Production No. BPP-612

written by:
Lori Wright

edited by: Karen, Melanie, and Christina.

MEET THE CAST

Patterson house

Detective Jim Ellison stood very still. One by one, he went through his sensory catalogue, looking for clues--anything that might be out of place in the sprawling brownstone. His nose was unable to find any scent that didn't belong. His eyes, dilated to full, skimmed every nook and cranny of the den, searching for a stray fiber or fingerprint. Cherrywood bookcases, filled to overflowing, lined the walls. A matching cherry desk dominated the center of the room by its sheer size. In the background, Jim could hear his partner soothing Charlotte Patterson as she described what had happened. Jim half-listened as he continued his search.

The heavy front door whooshed open as Captain Simon Banks entered. The smell of his cigar wafted past Jim's nose, bringing with it an elusive scent that seemed vaguely familiar. He heard Simon walk past the door leading into the den, as his captain joined Blair and the distraught resident. Their conversation registered, but Jim's concentration was fixed on identifying the foreign scent. It wasn't exactly unfamiliar, but he couldn't place it.

"This is Captain Banks," Blair stood as he performed the introductions. "Captain, this is Charlotte Patterson."

She gave Simon a brief smile then her eyes regained their haunted expression.

"What happened?" the captain asked.

Blair could see that Mrs. Patterson was in no condition to repeat her story so he spoke for her. "Her husband, Edward Patterson, is out of town," he began.

Simon's eyebrows rose in suspicion.

"He's with Billy, skiing at Aspen," Charlotte contributed.

"Billy is--" the captain directed at her.

"He's my stepson, Ed's son by his first wife. They always go skiing the last week in January. With the college break over, the slopes are usually less crowded."

"How old is Billy?" Blair asked gently.

"Twenty. They've been doing this for several years now."

Whoever hit the house knew the routine, Blair thought, as he jotted the fact down in his notebook. "Mrs. Patterson was upstairs watching TV in bed," he added, "when they broke in."

"That's right. I heard this noise and went down to see what it was. Three men were breaking into my husband's desk. One turned and saw me. I was so scared. I turned and ran back into my bedroom, but I tripped over the stool Ed had been using to reach the top shelf in the closet. I must have hit my head," her hand rubbed the big black and blue mark on her forehead. "When I woke up, my bedroom door was open but it was quiet in the house. I called 911 right away and waited for you to get here."

"What's missing?" Captain Banks asked.

Blair answered. "The desk is in a shambles and the safe's been opened, but Mrs. Patterson says that it only contained documents from her husband's work. We won't know exactly what's missing until he returns."

"Since you got a clear look at one of the men, can you ID him?" Jim asked as he came over to them.

She gave him a peculiar look then answered hesitantly. "Yes."

Blair smiled inwardly at Mrs. Patterson's confusion. He knew that even if Jim was centered on something else, his sentinel hearing would have kept track of their conversation. She didn't possess that knowledge. "You have an idea?" Blair asked his partner.

"I think so." Jim's jaw was clenched. "Come look at this."

The sentinel hovered over an area of the carpet, his fingertips lightly tracing an invisible indentation. Blair strained his eyes as he peered downward. "What do you see?"

"Ink. Red ink."

With the aid of Jim's finger, Blair could just make out a splotch on the rug that looked like blood. The two men looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Jack Teale."

Blair felt a rush of memories as the full implication of Jim's discovery registered. Jack Teale had been involved in a warehouse robbery back in November. Technically, it hadn't been their case, but Simpson, the warehouse owner, had requested their assistance. Burglary had closed the case after the truck carrying the stolen ink had crashed, destroying the cargo. Jim had been positive that all the missing ink had not been in that particular truck, but his opinion had been ignored. Blair gazed at the red rug fiber thinking that this new lead would enable them to reopen the case.


Driving home -Cascade mountains.

Jim and Blair were on their way home from an interview. They had recently discovered that their only known suspect in the Patterson robbery had a brother living in Northwood, a small town on the edge of the Cascade Mountains. Rick Teale lived in a log cabin, complete with running water, electricity, gas and a panoramic view of the mountains. Jim had been drooling during the entire conversation. His eyes had drifted towards the window, where he could see the trees, birds and other wildlife through the glass. He had tried to hide his envy, but it must have been visible to all, judging by the commiserating pats on the back from his partner, and the snide comments from the owner. The two detectives left the cabin feeling morose. The interview had yielded nothing useful.

"Hey Jim, it must be time for supper. I vote we stop at that diner in Hamlin. They make the greatest lamb stew. Their corned beef and cabbage is also pretty good."

