The Next Day
Jim walked into the bullpen to find it almost empty. A few detectives were busy at their desks, either on the computer or the phone. Blair waltzed over to his own desk and dialed into his phone mail. Jim could hear it dimly in the background. As he glanced at his own desk, he found a handwritten message from Serena in Forensics. The lab report was in on the chunk of wood he had found.
Picking up the report, he skimmed it quickly, looking for any concrete answers. There were none. It stated the approximate time of submersion. The lumber was the type most often used on boats. The paint was oil-based, commonly used on wood signs. No stray hairs, fingerprints, or rogue chemicals were on or saturated within the wood.
Feeling his partner's eyes on him, Jim glanced up. Blair was on the phone, talking seriously with the person on the other end. The younger detective tapped the receiver with his index finger. Jim instantly focused his hearing onto the conversation.
"...three additional calls this morning. I've been run off my feet looking at the horses. I know they all have something bacterial. But, what it is, I can't guess yet."
"Not even an inkling?" Jim heard his partner ask.
"I'm pretty sure it's some kind of pneumonia, but it's not classic. If I don't know what bug is causing it, I can't correctly prescribe the most effective antibiotic."
"But, you're sure of the nodules?" Jim started at Blair's words. Nodules were what the vet found looking at the first horse they dragged out of the ocean.
"Yes. A pathology report was done on the horse that died last night by a vet I asked to assist from Seattle. He said that the nodules are the same. I've given Dr. Phelps the job of analyzing the rest of the dead horses, while I see to the live ones."
"Are you at the track now?"
"Yes. I never left."
"Jim and I will be right there," Blair turned to look at Jim. The older detective nodded in affirmation. "Maybe we can talk to all the owners and trainers and find some kind of connection."
"There's a Captain Banks already here with two of his detectives, talking with the owners. Do you know him?"
Blair looked up and Jim met his eyes with a smile. "Yes, he's our captain, too. We'll be right over."
Jim ceased listening. He drew out his cell phone and dialed Simon's number. Without even asking, he knew that the two detectives already there had to be Rafe and Henri, two prominent members of the Cigar Club. They must have been very concerned about Little Stogie, almost as much as Simon.
"Banks!" the voice growled.
"Captain? It's Ellison. Sandburg and I are on our way to the track. Did you see the Forensics' report on the board of wood?"
"Yeah, dead end. We'll meet you by Little Stogie's stall. Doc gave us some antibiotics last night, and both horses seem none the worse for wear. Perfect Pick died and another horse is fighting for his life right now. Neither of them got the medicine in time. Dr. Lenhard has prescribed antibiotics for every horse in barns two, six, and twelve."
"Have Rafe or Henri found any connections?"
"We're heading out now. See you in thirty."
Jim closed his phone and grabbed his jacket.
"Have they found a connection?" Blair asked, walking beside Jim as they left the bullpen.
"Not yet. It has to be something simple. With that boat being sunk in the ocean and Cascade also on the Pacific Coast, I think we're looking for horses wintered somewhere down in California. My guess is that one horse came up here sick and infected the others."
"Sounds reasonable," Blair responded. "Maybe Dr. Lenhard will even be able to say which horse was the carrier so we can backtrack it to the farm."
Simon shut off his cell phone and turned back to Little Stogie, absently rubbing a stiff shoulder. The vet was due any minute. She had set up an IV drip to both the chestnut and the paint. Simon was in charge of watching the racehorse, who wasn't giving him any problems. Herman stood by Kidd, resting his head on the horse's back. Rafe and Henri had been gone for over an hour, interviewing owners and trainers. Simon hoped they'd be back before Jim and Blair showed up.
Little Stogie stood, almost unresponsive, as the intravenous fluid flowed into his neck. His eyes were mostly closed and his head hung pretty low. Snot and thick mucus oozed out of his nose. Occasionally he would shift his weight, but acted stiff as if his muscles hurt as well. Simon awkwardly stroked Stogie's neck, trying to give comfort to his horse. What made it worse was that the vet had no idea what she was treating. An unknown disease was a pretty scary thing.
