Early Afternoon
Bear Creek

It was several hours of hard work before the site had been thoroughly examined and documented. Several field agents from the EPA had completed much of the initial site investigation. A grid was laid out covering both the water and surrounding landscape. Numerous water and soil samples had been collected. Jim's senses were extremely handy, as he and Blair had worked with those collecting insects and searching out signs of fauna in the nearby woods.

The sound of a loud angry voice from nearby turned everyone's attention to the latest arrival to the scene. There was a BMW parked at the site, clearly not a vehicle that should have been taken off road. A dark-haired man in a three-piece dark gray suit was standing in front of Inspector Cole, screaming at the top of his lungs.

"What do you mean my family's company could be responsible for the costs! Our business has nothing to do with hauling waste!"

Inspector Cole remained unruffled in spite of the man getting right in his face. "The land owner is responsible for the clean up, if the perpetrator cannot be located. While your father signed over the use of the land, he did not sign over the ownership. I'm sorry. It's still the holding company's responsibility to restore this area, removing all signs of contamination."

Jim stared at the man feeling that he should know who it was. As the man was shaking a finger in the face of Inspector Cole, a flash of light was reflected off the man's wrist. The Rolex had been Ralph Wilson's graduation gift to his son. A fact that had been thrown in Jim's face on several past occasions. "Well, it seems Tommy Wilson didn't learn any of his father's manners."

Blair scrutinized the confrontation occurring in front of him. "Another spoiled brat like Brad Ventriss?"

Jim shrugged. "I haven't seen him lately, but he didn't behave like Ventriss when I knew him. And trust me on this, Ralph would never tolerate that kind of behavior from his son. He was very disappointed with Tom. Even though Tom has great instincts when it comes to operating a business; he's got a distinct lack of ethics when it comes to his employees or land management. I can recall several heated discussions when Ralph wanted to remove this property from the company's books. It got bad enough that a disturbance call was logged at the station." He listened as the argument continued.

"We'll see about that. I'll fight you in court on this. I'm not authorizing a dime be paid out of our accounts to clean up anything."

"If I were you, I'd save the lawyers fees and read up on the law. Besides, you may be jumping to the wrong conclusion. It's entirely possible that we will catch whoever did this. The incident is fresh. They left behind plenty of physical evidence."

"Like you're really motivated to find them. You've already got a deep pocket on the hook," Tom Wilson replied bitterly.

"If we don't find them, this will keep happening and nobody wants that to happen. It's our job to stop it. Now, I strongly recommend that you contact your company's legal advisors. I'm sure they'd be happy to educate you as to the legalities of this situation." Inspector Cole, assuming the conversation was over, turned away from Mr. Wilson.

His face bright red with rage, Tom made a tight fist with his right hand and started after the inspector.

Jim, reading that the situation was about to get out of control, called, "Tom Wilson! I haven't seen you in ages. How are you doing?"

Blair trailed after Jim, moving into position between young Mr. Wilson and the inspector, who was not aware of the trouble behind him.

Tom Wilson stopped his pursuit and turned to face Jim. "Ellison, what are you doing here?" Hostility dripped from every word he spoke.

"I'm part of the taskforce investigating this mess."

"I should have known. Still sucking up to my father aren't you? It's too late now, Ellison. I'm the president of the company now and you... You're nothing but a civil servant. Sorry you turned him down are you?" Tom asked snidely.

"The key word is civil," Blair remarked only loud enough for Jim to hear.

"That's ancient history. All I want to do is track down the son of a bitch that did this," Jim replied, maintaining his cool. He was trying to avoid a fight. He had too much respect for Ralph Wilson to flatten his only son, no matter what the provocation.

Tom was speechless. He stood there, fuming, his hands unclenching and clenching into fists. There was no way he wanted to take on Ellison, and to get at the inspector he would have to do just that. However, it didn't appear Ellison would give him the satisfaction of swinging first.

"Just stay out of my way," he ordered as he walked away and climbed into his BMW.

The two detectives watched as the tires spun out on the stones as Wilson pulled away from the site. Blair walked over and tapped Jim on the shoulder, commenting, "Why do I think you haven't mentioned everything about your relationship with the Wilson family."

Jim chuckled. "I guess I did leave out the part where Ralph offered me a VP position when I came back from Peru, a position I might add that was equal to Tom's. I tried it for about a month. It just wasn't what I wanted to do."