Jim glanced at the clock. "Alright. It'll be six by the time we get there."

"And it's already dark." There was a long pause, then Blair added quietly but with emphasis and a melodramatic shiver, "I hate winter."

"What's that?" Jim could see flashing red lights up ahead. He focused his eyes and distinguished three cars, each stopped in different angles in the middle of the road.

"What do you see?" Blair asked.

"Looks like a traffic accident. There're four sheriff patrol cars and an ambulance."

"Can you tell what happened?"

Jim slowed his truck down as they came closer. "Looks like a couple of mangled deer in the road."

"Oh, gross." Blair wrinkled his nose in distaste.

Jim pulled over and got out of the truck. Blair followed closely behind, but then turned and headed for the car wreck. Jim pulled out his badge and flashed it at the deputy standing closest to him. "Detective Ellison with the Cascade PD and that's my partner, Blair Sandburg," he said pointing to Blair's retreating back. "Can we be of any assistance?"

"Sure," the officer answered. "I'm Deputy Kurlan." His voice was heavy. "This is the fourth deer accident tonight. Last winter was so mild that the deer population has gone through the roof. I don't know what we're gonna do."

"I know what you mean. My captain's secretary hit a deer a week ago." Jim mentioned, as he helped move cones and flares for the roadblock the sheriff was trying to set up. "Luckily, she came away with only a smashed front end. Are there any fatalities?" he asked apprehensively, as he looked around at the ambulances and numerous squad cars.

"Two, in this one alone. A six-year-old kid is banged up pretty bad. I wish the county would hurry up and okay the Bait and Shoot program. But you know how those animal activists are. They don't want us killing Bambi. Guess they don't mind Bambi killing children."

"I think I saw on the news that even the town of Northwood is against the program."

"Yep. They're all stupid if you ask me."

Jim straightened his back and glanced over at Blair. He was standing by a car, talking to whoever was inside. Someone from the rescue squad was using the Jaws-of-Life to cut open the door, which was dripping with deer guts. Jim could smell the carnage from where he was standing; he could just imagine how Blair was dealing with it. Then he smiled. His partner's attention was probably so fixed on the trapped person, that he hadn't even noticed it.

Another set of headlights flashed in front of them. "Excuse me, Detective," the deputy said as he turned to redirect the incoming car.

Jim left the officer to his job and walked over to Blair. They had just gotten the car door open and the paramedic was leaning inside assessing the damage.

"Oh, man." Blair looked at him with his voice full of pity. "That lady was on her way to pick up her son at basketball practice. Now both of her legs are probably broken and all she says is thank God her son wasn't in the car. She doesn't even care about the pain she's in."

Jim nodded. "It's the damned deer. They're a real problem."

Blair's attention had drifted again. The lady had been pulled out and was being pushed on a gurney to the ambulance. Blair ran over to her and she grabbed his hand.

Jim followed sedately behind.

"Thank you, Officer. I think I might have gone crazy in there without you to talk to."

"No problem," Blair responded. "I'm glad that I was here." He squeezed her hand, then released it as the paramedics lifted her into the back of the ambulance.

"I don't think there's anything else we can do here," Jim commented as he gave the area a final look.

"Guess not," was Blair's distracted reply.

The two men watched the ambulance drive away. Then they slowly walked back to the truck. The trip back to Cascade was quiet. Each man was lost in his own thoughts. Jim pulled into the Hamlin Diner and they went in to have some dinner. There was a TV mounted on one of the walls, which was broadcasting the news.

"Look, Jim. They're showing some deer."

Jim looked behind him at the television. The announcer was describing the accidents that had happened that evening. He gave detailed accounts of the damaged cars and hurt people, while the camera showed placid deer munching grass by the side of the road.

"Can you believe that?" Jim spouted as he turned back to his dinner. "The reporter explains about the car wrecks, yet the camera shows the pretty deer."

"People don't want to see blood and guts," Blair pointed to his plate with his fork, "especially when they're eating."

"It's got nothing to do with the gory details. I haven't seen a reporter yet who would hesitate because it might shock someone. Reporters live for shock. They're just doing it to influence people's opinion," argued Jim.

"Aren't they always?" Blair responded.

"How can the general public make informed decisions when they see conflicting things on the news? One second they talk about the terrible accidents and the next they show innocent deer grazing. No wonder so many people are against the Bait and Shoot program."

"What's that?" Blair asked.

"It's the sheriff's attempt to cull the herds. They place food down and then when the deer come to eat, they shoot them."