It seemed no time had passed before he heard a gentle voice calling out to him.
Simon looked out over the stall door to see his best team standing there, looking very uneasy. "Hey. As you can see, we're just barely holding our own."
"I thought he was on penicillin or something?" Jim asked, frowning.
"He is, but it's either not working or working slow because the infection is so intense."
Jim nodded. "Has Rafe or Henri gotten in touch with you recently?"
"I haven't heard a word."
"We heard on the news as we drove over that the track is closed. Racing and workouts have been cancelled. All horses are supposed to stay in their stalls, and the owners and trainers are restricted to their own barns."
Simon pondered the new information. "Maybe this is the first step in a quarantine." Suddenly he heard his cell phone chirp. "Excuse me." The captain activated the phone. "Banks!"
"Captain. It's Rafe. We're outside barn sixteen where a trainer has just been taken away in an ambulance. They think he might have the same disease as the horses. Anyone who's had direct contact with the horses are required to stay where they are. We heard that the National Guard's been called in."
Simon looked guiltily at Jim and Blair. Now they were stuck here, too. "What about you? Are you quaratined?"
"No. We never entered any of the barns and only talked to a few trainers outside."
Simon found it hard to take in that this disease could jump to humans. "Rafe. Jim is standing right beside me. Why don't you tell him what you've discovered?" Simon handed the phone to the older detective and went back to stroking his horse's neck, feeling slightly cold. Worry for his son began eating away at him. Daryl had been at the track with him yesterday. Could he have been exposed? Were they all going to get sick?
Jim handed the phone back to his captain. Blair was looking at him with wide eyes; trusting eyes that spoke louder than any words that he knew Jim would find a way out of this mess. Unfortunately, it was up to the medical professionals. No bullying, no enhanced senses, no special forces tactics could defeat a bacteria bent on destruction.
"Well, what did Rafe say? All we heard were a bunch of grunts and an 'oh, hell'."
"The trainer for the horse, Spice Incentive, got sick this morning. He had been complaining of muscle aches and chest pain, but thought it was related to anxiety. Then he registered a high fever and started hacking up chunks. Dr. Lenhard recognized it right away."
"What else? What made you say, 'oh hell?'"
"We can't leave the barn. Everyone has to be checked. The only break at this point is that the vet thinks she knows what it is. Now that a human has come down with it, it has dramatically narrowed the possibilities. Dr. Lenhard's waiting for a particular test she's ordered to come in. It has to be rushed here from the pharmaceutical company. Until everyone gets tested, no one is allowed to leave or enter the track facilities. The gates are now closed."
Jim watched the ramifications settle on his partner.
"We're stuck here?" Blair asked, incredulously.
"Yep. We can't even go question anyone."
Herman brought over two buckets and turned them upside down. "Have a seat, gents. This may take awhile. I don't suppose you brought any food? I never went home last night, so I haven't had supper or breakfast."
"Sorry, Herman. I--"
"I've got a couple of breakfast bars in my pack," Blair piped up. He pulled his backpack off his shoulders and rummaged around until he found what he was looking for. "Ta da," he announced in triumph.
Jim watched Herman nibble on the bar. For someone who had skipped two meals, he didn't eat the bars very fast. Meanwhile, Simon had been dialing a number on his phone. It rang and rang, but no one answered.
Simon turned to Jim. "Daryl must be at the library or something. He's not picking up."
"Try again in half an hour," Blair suggested.
They waited a good hour longer before Dr. Lenhard walked down their shed row. Jim had been reduced to pacing while Blair talked quietly to Simon, who still had not gotten an answer in Daryl's room. Jim strained his ears to listen in on any conversations in the neighboring barns, but they were all in the same boat.
When the doctor turned the corner, Jim was waiting to pounce. His body stilled suddenly as he took in her biosafety mask and gloved hands. She carried a medical box and a cell phone was clipped to her waste.
