Hephaistos and Alberte
edited by: Debbie, Linda Maclaren, and Susan Williams
"This is stupid." Jim set his coffee on the dashboard and watched as a pattern of steam crawled its way across the windshield.
"Come on, man, it'll help pass the time." Blair had wrapped himself around his coffee cup for the warmth, the unfastened Fargo hat flapping as he moved his head. Jim blinked as a long ago Warner Brothers' cartoon starring a bright-eyed, big-eared puppy popped into his head.
Shaking the image off, he cleared his throat and looked around the dimly lit street. "Okay, okay. It's red."
Blair grinned and shook his head. "Either play the right way..."
Jim sighed. "I spy," he recited impatiently, "with my little eye, something that is red."
Blair unhuddled himself and leaned forward to look out the windshield, his eyes searching earnestly among the deserted buildings, occasional automobile, and scattered litter along the sidewalks. Jim took another swallow of coffee to keep himself from grinning.
"Red... red... aha! The stripes on the broken barber pole over there."
"Oh. Um, the... whatever that is in front of the second door down on your side of the street."
"Nope. And it's an empty doughnut box. And it's pink, not red."
"Leave it to a Sentinel cop to be able to spot a single doughnut box in a pile of garbage," Blair grumbled.
"Hey, who spotted it first, Junior? I swear we'll make a decent cop of you yet."
Blair snorted and continued his search. "The milk crate in front of the old grocery store?"
"The Budweiser sign at the end of the block?"
"One of the stop signs?"
"Oh man, I know what you're doing. It's my shirt!"
"Okay. Your socks, then."
"My socks?" Jim looked briefly down at his feet, then back up at his grinning partner. "Sandburg, I don't wear--"
"Hah! Made you look." The grin deteriorated into a defeated sigh. "All right, all right. I give up."
Enjoying his slight victory, Jim took another slow sip of coffee to prolong the suspense before answering. "See that SUV parked on the right at the end of this block?"
"And the old bowling alley at the end of the next block -- the sign is in the shape of a bowling pin?"
A slight pause. "Yeah."
"And see the stop sign at the end of street beyond the bowling alley?"
A longer pause. "Yeah." Blair's eyes narrowed and suspicion clouded his answer.
"And see the red pick-up truck parked two blocks from that stop sign?"
"No, man, of course I don't!"
"Oh, well, that's a shame. The 'something red' is a National Firefighter's Association sticker in the rear window."
"Come on, Sandburg. What do you expect when you challenge a Sentinel to a game of 'I Spy'? Especially when he doesn't want to play."
Uh oh. Sandburg's expression morphed from annoyed partner to fascinated Guide in the space of two seconds. Jim knew that look. Jim dreaded that look.
"You can see a small sticker on a car almost five blocks away? At night? And the street lights aren't even lit down at that end, though the moon offers some light. Jim, this is--"
"Whoa, hold on a second, Dr. Frankenstein." Jim held up his hand and carefully observed the rearview mirror. "The night may be salvaged yet. I spy a bad guy in our midst.'"
Blair set his coffee cup down in the holder between them and fastened his hat. "Bannerman?" he asked as he slouched down and peered over the back of the seat.
"Right on the first try. He's going into the old Woolworth's building." Jim stopped Blair with a hand on his shoulder as he reached for the door handle. "He's alone, Chief. There's no need for both of us to get cold. You can watch the street and make sure we don't have any surprises."
"You sure, man?"
Jim nodded and opened his door. "Yeah. Bannerman may be a drug dealer, but he's an anemic, skittish little prick. My niece could arrest him using her lunchbox as a weapon."
Blair didn't really look convinced, but he sat back and resumed his coffee cup huddling. "Okay, Jim. Just be careful and call me if you need help. I mean it, man!"
"Give me a break, Sandburg," Jim mumbled as he swung the door shut. "What could happen?"
Simon sighed. Trust Ellison and Sandburg to go after a minor league drug dealer like Bannerman, and end up stumbling into a meeting of the cartel leaders themselves at their main methamphetamine lab. Followed, of course, by the explosion of said lab, set off by stray gunfire.
The explosion had been relatively minor compared to some they'd experienced. Jim had gotten off with a sore shoulder and bandaged hands, burned from patting out the fire on Blair's jacket. Blair was even luckier: singed hair and a few stitches in his left leg from a chunk of flying debris.
Now they were experiencing the morning after: sulky, sullen, sore, and on the receiving end of the patented Banks glare. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, practically at attention, in front of Simon's desk. Simon himself stood facing them, hands on hips, glaring at each of them in turn. Sandburg was looking especially contrite.
The detective in question swallowed and glanced uneasily at his partner before resuming the story. "So then Bannerman showed up, just like Sneaks said he would, and entered the old, um..."
"Woolworth's," muttered Jim.
"Yeah, Woolworth's building. So, uh, Jim went in to arrest him."
"Alone." Simon aimed his glare directly at Sandburg.
"Come on, Captain," Jim cut in, scowling. "You've seen Bannerman. The guy weighs 120 pounds and doesn't have the balls to stand up to a mouse. How he became point man for this new drug cartel, I'll never--"
"The point being," Simon said, cutting in himself, "that the two of you didn't follow procedure. Again."
Blair ran his fingers through his hair and looked more at Simon's tie than his eyes. "Actually, Si-- Captain, it's a good thing I did stay behind, what with the cartel leaders suddenly showing up and all."
"Listen to me, Sandburg." Simon removed the unlit cigar from his mouth and leaned forward. "If you had gone in with Jim in the first place, you would have had Bannerman safely in custody and been on your way to the station before they showed up."
"Well, sure, hindsight and all that, Simon, but we had no way of knowing that Jim would be distracted by the--"
"That, Sandburg, is why you follow PROCEDURE!" Simon punctuated the last word by poking Blair in the chest with his cigar.
The captain almost felt guilty. Sandburg had been blaming himself since the incident happened last night; he wasn't the one who needed the lesson. Jim Ellison had a full-fledged, legitimate partner now and his maverick loner days should be a thing of the past. The best way to get that through his thick skull was through his partner.
"And when the second car showed up, what did you do?"
Again, Sandburg glanced quickly at his partner before answering. "I, uh, called for back-up."
"And then I went inside to get Jim."
"How many men were there, Sandburg?"
Blair mumbled, "Six."
"Against those odds, proper procedure required you to wait for back-up."
"But Jim was in there alone!"
Hook, line, and sinker. "Again, whose fault was that?"
Damn, the kid looked like he'd been slapped.
Jim finally rose to his partner's defense. "It's not Sandburg's fault, sir. I insisted on going in alone, and it won't happen again. May we go now?"
"No." Simon turned and walked behind his desk to sit down. "As your superior, I can't let this continued flagrant disregard for proper procedure go undisciplined."
Jim looked shocked. "Flagrant?"
Blair looked horrified. "Discipline?"
"Sit down, both of you." Simon had to admit he was enjoying himself. It wasn't often he had the upper hand. "I have special duty for the two of you today. Two special duties, actually."
"Sir...." Jim sighed. "We're this close to getting hold of Bannerman, and I'm sure once we get him in interrogation he'll give us the information we need to shut down this drug operation."
Simon smiled. "I agree. That's why Rafe and Brown are out looking for him now."
"Sit down, Detective! Even if you weren't in trouble -- which you are -- you'd be on desk duty with those injuries. Uh uh uh." Simon wiggled a finger as Jim started to say something else.
Jim sat down. Simon pretended to thumb through the folder on his desk during the ensuing silence, but he already knew everything in there.
"As you know, Cascade's Sesquicentennial is coming up next week, and the mayor and the City Council have planned an all-out celebration." Simon thanked God that Major Crime wasn't part of the program; at one point the mayor threatened them with putting on a show similar to the one they'd done a few months back.
"Oh man, it's going to be great! There's going to be a pageant, parade, music, fireworks--"
"I'm aware of the program, Sandburg."
"Sorry, uh, sir."
"As I was saying, the mayor has his heart set on having one descendant from each of the original five founding fathers up on the platform to be honored and perhaps even speak about his or her ancestor. His administrative assistant--"
"Eloise," offered Blair. At Jim and Simon's raised eyebrows he added, "Give me a break, guys. She's like, sixty!"
"Ms. Farber has done extensive research and was able to come up with four direct descendants still living in Cascade. She was unable to locate a fifth." Simon finally picked up the folder and held it out. Sandburg, of course, was the one who reached for it.
"I want the two of you to track down these four people and, acting as ambassadors of good will for the mayor, ask them -- no, convince them -- to willingly participate in Cascade's Sesquicentennial celebration."
Blair looked intrigued. Jim looked mildly ill.
"Hold that thought, Detective. I'm not done. Since you will be performing such a nice, safe, city-friendly duty, I'm also having you chaperone a ride-along for the day: the daughter of Councilwoman Elder. The girl apparently wants to be a police officer when she grows up. She should be here any minute now."
Jim looked deathly ill. "Captain, you can't--"
"I can, I will, and I have. Maybe next time you'll remember to follow procedure, Detective Ellison."
"Yes, sir." Jim sighed, heavily and dramatically, prodding his partner with a none-too-gentle elbow in the back. Simon's most frustrating detective team exited the office, not quite slamming the door.
Popping the cigar back in his mouth, Simon finally allowed himself to grin. Until last night, he'd had no idea when he was going to find the time to track down those descendants, and the celebration was looming on the horizon. Councilwoman Elder had been hounding him for weeks to let her daughter ride along with a Major Crime detective pair. And, bless their frustrating souls, Ellison and Sandburg had given him a way to kill two birds with one stone.
It was good to be captain.
Jim tried to slam the door on his way out of Simon's office, but Blair slowed the door's momentum with a swipe of his boot. Thanks for nothing, Sandburg. Now he'd have to hurl a coffee mug or punch the wall or something.
"Hey," came Blair's voice, sounding all sugary. "How are you doing?"
"How am I doing?" Jim glared at his partner as he yanked the chair from behind his desk and flung himself into it. What kind of an idiotic question was that? "What kind of an idiotic question is that? We're stuck tracking down the descendants of people nobody cares about and catering to some whiney--"
"--mama's girl who--"
Something in Sandburg's voice made him look up. And over. Sitting huddled in his partner's office chair was a little girl, no more than ten or eleven years old. She was wearing a simple plaid jumper and knee socks, and had long blonde braids down to her waist. Big brown eyes stared at him from behind even bigger round glasses.
Jim stared back and tried to think of something comforting to say. "Hi, there," seemed safe.
"Hi, there," the girl said back. A tentative smile wavered somewhere in her expression.
Blair smiled and leaned against his desk, oozing kid-charm that he wasn't even aware he had. "You must be... uh..."
"Jeannie Marie Michaelson." She held out her hand and Blair solemnly shook it. "Are you Detective Elson and Detective Sanbug?"
Blair blushed ever so slightly as he glanced at Jim. "Well, actually it's Ellison and Sandburg, but you can call us Jim and Blair. I'm Blair."
Jeannie brightened considerably. "Okay. Most grownups call me Jeannie Marie, but I really just like Jeannie."
"Jeannie it is." Geez, Blair was already wrapped around her little finger and it wasn't even 9 a.m. yet.
Jim smiled half-heartedly. He had figured the girl would at least be older, that they wouldn't be stuck frickin' babysitting all day. Still, she seemed like an okay kid. What the hell, get the day over with, make Simon happy, and get back on the Bannerman case first thing in the morning. It was a plan.
"Well, kids," Jim sighed. "What do you say we take this show on the road?"
"Oh, boy!" Jeannie pulled on her parka and grabbed a brightly colored kid-sized backpack. "Where are we going?"
"We're going to go interview some people for the Sesquicentennial," Blair explained. "I'm sure you've heard all about the celebration next week."
"Oh, sure! I'm in the pageant -- our class is doing 1940 through 1980. And I wrote a report on the Sesquicentennial for school! Want to read it?"
"I'd love to." Blair actually seemed to mean it. "I used to be a teacher, you know."
Oh yeah, this was going to be just loads of fun. "Come on, Sanbug," Jim said as he led the way to the elevator
Barely allowing the elevator doors to open before he strode through, Jim aimed his long strides at the truck parked at the far side of the parking garage. Determined to get on the road and get their punishment over with as quickly as possible, he practically marched at doubletime until he heard a voice calling from behind.
