Production No. CVT-704

written by:
Lori Wright

edited by:
Melanie and Shallan


April 2002

Carlos Suarez stood beside the large horse trailer observing the loading of his prize stallion, High Pacer. His fourteen-year old daughter, Elena, had named him soon after his birth. When walking, the colt had a tendency to lift his front feet higher than the average thoroughbred, resembling a Saddlebred or Morgan. As a dressage rider, she had bonded to the horse and resented the fact that her father had ear-marked the horse for the racing circuit. She had dreams of three-day eventing, and Pacer would have been ideal. To make up for the disappointment, he promised to buy her a Peruvian Paso, a breed of horse she had been requesting, but was hard to obtain.

"Walk him a bit," Carlos told the groom. High Pacer was not interested in loading. The hay net, filled with savory alfalfa, was not a significant inducement to make him step on the unsteady ramp and into the close confines of the trailer. Pacer pranced around the handler, half-rearing a couple of times, nostrils flaring as his wide eyes looked left and then right in agitation.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Elena ran out of the barn. "You've got to look at Codi. I--"

"Not now," Carlos called back. The stallion had gone immobile at the sound of Elena's voice. He nickered to her with eyes staring at her steadily. "Mi hija, come talk to him. See if you can get him to load."

Elena walked sedately over to the colt, crooning softly in Spanish. He nickered again and poked her with his nose, looking for the apple treats she kept in her jeans pocket. Laughing, she caressed his neck and scratched his ears. Tilting his head to one side, he leaned into her scratch, his lower lip quivering in ecstasy.

The groom casually handed her the lead rope and, still talking, she led him onto the trailer. Smelling the hay, he forgot the human and began tugging out stalks of alfalfa and chewing quietly.

"Damn, baby," Carlos groused, as he buckled the rear strap behind the horse. Another handler was ready to lead on the colt's buddy horse into the neighboring slot. With both horses loaded, Carlos pulled up the ramp and secured it. Tails swished as the equines enjoyed their breakfast.

"Can you look at Codi, Daddy? I think he's sick."

"Not now, Mijita. I need to see the other horses off. Then I'll come and take a look at your horse." Carlos gave his daughter a guilty look then strode over to the other two trailers. Along with his own Thoroughbred breeding program, he also wintered several horses for owners that lived up north in Washington and Oregon. It brought in extra money that enabled him to concentrate solely on horses and support his family in the way to which they were accustomed.

The boarded horses were just as high-strung as his own were. It took skill and patience to get them packed, loaded, and sent to their home tracks. On just this day, he was seeing off four to the State of Washington to race at the track in Seattle. Tomorrow, it would be the two mares to Tacoma.

It was lunchtime before Carlos made it over to the barn that housed Zippricodi, the promised Peruvian Paso that he had just bought for his daughter's birthday. The horse was in his stall, looking out at the handlers walking by. His ears were up and his eyes clear. Codi didn't appear to be in distress. One of the grooms entered the barn and went into the tack room.

"Raoul," Carlos shouted after the groom.

"Si, Senor?"

"Do you have any idea why Elena thinks Codi is sick?"

"His breathing. It sounds raspy and there is a slight discharge from his nose. I cleaned it up but he--"

"Let me check." Carlos went into the stall and placed his head on the horse's chest. He sounded fine. "Hand me his halter and lead rope."

After snapping the rope onto the halter, Carlos led the horse out of the stall and walked him over to the inside ring. When they entered the large enclosure, he lunged the horse a bit and then listened again to his chest. This time he could hear the rasping, wheezing noise. Could it be asthma or something on the infectious side?

"You can go, Raoul." Carlos needed to think and he didn't want the groom hovering.

Patting the horse, he led Codi back to his stall. Without the exercise, the horse was back to breathing normally. Carlos leaned against the stall door and stared at the equine. What was he going to do? He was afraid to call the vet. Zippricodi had only been at the barn for three months. How could he explain that the horse had not gone through the proper quarantine? He had bought the horse from a businessman down in Colombia, who raised Peruvian Pasos along with crops of drugs. His daughter's birthday had crept up so fast that he had only remembered at the last minute. If the horse had sat for the mandated time, he would have been late. The Colombian assured Carlos that the horse was in perfect health as was the rest of the stable. Taking the man's word, he had the horse transported on his own boat and papers forged as to the date of importation.

