Production No. BPP-603

written by:

edited by:
JAC and Eagle Eye


"Come on, Jim. It'll be fun," Blair Sandburg wheedled.

"Yeah, Jim, be a sport," Megan Connor added her voice to the plea.

"No. Thanks anyway. You two go and have fun."

"Jiiiiiimmmm," Blair was starting to whine... not a pretty sight.

"Look, I told you, I don't want to go, so leave me alone, all right?" His jaws began to flex in his annoyance.

"When was the last time you went, Jim?" Connor asked, her curiosity warring with her good sense. She knew better than to tease him, but she really wanted to know.

"Ivnvrbn," Jim's mumble was indecipherable.

"I'm sorry?" Megan replied, her brows arching up in surprise.

"I said, 'I've never been to a circus', okay?"

Blair and Megan looked at each other in horrified amazement.

"Then you've got to go!" Megan exclaimed.

"You owe it to yourself, man," Blair added.

Jim turned on his partner, "Why? So I can be overwhelmed by the stench of the animals, oh, and let's not forget the crappy food, or all the people with their perfume, and cologne. Or, how about the noise? Crowds of people all talking at once, crummy amplifier system that cracks with static? Or, or, how about..."

"Whoa! Hold it for a second, man. We can work through those things. You know you can. You can go to a Jags game, but you won't go to a circus? C'mon, man. Give me a break, here."

"Jim, you're not afraid of the clowns, are you?"

Both men turned confused faces toward her, effectively breaking the momentum of the argument. Seeing their expressions, she tried to explain.

"My kid sister was afraid of the clowns. Absolutely phobic, even a picture was enough to send her into hysterics. I just thought, maybe..." Seeing Jim's expression, she stopped talking.

"Or, maybe not," she finished.

Jim shook his head to try and regain some semblance of normality. Turning back to his partner, he said, "Look, Chief. Thanks for the invite, but I just don't feel like it, okay?"

Just then, Captain Simon Banks returned from another fruitless budget meeting with the city council. With his topcoat hung over one arm, he eyed the trio before him. Trying to stifle a sigh, he tentatively said, "I don't think I want to know what this little tete-a-tete is all about, but it's Friday, and it's long past time to go home."

"Sounds like a great idea, Simon," Jim quietly concurred.

"Hey, Simon, what are your plans for the weekend?" Blair asked.

Turning his formidable glare on the much smaller man (on whom it, unfortunately, had no effect) he growled his answer. "Daryl and I have plans for the weekend... why?" The last added suspiciously.

"Hey, cool. I just wondered what you were doing, nothing special."

Simon sighed, "My nineteen-year-old son wants me to take him to the circus," his voice indicated a particularly gruesome form of martyrdom was in store for him.

"Hey, Megan and I were just trying to talk Jim into going with us. Maybe we could all go together?"

"You're kidding, right?" Simon looked at Jim, who now wore the expression of martyrdom.

"No, he's not. I'm trying to pass on it, though," Jim explained.

Simon looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, Jim, that might not be such a bad idea."

"What! Simon..." Jim's voice rose with outrage.

"No, no. Hear me out. It only makes sense to have a couple of adults along when the kids go to the circus, don't you think?"

"Hey! Who you callin' a kid, man?" Blair interjected, looking and sounding insulted.

"I hardly think..." Megan began, only to be cut off by Jim.

"Well, maybe..."

Blair and Megan exchanged open-mouthed expressions of shock. They'd been nagging and sniping for more than an hour, trying to convince the recalcitrant Sentinel to join them, and their captain just waltzed in and gotten him to give in, in less than a minute.

"If we hurry, we can probably still make the eight o'clock performance," Blair said, looking at the clock on the wall.

"I have a better idea," Jim countered. "Why don't we go to the early matinee tomorrow at ten?"

"That sounds good to me," Simon agreed. "Since I have the biggest car, why don't I pick everyone up? We can start with breakfast, then do the circus?"