"Jim! Hey, Jim, give a guy a break, will ya?" Blair called, pain evident in his voice.
Jim turned to see Blair limping as fast as he could and immediately stopped to wait, contrite.
"Sorry, Chief, I forgot about your leg. You need to take it easy on those stitches."
"Now he remembers," Blair groused as he caught up, Jeannie practically skipping along beside him. "You're not going anywhere without me, anyway."
Jim clenched his jaw when he realized he didn't have the keys; clearing his throat, he tried to act nonchalant.
"Why don't you let me drive? The burns aren't that bad. I hardly notice them at all."
"Forget it, Jim. The doctor specifically said no driving until your checkup in a few days." He pulled out the big guns. "Besides, I'd hate to see what Simon would do when he finds out that you broke proper procedures again by ignoring doctor's orders on the job."
Glaring down at his partner, Jim recognized the mischievous gleam behind Blair's stubborn expression.
"I've got the keys and I'm not giving them up. Let's go."
Ending the discussion by climbing in behind the wheel, Blair waited patiently as Jeannie and a not-so-patient Jim got in. After they secured their seat belts, Blair handed the folder to Jeannie.
"Okay, Jeannie, you can help Detective Ellison navigate to our destinations today. Why don't you hand him the first report in that folder, and we'll be on our way. Oh, and since we have a civilian along, we won't be responding to any police calls, so why don't you find us a nice radio station to listen to?"
As the newest hit from the hottest young boy band belted out of the speakers, Blair started up the truck and pulled out of the parking garage. Jim was in full glower, but Blair studiously avoided looking his way. Oh yeah, this was going to be a long day.
One of our founding fathers was a traveling salesman named James Smith. Everyone called him "Acre" because he let people buy stuff from him by giving him land in return. He had shipments brought in on the paddlewheelers, and then he drove them all over the Puget Sound region with his wagon and six horses. He let people pay with other things, too, like furs and guns. His family owned lots and lots of land, and they became land barons. From the 5th Grade Report Cascade's Founding Fathers
by Jeannie Marie Michaelson
Blair parked on the circular drive in front of the old mansion, behind a silver, late-model Toyota. Climbing out, Jim marveled at the old home, a left-over from days gone by. Apparently he wasn't the only one impressed.
"Cool!" enthused Jeannie. "Did you know that the Smith mansion is on Cascade's historic register? It's the only one that the owners haven't let the Historical Society in to photograph, or given them any old pictures of the home or its residents. Isn't that weird? You'd think that they'd be proud of such a neat old place."
"Maybe they value their privacy," Blair said diplomatically.
Jim looked at the old house and could imagine one reason why the Smith family had denied the Historical Society's requests. It didn't take enhanced senses to see that the paint was old and peeling, the floor of the porch was sloping, and the grounds were only marginally maintained. Despite its impressive size and hints of past grandeur, the current residents appeared to have fallen on hard times.
"I can't believe that I'm actually going to see the inside of it," the girl continued, oblivious to Jim's glare at her excitement for what he considered a time-wasting task.
Stepping up to the intricately carved front door, Blair gestured at the old-fashioned bell pull for Jeannie to have the honors. After two hard yanks, Jeannie stepped back. A deep tone, somewhere between a bell and a gong, echoed from inside.
After waiting several moments, she tried again. Again the gong sounded for each pull.
Just as Jim was about to try looking through the windows, he heard footsteps approaching.
"It's about time. Someone's coming."
The front door opened to reveal a blond young man, dressed in jeans and a Rainier sweatshirt.
"I'm Detective Ellison with the Cascade Police. May we speak with Evelyn Smith?"
"Is there some trouble, Detective?" the young man asked with concern.
"No, no," Blair asserted. He stepped in front of his less-than-enthusiastic partner and held out his hand. "I'm Detective Sandburg, but please call me Blair. That's Jim and this is Jeannie, who's riding with us for the day. No one's in any trouble, I promise."
"I'm Jason, Jason Smith," the young man said as he shook Blair's hand. "Evelyn Smith is my aunt. Please come in."
They followed the young man into the foyer, then farther into a sitting room. Although well-kept, all of the furniture and decorations were clearly from another era. Jeannie's eyes lit up and danced back and forth in excitement, checking out the room and its contents. They accepted seats on two facing sofas.
"You have a beautiful home. Do you live here with your aunt?" Blair began.
"Yes. Since my stepfather, her brother, passed away a couple of years ago, Aunt Evelyn is the only family I have left. I stay here and help take care of things for her, and I'm also attending Rainier part-time." He perched uneasily on a chair nearby. "So why do you want to talk with my aunt?"
While Jim sat, looking around with a disinterested expression, Blair began his spiel. He explained the mayor's plans for the Sesquicentennial and the part that they hoped Evelyn Smith would play.
"And since Ms. Smith is the only remaining descendant of Acre Smith, the mayor and the Sesquicentennial Committee would be honored if she would attend and participate in the celebration." He pulled out the official letter of invitation and handed it to Jason.
Jason leaned back in the chair and carefully read the letter. When he was finished, he folded and returned it to Blair. He studied his hands for a moment before looking up.
"Well, I'm not sure whether this would work out for my aunt."
Jim finally spoke up. "Can we speak with her about it? Is she ill or something?"
Jason obviously considered his words carefully before answering.
"Not exactly. She's...well, she's...different." He rubbed a hand over his face, then cast a concerned glance at Jeannie before continuing. "I can trust in your discretion, can't I?"
"Of course," Blair assured him.
"Scout's honor!" Jeannie replied earnestly.
"My aunt has always been a bit different, a bit isolated. She went to a private women's college and received a degree, but she's never worked. She's also never married and has lived here all of her life. Other than attending church, she's barely been out of the house in years. She values the family home and her privacy above all else. To be honest, she only tolerates my being here because it eliminates having strangers around doing chores and stuff, and she only lets me do so much. I've taken a couple of psychology classes and my guess is that she's mentally ill, but she's never been dangerous to herself or others, just...odd."
Blair nodded sympathetically. "Have you tried getting her some help?"
Jason smiled sadly. "Oh, yeah, but when I've had someone come to the house, she would make small talk but politely refuse anything more."
"So do you think she'll talk with us? The mayor would really like her to attend; she won't have to participate very much."
"Well, she might. She's very proud of the family heritage." Coming to a decision, Jason stood and gestured them toward the hallway. "You might as well give it a shot. She lives in the west wing. And I have to warn you, she doesn't let me clean or do anything in her wing, so it's... cluttered."
They followed Jason down a lengthy, wide hallway, admiring the antiques and old portraits on the walls. They turned to the left when the hallway split, and came to a closed set of double doors.
Jason drew a deep breath, then knocked.
"Aunt Evelyn, you have some visitors. May we come in?"
At a murmured response, he opened the door and led the way in. Despite his warning, the room inside was still something of a shock.
They were in a large sitting room, also furnished with antiques and old family portraits. It was hard to identify the furniture, however, because it appeared that every available surface was covered with... stuff.
Shelves hosted multitudes of bric-a-brac, with no obvious style of organization. Stacks of newspapers and magazines covered several square feet of the worn but still beautiful carpet. The dimly lit far corners of the room appeared to be heaped waist-high as well. The seats of several mismatched chairs were piled high with books, pieces of lace, clothes, and just about anything else one could imagine.
They entered slowly, following the path between furniture and piles. There were three cats in plain sight, lying lazily on different surfaces; the reflective yellow eyes of others stared from the shadows. As they walked across the dimly lit room, they could see an elderly woman seated next to a stained glass lamp working on something in her lap.
"Aunt Evelyn? These people are here to speak with you."
The woman looked up, setting down the tatting that she had been working on. She appeared to be in her 60's or 70's, with upswept silver hair held in place with gem-encrusted pins. Her black, lace-trimmed dress was obviously old but clean, and a beautiful string of pearls encircled her neck.
As there was nowhere to sit that wasn't buried under a stack of something, the four visitors stood in front of her.
Blair again took the lead by making introductions, then handing the woman the letter and explaining their mission for the mayor. She seemed disinterested until he talked about the emphasis on honoring Cascade's founding fathers, and the vital and respected place in history of the Smith family, Acre Smith in particular.
Evelyn Smith read through the letter again, then held it to her chest. Her eyes closed for a moment, then opened with a gleam that hadn't been there before. "Gentlemen, I'd be honored to represent the Smith family at Cascade's celebration. That's Acre Smith right there, you know, right over the fireplace. Quite a handsome man, wouldn't you say?"
She gestured at the dimly lit portrait over the mantle, then looked about as if just noticing her surroundings.
"Dear me, where are my manners? Jason, dear, get some chairs for our guests. And could you sit and have some tea with me? Jason, if you don't mind."
Just as Jim was about to decline her offer, Blair interrupted.
"Why yes, thank you, we'd love some tea."
Ignoring his partner's scowl, he and Jeannie loudly admired the portrait of Acre Smith, then listened with real interest as Evelyn proceeded to tell them about the other family portraits surrounding them.
Forty-five minutes later, they said their goodbyes and finally left the house, much to Jim's relief. He sneezed loudly into his handkerchief for the fifth or sixth time, complaining about the dust.
"Oh, come on, Jim. It didn't hurt us to spend a little time with a lonely old lady. And I learned a lot, didn't you, Jeannie?"
"Oh, yes! And I'm definitely planning to take her up on her offer to come back and visit. Maybe she'll let me bring a camera and a notebook next time."
"And I noticed that you were asking her almost as many questions as we were, Jim. Not as boring as you thought, huh?"
"I was just making polite conversation," Jim grumbled as the got back into the truck. "It was kinda creepy, if you ask me. All those cats, all that garbage... how can anybody live like that?"
"Maybe, if we come back and visit her, and develop a relationship, she might let us help her clean some of it out," Blair mused. "I'd like to try."
"Yeah, well, play social worker on your own time. Let's go. We've got more descendants to 'convince,' and the day's not getting any longer."
"Ahhh." Simon leaned back in his chair and savored the moment. The moment, the hour, hell, the entire day.
The vanilla creme de broulet coffee dripping behind him filled the office with a spectacular aroma, his cigar was one of a delightful hand-made brand he'd recently discovered from New Mexico, and, in what he considered a major coup, the mayor had called to congratulate him on getting Evelyn Smith to participate in the Sesquicentennial celebration. Apparently her nephew had just phoned his office accepting the official invitation -- proof that Ellison and Sandburg could carry out a simple duty without setting the city on fire. This, thought Simon with a touch of envy, is how captains supervising normal detectives must feel each day.
A loud knock interrupted his introspective self-congratulations.
The door opened a few inches and Rafe poked his head in. "You have a moment, sir?"
"Certainly." When Rafe didn't move, he added, "Don't be shy, Detective. I'm in a good mood today."
The rest of Rafe's body followed his head, but he remained standing just a few inches inside the door, his eyes wandering around the room as if looking for something. "That's good, sir."
For the first time, Simon's exuberant smile faltered. "You're going to ruin my good mood, aren't you?"
"Damn, I knew it couldn't last." Simon dropped his cigar into an ashtray and sighed. "Let me guess: it involves Ellison and Sandburg."
"We don't think so. Actually, we hope so. Actually, we--"
"Damnit, man, just spit it out!"
"Right. Well, there was a little girl sitting at Sandburg's desk, waiting for him and Ellison, but she seems to have, uh, disappeared. Sir."
Thank you, God. Simon relaxed and even chuckled. "Fear not, Detective. Ellison and Sandburg have her."
The look of relief that washed over Rafe's face was almost comical. "Oh, man. That's a load off my mind. Well, Brown's too. We figured they'd keep her here at the station, but no one had seen them."
"Why would they keep her here at the station?"
"Why wouldn't they? That's usually proper procedure."
Scowling, Simon grabbed his cigar back. "The whole point of having her ride along, Detective, is so that she can 'ride' 'along.'"
"Ride along?" Now Rafe looked thoroughly confused.
"What are we doing here, a recreation of one of those Police Academy movies? We are talking about Councilwoman Elder's daughter, aren't we?"