Bringing his forehead down to his arm, he sighed deeply. If Codi was sick with something contagious, his whole stable could be at risk. But, it might be something benign. He had to think positive. Maybe he'd wait a few days, have the grooms monitor the horse's temperature and keep him quiet. No workouts for a week or at least until something was resolved.

Still feeling a bit scared, Carlos went into the house and showered for lunch. He'd have to be careful and keep the handlers between Codi's barn and the thoroughbreds' separate. He would, in effect, set up his own quarantine. If any of the other horses had showed these same symptoms, he wouldn't have been as worried. But, Zippricodi was illegally imported. This was heading toward a potential catastrophe.

May 2002

Captain Simon Banks hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. He and Daryl were going to the track to see Little Stogie work out the next morning. It had been a month since his thoroughbred had arrived from southern California. Carlos Suarez's stables had trailered four horses to Cascade Downs, and this was the first time Simon had time to see Little Stogie run.

The department had been bombarded with cases lately, not even mentioning William Ellison's kidnapping, and things were just beginning to ease up a bit. Self-consciously, he made a knuckle and rapped on his desk. Simon really wasn't superstitious, but it always paid to cover all the bases. Meanwhile, he had a job to do. He picked up his pen and began working. Tomorrow might be a day off, but today wasn't.

The phone rang, causing Simon to jump and streak a line of blue down the page. "Damn," he swore under his breath as he picked up the phone.

"Major Crime. Captain Banks speaking." He tried to keep the irritation out of his voice.

"Ellison here. We're on our way to the docks. Got a call about a body."

Simon could detect something a little off in his detective's voice. "Shouldn't Homicide be handling it?"

"I'm sure they were notified, sir. We'll be in as soon as we take a look around."

There really wasn't much he could say but agree. "I expect a full report when you get in," he barked, making sure Ellison remembered who was boss.

"At least verbal."

Simon knew that was Blair who had spoken. There was a snigger in the comment that he didn't fail to catch. What was going on?

Jim Ellison turned off his cell phone. "Chief, he heard that."

"Well, you've got to admit this isn't our regular kind of case."

"I promised Steven I'd look into it. Michele was very upset."

"But a dead horse? The body isn't even human."

"I guess that means Homicide won't be making an appearance. But it might be something for Major Crime. Professional horses are big bucks. Look how much Simon and his Cigar Club put into Little Stogie," Jim stubbornly asserted.

Blair Sandburg closed his lips. Despite the lack of voice, his thoughts came out loud and clear -- chasing a dead horse was silly. Jim refused to answer anymore. He had promised his brother.

Earlier that morning, he had been in the bathroom, when Blair had called out to him that Steven was on the phone. Dripping water and shaving cream, he hurried out to get the phone. The only time one received a call at that hour was when something bad had happened. He envisioned another kidnapping or Sally being held at gunpoint in the local supermarket. A dead horse had never crossed his mind.

Michele's boss, Dr. Bannerman, had been called down to the docks that morning because a horse's body had washed up onto the narrow stretch of beach. The doctor's best friend from vet school, specializing in equine medicine, had wanted a second opinion on what she had found. After arriving, the two vets quarantined the area. After finding out, Michele had told Steven, who had then immediately called big brother Jim.

The only concrete data Jim had was that the horse in question had been dead before he hit the water. Now he had to investigate. Steven wanted him to use his sentinel skills to find a culprit or at least a reason why the horse was thrown in the water. Neither were easy tasks and Jim was not looking forward to barging in on someone else's investigation. Although, whom would normally be called in such a case? The ASPCA?

Jim pulled the truck into a parking slot and surveyed the pandemonium. The coroner was standing next to Amy Bannerman and another woman who Jim surmised to be the other vet. The body of the horse was lying on the beach, a front loader was standing nearby, ready to move it. Uniformed cops were present, but there wasn't any evidence of detectives investigating the site. Dr. Bannerman was the logical place to start.