"Is this disease as dangerous as your protective clothing says it is?" Jim demanded to know, before Dr. Lenhard had a chance to speak.
She smiled calmly, at least it looked a smile, although it was hidden within the confines of the mask. "I have a test I would like to perform on the horses." Her voice was muffled, but came across clear enough to understand.
"What kind of test?" Blair asked, his interest alerted by the magic word.
Jim groaned in dismay. He hoped the good doctor wouldn't spend the next hour mired in irrelevant dialogue.
"It's called a Mallein test. I want to check their bodies for the mallein protein."
She first went over to Little Stogie. In a ritualistic pantomime, she opened her case, slipped on a new pair of gloves, withdrew a needle filled with a brown colored liquid, and injected it into the horse's neck. After swabbing the neck with alcohol, she took off the exterior pair of gloves, leaving on the original set, slipped on a new pair and went over to Just Kidding and repeated the procedure. Again she took off the exterior gloves and left the horse's stall to come stand next to the men. "I have just injected a small amount of the mallein antigen into the horses. Now, we should watch the neck and see if a hive develops. A fever is another response to the antigen, but they already have one so that won't tell us anything."
"And if a hive does develop?" Simon asked, peering closely at Little Stogie's neck.
"Then the horses are positive for a bacterial infection caused by Burkholderia mallei, better known as Glanders."
Jim actually saw the blood drain from the shorter men's faces. "This is bad?" Jim asked, glancing over at Simon, who held the same puzzled expression.
"Yes and no," the vet answered. "Untreated, the disease is almost always fatal. In ancient times--"
Jim groaned audibly. Now the horse doctor was sounding like Sandburg.
"Excuse me, Detective Ellison. I was under the impression you wanted to know what was going on," she chastised him.
Blair sniggered. Slightly abashed, Jim countered, "I do. It's just that phrase, 'in ancient times' that sends shivers of dread up my back."
She looked confused. "Dread of what?"
"A coming lecture."
"I promise not to go into too much depth," she replied with sarcasm.
Blair interjected. "Glanders used to be a disease of the cavalry. It would kill the horses and then infect the soldiers. It's terribly contagious. Whole armies were lost within a few weeks."
Dr. Lenhard nodded. "That's correct. The bacteria is passed by the way of nasal droplets and it doesn't require many individual cells to infect the host."
"How come we've never heard of it before?" Simon asked, leaving Little Stogie's stall.
"Because it's pretty much eradicated. Only in some third world countries, where there aren't any antibiotics, can you find it. In fact, the last known human case in the United States was back in 1945, except for a microbiologist in May of 2000."
"So, why is it showing up here -- and now?" Jim asked, trying to get the discussion back to their situation.
"I don't know," the vet answered. She walked into the stall that Simon had vacated and took a look at the dark chestnut. "Look. It's reacting. He definitely has Glanders. I'm taking him off the beta-lactams and adding sulfadiazine to his IV drip. We'll let this dose enter his blood stream, stop the IV, and then give him shots for the next few days." She turned to Herman. "Can you give injections?"
The older man responded, "I sure can. Come look at Kidd. I think he's got a bump there, too."
Dr. Lenhard took a look at Just Kidding and added some of the new antibiotic to his IV, also. "I have to leave and go check the other horses. The Centers for Disease Control has been called in."
"Because of Spice Incentive's trainer coming down with something?"
She nodded. "They'll be sending representatives around to administer this same test to everyone who has had contact with the horses. The track is now under quarantine. No one is allowed to leave or enter. If you know of others that may have come in contact with an infected animal, call them on the phone and have them get checked. Do you have any questions?"
Jim had a million running through his mind. "Do you think the horses we found also had this Glanders?"
"Yes, they did."
"So this outbreak may not be isolated to just this one track?"
"My guess is no. Before tomorrow is over, I'm sure there will be other cities with infected horses and maybe people. The CDC will deal with this from here on out." She smiled, "It's been taken out of your hands, Detective Ellison. You must be relieved."
