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It had been a long and tiring day at Cascade PD.
Jim Ellison dropped the report he was studying - a so-called eyewitness report on a purse-snatcher - with a long sigh, wondering if this guy had seen the same snatch that four other eyewitnesses had.
It wasn't even that important a theft - the purse had held nothing but some make-up and a few dollars - not even a credit card - but the victim was a member of one of Cascade's richest families - which was why the case was sitting on his desk rather than cluttering up the desk of someone in Petty Crime (and being shoved to the bottom of the pile as totally minor. Even Petty Crime had bigger fish to fry than a lipstick, a five dollar bill and perhaps three dollars more in change.)
They weren't going to get this guy - not on the evidence they had. The general consensus was that he had jogged up to the girl, grabbed the purse out of her hand, and taken off, running as if the devil were after him. He was out of sight around a corner before the startled girl had time to react.
Jim knew he would have had more sympathy for the girl if she had been a penniless student and that eight dollars had represented her food budget for the rest of the week. As it was, she belonged to a family that could have lost a hundred times that amount and never realized it was missing.
It had been an equally long and tiring day at Rainier University.
Blair Sandburg dropped the essay he was grading with a long sigh, wondering when this student, who rarely missed a class, had found time to attend lectures in creative writing as well as anthropology. To a layman the 'facts' here undoubtedly would sound good - unfortunately someone who knew the subject was well aware that they existed only in the over-fertile imagination of someone who had probably read too many of his grandparents' H. Rider Haggard or Edgar Wallace books. (Blair had come across a copy of Sanders of the River some years previously, and had read it with dropped-jaw incredulity - though he had been forced to admit that Wallace had constructed his fictional African tribes with a plausible pen, and he *had* started writing the Sanders books in the years pre-World War One, in the days long before television documentaries showed even the most ignorant layman something of the truth about 'primitive' tribes.)
Normally he tried to be constructive in his comments, but this was too much. He scrawled, "This is an interesting piece of fiction - you should consider a career in literature rather than anthropology," on the essay and pushed away from his desk.
That was it. He had had enough for the day. He was out of here, man! even though there were still about a dozen essays unread.
Halfway to the door, he paused, considered, then went back to the desk and collected the unread essays. It wouldn't take that long to go over them once he arrived home - without actually sorting through them so that he dealt with the ones he knew would be poorest first, he had slotted seven or eight that he knew would be good to the bottom of the pile, to finish the monotonous task of going through them all on an easy high.
Jim's truck was in its usual space when he arrived home and he ran up the stairs hoping that Jim had started dinner.
He hadn't. He was sitting staring vacantly at the unlit fire.
Oh, hell. How long had Jim been zoned?
"Jim." Moving to behind his partner, Blair put a gentle hand on Jim's shoulder. "Come on, Jim. It's been ages since you last zoned out. What caused it this time, huh?"
It took two or three minutes of gentle stimulation with touch and voice before Jim shook his head, then turned it to look at Blair. "You're home," he said.
"Yes. What did you zone on?"
"Nothing, really," Jim grumbled. "I could hear something buzzing, and I was trying to make out - there it is again!" There was a positively strained note in his voice.
"Cool it," Blair said. "What, you spent eighteen months in the jungle and you don't recognise an insect buzzing?" He glanced around the room, then pointed to where a large bee was trying to fly through the glass of the balcony doors.
"Just in case you've forgotten, tribes in the rain forest aren't known for having glass in the windows of their huts," Jim muttered.
Blair grunted and crossed to the balcony doors; he opened them and after a further minute of fruitless attempt to fly through glass, the bee soared around the room a couple of times, headed back towards the light and out of the opening. Blair closed the doors again. "So - what's for dinner?" he asked, reminding Jim it was his turn to cook.
"Oh... I hadn't thought. It's been that kind of day."
"Tell me about it," Jim muttered. "Major Crime. The last time I looked, I was based in Major Crime, right?"
"So why have I been stuck with a case involving the theft of eight dollars?"
"And a lipstick," he added with quiet precision.
"Because you're the best?" Blair suggested solemnly.
"Because Miss Anne-Marie Spalding's parents are filthy rich and her father is taking the theft of eight dollars from his spoiled brat of a daughter totally personally," Jim growled. "I've got five eye-witness accounts as well as the one from Miss Anne-Marie. Four of the accounts more or less tally. A jogger caught up with her, grabbed her purse and took off at top speed. That's what she said. The fifth one insists that she gave the jogger her purse as he ran past. That she was holding it so that he could easily grab it in passing.
"At first I thought he was just a poor observer, but then I started thinking. He clearly believed he was telling the truth - though all that could mean is that she was careless.
"Her heart was pounding double speed when I questioned her. Now she could have been still suffering from shock, but... " He shook his head. "I don't know. Like I said, she's a brat. And in the face of Number Five's statement - I find myself wondering. What if his is the only accurate description of what took place? It all happened pretty fast."
"But surely it was pretty public to be deliberate - if there were five witnesses," Blair suggested.
They were interrupted by the phone ringing. Jim grabbed it. "Ellison. Yeah... Yeah? That's odd. Okay. Thanks, H. It's not worth coming back in for tonight - I'll check it out in the morning. Okay." He put the phone down, a puzzled frown on his face. "Miss Anne-Marie's purse has been found. About quarter of a mile from where it was grabbed. The money is still in it. It doesn't make sense."
"Unless... " Blair hesitated.
"Unless there was more in the purse than she said. Maybe the grab was pre-planned so that she could give something to the guy who grabbed the purse. You said her heart was pounding when you questioned her."
"Yes... Hmmmmm. I think I must have another word with Miss Anne-Marie tomorrow." He sighed. "I don't really feel like cooking tonight - I'll just send out for something. Pizza do you?"
"Er... no, thanks, Jim. On second thoughts, I'm not terribly hungry. You have a pizza if you want - I'll maybe have a salad later."
Jim looked at him. "What about Chinese, then? Anything you don't eat can go in the freezer."
"Well... okay. Um... Sweet and sour chicken, I think."
"Right." Jim picked up the phone, dialled their favourite Chinese restaurant and gave their order.
"I think you want to have a good look at that purse before you speak to Miss Spalding again," Blair said as Jim put the phone down.
Jim nodded. "Yeah. A very good look," he agreed.
When the Chinese arrived, Blair gave the lie to not being hungry; he cleared his share of it in very short order.
Blair didn't have any classes next morning, so he accompanied Jim to the PD. They went straight to evidence lockup, and collected the stolen purse; pulling on a pair of gloves, Jim examined it carefully.
"Looks all right," he muttered. "Though it's kinda big for what's in it. Why did she need this size of purse?"
"Sense of smell, Jim?" Blair suggested.
Jim nodded and concentrated. "Ah..."
Jim nodded and dialled his sense of smell up another couple of notches. "Yes... It's very faint, even with smell dialled right up, but she's had drugs in there. Probably very carefully bagged up. It's so faint now that even if one of the drug squad dogs picked it up, I don't think we could prove anything." He put the purse down, frowning.
"You're going to have to depend on questioning her?"
"Yeah. A lot will depend on how easily intimidated she is... "
Jim smiled insincerely at the apparently very self-possessed young woman who sat opposite him. "Thank you for coming in again, Miss Spalding." He glanced over to where Blair sat with an innocently enquiring expression on his face, giving a textbook impression of an eager-to-learn novice who was well aware of how little he knew and was not afraid to admit it. "Do you mind if Mr. Sandburg sits in on this meeting? He's a grad student studying the work of the police for his doctorate."
"No, Detective, I don't mind." But her voice sounded strained, and Jim smiled to himself. The more strained her nerves, the more likely it would be that she could be persuaded into telling more of the truth than he was now sure she had previously told.
"Normally I wouldn't think it necessary to trouble you again, especially since your purse has been found with its contents apparently intact, but I have to admit there's something bothering me. Why would someone snatch your purse and run off with it, if he's then going to drop it three or four hundred yards away without taking the money that was in it?"
"Perhaps he didn't think a few dollars worth stealing?" she suggested.