Rafe swallowed hard, and shook his head. "No, sir. We're... well, I'm talking about the little Michaelson girl. Eyewitness to a murder."
Stunned, Simon sat up sharply. He remembered seeing the girl when they left. "Cute little kid with blonde braids? Plaid jumper?"
"That's the one."
"Shit. They must have thought... Well, what the hell was she doing waiting for Ellison and Sandburg anyway?"
"Oh yeah." Rafe looked at the suddenly interesting floor and shifted his position. "H and I have been meaning to bring you up to speed on a few things...."
Simon halted him with a raised hand. "Don't move." He grabbed the phone and punched a few numbers. "I need Dispatch!" he barked into the receiver, remembering that Ellison and Sandburg's cellphones had been destroyed in the explosion. To Rafe he added, "Get your partner in here. You both have some fast explaining to do."
Reverend Willis C. Chatterly thought Cascade should be a real town, so he started a town directorate (a "directorate" is just like a council). He was the minister for the big Methodist church, and the directorate used to meet there every Thursday night. The directorate was made up of all five of our founding fathers. Everyone thought Reverend Chatterly was a good man, but people didn't like his sermons much because they were usually about three hours long. Raymond Crockett said once that "Dear Reverend Chatterly is one of the most aptly named men it has ever been my pleasure to meet." The big Methodist church was the only church in Cascade back then, and it's still there now, near the courthouse. From the 5th Grade Report Cascade's Founding Fathers
by Jeannie Marie Michaelson
Blair sipped his coffee while they waited for Jim, and enjoyed watching Jeannie as she practically inhaled her cinnamon cruller.
"I love strawberry jelly doughnuts best," Jeannie commented as she licked each of her fingers in turn, "but this was really good. I never had the twisty kind before."
"Well, don't tell Jim, but I kind of like the twisty kind myself."
After leaving the Smith home, Jim had insisted they go to a drive-through Dunkin' Donuts so he could get the taste of "all that tea" out of his mouth. Jeannie had pounced on the doughnuts even quicker than Jim.
Turning his head to look out the window, Blair watched the animated conversation between Jim and the landlady of the next person on the list, Morton Finnerman, great-, great-, etc., grandson of Willis Chatterly. "So what do you know about Reverend Chatterly, Jeannie?"
"Oh, he was a minister, and the founding fathers used to meet at his church. He was really fat, and he loved to talk and talk and talk and talk...." Jeannie's head tilted back and forth as she sing-songed the last words.
Blair watched as Jim carefully wrote something in his little notebook, a challenge with his bandaged hand. He said something else to the lady as she shut the door, then jogged back to the truck. Blair placed his coffee in the cup holder and prepared to get back on the road.
"Here." Jim handed him the ripped off part of his notebook page as he climbed back inside.
"The corner of Devost and Everly?" Blair shifted the truck and pulled away. "There are four corners there. Which building is it?"
Jim just shrugged. "She was reluctant to tell me anything. Hates cops for some reason, and I've got to admit, telling her the truth about why we wanted to find Finnerman certainly sounded lame, even to me. She said we'd know once we got there."
"So how'd you get her to give you the address?"
Jim looked slightly embarrassed as he glanced at Jeannie. "I sort of... suggested that her apartment building might be due for inspection. Looked to me like a place ripe for all sorts of violations."
"But wasn't that mean?" Jeannie asked, frowning.
Blair pulled lightly on one of her braids. "Jim won't really do it. We just needed the information, and sometimes people don't think police officers can be trusted, so we have to obfu... uh, bend the truth a little. You'll understand if you decide to become a cop."
"I don't want to be a cop," Jeannie stated absolutely as she reached for another cruller. "I want to be the city historian when I grow up."
Blair's eyebrows rose right along with Jim's.
"Geez, man," Blair laughed. "She's only been with us a couple of hours!"
"Well if I'd known I'd have to pull this kind of duty," Jim grumbled, "I wouldn't have wanted to be a cop either."
Blair parked in the only open space near the intersection of Devost and Everly, one of the nicer parts of Cascade's business district.
"Now let me do the talking this time, Chief. I don't want to end up chit-chatting for another hour and sipping questionable liquids."
"Hey man, knock yourself out." Blair peered through the windshield. "So which place do you suppose he works?"
A large medical office building hosting private physicians, optometrists, and dentists graced one corner; across the street was a parking garage; across the other street was a restaurant with unknown business offices in the upper floors; and on their right was a multi-level department store. A large woman with dreadlocks and a huge smile sold coffee and pretzels under a canopied metal cart, and a mime braved the cold weather across the street, hoping for a few coins to be tossed his way.
"Dentist?" Blair offered randomly.
"Parking garage attendant?"
"She said we'd know it when we saw it."
"Well it certainly isn't the pretzel vendor!" Blair laughed, then paused. "You don't suppose...."
"Don't even think it, Sandburg."
"Jim, it's got to be him."
Jim continued to look out the window and didn't answer. The mime was walking up an imaginary staircase while peeling an equally imaginary banana. Inevitably, the peel was carelessly dropped, and the mime slipped and tumbled back down the stairs, an exaggerated expression of surprise frozen on his face.
"Go on, Jim. You wanted to talk to him. You insisted, as I recall."
Jim turned to him, his expression one of absolute dread. "Come on, Chief, I can't talk to a mime!"
"Sure you can. You just talk. He'll answer. He might even answer in words, depending on how dedicated he is to the craft."
"Yeah, and what would you know about it?" Jim's tone was petulant as he turned back to watch the mime.
"I was a mime once. In New Orleans."
That got a smile from his partner. Well, a smirk, actually. "Right. You were a mime."
"I was! We spent a summer down south when I was fourteen. Naomi had taken up with a street musician and one of his friends taught me mime. I only performed for one week, but I made over six hundred bucks."
"Cool!" said Jeannie.
Jim just snorted. "Sandburg, you couldn't go five minutes without talking."
Blair smiled sweetly and flipped Jim the bird over Jeannie's head. "Come on, I'll go with you and 'translate.' You stay here, Jeannie, we'll just be over--"
"No!" The usually easy-going little girl clutched Blair's arm desperately as he started to open the door. "I want to go with you! I don't want to stay here alone."
"Okay, that's okay." Blair raised an eyebrow Jim's way.
"I could use the extra support, kid." It was Jim's turn to tweak a braid. "Afterwards, maybe stuffy old Sanbug will let us buy some pretzels."
"I've never had a street pretzel before!" The happy, eager Jeannie reappeared as she followed the men out of the truck.
The mime looked up expectantly as they approached. Thinking he had fans, his performance picked up momentum as he tried to pull a rope against the wind wearing, apparently, a big, floppy hat. Jeannie thought he was hysterical.
Blair leaned against the corner lamp post to watch the show. The Jim Show, that is.
"Excuse me, sir," Jim started, "I don't mean to interrupt your performance, but are you Morton Finnerman?"
The mime responded with a "who me?" gesture.
"Yes, sir, you. I'm Detective Ellison from the Cascade Police Department, and we -- my partner and I -- have been asked by the mayor to speak with you personally concerning the upcoming Sesquicentennial celebration."
The mime pretended to be shocked. Then he grinned and nodded vigorously. Jim sighed.
"I have here an official letter of invitation for you from the mayor. As a direct descendant of Reverend Willis C. Chatterly, he would..." Jim's voice trailed off. At the mention of Chatterly's name, the mime pulled the waistband of his pants out as far as it would go and strutted around like a giant penguin, his mouth pantomiming a constant stream of words. Jim turned to Blair in confusion.
"Chatterly was rather plump, according to Jeannie," Blair explained. "And he talked a lot."
"You really should read my report, Jim," Jeannie added.
"Hmm." Jim cleared his throat and valiantly turned back to Finnerman. "We really need an answer, sir."
Finnerman stopped his imitation of Chatterly and grabbed the letter Jim held out. As he read, he guffawed soundlessly, wiped invisible tears from his eyes using an oversized handkerchief, and clutched his chest.
"I laughed, I cried...." Blair translated with a grin.
"I know what he's doing, Sandburg," Jim snapped under his breath. "Will you be there, sir?"
The mime transformed suddenly into a businessman. He shrugged and pulled the lining out of his pockets with a sad expression on his face.
"Yeah, right." With cynical understanding, Jim pulled out his wallet and dropped a twenty-dollar bill in the performer's hat. The mime's expression didn't change. He pulled out the lining of two more pockets from lower down on the pants. Jim glared defiantly but proceeded to add another twenty on top of the first. Finnerman pouted. Two more inside-out pockets sprouted on the mime's striped shirt. This time Jim did hesitate.
"We need a 'yes,' Jim," Blair barely whispered. "And I'd bet on him having more pockets than you've got twenties."
"Oh, for the love of..." Jim reached into his wallet and this time removed two fifty-dollar bills. He dropped them into the hat.
"Wow!" Jeannie's eyes were wide behind her glasses.
"That's it," Jim directed at Finnerman. "You've almost cleaned me out. Now, can we count on you to be on the riser with the mayor at the ceremony?"
The mime clapped silently and nodded, then bowed graciously in Jim's direction. Jim did not seem impressed.
"And you'll phone the mayor's office as soon as possible?"
Again the vigorous nod. Immediately, the mime picked up an imaginary telephone receiver and punched several buttons, somehow sitting back in a nonexistent chair and crossing his legs.
"I mean using a real phone!" Jim all but shouted. The mime was surprised and fell right out of the chair, landing on the hard pavement. He rubbed his sore butt with an angry, rather un-mime-like expression, but nodded again.
"Good." Jim turned and, without looking at either of his companions, crossed the street to the pretzel vendor. The mime jumped back to his feet and mimicked Jim, marching in place while shouting imaginary silent orders at random pedestrians.
Blair dropped his own twenty into the hat.
Simon slammed down the phone and stormed out into the bullpen. Rafe and Brown were pacing nervously, jackets on, awaiting their orders.
"Dispatch has an APB out on Jim's truck; we can't get them on the radio and somehow they managed to get both of their cellphones destroyed in that meth lab explosion."
"What a surprise," mumbled Henri.
Simon ignored him. "The mayor's office is faxing us duplicates of the contents of the folder Ellison has. Now, I'm trusting you two to track Ellison and Sandburg down and get that Michaelson girl into protective custody. You're pretty sure she was spotted by the killers?"
Brown nodded. "We're sure."
"Once this is over," Simon's expression became stern, "you two and I are going to have a long talk about proper procedure."
Rafe raised his hands in petition. "Captain--"
"No." Crossing his arms over his chest, Simon glared at each man in turn. "You don't leave an eyewitness to a murder alone, even in a police station, especially when that witness is a minor. I don't care that Joel was here at the time -- you never explained her presence here to him, and he had to be in court at 8:30. There are no excuses."
"Yes, sir." Henri did 'meek' very well.
Simon let it go at that. He knew that they were already beating themselves up over the whole thing, and that they'd feel terrible if anything happened to the little girl. Or Ellison and Sandburg, for that matter.
A softly spoken "Captain?" announced Rhonda's presence as she appeared next to him with a stack of papers.
"Thank you," Simon said and, in turn, handed the pages to Rafe.
Brown shook his head as stood up. "The hard part, babe, will be figuring out whether they're using the Ellison method or the Sandburg method for approaching these people."
"Huh?" Rafe folded the pages lengthwise and tucked them into the inside pocket of his jacket.
"If Ellison's running things, they'll be doing them in the order they were listed in the folder. If Sandburg's choosing... well, he's probably got them organized by zodiac sign or biorhythms or something."
Simon almost smiled. "I'd bet on Ellison. For one thing, Sandburg's driving. For another, I know the first place they went to was Evelyn Smith's, and she was first on the list."
"Good luck," Simon called after them. "It'll be nice having someone else saving their butts for a change."
Ernest "Manny" Manning pounded a fist on his desk as he reviewed the books, a scowl growing on his face. The estimate of the weekly losses he'd suffer due to the explosion of his methamphetamine lab was painful to contemplate. Not to mention the damage to his best cashmere and wool coat as he escaped all but the edge of the explosion. He glared at the silent phone taunting him from the edge of the desk.