"I assume that Tom figured you were being groomed for the top slot and acted accordingly."

Jim watched the cloud of dust generated by the BMW's exit slowly settle before confirming Blair's suspicions. "It was a nasty power struggle. He was so determined to prove he was the best choice to run the company that he focused his attention on the short term, rather than the long. If it had been left up to him, Tom would have clear-cut the company's properties, not to mention taking out the old growth without a second thought."

"Two points for the legislation that keeps that from happening," Blair replied.

"Ralph still keeps a tight rein on Tom," Jim replied. "Still, it looks like Tom has a pretty big chip on his shoulder from the old days. When Tom refused to work with the EPA on setting up the habitat, Ralph offered the job to me. I regretted turning him down, but we had problems of our own at that time and I couldn't devote the time required. Besides, as soon as Tom heard my name, he agreed to handle it himself."

Blair didn't say anything. He too recalled that 1999 had been a difficult time for both of them. He was slightly startled when he felt a slap on the back drawing his attention back to the present.

"Let's go find Inspector Cole and see what our next assignment is, Chief."

David Cole hadn't gone very far. Jim heard him issuing instructions to several of the field technicians who were collecting water samples. He weaved his way around the bustle of activity at the site to where the man was standing.

"What do you want from us now?" Blair asked, slightly breathless from keeping up with Jim's longer stride.

"Do what you do best. Concentrate on tracking down which business is doing the disposal out here. There are a limited number of haulers of raw sewage in the city of Cascade."

"Any suggestions on where we should start?" Jim asked

The inspector looked thoughtful for a moment before answering, "In cases like these, we rely pretty heavily on information collected by concerned citizens and activist groups. There are several good ones in Washington." Inspector Cole took out his notepad and ripped out a sheet of paper.

"I have a few contacts that can get you started." He quickly jotted down several names and addresses. Jim accepted the information with a quick glance over the list.

Blair looked at his watch. The afternoon sun was fading to dusk, and they still had a long drive back to the city. "First thing in the morning, we'll get started."

"Actually, first thing Monday morning would be better for getting a hold of these people," Inspector Cole corrected before adding, "Make sure you keep us informed of your progress."


Having kept busy all afternoon, neither man had the time to truly process the event, until they were confined to the truck during the tedious drive back to Cascade. Blair sensed Jim's ever-deepening dive into a state of depression.

The silence and the somber mood soon became unbearable. Blair's nature, not to mention his role as shaman, demanded he not allow it to continue. "Say something, Jim, anything. What's going through that head of yours?"

"Strange and selfish as it may be, but I can't believe my favorite fishing spot is gone," Jim said sadly. "There's absolutely nothing I can do about it. What good is having sentinel senses when trying to track down eco-terrorists, who are long gone before the damage they've done is even discovered? What's the point?"

"It's not selfish, Jim. You associated this place with some very happy childhood memories. And, you're wrong, there's a lot we can do about finding them, if we just get our minds focused."

Jim's response was a rude noise.

Blair thought for a long moment before answering. A long forgotten memory from his days at Rainier quickly resurfaced. With an evil glint in his eye, he replied, "You know, Jim. You're not the only sentinel on duty in this type of situation?"

Jim's head spun around to look at his partner briefly before realizing that he really should be watching the road. When Blair didn't continue, he was forced to ask, "What are you talking about, Sandburg?"

"I just remembered this article that I read a while ago. I was doing a web search on sentinels and there were several hits that were really interesting," Blair replied, his tone very nonchalant, awaiting Jim's next question.

Jim's gaze darted back and forth between Blair's face and the road. Judging from the smug grin on his partner's face he was gonna be sorry, but he asked the obvious anyway. "What articles, Chief?"

"The first one was called, 'Rivers as Sentinels: Using the biology of rivers to guide landscape management.' I don't remember all of the report, but it was something like rivers are sentinels. They give us early warnings about the risks to the environment our activities engender."

Jim clenched his jaw, hiding his bemusement. "Rivers? As sentinels?" he said after a long pause.

Blair nodded vigorously, choking down his laughter at the expression on his friend's face.

Jim shifted in his seat, trying to relax the tension in his muscles. "You know, Chief, over the years, you've compared me to a lot of different things."

"Who me?" Blair asked innocently.

"Yes, you. If I recall, the second time I ever spoke to you, you called me a caveman..."

