Production No. CVT516

written by:

edited by:
Bonnie, Saga, and Carolyn


Pier #46, Cascade Warehouse District, Cascade Harbor

One of the few remnants of Cascade's early days as a fishing village sounded off every evening. The Seven O'clock Cannon had been mounted at the mouth of Cascade Harbor by General Leslie West, formerly of the Union Army, shortly after the founding of the town. The gun had served as a protection and warning system, but was used primarily to summon the fishermen back to port every evening. It had sounded a welcome to two centuries. The tradition of firing the gun each evening was carried on even after the small lighthouse had been added to Monument Point.

"God, I hate that thing."

Taylor Mallory picked up the binoculars that he'd dropped when the cannon had startled him, grateful they hadn't broken. It was too cold to go hiking back to the car for another pair. He'd forgotten how loud the thing was out here on the piers right below Monument Point.

Static crackled around the reply in his ear piece. "Nerves of steel?"

"Generally, there aren't cannons going off over my head while I'm working. What's wrong with these people, haven't they heard of clocks?"

The voice with a faint Australian accent scolded, "You should have more respect. It's part of your history."

"Not my history, cuz, I'm from Seattle. And I'd still love to take some cement and make it the Seven O'clock Paperweight. Hey, Dein, remember that episode of M*A*S*H when they--"

"Are you watching?" Dein shook his head. His cousin may have been blessed with the skills to circumvent every alarm system designed by mankind, but away from his computers and gadgets, the younger man's attention wandered. That was the reason Dein Mallory left his cousin to plan and execute their jobs and handled these meetings with clients himself.

"Yes." Still distracted.

Dein frowned. "Taylor?"

"Ye-es." Taylor rolled his eyes. "Relax, man, there's no one dumb enough to freeze their... selves... hanging out on the piers this time of night except us and that homeless guy who dresses like his dog." Taylor resumed watching the surrounding piers and warehouses. Through the infrared goggles, it was easy to keep tabs on the few derelicts and warehouse workers who came and went after hours. "Just some guys two piers down moving lumber into storage, a couple bums, otherwise--wait, headlights."

"Is it Acampos? Police?"

"No, no, I soo don't think so... oh man, you should see this one, Dein."

Dein wasn't interested in seeing--more importantly, in being seen. He stepped into the shadows of the warehouse until the vehicle passed.

"I haven't seen a bus that ugly since the Partridge Family... who is this guy? Some Flower Power reject?"

Pier #43

There were some sounds that were forever etched into Gene's memory: the babble of the creek outside the house he'd grown up in, the noise of the twister that had torn through his town when he was seven, the beautiful singing of his sister and her school's choir, some of the particularly cutting insults hurled his way each day when he and the other four black students made their way into the school each morning...

...and the disgraceful backfire that could only belong to one pile of rust on wheels. Gene recognized it even before the beat-up van sputtered and lurched to a stop near the warehouse. It looked even worse than he remembered--three colors of rust and primer, duct tape and plastic replacing the driver's side window, faded bumper stickers protesting every cause imaginable, several holes where the body had corroded altogether... and the same toxic smoke cloud pouring from the exhaust pipe. It had, after one ill-timed backfire, poured smoke onto police during an Anti-Vietnam rally, arguably the first time in history that the protestors had gassed the police. It was a relic of the sixties--not unlike its driver.

Gene was only grateful it was late enough that most of the other workers on the docks had gone home for the evening. For once, Obediah Sandburg's inability to arrive anywhere on time was a blessing. "This thing is still a disgrace, Obie."

"Hey, you remember."

"Oh yeah. You don't forget a van once you've pushed it from Salt Lake City to Berkeley."

"Now be fair, we only pushed it from Elko to Berkeley...that's mostly downhill."

"I thought we'd agreed you'd do the honorable thing and put this bucket out of its misery."