"James Ellison!" she called out as he walked closer. "I'm glad to see you."

The detective smiled at her, grimacing slightly at the sight of the decaying equine. "My pleasure," he responded.

"This is my friend and colleague, Dr Theresa Lenhard. She's an equine vet. When the body was discovered, the local cops called her office."

Jim shook hands with the other woman. Then Blair did likewise, but his eyes lingered on the horse's body.

"Why don't we walk over there." Amy Bannerman led them away from the cordoned-off area. Dr. Lenhard went down to the beach and knelt by the body. Jim didn't need to see any more.

"Steven said that you wanted my opinion on something," Jim started, bringing his attention back to Dr. Bannerman.

"Yes. We've discovered so far that this horse is a Thoroughbred, dead for a little more than two weeks. We're both positive he died of something else before he ended up in the water."

"Steven mentioned that."

She smiled hesitantly. "We've taken a few samples and done a preliminary necropsy on the premises, but it looks like he died of a disease. I don't know which one, yet."

"You think he was put in the water to hide the death?"

"He's a Thoroughbred, detective. Judging by his muscle tone, probably a racer and worth some money. I have friends looking into any missing horses, but that could take some time since we don't know where he came from."

Jim nodded. "Could this disease be contagious?"

"I don't know. Not now, but possibly when he first died."

"What do you want me to do?"

"I'm not sure. Michele tells me that you're very good at picking up clues that others miss. Any help you can give us is much appreciated."

"Do you have divers in?"

"What for? The horse has all his parts."

"More horses?" Jim suggested.

Dr. Bannerman looked aghast. "You really think there might be more?"

"How did a dead horse get into the water in the first place? He obviously didn't walk in. It would take several men to drag it, but that would take too much time and it wouldn't be private enough."

"A boat?" Blair suggested. "Could the horse have died on a boat and then they pushed him in?"

Jim nodded. "Possibly. I could call the Coast Guard."

"That also would be appreciated."

"For now, Sandburg and I will search the area. I'll leave the horse to you."

The vet nodded and then walked back over to the other woman.

"Shouldn't you, you know, feel around the horse for bruises or cuts, or something?" Blair asked.

"No. I don't know enough about horse anatomy. If a bone were out of place, I'd never realize it. Better to leave it to the professionals."

Jim started combing the beach for anything out of place. There was no real sand, just rocks that had been washing onto shore for centuries. Many of the boulders had sharp edges, but he didn't see blood or hair on any of them. Carefully, he climbed onto the rocks and focused closely at the shoreline.

Several beer cans had washed up along with drift wood, seaweed, and an assortment of seashells. Jim took a few more steps, wanting to peer closer into the water. As he turned to tell Blair that nothing was visible, he happened to notice writing on one of the pieces of wood. It was white and rounded like the rest of the driftwood, but there was something definitely painted on it. Backtracking, he reached down and picked up the clue.

"What is it?" Blair shouted over the surf, beginning to make his way over to Jim.

Deciding not to chance Blair's luck, Jim came back onto solid ground before his partner tripped and fell into the ocean.

"I think it came from a boat. It's got three letters on it, 'T', 'O', 'R'." Jim ran his fingers over the wood. "I think it had some kind of preservative on it, but it's washed away."

"Not much to go on."

Jim had to agree. They needed the divers. Pulling out his cell phone, he placed a call to the Coast Guard and informed them of what was happening. They promised to have a diving team out ASAP. Leaving his name and number, the Coast Guard promised to let him know as soon as they found something.

The two detectives meandered back up the bank near to where the dead horse was getting loaded onto a trailer. Dr. Lenhard stood near, shouting instructions.

"Did you find anything?" she asked, as they came abreast of her.

Jim showed her the board and explained his theory.

"Here's my card, Detective. Give me a call if you find out anything else."

Jim pocketed her card and handed her one of his own. She nodded her thanks and went over to the loader's operator.