"That's... that's great, man," Blair started to bounce with excitement. The details were quickly sorted out and settled, and the four were soon on their way to their respective homes.

Comfortably ensconced in Jim's truck, Blair waxed eloquent on the wonders his friend would be seeing at the circus. Jim just smiled indulgently as he kept most of his attention on the other cars on the road.

"I can't believe you've never been to a circus, man. That's just... well, awful. This one is from Russia, where some of the best acts ever done came from. This is just a little one, of course, old fashioned, but very traditional. Not all the hype of a big circus, like modern ones." He chattered on, giving much of the history of circuses and details of the lifestyle.

"Sounds like you were in the circus yourself, Chief." Jim finally managed to interject into one of the few pauses when Blair actually took a breath.

"Nah, not me, but I had this friend? Every summer, she'd join up with her family and travel all over North America with their little circus. She was a bareback rider..." and off he went on another tangent.

Finally, they pulled up into their usual parking space in front of the building that housed the loft they shared. Jim had unbuckled his seatbelt, when he noticed the sudden and ominous silence from his passenger.

Turning back, he asked, "Something wrong, Chief?"

Blair turned smoldering eyes on his roommate, "Jim, how'd you know that the first performance tomorrow was at ten?"

Jim shrugged, "Ever heard of television, Chief?"

"But they didn't have any ads on ESPN, Jim."

"There's also the news, Chief."

"I watched the news with you. And you missed the noon news today, when they announced it." His annoyed confusion morphed into a moment of anger before settling on chagrined surprise. "You and Simon set us up! I can't believe it! That is so... so..."

"Sneaky and underhanded? I suppose. But Daryl got discount tickets last week at school, so Simon and I decided to invite you along. Megan's a bonus, I guess."

"I can't believe I actually bought your act. You knew all along that you were going to the circus with us, and you just played us for fools!"

"Nah, not fools, Chief. Like a salmon..." He accompanied his amused words with the imaginary casting and reeling in of a fish.

Blair glared for a moment, then grinned, "Yeah, I guess you did. And the line about never having been? That was just a part of the act, too, wasn't it?"

"No," Jim said, turning away and exiting the truck, "Actually, I haven't ever been to a circus."

Blair gaped a moment in horror, then scrambled out of his own seatbelt and hurriedly got out of the truck to follow his friend. "Never?"


From the set of Jim's back and shoulders, Blair decided not to push it.

Right on time, at eight-thirty the next morning, Daryl Banks lifted his hand to knock on the door of apartment 307. Just as he brought his knuckles down to tap on the door, it opened before him, causing him to lose his balance and stumble into the loft, bumping heavily into the large, muscular form of Jim Ellison.

"Whoa, easy there, Daryl," Jim said, catching the young man and helping him regain his balance.

"Man, how'd you do that?" the teen asked, embarrassed.

"Heard your Nike's on the stairs. You move pretty loudly, you know?"

"Yeah, I guess," Daryl was still in a bit of shock, but looked around the scrupulously clean loft for the other resident. "You guys ready to go? Megan's downstairs with Dad, and he wanted me to tell you to hurry up." He looked up at the stern and forbidding face of the older man, "He, uh, wants to stop for breakfast, he said."

"Cool!" Blair came out of his room, buttoning his flannel overshirt as he came. Passing the two on his way through the door, he glanced back, "C'mon, guys, let's not keep the captain waiting."

Sighing, Jim smiled ruefully at the teenager and motioned him out, pausing to pick up his keys, and Blair's, from the basket on the table by the door. "Go on ahead, I'll catch up," he encouraged Daryl as he paused to lock the door behind them.

With his long legs, Jim was granted the front seat, while the three smaller members of their little group squeezed into the rear seat, quite comfortably, actually. Murmuring quiet greetings to Megan and Simon, Jim climbed in. Simon, casting a concerned glance at the Sentinel, frowned worriedly and caught Blair's eyes in the rear view mirror. Blair, not having been able to pry any information out of his friend, just shrugged. Starting the engine, Simon checked the non-existent traffic and pulled out into the street, heading towards the fairgrounds.