"You have no appreciation for classic vehicles, Gene, have I told you that before?" Obie's attempt to sound wounded was undermined by the fact that he was having no luck wrestling his rusted door open. When the door finally popped loose, a small, brown, black and white dog, which looked like several different kinds of terrier all mixed up, swiftly bounced over Obie's lap to drop to the ground. Intent obvious, the mutt swiftly trotted to the nearest pile of lumber.

"Oh no you don't. You have ten miles of forest right across the street," Gene shooed the dog away. The mutt growled, but continued on his way. "You were supposed to be here yesterday, Obie. What happened? Border patrol find that 'herb garden' you grow in that van?"

"Hey, those are medicinal. Strictly legit. Well, okay, there was just the one little misunderstanding at the border check, and the highway patrolman with no humor, and that one wrong turn, well two... and there was that incident with the motorcycle gang in Spokane, but that's a completely different and very disturbing story for another time. Anyway, I'm here now. I'm sorry, a hundred Hail Mary penances, but please tell me you still have my wood?"

Gene glared at his friend, but the sad, yet hopeful, puppy dog look soon won him over. He motioned Obie into the warehouse. "Haven't lost your knack for B.S., have you, Obie?"

"Can't. It's genetic. Part of the Sandburg Y chromosome--along with the hair, the eyes, and the regrettable sense of direction."

Gene finally let out a chuckle. "The scraps of lumber are in the warehouse." He pointed at the piles of broken wood. "Three bucks a piece, take what you need, just be out of here before the next shift starts."

"You are a lifesaver, Gene." Obie pulled out his wallet and stared at the bills inside. "Um, Gene, is that three bucks American or Canadian?"

Pier #46

"It's okay, cuz. Captain Flower Power there is just loading some wood, he's not heading this way..." Taylor turned his attention back to the street "...and I think our Mr. Acampos has just arrived. Car coming: four-door, oversized, dark and Mafia-looking."

"That's him. Is he alone?"

"I'm looking." Now all business, the younger man swiftly adjusted the binoculars to scan the incoming vehicle. "Just him and his shadow. You're good to go." With his left hand, Taylor flipped on a small tape player tucked in his jacket, recording Dein's conversation.

"Watch him." Taking a deep breath, Dein stepped out of the warehouse shadows on Pier 45, walking to meet Acampos halfway.

Acampos studied his surroundings. "A meeting on the docks at sunset? I think you've watched too many old mobster movies, friend."

Taylor watched as Dein greeted the man with a handshake. Rolling his eyes, he commented into his cousin's earpiece, "oh, right, our judgment is being questioned by a man wearing a purple shirt with a yellow tie--"

He didn't see the blow coming. There was barely a second between the impact of something striking the back of his head and the pain that shot through his skull. Then the world went black.

Unaware of the sudden halt to his cousin's surveillance, Dein continued the transaction. "What is it you Americans would say? 'It's not the place, it's what you bring to it?'" Dein produced a small box from his jacket pocket. He opened it, displaying the contents for Acampos. "One priceless diamond, The Dawn, as promised."

Acampos placed a jeweler's loupe to his eye and clicked on a flashlight. After a moment of study, he nodded in satisfaction. "Still exquisite. The family will be pleased."

Dein pulled the diamond away as he offered a palmtop computer. "The fee?" he inquired, a hint of steel in his voice as he slipped the box back into his pocket.

"Of course." Acampos began to awkwardly tap out the electronic transfer.

Suddenly, a deep voice cut into the night air. "I'll take the Dawn now."

Dein and Acampos turned to the figure just out of sight in the shadows. "YOU!" Acampos spit.

"Yeah, me. The Dantes should have known better than to steal back what was faithfully won."

"He cheated!" Before the outraged man could continue, two shots rang out in the night. Acampos fell back, dead.

Even before the second shot, Dein was running. "Taylor!" he forced into his mike as he raced towards the nearest shed offering cover. The silence increased his fears that his cousin was dead and he was next. Before he reached his goal, another shot rang out. Dein staggered a step, but continued to run.