Jim kept his eyes on her as she walked away, but his mind was busy sifting through what he had learned. "We can't do anymore here, Chief," he remarked, frustrated at the limited amount of clues. "Let's head back to the station."

The two Cascade detectives waved goodbye to Dr. Bannerman and took their piece of wood to forensics, hoping the lab could find something. Jim's intuition was telling him that there were more clues underwater. A dead horse did not just appear from thin air.

Jim was just about ready to turn the TV on for a bit of baseball, when the phone rang. He set the remote control down, resisting the temptation to turn the television on and watch while listening.


"Hey Jim, it's Rucker."

"Hi, Cuz. Been awhile."

"Yeah, it has. I meant to call after hearing through Mom that Uncle William had been kidnapped. Is he doing okay?"

"He's fine. None the worse for wear."

"Well, good. This is an official call, Jim." Rucker's voice turned serious. "Turns out your hunch was right. They found a boat with four stalls and three dead horses inside, sunk about a mile south. They're bringing in machinery to drag the thing to shore. You want to come down?"

"We'll be right there." Forgetting all about the game, he shouted to Blair as he half-jogged to his roommate's door. "Hey, Chief." His partner was in his room reading a new book his mother had sent him.

"What?" Blair asked, his glasses slipping down his face as he looked up at Jim. The book was against his legs and he was jotting down notes on some paper beside him.

"Rucker just called. They found a boat with three dead horses. I'm going down to take a look. You coming?"

"It'll just take me a sec." He hurriedly gathered his things into a pile. "I need to--"

"Just make sure you add a sweatshirt. The breeze will be cold blowing off the ocean. I'm gonna go up and change. Try not to take too long."

"Sure, man." Blair jumped out of his bed, the papers containing his notes flying in all directions. He ignored them.

Jim could hear muffled profanities as drawers were opened and contents rifled through. Shaking his head, he ascended the stairs to his room and quickly located a large Cascade PD sweatshirt sitting on top of the clothes trunk. He donned it over his Dockers shirt, then put on a pair of work boots. Taking the stairs two at a time, he called out, "You ready, yet?"

"Almost." Blair came out of his room, still bucking his belt over a fresh pair of jeans. Throwing an old sweatshirt over his head, he then quickly bent down to tie his hiking boots. "There. Let's go."

Jim took in the disheveled appearance and shrugged. "After you, Chief." He held the door open for Blair and then locked it after he had gone through. Curls bounced in total disarray as the younger man walked to the elevator and threw his coat on over the sweatshirt.

"So what else did Rucker tell you?" Blair asked, as the elevator doors slid shut.

"Not much. I really didn't give him a chance. I wanted to be there when the boat surfaced."

"What about the horse vet? You gonna call her?"

"That might not be a bad idea." As they walked from the elevator to Jim's truck, he took out his wallet and looked for Dr. Lenhard's card. He found it stuck between a twenty and a five- dollar bill. As they slid into the truck, Jim handed the card to his partner. "You call her while I drive."

"No problem." Jim could detect a gleam in the other man's eye as he dialed the vet's home phone number.

"Remember why you're calling, and it's not to ask her out."

"I know. I'll wait until we're actually face-to-face before doing that. She was pretty cute," Blair mumbled in admiration.

"I think I noticed a wedding ring." Jim smiled at the chagrinned expression that clouded Blair's face.

The drive back to the docks was faster without the usual daytime congestion. It was still light enough to see, and Jim hoped the sun would stay out long enough for him to get a good look at the boat. He could see the Coast Guard boats along the shore and two tugboats sitting idle with something tied between them. He pulled into a parking slot and jumped out of the truck without waiting for his partner, who was still on the phone.

Rucker must have been keeping watch because he came right over before Jim even made it halfway down the grassy slope. The rocky beach was alive with ocean machinery and emergency vehicles.

"Jimmy, it looks and smells really bad."

"Has anyone been inside?" Jim gazed at the soggy remnants of what was once a luxury yacht. With little thought to the dangers, he knew he had to board the vessel and search it as thoroughly as he could.

"Just the divers. They saw the horses and surfaced again to acknowledge the find. I called you right after that."

