Production No. CVT703
Claire and Bonnie
MEET THE CAST
Jim scooped up the phone before it had a chance to ring a second time. "Ellison."
He listened, a frown forming on his face. "Are you sure, Sally? He didn't just take off to play golf or something?" Things had been better with his father these past couple of years, and it really wasn't unusual to hear from him several times a month; but Sally sounded concerned and was telling him that his father was missing.
"When did you see him, last?" His frown deepened to a scowl at the answer. "Have you tried his cell phone?" Of course she had. She would never contact him before doing everything she could to make sure first.
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Don't clean anything!" His admonishment was automatic, but he was feeling concerned, as well. Hanging up the phone, he looked across to his partner who had stopped what he'd been doing and focused on him. Probably heard the worry in his voice.
"That was Sally. My father's missing. She last saw him last night. He didn't come down for breakfast, there's no sign of him anywhere in the house and his car is still in the garage."
"I'll tell Simon and we'll be on our way."
"This isn't a police matter yet, Sandburg. I'm taking personal time."
"And I'm saving us all time by telling Simon and making this official."
"Chief, if he's really missing, it can't be our case, because he's my dad," Jim reminded his friend.
Blair grinned. "I know, but for preliminary investigation, you can't be beat. First one on the scene and all. If there's anything to be found, you'll be the only one who can find it. Come on. Get your coat and let's go." He grabbed his own coat and pulled it on as he approached the captain's office. He tapped twice, got a 'Come' and disappeared through the door. Less than a minute later, he was back out, with a concerned Simon Banks right behind him.
"You both be careful. If you find anything, call it in and I'll send out Joel and Megan to take over the investigation."
"Thanks, sir. We'll be in touch," Blair replied as he joined his fidgeting partner and headed out of the bullpen.
The trip to the Ellison mansion was spent in silence. Blair didn't want to offer false assurances, and Jim was already brooding over the possibilities. Both men were hoping that it was a false alarm, but knowing their luck, seriously doubted it.
The house was eerily quiet. Sally opened the door before they even got to it. She'd obviously been watching for them. Her anxiety was palpable, her face pale and drawn with worry.
"I searched the house again after I called you. I found nothing. No sign of him. His clothes from yesterday are in the hamper, and his pajamas are missing, so he must have undressed last night."
"Has his bed been slept in?" Blair asked. Jim, jaws working in distress, was using his senses to do his own search.
"No. He usually undresses, then sits and reads for a while before going to bed. He has a snifter of brandy then, too." Sally wrung her hands in agitation. "What could have happened to him?"
"I don't know, yet," Jim softly growled and began prowling through the house on his own investigation. Blair pulled out his spiral bound notepad and started taking down Sally's statement.
His dad's upstairs study looked fine. The light over the recliner was on and there was a glass half full of brandy on the small table beside the chair. He sniffed at the brandy, but sensed nothing unusual about it. There was an elusive scent, however. Frowning in concentration, Jim tried to find the source of the odor. Shaking his head in frustration, he prowled around the room once more, seeking anything else that could give him the faintest inkling as to where his father had gone, and why.
He left that room and entered the next, his father's bedroom. He looked around curiously. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in here. He was pleasantly surprised to discover photos of himself and Steven prominently displayed on the dresser. The photo of him was from his Policeman of the Year award ceremony. He was actually smiling. He remembered Steven taking the picture, and how Blair had whispered something only he could hear that had him bursting out in laughter. It was a good photo.
There was nothing to find here, either. Just more of that elusive scent. He wished he could place it, but it escaped him. There was one thing, however: a hair. Short, black, and curly. It had that smell on it and he finally recognized it. It was some sort of hair gel. He peered at the hair on the desk and, pulling on his latex gloves, he gingerly placed a small evidence bag over it and left a note for forensics. He checked the master bathroom, just because, but he was starting to feel that there wasn't going to be anything for him to find. He prowled around upstairs and, much to his surprise, finally found something... in his old bedroom.
It was a single sheet of paper, typewritten or, more likely, done on a computer. It reeked of that hair gel, which was what attracted his attention. It was a request to meet with his father, one that gave very little information, only that someone wanted to talk to his dad about some kind of business deal. Jim frowned; his father was retired, what kind of business would he be engaging in now?
It didn't make much sense, but he tagged it and left another bag by the note, as well. Finishing his search, he returned downstairs, to find Blair making tea in the kitchen and Sally sitting at the table, smiling at what Blair was saying.