Pier #43

"Do I even want to know what you're going to do with this much wood?" Gene asked as Obie loaded the lumber into the back of his van.

Obie rolled his eyes as he turned back, his steps betraying a slight limp. "No, no. If you want to know, come to the expo tomorrow. Booth 27."

"We'll see. Last time I went to one of your New Age Fairs, one of you witch doctors conned me into trying electro-acupuncture. I still have flashbacks. Hey, did I hear right--is your nephew working with Cascade P.D. now?"

"Ugh. Speaking of painful events in our lives."

"Hey, he's a good kid. Give him a chance to explain before you go Naomi on him."

"Believe it or not, Naomi is all for it, though she won't tell me why. She just tries to act like her only son becoming a pig was her goal all along. Personally, I think the whole family has gone loco."

Gene laughed as he led his friend to the warehouse office. "Hell, I'd say Blair's the smartest one of you yet."

As the two older men's voices faded away, Dein stumbled into view. Holding his side where blood flowed over his hand, he dropped to his knees next to the back of the van. With his clean hand, Dein slipped the large diamond out of its box, and shakily placed it somewhere inside the rusted vehicle. "Taylor," he managed to croak, "If you're alive, the Dawn is in that Flower Power's van. Cal plate CHB ~cough~ four five ~cough~ two one. In a kinda round ~cough~ box. Sign here ~cough~ ~cough~ for 'meditation ~cough~ aids'. Watch your back, ~cough~ cuz." Obviously fading, Dein miraculously regained his feet and staggered away.

Once Dein was out of sight, Obie and Gene exited the office. Pausing at the back of the van, Obie turned to shake Gene's hand. "Thanks, old friend. I appreciate the deal."

Gene just shook his head. "What else can I do, man? You just take care, and go easy on the kid."

Obie shrugged in a non-committal way, then whistled. Brody trotted back to the van, pausing to sniff the back. A growl rumbled deep from inside the little dog as he detected the foreign scent of blood.

"Oh, come on. I know it smells bad here. But I'm sure Blair's place is better," Obie scolded as he scooped up his mutt and climbed back into the rusty vehicle.

Back in the shadows, a dark figure paused from checking the still body of Dein. Yanking out a pad of paper from his pocket, he wrote down CA: CHB-4521.

Late that evening, Ellison's loft

Two weary men pushed open the door and shuffled into their home. Senior detective James Ellison pulled off his coat in slow movements, gingerly reaching up to hang it on the rack by the door. Then he held out his hand.

His partner and roommate, rookie detective Blair Sandburg, handed over his own heavy leather jacket. Noticing the older man wince as he hung it up, Blair quietly asked, "How's the ribs?"

"Sore," Jim replied grumpily.

"Not surprising, considering how hard you landed on those pipes chasing Matters," Blair commented, wincing himself at the vivid memory of his partner's fall.

"Yeah, but I got the bastard," Jim replied, satisfaction easing the tired grumble.

"Do you want me to help you with the dials?" Pain medication wore off too fast for the sentinel, so Blair often helped Jim imagine a dial to turn down his heightened sense of touch.

"Nah, I think a hot shower is what I need." Jim wearily shuffled towards the stairs leading to his bedroom.

"Okay," Blair replied with a yawn. "How about I heat up that leftover chili?" He turned to the kitchen on his right.

"Or call Wong's," Jim suggested over his shoulder, knowing the younger man was just as tired as he was.

Before Blair could respond, a knock reverberated from the door. Puzzled, Blair glanced to his friend. "You expecting anybody?"

Sliding his hand towards his shoulder holster, Jim shook his head. However, he hadn't even taken a step towards the door when his nose began to twitch. "Sage," the sentinel managed to utter before a huge sneeze bent him over with its strength.

"But Naomi's in Mexico," Blair answered the unspoken question as he returned to the door. The puzzled face turned to pure delight when he saw who stood there. "Uncle Obie!" Blair exclaimed as he hugged the person just outside of Jim's line of sight.