"I need to get on that boat before anyone else. Can you arrange it?"

Rucker looked worried. "You looking for something in particular or are you just impatient?"

Jim tried to relax his own expression, giving lie to his own misgivings. "Both, I guess."

"Let me see what I can do."

Jim followed his cousin down onto the rocky sand where several other members of the Coast Guard were congregated. Rucker approached the captain and began speaking. Another man in a diving suit walked up to the pair, and Jim saw Rucker point at him. The diver came over.

"I understand you were here when they brought up the first horse?"

Jim responded, noting the weariness on the other man's face. "Yes. I found a piece of board and was hoping to match it to the boat you guys found."

"Would the letters be 'TOR'? One of the stalls had a name painted on the door. The letters, 'VIC' and then part of the board was missing. I think it might have been kicked out, but I can't tell. The rest of the word had a 'Y'. The next word was 'BELLE.'"

"That makes, Victory Belle. Great, I'll have my partner run that through the Thoroughbred Registry and see if that name is there. What else did you see?"

"One of the boat's sides was splintered and it happened to be where a stall was located. I think the horse just floated out. I don't know how the wall was broken."

"You mean if it was deliberate or not?"

"Possibly the side was ruptured on purpose to sink the boat and the weight of the horse falling on it as it went down broke it more completely. There just wasn't time for it to rot. I calculate the boat's been in there for about two weeks, maybe a bit more."

Jim pondered this new information. "Is there any identification on the boat? A name, number?"

"Don't know. Didn't look that thoroughly, yet."

Rucker came over with the Captain. "Jim, I've gotten permission for you to board. They're going to beach the boat and then we can take a look around."

The two cousins and the diver stood by and watched as the Coast Guard lifted the boat from the water and placed it on a large flatbed trailer. Jim climbed up a ladder with another man, however, Blair was not allowed to follow them. Only two people were deemed safe to go in, and the Coast Guard was determined to have one of their own also looking around.

As Jim climbed onto the boat's deck, he could hear Blair muttering under his breath. "Take it easy, Jim. Be careful. The wood is fragile. Listen for any creaking that might mean the boards are about to give way..." the gentle murmuring continued, but Jim stopped listening to the words, instead he used his Guide's voice to anchor his senses.

Jim spent the next hour scouring the boat for clues. He never noticed that the sun disappeared. There were so many lights on the beach and docks that the windows of the boat let in enough of the artificial light for him to search the various areas on the yacht. He found the bridge and looked for any compartments that might still contain waterproof boxes, but everything was empty. There was no radio, but he could detect where it had been and how it had been ripped out. The life preservers still hung on the wall.

"Hey, Ellison. I've hit pay dirt," the other officer called up to him.

Jim descended the stairs and found himself in what were once luxurious living quarters. A bolted down bed dominated the center of the room.

"Look here, maps."

Inside an oak dresser was a drawer filled with maps of the California coast. It showed the Intercoastal Way, and several islands. One map was of Baja, and the rest were in a sequential order all the way up to Canada. They were all wet with salt water and many fell apart when touched, but they were good quality maps and had the San Diego supplier stamped on the bottom right corner.

Jim exchanged looks with the other officer. "Good find. Anything else here?"

"Nope, the trunks are empty. Even the linen has been cleaned out. This was a well-thought- out, well-executed dumping of a boat. Even the name on the side had been painted over."

That was news to Jim. These people had done everything possible to prevent the boat from being tracked to the owner. "I'm gonna take a look at where the horses were kept." Jim paused a second at the door. "Why do you think they had stalls if the horses were already dead?"

"The stalls aren't make-shift. They're part of the boat. Whoever owned it probably regularly transported horses," suggested the other man.

Jim nodded and continued on his quest for answers. He went to the stalls. The first one still had a horse in it. The legs were at odd angles compared to the body. The enclosure looked more like a box, something like where they kept the horses at the track. It was made of wood, definitely worse for wear after being submerged for a few weeks. Nothing was missing, and there were no markings or holes where a sign might have hung. The one across was in the same condition.