That punk Bannerman! That little wuss had led the police right to the lab, the idiot. If his uncle hadn't been one of the cartel's original partners before his heart attack, Bannerman would never have gotten a second glance from the cartel.
At least I spotted the girl, he mused. Staying in the burning building just long enough to ensure that the cartel's records were destroyed, he and the others had run out a side door and started for the street. The unsuspecting man who'd run into them never saw the bullets that cut him down. There'd been too much at stake to take a chance on any witnesses.
He'd spotted the other witness just as they'd exited the alley. There was a green Ford Taurus parked across the street, and a passenger in the back seat was staring directly at him as he stood beneath a street light. Manny had seen her clearly, and was certain that she'd seen him clearly as well. Furthermore, from the expression on her face, he knew she'd seen the murder. Police and fire personnel had arrived, so they hadn't had time to take care of her then, but he knew it was just a matter of time. If only he could have gotten the Ford's license plate number.
Bannerman had been right next to him and his description of the kid matched his own: a blonde-haired girl, maybe ten or twelve years old, with long braided hair and big round glasses.
Since Bannerman had seen her, too, and since he had led the trigger-happy cops to the lab in the first place, he got the task of finding her. He'd been waiting outside the Cascade PD, hoping to spot her coming or going. As a potential witness to a murder by a cartel member, Manny was certain she'd be taken to the central precinct, and he'd been right. Bannerman had called earlier on his cellphone, all excited. He'd spotted her leaving the police garage with those damned cops in an old blue and white Ford truck.
Barely taking the time to call in the report, Bannerman had quickly hung up in order to follow them, promising to call in their location once they reached a destination, probably a safe house. Not much later, Bannerman had called again, stuttering and stammering that he'd lost them in traffic. Manny had wanted to reach through the phone and strangle the little creep.
Bannerman promised to scour the city to find them, and that had been a few hours ago. Manny had called a few of his best men to stand by and wait for his call. He was planning to fully take advantage of the situation if he got the chance -- not only to eliminate the witness, but Ellison and Sandburg as well. Because of them, he had to find a new location and set up a new lab from scratch. Because of them, he'd lost a great deal of money. Killing three birds with one stone had such a nice ring to it.
The phone rang -- finally! -- and he snatched it up.
As he listened to the nervous voice on the other end, a smile slowly crept across his face. His own voice became low and threatening.
"Listen, Bannerman, you'd better not lose them this time, if you know what's good for you. Tell me where you are, then stay off the phone. Jacobs and Everly will call and meet you there. We don't have to wait until they arrive at the safe house; it will probably be well-protected anyway. We'll hit them on the run."
Manny scribbled their location and direction on the pad in front of him, then hung up in satisfaction. If Bannerman doesn't screw this one up, most of my problems could be taken care of very soon. He reached again for the phone.
Abraham Fisher was a crewman on the steamboat, The Beaver, which traveled throughout the Puget Sound at the time Cascade was founded. The sidewheeler was owned by the Hudson Bay Company, and was powered by the woodburning steam engine that Robert Fulton invented. The steamboats could go places that sailing ships could not go, so Fisher visited many settlements around the Sound. He married the daughter of a missionary, and they had many children. Even though he had a wife and family in Cascade, he also had "wives" and children in several other towns, including at least one Native American wife from a local tribe. His Native American family was not accepted by the growing Cascade society, and they called those children "half-breeds" because they were half white and half Indian. From the 5th Grade Report Cascade's Founding Fathers
by Jeannie Marie Michaelson
"This is great, Jim. I've been wanting to stop in here, but just hadn't gotten around to it yet. It's a co-op that sells items made by local Native American artists and craftsmen. One of their artists was even mentioned in 'Art in the Northwest' last year." Blair's eyes gleamed as he pulled the truck into the parking lot at the side of the building.
"We're on the job, Chief. Let's keep our focus, okay?" Jim reminded him.
They climbed out of the truck and walked around to the front of the building. The sign over the door read "Winds of Tradition," and a windsock with a design representing an orca whale rode happily on a light breeze. Colorful clothing and art pieces filled the display window.
"So he's supposed to be here this afternoon?"
"That's what his wife said. This afternoon is one of his regular shifts for the co-op, so he should be here unless he's on a break."
As they entered the shop, their presence was announced by the sound of tiny wind chimes. Subtle flute and drum music played in the background. A young woman looked up from the display of scarves she was arranging.
"Hello, I'm Maggie. Welcome. Can I help you find anything?"
Jim wasted no time in getting to the point.
"We're looking for Frank Fisher. Is he here?"
"He's in the back, talking with a distributor. They shouldn't be much longer. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"No, ma'am, we need to speak with Mr. Fisher personally. We'll wait." Jim glanced impatiently toward the back of the shop and wandered over to look at a selection of books on a nearby shelf.
Blair eagerly checked out the intricately carved and decorated masks that adorned a side wall, while Jeannie spotted a display case of jewelry and quickly headed in that direction. Browsing their way along the shelves, they ended up meeting at a display of dolls in native costumes.
"Look at these, Blair," Jeannie said as she picked up one of the more colorfully dressed figures. "I'd love to have one of these!"
"Well, you never know, Jeannie," Blair teased. "Maybe Santa will drop one in your Christmas stocking this year."
They continued to examine the dolls, Blair regaling Jeannie with his knowledge of some of the tribes that they represented, until Jim cleared his throat and called out.
"Mr. Fisher? Mr. Frank Fisher?"
Turning, Blair spotted Jim hailing a man entering the shop from a back hallway. He was Native American, with shoulder-length black hair, and was dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt advertising the store. Setting a folder of prints down on a countertop, he turned to answer.
"Yeah, I'm Frank Fisher. What can I do for you?"
Jim introduced himself and explained their mission as Blair and Jeannie joined them.
"So, you are formally invited by the mayor himself to attend the Sesquicentennial celebration as a representative of the Fisher family." He handed the letter to Fisher.
Fisher read the letter carefully, then looked into each of their faces.
"Okay, so what's the catch?"
"You know, what's the mayor want out of me?"
"Just what the letter says, to honor Cascade's founding fathers by honoring their descendants," Blair answered uncertainly. "Why would you think there's a catch?"
Fisher looked at him disdainfully. "No white man's ever spent any time honoring me, and my revered ancestor would be spinning in his grave to know that an Indian could represent the family in public. Am I supposed to be the token Indian?"
"No, you're one of the four descendants of the original founding fathers who still live in Cascade. All four are being invited," Jim explained patiently. "You are the only Native American, as far as I know."
"Huh! No kidding."
Jim continued with a sideways glance at Blair. "...and the mayor would very much like you to attend."
Fisher knelt down, opened a box, and began unloading music CDs.
"The mayor sure must be desperate. The citizens of Cascade never offered anything to my branch of the family but a boot on our backs."
Maggie joined the group.
"Frank, that's not really fair. We did get a grant from the City Arts Commission to help get this place going, remember."
"Perhaps times have changed, Mr. Fisher," Blair suggested. "This could be a great opportunity to point out the role of Native Americans in the founding, growth, and continuing prosperity of Cascade. Your family and this store are good examples of that."
Jeannie chimed in. "I'd really like to hear about the history of your family. I could use it for my next report for American History, and I bet I could get an article in the school paper, too. Maybe even a picture on the front page!"
Maggie smiled at her enthusiasm. "So what do you think, Frank? I think it's a great idea. Set that old man spinning in his grave!"
Frank re-read the letter, then met Maggie's eyes. A smirk slowly raised the corners of his mouth.
"You may have a point, Maggie. Tell you what, gentlemen...and lady," he said to a giggling Jeannie, "I'll think about it. I'll let the mayor's office know by the end of the week."
Jim extended his hand. "We hope you will decide to attend, Mr. Fisher." He waved Blair and Jeannie toward the front door. "Let's go, gang. We've got another stop yet."
Blair slowed long enough to shake the artist's hand as well, and Jeannie gave a little wave as she was ushered out the door, her eyes landing longingly one last time on the dolls.
Maggie was busy rearranging items beneath the counter when the door chimes rang again. Standing up, she brushed her dusty hands against the legs of her jeans.
"Hi, there. What can I do for you gentlemen today?"
The large African-American man in front pulled a badge from his jacket pocket and showed it to her.
"I'm Detective Brown, and this is my partner, Detective Rafe, with Cascade PD. We're wondering if some colleagues of ours stopped in here earlier. Detectives Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg?"
"I think so. Did they have a young girl with them?"
Rafe nodded in reply. "Yes, they did."
"That must have been them, then. I'm sorry, I didn't remember their names. They were in about a half hour ago. Is there some kind of trouble?"
"Why would you say that?"
"There was a guy in here just a little while ago asking about them, too. He said something was wrong with their radio. Unfortunately, they'd just left, and he asked if they'd mentioned where they were going." Maggie shrugged. "I told him no, though I did remember the tall one saying something about the WonderBurger at the turnoff onto Milestone Road. Then the man took off in a big hurry; I could hear the tires squeal as he drove away."
The two detectives made eye contact.
"Did you happen to see what he was driving?"
"No, I didn't. What's wrong?"
Detective Rafe pulled out a cellphone and walked a few steps away as he dialed, speaking softly into the receiver while Brown filled her in.
"Did you get a good look at him?"
"Sure, he was standing right where you are." Maggie suddenly understood. "He wasn't a police officer, was he? Are we in trouble?"
"No ma'am. The girl is a murder witness, and it's very important we find her."
Maggie stumbled back to sit clumsily on a tall stool behind her. "My God, that poor little girl!"
"We'll have an officer come and take your statement. Try writing down any details you can recall while you're waiting. Okay?"
"Of course. Anything I can do to help."
Rafe snapped the phone shut and slapped Brown on the shoulder as he headed for the door.
"Let's go. There's only one more place on that list. We've got to catch up with them before the bad guys do."
Rupert Ramsbotham was a sea captain who originally lived in Liverpool, England. He was very, very tall and strong, and his pictures look kind of scary. His business wasn't doing very well, so he decided he could make a lot of money by bringing goods from Europe, like fancy wines and clothes, and selling them in America. For reasons that no one understands, he decided to sail all the way around Florida and Texas and California and come up the coast to settle in Washington. A lot of the people in Cascade whispered that he was a pirate, and that he took the longer way so he could steal merchandise off of other ships. Once Captain Ramsbotham got to Cascade, though, he decided to give up sailing and live off of the money from the sale of the merchandise and his big ship. One night a group of robbers tried to steal his money and he killed all five of them with his bare hands. After that, Reverend Chatterly asked him to become Cascade's first full-time sheriff. From the 5th Grade Report Cascade's Founding Fathers
by Jeannie Marie Michaelson
The Winston-Dunsmore estate was enormous. The pristine lawn and landscaped gardens and hedges stretched out in all directions, looking more like a country club than a single man's home. The driveway leading up to the door of the white mansion was over a quarter of a mile long and looped around back onto itself, an elaborate stone fountain of leaping horses and a fleeing fox in the center of the loop.
"Totally awesome!" Jeannie said, summing up pretty much what Blair was feeling. "I wonder if they'll feed us some fancy food here like Mrs. Smith did."
"The kid has an appetite," Jim remarked as Blair parked in front of the door and they got out.
"I doubt they'll feed us anything. I've heard that Rolland Winston-Dunsmore is a real snob."
A large brass knocker graced the door, delicately etched with an English coat-of-arms: a lion and two swords. Blair felt like he should be wearing gloves to touch the thing, but taking a deep breath, he lifted the bar and whacked the lion two or three times.
The door opened almost immediately.
"Yes?" A man in a fancy suit -- a butler, Blair guessed -- stood in the slight crack of the open door. And damned if he didn't have an English accent. The man glanced disdainfully at the truck. "We require deliveries to be accomplished using the back drive."
"Uh, no..." Blair fumbled for his badge, "I'm Detective Blair Sandburg and this is my partner, Detective Jim Ellison. We'd like to speak with Mr. Winston-Dunsmore if he's available, please." Blair smiled his most endearing smile and bounced on his heels.
The butler was not impressed. "I shall see if the master can be disturbed." The door shut decidedly in his face and a soft snick announced that it had also been locked.