Blair interrupted, shaking one finger at Jim. "I did not. I called you a throwback to primitive man."

"Close enough, Chief. Looking back, I understand what you meant, but at the time..." Jim paused, trying to find the right words. "At the time, I just wanted it to stop and I wasn't in the mood to hear your academic spiel, much less be described as a 'throwback.' And then there was that 'walking crime lab' comment."

"Was I wrong?" Blair asked shamelessly, happy that Jim was starting to sound amused rather than annoyed.

Rubbing his forehead, Jim took several seconds before answering. "No, but that's not the point."

"I'm sorry. What was the point?" Blair asked, with a patently false look of purity plastered across his face.

"Your tendency to make comparisons. Then there was that test you wanted me to do with the K-9 unit just before Christmas. Remember, who could find the package of drugs first, me or Sarge, the German Shepherd."

"What are you complaining about? You won."

Jim glared across the truck before returning his attention to the road. "Yeah and I had to put up with all those comments from the K-9 officers offering me a job when their dog was retired. And I'm not even going to mention that little package that Santa left under the tree for me. You know the one I mean."

Just to be as annoying as possible, Blair looked thoughtful for a moment. "Let me think. You don't mean that flea and heart worm medicine do you?"

Blair used one finger to rub the side of his forehead, as if he was recalling something else. "And, at this point should I mention that you did mention it after you just said you wouldn't mention it."

Ignoring his soon to be dead partner's smart-ass second comment, Jim replied, "Yes, that package of SENTINEL heart worm and flea medicine. I don't know what you were thinking. You're the one with a wolf for a spirit guide. You have more use for that particular item than I do."

"How dare you accuse me?" Blair retorted, playfully slapping one hand across Jim's arm. "SANTA was one doing the thinking and he must have had his reasons."

Jim eased his foot onto the brakes as they approached the upcoming intersection. Halting the truck at the red light, Jim pounded his forehead against the steering wheel wondering just when he had lost complete control over the conversation.

"You're gonna flatten that sloping forehead of yours if you keep that up," Blair offered.

Resisting the sudden urge to make a rude gesture, Jim raised his head and stared at Blair. "So what's next, Chief? How many more of these comparisons have you got up your sleeve?"

Blair just smiled as he gestured at the traffic light. "Uh, Jim? The light's green."

Jim checked both ways carefully before pulling out into the intersection, waiting for Blair to continue. He didn't have long to wait. There was a mischievous twinkle in those dark blue eyes that was not about to be denied.

"Well, there were two more interesting references that came up in that web search, Jim. Both of them have to do with protecting the environment too."

"I'm gonna be sorry I asked this," Jim muttered. "I just know it."

Blair ignored the comment and continued. "The first one talked about fresh water invertebrates being sentinels of water quality. The second one talked about the same thing only with unicellular organisms instead of invertebrates."

A pin could be heard dropping within the cab of the truck at that moment. Blair bit his tongue, waiting for Jim's reaction. On the other side of the truck, Jim was now restraining his own laughter at the idiocy of Blair's statements.

"So, let me get this straight. According to these articles, sentinels are like single-celled, spineless, throwbacks who can sniff out drugs better than dogs and solve crimes in their spare time?" Jim summarized.

Blair heard the humor beneath the sarcastic statement and was pleased at Jim's immediate mood improvement. "That sums it up nicely, Jim."

A loud car horn sounded from behind them as a little sports car passed them doing at least ninety. Jim smiled tolerantly as he waved at the driver, then picked up the radio and called for the nearest state trooper.

"Sometimes it's nice being a cop," he muttered a few minutes later as they watched a patrol car pass them with lights flashing. One look across the seat at his partner's own smug expression and Jim couldn't contain his laughter at the situation any longer. "You are truly nuts, Sandburg."

Blair nodded vigorously, his original goal achieved, he replied, "Maybe, but look at it this way. With so many sentinels on duty, these guys are not gonna get away with this."

Jim nodded in head as he thought that conclusion over. Finally, grinning broadly, he answered. "I like the idea of that."

"Me too," Blair replied as he settled back for the remaining ride home.


Monday -- Early Morning
Cascade

After having spent the previous day getting up to speed on some general background information on septic system contractors, Jim from the phone book and Blair from the internet, they were looking forward to speaking with Cole's contacts.

"What's the first name on that list," Blair asked curiously.