The third stall had a gaping hole in the back wall. Jim could see minute tufts of hair caught on the jagged wood tears in the side of the boat. He placed several in an evidence bag. Going back to the stall door, he noticed that it was whole, no pieces missing. It was the fourth stall door that had a chunk missing and that one had letters painted on it similar, if not identical, to the "TOR" board he had found.

"Victory Belle," Jim muttered under his breath. The name of the horse? He hoped so. At least it would give them a place to start checking tomorrow morning. Giving another quick glance, he decided he had seen enough.

After getting off the boat, he rejoined his partner, who was talking to the Coast Guard Captain and the equine vet, Dr. Lenhard.

"Detective Ellison," she acknowledged as he came up on them. "I've got a team on its way to take the horses back to the Rainier Pathology Department. I've been working on the other horse, but I don't have anything conclusive. There just hasn't been time."

"Thank you, Doctor." Rucker came up quietly and joined them. Jim ignored his presence for the moment, focusing on the vet. "I gave you my card this afternoon, and it's got my cell number. If you find out anything important, don't hesitate to call me, even if it's in the middle of the night." Jim paused a second, considering. "I understand you treat many of the Thoroughbreds here in Cascade. Do you know of any with the name Victory Belle?"

She looked deep in thought, then countered, "Not that I can recollect. But I'll check the client list on the computer and let you know if I find a match."

"Thanks again." Jim reached out and shook her hand in a formal goodbye. She nodded and walked off. He glanced down at Blair, who remained quiet.

"Jim," Rucker asked for his attention. "What if Victory Belle was the name of the boat? It might have been taken down from everywhere else, but because it was painted on the stall door, it was forgotten or something."

"Good idea. Can you check into that and let me know if the name pops up?" Jim asked his cousin.

Blair gave an involuntary yawn. He covered his mouth quickly, but Jim still pounced. "Are we keeping you from your beauty sleep?"

"Hey, that's not fair. I was up at five -- you slept in until seven. Plus, I went to bed late."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Not my problem, Chief." He turned back to his cousin. "Give me a call if you find out anything."

"Take it easy Jim, Blair."

The two detectives wandered back to the truck. "So, did you get a date?" Jim inquired.

"I didn't ask. Judging from the way she was standing, I got the impression she would say no. I guess this just wasn't the time or place. Maybe when the case is over, I'll try."

"Good thinking," Jim remarked as he slammed the door to his truck shut.

The next morning, Simon and Daryl were up early and at the track by six. Daryl complained some, hiding his grin behind the many exaggerated yawns. The two arrived at the track just as the first set was finishing. Herman was standing by the rail at the seventh-eighths pole, observing the horses leaving.

"Hey, Simon. Great to see you," Herman Franklin called over his shoulder, his large glasses slumping on his nose. "You should have seen Circumspect run. He's a dynamo, definitely not living up to his name." The older man laughed as he pushed his glasses toward his eyes.

"You're supposed to be saying things like that about Little Stogie, not his competition." Simon joined the trainer at the fence. Daryl quietly stood on his father's other side.

"Yeah, well. That stallion is good. Probably going to get claimed before he has to race against us. I don't plan to run Little Stogie for at least another couple of weeks."

"Why are you waiting?"

"He's blowing too hard during workouts. Not that he's getting slower, but it takes him longer to catch his breath after he's done."

"Does this mean there's a problem?" Simon asked, concerned about his horse's health.

"Don't know. He was okay after getting here from the Suarez farm, but he just hasn't shaped up as quickly as I would have liked."

Simon tried not to let what Herman said bother him, but he was a natural worrier. The trainer had had a lot of complaints about Little Stogie from the beginning. The horse broke too fast, refused to save anything for the end of the race, and was too headstrong when it came to the jockey's commands. But all of it had been mental, not physical.

The first set disappeared around the corner and into the shed row. The next set soon appeared in their place.

"Is Little Stogie in that group?" Daryl asked, leaning against the fence, resting his chin on his forearms.

"He's the dark chestnut, walking behind the paint."