Jim smiled back, but it was perfunctory.
The vet rummaged in her bag and took out the needed medicine and explained to Herman what needed to be done. "I'm heading off to the next barn. I'll be back to check on the horses tomorrow morning. Call if they get worse, but from their condition I don't think it's likely."
"What about us? Are we allowed to leave?" Blair inquired, as Dr. Lenhard began walking away.
She turned back. "Not until you've tested negative. CDC doctors will come by the barn, but they also have a tent set up by the front gate. In order to leave, you need to register with them, have your blood drawn, and obtain a negative Mallein test. I think they'll give you a card or something to verify your negative test. You show the card at the track's front gate before you can exit."
"How are we ever going to question people if we're stuck here waiting for the CDC to give us that test?" Jim complained.
"Amy tells me you're a great detective. I'm sure you'll figure something out." She gave him a derisive glance, then walked away.
Blair started to grin, but Jim wiped it away with a dark look. Neither Herman nor Simon felt any such qualms and both started laughing. Jim felt the situation slipping away from him and didn't know how to get it back.
Rafe leaned against the fence surrounding the track. His gaze swept the grounds as the CDC personnel manned their main tent near the front gate and sent individual medical groups from barn to barn. He really didn't want to be stuck with the horses like Jim and Blair because someone needed to be able to investigate. His notebook, a present from Blair, contained a summary of each of the interviews they had conducted so far.
"I don't think any of the owners have a clue where this epidemic came from," Henri commented, standing next to Rafe along the fence.
"Most have never heard of the disease."
"But how could something like this just pop up? I mean if it hasn't been in the U.S. for like fifty years, how did it get here now? And why now?"
Rafe turned his head and watched the vet leave Little Stogie's barn. He understood that this was a dangerous disease, but he was picking up some strange vibes from the doctors. They were nervous. "I think there's something we're missing."
Henri looked puzzled. "Like what?"
"The CDC workers all look like they're swallowed a lemon. None of them are joking around or acting like regular people on a job. They act -- well -- worried."
"Maybe we should go to the tent and ask them. We are detectives working on this case. If they know something we don't, we better find out what it is." Henri left the fence and strode over to the CDC's main base.
Rafe followed, biting back a grin. He loved watching Henri get riled.
"Excuse me. We're detectives with the Cascade PD working on this Glanders case."
"You must be Detective Ellison. We were told you'd come looking for us."
Henri paused and cast a swift glance at Rafe. "No. Detectives Ellison and Sandburg are in the barn with Little Stogie. Our Captain's racehorse is one of those sick. We've been interviewing numerous owners and trainers, trying to find out how this all started. Do you have any information?"
The man stood from his makeshift desk and came over to shake their hands. "It's always a pleasure to work with the local law enforcement."
Rafe tried, but he couldn't detect any facetiousness in the man's words. He appeared totally genuine. Maybe it was a good thing that they were the ones talking to the CDC and not Jim, who undoubtedly would alienate the doctors within a minute of conversation.
"Have a seat, detectives," the CDC official invited. "My name is John Weider. I'm the administrator for this particular outbreak."
"This outbreak?" Rafe interjected.
"Yes, there has been a total of three confirmed outbreaks of Glanders on the Pacific Coast. One is at the Santa Anita track, the other is at a barn in Portland, Oregon, and the last one is here."
Rafe and Henri exchanged glances. Both knew that this news was bad. "We didn't hear it in the news," Rafe questioned. "Even our vet didn't know what was going on."
"It was kept quiet. We didn't want to panic the general population."
"But, why has the CDC been brought in?" Henri asked. "I thought this disease could be treated by antibiotics with no big deal."
"Normally that is the case. But, Burkholderia mallei is on our hot list as a possible terrorist agent and is normally categorized as a reportable disease."
"Hot list?" Rafe felt like a parrot repeating the doctor's words.