Jim pulled the list out of his shirt pocket. "A place called WOW, Watch Over Washington."

Blair was startled to hear the name out of his past. "I've heard of them. It's a volunteer group that collects environmental information about their local watersheds. Actually, it's a collection of small groups from all over the state. The Fish and Wildlife Department along with the University of Washington jointly trains the volunteers and studies the information they collect."

"How do you know so much about them? I've never heard of it."

"The group studying Puget Sound borrows the lab at Rainier from time to time. Janet introduced them to me," Blair added with a mournful timbre.

Jim clenched his jaw. He remembered Janet Myers. If it hadn't been for her, they would never have gathered the evidence that helped stop Cyclops Oil from destroying Chopec lands. It had been a terrible time for both him and Blair. Incacha and Janet had lost their lives during that case, murdered by those who were attempting to drill an oil field in protected Chopec land. Jim crossed his fingers hoping that there would not be a similar loss of life during this case.


Watch Over Washington Cascade Headquarters

The office for the WOW headquarters was small and very crowded. Jim figured his mere presence probably doubled the average age of the people in the room. They identified themselves to the secretary and asked to speak to whoever was in charge.

As they waited, Jim scanned the room, automatically assessing the crowd. His attention was quickly pulled to a man who was obviously glaring at his partner. He glanced over at Blair who, to Jim's eyes, was clearly well aware of the hostility, but was doing his best to ignore it.

Jim kept a close eye on both of them. Blair's pacing kept him away from the man's work space. If looks could kill, Blair would have been bagged and tagged by the looks leveled at him from across the room.

Less than five minutes later a man in a dark blue suit exited one of the rear offices and greeted them. "Hello, I'm Roger Burns. I'm the director of this facility. How many I help you?"

"We're part of the taskforce that is investigating the activities out at Bear Creek. We're hoping you could provide us some background information on the problems and issues in general and some specific information on the Bear Creek area."

"I'm happy to help." Roger gestured for the two men to follow him down the hallway to his office, which was at the end of the hall. There was a small conference table arranged in the corner of the office. The two detectives sat down on one side of the table, while Roger Burns sat down across from them.

"So what do you do here exactly?" Jim asked. "I understand that your group is actually made up of a lot of smaller groups. It must be difficult to manage."

"Actually not. The tasks assigned to a particular group of people depend on the level of expertise in the monitoring groups. Some groups just watch for changes in the land use. Is there construction, any logging activities, farming? You know what I mean. Others monitor the wildlife in a particular area. But most groups measure water quality in their areas. They count and identify the benthic macroinvertebrates in the waterway."

"The what?" Jim asked, discreetly kicking a snickering Blair in the shin.

Roger smiled, "Benthic macroinvertebrates, also known as stoneflies, caddiflies or mayflies as a few examples. We refer to them as sentinels of water quality."

Jim choked as Mr. Burns uttered his last four words, turning bright red as he coughed.

"You okay there, Jim?" Blair questioned, slapping him on the back. "Would you mind getting him something to drink?" Blair was really hoping the guy would agree. He wasn't sure he could maintain his own composure and didn't want to have to explain to Burns a spontaneous outburst of laughter while his partner was in distress.

Burns agreed, concerned about the larger man and puzzled by the expression of what only could be described as glee on the smaller detective's face. He walked across the room and poured a cup of water from the cooler.

Gratefully, Jim downed the cup of water and managed to regain some semblance of control. He wasn't really thrilled with the smug expression on Blair's face. After a moment, he said he was fine and asked Roger to continue.

"The presence of these invertebrates in the aquatic stage of their life indicates the water is clean. Trout and juvenile salmon depend on them as their main food source."

"The cycle of life," Blair interjected. "Too much pollution, no invertebrates. No invertebrates and the trout and salmon will die off."

"Yes, you understand. This office collects and compiles the field reports that the volunteer groups collect for this area. We send our reports on to the Washington Department of Ecology."

"Do you have any information on the Bear Creek area for the last few years?" Jim inquired.

Burns frowned and sighed deeply. "I was quite distressed to learn about that incident. It was one of the bright spots in the area for water purity and a thriving habitat. Let me check our records. I believe the Lincoln High School senior honors class is monitoring the area. I'll be right back."

Roger rose from his table and left the room. As soon as the door closed behind him, Jim reached over and smacked Blair in the back of the head.