"Miss Spalding, thieves have been known to kill for as little as five dollars. A drug addict, for example - "
Ah! Her heartbeat had suddenly speeded up and he could suddenly smell... not fear, exactly, but something akin to it. Apprehension, perhaps?
"A drug addict," he repeated, very deliberately, "doesn't care how little he gets - or who he hurts to get it. Even a couple of dollars helps towards his next fix. Now an interesting thing," he went on, cheerfully lying, "is that it was a dog who found your purse. A retired police dog, as it happens. Apparently Sky showed a great deal of interest in your purse - far more than her owner would have expected. Of course, as a cop, he wondered why she was so interested, so he commented on it when he handed the purse in.
"We can't see anything that could have got the dog so interested... "
Her heart was pounding so hard it was a wonder it hadn't vibrated its way out of her chest.
"... but I was wondering - was there more in the purse than you originally reported? A bag of drugs, perhaps? One of our eyewitnesses insists that you held the purse out so that the thief could grab it. Were there drugs in your purse, Miss Spalding, and this was a way of passing them on?"
"Oh, God!" Her self-possession suddenly completely lost, she buried her face in her hands.
Jim exchanged a glance with Blair, and waited in silence; unconvinced by her reaction, he could see that his partner, too, was less than impressed by it.
At last the girl lifted her head; her eyes were wet, but Jim still put that down to good acting. He spoke gently, however.
"You have something to tell me?"
"I... Yes. I don't take drugs; I've seen the damage they can do.
"The man who took the purse is my brother. He's an addict. He... " She broke off, took a couple of deep breaths, then continued. "You have to understand. It's not entirely his fault. If you have to assign blame, blame his upbringing."
She hesitated again, then reached into the purse she was carrying - a fairly small one that seemed to be a more practical size than the stolen one - produced a handkerchief and mopped her eyes, then blew her nose almost defiantly. "My parents are very... " She was clearly searching for a word, and then, unable to find one that she felt fitted, she changed her sentence. "My father wanted a son to carry on the family name. My mother clearly felt she was failing in her duty as a wife when after ten years of marriage she still hadn't produced a son. Just three daughters. I'm the youngest. Then when I was three, Mom got pregnant again - and this time she had a son.
"Can you imagine their reaction? Especially my father's? As he grew past babyhood, nothing was too good for Dave. Whatever he wanted, he was given. And my sisters and I... We were carefully taught, brainwashed, that it was our duty to look after our brother, do things for him - he was the valuable boy, the one who would inherit Dad's business, carry on the family name; we were just marriage fodder to let Dad form business alliances, and the family name we would be responsible for carrying on wouldn't be Spalding.
"I know you think I'm a spoiled brat, Detective, but it was Dave who was the spoiled brat. Nobody ever said 'No' to him."
"Not even at school?" Blair asked.
"He didn't go to school, Mr. Sandburg. What, Dad expose his valuable son to the rough-and-tumble of school, where he might meet 'totally undesireable companions'?" Her tone made it clear she was quoting someone, probably her father. "Or... He'd seen how his daughters had caught various infections at school - even though we went to a private school, where the main emphasis was on how to 'behave in society'. Even though Dave had been innoculated, Dad didn't trust innoculation to give full immunity. Dave would be exposed to infection if he went to school - colds at the very least, chickenpox, measles, or - oh, horror, mumps. That could leave him sterile." There was a surprisingly sardonic note in her voice. "Dad was... obsessed with keeping Dave safe. Maybe things would have been different if Mom had produced another son, but she had a hysterectomy when Dave was two.
"No, Dave had a tutor. Or rather, a series of tutors; until he was ten, none of them lasted long. Dad was quick to blame them for Dave's academic shortcomings instead of recognising that Dave just wouldn't work. The tutor who came when he was ten managed to catch Dave's attention, though, and he stayed for eight years. He even managed to teach Dave enough that Dave passed the exams to let him go to Rainier."
"What was his subject?" Blair asked.
"Economics. He was Dad's heir, remember. That was one thing Dad was adamant about; Dave was going into the business. Didn't matter that he wasn't interested. He was the son, it was his duty to carry on with the business... " She sighed. "Maybe that was why... "
"Why?" Jim asked sharply. He caught the glance Blair threw at him, and softened his voice. "What happened, Miss Spalding?"
"Dad was afraid Dave would make 'undesirable acquaintances' at school. It didn't occur to him that Dave might find... less than desirable acquaintances at University. It didn't take long for Dave to get in with a bad crowd - and Joe Carruthers wasn't there any more to use his influence and persuade Dave that pursuing an active social life wasn't the best way to make a success of his academic life. Dad did have the sense to limit Dave's allowance to some extent, but even so Dave had far more money than the others... and far more money than sense.
"They sponged off him, and he didn't realize they were only using him. They introduced him to drugs, and it wasn't long before he was addicted. His grades - which had never been more than average - dropped. And then Dad found out... about the drugs. He kicked Dave out, told him he could come home again when he'd sorted himself out. Oh, and he stopped Dave's allowance, too. That was nearly a year ago.
"I don't know where Dave went that night, but a day or two later he came to me, begging me to get him a fix. I... I love him, and... Well, he told me where I could get the stuff, and I did... He came up with the idea of 'stealing' my purse so I could pass it on to him; he took the stuff meant for him and dropped the purse after a few seconds, and usually I just walked after him and picked it up again. This time, though, there were witnesses, and then a patrol car arrived, so I had to report it stolen... We'd had a contingency plan in case I ever had to do that - the lipstick and small change that he wouldn't touch... We hoped people would think it was just someone playing a practical joke.
"I've tried to persuade him to stop, but he won't. Or maybe he can't."
It was Blair who said quietly, "Miss Spalding, you do realize you've wasted a lot of police time? You could be charged with that."
"To say nothing of being charged with supplying drugs to someone, even if it's only one person," Jim added.
"No," she whispered, a note of near panic in her voice. "No. My parents mustn't know... "
"I can stretch a point, let you off with a private warning this time if you tell me where you got the drugs; but if it happens again, you'll have to face a judge. Now be sensible; tell your brother you can't help him again."
She was silent for some moments, then she said, "The dealer is called Brewster - don't know his first name. He works from an old warehouse on Dock Street; it originally belonged to Wallace Shipping, but they sold out a few years ago and the buyer didn't need the building."
Blair nodded, recognising the address; it wasn't far from the old warehouse he had called home for a while.
"I know I can't go on supporting Dave and his drug habit much longer. It's taking almost all my allowance, and my parents are beginning to wonder why I never have any money."
"Dave must go through a lot of drugs," Jim said drily.
"There was some money for him in the purse, too. I don't know what he spends it on."
"What about your sisters?" Blair asked. "Might he be milking them, too?"
"I don't think he can," she replied. "Belle is married and living in Chicago; she moved house just after Dad kicked Dave out. I don't think he ever knew her address - Belle writes to Mom at least once a month, but not to anyone else in the family - but he certainly doesn't know where she's living now. Karen... Karen is in a mental hospital. She had a nervous breakdown several months ago - Oh, god. Maybe that's why. Maybe he was sponging off her, too, and she couldn't take it any longer."
As Jim wrote out his report, making it appear that the 'theft' had been purely for the cash she admitted giving her brother, Blair waited silently. Finally, Jim said quietly, "Did you buy Miss Anne-Marie's explanation, Chief?"
Blair shook his head. "It was too pat. Okay, I could go along with her having been brainwashed all her life into doing anything her brother wanted. I could go along with her not wanting her parents to know. And she certainly gave up the dealer's name fast enough. But a girl from her background going to the dock area, dressed the way she does? Asking for trouble."
"Yeah, that was what occurred to me. I think she's given us a dealer, all right, but probably not the one she uses. I didn't entirely disbelieve her, though; I think she's simply found herself too deep in something she's not happy about, but doesn't know how to get out of. Could be the dealer she uses is blackmailing her into doing a little more than she's comfortable with; could be her brother's dealing, maybe as a middleman, she's selling for him and this 'stolen purse' business is how she delivers the money to him. Maybe under normal circumstances he leaves more stuff in the purse when he drops it, but didn't this time because of the witnesses, knowing she'd probably have to report the 'theft'. And she's terrified of what will happen if she stops."