Blair puffed out his cheeks and mimicked the butler's accent, making the voice extra nasally. "I shall seeee if the master can be disturrrrrbed."
Jeannie giggled. "He was a butler, just like the one on Batman! I didn't know people really had butlers."
"Don't be too impressed, Jeannie," Jim said, absently patting her head. "People who have to have fancy houses and cars and servants are just trying to fill up the empty places inside."
Jeannie scrunched up her face. "Inside of what?"
Blair was disappointed when the door opened again. He wanted to know how Jim would've answered.
The Jeeves-wannabe had returned, opening the door wider this time. A good sign, Blair decided.
"You may have a five-minute audience with Mr. Winston-Dunsmore."
"Thank you." Blair forced sincerity into his response. "That should be plenty of time."
As he, Jim, and Jeannie started to move through the open doorway, Jeeves suddenly blocked their way. "The child must wait in the... truck."
Blair blinked. He must be kidding. And he spoke the word "child" as if it were a curse word. Before he could even respond, Jim stood tall and crossed his arms.
"The child stays with us. And we will speak with Mr. Winston-Dunsmore one way or the other."
The butler sighed. "One moment, please." The door slammed shut and locked again, this time in Jim's face, which was beginning to turn a dangerous shade of pink.
"It's okay, man," Blair grinned. "Just calm down. We'll talk to this guy and then we're done. Mission accomplished. Outta here."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. People like this just piss me off."
The door swung open. A tall, blonde curly-haired man with a ruddy complexion gripped the door with one hand, the other held a pipe. He was actually wearing a smoking jacket.
"Rolland Winston-Dunsmore, I presume?" Blair said.
The man glared down at him. "I am a busy man, gentlemen. You have three minutes to state your business before I shut this door and return to mine."
Geez, what an asshole. He must have been born with a silver spoon up his butt.
Jeannie piped up, her face all innocence. "Hey, you sound just like Mr. Howell from Gilligan's Island."
Blair choked back a laugh.
"Two minutes, thirty-seven seconds, gentlemen." Winston-Dunsmore's face was a shade ruddier.
Jim stepped in. "My apologies, sir. We are acting on behalf of the mayor's office to invite you to participate in Cascade's upcoming Sesquicentennial celebration." He took the letter of invitation Blair was still holding and handed it to Rolland.
"I decline." He handed the letter back to Jim without reading it and started to close the door.
"Sir," Jim said politely, "as a direct descendant of Rupert Ramsbotham, one of Cascade's five founding fathers, I would think you would be proud to stand in front of the city's residents and acknowledge your place in Cascade's history."
"Wrong." Winston-Dunsmore glared at each detective in turn, refusing to even acknowledge Jeannie's presence. "Rupert Ramsbotham was an immigrant. He was from the slums of Liverpool. He was a bully with a checkered past, and achieved what little prestige history might grace him with through violence and barbarism. I'll have no part of this."
"But... You're his relative!"
"Little girl," the man condescended, "I have four great-grandfathers, eight great-great-grandfathers, sixteen great-great-great grandfathers; as you cruise back in time through my genealogy, you will find sixty-three men offering me the same grandfatherly distinction as Rupert Ramsbotham, all of whom were more well-bred and well-mannered and better loved than he."
No one responded. What could they say to that?
"Now if you'll excuse me...." The door began to shut again.
Unless... "No problem," Blair called out with a friendly wave. "You were our first choice, but, well, we can go with Herman Lifschitz if we have to. He's already expressed an interest."
Jim blinked in surprise, but kept his mouth shut.
The door opened wider. Winston-Dunsmore's head poked out. "Who is Herman Lifschitz?"
"He's another direct descendant of Rupert's, from his third son. Owns a deli on South Main Street. Like I said, you were the mayor's first choice, but as long as we have a direct descendant up on the podium, well, the mayor will be happy."
Blair turned to leave, and following his lead, so did Jim.
"Wait." Winston-Dunsmore stepped outside. "Who else will be at this -- celebration -- representing the founding fathers' descendants?"
"Oh, let's see," Blair pretended to consider a moment. "Evelyn Smith. Of the Smith Estate. It's on the Historical Society's Register, so certainly you've heard of it."
"Certainly." He sounded doubtful.
"And one of Cascade's premier artists," Jim offered. "A Mr. Finnerman. He's currently showing downtown."
Blair ticked off a third finger on his hand. "And Mr. Fisher. He represents a family with a long and respected tradition of artists, collectors and dealers of fine art."
Winston-Dunsmore's teeth clenched tightly while he wrestled with his dilemma. "I shall have Louis call the mayor's office with my acceptance. I shall not be present during the musical portion of the program, nor during the fireworks, only during the ceremony honoring the ancestors. As long as that is understood."
"We'll make sure it's understood." Jim smiled politely and once again held out the letter. Winston-Dunsmore grabbed it with his thumb and forefinger and held it out as if it were a dirty diaper. Without another word, he slammed the door.
"Herman Lifschitz?" Jim thwacked Blair's forehead with the palm of his hand and headed off to the truck. He seemed anxious to get away.
Blair grinned back. "Considering what a frickin' prick this guy was, I figured he wouldn't want a Jew representing his family tree. Um, forget I said that," he added, blushing. He really needed to watch his language around their young ride-along.
Jeannie didn't even seem to notice. She was chewing her bottom lip and looking at the closed door with interest. "Was that another truth bending?"
"Yes, ma'am." Blair grinned. "Our specialty."
Jim couldn't get away from the guy fast enough. Winston-Dunsmore was an egotistical, closed-minded snob and reminded him far too much of some of his father's business partners from years ago. Thank God he had followed his heart and avoided the family business.
"Hey, man, I've still got the keys you know."
"Huh?" Startled, Jim looked up. Blair was standing a short distance away, glaring at him, tossing the truck keys from one hand to the other. Realization hit. In his preoccupied exit from the house, he had, out of force of habit, headed straight for the driver's door. Raising both hands in acquiescence, he retreated to the other side of the truck and leaned against the hood, waiting. He hated his status as passenger. Too bad Blair hadn't insisted they take the Mustang this morning. He actually enjoyed being a passenger in the sleek blue car.
Blair looked down at Jeannie. "Jim always likes to drive, Jeannie, but with his hands sore he's not supposed to. Which is a good thing because with him driving, we usually get into these long and dangerous car chases."
"And I'd be driving today, too, if I hadn't burned my hands saving your sorry as-- I mean, putting out the fire on your jacket after that explosion."
"Car chases and explosions?" Jeannie looked at Jim. "Cool." A growing sense of admiration gleamed from behind her glasses. He was beginning to like this kid.
"Come on, Sanbug. We've completed our 'special duty' for the mayor, so I say we go celebrate at WonderBurger with a nice lunch, then head back to the station to see if there's any news on Bannerman."
Before his partner could even protest, Jeannie made a little pumping motion with her arm as she looked happily up at Blair. "Yes! I love WonderBurger, and I'm really, really hungry! Can I get a Wonder Meal? You get a free puppy with each one. Not a real puppy, but little miniatures, like from the movie. I have three of them and there are two more I need to get the whole set." By the time she was finished, Jeannie had skipped her way into the truck and seated herself.
Jim smirked with satisfaction as he and Blair joined her in the truck.
"You know Jeannie," Blair said as he shifted from park and coasted slowly down the long, winding driveway, "you've had several cookies, a cup of cocoa, two crullers, a glass of orange juice, three pretzels with mustard, a large coke, and now you want a Wonder Meal? Your mom's never going to let you near a police station again."
Jeannie's happy smile faltered a bit. "It's okay," she said quietly. "My mom left us a long time ago. I live with Daddy, and he takes me to WonderBurger a lot."
Both men were stunned momentarily by the announcement.
"WonderBurger it is, then," Blair finally agreed. Tossing a confused look at Jim, he added softly, for Jim's ears only, "How could Elder get elected with something like abandonment on her resume? And why would she be arranging a ride-along for a child she didn't want in her life?"
"I think you're missing the point here, Chief." Jim had recognized the sad and betrayed look in Jeannie's eyes when she mentioned her mother. His stomach tightened for a moment, and he felt his face flushing.
Jeannie looked at each man in turn and shrugged, her smile returning. "It's okay. I love my dad a lot, and I don't even remember my mom. Not really."
Blair finally caught on. "Shit," he mumbled indiscriminately as he slowed the truck at the end of the drive and put it in park. "She's not... You don't know Councilwoman Elder, do you, Jeannie?"
"Sure I do! She's on the City Council. She and a bunch of the others came and watched us rehearse the pageant. The mayor was there, too!"
"I didn't even question her last name," Blair said under his breath. "I just assumed Councilwoman Elder had kept her maiden name. What was she doing in my chair then, Jim? God, I feel like a kidnapper."
"There's enough blame to go around, Chief." Jim touched Jeannie's shoulder, turning her attention his way. "Why were you at the station this morning?" he asked gently.
Jeannie's smile faltered again. "Detective Brown and Detective Riff said I should wait for you."
"But why were you with those detectives to begin with?"
The girl looked at his and Blair's anxious faces. Then she looked down at her lap and fiddled with the straps of her backpack. "I saw some men shoot Fireman Sully. I think he's dead."
No more information was offered. Jim was about to ask her another question, like who Fireman Sully was, when she looked up at him, her eyes eager and happy once again. "Can we go to WonderBurger now, please? I'm really, really, really hungry."
He recognized that look, too. Denial. Pretend it didn't matter. No big deal. This child needed some professional help ASAP.
"Sure, sweetie." At some point Jim had wrapped a comforting arm around the little girl's shoulders, but he didn't remember doing it. "Come on, Chief. You heard the lady. WonderBurger, ho!"
"Um... okay." Blair raised his eyebrows but complied.
"I think I'll check in," Jim said nonchalantly, reaching for the radio.
This time Blair nodded his understanding. "Brown and 'Riff' are probably worried sick by now."
"Will they be mad at me?" Jeannie frowned.
"No, no. Not at all," Blair assured her, but from the grimace he tossed Jim it was all too clear he realized that they weren't going to be so lucky.
The radio crackled and sputtered to life, the end of an APB just being announced. Jim pressed the button on the hand unit. "One-Zebra-One to Dispatch, patch me through to Captain Banks immediately."
A few moments later the radio really came to life. "Ellison! Sandburg! Where the hell are you?"
"Uh, Captain..." Jim smiled at Jeannie as he spoke into the radio, his voice breezy and calm. "We just became aware of our ride-along's status, sir, if you catch my drift. And you might choose your words a little more carefully. Sir."
There was a moment's pause from the other end. When Simon came back on, he used the same easy tone as Jim. "Roger that. So noted. We need you and Sandburg to return to the station ASAP."
"We're on our way, with just a quick stopover at WonderBurger for lunch."
"ASAP doesn't mean when you feel like it, Detective!" Yes, he and Sandburg were going to be delegated to desk duty and ride-alongs for a long, long time to come. A throat cleared on the radio and a calmer Simon prevailed. "You are perhaps unaware of several, uh, code 187 suspects heading your way. On purpose. If you catch my drift."
187 was the radio code for murder. Not good. The men Jeannie had seen murder the fireman must have seen her as well. And somehow they knew her location.
"No, sir, we..." Jim's voice trailed off as he extended his sight down the road ahead. Even though they were on a more remote, less-traveled road of the city, it was long and straight, and extremely well-maintained, no doubt due to its proximity to the Winston-Dunsmore estate and the site of the Sesquicentennial celebration ten miles beyond. Just at the edge of his Sentinel sight, Jim spotted three black sedans rapidly heading in their direction.
"Turn around," he said to Blair.
"Turn around?" Blair sounded incredulous. "Where, man?"
"Ellison!" roared the radio's speakers.
The road was somewhat narrow, edged by deep ditches and lined by thick stands of trees. "Back up. Turn around at Dunsmore's."
"What!" Blair was definitely incredulous. "Are you kidding me? Winston-Dunsmore's driveway is about a mile back by now!"
"Dammit, Chief, just do it! Three cars are coming this way."
"Okay, okay." All business now, Blair shifted immediately into reverse and accelerated, burning rubber as he looked intently back over his right shoulder. Jim's foot subconsciously pressed harder on his own imaginary accelerator and he wished, not for the first time, that he were driving. He finally replied to the shouts emanating from the radio.