"Where are we stopping for breakfast, Simon?" Blair asked.

"Well, it's not really the circus unless you pig out on all the carnival food, so we're just going a bit early and snagging breakfast there," the big captain replied.

"Oh, cool! Did you know..." and Blair was off on another one of his impromptu lectures.

Arriving at the fairgrounds, they were surprised to discover the parking lot filled with police cruisers and the circus grounds crawling with cops. Getting out of the car, Simon warned, "Daryl, stay here."

"But Dad!"

"I mean it, son. You stay right here in this car until I come back for you, or send someone to get you, understand?"

"But Daaaaad," Daryl whined.

Jim stood like a statue by the car, his gaze focused into the circus back lot, his head tilted in his usual listening pose. Blair, noticing, reached a hand out to rest on his partner's arm. Looking into the distance, he, of course, could see nothing to attract his friend's attention. Softly, he asked, "What is it, Jim?"

"Your dad's right, Daryl. Stay here until we find out what happened." Without another word, he headed straight for the source of all the activity, the other three cops following him.

"Jim? What is it?"

"Someone got killed by the bear," Jim replied absently as he headed for the scene.

Blair turned pale, closed his eyes for a moment to regroup, took a deep breath and followed his partner and their captain; wishing for once that he was still an observer, and had to stay in the car with Daryl.

At first glance, it seemed pretty obvious that the victim had been mauled by a large animal. There were claw marks, ripping through the clothing and flesh beneath. The savage bite marks on the man's hands and face... Even Captain Banks had to swallow hard at that sight. Blair simply closed his eyes and looked away, anywhere but at the corpse.

"What happened?" Simon asked the nearest patrolman, who looked startled to see the Captain of Major Crime himself, on the scene.

"Uh, Sir? Well, we got a call about an hour ago, about the bear getting loose, when we got here, we found the victim behind the animal's cage. Most of these people don't speak English, Sir, and we're having a pretty hard time communicating. We've got a call in for an interpreter, but it's gonna be a while. I mean, it is Saturday, Sir."

Simon glanced at the patrolman's name tag and nodded "That's fine, Thomas, carry on." Simon turned to his crew. Sighing, he asked, "I don't suppose any of you speaks Russian?" Turning away before getting an answer, he sighed again.

"Actually, I speak a bit," Megan volunteered, albeit a bit hesitantly.

Turning in surprise, Simon asked, "You do? Great, talk to these people and find out what happened."

"Doug?" Jim called out to one of the other patrolmen he knew. The blond looked up from his notepad and excused himself from the agitated man he'd been talking to.

"Hey, detectives. You guys got here fast, I only called it in about twenty minutes ago, when we found the stiff."

"Yeah, Thomas said you were called out because the bear got loose? Where is it, now?"

Doug Roberts shrugged. "I got no idea. Except for the stiff, we got nothin'. No tracks, nothin'." He glanced around a bit and leaned closer, lowering his voice. "Personally, I think it was murder. There's just somethin' real hinky about it, you know?"

"What, specifically, Doug?" Blair asked.

"Well, nothin's torn up. The ground's smooth, except where the stiff is, behind the cage. I just can't figure a trained bear doin' this. Somethin' just ain't right, ya know?"

Jim looked around and found himself agreeing with him. Something was definitely wrong. Just then, the man Officer Roberts had been talking to approached them. He offered a nervous, jerky bow to the newcomers, and then began speaking, hesitantly, to Doug. Only the man didn't speak in English... and Doug Roberts answered him, also very hesitantly, in the same language.

"I didn't know you spoke Russian, Doug," Blair said, surprised.

"I don't. He speaks Polish, and I understand it a little. My grandmother was from Poland."

"What's he saying?" Jim asked, noting the insistent attitude of the man. At the tone in his voice, the man turned to Jim and began to gesture and chatter, rapidly, trying to explain whatever it was that had him so upset.