"There's not much we can do, is there."
"I'll pass on Brewster's name to Narcotics, for what that's worth. And I'll get someone to keep an eye on the girl. This is a case of throwing back an extremely small fish in the hope of catching a big one."
"I wondered," Blair said. "Letting her off with a private warning. You don't have that authority."
"I don't like using her as bait," Jim said, "but in a way it's for her own ultimate good. If I'm right, and she is being blackmailed, and we can hook the dealer she's really working with... then it's worth it. She deserves better from life than being treated as a convenient servant by her male relatives."
Blair grinned. "You're just a big softy, you know. You started off thinking of her as a spoiled brat, and now you're feeling sorry for her."
"I still think she's spoiled, Chief, in that she's never wanted for anything material, though maybe not as much of a brat as I originally assumed. But you're right - I think I do feel just a little sorry for her. It's not always easy being the child of rich parents. Too often they forget their children might prefer a little bit of affection, rather than the latest fancy toy that's come on the market."
Five days later, Blair entered the bullpen around mid-afternoon and headed towards Jim's desk. He had just reached it when -
"Ellison! My office! You too, Sandburg. Keep your coat on."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other; this sounded as if they'd be heading out in the very near future. Then Blair followed Jim into Simon's office.
Simon was clearly far from happy. "Jim, we have a bad one here. The Spalding girl - "
"Well, she wasted some of our time," Jim said, "but I warned her about that and advised her to tell her brother to get lost."
"Maybe she did," Simon said. "She's dead."
"What?" Blair exclaimed.
"Her body was found at the golf course of the Meadows Country Club less than half an hour ago. Her purse was lying beside her, its contents apparently intact - that's how we got an identification so fast. Since you were the one dealing with her before, I want you to deal with her murder."
Jim nodded. "Okay. Come on, Chief."
The Meadows Country Club was on the outskirts of Cascade. There was no doubting where on the golf course the body had been found - there were several vehicles parked on the course near the seventeenth hole - and Jim, who played there occasionally when he had time, spared a moment to feel sympathy for the maintenance staff who were going to have the task of restoring the ground the various police vehicles had crossed. That sympathy, however, didn't prevent him from adding to the damage as he drove over to park beside the other vehicles.
Although an ambulance was present and paramedics were standing by, the body was still lying where it had been found, in the long grass of the rough and partly hidden by bushes. She was too obviously dead for there to be any rush to take her anywhere.
Jim stopped beside the two cops who had clearly been the ones to answer the 911 call. "Jim Ellison, Major Crime," he said, flashing his badge. "My colleague, Blair Sandburg. What can you tell me?"
"Don Williams," one of the two identified himself as he nodded to where two men who looked to be in their late sixties were standing talking a few yards away, golfing carts beside them. One had grey hair, the other was nearly bald. "Mr. Norris and Mr. Hunter there had nearly finished their round of golf when Mr. Hunter sliced his ball into the long grass. While he was looking for it, he saw the victim's feet. He called his friend over, and they used a cell phone to call us."
Jim nodded and knelt beside the body.
She had clearly been beaten - her face was badly bruised, there were several nasty gashes on it and dried blood under her nose indicated that it had been bleeding. Her head was twisted at an awkward angle, and he was as sure as it was possible to be without a medical check that her neck was broken. He turned his attention to her body.
She was fully clothed, indicating that whatever the motive, rape probably hadn't been on the attacker's mind. There were bloodstains on her clothes, and Jim was quite sure that tests would prove the blood had all come from the victim. Her purse - the small one she had been using the previous Friday - lay on the ground beside her, open. He looked up. "Did anyone touch her purse?"
"We checked the contents," Williams said. "Then put it back exactly where it was. There's a wallet with nearly two hundred dollars and a credit card, along with a credit card statement - which let us identify her - some make-up and a small pack of tissues. She wasn't killed for her money."
Jim nodded, and checked around her body, noting that Forensics had already identified a footprint close to her head as possibly belonging to the killer, and Serena was supervising as one of her staff carefully poured plaster over it to take a cast.
Motioning to Blair to accompany him, Jim walked over to the two shaken-looking men standing nearby, both looking as if they would dearly like to be somewhere else. "Detective Ellison, Major Crime; my associate, Blair Sandburg," he said. "I understand you found the body, Mr. Hunter?"
The bald one said, "Yes. I'm not really very good at playing golf - I only took it up when I retired as a way of getting some exercise - and half the time I'm in the rough rather than on the fairway. Anyway, I mishit a ball, and when I went to look for it, I found... " He glanced over towards where Forensics was dealing with the body, and looked away again very quickly. "I called Jack over, though I could see that she had to be dead, and he phoned 911. Then we waited for the police."
"You didn't see anyone else around here?"
"There was a party of four a hole ahead of us," Norris said, "but they actually started behind us and caught up at the fourteenth hole. We let them play through, then followed them. They finished while Ted was looking for his ball - before he saw the body; I could see them going back to the clubhouse."
"And you couldn't see the body from the fairway?" Jim asked.
"No," Hunter said. "Between the bushes and the long grass, I didn't see it until I was right beside it."
"That's right," Norris agreed. "When Ted called me over, I couldn't see it from the fairway at all. Even knowing that he was looking at something, I couldn't see what it was until I was beside him."
"So in your opinion, there was no chance that the players in front of you could have seen it?"
The two shook their heads. "These are guys who normally go round within a couple of strokes of par," Hunter said. "They could play pro golf if they wanted. Guys who play at that level don't slice their balls into the rough." Jim could hear the envy in his voice.
Behind them, the paramedics were finally putting the body onto a stretcher and loading it into the ambulance. It drove off unhurriedly.
"How long have they been playing?" Blair asked, judging it was time to get them off the subject of the body.
Hunter and Norris looked at each other, almost as if each was asking if the other knew. "Andy Martin said something once about hitting his first golf ball when he was five," Norris said. "I was never quite sure whether to believe him."
"So how long has he been playing?" Blair asked again.
"If that was true, has to be close on fifty years," Norris said.
"And how long have you been playing?"
"Just a few months," Hunter admitted. "Jack's better than I am, though, and we started at the same time."
Blair grinned. "Give it time," he said. "A year from now, you'll think back and wonder that you even found it difficult."
"I hope so," Hunter muttered.
Jim handed each of them a card. "If you think of anything else, you can contact me, or leave a message, at that number," he said. "I expect the cops who arrived here first got your particulars? Your addresses? Took a statement?"
"Yes," Norris said.
"Fine. We probably won't need to speak to you again."
"Thanks for your help," Blair said as he turned to follow Jim back to where Anne-Marie Spalding's body had been.
Jim stood staring down at the ground for some seconds, then shook his head. "I think she was probably carried here, then dragged the last couple of feet under the bushes; there's no sign that she was dragged further than that, and carrying her would have been the most efficient way of getting her here. But there have been too many people trampling around for me to be sure."
Satisfied that he would discover nothing that Forensics hadn't already found, Jim decided that his next call should be to see the dead girl's parents.
It was, as he had expected, a big house. A very big house. It looked quiet; when he knocked at the door, it was answered by an elegant woman whose clothes seemed inappropriately young, more suited to a teenager than a woman of more mature years; and he could detect the almost invisible scars of a face-lift, scars that he knew nobody else would be able to see.
"Mrs. Elaine Spalding?"
"Detective Ellison, Major Crime. My partner, Blair Sandburg," he said.
She frowned very slightly, as if afraid of creasing her forehead. "If this is something David has done - " she began.
"No," Jim said. "It's about your youngest daughter. May we come in?"
"I'm afraid Anne-Marie isn't here," Mrs. Spalding said, making no attempt to let them in. "She spent last night at a friend's house, and isn't home yet."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Spalding." Jim hesitated for a moment, then went on. "Let us in, please. This isn't something you want to hear while standing at your front door."
She looked puzzled, but stood aside to let them in. However, she made no attempt to let them further into the house than the hallway. "Is she in some kind of trouble? I know she was stupid letting someone steal her purse, but she can't be in trouble for that, surely?"
"I'm sorry," Jim said again. "There isn't a good way to tell you this. Her body was found on the golf course early this afternoon."