"Hey! What was that for?" Blair exclaimed as he rubbed the spot.

"You set that up, Chief."

"What! You were the one that knew where we were going, not me. Beside, what could I have possibly said to the guy to get him to use the word sentinel without a lot of explanation."

"I don't know how you did it, but you had to have set this up. Sentinel bugs? Come on." Jim was sure that the conversation in the truck on the way home from their aborted fishing trip had been a Sandburg practical joke. Now, he wasn't so sure.

The look of shock and surprise on Jim's face was the last straw for Blair. The laughter that he had previously been able to restrain burst forth uncontrollably.

"Sure, laugh it up, Chief. Just remember paybacks are a bitch." Jim could only gawk at his friend who was now laughing so hard he was crying. When Blair didn't stop, a few chuckles slipped from Jim's throat, which only made the situation worse.

Finally, Blair wiped his eyes, his laughter dying down to the occasional chuckle. Pointing a finger at Jim, he said, "I told you. I told you about those articles and you didn't believe me."

"I thought it was just another Sandburg obfuscation."

"Not this time, little buddy," Blair replied with a wink, slapping Jim on the back.

The sound of footsteps coming down the hallway gave Jim a little advance warning that Burns was returning. He gestured towards the door just as it started to open. Burns walked in, his attention focused on the thick file folder he was carrying. By the time he sat down at the desk and looked up at the detectives, both men had regained their poise.

After pulling out several summary reports and quickly flipping through them, Burns explained, "Well, it appears that the stream quality has been gradually slipping over the last two years, but still within a normal range for a thriving habitat. This is not even close to the extent I would normally associate with a practice of long term dumping in the immediate area. In fact, there's no indication of the radical drop in fauna that should appear after raw sewage is dumped into a water stream."

The man was clearly puzzled by the data in front of him. He continued to flip back and forth through the papers in front of him, forgetting the presence of the two detectives.

"When was the last time the information was collected?" Blair asked, hoping the man would offer a little more information.

"Almost three months ago. The students did another round of sampling and wildlife observations a few weeks ago, but they're still completing their reports. The teacher has to grade them before turning them over to us."

"Could you give us the teacher's name? We'd like to contact both the teacher and the students involved in the work. It's possible they may have seen something that could help us."

"The teacher's name is Ms. Anita Palmer. The best time to catch her and her students would be after school. They have free use of both the biology and chemistry labs after hours."

"Thank you for your time Mr. Burns. You've been a big help," Jim said.

Blair smiled and added with a slight laugh, "I know you've made my day. Thanks!"

After the two detectives left his office, Burns closed the file folder, muttering to himself, "What strange men."

On their way out of the building, the man who had been staring with such hostility at Blair was waiting for them in the hallway.

"Sandburg, what are you doing here?" he asked snidely, as he moved to block Blair's path to the exit.

"Hello, John. We're here getting some background information on a case," Blair answered politely, but Jim could hear the coldness in his voice. Something about this man clearly upset his partner.

"How could you? What happened to you?"

"Why don't you introduce me to your friend, Chief," Jim suggested, though his tone made it more of an order.

"Jim Ellison, this is John Gain." As Blair expected, the two men glared at each other. Hoping to prevent the explosion that was developing, he said, "Jim, the deli next door has some great sandwiches. Why don't you go and order us some lunch. I'll be down in a few minutes."

Jim hesitated. He really didn't feel like leaving Blair to face this guy alone, but he was also aware Blair was entirely capable of handling this himself. "Corn beef for you?"

"Fine, I'll be right there." Blair waited for Jim to leave the building before facing down John Gain. "Would you like to have this discussion here or move it to someplace a little more private?"

John gestured for Blair to follow him. He led them to a small storage room and shut the door behind them. He didn't wait long before continuing his former accusations.

"I heard you became a cop. What were you thinking? You were the one who always talked about standing up to the establishment. Fighting to save the environment! Hell, it was your idea for the three of us to chain ourselves to those redwoods. What made you sell-out everything we fought for? How could you do this to Janet's memory?"

Blair was shocked to hear the poison pouring out of his old friend's mouth. "I'm still fighting for what I believe in. I'm just fighting differently from the old days."

"Your way was what got Janet killed. If you hadn't involved her in that mess, she'd still be alive."

Keeping his voice calm and even, Blair responded. "Janet was murdered because she uncovered the illegal activities at Cyclops, not because I was an observer with the PD."