Looking up when Jim came in, Blair asked, "Find anything?"
"Couple of things. A hair and a note asking to see Dad." He looked at Sally. "Did Dad mention anything about expecting someone over for some kind of business meeting over the past few days?"
Sally shook her head. "No. He has been getting letters, though. They seemed to make him angry and he often tore them up. I'm afraid I never looked at them. Is it important?"
"Could be. There's no sign of a struggle, but that doesn't mean very much." Jim was frowning; he had a bad feeling about this, but there was so little to go on.
"Jim, did you check the foyer? Maybe someone came late last night and he let them in?" He knew it was a stretch, but that seemed reasonable now. Where would a man in his sixties go late at night in his pajamas? Not very far, certainly; at least, not willingly.
"Yeah. Good idea, Chief. Let me sniff around outside and see if anything pops up at me." With a pat to Sally's shoulder, meant to reassure, Jim headed outside. Unfortunately, it had rained early that morning. If there had been anything, it was washed away now. Then he found one of his father's slippers in the shrubbery lining the walk. He crouched and looked hard. There were faint traces of someone being dragged across the grass. Not much, but definitely something. He left the slipper where he found it and pulled out his cell phone.
"Simon, someone's taken my dad. Apparently, they just came to the front door and he invited them in. No, there was no sign of a struggle, but it looks like when he let the visitor out, a second person helped grab him and drag him away." Jim fidgeted nervously as he listened to his captain tell him to remain calm until he got there with backup. Disconnecting the call, Jim frowned and looked into the distance, wondering who had taken his father, and why.
"It's pretty slim evidence, but we'll do what we can, Jim. Are you sure there's nothing else?" Simon was chewing the end of his cigar to a pulp. Joel and Megan were checking with the neighbors to see if anyone had noticed anything the previous night.
Jim shook his head while Blair looked around, puzzled. "Nothing, sir. Just a hair that's neither Sally's nor my dad's, and a note. Maybe there's something on the paper, fingerprints, hopefully."
"Jim, it's pretty obvious that your dad knew whoever it was who came by. Otherwise, they'd never have gotten into the house."
"I know. But why was that piece of paper in my old room? Why not in the study? And, why would Dad have invited them upstairs at all?" He shook his head again. "It just doesn't make any sense."
Joel and Megan returned. Jim looked at them, hopefully. "Sorry, Jimbo. None of the neighbors remembers anything out of the ordinary last night," Megan dashed his hopes. She gave him a commiserating look and patted his arm.
Joel tried to brighten the outlook. "Yeah, but the people directly across the street said that their son, who's at work now, came home late last night and maybe he noticed something. I left them a card and they promised to have him give us a call when he gets home." He grasped Jim's shoulder, squeezing it and offering his support. "I know it's not much, but maybe we can get lucky."
"Yeah. Maybe." Jim didn't sound at all convinced or hopeful. He shook his head. "I know you'll do your best, but I'm kind of worried about him. I can't understand why anyone would want to kidnap him. I mean, he's retired, living off his investments." He shook his head. "I just don't get it. He doesn't have the kind of money that normally attracts kidnappers."
"Maybe they don't want money," Blair ventured, immediately drawing everyone's attention. He looked up at them and shrugged. "Maybe they want information your dad has. Something like that? Or... I don't know. I'm grasping at straws here, too."
"No, that's got possibilities, Sandburg," the captain reassured. "Maybe they need information your dad has; information on someone else, perhaps?"
"Like Jim, maybe?" Megan asked. When she noticed the expressions on the men's faces, she shrugged. "Hey, he's high-profile, and who would know more about him than his own dad?"
"God, I hope not," Joel growled. The others merely nodded.
Sally had watched the forensics crew as they went over everything, searching for anything that might give them some hint of what had happened. Megan had questioned her and she'd answered to the best of her ability. As she brought out coffee for the officers still dusting Mr. Ellison's room, she abruptly remembered something. She hurried in and served them their coffee, for which they gratefully thanked her.
"Please, I remembered something. Mr. Ellison was supposed to go and play golf this morning. I think it may be written on his calendar down in the study," she offered. Serena Chang offered to go with her to look.
There it was, in William's bold penmanship. He had planned on playing golf that morning at seven. He normally didn't get up until nine, however. Sally led the way to the closet where William's clubs were kept. They weren't there.