"Uncle Obie?" Jim repeated, as Blair led his visitor inside. Through watering eyes he swiftly sized up the older man, noting the blue eyes and brown curls that were similar to his friend's, though the hair was sprinkled with gray. As he struggled against another sneeze, he noticed the wiggling bundle of fur next to the newcomer's ankle. Great, sage AND a dog.

As if sensing his host's dismay, the dog trotted across the living room and jumped onto the couch. Obie snapped his fingers, trying to beckon the animal back. "Brody! No! Come here!"

The dog commenced to roll over on his back, stretch out, and fall asleep, much to Jim's stunned horror.

Obie shrugged and turned back. "How's my favorite nephew?" He held Blair out at arms length, studying him. "You feeling all right?" With a practiced eye, he noticed the fatigue in the young face. "Have you been getting enough ginseng lately?"

"Yeah, we just got in from work," Blair waved off his uncle's concern, his earlier exhaustion disappearing at the sight of his favorite uncle. "What are you doing in Cascade?"

Noting the subject change but going along for now, Obie smiled widely. "I'm in town for the New Age fair down at your wharf."

"New Age fair?" Jim inquired, wiping at his eyes. He knew some of Blair's relatives had ties to the mob, a thought that made the detective uneasy. However, he hadn't heard of mobsters hanging out with New Agers.

When Obie turned towards Jim and shot a questioning glance at his nephew, Blair quickly jumped in. "Uncle Obie, I'd like you to meet my roommate and partner, Jim Ellison. Jim, this is my uncle, Obediah Sandburg. He's Naomi's brother."

"Hey, Mr. Ellison, good to meet you," Obie greeted, holding out his hand.

"Call me Jim," Jim returned, reaching out to return the handshake just before a sneeze grabbed his attention.

Suddenly realizing the misery his roommate was in, Blair's eyes grew wide. "Oh man, did you clean your crystals just before coming here?"

Obie turned from his frowning study of the man he'd heard so much about to glance at his nephew. "Yes, why?"

"Jim's allergic to sage," Blair explained. He scooped up a box of Kleenex, yanking out several tissues to hand to his friend.

"Oh man, I'm sorry, Jim," Obie apologized. "But how do you stay clean?"

Jim blinked at the older man, a feeling of dj vu flowing over him. "I shower."

As Obie opened his mouth to correct him, Blair jumped in, "Which might be a good idea right now. Go on, Jim. I'll figure out something for dinner."

Glancing at the orderly kitchen, Obie suggested, "Hey, you know, I don't get to cook on an actual stove too often. Mostly campfires and hotplates, that kind of thing. How about you change and relax, too, and I'll make you boys some dinner?"

"Wow, really?" Blair's eyes lit up at the thought. Then he remembered the last time his uncle cooked, which quickly cooled his enthusiasm. "You know, you really don't have to. We were going to order Chinese." Jim shot his partner a puzzled look, picking up on the change.

"It's no trouble." Obie waved away the suggestion. "I'm sure I can find something to fix for you. Then afterwards, I'll bring out your belated birthday present."

"Present?" Blair searched his uncle up and down with his eyes. "Where?"

"After dinner," Obie scolded. As he turned towards the kitchen, Jim noticed there was a slight limp to his steps.

"Just leave out the sage," Blair called back.

"No problem," Obie easily agreed. "I'll change my clothes and keep the sage in the bottle."

Twenty minutes later, Blair wandered out of his bedroom, cautiously sniffing the air. "What are you making?"

"Ostrich patties, wild rice, peas, and buttermilk biscuits," Obie announced proudly as he stirred a pot.

Blair nodded, thinking that it could have been much worse. He pulled up a chair to watch his uncle work.

"So, that's the detective I've been hearing so much about," Obie commented, turning to the frying pan.

Blair's eyebrows lifted, picking up on his uncle's fishing. "Yep, that's my friend, Jim."

"Kinda different from your normal set of friends."