He couldn't deny that he felt some responsibility for what had happened to Janet, but he no longer felt guilty for it. After that case had been wrapped up, he and Jim had several discussions about what had happened to Janet. At the time, he had felt a great deal of guilt for asking Janet to keep her eyes out. What had surprised him was the amount of guilt Jim had felt concerning her death. Jim believed that if they had gone straight to the meeting point, instead of searching for Incacha, they might have been there in time to save her.

Only by attempting to relieve the guilt Jim was feeling, was Blair able to deal with his own feelings of blame. Now, he was able to explain to John what he believed in his own heart.

"Janet chose to work at Cyclops Oil because she believed she could stop pollution from damaging the environment by stopping it at the source. As soon as she uncovered what Cyclops had done to those protected lands, there was no stopping her. She died fighting for what she believed in. Can't you see that?"

"All that I can see is that she's dead and you abandoned the cause."

Blair rolled his eyes. "Look, by the time organizations like WOW discover problems, it's too late. The damage has already been done. Janet realized this. It's why she took that job at Cyclops, to try to stop it from ever happening. And me, I've seen what happens when these guys get away with it. Someone has to track these guys down and make sure they get what they deserve. Hopefully, stop them from ever being able to do it again. That's how I've decided to fight for the cause. Who are you to say we're wrong?"

John didn't know how to react. He just stood there and stared at Blair.

"Look John, I know Janet's death really hurt. But, you've got to let go of that anger man. Think about what I said. I've got to go before my partner comes searching for me."

He turned and left the storeroom, leaving his old friend still standing there speechless.


"So, where are we going next, Jim?"

"The PSA, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, their office is two blocks over on Washington Street," Jim replied after checking his list. "So are you going to tell me what that guy's problem was?"

"He was a close friend of Janet and mine back in the old days. He blames me for what happened to her and for being a sell-out."

"Sandburg..."

"His words, Jim. Not mine. I'm cool with this. I told him where I stood. Now it's up to him to deal with it."

Jim studied his partner carefully. Using his senses to assess Blair's words and emotional state, he quickly realized that Sandburg was telling the truth. He was really okay with the situation. Ellison returned his attention to the road.

The two men entered the office of the PSA. The people in this office were slightly older than at WOW. Again they identified themselves to the receptionist and were instructed to wait until someone was available to speak to them.

While Blair sat down in one of the chairs in the small waiting room, Jim paced. Hanging on the wall was the PSA's mission statement.

"The mission of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is to protect and preserve Puget Sound by tracking down and stopping the discharge of toxic pollutants into its waters," Jim read aloud.

"And we mean that," said the tall man who approached them. Judging from his build, this man was in the military at some point. "I'm Robert Reid. I understand that you are investigating that mess out at Bear Creek."

Jim and Blair exchanged startled glances. They hadn't informed the receptionist about the reason for their visit."

"Don't look so concerned. We work very closely with the enforcement agencies here, not to mention David Cole and I are old friends. He mentioned that you might be stopping by. "

"So what do you do here?" Blair asked.

"We patrol the Sound on our boat, the Soundkeeper. We look for any suspicious looking activities. There are a lot of industries that discharge into the Sound. Periodically, we sample their discharge, looking for problems. We also keep a list of industries or businesses that cause environmental problems, a kind of hit list for whom to keep a closer eye on."

"Could you give us a copy of that list? In particular, we are interested in those businesses responsible for discharging raw sewage."

Reid nodded. "I can do you one better. After I got the call Saturday night about the incident, I called a few of our regular volunteers to help out. Yesterday, we spent several hours calling all the local septic system contractors."

"Why?" Jim asked, the last thing he needed was a bunch of amateurs tipping off the perpetrator that something was going on.

"Don't worry. We've done this before. We call with a specific job, asking for a quote. Most of the time, we'll get estimates back within a certain price range. If a bid comes in unusually low, we'll keep an eye on that contractor."

"How do you know what the estimate should be?" Blair asked curiously.

"Most of the people in this business are good honest people. They take pride in their work and don't like those that ruin the reputation of the industry."

"Not to mention if they get under bid, their own business suffers," Jim interjected.

"Well, I won't deny there's a whole lot of self-interest in their participation," Reid replied dryly. "We're still putting together the last of the numbers. As soon as the report is finished, I'll send a copy to you. Would you prefer email or fax?"

