Dead Reckoning

Only Michael Furlong knows how his wife fell to her death. But the authorities know this isn't the first time he's lost a mate.

Then Furlong began beating Robson. Tryon remembers sitting at her father's kitchen table, trying to persuade Linda to leave the relationship. Linda was emotional at first, but then pulled back and implied that the violence was no big deal. "She was strong," says Tryon. "She had to be strong, to act like pain doesn't hurt."

Karol Abeyta says that Linda and JR sometimes came to her for shelter in the middle of the night. And when Abeyta babysat the boy, he'd wake up screaming, sure that something terrible was about to happen to his mother.

Robson and her son "were always together," says Tryon. "Always hugging. He had quite a temper, kind of a wild little guy. But she was patient with him, and he was in counseling."

Then Jacques noticed a sign advertising a $99 move-in special at the Hitch-N-Post apartments (now the Abilene Apartments) across the street from the Star-Lite. She told Robson, who was delighted. The sign meant freedom. It meant she could afford to move away from Furlong.

But even after she'd moved out, the couple didn't separate completely. Linda called her aunt the night before Christmas 1986, drunk and crying, talking about Furlong's violence toward her. "I said, 'Get away from the guy,'" says Burley. "'Why do you stay there?'"

On December 27, 1986, a Saturday night, Robson was tending bar. She wore tan corduroy overalls, says Jacques, with "gaudy gold zippers and a dainty blue-and-white flowered blouse." Jacques pauses and chuckles. "That girl," she says. "You could not allow her to dress herself."

Jacques, who stopped in at the Star-Lite around 10:30 p.m., remembers hearing Robson on the phone to then-owner Charlie Bow. She told him she had something important to discuss with him.

Later that night, Furlong showed up. At 3 a.m., after the bar had closed, he drove Robson across the asphalt parking lots to her apartment. That was the last time any of her friends saw Linda Robson.

As the women describe what happened next, their voices sometimes break with emotion.

On Sunday morning, Billy Bob Northern went to Robson's apartment to take her to their regular brunch. There was no one there. That afternoon, it was Patty Jacques's turn to tend bar. She expected Robson to drop in, as she almost always did when Jacques was working; Jacques was a little hurt when her friend didn't appear. Then Monday came, and Robson didn't show up at the Star-Lite for her own shift. So Jacques and Northern went back to Robson's apartment.

The door was not only open but ajar, says Jacques. (The buildings were so run-down that Robson locked her door even when she was just carrying out the trash, Tryon explains.) Inside, Jacques saw a sweatshirt she shared with Robson hanging over the back of the couch. Robson had had it at the Star-Lite Saturday night. "So we knew she'd been back to the apartment," Jacques said.

The place was pristine. Although Robson was a tidy housekeeper, when Jacques had been in the apartment shortly before Robson's Saturday shift, "the place was a disaster," she says. "We had been putting her waterbed together. There was stuff spread out everywhere. Yet it was immaculate Monday. She disappeared Saturday night. So who cleaned that apartment?"

Robson was a chain-smoker, but there wasn't a cigarette butt in the place. The ashtrays were all clean, stacked by the side of the sink. "There wasn't even one in the bathroom," says Jacques, "and she always smoked when she put on her makeup."

Robson's bathrobe lay neatly across her bed, adds Jacques, "with the arms out like it was waiting for her."

When Jacques and Northern reported what they'd seen to the Star-Lite's owner, Charlie Bow called the police that Monday afternoon. The women are unanimous in their fury at the police response to Bow's anxious call. Then-Fountain police chief R.A. Ritchie simply filed a missing-persons report. He did not have the apartment searched, claiming that Robson's friends would have contaminated any evidence that might have been there--even though Jacques swears she and Northern disturbed nothing. Nor did his men comb through the trash cans outside.

They did question Michael Furlong, who said he'd dropped Linda off early Sunday morning, watched her get safely inside and then left. (Six months later, Furlong was quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph as saying he last saw Robson the day before her final shift.) Furlong was given a lie detector test. Although the results were inconclusive, Ritchie said they showed Furlong was "not really fibbin' about it."

"When it gets right down to the basics," Ritchie told the Rocky Mountain News at the time, "what we have is a young lady who is a barmaid, who has a tendency to imbibe a little too much, has several boyfriends and is a...well, a free spirit."

Nonetheless, he contended that his men were thoroughly investigating the case and had called Robson's friends and family in California and Oregon. One of Ritchie's men told Jacques that Robson was probably lying drunk in a ditch somewhere. Another suggested she had run off to California with a truck driver.

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