Mrs. Spalding stared at him. "Her... Is this some kind of sick joke?" She sounded angry, although her face showed nothing.
"Mrs. Spalding, I have better things to do than joke about a murder," Jim said bluntly. "Someone attacked her and broke her neck. We'll have a better idea of when she was killed after the forensic examiner has checked her body, but from what I saw, I'd say her body was taken to the golf course some time during the night."
She continued to stare at him, her control practiced and perfect.
Behind them the front door opened; Jim swung around. The man who entered had the brisk, efficient air of a successful businessman; something that Jim recognised only too well from his childhood. He stopped when he saw them.
"Who - ?"
"Martin, these men are from the police," Mrs. Spalding said. "They're trying to tell me that Anne-Marie is dead."
Jim was too practiced in controlling his reactions to show how aware he was that Spalding's heart rate had increased. "Dead? Don't be stupid," he said, but Jim could detect something in his voice that sounded off.
"Mr. Spalding, do you seriously think I would come here with such a story if it wasn't true?" Jim asked.
Spalding stared at him for a moment. Then - "David!" he said, and the bitter edge in his voice could have cut rock. "She admitted to us last night that she had been seeing him, helping him financially although we had forbidden her to have anything to do with him until he gave up taking drugs, sorted himself out and came back to a respectable lifestyle. How could she disobey me like that?"
"From what she told us, you had trained her from childhood to do what Dave - David - wanted," Blair put in quietly. "Is it so surprising that she found herself unable to resist his pleas for help?"
Spalding stiffened. "I expected her to obey my orders. At any rate, I told her to go to her room and stay there until she agreed to have nothing more to do with her brother; instead, she said she wouldn't be treated like a child, she was going to stay with a friend, and she left." His lips tightened. "She must have realized it was in her best interests to obey me, gone to see him, but then been killed by him when she told him she wouldn't help him in future."
"Why do you think he would kill the sister who had been helping him?" Jim asked.
"He always had a bad temper," Spalding said. "Anyone who crossed him... Yes, I admit we spoiled him, but I thought Carruthers - his tutor - had knocked some sense into him."
Blair had moved over to where Mrs. Spalding was standing, silently watching her husband. "Do you know who your daughter was going to stay with?" he asked softly.
She looked at him, her face still an expressionless mask, but he saw fear in her eyes. Blair glanced back at Spalding; his attention was wholly on Jim, and Blair silently touched Mrs. Spalding's arm and nodded towards an open door. She swallowed, then allowed herself to be gently led through the door and into a kitchen; Blair pushed the door shut without closing it, and coaxed her into a chair beside a small table. "Tell me," he said quietly as he too sat, facing her.
"I'm afraid," she whispered. "So afraid... "
There was a long pause, during while Blair could hear the voices from the hallway, one angry, one more controlled, though he couldn't make out any of the words. "My husband," she admitted at last, her voice almost inaudible; then, having said it, she clearly found it easier to carry on and pour out her true feelings. "He was always a man who liked his own way... When we married, I thought it was strength, but it isn't. He's really pretty weak, he's just stubborn, and thinks he's being strong and decisive every time he refuses to change his mind, once it's made up - and he doesn't tolerate anyone not obeying him. He... he reacts badly if anyone disagrees with him. I found that out early on."
After a moment, Blair said quietly, "My Mom spent a while with a guy like that. He liked his own way, and turned pretty violent if he didn't get it. Is your husband ever violent?"
"The first time he hit me, I threatened to leave him, and he said that if I did, he'd follow me and kill me. I believed him then... I believe he still would. He wanted a poised, showcase wife; I made myself into one, never letting anyone see how much I hated the... the superficiality of being a corporate wife. It's one reason we don't have a housekeeper; I don't enjoy doing the housework and cooking, but it gives me something useful to occupy my time."
"I can understand that," Blair murmured. He glanced around. "You do a good job."
"Thanks." She was silent for a few seconds, then when she went on, he realised that the dam had broken; she had found a sympathetic listener, and couldn't stop pouring out her problems. "The girls never knew the abuse he gave me because I hadn't had a son... my room is at the opposite end of the house from theirs, so that if I screamed from the pain of anything he did, they wouldn't hear me. Then when I did eventually produce a son, I couldn't oppose the way he wanted David brought up. I never wanted the girls to treat David like a little god, but Martin expected it, and what Martin wanted, he got.
"When he discovered David was taking drugs... " Her voice broke.
"Anne-Marie told us he disowned David," Blair said.
She nodded. "Before Martin came home that last evening, David told me... He'd been persuaded the stuff would make him feel good, make him feel better about having to study economics when what he really wanted to study was law... though I don't know why that interested him. But you can't take drugs for long before you're addicted... I think David had been quietly rebelling for a long time, but mentally, saying what he knew his father wanted to hear, hoping to... well, escape. When Martin threw him out, I knew I'd never see my son again.
"I was worried about him, but there was nothing I could do. When Anne-Marie admitted she'd been helping David, I was glad for him, but worried about how Martin would react."
"And he told her to go to her room and stay there? But she didn't?"
"I don't know. She didn't leave the house immediately; she didn't say in my hearing she would spend the night with a friend. She'd never brought any friends home; I don't think there was anyone she knew well enough to give her a bed just like that. She did go to her room. Then Martin told me to go to bed, although it was still quite early."
"And you went?" Blair asked.
"Thirty years ago, I learned that obeying him was the wisest thing for me to do," she said.
"When did he come to bed?"
"We have separate rooms," she replied. "If he wants sex, he comes in, then when he's finished he goes back to his own bed. He hasn't bothered me much this last ten, twelve years; I think he probably has a mistress somewhere, and if so, good luck to her." She didn't even sound bitter; it seemed to Blair that she was relieved to be spared her husband's attentions. "It was at breakfast this morning - he told me Anne-Marie had opposed him again last night, and gone off saying she was going to a friend's house."
She was silent for a moment, then went on. "Mr... Sandburg, is it?"
"There's a bottle of brandy in that cupboard." She indicated it. "Could you pour me a glass, please?"
Blair crossed to the cupboard, where he found a selection of bottles on one shelf and glasses on another. He poured a measure of brandy, and took it to her. She drank half of it in one gulp. "Thanks," she said as Blair resumed his seat.
"You've no idea at all where she would have gone?" he asked just as the door was slammed open and Spalding marched in.
"What the hell are you doing in here with my wife?" he demanded.
Blair turned a guileless face to him. "You were busy with Detective Ellison, and I knew that having just heard about your daughter had to have been a shock to her. I brought her in here to sit quietly, talk about Anne-Marie if she wanted to... Have you finished with Detective Ellison? Because you, her husband, are the obvious person to comfort her because you share her grief. It's sometimes easy to forget that a bereaved father is hurting just as much, because he usually shows it less."
Spalding, clearly set to snap something angry, closed his mouth, obviously taken aback by Blair's comment.
In the lack of a reply from Spalding, Blair looked over to where Jim stood in the doorway. "Finished?" he asked, then glanced back at Mrs. Spalding, letting his eyes express his concern at having to leave her alone with her husband. "I really am sorry, Mrs. Spalding," he said, knowing she would understand the double meaning in the words. "We'll do our best to find out who killed her."
"Actually, Chief, I'd like Mr. Spalding to come down to the station to make a formal identification, since the identification we got was from the contents of her purse," Jim said. "Mrs. Spalding, will you be all right on your own, or would you like Mr. Sandburg to stay with you until I bring your husband home again?"
"Oh... I... I don't think I really want to be alone just yet," she said, carefully not looking at Spalding, "but I don't want to take up Mr. Sandburg's time. I'm sure he has better things to do than nursemaid a stupid woman who can't come to terms with the consequences of her daughter's disobedience. If she'd done what her father told her - "
"I think you're being too hard on yourself," Blair said gently. He looked back at Spalding. "If you don't mind, sir, I'll be happy to stay until you get back."
Spalding scowled. It was easy to see that he didn't want to leave Blair with his wife, not obvious why he was so reluctant, but that even he was aware that any reason he gave would sound petty.
"Oh, all right," he growled ungraciously. He looked back at Jim. "The sooner we get this done the better." He pushed past Jim and went out.