"What! They just slaughter the poor deer as they're eating? That's horrible."

"But Chief, these are the same deer that are causing all the car accidents. Their population is too damned high and there isn't enough food up in the mountains to support the herds. That's what makes them wander down onto the roads, and into the path of oncoming cars. Like Rhonda's," Jim added, hoping to make Blair understand the severity of the situation.

"I don't care. It's slaughter. Hunting is one thing. At least the animals have a fighting chance."

"Hunting season isn't enough. The deer population has escalated in the last few years. Last year many of the deer that were seen alongside the road were starving. Let's say the mountains can support ten thousand deer, yet there are twenty thousand up there. All twenty thousand suffer. They wander out of the mountains into populated areas where they cause problems--such as the car accidents we've heard so much about."

"That's why they have hunting season," Blair was quick to respond.

"The season is too short. It's not as easy as you think. Not every hunter can bag a deer during the few short weeks they have."

"But, come on, Jim. Killing them while they're eating? It's like--cheating."

"They don't have any natural predators. Man took care of that decades ago. Now the only thing that reduces the herds is man killing them either with their vehicles or by hunting. Then there's starvation. Which is better?"

Blair didn't answer but continued to pick through his dinner.

"Another side affect," Jim continued, "is that the numerous deer endanger the environment making it harder for other species to survive."

Blair shoved his plate away from him. "I can see your point, but I can't agree with tricking the deer in close with food and then murdering them. I think I'm ready to leave." Blair withdrew his wallet and counted out what he owed for his dinner.

"Fine." Jim threw some bills alongside Blair's. What was wrong with his partner? Why couldn't he see that the Bait and Shoot program was a good alternative? Something had to be done to end the deer-car accidents.


Bullpen

Jim sat at his desk writing out the report concerning the questioning of Rick Teale. Blair had volunteered to go down to Records and try to find some background information on the man. Both believed that learning more about Rick might yield a clue to Jack's whereabouts. Jim's instincts were screaming that Jack was involved in the Patterson theft.

Ed Patterson had finally arrived home and informed them that the only things missing from his safe was a set of blueprints to a printing press his company had recently developed. He had been one of the designers, although his part in the project had been completed for some time. That particular machine was commercially available, although it hadn't sold very well. His open candor convinced Jim that he wasn't involved personally in the theft. Patterson remarked repeatedly that he couldn't understand the need for the blueprints. This puzzled Jim, too, but somehow it all was connected to Teale, and the missing ink--printers ink.

The sound of arguing voices caught Jim's attention. A short squat man barreled into the bullpen, waving his arms, talking boisterously, and making a general fool of himself. Two officers from Vice were trying to hold him back, but he resembled a freight train, and couldn't be stopped.

"If you can't help me, then maybe they can. I still think this is under Vice's jurisdiction, but maybe you can't handle it. Maybe I need Major Crime." The man cast his eyes around, then fixed them on Jim. Using his forward momentum, the man pushed his way towards Jim.

"Can I help you?" Jim asked politely.

The other officers rolled their eyes.

"I'll take it from here," Jim told the Vice detectives. With grateful, yet commiserating, smiles they left the bullpen.

The other man didn't give the retreating officers a moment's thought, but immediately pulled some trading cards out of his coat pocket and placed them on Jim's desk. "They're fake," he stated belligerently. "What are you going to do about it?"

Jim picked up one of the cards. "Blastoise," he read out loud.

"That card is a star and worth about fifty bucks, normally. But, if you look closely, you'll see that it's a fake."

Jim looked at it. It showed a funny looking turtle. He didn't understand.

"I can't see anything."

"That card is from the Pokemon trading game. Kids all over the world are collecting them and--"

"You deal in these cards?"

"I have a hobby shop over on Fetzner Drive. I sell the Base, Booster, Jungle, Fossil, Rocket, Gym Leader and Second Edition packs. I also have, or rather had a thriving business selling individual cards. There was a great demand for the more powerful of the Pokemon cards. Kids bring them in, sell them to me and I turn around and sell them to others. Some of them are worth pennies, but some can be worth as much as a couple hundred bucks each. A first edition foil Charizard is worth over a thousand."

"Where did you get this one?" Jim redirected, not interested in a long discussion on the value of each individual card.

"Some kid brought it in. He said he had traded for it from another kid at school. You have to stop this." The man's voice became shrill in his agitation.

"I will look into it, Mr.-" Jim tried to end the discussion, hoping to throw the card into his desk and forget about it.