Jim handed him a card with the appropriate numbers on it. "Fax."

"Join the twenty-first century, Ellison. You've got an email," Blair muttered.

After an evil look from Jim, Blair focused his attention on Mr. Reid. "If you don't mind my asking, how did you get started with the PSA?" he continued.

"Coast guard actually, retired. I've been patrolling these waters one way or another since I was twenty years old. I've watched the deterioration occur and couldn't do anything about it as a member of the Coast Guard. I can do a lot more good as a private citizen than as an officer, and the PSA has quite a reputation. The environmental agencies love us, most industries tolerate us and the few illegal operators fear us."


Having several hours to kill before the school day was over, Blair and Jim had decided to return to the precinct. The bullpen was conspicuously empty when they got back to the PD. Though the light shining out from under the closed door to Simon's office along with the blinds being drawn may have been the cause of the mass exodus.

Jim sat down at his desk, checking his voicemail. Blair hung up his jacket before reaching for the stack of paper sitting in the inbox on his desk. He saw Jim hang up the receiver, a dejected look on his face.

"Nothing new, huh?"

"Nothing useful concerning this case anyway. How the hell are we supposed to track down the source of raw sewage waste?"

Unable to provide an answer, Blair shrugged and shook his head. "Don't ask me. Maybe, they'll be dumping another load soon and someone might spot it."

Jim smirked, then chuckled. "We should be that lucky. Why don't you try one of your infamous web searches and see if you can't cross reference any active cases in the DA's office against that list of active sewage waste haulers we came up with Sunday," Jim suggested, rising from his chair. "I'll get us some coffee."

Blair turned away from Jim to face his monitor, mumbling to himself, "Call a guy a single celled organism and wind up doing all the grunt work."

"I heard that!" Jim called over his shoulder as he left the bullpen.

"Surprise, surprise," Blair mumbled as he brought up the search engine.

A few minutes later, Jim returned carrying two cups of coffee and a buttermilk doughnut sticking out of his mouth. He set Blair's cup down in front of him and removed the doughnut from his mouth.

"Here ya go, Chief. Have you got anything?"

Blair eyed the pastry his partner was wolfing down with slight disapproval. "That's not a healthy snack and no, I haven't found anything. The search engine is still running."

"I was hungry," Jim mumbled around a mouthful of doughnut.

Blair shook his head, "All these years of effort wasted. You don't have to worry about the criminals getting you. Your eating habits will get you killed."

At that moment, Rhonda walked into the bullpen with several pieces of paper in her hand. "This just came through for you. It looked urgent, so I brought it right over."

"Thanks, Rhonda."

Jim leaned back in his chair and quickly skimmed the pages, flipping them over one at a time as he was done. Periodically, he would eye his partner discreetly over the top of the page.

Thrumming his fingers on the desk, Blair waited for Jim to fill him in. He had only caught a quick glimpse of the cover page of the fax. Nervously, he started tapping his foot when no information was forthcoming.

He made a strangled noise when Jim flipped back to the beginning and started to read the document again, without a word of explanation.

"Would you mind letting me in on what's so urgent Rhonda hand delivered this to you?" Blair demanded just as his computer beeped, letting him know his search was complete.

"Oh, it's nothing," Jim said with a smirk.

Knowing full well that he was being baited, Blair took the hook, "Come on, Jim. Quit being a pain. I saw the fax came from the PSA. What do they have for us?" As Blair was talking, he scrolled through the pages of information that the search engine provided.

"Just the listing of the low bidders," Jim replied nonchalantly, with a wave of his hand. "What did your search come up with?"

"I got a twenty page listing of active cases and it would be nice to narrow it down a little," Blair admitted.

"They've got a half dozen names on this list. Two of which they indicated that the low bid was the result of their being a high volume disposal firm. It seems the higher the volume being processed, the lower the cost. The other four names are, Superior Sanitation, A and G Septic, Comstock Septic and Advanced Drainage."

Blair quickly added those names to the search engine to narrow down the list. He was disappointed to find that there were no active dumping cases against any of them. "Nothing open on any of them," he reported.

"We'll check them out the old fashioned way then, a little surveillance work." Jim noted the time on the wall clock. "Let's head out to Lincoln High. We should get there just about when the school day is over."

Blair agreed, shut off his computer and headed for the elevator.

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