"Do you think maybe he rode with his friends, instead of taking his own car?" Serena asked.
Sally frowned. "Not usually. He hates to have to depend on anyone else for anything," she said very softly. "I have spare keys to his car. Maybe we can look in the trunk?" she offered.
Serena, biting back a smile over the description of William because his son was exactly the same way when it came to such things, nodded her agreement. The two women went out and opened the trunk. There were the missing clubs. Obviously, William couldn't have gone to play golf. Serena frowned.
"I wonder why the people he was supposed to meet haven't called to see what kept him?" she muttered to herself. Deciding, she pulled out her cell phone and made the call.
Joel scooped up the telephone receiver and spoke into the mouthpiece, "Taggart."
He listened for several minutes and then replied, "Find out who he was supposed to meet. Maybe we'll get lucky." He listened for another minute or two, and then waited while the requested information was garnered. Picking up a pen, he got a post-it notepad to write on. When she came back, he had her spell out the names to be sure he got them right. "Thanks, Serena. Good catch." He gently hung up the phone and read the list, and then prepared to track down the three men for questioning.
The forensics people didn't find anything. Officially, it was now a suspected kidnapping. With Jim's permission as next-of-kin, a wiretap was placed on William Ellison's home phone, as well as an automatic recording device. They waited hopefully, patiently, for twenty-four hours, but there were no calls demanding a ransom, no messages via email or postal service. They had nothing to go on, and nowhere to look for answers.
When Joel and Megan returned to the station the next morning after talking to the three men William was supposed to have met for golf, they still had less than nothing to go on. Although Joel wondered if maybe one of the three businessmen had been telling the truth, he had nothing solid to base his suspicions on. He couldn't very well drag the man in for interrogation. All he could hope for was that the kid across the street from the Ellison house would call and would have seen something, anything they could get their teeth into.
Megan, seeing Jim's eyes on them, nudged her partner and gestured towards their worried colleague. Joel looked up and met Jim's hopeful gaze. He shook his head sadly to indicate that they hadn't gotten anything from the interviews. Jim flushed slightly and looked back at his own paperwork, obviously distressed.
The phone on Joel's desk rang. "Taggart." He listened for a moment, and then sat at attention, reaching for a pen and his notepad. "You're sure? Did you by any miracle get the license plate number?" He listened as the caller tried to remember. At least they had a description of the vehicle, including approximate age, make and style. "Thank you! Do you think you'd recognize the driver if you saw him again? You do? Great. We'll be in touch. No, thank you." Joel concluded his call and stood up, heading for the captain's office.
"Joel?" There was an unaccustomed strain to Jim's voice.
Taggart paused and turned to his friend. "The kid across the street. He just got home and his parents remembered to have him call us. There was a 'big old boat' of a car parked in front of your dad's house. He guessed it to be an early to mid-seventies Ford. There was some heavy rust damage, and the license plate was a vanity plate, but he doesn't remember what it was."
Simon had come out of his office when he saw Joel stop to talk to Jim and heard it all, saving Joel from having to repeat himself. "Old Ford? Gee, I wonder how many of those there are around?" he asked, disgustedly.
"Well, it was a two-door, vinyl landau top, dark in color, with a lot of body rot. Plus, he saw the driver fairly well and thinks he could recognize him if he saw him again. The kid said that he seemed to be waiting for someone."
That got everyone's attention. "So, there were two of them, just like we thought," Jim murmured.
"Did he give you a description of the driver?"
"Yeah. Older guy, mid-to-late fifties," Joel began.
Simon snorted at that bit of description. "Just how old is this witness?"
"Nineteen," Joel chuckled. "Anyway, he was clean-shaven, with short, styled hair, and he had 'real bushy eyebrows'. The hair was gray, but the eyebrows were black."
Simon nodded in grudging admiration. "Not a bad description. Too bad he didn't get the license plate."
"I think it must have been something pretty obscure, or he'd have probably remembered it," Joel replied. "At least he remembered that it was a vanity plate, and not just an ordinary one."
"You're right. Get on it. There can't be too many old Ford 'boats' left around, particularly not with vanity plates and a lot of rust on them." Simon grabbed Ellison by the arm, stopping him from following Joel. "Uh-uh. Sorry, Jim. You know you can't get involved."
"But he's my dad, Simon," was Jim's plaintive rejoinder.