"Meridith. Carl Meridith. But, I'm not done." He pulled four more cards from his breast pocket. "Look at these cards. Only one is real, the others are fake."

Jim dutifully picked them up. With only a glance they all looked the same. But, with his eyes looking for defects, they became obvious. "The paper on these three are thinner. The ink used on these cards look mostly the same, but this particular shade of green is different, somewhat lighter. The copyright printing down here on the bottom looks different." The funny monster on the card was some kind of a dragon. "Charizard?" Jim read off the top. "The thousand dollar card?" Jim asked dubiously.

"It's not a first edition, it's Unlimited. That card I normally sell for a hundred bucks or so. But now, all the kids have them. I have two genuine ones and ten fakes, and kids are coming in, sometimes ten a day trying to get me to buy their Charizards. You have to stop this nonsense or I'm gonna go out of business."

"I'll have to keep these as evidence," Jim informed him. "What's Vice done so far?"

"Nothing. They came into my shop. Interviewed a few of the kids. Then left. I called back twice and got the run-around. I'm sick and tired of no one taking this seriously. Someone is breaking the law and it's your job to stop them."

"All right," Jim gave a resigned sigh as he pulled out a pad and a pen. "Give me your name, number and the address of your store. After I check out some stuff, I'll stop by."

Satisfied, Mr. Meridith gave him the information and then peacefully walked out.

Blair walked in minutes later carrying several files. "Hey, Jim. Did you know that Rick Teale and his thieving brother, Jack, were both busted ten years ago for assault? I didn't think Rick seemed the type."

Jim shoved the trading cards out of his mind. "Let me see."

Blair set the files on his desk and Jim came over and looked over his shoulder. Blair opened to the second page, which was the rap sheet.

"It didn't stick," Jim sounded disgusted. "It says that the injured man failed to correctly identify his attacker, so both brothers were off the hook."

"Yeah, the older brother, Rick, left town, and Jack continued on a life of crime." Blair flipped a few more pages.

"Or Rick's never been implicated in another crime," Jim reminded his partner.

"Let's summarize what we know, so far." Blair pulled out his notebook and flipped a few pages. "When we investigated him last November, we found out that he had been part of a convenience store holdup, and a car jacking. His only time in jail was a result of trying to sell stolen reset jewels to an undercover fed."

"That's right and he sang like a bird and got his sentence reduced."

"Then in November," Blair continued after acknowledging Jim's comment. "We connected him to that warehouse on Holt Street with the stolen cases of ink."

"Burglary thinks all the ink was recovered, but I'm pretty sure there's more of it out there," Jim added.

Blair nodded. "Just after Christmas another warehouse was hit. Right next door," Blair told him with emphasis. "We were never notified, but the owner is the same, uh, Simpson's his name. No one was able to identify the thieves and so far nothing's been recovered."

"Now, we've got the Patterson case," Jim said thoughtfully. "What's the connection between petty holdups, stolen ink, two warehouses--both owned by the same man--and Patterson's missing blueprints?" Jim's mind was whirling with different possibilities. He headed back to his desk, thinking aloud. "I think we should question the warehouse manager again. What's his name?"

"Sean Makowsky. If I remember right, he wasn't exactly cooperative the first time. He hovered, trying to make us hurry--"

"Yeah," Jim remarked, as he absently picked up the trading cards and slid them into an evidence bag. "You had to pointedly tell him that we'd handle it."

"Did I just see you with Pokemon cards?" Blair shot over to Jim's desk and gazed incredulously at the bag. "My god, Jim! You've got four Charizard cards! You have any idea how much they're worth?"

"One's about a hundred dollars and the others are forgeries."

"They're fake?" Blair took the bag and held it up to the light, peering at it closely. "You got ripped off? How'd that happen?"

"I did not get ripped off!" Jim couldn't believe that Sandburg would think that he bought those stupid cards. Then he saw the twinkle in Blair's eyes and knew he was being teased. "It's a new case that got dumped onto our laps."

"This Pokemon thing is huge," Blair explained. "Kids of all ages spend their allowance money on cards, books about the cards, videotapes of the shows, and the two movies. It seems that every year something new catches their attention. A few years ago it was Beanie Babies, before that it was the Power Ranger Zords. Kids in today's society--"

"In my day, we had GI Joe's, Comic Books and baseball cards. Now those are worth a lot of money today. I bet in a few decades those Pokemon cards won't be worth a thing."

"But, they don't just collect the cards, they use them in a game. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses. Kids collect a whole bunch of cards, not just the most powerful ones. They need energy cards..."

Jim couldn't care less about the dynamics of the Pokemon game.