"He's the bear's trainer. He keeps saying that Gregori, that's the bear's name, wouldn't have done this... sorry, couldn't have done this." Roberts explained.

Blair looked at the bear's trainer. The man was even shorter than Sandburg and half again as wide. In fact, he looked a bit like a bear, himself. A very well fed bear. "Why couldn't the bear have done it?" he asked, puzzled. Even his cursory glance had told him that the victim had been mauled by a large, vicious animal.

"He says that Gregori is muzzled. That he couldn't have bitten the man, and his claws are filed down blunt. He says the only way the bear could have killed anyone is by sitting on them and crushing them." Doug listened a bit more to the agitated bear trainer and nodded, "He says that Gregori is very docile and afraid to even go for walks in the woods after the show, and that he has to almost force the animal to leave his cage, except for when they have a performance."

"How old is Gregori?" Blair asked, as Jim wandered over to the cage to look at the open door.

Doug translated, a bit uncertainly, but was obviously understood when the trainer replied, holding up his fingers to count. "He says Gregori is almost twelve, pretty old for a bear, but he can't afford a new one. He's really worried about him. With the muzzle on, he has to be hand fed everything, although he can drink."

Jim returned in time to hear the last statement. "Doesn't he get the muzzle off when he's in his cage?"

Doug asked, received the answer, and looked a bit annoyed, "He says once the bear is full grown, they're fitted with one last muzzle that doesn't come off until the bear is retired or dies."

"Aren't there laws against things like that?" Jim asked, equally annoyed.

"He says it's for the safety of the bear as much as the people who work with him. By making them so dependent, they feel it makes the bear easier to train, since every trick is rewarded with food. Don't do the trick, don't get fed." There was a sickly pallor on both Roberts' and Sandburg's faces. Jim didn't blame them, he was feeling a bit ill, himself.

"Well, he just may be right. Come take a look." Jim led them back over to the cage. Pointing to the latch, he pointed out a greasy fingerprint, "I'm thinking that whoever turned the bear loose is probably our murderer, but what did the damage? Those are definitely bite marks on the victim."

Blair didn't look over at the body, but Jim stepped over for a closer look. He gauged the depth and dimensions of the bite marks, and scowled. Looking up, he gestured for Doug and the bear's trainer to come over. When they approached, he asked, "How big is the missing bear?"

Roberts turned to the trainer and fumbled with the language, but still managed to make himself understood. When the man replied, he nodded his understanding. Turning back to the detectives, he translated, "He says he was a medium-sized bear, about six hundred pounds."

"How tall?"

The little man looked at them after Doug asked the question, then pointed at Doug, indicating that the bear was about his height. Jim nodded his understanding.

"In that case, he's absolutely right. His bear couldn't have done this." Rising, he motioned Blair, Roberts, and the bear trainer to follow him as he led them over to Captain Banks, who was pinching the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses as he tried to make some sense out of what Connor was 'interpreting'.

"Captain?" Jim asked softly.

Simon looked up, a hopeful look in his eyes. "Please, tell me you have something?"

"Yeah, we need forensics to go over the latch to the bear's cage, there's a greasy fingerprint on it."

"Well, that's something, anyway," Simon sighed, already tired.

"There's more, Sir."

"Oh? Someone else who speaks Russian?" the captain asked sarcastically.

"No, Sir, Doug Roberts speaks Polish, and so does the bear's trainer. It's not the first language for either of them, but they're managing pretty well."

Simon looked over Jim's shoulder at the rest of his entourage and sighed again. "So, what have you got?"

"Murder. According to the trainer, here, his bear is too big to have done the damage on our victim, plus, the bear was muzzled."

Simon groaned and lowered his head, one hand coming up to squeeze the bridge of his nose. Shaking his head miserably as the burgeoning headache abruptly turned into a full-blown migraine. "I don't need this. I really don't need this." He lifted his head, his hand dropping to his side. "All right, see what else you can find. An ID on the victim would be nice. With his face ripped up like that, and the way his hands have been... shit."