Jim and Blair exchanged a look, then Jim said, "My condolences, Mrs. Spalding," turned, and followed Spalding out. Moments later, Blair heard the front door being opened and closed again.
Mrs. Spalding drew a long, shuddering breath that broke in the sobbing she had so clearly been suppressing while her husband was in the house. Blair let her cry, while thinking uncharitable thoughts about Spalding. How could anyone be so cold-blooded? He apparently cared nothing for the death of his youngest daughter, he expected his wife to show no grief... and thinking over what Mrs. Spalding had said, Blair was beginning to reach a conclusion he didn't like. Spalding had been quick to blame his son for the murder, but Spalding himself had been the last person in the house to see her, and his wife had simply repeated what Spalding had told her.
Was it possible that Spalding had killed his daughter when he followed her to her bedroom, carried her out and dumped her body, knowing that his wife wouldn't know if he was out of the house?
Habit was taking over Mrs. Spalding's reactions. The first uncontrolleld sobbing eased quickly, and after only a few minutes she mopped her eyes, blew her nose, sniffed once, then said shakily, "I'm sorry."
"A perfectly natural reaction, Mrs. Spalding," Blair said.
She swallowed the rest of the brandy and quite obviously drew herself together. Self-controlled once more, she gave Blair a shaky smile. "I don't dare let myself relax, even in private," she said. "Martin wouldn't like it." Her voice shook as she continued. "I'm beginning to think I need to get away from this house... but if I do, where can I go? I've no money of my own - Martin handles all the money, pays all the bills, and although he gave the children an allowance, he never gave me one. He wanted to keep me dependant on him... but I don't think I ever want to see him again. Not when... Not when he doesn't seem to care about Anne-Marie."
"You wouldn't consider charging him with assaulting you?" Blair asked.
"There's no evidence. He was usually careful not to leave marks where they would show... and I was always careful to hide it from the children, the times there were visible bruises. It would be my word against his."
In a way it was a perfect opening. "I wonder... Anne-Marie told us that her sister Karen had a nervous breakdown. Does anyone know why?"
She was silent for a long moment. "She's reverted to childhood, according to her therapist. She'll sometimes talk about things from her childhood as if they happened yesterday, but there's a cut-off point - and a lot of the time she refuses to speak at all. She won't talk about anything after her sixteenth birthday. She just... won't talk. Won't say anything."
"Mrs. Spalding - would you authorise us to go and see Karen's therapist? And maybe Karen too? Anne-Marie wondered if Karen's breakdown was somehow linked to her brother, that maybe David had been getting money from her the same way he was getting it from Anne-Marie. If she was right, we know the right kind of question to ask her."
"Yes. Yes. Please. Anything that might help. I'll phone the home and let them know to expect you - "
"You need to give me the address, please."
"Oh - of course. It's The Pines - it's ten miles from Cascade on the road to Seattle."
"I know the place," Blair said. "Thank you. I'll let you know if she tells us anything." He hesitated. "Mrs. Spalding, do you think I could have a look at Anne-Marie's bedroom? I know, I don't have a warrant or anything like that, this would be strictly off the record - but she might have left something, some clue to indicate where she was going, that could help us to find her killer."
"Yes, of course," she said.
He followed her up the stairs to the upper storey of the house and along a fairly long hallway, past several doors to one near the end. The thought flashed through his mind that this house was more like a small hotel than a private residence - and he remembered Mrs. Spalding saying that her room was some way from the other bedrooms. For the first time he realized how literal that statement was.
She opened a door and went in; and stopped so suddenly that Blair bumped into her.
The room was a mess, looking as if there had been a fight in it. There were some small brown stains on the carpet; Blair was as certain as it was possible to be without checking them that these were bloodstains.
"What happened?" she whispered.
Blair drew her out of the room. "We need to get Jim to look at this when he gets back," he said.
She looked helplessly at him. "Does this mean that Martin killed her?" There was horror in her voice.
"Not necessarily," Blair said. "What it does mean is that he probably knocked her about a bit - you said he hit you if you disagreed with him."
"Yes, but I don't think he ever hit the children."
"There's always a first time. From the look of the room, I'd say she resisted, tried to defend herself. You hadn't been in there today?"
"No. She looked after her own room. It was something Martin insisted on - that the girls kept their own rooms clean and tidy. He would check them occasionally, totally at random and without warning, to make sure they did. But... if he did start hitting her... why didn't she try to get away, come to my room?"
"It's possible she didn't want to involve you. I suspect that she did manage to get away, and - well - ran for it."
"Straight into the arms of a killer?" she asked.
Blair had no answer to that.
Jim brought Spalding back nearly an hour later. As they entered the kitchen, Blair, sitting there on his own, stood. "Jim, there's something you have to see. Mr. Spalding, you should come too."
As Blair began to lead the way up the stairs, Spalding hesitated; Jim urged him on. "Go on, sir."
Blair opened Anne-Marie's bedroom door, then carefully stepped back to place himself between Spalding and the stairs. Jim looked in and frowned.
"Mrs. Spalding said Anne-Marie kept her room tidy," Blair said, "and you were the last person to see her here, Mr. Spalding."
Spalding looked as if he was about to run; Jim moved quickly to stand beside Blair. "Well, sir? Can you explain the state of the room?"
Spalding didn't quite collapse, but he seemed to slump a little. "I admit I hit her," he said after a moment. "Several times. She was defiant; refused to obey me. Refused to accept her punishment for disobedience. She began to throw things at me - which made me angrier. I did some of that - " he indicated the room - "trying to catch her again. Then she managed to get to the door, and ran. I knew my wife wouldn't go into the room, so I left it for Anne-Marie to tidy when she returned home. I was sure she would come home some time today with her tail between her legs, agreeing to do what I told her."
"You didn't try to go after her?" Jim asked.
"At that point, I... I admit I was too angry. If I'd caught up with her, I very well might have killed her. So I went to bed. In the morning, I told my wife that Anne-Marie had run off, saying she would go and stay with a friend. I didn't want to worry her too much."
"You just identified your daughter's body." Jim's voice was very cold. "You saw the injuries on her face. Were they consistent with the way you hit her?"
Spalding glared at him, almost defiantly. "Yes. I suppose they were. But I didn't murder her, Detective."
"What do you think?" Blair asked as they headed for the loft.
"I think Spalding is a cold-blooded bastard who could very well have killed Anne-Marie," Jim said. "But there's no proof."
"Violent, certainly," Blair agreed. "Mrs. Spalding said that right from the start of their marriage he hit her if she didn't do what he wanted. But she thought he'd never hit any of the children."
Jim was silent for some moments. Finally - "I wonder... " he said slowly.
"Anne-Marie said one of her sisters had had a nervous breakdown."
"She wondered if their brother had been sponging off Karen as well."
"I'm not sure that was reason enough," Jim replied. "I'm beginning to wonder if her father was hitting her for some reason, although he may not have hit any of the others. Maybe she was the rebellious one of the girls - we saw what he did to Anne-Marie because 'she defied him'." He glanced over at Blair. "You seem to have established a good rapport with Mrs. Spalding - think she'll tell you where Karen is? We could find out anyway, but it'll be quicker if she tells you."
Blair grinned. "I already asked," he said. "Mrs. Spalding is going to call them, and authorise us to visit and speak to her."
They drove in silence for another block, then Jim said, "How about a pizza tonight?"
"Not in the mood for one," Blair said. "How about that new Thai place near Rainier? The students have been raving about it - reasonably priced, and pretty good, they say."
"Fine," Jim said.
As they were washing up after dinner, Blair said, "I feel so sorry for Mrs. Spalding, married to a man like that."
"So do I," Jim said.
"To live for thirty years, afraid of living with him, afraid to leave him... That's what I don't understand, though. All right, she said he threatened to find and her and kill her if she left, but it's not that easy to find someone who wants to stay hidden."
"Is that the voice of experience?" Jim asked, his voice teasing.