"...in fact," Blair continued, "down at the Civic Center, they have Pokemon Battle Nights. Kids bring their cards and they have tournaments and prizes and everything."

That caught his interest. "Really? Maybe we ought to check one out."

"You want to experience the Pokemon craze?"

"No, I want to see just how many counterfeits are out there."

"You know it really is kind of educational," Blair continued his lecture. "In the individual battles, kids have to do math, deductive reasoning..."

Jim saw Henri come in and plop down at his desk. The man gave a heart-felt sigh and dropped his head onto his arms, which were resting on his desk. "What's up, H?"

Blair stopped talking and looked over at Henri.

"A deputy was shot today," he told them, his voice weary. "There was a town meeting in Pineview. You know--where my sister lives? Anyway the Sheriff's Department was presenting their Bait and Shoot program and how it's going to be implemented. An animal rights group was picketing outside. After the meeting adjourned, some of the protestors started harassing the deputies. As they were walking toward their patrol car, someone from the mob fired a small caliber handgun which hit a deputy."

"Is he gonna be okay?" Blair asked.

"Luckily the bullet missed all of his vital organs," Henri told them, "but the whole thing has the town pretty shaken. The kid from one of the accidents last night died, which prompted the meeting. The Sheriff's Department wants to get the program started immediately."

"This is getting ugly," Jim remarked.

Everyone nodded in agreement. The detectives from Major Crime drifted back to their own work. Blair swung his chair over to his desk and brought the files he had obtained from Central Records. It was back to work on something they had some control over. Jim put the trading cards in his top drawer and then settled down to find some sort of lead on Teale.


Warehouse on Holt Street

Jim parked the truck and the partners walked to the front of the warehouse.

A worker, driving a forklift, stopped them. "Can I help you?" he asked.

Jim pulled out his badge. "We're with the Cascade Police Department. I'd like to talk to the manager. Could you tell me where I can find Mr. Makowsky?"

The man's eyes narrowed. "Sean Makowsky? He doesn't work here anymore."

That was interesting, Jim thought to himself. He wondered when the manager quit.

"The manager's office is through those doors and towards the left. Go up the stairs, follow the ramp and it takes you right there." The employee paused. "Is there trouble?"

"No. We just want to ask him a couple of questions." Jim nodded his thanks.

The door to the manager's office was open. The plaque on the door read, David Brinkman. The secretary's desk was empty, so Jim and Blair bypassed it, heading straight to a man sitting at another desk, talking on the phone. The two detectives waited patiently until he was finished.

"Can I help you?" the manager asked as he set the phone down.

"Mr. Brinkman, I'm Detective Ellison and this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. We'd like to ask you a few questions about the theft this fall of several cases of ink."

Jim listened carefully, but couldn't detect any increase in the man's heartbeat.

"What about it? I wasn't working here at that time, but I understood that the ink was found and the thieves were caught."

"They were never caught," Jim told him bluntly. "I do have a few more questions about the ink. Could you tell me who stores the ink here?"

"Game Freak. They're partners with the Nintendo company. It's not ink that we store here, but pigment powders that's used to mix up the ink. We still do a lot of business with them."

"What is it used for?"

"Specifically those Pokemon trading cards, but it also gets used when making up the boxes that the Nintendo games are packaged in. We get a truckload of raw materials, as in the ink and the fiberboard, per day and ship it out by rail once a week."

"Where does it all go?" Blair asked curiously.

"To a manufacturing plant down in California. They make up the printer's ink that is used in special presses that print the cards. Only they have the formulas for the correct amounts of each color or whatever. It's probably a trade secret. You know the other warehouse stores the cardboard flats that they print the cards on. Just yesterday they thought a shipment had gone missing, but it had been delivered to our warehouse by accident."

"How many warehouses does Simpson own?" Jim questioned.

"Four. Two here in Cascade and another two in Portland."

"What happened to Makowsky, the previous manager?" Blair asked.

"He was transferred to one of the warehouses in Portland."

Jim's mind was churning with ideas. If the ink was actually mixed in California, maybe they've had similar thefts or unexplained missing material. It was worth checking into.

Blair took over the questioning. "Could you give me Makowsky's new address and phone number?"

"Let me see if I still have it. I called him pretty frequently in the beginning, but haven't needed to talk to him recently." He shuffled through a rolodex. "Here it is." He copied it down on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to Blair.

"Thank you," Blair said as he stuffed the paper in his pocket.

"Here's my card," Jim said pulling a card out of his pocket. "Call me if you can think of anything about this theft that's out of the ordinary."