"Sorry, Captain. The possible 187s are in sight. Immediate back-up would be appreciated." He gave their location and ended the call.
An excruciating two minutes later, Blair backed recklessly into Winston-Dunsmore's driveway, hit the brakes, then shifted immediately back into forward in one smooth motion. The tires spun momentarily on loose gravel before gripping the pavement. Blair whipped the steering wheel around to the right and sped back onto the road.
The black cars were only about a quarter of a mile away now and rapidly gaining. Jeannie clutched her backpack tightly to her body, but didn't say a word. Jim's arm was still around her shoulder, and he kept it there.
The sedans were closer now. The first gunshot pinged against the tailgate, the next one broke through the back windshield and out through Jim's window. He felt hot air brush against his neck as a bullet just missed him. Jim moved his hand to Jeannie's back and pushed her down until she was bent over the backpack. Her heart was pounding wildly and he heard a soft whimper.
Blair hunched down as best he could, the accelerator flush with the floor. He stayed in the middle of the road, not allowing the car behind to pass them. If they became sandwiched between two hostile cars, their chances were nil.
Satisfied that Jeannie was as safe as she could be for the moment, Jim clumsily pulled out his Sig-Sauer with the fingertips of his bandaged right hand. Transferring it to his left hand, he twisted around in the seat to return fire.
The road became curvy and gunshots on both sides decreased. The Ford took the curves on two wheels, and Jim was grateful each time they landed back on all four. Blair was mumbling some mantra over and over as he drove, his knuckles white. He'd probably have to use a crowbar to pry his partner's hands off the steering wheel when this was over.
Another gunshot ricocheted off the truck. As they turned onto a long stretch of straight road, Jim carefully aimed, waiting. The first black sedan rounded the corner and Jim fired, blowing the front passenger tire. The car swerved and spun, ending up on its side in a ditch. Unfortunately, the other cars managed to maneuver around. He had hoped to cause a three car pile-up, but no such luck.
"Shit!" Blair gasped. Jim turned his attention back to the road ahead. They were now at the site of the Sesquicentennial. An enormous field to their left had been cleared for parking, and the field to their right contained the temporary bandstand, risers, stage, and other necessities being erected for the celebration.
The road had been paved only as far as the end of the fields. Beyond that, the road narrowed by half and was littered with large embedded rocks and branches. The truck was bound to sustain some damage if they tried to continue.
"Turn right, Chief. The bandstand'll give us some cover."
Just as Blair turned the wheel to the right, the car behind returned Jim's favor. The Ford's right rear tire exploded and the truck careened over the uneven ground, out of control.
"Hang on!" Blair yelled unnecessarily as he desperately tried to maneuver, pumping the brake and twisting the steering wheel. No use. Jim covered Jeannie with his body and seconds later the truck crashed into the side of the wooden bandstand.
Raymond Crockett owned the biggest farm in all of Cascade and probably in all of Washington. When his sons were old enough to take over the farming, Mr. Crockett became Cascade's first mayor and was the leader of the other founding fathers. Unfortunately, his sons weren't as good at farming as he was, and he had to sell a lot of land to his best friend, Rupert Ramsbotham, to make money. In 1968, the Crockett farmhouse burned down and the little bit of land they still owned became the property of the city because of unpaid taxes. The City Council finally decided this year to have the farmhouse rebuilt just the way it used to be, and have it be an historical museum for the city. From the 5th Grade Report Cascade's Founding Fathers
by Jeannie Marie Michaelson
Simon strode urgently from the elevator to his car, the tail of his long coat flapping around his legs. He puffed anxiously on the cigar he had lit -- somewhat illegally -- on the elevator. No one was around to nag him, and he could smoke in his own car if he wanted to, politically correct or not.
What was it with Ellison and Sandburg? How could two men turn a simple assignment into another life and death struggle?
As he exited the garage and stopped before pulling out into traffic, he was astonished to find a vaguely familiar man running toward him on the sidewalk, waving his arms frantically and yelling.
Rolling down his window, Simon rested his right hand on the weapon at his side.
"Banks, right?" the man panted out.
"Yeah... and who are you? Wait, you're 'Sneaks,' right? Look, I'm in kind of a hur--"
"Hey, I just wanted to advise you, you know? Manny Manning is after Ellison!"
"No kidding!" Simon responded sarcastically. Sighing, he leaned over and unlocked his passenger door. "Get in, now. You can tell me all about it on the way."
Jim opened his eyes and tried to assess their situation. After everything that had happened, the stillness was unnerving.
Knowing the bad guys were right behind them was even more unnerving.
"Jeannie?" he asked softly as he sat up. Ouch! He'd wrenched his left shoulder in the crash. Reaching down with his good arm to gently help the little girl sit up from her bent-over position, Jim noted her pale face and rapid breathing. Poor kid was scared to death.
"I'm okay," she said, but she clung to his arm even after she sat up.
Blair's side had taken the brunt of the crash; his door wouldn't be opening anytime soon. Jim looked across the seat to his partner as he tested his own door, gently prying his arm out of Jeannie's intense grip. "Chief?"
"Still here, man." Blair looked shaken up. He had a slightly glazed look in his eyes and a bruise already forming on his forehead.
"That's good to know." Jim forced his door open then stepped out, positioning himself carefully around nails, bolts, and jagged wood exposed from the crash. They were almost completely enclosed beneath the collapsed platform. Definitely to their advantage. He also realized that if there'd been anything stronger than a heavy curtain covering the end of the bandstand, they most likely would have been killed or seriously injured.
Listening, he determined that the other two cars had stopped and the men -- seven of them -- were exiting their vehicles cautiously.
"Stay there a moment," he whispered over his shoulder. Peeking through a gap created by the damage, Jim watched as the men who had chased them hunkered down behind their open car doors. He guessed they were waiting to determine what his and Blair's next move would be, and how badly they may have been hurt. Sticking his gun between two of the damaged boards, he aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger.
A loud yelp. Bullseye. One of the men dropped, clutching the top of his shoulder. The other men immediately ducked lower behind their doors; a few returned fire.
Jim turned back to the truck. "Come on. We have to get out of here now."
"You got a plan?" Blair kept a reassuring hand on Jeannie's back as she scooted toward Jim. Jim grabbed her under the arms and swung her over the hood and down in front of the truck onto a clear area of dirt, grimacing slightly as his shoulder protested.
"Don't I always?" Jim started to turn away, leaving Blair to follow, and stopped. He smelled blood. Looking more closely, he saw a slowly expanding red stain on Blair's jeans, mid-thigh. "Shit, Chief. Your stitches?"
"Yeah." Blair shrugged. "At least I didn't pick up any new gaping wounds. I'll be fine."
"Riiight." Jim didn't have time to argue. He leaned in, grabbed Blair's arms, and helped him out. "Now that they know at least one of is alive and shooting, they'll stay put for a few moments. I figure we can make our way underneath, which should bring us close to the forest. Then we make a run for it. Think you can handle that?"
"Yeah, man. Just check every once in a while to make sure I'm still behind you."
Jim squeezed Blair's shoulder before taking Jeannie's hand.
"Roger, Dispatch. Have you heard anything from One-Zebra-One?" Rafe pounded his window with frustration as Henri pulled up next to the crashed sedan and stopped.
"Negative, Baker-Three-Nine. Not for the last few minutes. Approach with caution."
"Roger that, Dispatch. Do you have an ETA for the ambulance and fire units for the off-road vehicle?"
"Accident response is en route, ETA 10 minutes."
"Roger." Rafe hung up the microphone and glanced worriedly through the windshield ahead. "I hate having to stop for these scumbags when three innocent lives are still in danger. Damn the humanitarian part of this job."
Henri sighed and opened his door. "That's what separates us from the bad guys, babe."
Another set of two-by-fours, another not-quite soundless gasp of pain.
Jim sighed in frustration. Every six feet or so they had to step over the criss-crossing two-by-fours supporting the structure. The activity was obviously quite painful for his partner.
"What are they doing now?" Blair asked breathlessly, his voice strained.
Jim paused briefly to listen. "Well, they've figured out that we've left the truck. They wouldn't follow us in here because it would be too easy to pick them off, so they've split up..." he cocked his head, "... four to the right of us, three to the left, still about ten yards behind."
"Good. That's good."
"The construction vehicles and debris will make it harder for them to follow." Jim wasn't exactly certain why the contractors weren't working that day, but he was grateful. "If we keep a steady pace, we should reach the end before they do."
Blair nodded in the semi-darkness and pushed off the beam he'd been leaning against. "Let's get going, then."
A few steps later, the bandstand ended and the stage began. Because of the stage's much wider width, its support beams didn't cross, leaving a clear dirt path down the middle. To accommodate Blair, Jim had been maintaining a slightly slower pace than he would have liked, but now he felt it safe -- if not necessary -- to increase their pace.
"Are they gonna kill us?" The soft, small voice at his elbow came as a complete surprise. Jeannie hadn't spoken since the accident.
Jim squeezed her hand. "No, honey. Not if Sanbug and I can help it."
The suspects in the sedan had not been seriously injured, though one was trapped and the other slightly dazed from a head wound. Rafe and Brown had performed what first aid they could, applied handcuffs, and read them their rights. Wasting no more time, they had returned to the road.
Now Henri pulled over about 50 yards from the haphazardly parked black sedans. They'd been traveling Code 2 -- no siren -- since pulling onto the little-traveled Milestone Road, and the element of surprise was in their favor.
Pulling his weapon, Rafe exited the car and stood behind the shelter of the open door for a moment as he joined Henri in scanning the scene more thoroughly.
"Anything?" he whispered.
"No sign of life. From the looks of the truck, though, Ellison and Sandburg didn't come out here to do any sightseeing."
They slowly approached the sedans and checked them over. There was no one inside, and no one in sight. Still treading cautiously, they moved on to the truck.
A deep gouge in the earth, the flat rear tire, and the bullet holes in the glass told them that their colleagues had not stopped easily or voluntarily. As they came closer, they could only guess the speed at which the truck had rammed the bandstand.
The entire cab of the truck was beneath the partially fallen bandstand, the left side taking the brunt of the damage. Dented metal was buried in the side of the structure, and shattered and splintered wood was strewn around and on the bed of the truck. Rafe slid partway into the fold between where the floor of the bandstand met the side, and checked out the truck. The passenger door was hanging open, and as Rafe strained forward and peeked in, he saw that the cab was empty except for a backpack.
And broken glass.
And blood on the driver's side seat.
"Damn," Rafe swore softly, sliding back out. "Looks like at least Sandburg got hurt."
"Not badly enough that they couldn't move," Henri whispered back. "So they're being pursued on foot with at least one injured man. And if you couldn't even squeeze all the way through that hole, I doubt the bad guys followed them inside. They must be following along on the outside."
Rafe and Henri exchanged glances. "I'll go this way," Rafe said, nodding toward the forest side of the structure.
Henri checked the magazine on his gun. "Be careful," he said, and disappeared around the corner.
"I gotta tell you," Blair complained in between gasps, "the Academy's obstacle course is a sham, man."
Jim grinned as he slipped around another two-by-four, Jeannie holding tightly to the hem of his jacket. Following the length of the stage had been a breeze, but then the stage had ended and the "mayor's platform" had started. The platform was narrower than the bandstand and closer to the ground; the three fugitives had to resort to crawling under and around the platform's supports.
"Don't worry, Chief, this is the last leg of the journey." After the mayor's platform came a series of unattached "cook shacks" where hotdogs, popcorn, calzones, pizza, soda, hot cocoa and coffee, and other edible wares were to be sold by selected vendors. The shacks would provide a modicum of protection from one set of bad guys as they broke for the woods. Jim paused for a moment to focus his hearing outward, assessing the movement and position of their pursuers.
"Jim!" Blair whispered, almost too loudly. "You with us?"
"I said, where are they?"
"Two are still about ten yards behind, one on each side. No, one is actually coming closer, but the rest are farther away. They've spread out in case we don't go all the way to the end or we double back." Listening intently, Jim frowned. "There are two more of them now."
Blair grunted as he pulled himself up and over another two-by-four. "The two from the crashed sedan, or has the cavalry arrived?"