"There are certain infectious agents that can cause disease remarkably fast and with very few organisms. When humans get Glanders, it strikes quickly and deadly in a matter of a few days. After infection with just 35 colony-forming units, it takes one to five days for a localized infection to form, as in lung nodes. If it goes into the bloodstream, you're dead in another two days."
Rafe felt a shiver run down his back.
John Weider continued, "We are working in conjunction with the FBI to determine whether this could be a terrorist act. Because it requires so few organisms to cause infection, this bacteria can be used in germ warfare. We need to culture it and then do tests to discover its origin."
"Is this what you did with the other outbreaks?"
"We are still doing the tests."
Rafe knew the man wouldn't tell them anymore. He pulled out his notebook and wrote down the administrator's name and the info he had just given them. Jim was not going to be happy with this news. It was downright scary. What kind of terrorist would use horses as a weapon to kill humans?
"Does this mean you have no leads what-so-ever as to where this started?"
"Santa Anita had the first outbreak with ten horses and three people dying so far. We believe it's now under control. In Portland, it's a lot messier. The authorities weren't notified until the horses died, so the Glanders had more time to spread. I don't know how many now are deceased."
Rafe jotted the information down, noticing how neatly Weider sidestepped the question. He had a feeling they knew the origin, but were unwilling to share.
"Would you two detectives be so kind as to step into the other tent and have the Mallein test administered to you? We need to check every human and equine on the track grounds."
"Sure," Henri answered. "Are you going around to all the barns or are the people supposed to come to you?"
"Both." John Weider led the way into the neighboring tent. "We have a contingent now entering barn one, but no one is allowed to leave the grounds without a negative Mallein test."
"If it's positive?"
"Antibiotics. If you've handled an infected horse, then we'll put you on sulfadiazine prophylaxis. Have you been in contact with any of the animals?"
"No. We only talked to the owners and trainers, but outside the barn," Rafe acknowledged.
"Yeah, we had no interest in getting close to those sick horses," Henri admitted.
"Fine. Dr. Raymond will give you an intradermal injection of mallein antigen. We wait a few minutes and then see if it reacts."
After both detectives received their shot, they went over to sit on a couple of folding chairs to wait. Rafe pulled out his cell phone and called Simon to fill him in on what had been happening.
Simon's cell phone rang, making Jim jump up from the upside down feed bucket. Unashamedly, he listened in to the conversation between his captain and Rafe. Even with his concentration focused on what Rafe was saying, he still monitored the horses' conditions, Blair's agitated fidgeting, and Herman Franklin's elevated temperature.
"Possible terrorist attack?" Simon bellowed into the phone. "I don't believe it. We just have a bunch of sick horses, not thousands of people."
"Germ warfare?" Blair questioned, softly.
Jim went over to his partner, who had also risen and was beginning to pace. "It's just a possibility because the bacteria is on their hot list. If it was a terrorist attack, it wasn't very efficient or effective."
Jim stiffened as he heard someone walking in their direction. He could hear two people talking quietly between themselves, although their voices sounded fuzzy, reminiscent of the way Dr. Lenhard sounded in her safety mask. Leaving Blair's side, he started down the shed row and intercepted two doctors, carrying what looked to be plastic tackle boxes filled with medical supplies. They were wearing lab coats with their name and the words, Centers For Disease Control on the left breast pockets.
"Good afternoon," the two doctors said as they came into view. Their voices were muffled because of the masks they wore.
"Both of these horses were positive on that test the vet did, does this mean you're going to give us antibiotics right away?" Simon asked, leaving the stall and standing in front of the newcomers.
"Yes, we'll give you the antibiotics, but we want to do the test anyway. We also want a blood sample to run some ELIZA's. Do any of you feel sick?"
No one spoke. "Test Herman Franklin first," Jim suggested. "He's having trouble breathing and he's got a slight temp."
The CDC doctors went over to the trainer, who gave Jim a strange look as he left Just Kidding's side. The professionals went to work, drawing blood, and administering the Mallein test. When the trainer was done, they went to Simon and then to Jim and Blair. Each took his turn getting poked and tested.