"Sure will."

The two detectives left the warehouse.

Blair was busy scribbling in his notebook as he walked. "So the ink is used for Pokemon cards. Isn't that ironic?"

"I had a feeling the ink was being used for a particular purpose. But, I admit that I had no idea it was used for something so juvenile," Jim remarked with disgust.

"But profitable." Blair opened the door to the truck. "I bet millions of dollars are spent on those cards. Just think what a slice of that is to the riff raff of Cascade. Although it's hard to believe that the Teale brothers are involved in the counterfeiting scheme."

"No, Jake's too small to have any real connections to it," Jim answered. "But, Rick? Or even the other warehouse employee we questioned this fall. What was his name?"

Blair rummaged around in his notebook. "Bill Kaiser."

"That's right." Jim pulled out of the parking lot and drove back to the bullpen. "Rick Teale, we know has been involved in criminal activities in his past. He disappeared, then turned up with that beautiful cabin up in Northwood. How did he afford that kind of real estate?"

"Because he's still involved in something illegal," Blair mused as he scribbled in his notebook. "Jim, what do you think about the fact that those bottles contained pigments, not wet ink? I remember you saying that it had a strange consistency, kind of like toner."

"Makes sense. But, if these jokers are counterfeiting Pokemon cards, and they're using the stolen pigment powders, how are they making up the ink?" Jim pondered aloud.

The question hung in silence as Jim drove the rest of the way to the station.

As soon as the elevator stopped on their floor, the noise from the bullpen assaulted the sentinel and guide. Jim covered his ears up, half in jest, as they walked in. No one paid them any attention--they were fixed on their arguments and pressing their opinions.

"What happened?" Blair asked as he made his way to his desk.

Simon was standing in his office doorway. "You two have anything to report?" he shouted over the din.

Rafe waylaid Jim. "They passed the Bait and Shoot program. A couple of farms have donated corn, and the sheriffs are going to start tomorrow morning."

Jim cast a quick look at Blair, but his partner was already half-way to Simon's office. With a sigh, Jim followed. Blair was already giving Simon the details of their visit to the warehouse as Jim walked in. Blair pulled out the slip of paper with the previous manager's new address and phone number. Simon grunted as he glanced at it, then handed it back to Blair.

Simon rubbed his forehead as he plopped down in his chair behind his desk. "We've got a serious problem brewing because of the Bait and Shoot program."

Blair's eyes widened. "It's been passed?"

Simon nodded. "There's an outcry everywhere. People who have never voiced an opinion about anything before are now up-in-arms about the slaughter of innocent deer. Protests are being waged not only in the suburbs, but here in Cascade, too. Things are deteriorating fast."

"How long is this program supposed to go on for?" Blair asked quietly.

"It's just a trial run. They hope a week or two and take down twenty or thirty head."

"Will the meat go to a food bank to feed the poor?"

"Can't distribute meat that hasn't been government approved," Simon responded.

"So, not only are these animals being exterminated, they're not even being used for anything beneficial? They're being wasted?" Blair's voice rose an octave in his agitation.

Simon stood up, glaring at Blair. "I hope I don't need to remind you to keep your personal feelings personal, do I?"

"No, sir." Blair looked at the floor, but Jim could still detect the simmering anger.

Simon focused on Blair for a few more seconds then shifted his attention to Jim. "There is a planned demonstration in front of the County Building tomorrow afternoon. The Cascade Police Department has been requested to assist in keeping the peace. I want the two of you there. Until then, keep your eyes and ears open for trouble."

"Yes, sir," Jim replied. "Tonight Sandburg and I are going to check out a Pokemon card trading thing--"

Blair chimed in. "The Civic Center hosts a weekly trading card session. Kids and hobby shop owners bring cards to sell, trade, and to battle each other."

"That sounds like fun," Simon said sarcastically. "I heard about the disruption with a certain Carl Meridith this morning. Is your load too heavy to take on this case? I can assign it to someone else."

"No, we'll take care of it. Somehow this counterfeit card situation is connected to the Patterson case we've been working on," Jim began to relate. "We know that Teale is up to his eyeballs in stolen ink, which by the way, belongs to the Nintendo Corporation who manufactures the Pokemon cards. That same ink was found in the Patterson house."

"Connect the dots and bring me back something substantial," Simon instructed.

Jim nodded and ushered his partner out. As he closed the door behind him, Simon spoke for sentinel ears. "Keep Sandburg's emotional outbursts to a minimum." Jim didn't need the reminder. The sheriff's deputies would eat Blair alive if he pronounced his anti-killing Bambi opinions in front of them. They had enough troubles without introducing dissension within the police ranks.