"Yeah, I noticed. Good method of hiding the identity, at least for a while," Jim softly agreed. "Actually, Doug Roberts caught it. Said that something didn't feel right about the whole setup."

Simon looked over at the uniformed officer who was quietly talking to the short man whom he assumed was the bear's trainer. "Jim, we need to find the bear."

"Yeah, I'm on it. I'll take Roberts and the trainer, too. You coming, Chief?"

"Yeah, sure, Jim," Blair replied, giving their captain a weak smile as he turned to follow his partner.

Jim went back over the bear's cage, sorting the various odors, filtering them out until he managed to isolate the bear's individual scent. Blair, murmuring softly and resting his hand on Jim's arm, kept him focused, without tipping off the other two men. Finally, Jim spotted something gleaming in the straw. Reaching into his pocket for a pair of latex gloves, he slid them on and reached to pick up the object that had caught his eye. It was a silver coat button, with a distinctive crest. He showed it to the bear's trainer, whose eyes widened when he saw it. He started speaking rapidly, making broad, agitated gestures, until Officer Roberts put his hands on the smaller man's shoulders and apparently told him to slow down. Listening to the man's explanation, Doug turned to the two detectives and translated.

"I'm not real sure, but I think he said that the button came off the coat of a man who's been trying to buy the circus, most particularly, the animals..." He listened to more of the trainer's explanation, nodding his understanding. "They told him no, pretty emphatically, I'd guess. He seems to think the guy was a dealer in rare animal parts."

"Great, just what we needed," Blair groused. "An international dealer in endangered species and/or their parts."

"Makes sense, though," Jim murmured, looking closely at the button. "I didn't see any silver buttons on our victim, though," he added, thoughtfully as he placed the button in a small evidence bag and made the proper notations on the label before pocketing it.

Having singled out the smell of the bear, Jim started tracking, using his eyes in conjunction with his sense of smell, pointing out the minute scuff marks made by the bear, and that it had run, as though chased. The trainer, who finally identified himself as Nikolai Stephanovitch, eagerly explained how his Gregori would most likely try to find a safe place to hide.

Jim spotted some other tracks and pointed them out. "Doug, ask him if there were any dogs running loose last night, barking or anything?"

Repeating the question, he got the answer from Nikolai that the animals had gotten a bit agitated early that morning, but that no dogs had been heard. "Why?" Doug asked, his curiosity aroused.

"Looks like they used dogs to chase the bear, big dogs. Rottweilers, maybe." He pointed to the distinctive track in a small patch of damp ground, definitely a dog's paw print, and from the size and shape, it was easy to come to the conclusion that it came from a Rottweiler.

"Do they hunt without barking?" Blair asked.

"Don't know. I suppose they can, since the military uses them," Jim replied, continuing his quest of following the bear. Soon, they were well out of earshot of the circus, following the scant sign of the animal where he had run into the nearby woods. If they didn't find him, and soon, Animal Control would be called in, and they were most likely to kill the animal outright as soon as try and capture it. Although the woods here were quite extensive, it was still too inhabited to allow even a trained bear to remain loose, muzzle or no muzzle.

Nearly an hour later, Jim called a halt. Eyeing the rocky terrain they'd reached, he sent his hearing out, searching... "Ask him if the bear will come if he calls," he told the patrolman.

Doug translated, and Nikolai shrugged, but pulled a whistle from his pocket, along with a bit of food he'd been wise enough to bring along. Jim, seeing the whistle immediately adjusted his hearing. Blowing the whistle, Nikolai called out a command.