"In a way," Blair admitted. "It was in San Diego. One of Naomi's boyfriends... He was pretty violent, but he only hit her once. She told him that was it, she was out of there. He threatened to kill 'you and your misbegotten brat as well' if she left. She said, 'You have to find us first', grabbed me and ran. He did look for us for a couple of months - we heard - before he gave up. By then we were in Australia. Stayed there for six months, then came back to America. She's never gone back to San Diego, though."
"How old were you?"
Jim caught him in a comforting hug.
Next morning, when they reached The Pines, they were given a restrained welcome.
"Mr. Sandburg? Detective Ellison? I'm Dr. Moore. Mrs. Spalding phoned. She said you might know how to break through Karen's mental block, and wants me to let you talk to her. I can't say I'm terribly hopeful, though. She responds best to a female therapist; Donna - Dr. Jansen - gets more response from Karen than I do; she doesn't react well to men."
"Blair's very good at interacting with people," Jim said. "And he has a minor in psychology."
"It might be best if I saw her alone," Blair said. "Though can you and Jim stay within earshot? Because if I do get a response from her, we need an independant witness."
Moore frowned. "Witness?"
"If I can get Karen to talk, if she confirms what we suspect..." Blair said.
Moore looked from one to the other. "We have our own suspicions," he said, "based on her response to us. What are your suspicions based on?"
Jim and Blair glanced at each other. "It might be better not to give you a preconceived idea before you hear what she says - if I can get her to talk," Blair said.
The doctor gave a wry smile. "I can't fault you for that, since I was thinking the same thing about our suspicions," he said. "We have a room we use when we want a second opinion on someone's progress, without putting them though another session with a therapist they haven't been working with. You and I can stay in it, Detective, and let Mr. Sandburg speak to Karen."
He took them to a small room that held two comfortable-looking chairs, and crossed towards a mirror on one wall. "One-way glass," he said. He pressed a small button beside it. "That's the sound switched on. If you wait here - " he glanced at Blair - "I'll have Karen brought down." He led Jim away, and Blair sank into one of the chairs.
It was a few minutes before a nurse brought in a young woman who bore a strong resemblance to Anne-Marie Spalding.
"Hello, Karen," Blair said softly. He glanced at the nurse, and, satisfied that she was watching him, glanced towards the corner behind Karen. The nurse nodded, and moved over to stand there, silently watching.
Blair turned his attention back to the nervous-looking girl - for that was how she appeared. She looked much younger than the twenty-six or so that he knew her to be. "Come and sit down," he said quietly, realising that she was standing waiting, like a student called before the head teacher, afraid that she was in trouble but not knowing why.
Wordlessly, she took the second seat and continued to wait for Blair to speak.
"Karen, what can you tell me about your brother?" he asked.
She had been used to the therapist asking her about herself. The unusual subject took her by surprise, and she answered after only a brief hesitation. "David? He's the youngest of us, and our parents' favorite because he's a boy."
"Do you love him?"
"Well, yes. He's my brother. Of course I love him."
"Do you like him?"
She frowned, clearly trying to understand what he was saying. "They're the same thing, aren't they?"
"Not always. You love him, but do you like him?"
"Not really... but don't tell my parents I said that. Please?"
"I won't tell them, I promise. But why don't you like him?"
"He expects us girls to be his servants."
"And you resent that?"
"So if he came to you and said he didn't want your parents to know about it, but he was in trouble and needed help, would you help him?"
"No," she said.
"Would your sisters?"
"Anne-Marie would. I'm not sure about Belle. She doesn't say much, but I don't think she likes him either."
"What about your parents? Do you like them?"
She glanced at him, then turned her attention to the floor.
"Your Mom?" he asked gently.
"I suppose," she said at last.
She looked up quickly, then returned her gaze to the floor.
"Has he ever hit you?" Blair asked.
There was no response for what seemed a very long time, and then Karen shook her head.
"But he makes you do things for David?"
"Yes." It was a whisper so soft that Blair could barely hear it.
"Karen." Blair used an encouraging voice calculated to coax an answer. "Do you ever hear things at night that worry you? Or frighten you?"
There was another long silence, then Karen shook her head again; and this time Blair knew she was lying.
"Do you want to get married when you grow up?" he asked, speaking as if she was the sixteen her mother had told him was the 'cut-off point' beyond which she refused to go.
"No!" It was surprisingly forceful; even when she admitted resenting her brother, she hadn't sounded as if she really meant it. There was no doubt, however, that this was an answer she meant.
"Why not?" It took a decided effort to sound casual, and for a moment Blair thought he hadn't managed to remain casual enough.
"Men hit their wives and do bad things to their daughters," she said, and for a moment her voice sounded more mature.
Blair froze for a split second. "How do you know that?" he asked. Somehow he managed to keep the anger out of his voice.
"We weren't supposed to know," she said, and there was a touch of uncertainty in her voice. "It was why our rooms were at the other side of the house; so we wouldn't hear anything. But we knew. We saw bruises on Mom's face some mornings that she'd tried to cover with makeup. David said once, 'She must have said 'no' to him. Women shouldn't say 'no' when their men want something'."
"Do you remember how old David was when he said that?"
"He was seven."
Blair took a deep breath. Then, his voice persuasive, he carried on. "What bad things do men do to their daughters?"
"I don't know," Karen said, and her voice was again that of a child.
"Does your Dad do bad things to Belle?"
"I think so," she whispered. "Belle doesn't like being left alone with him, but she won't say why."
Blair nodded. "What about Anne-Marie? Does he do bad things to her?"
"I don't know."
"Does he do bad things to you?"
Karen caught her breath. "No! Please, no, Dad! Don't! I don't like it! Please... I know I shouldn't say 'no' to you, but I don't like it! Please, Dad. Please don't..." Her voice tapered off into a soft whimper.
His first instinct was to give her a comforting hug, but he knew that would be totally the wrong thing for him to do. Instead, Blair carefully maintained his distance. "It's all right, Karen," he said. "It's all right. Your Dad's not here. He can't hurt you."
"He'll never let me go," she sobbed.
It was the nurse, whose presence Blair had almost forgotten, who moved forward then, to wrap her arms around Karen in the hug that she so clearly needed. Karen buried her face against the nurse's shoulder and clung to her.
The door opened, and a woman entered. She nodded to Blair. "I'm Donna Jansen, Karen's therapist," she said softly. "We suspected something like this, but we could never get her to talk. This could be the breakthrough we need to help her."
"I'll leave her in your hands, then," Blair said, as quietly. "I think I've got all the answers from her that we need." With a last sympathetic glance at Karen, he walked out.
Jim and Dr. Moore were waiting for him. "You were right about knowing what questions to ask," Moore said, "and some of them were questions we didn't know to ask. We didn't know there was a brother, for example. When we asked about her family, her parents told us she was the middle girl of three. They never mentioned having a son."
As they drove away, Blair said quietly, "We're no nearer finding out who killed Anne-Marie, are we."
"No," Jim said. He drove for some moments in silence, then went on. "Karen is in no condition to accuse her father; but I wonder if Belle is?" Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Blair looking at him, and added quietly, "He's made his wife's life a misery for... what? Thirty years at least; he kept his son from learning any street smarts then punished him for... well, basically for not having any; he attacked a daughter, an adult, for the 'crime' of disobeying him, and we now know he sexually abused at least one daughter, starting probably around the time of her sixteenth birthday. Tell me you don't want to see him go down for that, at least."
"I can't," Blair admitted.
"So I think we should ask Mrs. Spalding for Belle's address, try to find out if she was abused too."
Belle, when contacted, said simply that yes, her father had gone to her room once, just after her sixteenth birthday; less submissive than her younger sister, as soon as she realized what he was wanting, she had told him quite bluntly that if he touched her, she would go to the police; and the next day, she bought a bolt for her bedroom door. She had made sure she was never alone with him thereafter, and had chosen her husband at least in part because his work was taking him to Chicago. She had had no contact with either her father or her brother, or even her sisters, since she moved to Chicago.
All that did was confirm that Martin Spalding was a man Jim would have been very happy to see serving a prison sentence, the longer the better.
"I wonder where we can find the brother?" he said as he hung up.
Yet another visit to the Spalding house, in the early afternoon, provided them with a photo of David Spalding, taken a few weeks before his father disowned him - a photo that his mother had hidden away. "Martin destroyed all the other photos we had of David," she said.