"My so-called 'normal' set of friends dropped me when I left the University." Blair glanced up at Jim's bedroom, hoping his roommate still had his hearing turned down from his shower.

Obie shrugged. "I never expected you to be living with a cop... especially one who's an uptight former soldier."

Blair didn't miss the emphasis on the last word. He shot another nervous look up the stairs. "Jim's a great guy once you get to know him."

"Is he the one who talked you into becoming a cop?"

Blair sent a frustrated glare at his uncle's back. "No one talked me into it. I'm old enough to make my own decisions based on my own reasons. I'm thirty, not thirteen, you know."

"Oh, all of thirty." Obie shot him a measuring glance before checking the oven. "Blair, I'm not judging, I'm just saying, this is all rather... different... for you." Catching Blair's glare, he responded defensively, "What, I'm not allowed to be curious?"

Rolling his eyes, Blair was about to respond when he spotted Jim casually walking down the stairs. His roommate's face was a controlled mask as he carefully tugged the sleeves of his sweatshirt into place. Damn. No way Jim missed hearing this conversation. "Hey, Jim. Ribs feeling better after the shower?"

"Yeah." Jim carefully kept his face neutral, forcing back his anger at Obie's snooping. Reminding himself that the man was justifiably worried about his nephew's new career, he decided to pretend that he hadn't heard the conversation. Walking towards the two Sandburgs, Jim's nose twitched, categorizing the cooking smells floating out of the kitchen. He shot Blair a worried look. The younger man could only guess at the different spices and ingredients his uncle had probably tossed in that the sentinel was distinguishing, so he answered the non-verbal question with a shrug.

"Hey detective, I hope you're hungry," Obie greeted heartily, silently noting the exchange between the two men. "I was just about to put dinner on the table."

"More tired than hungry, I'm afraid." Hearing a quiet growl, Jim glanced under the table to spot the dog glaring at him.

"That's Brody," Blair replied, hoping Jim didn't get too upset with having a dog in his loft.

Fortunately for Blair and Brody, Jim felt too tired and achy to waste the energy arguing. He silently sat down and ignored the dog.

It wasn't long before Jim wished he had simply gone to bed. The ostrich patties were seasoned heavily with a variety of spices, overwhelming Jim's sensitive mouth and nose. There were bits of this and that in the rice, some of which Jim couldn't identify and wasn't sure he wanted to. Even the biscuits had tarragon in them, a combination Jim thought highly strange, but at least edible compared to the ostrich. Even Blair's stranger recipes smelled better than this meal.

At least the conversation was interesting. It was soon obvious that his friend was close to his uncle in more than looks. The two talked about Naomi's latest exploits, the situation in Chechnya, the National Monuments recently created, and the women they'd dated. Blair even told Obie about Desiree the witch. "Yeah, Jim and half of the tough guys in Major Crimes were actually scared of her."

"She was scary, Chief," Jim softly inserted. "She's a black witch, if she's Wiccan at all. I'm still betting on Satan worshipper."

"I dated a black witch once," Obie replied reminiscently. "She had my head going every which way."

"Wasn't that the one Mom dumped the tea on 'accidentally', and she claimed Naomi was trying to poison her?" Blair asked, his eyes gleaming.

Obie laughed, a sound that reminded Jim of Blair. "That's the one!"

"Was she the one who gave you the limp?" Blair asked, then remembered, "No, wait. You got the limp slipping into the wrong hut in Africa." Blair turned to his roommate, chuckling. "See, someone else has worse luck with women than I."

Jim lifted an eyebrow. "So your uncle has dated women who forced him at gunpoint to drive a getaway car, whose father is a gun smuggler, or has attempted to burn off his eyebrows because he overbooked?"

"Recently?" Obie exclaimed. "What woman was that?"

"Well, actually," Blair replied with a chuckle, "those were three different women..."