As Jim felt his blood leave his arm, he happened to glance over to Herman who had gone chalky white. "Simon!" Jim called out. "Catch Herman. He's gonna--" The trainer collapsed onto the hard floor. His pant legs slid up and raw sores became visible on his ankles and calves.
The CDC doctor made a call, and a gurney pulled by two rescue workers in full biohazard gear quickly came and took Franklin away.
Simon looked almost dazed as his friend was wheeled away. He casually went to rub his arm, but the doctor was there first. "You're infected, sir. Please sit down."
Jim looked at the arm and saw a huge welt, almost the size of the arm itself, rising, red and radiating heat. Jim instantly looked down at his own arm, and gave a sigh of relief when he found it unchanged. His next thought went to his partner. Blair was nonchalantly rubbing his arm, preventing Jim's eyes from seeing anything. Forcefully, Jim grabbed his partner's arm, exposing the area where the Mallein test had been administered. It was normal -- no reaction. After a second, with closed eyes and a soft "thank God," he redirected his focus toward his captain. Simon was blustering, but Jim could detect a rasp in his breaths.
"You're going to have to come with us, too, sir," the doctor was patiently informing him.
"But, I'm not sick."
"Not, yet." Firmly the doctor took control of the police captain.
"Daryl!" Simon screamed in fear. "He was with me yesterday next to the horses. He's not answering his phone." Simon was beside himself with worry -- struggling against the paramedics and trying to keep talking. With subtle determination, the CDC officials backed Simon up to the gurney where he tripped slightly and fell into a sitting position. As they pushed him down, Simon twisted and locked eyes with Jim, the silent plea evident in his gaze.
"I'll get in touch with Daryl. I promise," Jim reassured his friend.
"We'll have a center downtown where people who believe they've been exposed can get a free Mallein test. The pharmaceutical company that manufactures the test is FedExing shipments every six hours. Have this Daryl go there." The CDC doctor began writing on a clipboard.
"Where is the center going to be located?" Jim asked, watching Simon get strapped to the gurney.
"You'll have to ask at the track's front gate, but I assume it will be at one of the local hospitals," he responded still writing. "Now, what is your name, sir?"
"James Ellison. Why--"
"Here is your card, Mr. Ellison. And yours?" he directed to Blair, who replied promptly.
"You two need to show these cards at the gate in order to leave. This proves that we've administered the Mallein test and that you were both negative." With that piece of business completed, the doctor tucked away the clipboard and picked up the remaining medical supplies. He flashed Jim a commiserating smile, then began pushing the gurney away with a reluctant Simon aboard.
Blair immediately pulled out his cell phone and dialed. Jim peeked over his shoulder noticing the input of the emergency numbers, 9-1-1.
"This is Detective Sandburg with the Cascade Police Department. I need to know where the CDC is giving the Mallein test for those who have been exposed to Glanders from the race track."
"Cascade General Hospital. Everyone who is tested positive will then be immediately admitted." Jim had no trouble hearing the operator's response.
"Thank you." Blair disconnected and immediately began punching in Daryl's number. This time a dorm-mate answered.
"I need to talk to Daryl Banks immediately. Is he around?"
"I'll go get him."
A couple of minutes went by before the familiar voice spoke. "This is Daryl."
"Hi, it's Blair. Now, don't panic, but I'm calling to let you know that your father's been taken to the hospital."
"There's a disease that's making the horses sick and it seems to be able to move to humans. You could be infected, too. I want--"
"But how is he?" Daryl frantically asked.
"I'm sure he'll be fine, but he's very worried about you," the younger detective continued. "The disease is called Glanders and you need to go down to Cascade General Hospital and get yourself tested as soon as you can."
"Yeah, sure." He sounded in shock to Jim, as he listened in. "Was he unconscious or delirious?"
"No. He seemed normal, but he reacted positive to the test, so they took him in as a precaution."