"This is exactly what we need," Jim said. "A fairly recent photo. He won't have changed much since it was taken. Where is your husband, anyway?"
"He went in to work. He said that business doesn't stop just because someone's dead."
Jim nodded, unsurprised. Blair opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again, but it was clear to Jim that his partner was shocked.
They went back to the PD; shortly thereafter, copies of the photo were issued to the Patrol cops, who were asked to keep an eye out for him.
Success in the hunt for David Spalding came more quickly than Jim dared hope; they were getting ready to leave the PD for the night when two uniforms came in, escorting a man they recognised instantly from the photo. He was more neatly dressed than Jim might have expected of a drug addict living on the streets, which Jim would have expected him to be doing.
"David Spalding?" Jim asked.
"Yes - and what the hell do you want? I haven't done anything wrong."
"I'm sorry we had to pick you up this way, but we needed to talk to you."
Jim took him to an interview room, with Blair following. "Have a seat." As Spalding sat, Jim and Blair took seats on the opposite side of the table. "I'm Detective Ellison, and this is my colleague, Blair Sandburg. Can you tell us when you last saw your sister Anne-Marie? And before you think of lying, we know you grabbed her purse the other day. She admitted it."
Spalding frowned at that. "I haven't seen her since then. Or heard from her. We had an arrangement - once a week I 'grabbed' her purse, took an envelope of money out of it, then left it lying at a pre-arranged spot. She was helping me out, but I didn't want her to get into trouble with our parents."
It agreed with what she had finally told them. There was no change in his heartbeat; but Jim sensed that he was not telling the whole truth. Spalding, had, of course, said nothing about drugs - but his instincts told Jim that that wasn't what Spalding was hiding.
"I see. Can you account for your movements over the past twenty-four hours?"
"Why the hell should I?"
Yes, there was definitely anger there, but no fear; whatever Spalding had been doing, he clearly considered it within the law.
"Your father found out that Anne-Marie had been helping you. He gave her an ultimatum; she was to have nothing more to do with you. When she defied him, he hit her several times. He told us she managed to get away and left the house."
"She didn't come to me. She couldn't; she doen't know where I live. She has a phone number she can use to contact me, but she hasn't used it."
Jim noted the automatic use of the present tense, and sighed. "And she won't," he said quietly. "I'm afraid there isn't an easy way to tell you this. Her body was found on the golf course at the Meadows Country Club yesterday morning. Her neck was broken."
Spalding stared at him. "The murder reported in this morning's paper? It said the victim hadn't been identified."
"You think I killed her?"
"No. She was supporting you; you had no reason to kill her, and every reason to want her alive. But we do need to know your movements between at least nine on Tuesday night, and yesterday morning, in order to eliminate you as a possible suspect."
Spalding licked his lips, frowning. "I need to make a phone call."
"Need to?" Jim asked.
"An accused suspect has the right to one phone call," Spalding said sharply. "You haven't accused me of anything. On the contrary, you admit you don't think I killed her. Shouldn't I, who have not been charged with anything, be extended the same courtesy of one phone call?"
"He's right, Jim," Blair said quietly. He pulled out his cell phone and handed it to Spalding, who quickly dialled a number.
There was a brief pause. Jim could hear the phone ringing once, twice, before it was picked up.
"Yes?" The voice sounded vaguely familiar.
"Spalding. Anne-Marie's been killed." There was an abruptness to the statement that spoke of tears barely held in check.
"I'm at the Cascade PD. I'm not under arrest, but they need to know where I was on Tuesday night to eliminate me as a suspect."
"I'll be right over."
Spalding rang off and gave the phone back. "Thanks." He looked at Jim. "You'll get your answer in a few minutes. Unfortunately, it won't help identify who killed Anne-Marie, but it might offer a possible suspect." He slumped forwards, the fight apparently gone from him as he leaned on the table, his head in his hands. Jim heard the faintest of catches in his breath, and knew it wouldn't take much to destroy the young man's apparent composure.
It might have selfishness, might have been the discovery that he had lost his source of income, but Jim didn't think so. Jim could recognise himself in Spalding's refusal to show open grief, the 'men don't cry' ethos that his father had drummed into him when he was a child who had just lost his mother. Spalding, even with a father who had denied him nothing, had undoubted received that one piece of training from a father who, in Jim's opinion, left William Ellison standing in the 'impersonal' stakes. David Spalding was grieving, although he might not allow himself to show it. Martin Spalding, in Jim's opinion, was totally self-centered, and felt nothing except perhaps annoyance at being inconvenienced.
Jim waited two or three minutes, then said quietly, "Mr. Spalding, I do have a few more questions, although they have nothing to do with Anne-Marie. They concern your father."
Spalding drew a deep breath and raised his head. "What about him?"
"Over the years, did you ever have reason to suspect that your father was hitting your mother?"
Jim glanced at Blair, who said quietly and very sympathetically, "Dave, this is important. Did you ever suspect it?"
"Yes." He was silent for a moment, then went on. "Sometimes in the morning she had bruises when she hadn't had any the night before. But what could we do about it? We were just children, and she never complained. You have to understand, he wouldn't tolerate being defied. The girls were taught they should obey their menfolk - him and me, although I was the youngest. I got away with more than they did, but even I knew that there was a line I mustn't cross. I'd probably have turned out exactly the same as Dad, if it hadn't been for Joe. Joe Carruthers."
"Anne-Marie mentioned him. Your tutor, right?"
"Yes, but he was more than that. He was more like a big brother."
"Don't you think he would have been disappointed in you, when you went to Rainier and got too much into the social life there?"
Spalding looked at Blair, then dropped his eyes back to the table-top.
"Dave, if your mother decided to charge your father with assaulting her, would you be willing to testify that you saw bruises on her several times when you were younger?"
"Why would she suddenly decide to do that?" he asked without raising his eyes. "She's put up with it for thirty years."
"He hit Anne-Marie." After a short silence, Blair went on. "Your bedroom was fairly close to Karen's, wasn't it."
"Did you ever hear noises coming from Karen's bedroom?"
Spalding raised his head sharply. "What are you suggesting?"
"I'm just asking, did you ever hear noises from Karen's bedroom?"
"Once. She was crying, and I made out the words 'no, don't'. In the morning, I asked her and she said she'd had a nightmare."
"Did you believe her?"
"I... don't know. She changed after that. She never seemed happy. Not that it was exactly a happy house at the best of times."
"Would you testify to that, if it came to it?"
They were interrupted by voices outside the door, and when it swung open, Simon entered, accompanied by a man Jim recognised only too well.
"Mulroney!" he exclaimed as he realized whose was the voice he had heard on the phone.
Spalding stood as Mulroney entered. "Sir."
Banks said quietly, "It appears that Mr. Spalding here works for the FBI."
"He's been undercover trying to break a drugs ring, and you might just have ruined the entire case!" Mulroney snarled.
Jim rose to his feet and stood nose to nose with Mulroney. "How?" he snarled back.
"By making a big thing of a petty incident!"
"A petty incident?" Jim exclaimed. "Petty? It's snowballed into murder, and - " He swung round to Spalding. "Did Anne-Marie know? Or did you have her duped into thinking she was helping you?"
"She knew," Spalding said.
"She worked for me as well," Mulroney said impatiently. "She was Dave's contact. This is the first I've heard about her death. What happened to her?"
Ignoring the question, Jim glared at Spalding. "Did your parents know?" he demanded.
"No." He sighed. "Joe Carruthers was ex-FBI, invalided out after a serious injury. He... recruited is too strong a word. He got me interested in crime prevention, and one day Anne-Marie heard us talking about it and... well, it went on from there. Dad insisted I went to Rainier; but instead of attending classes there, I trained for the FBI. So did Anne-Marie - Dad wasn't interested in what she did. I went to enough classes at Rainier to maintain a cover, but missed so many my grades were really low. I never did do drugs, but saying I did made a good excuse for the low grades. We didn't expect Dad to throw me out, but when he did... It let me get into a major drug ring, undercover. We were close to where we had enough evidence to make an arrest stick, but then... "
"You should have had a contingency plan for if there were witnesses around when you grabbed her purse," Jim said.