"I wish I knew."
His gun at the ready, Henri carefully sidled up to the edge of the bandstand and peered around the side. In addition to a pile of lumber, another pile of scraps, and a backhoe, he could spot an armed man about twenty feet away looking in the opposite direction.
He took a deep breath, bent over, and began running for the silent backhoe, the nearest source of cover. He reached the machine and peered around the cab to check his target, who was still looking away. Another deep breath, another dash ahead, and Henri found himself close, crouched behind a pile of scrap just a few feet away.
Picking out a section of two-by-four, he transferred his gun to his left hand while hefting the piece of wood in his right. He waited until the man was focused on lighting a cigarette, then stood and quietly approached.
Tapping him gently on the shoulder, Henri quietly spoke.
"Hey, mister, got a light?"
The man turned, dropped his cigarette, and pulled out his gun in one fluid motion. Henri swung the two-by-four, thwacking the gun out of his hand, then followed through with a knock-out punch to the jaw. The man grunted quietly as he slid into unconsciousness.
Henri quickly cuffed the man's hands behind his back and dragged him behind the pile of scrap. He stopped a moment to make sure that his captive was still breathing, then resumed the hunt.
Rafe watched and waited. The man he was observing was clearly nervous, pacing back and forth, every once in a while stopping and staring ahead toward the end of the wooden structures.
He'd slowly and carefully made his way closer, and was now hiding behind a portable toilet as he considered his plan. Not knowing how many men were still pursuing Ellison, Sandburg, and the girl, he tried to control his impatience as he figured out how to eliminate this guy from the game.
He spotted a large rock on the ground nearby and an idea glimmered to life. Rafe picked up the stone, hefted it for a moment to measure its weight, and heaved it toward the forest's edge. When it landed with a thud, his prey spun and pointed his gun toward the sound.
Rafe slipped up behind the guy and poked the barrel of his gun against his neck, right at the base of his skull.
"Hey, pal," he whispered. "Drop your gun and don't say a word. I'd hate to have to shoot you in the spine."
The man froze and dropped his gun obediently.
"Good boy. Now we're going to walk over to that portajohn and you're gonna stop right in front of the door."
They moved slowly and stopped in front of the toilet door. Rafe pulled out his cuffs and fastened the man's hands behind him, threading the cuffs through his belt, then opened the door. Holding his breath as the chemical waste smell drifted out, he pushed the man down onto the seat.
"You just stay here and keep quiet, or you're gonna die on the john. Don't make me do it. I'll get someone here to rescue you soon."
Grabbing a partial roll of toilet paper from a shelf, he stuffed it into the man's mouth and patted him on the cheek.
"Behave yourself, Jack."
Rafe closed the door and looked around until he spotted a likely piece of lumber. Digging a bit of a trench in the damp, muddy ground, he propped one end of the wood in the trench and the other end against the toilet door, then tested its strength. Satisfied, he pulled his gun back out and continued his silent pursuit.
"Shit," said Blair, too tired to care about watching his language. "What now?"
Jim considered. They'd reached the end of the mayor's platform and were now peeking out through the heavy curtain that hung there. One lone gunman paced between the structure and the forest, waiting to see if his prey exited their wooden tunnel. The bad guys weren't as dumb as they'd hoped. Unfortunately, Jim couldn't just shoot the guy because the others would be on them before they'd gone two feet.
"Here's what we'll do," Jim decided, adding a fresh magazine to his gun. "When the guy paces away from us again, you take Jeannie and hightail it for the woods. As soon he spots you, I'll take him out. You should make the treeline before the others show up."
Blair leaned back against a beam and glared at him. "Man, we have got to do something about this hero complex of yours."
"We don't have all day to discuss this, Chief."
"No kidding. Jim, in case it's escaped your notice, I'm in serious pain here. I couldn't go two seconds on a slow-paced Nordic Track without collapsing. If anyone's going to stay behind to provide cover fire, it should be me."
Jim opened his mouth to nix that alternative, but Blair beat him to it.
"But since I don't have the same penchant for self-destruction that you seem to, I offer that as the absolutely final, completely last choice on my list of choices."
Secretly, Jim was relieved on both counts. But that still didn't help their situation any. "Okay, Einstein, dazzle me with a better idea."
Blair blinked. "Uh, I'm working on it."
Jeannie leaned forward from her position next to Jim and whispered, "Why can't we hide in the root cellar?"
Looking around to try and locate any additional baddies as he left the cover of the scrap pile, Henri moved stealthily toward one of the few trees in the area. Reaching the old, spreading oak, he stopped and leaned against it for a moment, trying to catch his breath. Maybe Sandburg had the right idea about eating more healthy foods and taking off a few pounds. Whether it was his ample waistline or just the tension of the situation, he was panting more than he should be.
He spotted his next target edging along the construction for the stage. The stocky man seemed to be trying to search underneath, looking for and peering through any small gaps between boards and posts.
He was so occupied with his efforts that he didn't even hear Henri sneak up behind him until it was too late. He turned and found himself with a face full of handgun.
"Surprise!" Henri grinned, speaking softly. "Cascade PD. I'll take that."
He relieved his captive of the gun and held a finger to his lips for silence, gesturing the man toward the oak. Pulling some plasticuffs from his rear pocket, he found an accessible branch and secured the man with his arms trapped overhead. A search of the man's pockets netted, among other things, a handkerchief. Henry grinned and gagged the man swiftly and efficiently.
With one last glance, he moved on.
Rafe crouched low as he moved to another pile of scrap, then a small utility trailer. Not spotting any movement ahead of him, he was just about to step out from its shadow when he heard a voice that froze him in place.
"Damn cops! When I catch up with them, they're gonna pay for this. Maybe shoot a kneecap or two before I kill them."
Ducking lower, Rafe stared in the direction of the sound. Looking closely, he could just spot the top of someone's head on the other side of a stack of lumber.
He watched for a couple of moments as the man groused about his sore shoulder, apparently having been shot by Ellison or Sandburg, but he never looked up or around. Rafe walked quietly to the stack of wood and edged around behind him.
The man had his jacket off, and Rafe could easily see the crimson stain on the top of the left shoulder of his previously white shirt. There wasn't a lot of blood, and the man was moving his arm freely as he complained, so the wound couldn't have been too bad. Rafe felt no stirrings of compassion as he eased up behind him and raised his weapon.
"Cascade PD. Hold it right there. Raise your hands, slowly, above your head. Do it now."
The injured crook raised only his right hand, replying in a whiny, irritating voice.
"I can't raise my other hand, I'm shot."
"Winged, more likely," Rafe responded coldly, aiming his weapon "Turn around, slowly. Try anything and I'll shoot you in the other shoulder and work my way down."
A soft thud sounded as a gun hit the damp ground, and the man turned around to face Rafe.
"All right! All right, let's not get nervous here."
Rafe gestured with his gun, directing the man toward the small utility trailer. Passing one end of the plasticuffs through a handle, he cuffed the man with his back to the trailer doors and warned him to be silent. Worrying about the time it was taking him to reconnoiter his side of the stands, he jogged off in search of Ellison, Sandburg, and his partner, not necessarily in that order.
"A root cellar?" Jim repeated. He worried about the little girl's emotional well-being.
"A root cellar!" Blair slowly smiled. Jim worried about his partner's blood loss.
Jeannie nodded vigorously. "Raymond Crockett owned this land, for acres and acres and acres. His farmhouse was right here, on this field. That's why the city is having the Sesquicentennial celebration here."
Jim nodded, trying to follow her words and concentrate on the movements of the men outside as well. He remembered learning about the Crockett family in school and the hard times they'd suffered. Bitter, most of the family had moved away. It was no wonder Eloise Farber in the mayor's office couldn't track down a Crockett descendant.
Jim's attention returned to the present with Jeannie's next words.
"See, Jim? The bandstand and other things were built right where the farmhouse used to be, and the farmhouse had one of the biggest root cellars in all of Cascade. Plus, there were two ways to get into it -- one from the inside and one from the outside."
"You're sure about this, Jeannie?" Jim asked softly.
Again the vigorous nod. "Yup!" she whispered back, her eyes excited once again as she immersed herself in her favorite subject. "There were these mean fur traders from Canada who invaded the farmhouse one night when Raymond was gone, and Lydia Crockett and their kids went into the root cellar from inside the house and exited outdoors somewhere. They ran into the woods and hid until help came."
"Jim," Blair said, sitting up straighter. "Test the ground. You can tell if it's hollow underneath."
That's me, Jim thought, a human sonogram. Nonetheless, he pounded the ground with his fist as silently as he could, and concentrated on the vibrations. Sure enough, it felt... hollow somehow. Now to figure out if one of the entrances to the root cellar was in the immediate vicinity....
He scanned the area. Nothing. The bandstand, stage, and platform were not actually in a straight line, but created more of a crescent, so he could only extend his vision back to where the stage started. Again, nothing.
"Stay here," Jim sighed. He crawled back beneath the platform and paused when he reached the area under the stage. His eyes wandered over the tufts of grass and dirt, not even certain what he was looking for. Wait. There. A tiny glint of metal -- yellow metal, not a nail -- teased him from the corner near the bandstand. Jim focused tighter and saw a small brass ring and the barest hint of a square behind it. Way to go, Jeannie.
He motioned for Blair and Jeannie to join him. His partner must be dreading crawling through the maze of two-by-fours again. Blair grinned cheekily in his direction, the little bastard, knowing he was being observed.
Jeannie was through in no time, scrambling like a rabbit, her fear replaced by the excitement of hiding in the Crockett's root cellar just like Lydia and her children had so long ago. The incentive of safety was powerful, and before long, he was helping Blair to his feet, too.
Wordlessly, they inspected the old trap door and took several minutes to scrape dirt and grass away from the edges using Blair's jackknife. Jim grabbed the brass ring and pulled hard, hoping that the wood hadn't rotted. Two sharp tugs and the door swung open with a metallic creak, thudding against a wooden support. Finger to his lips, Jim checked to see if the men outside had heard anything. None of the men headed in their direction.
Blair removed something from his pocket and handed it to Jim. A penlight. More than enough for a Sentinel.
"I'll check it out, then you lift Jeannie and drop her down to me."
Blair nodded and Jim disappeared down the hole.
"Hey, General, can I use the radio? Call us in or something?"
"It's Captain Banks to you, and don't touch that radio again if you wanna keep that hand."
Sneaks slumped back in his seat, temporarily discouraged, but bounced back quickly.
"So, where are we going?"
Simon glared at him for a moment, then grabbed the radio microphone and barked into it.
"Banks to Dispatch."
"What's the twenty on Baker-Three-Nine?"
"Last known twenty was outbound on Milestone Road, toward the Sequicentennial site. Fire and ambulance units have also being dispatched to Milestone on Baker-Three-Nine's report of a disabled vehicle in the ditch."
"Roger, Dispatch. Responding to that location. Banks out."
Hanging up the microphone, Simon pressed down on the accelerator, mumbling the names of street signs as they passed: "Maplecrest... Elmwood...."
"Take Ridgeway, that's the next right. There's a back way over to Milestone, I'll show ya. Turn here, turn here!" Sneaks gestured wildly as Simon slammed on the brakes to make the turn.
"You'd better be right, or Ellison is going to be short one snitch real soon."
Sneaks just grinned and leaned forward in his seat.
"Cool," said Jeannie, looking slightly odd as her glasses reflected the tiny flashlight beam around the old dirt room. She wrinkled her nose. "Ewww, it stinks."
Jim certainly agreed with that. The air was dank and musty, and it was all he could do not to sneeze.
"Come on, Sandburg, your turn."
Jim watched as two legs appeared from above, followed by a torso and two extended arms. A mantra of "this won't hurt this won't hurt who am I kidding this is gonna hurt like hell" floated down. He braced himself.
The hands let go. The body fell with a resounding thump and Jim grabbed him awkwardly with his bandaged hands before he could collapse to the dirt floor. Blair grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. "Ow ow ow ow ow." Once he was steady on his feet, Jim let go.
"Here." Blair handed him something small, square, and white.
Dental floss? Jim looked at it. The line of floss extended back up and out of the hole in the ceiling. "Good thinking, Chief." Jim tugged and the trap door closed with an almost silent "thunk."