Cascade Civic Center

Jim and Blair walked into the large arena. The doors had opened an hour before their arrival and already the place was packed. Jim grumbled about the two-dollar cover charge.

"It pays for the cleanup after the kids are gone," Blair told him good-naturedly.

Jim had already forgotten about the money as he gazed around him. "I didn't realize how big this would be." Jim perused the large area, slightly disoriented between the harsh lights and the loud din of children negotiating their trades and battles.

The perimeter of the arena had long tables set up where traders had set up their cards to show and subsequently sell. In the middle, there were numerous small tables for kids to conduct their battles. Scattered between, parents were talking amongst themselves.

"Hey Chief. The concession stands are open. Why don't we get a drink and some popcorn?"

"Sounds good. I could really go for a hot pretzel. See that kid over there? He's got one smothered in mustard." Blair licked his lips in appreciation.

Armed with their food, both men began wandering around the different tables. Snippets of the different conversations reached his ears.

"...aha! Forty damage points!"

"Oh yeah? Get this, fire attack," was screamed back.

Everything was loud. The kids were so involved in their battles that they never noticed Jim looking over their shoulders. However, the parents noticed, and kept their eyes on him. Jim smiled inwardly. He was glad, this wasn't the safest environment for young children--they needed their parents' watchful gaze. All kinds of creeps could gain admittance. Maybe he ought to see about getting some security stationed at the front doors?

Blair motioned toward a large table off to the side. Jim cast his eyes in that direction and watched a man, at least forty years old, haggling with three children over the price of a card. Jim nodded and both men meandered over in that direction.

"...that Alakazam is only worth five bucks. I won't give you a penny over that."

"But, mister. I bought it for twelve last week. Then I got a first edition one yesterday."

"And I've got about ten of 'em. Sorry, kid. I only buy the rare ones."

The three kids looked disgusted but moved on. "He sure is stingy," one child commented to the others.

Jim came up to the table and looked at the array of cards. They seemed to be divided in groups, although he couldn't discern what made each group different from the others. Looking closely, he tried to see if any of those cards were forgeries, and much to his surprise he found three.

"Excuse me," Jim beckoned the person on the other side of the table. "I'm detective James Ellison. Do you realize that three of your cards that you have for sale here are counterfeit?"

"Damn," the man said. "Which ones? I've been having a hard time with these cropping up lately."

Jim pointed them out for the man.

The hobby shop owner picked them up and studied them closely. "I can see it now. Thank you for pointing them out for me. I run a clean store and I'd hate to get the reputation of not knowing the real cards for the fake ones."

"I have to confiscate them as evidence." Jim told him, expecting some kind of negative reaction.

"Sure. You're investigation this counterfeiting business?"

Jim nodded.

"That's good. I want it to stop. I've had several customers come in complaining of buying fake cards from my shop. I've had to take them back and I'm losing money. Get those crooks fast."

"We're doing our best. Can I have a card with the name of your shop and its address?"

"Sure." He reached below the table and pulled out a card and handed it to Jim.

"Thank you," Jim replied as he handed the card to Blair to stuff in his notebook with the rest of the notes. The two detectives walked away from the display and headed back into the crowd.

"He seemed willing to help," Blair commented as he stuffed the notebook back into his backpack.

"Yeah, I agree. He wasn't hiding anything. His voice and his heartbeat were both steady."

"Hey, Jim," Blair said with astonishment. "Look over there." He pointed toward a table where two little boys, who looked no more than seven years old, were deep within their Pokemon conflict.

"Beedril," said the dark curly-haired boy, dressed in a Lakers Shaquille jersey.

"Muk! Aha, level 34! I go first. Sludge attack!" screamed the second boy. This boy also had dark hair, what little hadn't been shaved off.

The first boy grasped his chest melodramatically. "Down to 50 hit points. Where's the coin?" He grabbed something off the table and threw it. "Heads, yeah! Poison sting, 30 damage points."

"Another sludge attack."

"Poison! Give me a card from the gift box."

The boys shuffled some cards around the table. Then the first boy threw out a card. "Raichu!"

Jim shook his head in confusion, then turned to Blair. "You understand any of that?"

"They are amazing. Both look like they're just past Kindergarten, yet they can do double digit subtraction in their minds, plan the defeat of another--"

"I've seen everything I want to see," Jim interrupted, rubbing his eyes with his hand. "Ready to leave?"

"Is the noise getting to you?"