"We didn't think anyone would care when she said there were just a few dollars in her purse. There were a couple of earlier times when there were witnesses, and they accepted it when she shrugged it off as unimportant. The good old 'I don't want to get involved' syndrome. This time, I suppose, someone insisted she report it?"
"This time a patrol car passed just after, when the witnesses were still arguing about what they should do, and stopped to find out what the problem was. At that we'd probably have let it go, only when we found the purse we had reason to suspect there had been drugs in it."
Spalding glanced at Mulroney, and nodded. "We had to seem to be selling. In actual fact the drugs were delivered to the FBI office, and the cash from the 'sales' came from FBI funds."
"All right," Jim said. "She gave us a name - Brewster - and an address at the docks. We've passed those on to Narcotics."
"Small time dealer," Mulroney said dismissively. "Giving you his name wasn't going to damage our operation. But I must insist that Dave here is released at once."
"He's not being held for anything," Jim said. "We were trying to eliminate him, not find reason to accuse him. He's free to go any time. You tell me he's one of your men, fine."
"And Anne-Marie was one of mine too, so that makes her killing - "
"Still in our jurisdiction," Simon said.
Mulroney glared at him, said, "Come on, Dave," and turned to walk out.
Spalding looked at Jim. "I'll testify if either Mom or Karen needs it," he said quietly. "Thanks," Jim murmured as Spalding followed Mulroney out, closing the door behind him.
The three men left in the room looked at each other, then Jim sank back into his chair. "FBI," he said, and his tone made it the worst of insults. "Granted she was undercover, but couldn't she have given us some hint?"
"Jim, you've worked undercover," Simon said. "You know anyone in that position has to maintain the role at all times, or risk slipping up when it matters."
"She was good, too," Blair said. "I really believed her."
"I think that's what's annoying me so much," Jim admitted. "She played her part really well. So her death is such a waste, not just of her life, but of a good cop's life - even if she was FBI."
"I can't see her brother just letting us get on with the case," Simon said. "I can only hope that Mulroney can keep him focused on the case he's working until they close it. I'd say we have that long to find the killer before Spalding takes matters into his own hands." He looked at Jim.
"I know." Jim sighed. "I think I need to have a word with Narcotics, see what's happened about Brewster, see if one of his men might have been responsible."
When asked, however, Captain Yuan told them he hadn't yet made a move against Brewster; they were watching him, but that was all.
As he put the phone down, Jim shook his head. "I want to speak to Spalding again. Brewster presumably had no idea Anne-Marie had dropped the dime on him. Whatever drug lord Dave Spalding was 'working' for presumably knew her only as a runner he used - possibly using the same cover story she gave us, that he had her conned into helping him. The coincidence of her running into someone totally unrelated to either one that night... it's more than I can believe. I hate to say it, but it brings us back to her father."
"Couldn't she have defended herself against him, though?" Blair asked. "She had the training - "
"That was probably in conflict with the way she was brought up, to obey him," Jim said. "She may have been more intent on just getting away from him, defending herself without trying to hurt him. It probably never occurred to her that her father would actually try to kill her."
"And would he have said he was angry enough to kill her if he really had?" Blair asked.
"Ever hear of a double bluff, Chief? Or lying by telling the truth?"
"Well, yes," Blair admitted. "The best lies are ones based on truth."
"Exactly. There aren't going to be any of the physiological changes a polygraph - or sentinel senses - can pick up, because it's not an outright lie; it's a modified truth." Jim frowned. "Let's go and have another word with Mrs. Spalding. I'd like to check out Spalding's car - "
"Won't he have it, if he's gone to work?"
Jim shook his head. "He uses a car belonging to his firm for that. I want to see his own car, and if she gives permission, I can go over it legitimately."
Blair snickered. "I know, it's not funny, but really, the number of times we've had to speak to her this last couple of days - if Spalding knew about it, he'd be claiming that one of us - probably me - was trying to start something with her. He pretty well implied that much when he found me in the kitchen with her on Tuesday."
Jim laughed too, but shook his head at the same time. "He did, didn't he. But I'll swear it wasn't normal jealousy. I don't think he loves her. She's his property. I suppose that was basically his view of his children, too. They were his - which could explain Karen."
"Explain it, yes. But not excuse it."
"Nothing could excuse it," Jim agreed.
When she answered the door, Elaine Spalding had obviously been crying. "Detective! Mr. Sandburg!"
Blair grinned at her. "Again," he said wryly. "We're beginning to think we should bring a tent and camp on your lawn."
She gave a weak smile. "Dr. Moore phoned me this afternoon. Karen... He said you made the initial breakthrough, Mr. Sandburg. She finally told them her father had been using her for sex three or four times a week since just after her sixteenth birthday." Her voice broke, and it was an obvious effort for her to continue. "He apparently told her that if she didn't keep quiet about it, he would go after Anne-Marie as well. Eventually, she just couldn't take it any more, and had a breakdown, reverted mentally to a time when he wasn't abusing her." She was silent for a moment, then said, "I never knew. If I had, I'd have stopped him somehow." There was a note of anger in her voice, and they knew that her spirit hadn't been totally destroyed by her husband's treatment of her.
"I'm sure you would," Blair said.
"Mrs. Spalding, you have to take out a restraining order against him, both on your own behalf and on your daughter's. Belle is far enough away that I doubt she's in danger from him, but you and Karen could be at risk."
"You think he killed Anne-Marie, don't you?" she asked.
"I doubt it was premeditated, but yes, I think he did. I'd like a look at his car, please. I should have asked you that before, but initially finding David seemed more important."
"In case Martin was right when he accused David?"
"It was a possibility, but we know now that he had nothing to do with her death."
"You've seen him?"
"Yes. I can't tell you more than that just yet, but I'll make sure he contacts you as soon as possible."
"Is he... ?" Her voice failed.
"He's not doing drugs," Jim said. "That's as much as I can tell you for the moment. But he told us that he saw bruises on you when he was younger, and he's prepared to testify if you charge your husband with assault. But even if you don't, you really should take out that restraining order."
"He won't pay any attention to it," she said dully. "I'm his property, and he won't consider himself bound by it."
Jim smiled - a cold smile that had frightened more than one perp. "He'd better," he said quietly. "Now, his car?"
She led them to a small garage that was barely large enough to hold the expensive car that stood in it. Jim moved slowly around it, studying the outside carefully. First he opened the trunk. There was a pair of shoes there, and when he checked them, he noted a pattern he recognised. Then he opened the front passenger door. He checked the seat carefully, and nodded. "Blair, call Forensics," he said. "We've got a small bloodstain on the back of the seat, and some hair that might be Anne-Marie's. The hair on its own mightn't count for much, since it's her father's car - "
"Martin always insisted that the children went in the back of his car, even after they were legally adult," Mrs. Spalding said quietly. "Not that he was in the habit of letting them into his car."
" - but the bloodstain... that's a completely different matter. And the shoes - we can compare the sole of the left one with a footprint left beside Anne-Marie's body, but I'm quite sure it was made by this shoe."
Faced with the evidence of the bloodstain and the shoes, Martin Spalding's defiance collapsed. He admitted catching Anne-Marie by the neck and shaking her when she was trying to get away from him, although he continued to insist that he hadn't meant to kill her.
"Manslaughter or murder, I doubt you'll get much sympathy from a jury," Jim told him. "Martin Spalding, you are under arrest for the murder of your daughter. You have the right to remain silent..."
As they drove home, Jim glanced over at his partner. "Pizza?" he asked.
Blair shook his head. "You get one for yourself if you want. I'll get something out of the freezer," he said.
Jim stopped at a red light, and studied Blair's face for a moment. "You've turned down the suggestion of a pizza several times recently," he said.
Blair grinned sheepishly. "Well... I know that if we get one straight from the shop it won't be dosed with Golden," he said, "but knowing it and convincing myself of it... I suppose one day I'll be able to eat pizza again, but not yet."
The light changed to green, and Jim drove on. "Okay," he said. "So what do you want?"
The grin widened, losing its embarrassment. "Chinese."
Jim glanced across at him with an answering grin.
"That," he said cheerfully, "sounds really good."