They waited. Jim's head was cocked to one side, listening. He heard a snuffling grunt, and a whine followed by a whimper. "I think he might be hurt. Come on," he cautiously led the way around a large outcropping of granite boulders, tracing the sounds. Finding a small cave, he led the way in, where they found the bear, cowering as far back as he could get from them. The animal's front paws were nearly shredded, although the bleeding had stopped. Jim motioned Nikolai to try and get his bear. He didn't bother pointing out that whatever had mauled the bear had also been the ones to kill the man back at the circus. Looking around, he was surprised to see the dead dog... there had to have been more than one, but the bear had been able to defend himself, albeit ineffectively. Looking closer at the dead Rottweiler, Jim realized that Roberts' explanation earlier that the only way the bear could hurt something was to sit on it, was exactly what had happened. The bear had apparently been trying to cower back into the cave and had fallen, crushing the smaller dog beneath his weight.

"Doug, see if Nikolai thinks he can coax Gregori back to the circus. He's going to need a vet, and soon. It looks like the bleeding has stopped, for now, but there's no telling how long it's been. Sandburg, call it in and tell them to have a vet standing by, my guess is our best bet will be the zoo. They have to have someone who can handle a case like this."

"Right, Jim," Blair said, grateful to be able to climb out of the cave and up high enough that his cell phone would work.

The injured bear was barely able to walk on his front paws, and as soon as he did, they started bleeding again. Once they were out of the cave, Jim looked around, listening, "There's a road just over there, let's head that way. Then, while you keep him moving back towards the circus, I'll run back and get the truck. We can try and get him in the back and then take him to the vet's." He looked thoughtfully at the two policemen with him, he knew that he needed Roberts to translate, so that left his partner.

"Blair, I need you to stay and secure the scene. I'll send someone to relieve you as soon as I can, all right?"

Blair swallowed hard and nodded. Turning back towards the cave, he hesitated a moment, "Uh, Jim? Do I have to stay in the cave?"

Jim grimaced, knowing that this was difficult for his partner, "No, Chief. It's better if you don't go too close to the cave, forensics may still be able to get something. Just keep anyone from tracking it up any more than we already have."

Sighing in relief, Blair nodded, "Gotcha. Take your time, but hurry back."

"As quick as we can, Chief."

As soon as the three men and the bear made it up to the road, Jim left them to coax Gregori, who had decided, once on level ground, that it was less painful to walk upright like the humans, but was still shuffling slowly, too much in pain to be hurried. Breaking into a fast jog, Jim ran back to get his truck and let his captain know what they'd found.

Breathing easily as he ran, the trip made easier by being mostly downhill, Jim contemplated the possibilities. Someone wanted to buy the animals. For the black market, most likely. They had a bear that had been turned loose and a dead man who had been mauled, trying to make it look like the bear did it. He had to remember to have forensics check the claw marks to see if the bear could have done it, but he seriously doubted it. He agreed with Nikolai on that score. Then the bear had been chased and mauled by the same dogs that had most likely killed the victim. It kept coming back to who and why. Who was the dead man, and why did the murderer, or murderers, set up such an elaborate scenario? Did they think the police either stupid or uncaring enough to just automatically think the bear had killed the man? And what purpose did it serve?

He had a lot of questions and no answers by the time he got back to the scene. Trotting up to his captain, he tugged him aside. "Simon, we found the bear. He's been badly mauled and there's a dead rottweiler. I'm going to take the truck..." he trailed off as he abruptly realized that they had come in Simon's car, not his truck. At a momentary loss, he looked around, searching for... "Simon, can I use the four-wheel drive unit to go get the bear and get him to a vet?"

Simon looked around, the vehicle in question was the canine unit's. Taking a puff on his cigar, he nodded. "Good idea. How bad is the bear hurt?"

"His front paws are pretty mangled. The muzzle kept him from defending himself and his claws are blunt and filed down. The only reason he managed to kill one of the dogs is that he fell on it and crushed him. He's pretty big, but in spite of how badly he's hurt and how much pain he's in, he's still really docile. Almost like a big dog." He didn't mention the fact that the animal's crying was eerily reminiscent of a small child's.