Blair looked over at Jim and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'I don't know what to tell him.'
Jim took the phone away from his partner. "Daryl, this is Jim. We can't leave the track because it's quarantined. Go get the Mallein test. We'll be in touch as soon as we can get out of here."
Daryl was quiet for a bit and then said, "Thanks for calling. I'll go now." Then he hung up.
"He doesn't sound good." Jim remarked as he handed the phone back to his partner. "But there's not much we can do now, except wait for the green light."
As the quiet surrounded them, it dawned on Jim that they were now alone with the sick horses. Everyone else had been taken away.
Blair realized it at the same time. "What do we do now?" he asked.
Jim looked in at the two horses. Each was standing quietly, the IV dripping soundlessly into their veins. The bags were only half-empty. "I don't know. I assume Dr. Lenhard is coming back. She did say the IV's were to be disconnected."
"Can we just leave them?" the younger detective asked. "We have our exit cards."
Jim shrugged. "I don't know if we can leave them alone." He glanced once more at the needle sticking into their necks and decided they had better not chance it.
Clueless, both detectives watched the horses as they occasionally shifted their feet and swished their tails at the flies that landed on their bodies. The minutes ticked by slowly, and Jim felt a mounting impatience that he couldn't control. His jaw tensed, and he soon found himself pacing.
"Jim, why don't you call Rafe. Surely--"
"Listen!" Jim commanded as he held up his hand.
Blair tilted his head and gave Jim a frustrated look. "I don't hear--"
Jim smiled when it became apparent that Blair did hear. Dr. Bannerman, followed by Rafe and Henri, came striding around the corner. Tagging along behind was a young man, one of Little Stogie's grooms. Jim felt the weight of responsibility fall off his shoulders.
"Well, detectives," she spoke through a broad grin. "I just heard that you had volunteered to take care of the horses."
Jim did not find this funny.
"We've got some clues, but if you'd rather take care of--"
"I would not," Jim interrupted Henri before the man could continue. "What have you found out?"
Dr. Bannerman went directly into the stall to take a look at Little Stogie. Jim focused on Rafe and Henri as they related what they had learned.
"So, we know that there have been three outbreaks, all located along the Pacific coast," Blair started to summarize what they had learned so far. "This jives with the boat with the dead horses. The disease must have started on a farm also along the coast. Did you talk to the other trainers here? Where did their horses winter?"
"There are six main places," Rafe answered, reading from his notes. "Of the fifty barns at this track, all have horses that have come down with Glanders. There is not one barn clean."
"Each barn has horses that have come from at least one of the six. However, there is one barn that has only two horses and both became sick."
Jim looked puzzled, then it hit him. "Little Stogie and Just Kidding."
"Right. We know that they came from the Suarez farm in Southern California."
"Is that place one of the six main places?" Blair asked.
"Yes. The problem with that theory is that this disease is very contagious. The horses could have picked it up from one another during exercising or even trading buckets."
"Gross, Blair." Henri wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"What are the authorities doing about this? Have they begun any kind of investigation?" Jim looked at Henri and saw him exchange a look with Rafe. "Well?" Jim asked impatiently.
"They're going on the idea that this may be a terrorist attack," Rafe responded. "The Feds are swarming, and we've been ordered off the case. There are cases of Glanders in Oregon and California."
"Are they even checking out other possibilities?" Blair asked.
"We don't know." Rafe closed his notebook. "We got cleared to escort you guys to the CDC tent. They want to check both of you out, give you a pass, and then we are to," Rafe cleared his throat, "'vacate the premises. We don't need any non-essential personnel around.' And that's a direct quote from Mr. John Weider."
"I agree we need to get out of here, but, I'll be damned if I believe this whole terrorist scenario. It just doesn't make sense."
"I agree." Dr. Bannerman came out of Just Kidding's stall. "I told Theresa the same thing. This is a real horse epidemic, not caused by some idiots trying to take down the racing industry. I think a horse somehow skipped a quarantine from a foreign country and was stabled somewhere with these Thoroughbreds. You need to find that barn and get them shut down."