"I know," Simon said, soothingly. "But we can't have you running around doing anything that might be construed as 'interfering', and you know it."
Jim gnashed his teeth and nodded sharply. "Yes, sir," he ground out, obviously not happy.
"Go work on your own cases, Jim. Joel will do a good job, you know that."
Jim did know, but it didn't make a lot of difference to him, since it was his father and not some stranger they were searching for. Just because he understood didn't make it any easier for him to just stand by and let someone else search for his dad. Without another word, and with his head hanging down, he returned to his desk, where Blair had just placed a bag from Wonderburger in the middle of his blotter.
He ate mechanically, not even noticing that it was his favorite mushroom-Swiss burger, or the fact that Blair had even gotten him chili-fries. His expression kept anyone from disturbing him; no one wanted to set off the volcano in their midst.
Half an hour after he finished eating, Blair sauntered over and perched on the edge of his partner's desk. Jim barely looked up at him.
"I've been doing some quiet checking."
Jim froze for a moment, then looked up, questions in his eyes. "Oh?"
Blair glanced around the bullpen. "Yeah. It seems that one of your father's investments may soon become far more valuable than it currently is."
Jim was definitely interested; he sat back in his chair, all his focus on his partner. "Oh?"
Blair nodded. "I need to give this to Joel, but I thought I'd tell you first. It would appear that someone wants to buy up as much of this company's stock as they can before it's announced that SugiCorp is going to buy them out."
Jim frowned. "SugiCorp? I don't think I've heard of them before."
"Me either, but I did some checking. Your brother has had dealings with them. In fact, I think he's the one who turned them on to the company they're trying to buy."
"Go on." Jim was definitely interested now.
"Well, they have an outstanding reputation. They aren't one of those raider types that come in, buy out a company, then gobble up the parts they want and destroy the rest. They purchase companies that can provide support to their other endeavors and integrate them into the whole conglomerate."
"Which company are they interested in?" Jim asked.
"The one your dad's retired from. The one he's technically a partner in, but basically stays out of the day-to-day running of."
"Electronics," Jim stated flatly, frowning. "Japanese firm?"
Jim's frown deepened. "But Dad's retired. What could anyone possibly want from him on that? He doesn't have anything to do with the company any more."
Blair shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe they want his shares, or maybe they want him to oppose the sale, or move it along faster. I just don't know. But I have to get this to Joel. We'll let you know if anything comes of it."
Blair stopped and grinned at his partner and friend. "Hey, just because you can't get actively involved doesn't mean that I can't. Besides, what are friends for, if not to help you when you're down?" With a light punch to Jim's arm, Blair turned away and headed towards Taggart's desk.
A faint smile played about Jim's mouth, trying to decide if it was safe to be there. Glancing down to hide the sudden grin, Jim reached for his telephone to make a call.
"Yeah, Steven? Jim. Yeah. I know you know. No, nothing yet. Steven, tell me about SugiCorp..."
The search through the DMV records took the rest of the day. Surprisingly, there were still more than a hundred old vehicles with vanity plates. Narrowing it down to two-door models (they didn't take the Ford identification as gospel), there were thirty-eight that fit the description. Now began the job of tracking down every one and determining whether or not there could be a connection to William Ellison.
Even with only thirty-eight people to contact, it was a daunting task. Late the next morning, Joel, list in hand, approached the office of Captain Banks. Taking a deep breath, he knocked; at the grunt to enter, he opened the door and stepped in, closing the door behind him.
"I have a list of possibles. There are thirty-eight of them, but there's not a lot for us to hold any of them on. I'd like Jim to come along, so we can use his ability to tell when someone's lying."
Simon frowned. "I don't think that's a very good idea. He is, after all, involved." He didn't need to say how volatile Jim was and how difficult it might be to control him should he deem one of the suspects to be lying. It could be particularly dangerous if the suspect were lying, but not connected to the missing man.
"Between us, I think we can keep a leash on him. He's just so good at telling when someone's lying to him. Besides, that glare might be enough in itself to get the right one to give in."
Simon grunted, nearly a laugh. "If you believe that, I've got some really lovely beachfront property about five hundred miles due west."
"Well, I'll try to narrow it down, but none of these thirty-eight have a rap sheet. I kind of think that this has something to do with just William, and nothing at all to do with Jim or his abilities."
Simon looked up, consideringly. "Hmmm. Have you been able to find out anything about his business dealings?"