Simon laughed to himself. Daryl didn't know very much about horses and racing. Since they were now proud owners, Simon had decided to teach him. Joan was not pleased. "He's the pony. Every stallion has a companion horse that rides next to him at the races and is his security in strange places. That black and white horse belongs to Little Stogie. In fact, he has an interesting background."

Herman chuckled. "His name is Just Kidding."

"Is he a Thoroughbred like Little Stogie?"

"Sort of," Herman answered. "There are specific rules for which colors the Thoroughbred Association will accept in order to register a colt for racing. Bay, black, chestnuts, roans and grays are okay, but patches of white on the torso are illegal. With his excellent bloodlines, he could have been used for jumping or three-day eventing, but he doesn't like to work hard."

Simon added, "He uses up his energy looking around and enjoying the sights."

"So he sold rather cheaply," Herman interjected. "I was able to pick him up for only six thousand."

"That's cheap?" Daryl's eyes were wide in astonishment.

"For a horse of his quality. I used my winnings two years ago just before your great uncle died. Kidd and Stogie were together during their winter months and bonded pretty tight. So, when we, your uncle and I, brought Stogie up, we took Kidd, too. Both horses seemed happy with the arrangement."

The brown mass whirled past. The horses were cantering the track. Simon could make out Little Stogie and his friend, Just Kidding, gliding along the homestretch; passing the grandstand on the opposite side of the track.

"I've decided not to give him the rein today, just a long easy canter. I want to see how winded he gets after only three miles of a slow speed."

The three men watched their investment closely, admiring his form, grace, and easy compliance. The horse wasn't fighting the rider at all. Simon glanced at Herman, noticing the scowl on his face.

"You see something wrong with his workout?"

"He should want to run faster. Justin should be checking him, maybe not constantly, but at least a few times, but Stogie seems very content to run slow."

When the second set's workout was over, Simon and Daryl followed Herman back to the barn where the horses were housed. Grooms were already unsaddling the horses and beginning their rubdown. Even from three stalls down, he could hear Stogie breathing hard. In fact, both horses were making a lot of noise.

Herman bent down and rested his ear against the chest of Just Kidding. "You know, Simon. I think we need to call the vet. Kidd doesn't sound right, either."

Simon walked over to the big dark chestnut and stroked his neck. The horse turned to look at him, ears forward and eyes bright. "He doesn't look sick. I could always tell when Daryl was sick by his eyes. They kind of drooped when he had a fever."

"We took his temp this morning and it was on the higher side of normal, but not alarming."

"Call the vet. I'd rather pay the doctor's bills now and catch whatever it is early than wait until he's really sick."

Herman nodded and left the barn area to place the call.

Simon gazed at Little Stogie, hoping that it was nothing, but dreading the worst. A minor cold could put him out of the races for a few weeks, but how long did it take to recondition a horse? Did they even get colds? What if it was something worse -- like pneumonia?

Daryl and the groom were talking quietly between themselves. "How much hay does he get a day?"

The man spread three flakes of hay onto the stall's floor. "A lot. This is just one meal. Usually he gets a quarter of a bale three times a day and grain twice."


"Yep. We give him about two pounds of grain twice a day, plus we top-dress it with extra vitamins and glucosamine. When he's really racing and not just training, he'll get a bit of extra grain, depending upon if he drops any weight."

Daryl followed the groom and horse as Kidd was led into his stall. Simon could see there was already some hay fluffed out in there for the head went down immediately and then lifted with alfalfa hanging from his mouth while he happily munched away.

Herman came back. "Dr. Lenhard said she could be here tomorrow morning as there is no immediate threat. If that changes, we're supposed to call her immediately."

"Why couldn't she come today?" Daryl asked, becoming involved in the conversation.

"She mentioned that she was doing a necropsy, which is like an autopsy, on a horse. That would take up most of today."

Simon stiffened, remembering that Jim Ellison had gone to investigate a dead horse -- a Thoroughbred, he had said. His team had come back from the docks full of gruesome descriptions of a soggy horse, dead by something other than drowning. Simon hadn't paid much attention, but now it hit closer to home as he gazed at his own Thoroughbred eating breakfast.