"Why won't the Feds take that hypothesis and check it out?" Blair asked.
"They may have, I don't know. All animal vets with equine experience were called in to help in this emergency, so that's why I'm here." She paused for a moment then spoke. "I don't know if this is relevant, but--"
"Just say it." Jim was impatient for some kind of break-through.
"The Mallein test the horses and people are taking -- well, it hasn't been made in decades. I find it hard to believe they got production up and running so quickly. As soon as I called the company, they shipped 'em. I expected at least a twenty-four to forty-eight hour delay. I was scrambling, trying to decide what to do when the CDC just swarmed in."
"That further verifies that they had some inkling of what was happening," Blair commented.
"I think so, yes," the vet qualified. "And not just an epidemic, but Glanders in particular. I've tried to ask for particulars, but they won't talk to me."
Jim could believe that. The Feds never talked to anyone unless they absolutely had to. With nothing more to discuss, the four detectives left the shed row and headed to the main CDC tent. It seemed to take forever to get processed, and then all four were escorted off the grounds with instructions not to come back. The National Guard was posted along the perimeter to enforce this ruling.
"You know, Jim. We haven't eaten in ages. Let's stop and pick up some subs or something."
"I think we should avoid populated areas. We've got some hamburger and sauce. I'll whip up spaghetti and meatballs. It shouldn't take too long."
"All right. I can live with that."
With their passes in hand, they exited the track and walked to the truck.
"Excuse me," a woman maneuvered her way around several cars. "Can you tell us what's going on inside?" A camera with the light on was shoved into Jim's face.
Feeling rising anger, he clamped down on an explosive remark and replied, "There are horses in stalls and grooms carrying hay and oats." He glared at the reporter who appeared undaunted by his rudeness.
"But we've seen ambulances roaring out with police escorts. The National Guard has set up a quarantine, with no one allowed in and no one coming out." Then her eyes grew huge. "Except you. What can you tell us?"
"That you'll have to wait for a formal press conference." Jim pushed his way clear of the determined reporter and slid into his truck. He was glad to see that Blair had done likewise.
As soon as they got home, Jim went directly into the kitchen, while Blair went to the telephone.
"What are you doing?" Jim asked as he rolled out the hamburger balls.
"Trying to locate Simon. I want to make sure they took him to Cascade General." There was a pause. "Hey, here's a message from Daryl."
Jim eavesdropped as Blair listened to the phone mail.
"He's cool. The Mallein test was negative. Daryl says that his Dad is at Cascade General, and that they have a whole wing devoted to Glanders' patients. No one can see Simon tonight, but maybe tomorrow we'll be allowed in."
"We'll stop by on the way to work. I want to do some more digging into the other outbreaks."
"I'm gonna shower." Blair sauntered past the counter. "I smell like horse."
Jim went about the business of preparing food. His hunger right now was more important than cleanliness. The smell of the frying meat was making his stomach rumble. Casting a guilty glance in the bathroom's direction, he grabbed a jar of spaghetti sauce along with a bag of pretzels from the cabinet. As he heated the sauce, he munched on the pretzels. When his mouth became dry from the snack food, he went and removed a beer from the fridge.
"You won't have any room for the spaghetti if you keep this up." Blair walked in and caught sight of a handful halfway up to Jim's mouth. His hair was still wet from the shower.
Jim stuffed the pretzels in his mouth. "Have some," he said while chewing.
The younger man eyed the bag, then Jim, then reached in and took a few. "Okay. I'll admit I'm famished."
Jim dumped a bunch of pasta into a pot of boiling water. "Not as hungry as me." Jim stirred the noodles, planning his next day's agenda. "After we stop by the hospital, I want to do some more digging into the other outbreaks."
"I want to check into this Suarez place where Little Stogie is wintered. There has to be a connection." Blair grabbed one more pretzel then went to set the table.