"Not a lot. He's pretty much retired, but he does still have some pretty extensive business holdings. I don't have enough information to go on. I could really use someone with a bit of business acumen."
"Good luck." Simon scowled. "Maybe Sandburg can turn you onto someone to help? How about Jim's brother?"
"He's in Japan at the moment. Sally promised to have him call the minute she hears from him. I think he might well be our best bet. Meanwhile, can I take Jim and Blair to interview these people?"
Against his better judgment, Simon nodded. "Just be sure you keep his leash short," he warned. Joel nodded and left, closing the door gently behind him.
Every move he made, he found Jim's hopeful eyes on him. With a sigh, he headed towards the younger man's desk. "Where's Sandburg?"
"He's out getting us lunch. He was looking for you yesterday, he's got some information he thinks might help you." He glanced around the office, wondering what was taking his partner so long. Turning back, he asked, "Did he give it to you?"
Joel frowned. "Maybe he left it on my desk, I might have missed it. What was it about?"
"Something called SugiCorp is wanting to buy out the business my dad is a partner in."
Joel frowned. "Sounds interesting. Anything else?"
"I've got Steven working on getting info on SugiCorp."
Joel smiled. "That's great. I'd really like to talk to your brother, maybe he can help with some of the questions I've got on your dad's business dealings."
"I'll give you his number then. Was there something else?"
"Not really. I have a list of possible car owners, though. After lunch, get together with me and I'll let you in on what I need from you."
Jim's countenance fell as he glanced towards the captain's office. "You know I can't do anything to help. Simon's right. I'm too close. I can't guarantee to control myself."
"That's why we're going to wait for Blair. I'm going to grab Megan and get some lunch. I'll meet you back here afterwards."
Jim nodded in agreement. With the possibility of being able to do something, his mood lightened a bit, and he was able, for the moment at least, to focus on his own caseload.
When Sandburg returned with their food, Jim snatched the bags from his hands and started rummaging through them. He told him to stick around and wait for Joel and Megan to return as he set his share of the food on his desk and dug in as though he was starving.
"Jim, don't eat so fast, you'll get heartburn," Blair admonished. He was a bit surprised, as he'd expected his partner to show little, if any, interest in food. He frowned. Jim seemed preoccupied by something other than worry about his father's whereabouts.
Jim looked at his partner, then down at his food. He'd torn into it like he was starving, and was already feeling the effects of wolfing down his food. He grimaced and leaned back, reaching for his soft drink. "Too late," he sighed.
"What's the big hurry, anyway?" Blair asked, pulling out a roll of antacids for his friend.
Jim smiled in gratitude and opened the package, taking out a couple of tablets and eating them. He grinned; trust Blair to get him the cherry flavored ones. "Joel wants our help talking to the owners of some possible cars. With any luck, we'll be able to pick our perps out."
Blair watched Jim a bit pensively. He knew that it would be his responsibility to keep his partner from going ballistic. He just hoped he could do it. "Do me a favor?" he asked, his tone very serious.
Jim paused, his drink halfway to his mouth. "If I can," he responded.
"When Joel and Megan are asking the questions, stay behind me?" Blair watched his friend as he thought about it. Jim was perfectly aware of why Blair wanted him as far away from any suspects as possible. Blair knew that Jim couldn't go through him without injuring him, so would be less likely to cause an incident.
Jim regarded Blair for several silent moments, and then nodded his agreement. "That might be a good idea, Chief. Thanks for thinking of it."
Blair smiled. "Hey, that's what friends and partners are for, right?"
"Yeah, it is, among other things."
It was suffocatingly hot. The blindfold over his head and the gag in his mouth made it hard to breathe, and he felt like he was going to die if he didn't get something to drink soon. There was also a muffler leak, and he was afraid he might die from carbon monoxide poisoning if he didn't get out of this trunk in the very near future. Neither prospect appealed to him. They'd driven for over an hour, by his reckoning, before stopping for the day and night. Now, they were on the road again. From the temperature, it was early afternoon. He had no idea why he'd been taken, nor where they might be going. He hoped his golf date thought to call Sally and ask her what happened to him and that she would have the presence of mind to call Jimmy.
He felt like throwing up, but knew if he did, he'd drown in his own vomit. The car turned off the paved road and he was bounced and jostled helplessly as the vehicle careened around the curves. Why on earth were they doing this, anyway? He wished he knew.