As Blair and Obie continued their trip down memory lane, Jim attempted to slip some of the meat to the dog lying under the table. Brody sniffed the offering, turned up his nose, and crawled further under the table. At least the dog agrees with me. I hope the poor thing has some plain old dog chow somewhere. Actually, even dog chow sounds better than this.

After eating a biscuit, managing to swallow some rice while trying not to think of what was in it, and poking at the patties a few times, Jim finally gave up and picked up the tea Obie had poured.

"Feeling okay, Jim?" Blair asked, noting how little his roommate had eaten. After the first bite, he had feared the patties would be too strong for the sentinel.

"Just sore," Jim replied, not wanting to offend Blair's uncle and prove he was an uptight former soldier. "In fact, if you don't mind, I think I'll just turn in."

Concern deepened in Blair's face. "Let me know if you need anything."

"I'll be fine, Chief. Just enjoy your uncle's visit, and remember we have work tomorrow."

"We'll try to keep it down, but you might want to put in your earplugs," Blair suggested. He didn't want to have to explain to his uncle why whispering in his room would still be too loud for his roommate above.

After Jim had climbed the stairs, Obie picked up a plate. "Let's get the table cleared off, and I'll show you your present."

Blair grinned widely. While it had been months since his birthday, it was normal for Uncle Obie to present gifts long after the fact. However, the gifts always made an impression. Other relatives may give toys, candy or clothing. Uncle Obie gave him neat stuff, like the tribal mask he had on the wall, or the walking stick from Africa, or the spinning top from Istanbul. It had been the various gifts and stories Obie would bring back from his travels that first piqued a young boy's interest in other cultures.

Once the table was cleared and the dishes in the sink, Obie picked up something near the door and followed Blair into his room. With a flourish, he placed it on the desk. There sat a wooden oval on a metal stand, approximately a foot high. Blair's eyes grew wide as he studied the carvings along the side. "Did you do this?" he asked as he ran his hands over the polished wood.

"Yep, this is my new business," Obie explained with a proud smile. "Go ahead and open it."

Releasing the latch at the top, five sections pulled down like slices of an orange. Each slice provided a holder for a candle and a container for burning incense. But what drew Blair's eye was the black stone at the center, resting on a wooden holder. "Is this Tourmaline?" he asked, running a finger lightly down the striated side.

"Yes," Obie confirmed. "I thought your meditations might benefit from removing the negative energy in your surroundings."

"Yeah, there's plenty of negative vibes dealing with the perps," Blair replied, purposely ignoring Obie's implied source. His finger touched another latch, springing open a small compartment on one of the slices. "Is this a tape player?" He focused back on his uncle, eyes shining. "This is like a mini meditation set up."

"Exactly," Obie smiled proudly. "By using various stones, incense, and music, it can be customized to whatever each individual needs."

"Cool. Though I bet I know the real reason." A smug smile stretched across Blair's face. "That gives you a chance to talk with the customers and hear all their troubles."

Obie laughed softly in deference to the dark figure sleeping upstairs. "That's right. You know me too well, boy."

Blair chuckled. "Should by now."

"So, when are you going to tell me what happened in your life?"

Suddenly on guard, Blair turned back to the gift. "I discovered I liked police work. I like helping people. I like the thrill of chasing after the bad guys. It made the university look dull and gray in comparison." In more ways than one.

"So you decided to chuck nearly twelve years of hard work for excitement?" Obie prodded. While nothing sounded false in this confession, the older man knew Blair was holding back.

"Yep, traded the merry-go-around for the roller coaster," Blair quipped, not wanting to go deeper. He turned and grabbed an armful of bedding. "Why don't you sleep in my bed tonight? I'll go sleep on the couch."

Obie watched his nephew's retreating back. Nice try, lad. But I know you too well, too.

Next morning, Major Crimes

As Ellison and Sandburg stepped out of the elevator, Jim growled, "Why MY bed, Sandburg?"

Blair threw up his hands. "Hey, Jim, I didn't tell him to sleep in your bed."

"Not only my bed, but the CENTER of my bed."

