Kris found Bob Matthews exactly where he'd been the previous day. He called out in greeting to her as she opened the door to Hogan's and offered to buy her a drink.
"Had a busy day?" Gerry enquired as she crossed towards the bar.
Kris smiled at him. "Just chasing down a few things. Got a boss who'll get tetchy if I don't provide him with enough local colour."
Gerry shook his head and turned his attention to the two men who were playing pool at the other end of the bar. When she was satisfied that he wasn't listening she tapped Bob on the arm. "Can I ask you a favour?"
"Sure thing. What can I do for you?" He frowned. "Marian didn't give you too hard a time, did she?"
Kris shook her head. "It's not that."
Bob looked at her searchingly, knowing that something was bothering her. "You sure. She's got acid in her veins that one, and no mistake."
Kris tried to force a smile onto her face. "I've met worse than Marian. She's one unhappy lady that's for sure."
"What is it?" Bob held up a hand. "And don't say nothing cause I won't buy that for a second."
Kris chewed her lip for a moment, deciding whether or not she should trust him. "Have you got an old ¼-inch tape player?"
"Sure. What do you need it for?"
"It may be nothing. There's just something I need to check out. Do you mind if I use it now?"
Bob took in the serious expression on her face and quickly drained his glass. "Sure thing. Just follow me."
From his place at the bar, Gerry watched them go; his hand reaching for the phone before the door had fully closed.
Kris laced up the machine, threading the thin tape through the heads and then wrapping it around the take up spool. She pressed the standby button and the machine hummed into life; the heads adjusting and taking up the slack on the tape.
"Surprised the old thing still works," Bob admitted as he wiped a hand across the back of his neck. "Not used it since my niece sent me one of those cassette player things."
Kris flexed her fingers and then pressed the play button. There was a pause and then the tape began to move.
There was a lot of background noise and it took her a moment or two to work out where the recording had been made.
"Oh my," she breathed as realisation dawned. "It's the flightdeck of an aircraft." She reached out and shut the machine off.
Bob frowned. "Aren't you going to listen to it all?"
Kris shook her head. "I need to get this to my boss as soon as I can."
"What is it?"
"Probably safer that you don't know at the moment." She took in the hurt expression on his face. "Look I'm sorry; I haven't being entirely honest with you. I am here to look into the crash, but I'm no journalist... I'm a detective. Last night someone threatened me in my hotel room and then this morning someone broke into my car and left me this."
"Why didn't you call me?"
"It was too dark to see who it was, and they didn't do anything but try and scare me into leaving." She stared at the tape. "I need to get back to LA as soon as I can and I need to take this tape with me."
Bob looked long and hard at her. "If someone is following you then there's a chance that they already know you have the tape. If you trust me...I have a plan." He waited for a moment and when she didn't offer up an argument he carried on. "I have other reels of tape. I suggest we send one tape on to your friends and you take the other." He raised a hand as she opened her mouth to speak. "You don't need to tell me which one you are sending – the fewer people who know the truth the better."
She smiled grimly at him. "You think that it's that serious?"
"In the past two years the only criminal act here has been the price that Gerry charges for a scotch. Midnight intruders and people busting windows on your car; that's serious by Menzies standards. I don't know why they picked on you, but you've got a responsibility to get that tape back to people who might be able to do some good with it."
Kris found that she couldn't fault his argument.
"I'll get you that other tape and then you can decide what you want to do," Bob told her firmly as he rose from his chair. "There's a regular pick up from the post office. We might even make the next collection if we move now."
Kris unlaced the tape from the machine. Someone had wanted to make sure that the tape found an audience at last. She just wasn't certain who that person was.
"That's going to be expensive," Martha warned as she peered over the top of her half-moon glasses.
Kris' fingers danced impatiently on the well-worn counter top. "That's fine. It's just very important that it gets to its destination as quickly as possible."
Martha frowned. "You want to insure it? If it's as important as you say it is."
"Sure," Kris tried again to hurry the process up, but Martha wasn't a woman to be rushed. She weighed the parcel again; squinting at the number on the scales.
"I really must see about getting my eyes checked," she remarked as she scratched a number down on the notepad in front of her. "My daughter is always telling me that I need to go regular, but it's not easy."
Martha took Kris' reply as a sign that she was interested and she looked up, resting both arms on the parcel. "It's a good journey to the eye doctor and who am I going to find to take care of this place whilst I'm gone?" She gestured towards the room behind her. "There's the local exchange here as well. Can't leave folks here without any contact to the outside world."
