse. “He loved his wife.”
“I’m sure he did, but that’s not what I asked,” Mazur pressed gently.
She drew in a breath. “He had a wandering eye sometimes. He would never have left Gloria, but he got around.”
Maybe the right mistress had come along and Sanchez wanted out of the marriage. “Do you know who he was sleeping with?” Kate asked.
“No. And I didn’t want to know. Gloria would not have been happy about that.”
Kate nodded toward pictures on a side table featuring Gloria with a local charity. She was presenting an oversize check to a food bank. “She was involved in the community.”
“God, yes.” The words came out in a rush. “Huge donor, and most of the time no one ever knew she’d donated. When Isabella went off to college, she dedicated more time to several fundraisers. Literacy was her thing. She worked with kids, abused women, even prisoners. She believed reading was everyone’s ticket to success.”
“Did she have direct contact with those that she helped?” Mazur asked.
“She did. She visited several after-school programs and even sponsored former prison inmates in job programs.”
“How did that go?” Mazur asked.
“Very well. We have a few working in our western office with Mr. Sanchez.” She hesitated. “You don’t think it was one of the ex-cons who shot her, do you?”
Mazur shook his head. “I don’t know what to think at this point.”
“I spoke to Martin this morning. The poor man is devastated. He can’t believe a woman so full of life would be gunned down like that.”
Kate didn’t speak but noted the subtle shift in the woman’s tone when she said Martin.
“He says the medical examiner hasn’t released the body yet.” Ms. Nelson shook her head. Tears glistened. “He started crying. I can’t believe I’m even talking about bodies and a funeral. It’s all just so senseless. Do you know when they’ll release her?”
“I can’t say for sure. The medical examiner is always cautious in the case of a homicide,” Mazur said.
Lena fingered a thin gold bracelet dangling around her wrist. “I would hate to find a dead loved one.”
“By the way,” Mazur said. “Mrs. Sanchez was driving a white four door. Older car. Modest. Did she take that car out often?”
Lena shook her head. “No, but she did check that car out a few times last year and this past summer. Never said why.”
Mazur removed a card from his breast pocket. “Call me if you think of anything that might be of help.”
She glanced at the card, flicking the edge with a manicured finger. “Of course.”
Mazur and Kate didn’t speak as they made their way back through the showroom to his car.
“What do you think?” Mazur asked.
“She seems genuinely upset.”
“I’ve seen killers mourn those they’ve murdered.”
“True.” She fastened her seatbelt. “Did you notice the way her voice softened when she mentioned Martin?”
“Not particularly.”
“She was working hard to hide her emotions. But her voice did change when she talked about him. She also touched the bracelet on her wrist. I bet it was a gift from him.”
“You think they were having an affair?”
“Likely, given the way she talked about him. If she said he had a wandering eye, that means there were others. A look into Mr. Sanchez’s phone records might give you your answer.”
“Already subpoenaed. Should be able to see those records today.” Mazur checked his notebook. “Ms. Nelson mentioned the charities. I’d like to talk to the ex-cons she hired.”
Kate nodded. “Mr. Sanchez works in the west-end office. He’d know who they are. We could call him and get the names.”
Mazur shook his head. “I don’t want contact with him until I’ve more information. A better plan is to pay the office a visit. I don’t like to give folks too much of a heads-up when I’m coming.”
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves . . . The coward does it with a kiss, the brave man with a sword.”
—Oscar Wilde
San Antonio, Texas
Tuesday, November 28, 5:15 p.m.
Half an hour later Mazur pulled into the parking lot of the Sanchezes’ west-end office. He glanced toward Kate as she appraised this simpler office stocked with moderately priced cars designed for the average consumer.
They walked inside. This time a young woman dressed in black slacks and a white blouse greeted them. Her dark hair was pulled into a ponytail, and her shoes were flat, as if she expected to cover a lot of ground in a given day.
Mazur showed his badge. “Who manages this site?”
“That would be me. I’m Brenda Conner. Chief cook and bottle washer.”
“Sounds like you might be stretched thin.”
Her smile was tense, nervous. “Staff cuts. Budget issues. I’m just glad to still have a job. Who knows now what’s going to happen with the boss going down.”
“Will Martin Sanchez be able to keep it going?” Mazur asked.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy. But Gloria was the engine behind it all.”
“Did she come by here often?” Mazur asked.
“Not so much, probably because Martin was here.”
“Did they work well together?” Kate asked.
“Each had their specialty and their way of doing things. Different styles. But it worked for them.”
“I understand she was active in the community.”
“Yeah. She helped in all kinds of ways. Kids, homeless, you name it.”
“Also heard she reached out to ex-cons.”
“She did.”
“How did that work?” Mazur asked.
“For the most part, pretty good.”
“Most part?” Mazur asked.
“Most of the guys are good workers. A couple were flakes. Got drunk, showed up late. One tried to clean out the register.”
“How many of these guys did she hire?”
“Ten or twelve. But if you’re thinking one of those guys shot her, you’re wrong. They all adored her. Even the dumb ones who blew a second chance still respected her.”
“How did they blow the second chance?” Mazur asked.
“Two got back into drugs. Couldn’t stick with the program. Their drug tests came up positive, and she fired them on the spot.”
“Whom did she fire?” Mazur asked.
“Harry Driver and Matt Jones.”
“Where are they now?”
“Both have been gone a couple of months. They each came by here to pick up their final paycheck, so I couldn’t tell you where they are now.”
“Either make threats?” Kate asked.
“Matt made some noise. He wanted the test redone, so Gloria had it redone. He still failed. He wanted another chance to get clean. She told him to come back in six months and she’d retest him.” Brenda folded her arms over her chest. “Gloria had a big heart, but she had little patience for weakness.”