"You could have kicked him out."

"I did. TWICE." Jim suddenly stopped.

In front of him was Rafe, sitting at his desk, with Brown and Taggart standing next to him. Instead of studying the folders in their hands, they were all staring at Jim. "Ah, Jim," Taggart ventured hesitantly. "Exactly WHO was in the center of your bed?"

"Brody was," Blair answered helpfully, though only adding to the confusing.

Brown's eyebrow lifted. "And who is Brody?"

"Blair's uncle's mangy mutt," Jim grumbled, still upset.

"He's not mangy," Blair refuted.

"Blair's who?" asked Rafe.

"My uncle Obie's visiting..." Blair began.

"Uncle Obi?" Brown exclaimed. "I didn't know you were related to a Jedi!"

Blair rolled his eyes and continued his explanation. "Short for Obediah, not Obi Wan. Anyway, his dog Brody decided he liked Jim's bed best."

"And exactly how big was this dog that commandeered your bed, Jim?" Taggart asked, trying not to laugh.

Jim rolled his eyes and stomped to his desk. Trying desperately to hide his smirk, Blair indicated Brody's size to their co-workers using his hands.

"Man, Jim, I'm surprised you didn't drop kick something that tiny!" Brown roared, no longer able to hold back his laughter.

"Don't think I wasn't tempted," Jim growled under his breath.

"Wasn't there enough room for both of you?" Rafe suggested.

"Not when the mutt insists on the center of the bed," Jim retorted, only serving to increase his colleagues laughter.

Captain Simon Banks poked his head outside his door. "Ellison. My office. Matters' file. Now." Then he glanced at his laughing detectives. "Why aren't you working?"

As everyone else scurried to look busy, Jim dropped his head into his hands. "This just isn't going to be my day."

Blair kept his smirk to himself until his partner was safely inside their captain's den. Then he smiled widely as he opened a folder from his own in box.

A few minutes later, two men dressed in dark suits stepped into the bullpen. After a brief word with Rhonda, they walked over to Blair's desk. Looking up, the word 'Fed' shouted in the rookie detective's mind. The leaner of the two appeared to be part Japanese and wore his black hair cropped para-military style, with a suitably grim expression to match. The second man, thirty- ish, Blair would guess, had distinctly Chinese features, and smiled a broad, if phony, grin.

"Detective Sandburg?" The latter Fed approached, displaying his badge. "Good morning. I'm Agent Keane from the FBI. This is my partner, Agent Okuma," he indicated the unsmiling older man. "Your uncle is one 'Obediah Emerson Sandburg'?"

At Blair's nod, Keane leaned to sit on the edge of the desk, smiling a broad, if pathetically fake, grin. Okuma remained standing, fixing Blair with an unyielding stare, presenting an imposing front. Good Fed, Bad Fed, Blair sized them up immediately, Oh boy oh boy. Jim was right, it was going to be one of those days. "We need to ask you a few questions concerning your uncle," Keane was saying. "This won't take long."

"What's this about?" Blair asked suspiciously.

"When was the last time you spoke to your uncle?" Keane asked.

"This morning."

Keane exchanged an unreadable look with Okuma. "Do you know where he is now?"

"What's this about?" Blair repeated.

It was Okuma who answered, "He's a potential witness to a murder last evening."

"What?!" The shocked exclamation from Blair drew the attention of the other detectives.

"What's going on here?" Simon's voice suddenly growled behind them. Turning, the agents found the tall forms of Jim Ellison and Simon Banks glaring at them.

"And you would be?" Okuma asked.

"I 'would be' Captain Simon Banks, Sandburg's commanding officer. And this 'would be' Detective James Ellison, Sandburg's partner. I would like to see some ID." After studying the badges the two grudgingly displayed, Banks frowned at the agents. "I don't know what this is about, but you are distracting my other detectives. If you wish to question one of my men, I suggest you do so in my office--under my supervision." His tone brooked no argument.