Kris had a sneaking suspicion that Martha was actually more worried about missing some salacious piece of gossip, but she kept her thoughts to herself. Now was not the time to go upsetting the one person who could help her. She drew money from her pocket and unfurled a few notes. "How much do I owe you?"
Martha frowned and reluctantly returned her attention to the scales. "Urgent you say?"
"Yes. It's important that it gets to its destination without delay."
Martha muttered something and then sifted through the envelopes that were lined up on the counter. Kris knew that she was fishing for information, but this was one thing that she couldn't afford for anyone else to know about.
Kris turned her head as the door behind her opened and a uniformed man entered the small office. She took in the uniform and allowed a small smile of relief to spread across her features. Bob had been right about the next pick up, and it looked as though the tape was going to be on its way without delay.
"Can you wait a couple of minutes?" she asked the man as she nodded in the direction of the parcel. "I've got something that really needs to get on its way."
"Sure thing." The man removed his hat and grinned at Martha. "You got a glass of something cold for a thirsty worker Mrs Roberts?"
"I certainly have Rodney," she replied, her interest in Kris' parcel immediately forgotten about.
Kris sighed as she realised that the express service was about to take a fifteen minute break for soda.
Gerry pulled away from the window and the blinds snapped shut; dust floating away on the disturbed air. He'd watched the young woman enter the post office with a parcel in one hand and now depart without it. He sucked the air in over his teeth, hoping that he'd made the right decision in calling Falcone. He owed the man and he told himself that that was the only reason that he'd called.
There was a shout for service from someone at the bar and he turned reluctantly away from the window. The last thing he wanted was trouble, and he hoped that he'd not just invited it for a visit.
"Well that was a lot harder than I'd expected," Kris admitted as she took a seat in Bob's office. He'd made the effort to get back into uniform and take his official place behind his desk. She had the feeling that she was in some way responsible for his actions. The small sheriff's office was coated in a thin layer of dust and Kris wondered when it had last been in use.
"Martha want to find out what you were sending?" he asked her with a smile. "That's to be expected."
"I should get back." She frowned as she saw the shake of Bob's head. "There's a lot I need to do."
"The first thing you need to do is get that window of yours fixed," he told her. "You don't want to be driving around these dusty roads without proper ventilation." He glanced up at the clock on the wall. "And anyways, it's too late to be setting out anywhere now. Next flight is tomorrow, and it's a good long journey to the airport."
Kris grimaced. "I remember. You know of anyone who could fix my window for me?"
"Sure. I can get that sorted for you."
Kris was about to tell him that she was more than capable of sorting things out for herself, but she understood that Bob was just trying to help; that he was feeling guilty about the intruder the previous night. It had happened in his town and he'd not been able to do anything to stop it.
She smiled her thanks at him and drew the other envelope from her bag. It was identical to the one she'd mailed. She weighed it in her hands. "And now I have no idea which tape I have."
"It's the safest way," he told her.
"I know. But I want to know where it came from. Who knew I was here, and who's kept hold of it all this time?"
Bob shrugged. "Everyone in town knows who you are and they can guess why you're here. Maybe you have a trusting face. Douglas came here and cash was his motivator. Not everyone appreciates that."
Kris stared down at the envelope. "I wonder where this tape has been for the last fifteen years?"
"It may have been sitting in my cupboard gathering dust," Bob reminded her. "You want to leave it in the safe overnight?"
Kris shook her head. "Thanks, but I'd rather keep it with me. Don't want you getting into any trouble on my account."
"Will you let me buy you dinner at Hogan's?"
Gerry was more than a little surprised when the doors of the bar swung open and Bob entered with Kris at his side. He wiped his hands on his bar towel. "I thought you'd left us," he commented and set about pouring Bob his regular drink.
Kris settled herself on a stool. "Heading out in the morning. Stone broke the window on my car, just getting it fixed before I head on out." She nodded as he offered her a drink. "Thanks Gerry."
"You get all that you came for?" he asked conversationally.
"I think so," she smiled back at him and accepted the drink. "I have to say that I'm not looking forward to the long drive back."
Gerry waved away Bob's offer to pay. "Least I can do is try and keep my regulars happy." He turned away from the pair of them and caught the eye of the two men who were seated at the opposite end of the bar. He nodded in Kris' direction and then returned his attentions to his work.
One of the men rose to his feet and headed for the door, casting a quick glance back at Kris and Bob before he left.