Blair opened one eye and looked around. "Wow, this is huge!"
Jim guessed they were in the part of the root cellar that had extended beyond the house itself and out beneath the yard. It was a big empty dirt room with simple wooden supports. Reaching down, he took Jeannie's hand and led the way forward to the part of the root cellar beneath the old foundation. Even thirty-three years later, a faint odor of smoke still clung to the beams and the dirt.
Here there were old wooden crates scattered about, many of them open and still partially filled with the sand that had surrounded the vegetables, keeping them dry and free from rot. If their pursuers did eventually reach them in the cellar, at least the crates would provide some cover.
"Are these boxes?" Blair asked softly, feeling around in the dark. Jim shone the little flashlight toward him, and Blair sank gratefully down on the nearest covered crate. "Thanks, man."
That's one taken care of. For now anyway. Grabbing Jeannie's hand, Jim led her to a corner by the archway leading back into the empty room. "You stay here, Jeannie, okay? Until the other policemen arrive."
Jeannie nodded, the fear in her eyes returning as Jim stacked crates around her. His shoulder was beginning to hurt like hell and the crates were not light. The burns on his hands were beginning to throb as well. He was beginning to wish Simon had just suspended the two of them. At least then they'd be home with beer, popcorn, and basketball.
"Hey!" Blair shouted, then yelped in pain as a crate crashed over.
Jim whipped his head around. A bright beam of light had split the darkness and impaled his partner, who was desperately scrabbling backwards and trying to grab for his gun at the same time.
~BOOM!~ A bullet hit the dirt just above Blair's head.
Jim grabbed for his gun, but the renewed pain in his hands coupled with shoulder spasms made maintaining a grip all but impossible. Desperate, he ripped at the bandages on his hands with his teeth, hoping to have better luck with his fingers free.
Blair had scrambled backwards behind some fallen crates. He had his gun in his hand, but from the way he was squinting it was obvious he was still partially blinded from having the beam shined in his face.
Suddenly, that same beam swung directly onto Jim, hurting his eyes. He had nowhere to hide. Raising his hands in surrender, he hoped that Blair could take the guy out. Shit. He could hear three heartbeats in addition to their own. They didn't stand a chance.
A gun fired. Jim braced himself instinctively, then realized Blair had fired the shot. It had to be almost impossible to aim from his position behind the crates, but the flashlight jerked back and away. Unfortunately it returned just as quickly, still shining its beam directly on Jim.
"Throw out your gun now or we shoot your partner."
"No, Sandburg," Jim growled. Blair looked distraught. Another ~BOOM!~ and Jim flinched involuntarily as a bullet whooshed past his head.
"All right!" Blair closed his eyes and whispered, sentinel-soft, "Sorry, Jim." He tossed his gun over the crates.
The flashlight lowered, and once it was out of his face, Jim could see much more clearly. An open square in the ceiling behind the intruders showed how they'd gotten in and helped to further illuminate the room. "Manny Manning," he said, recognizing the man in the pristine suit. A cowering Bannerman stood next to him, holding a shaking gun, and a tough guy whom Jim didn't recognize stood on the other side with a gun and flashlight. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Tell your partner to join you."
"That's up to him." Jim's eyes never wavered from the guy with the flashlight. Manning wasn't carrying a gun and Bannerman probably couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if he were standing right in front of it. The tough guy was the one to watch out for.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." Blair levered himself into a standing position and took a good look at the three men. "I've injured my leg, so give me a minute."
Jim raised his eyebrows. It wasn't like Blair to whine in front of the enemy.
"The girl, too," said Manning.
"Sorry." Jim raised his hands palms up and shrugged. "We hid her somewhere else."
"Not likely." Manny grinned like a shark. "Little girl! Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
Stay put, Jeannie, Jim begged silently.
Blair shuffled toward Jim with an exaggerated limp and suddenly fell forward, pushing a tall stack of crates. Bannerman fell, crying out as two crates hit him square on. Manning had to bounce out of the way, rage exploding across his face. Unfortunately, the tough guy was unaffected. The stack above him teetered, but never fell. He raised the gun and aimed the flashlight in their direction once again.
"Shit," Blair whispered as all the blood drained from his face. Jim felt helpless and his hands balled into fists at his side.
When the shot sounded, it was the tough guy who yelled out and fell back, dropping his gun and his flashlight. Manning reached for the gun but a voice behind him caused him to reconsider.
"Cascade PD. I wouldn't if I were you, babe."
Blinking away the after effects of the flashlight beam, Jim could just make out the large form of Henri Brown, grinning, a gun aimed at Manning's head.
Henri appeared to have things well in hand, so Jim lowered his hands and turned around. Rafe stood there, the acrid smell of cordite revealing that it was his gun that had fired. "Hey, Ellison. Need a little help?"
"Yeah. Thanks. How'd you find us? Down here, I mean?"
"Heard the gunshots, then followed the trail of blood under the stage Sandburg conveniently left for me."
Blair had already slid back down to sit on the floor. He waved a hand tiredly in Rafe's direction. "Glad I could be of service."
"And I just followed this little weasel." Henri motioned toward Manning, ignoring Bannerman writhing on the floor and complaining about a broken back. "Hey Ellison, toss me your cuffs."
Jim complied as Rafe stepped past him to help make the arrests.
"He killed Sully."
Jeannie had crawled out of her hiding place and was staring wide-eyed at Manning. Jim tried to step into her line of sight, but she just stepped around him. "He killed Sully. He killed Sully!"
Jim knelt down and gathered her into his arms. "It's okay, Jeannie. It's okay. Let it out."
"Why?" She was screaming now, tears running down her cheeks. "Why did you kill Sully? Why did you kill him?" She buried her face into Jim's jacket as the dam broke. Jim rocked her gently until she was all cried out.
"Holy geez!" Sneaks exclaimed as the Sesquicentennial site came into view.
"You're in deep shit with me, mister, so I suggest you keep your mouth shut and stay out of my sight."
Silently, though, Simon agreed. The place looked like a giant advertisement for Matchbox cars. Bulldozers, cranes, trucks, sedans, ambulances, fire trucks, rescue vehicles, patrol cars, and miscellaneous flashing unmarked cars were positioned haphazardly all over the field. Knowing exactly where his best team was likely to be, Simon flashed his badge at the patrolman directing what little traffic there was and drove straight across the grass to the ambulance.
Sure enough, Ellison was standing and explaining something in great detail to a patrolman taking notes. New bandages were wrapped around his hands and he now wore a sling for his left arm. Sandburg was sitting in the back of the ambulance getting his leg wrapped with a pressure bandage and sporting a large bruise on his forehead. Both looked like hell.
"Impeccable timing as always, sir," Ellison greeted him.
"Yeah, thank your friend's 'shortcut' for that," Simon grumbled.
"Hey, Simon," Blair grinned as the paramedic finished tying off the bandage.
"Let me know when you guys are ready to transport," the paramedic said tiredly, looking mostly at Jim. Jim nodded and the guy moved away.
Simon grinned and chomped down on his cigar. "So, I hear Rafe and Brown saved your hides from Manning and his gang."
"Well, I don't know if they exactly saved our--"
"Oh yeah, we'd've been dead without them," Sandburg said, tossing Ellison a dirty look. "Don't worry, Jim, you're still Jeannie's hero."
"How is the kid?"
"She's fine, sir." Jim adjusted his arm in the sling. "At least she will be. Someone from Children's Services came and she took her to meet her father at the hospital."
"Was she hurt?"
"No, we just wanted her to get checked out, considering everything she's been through today. And she'll need some counseling. She finally broke down and cried about the fireman's death, which is a start in the right direction."
"You hear that?" Sandburg cocked his head as he pulled two lollipops out of his coat pocket. He handed one to Ellison.
"Yeah." Ellison looked around.
"Pssst." Louder this time.
"Captain," Ellison pointed out, "your car is leaking."
Simon sighed. "I almost forgot. A friend of yours came with me."
"Is it safe?" A whispered voice floated to the ambulance.
"Sounds familiar," said Blair. He sucked thoughtfully on the lollipop.
Jim crossed his arms and addressed Simon's car. "The bad guys are gone, Sneaks. It's okay to come out."
"Sneaks?" Sandburg looked down at his blood and mud covered sneakers.
The man in question peeked out over the dash and then, bolder, poked his head out the door. "Hey, Jim, good to see you all in one piece. Him, too." An elbow pointed at Blair.
"Don't tell me, Captain," said Ellison with an unusually smug smile on his face, "that you answered a call with a civilian in your car."
"A civilian who wouldn't know a shortcut from a--"
"And I bet," continued Blair, warming to the theme, "that you just left the station to come after us, without leaving someone properly in charge. I know that Joel's in court all day."
"Well, after I was--"
"You really have to learn how to follow proper procedure, Captain." Jim opened his lollipop and popped it into his mouth. "You're setting a bad example for your men."
"Hey, what took you so long, anyway?" Blair asked, lollipop held in mid-air. Rafe and H said you were only about ten minutes behind them."
Simon glared at a cowering Sneaks. "Your 'friend' led us on a lovely sight-seeing tour of Cascade's dead end roads."
Sneaks held up his hands in denial. "Whoa, there, General. How was I supposed to know they closed down Fuller's Crossing? I haven't been out this way in a mighty long time."
"Why would you come out here?" Jim asked.
"I played here as a kid, before the place burned. Used to belong to my great uncle, Horace Crockett."
Simon's mouth hung open.
Blair blinked and raised his eyebrows.
Jim cleared his throat. "Raymond Crockett was a relative of yours?"
"Yeah. A great-some-odd uncle, or some such thing. That's what my mum told me." Sneaks shrugged. "We don't talk about it too much."
Jim stood slowly and clasped both of Sneaks shoulders. "Sneaks, my friend, how would you like your choice of any pair of shoes from the mayor's closet...?"
Give me your heart
Make it real
Or just forget about it...
"This is great, man!" Blair yelled over the music, bouncing enthusiastically to the beat. Jim grinned back, clapping in sync with the rest of the audience. Santana, live. Who knew the City Council had such great taste?
The Sesquicentennial celebration had been wonderful and trouble free from start to finish. Jeannie might not be the next Meryl Streep, but she was flawless in her role as the young Eva Marshall, Cascade's only woman mayor to date. Earlier in the week she had also performed flawlessly, testifying at Manning's inquest, the Native American doll Jim had bought her ("I happened to be going by the store...") clutched in her arms the whole time. Manning and seven other men had been held over for trial, no bail.
The mayor's Honoring of Descendants was worth all the trouble he and Sandburg had gone through. Emily Smith was fairly bursting with pride on the stage. Frank Fisher had a chance to speak of his heritage with dignity and honor -- Jim guessed that Maggie had written the speech, since it was void of the bitterness that might have lost him the crowd's support. He received a standing ovation. Sneaks just stood there proudly in his Goodwill green plaid sports coat, brown pants, and new Italian loafers worth over $300. Morton Finnerman received enthusiastic applause for his invisible-box-filling-with water routine. And finally, Rolland Winston-Dunsmore sat in his chair of honor like the stuffed prig that he was, stiff as a wooden statue, steam all but shooting out of his ears at having to share the stage with commoners. Jim found that oddly satisfying.
The day got better. Simon informed them that Rafe and Brown would now be pulling babysitting duty with Councilwoman Elder's daughter, since they had ignored proper procedure with Jeannie. He and Sandburg were back on regular duty come Monday.
"Hey, Ellison," Brown yelled in his ear. Jim turned to him and raised his eyebrows. Brown pointed to a beautiful young woman in her early twenties, with long black hair, beautiful skin, great body, legs all the way up to....
"You dog, H. You're married!"
"Don't I know it!" Brown shrugged then grinned. "But duty calls, my man."
At Jim's confused look, Brown whacked him on the back. "That, Ellison, is Councilwoman Elder's daughter. Clarice!" He laughed and danced himself back to wherever he'd come from.
Jim sighed and then smiled. H and Rafe could have Clarice; what he was stuck with wasn't so bad. He tugged the thick, curly ponytail in front of him and wondered if he'd ever be able to get Blair to clap with the beat.
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