Blair raised thankful eyes to his boss as he stood to follow the agents into the office.

Once inside, Blair sat as the two agents faced him. "Who was murdered?" Blair asked.

"WE are doing the questioning here," Agent Okuma replied.

Simon interrupted, "I think Detective Sandburg's question deserves an answer."

"This is a Federal investigation, Captain. I'm not at liberty to divulge details," Okuma argued.

Jim was leaning against the windowsill, arms crossed, matching Okuma glare for glare. "I don't want to step on any toes, here, but a murder on the wharf sounds like a matter for us locals. What's your interest in this?"

Keane answered, "All we can tell you, Detective, Captain, is that the victim was in this country illegally. The rest is strictly 'need-to-know'."

"If there's been a murder in my jurisdiction, I 'need to know'," Simon warned.

"As we said, Captain, this is a federal matter." Okuma leaned into Blair's personal space. "You saw him this morning. Do you know what your uncle did last night?"

"Yeah, he fixed dinner for Jim and me, cleaned up, and slept in my bed while I took the couch. What time last night was the murder?"

"Jim?" Agent Keane asked.

"That's me," Ellison replied. "We're roommates."

The Fed raised an eyebrow, but then turned back to Sandburg. "What time did he arrive?"

Blair glanced at Jim as he answered, "A little after eight." Jim nodded in agreement.

"Do you know what your uncle has been doing lately, Detective Sandburg?"

Blair shrugged. "Obie's into lots of stuff, but lately he's been making meditation boxes to sell at New Age fairs and online."

"Did you know that at these fairs, your uncle claims to be a doctor?" Agent Keane questioned.

Blair rolled his eyes. "My uncle is a doctor. He just retired from active practice because he hated the demands from the HMOs." Jim raised an eyebrow. Obie hadn't struck him as a doctor.

"There is a huge sum of money in his savings account," Okuma pointed out.

"That's part of his settlement money from Wholesome Pharmaceuticals."

"He seems to travel a lot," Okuma commented, trying to make it sound suspicious.

Blair resented the insinuation. Trying not to lose his temper, the young detective replied, "He traveled with the Peace Corps after he got his medical license. Plus he's done a lot of volunteer work with Doctors Without Borders for the past fifteen, twenty years." Both Jim and Simon looked surprised at that information. "All facts easily verifiable if you'd bother to do a simple background check."

"Why, you..." Agent Okuma began.

"Curt, lay off," Agent Keane interrupted. Okuma backed off, still glowering. Keane turned to Blair. "I apologize for my partner's manners, Detective. It's been a long morning. We're familiar with your uncle's admirable humanitarian work." The compliment was nearly as phony as the Fed's smile. "Where can we find your uncle now?"

"I imagine he's at the fair down on the wharf right now near his booth," Blair pointed out.

"All right, we will locate him there for questioning. In the meantime, stay where we can reach you."

"Is my detective under suspicion?" Simon queried.

"No, not at this time."

"Then he doesn't need to answer to you," Banks pointed out in his most authoritative voice. With one last scowl, Okuma followed Keane out of the office.

Once the door shut, Simon turned to Blair. "Do you have any idea what that was about?"

Blair shook his head. "Uncle Obie mentioned he bought some wood down at the docks from where his old friend Gene is working. He didn't say anything about seeing a murder."

Jim shrugged. "He may have been in the area and not seen anything."

"Let me guess," Simon commented with a sigh. "Finding trouble is a genetic trait of the Sandburg family?"

At Jim's questioning look, Blair slowly nodded. "Yeah, he and Naomi are both pretty good at it, too."

Simon rubbed the side of his nose. "Then I suggest you go find your uncle Obi Wan before the Feds do. Murder in Cascade is our jurisdiction, not theirs."

"That's Obediah, sir, not Obi Wan," Jim felt obliged to point out.

"I don't care if he's Darth Vader. I want to know why we weren't informed of a murder, who was murdered, and what bug climbed up our federal friends' collective butts. Go find him!"

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