"My ears are ringing," Jim agreed. "I don't know how much more of this I can take. The only reason I came was to see how wide spread the counterfeit cards are, and I've seen quite a few." Jim started to pull open the front door, then stopped in his tracks. "Wait!" He stepped back into the area, his eyes searching for the origin of a conversation that had inadvertently caught his attention. Two children, a boy and a girl, were arguing.

"Ash was awesome when he saved Misty and her sisters from Team Rocket."

"Misty could have done it on her own," the little girl pointed out.

"Ash Ketchum can beat Misty..."

Jim lost the thread after he heard that name again. Ash Ketchum. Where had he heard that name before? "Chief. You ever heard of the name Ash Ketchum?"

Blair turned incredulous eyes to him. "He's the main character in the Pokemon series, except for well, Pikachu," Blair responded with a laugh.

Jim wasn't laughing. He had just remembered why that name sounded familiar. "Remember that U-Haul, from last fall? The one that had been carrying the ink?"

"You told me about it, but I wasn't with you. Simon accompanied you when you checked out what had happened."

"The truck had been rented to one--Ash Ketchum."

"You never told me that. I would have recognized the name immediately."

Jim thought back. It was understandable that he had forgotten. The next time he had seen Blair had been at the loft in the company of his mother. They had been in the possession of a clue and hadn't even realized it.


The loft

The drive back to the loft was done in relative peace. Jim was pondering the different facts, trying to make them fit together. The Pokemon counterfeiting scam was small potatoes. They really couldn't net much profit, after all their marks were only children. There had to be another outlet for their scheme. The paper and ink were stolen from the Nintendo Corporation. Did they manufacture or broker the materials for someone else? Did basketball card or football card companies use the same supplies? That might be something to check out.

Blair leaned over and turned on the radio. He selected a soft jazz station and relaxed in his seat. Jim glanced at the clock and noted that the time was just before nine. They would be home in less than ten minutes. He couldn't wait to take his shoes off and lay on the couch with a beer. It had been a long day, and he needed to unwind. His head still pounded, but it was getting better now that they weren't with a thousand screaming kids.

The news came on the radio.

"And now for today's headlines. The Sheriff's Department has announced that the Bait and Shoot program was approved. They are planning on reducing the herds by twenty-head per day in an effort to reduce human casualties. Deer-induced accidents have taken eight lives and put more than thirty people in local hospitals since the new year. The Sheriff's Department has refused to state when the program is to be implemented, but assures us that it will be shortly.

"Demonstrations in Pineview today resulted in the shooting of a deputy, and a local outcry against the program. One resident was quoted as saying, 'There has to be another solution. Taking an innocent animal's life is morally wrong.' The Animal Defense League denies the charges that they are responsible for the shooting. They are against the taking of lives, and they consider humans equal to any animal. One witness has stated that the shot was fired by mistake, emotions were high and it was all an accident. The Sheriff's Department has told this reporter that it will not treat it as such, and will prosecute to the full extent of the law."

"I should hope so," Jim muttered to himself, then looked over at his partner. Blair's heartbeat had increased during the news, but he retained a stony silence.

"...a total of six have been taken to Cascade General for poisoning. The police haven't found a connection to the different cases or where the victims might have come in contact with the caustic chemicals. We'll keep you informed of the facts as we obtain them."

Jim pulled into the parking space and turned off the ignition. He turned to Blair and started to speak. "Why--"

Blair held up his hand. "I don't want to hear it now, Jim."

Jim snapped his mouth shut. He hadn't even intended to mention the deer thing or anything relevant to it.

Blair jumped out of the truck and headed up to the loft without waiting for Jim to catch up. Why was Blair so mad at him? It wasn't up to Jim to condemn or condone the program. He had just wanted to discuss tomorrow's schedule.

Blair retreated to his room and fell onto his bed. His emotions were out of control and he didn't want to say anything he'd regret later. He firmly believed that the Bait and Shoot program was morally wrong, but felt inept in his efforts to explain his views to Jim. Why couldn't they just open up an expanded season on deer? Let qualified hunters come in, shoot the deer, and have it over with. At least that way the natural order of things would be maintained. Although, that wasn't necessarily true. Some killed the deer for only sport and had no intention of eating the meat. Blair grimaced into his pillow. Why couldn't there be an easy solution? Killing something only because it was unwanted was so wrong. Blair was beginning to dread the upcoming weeks. They were going to be difficult on everyone. Slipping on a pair of sweats, he joined his roommate in front of the TV to watch a Jags game. Jim gave him a smile as he sat down.


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