"Go tell Jackson that you're going to be using his unit, then get going. We don't need that animal to die on us, especially if he's innocent."

"I'm pretty sure he is, Sir. You might have Dan check the victim, see if those claw marks are the result of an animal or a man swinging a special club designed to mimic a bear's swipe. If this bear did it, the wounds on the body will be obviously made by blunt claws. Gregori's nails are trimmed and filed almost flat, and nearly down to the quick."

"I'll let Dan know. Anything else, besides the Rottweilers?" Simon asked.

"Yeah, Blair's holding down the scene. It's about a mile and a half up the road, take the first left onto a dirt road, then follow it to where you can see a big rock outcropping on the left side, there's a small cave there. That's where they cornered Gregori, and Sandburg is standing guard, to keep anyone else from messing up the scene."

"You left Sandburg?" Simon asked in surprise.

"Well, I had to, Roberts is the only one who can talk to Nikolai," Jim replied.

"Okay. Go on and take off, I'll get forensics headed up to relieve Sandburg, just as soon as they're finished here." Seeing the concerned expression on Jim's face, he added, "Maybe I can pull one or two of them off this scene and send them up with a couple more officers to relieve him."

"Well, if you do that right now, while I get the SUV from Jackson, I can give them a ride up there."

"Good idea. Get on it." While Jim went over to explain their dilemma to Jackson with the canine unit, Simon went over to snag a couple of the forensics technicians. Following protocols, he went to the head of forensics, Cassie Wells.

"We've got a second scene and I need a couple of people up there. Jim's going back up, so if you want to send anyone along, now would be a good time to get them."

Cassie turned away from monitoring one of her technicians, "What kind of scene?"

"They found the bear, he's been attacked by dogs. Jim's going to take the bear to the vet, and is going back up to get the bear. There's a dead Rottweiler at the scene. We're going to need pictures, drawings, the whole thing. See if you can tell how many dogs were involved, and whether or not there were any people around, besides ours."

"I'll get right on it, Captain," Cassie promised and called out to a couple of her techs to come along.

Jim looked at Cassie and her two technicians, recognizing both Sam and Charlie, as they joined him at the SUV. He motioned them to get in, got behind the wheel and started the vehicle, put it into gear and headed out towards the second scene.

"From the tracks, it looks like there were three or four dogs, they cornered the bear in a small cave in a good-sized rock outcropping. He sat on one dog, crushing it. The other dogs left him, although I'm not quite sure why. At any rate, there are some human footprints there, as well, near the mouth of the cave, off to one side. I kept us from trampling the evidence, but I'll have to show you where they are. Sandburg's up above the cave, keeping any stray hikers away."

"You sound like you don't think that the bear killed the man back at the circus," Cassie challenged.

Jim didn't bother to spare her a glance as he answered. "The bear is muzzled and his claws are filed down blunt. If he killed that man, what bit him? The muzzle was still in place. Of course, the poor animal's front paws have been badly mauled, so there's no telling if he could have clawed the victim. I still think we'll find that the dogs that attacked the bear are the same ones that bit our DB." Jim spotted the three figures moving slowly down the hill and pulled up beside them.

Jim got quickly out of the car and headed around to open the back of the SUV. "Doug, you and Nikolai get Gregori in the truck while I take Cassie and her crew up to the scene."

"Got you, Jim," Doug agreed, turning to speak to the animal trainer.

Cassie and the technicians got reluctantly out, realizing that their ride was over. "How far do we have to go, now?" Cassie whined in annoyance, knowing better than to try and change the detective's mind.

"Only a couple hundred yards. Gregori wasn't able to get very far," He turned back for a moment, "Doug? There's a first aid kit under the back seat."

Roberts waved his understanding and continued to try and help Nikolai coax the injured bear into the back of the SUV. Gregori was crying and whining, snuffling at the truck and looking around.

"Shit. Doug! That's the canine unit! He smells the dog!" Jim shouted back as he continued leading the forensics people up the hill toward the scene. Reluctantly, he left them to their task and turned away to lead the way back to where his partner was holding down the fort.