"We're gonna head out, Herman. Give me a call after the vet comes."

Simon and Daryl walked slowly to the car, both occupied with troubling thoughts.

Even though it was close to quitting time, Jim Ellison found himself walking sedately down the stairwell to Pathology. They had just received a FAX from the Rainier University lab that had completed the necropsy on the first dead horse, but were still working on the rest. He'd gone over the Coast Guard's report on the sunken boat and other horses, but there was nothing in them that Rucker hadn't told him. Dinner would just have to wait.

"Hello, Detective Ellison."

Jim entered the room where Dan Wolf and the department pathologist, Sam, were hunched over a desk reading some papers.

"Does it say what the horse died of?" Jim asked as he closed the door behind him.

"Something respiratory. The report says that the lungs were filled with little nodules. Even though there were no germs left in them, it was definitely some kind of bacteria. They stated that it might be Strangles or some form of pneumonia."

"So they don't know either." Jim was disappointed. He was hoping for something concrete and all he got was maybes.

"We also verified that the hairs you pulled from the hole in the boat belong to the first dead horse."

Jim perked up at the information. That neatly tied the horse to the boat. The wood with the painted letters was one thing, but the hairs verified it. They gave him a copy of the report, and he headed back up to Major Crime. There was a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo, but even he could see that assaying a water-laden horse for a cause of disease was damned near impossible. He was lucky they found the nodules in the lung. At least it gave him a place to start.

Plopping himself at his desk, he picked up the phone to call Dr. Bannerman. Just as he punched in her numbers, Simon called him into his office. He didn't open his door and shout as was customary. Jim could tell he was sitting at his desk and had just received some unsettling news over the phone. "Jim, you'd better get in here," the voice croaked. It wasn't even at a normal range, but rather soft, especially for his captain.

Jim replaced the phone's receiver and meandered over to the office. He hesitantly knocked. Simon's, "Come in," was equally strange.

"I thought you had the day off. Going to the track, spending time with Daryl. " Jim stopped talking, noticing Simon's worried eyes and trembling hand.

"I just hung up after talking to Dr. Lenhard. She's--"

"That's the vet who was--"

"I know. She's also Little Stogie's vet. Herman Franklin called her this morning to come check on Little Stogie. He's been off, and Herman was worried."

"He's alright, isn't he?"

"She hasn't looked at him yet. The reason behind her call is that she received ten other calls from the track for her to look at their horses. All have the same symptoms as Little Stogie and Kidd. One has just died. She was at the university doing the necropsy on those drowned horses that had just been pulled out of the boat, when all the calls came in."

"Did she say how the horse at the track died?"

"It's respiratory. He acted like he was very stiff, refused to run and had pus draining from his nose. They're taking cultures to identify the cause of the infection."

"You want to go down to the track?" Jim asked, ready to drive Simon.

"No. She told me to stay home and she'd call with any new information." Simon shook his head in apparent disbelief. "What if this is big, Jim? Don't you think it's a huge coincidence that there's a boat with four dead horses -- all Thoroughbreds -- and now there might be an epidemic at the track?"

"The pathology report stated that the first horse they pulled out of the water had nodules in its lungs," Jim informed his captain. "Sounds like a respiratory sickness. I also remember Dr. Bannerman saying that it's bacterial. That means antibiotics. This could all go away with a bunch of penicillin."

Simon looked up, his eyes glittering with a ray of hope. "Yeah, and it won't turn into a city-wide epidemic with us all quarantined."

Jim hadn't thought of that. "We don't even know if the disease can be transferred to humans."

The two detectives each silently considered the ramifications of a hot zone in Cascade. Simon stood, shuffling some papers on his desk. "I guess that's all we can do for now. I'm gonna head home. Daryl says he's making dinner."

Jim chuckled. "So, that's why you came in. Daryl kicked you out because you were getting in his way."

"That's not true," Simon blustered. Then smiled a bit sheepishly. "Well, maybe a little. I was just trying to help."

Jim smirked. Simon didn't know the meaning of subtle. Even gentle suggestions would come out as overbearing dictates. Daryl was smart to make his father leave.

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