"OK, he doesn't like the smell of the canine unit," Doug mused as he dug under the seat for the first aid kit. "What have we here?" He pulled out a large sealed bag of jerky treats. Grinning at Nikolai, he offered the bag, explaining his idea of luring the hungry and injured bear into the back with the treats. Nikolai smiled back his understanding, opened the bag and teased his bear with the treats.

Gregori still moaned and searched for the dog that had left the scent in the truck, finally, however, his hunger and pain grew greater than his fear, and he hesitantly climbed in the back of the SUV, gratefully taking his treats as they were slipped into his mouth. He seemed relieved when Doug closed the tailgate behind him, sealing him in with his trainer.

There was also a bowl and several bottles of water under the seat. He passed them to Nikolai as well as the first aid kit. While Gregori thirstily drank two bottles of water, his trainer roughly bandaged his injured paws.

Jim led the forensics team in silence to the place they had found the bear. As soon as they were close enough, he called out to his partner. "Sandburg!"

Blair immediately appeared, standing atop the rock outcropping, waving his arm in acknowledgment. Jim waved back and hurried his steps, unconcerned whether or not the others kept up.

Blair climbed down to meet them, arriving at the cave's mouth at the same time as they did. "No one's been by, but I noticed a few things from up there," Blair began speaking as soon as they were close enough. "I found some footprints that we didn't make, over there, by the cave. Looks like one person, leather soles on his shoes, rounded toe..." He led the way to the same tracks that Jim had noticed earlier, eliciting a pride-filled smile from the more experienced detective. "From up there," Blair continued as Charlie started with taking pictures of the tracks, "You can see a sort of path through the underbrush, where the dogs chased Gregori. You can see by the way the grass is bent that there were probably at least four dogs chasing him. There's also another sort of path leading off that way," he pointed in the appropriate direction, "looks like maybe one man, with the dogs, took off that way."

"That's fine, Sandburg," Cassie said shortly. "Let us handle it from here." She cast a caustic glance at Jim before adding, "I wouldn't want to make you keep the bear waiting," she added, sarcastically.

"Oh, yeah, right. How is Gregori, Jim?"

"They were trying to get him into the canine unit's SUV when we left. I forgot that we rode in with Simon, so I had to borrow the SUV, and Gregori didn't much like the smell of the dog, although I can certainly understand why." He looked around the scene once more before turning away. "We'll leave you to your work, Cassie. Simon will be sending someone back up to get you when you're ready. You do have a radio?"

Glaring, balefully, Cassie replied, "Yes, Jim, I have a radio. If I need anything, I'll call the captain, okay?"

"Just making sure, Cassie," Jim said with a smirk as he turned away, clapping his partner on the shoulder and nudging him in the proper direction. "Come on, Chief, let's go get the bear to the vet's."

"Right, Jim. See you later, Cassie, Sam, Charlie." He politely smiled and waved at the trio before turning away and allowing his partner to push him toward the road.

They moved quickly, arriving back at the SUV in just a few minutes. There, they found the two men and the bear, safely ensconced in the vehicle. Blair got in the front seat next to his partner, since Doug had taken the back seat and Nikolai was in the rear with his bear.

"I called the zoo," Blair informed them. "They're expecting us and will have a team waiting to take care of Gregori."

"Thanks, Blair," Doug said, then translated the information to Nikolai.

"How'd you finally get him in the truck?" Jim asked curiously, remembering how the animal had cowered from the vehicle earlier.

"They had some dog treats next to the first aid kit. Gregori likes the bacon flavored ones." Doug explained. Jim chuckled and started the vehicle.

"Hey, I'm just glad it worked," Doug grinned back at them. Gregori grumbled contentedly, the cream that his trainer had put on his mangled paws had painkillers in it and obviously they were feeling much better. Nikolai took it for begging for more treats and slipped him another piece of the bacon flavored jerky.

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