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This is a direct sequel to The Field Trip and Stoddard's Protege, taking place some two years after SP, and assumes that Blair is now officially working with the PD as a detective.
"Eli, that was great! Really cool!" Bob Gemmell bounced in his seat as Eli Stoddard's car pulled away from the dig and headed slowly down the very rough track leading to the outside world. "I'd like to write up a report on it - see if I can do a proper academic article, the kind you'd submit to an anthropology magazine."
Stoddard grinned, remembering the only other student he had ever taught who had been quite as enthusiastic, but who had left anthropology to follow a different destiny. "Why not?" he asked. "Just don't say anything that could identify the exact site or give away too much; you don't want to pre-empt Howard's announcement of his discoveries."
"After the work he's put into it? I wouldn't do that, especially after how nice he was to me. I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd told you not to take me with you."
"No, Howard isn't a man to bear a grudge," Stoddard replied, "especially when the first thing you did when we got there was apologize." He didn't add that he had long since explained Bob's problems of two years previously to Professor Meechan.
"Anyway, I'd let you see it first, then let Professor Meechan check it over if you thought it was any good, before I tried to submit it anywhere."
They fell silent, Bob thinking over how to write an article about the dig, while Stoddard concentrated on driving down the track which, if anything, was worse than it had been on his last visit there.
When they finally reached the now-derelict paved road, Eli relaxed slightly. The surface was potholed, winter damage no longer repaired since the landslide two years previously had carried away a lengthy stretch of it. It had been a convenient short-cut, a relic of an earlier time; the mines it had served worked out and abandoned many years previously. The result was a drive back to Cascade that was fully a hundred miles longer than it had been before the landslide. Still, it was a better surface than the one they had just negotiated.
"Pity they decided not to remake the road," Stoddard commented.
"I think I'm just as happy they didn't," Lesley Stoddard muttered. "I don't think I'd trust that slope not to slide again."
"But it hasn't been raining this time," Bob protested.
"There's been a lot of rain during the last two years," Lesley reminded him. "I'm quite sure that hillside is very unstable."
Both men fell silent, aware that there were times Lesley seemed to worry unnecessarily - though Bob, at least, had to admit to himself that it was nice to have someone worrying about his safety, worrying about him. She hadn't asked it of him, but he had even cut back a lot on his climbing, limiting himself to much easier routes than he had once tackled, because he realized how much it worried Lesley. Not that doing that bothered him particularly, because extreme climbing was something he had really only taken up as a summer alternative to the football he hated. After all, he no longer had to prove to anyone that he was tough, macho, a guy with balls.
It was a long journey, broken only by a short stop in a small town to allow them to eat, when Lesley also bought milk and bread, and it was late afternoon when Stoddard finally turned his car into the driveway of their house. Taking her shopping, Lesley moved to unlock the front door while Bob opened the garage door, allowing Stoddard to drive in. The men collected the bags from the trunk, locked the garage door, and followed Lesley into the house.
They met her coming out of the kitchen.
"Eli, one of the windows is broken," she said as soon as she saw her husband.
He followed her back into the kitchen, which overlooked the back yard. Glass covered the sink unit and the work surface beside it; a few shards lay on the floor. Stoddard frowned. "Check the house," he said quietly. "This could have been a break-in rather than an accidental breakage. The first thing we need to do is see if anything is missing."
As Lesley entered the living room, she could see no obvious sign of intruders. The room was tidy, when she had expected it to be ransacked. Nothing looked out of place. Bob followed her in and looked around. He drew a sharp breath.
He crossed to the shelves that held the antiques his mother had left to him. Although he still considered one or two of them quite ugly, at twenty he had a better appreciation of them than he had had when he was eight. However, he valued them mostly because they had been hers, and when Lesley had suggested he display them, he had readily agreed, and his eyes had gone immediately to the collection. "There's one missing," he said quietly.
After the police had come and left again, Stoddard checked his wallet, found the card he wanted, picked up the phone and dialed. He was answered immediately.
"Blair, my boy. How are you?"
"Eli? I'm fine."
"Happy with your new career?"
"Well, it's hardly new - it's something I've been doing for six years," Blair laughed. "Much of it unpaid. Yes, I'm happy, and not just because I have a proper paycheck now. But you haven't just phoned to ask me that, have you?"
"No. Blair, we were visiting Howard - you remember Howard Meechan? He's got several quite spectacular new finds that are confirming the dates for the site. We've been there for the past week; arrived home about three hours ago, and found the house broken into."
"The odd thing is, there isn't much missing. Just one of Bob's antiques - not worth a lot, compared to the rest of the collection, but it has anthropological significance. A Greenland tupilak made of ivory."
"A genuine tupilak?" Blair sounded doubtful. "Not something made for the tourist market - such as it is?"
"As far as we can tell, it's genuine. It's real ivory, probably narwhal, with the patina that says 'age'."
"How did Bob's... grandfather, wasn't it? get hold of a tupilak?"
"I don't know, and we've no way of finding out. At any rate, we've reported the theft, and the police have taken the details, but..."
"But it's not going to be anyone's top priority," Blair said bluntly.
"Exactly, and from the monetary point of view, I wouldn't expect it to be. However, it seems to me that the thief knew exactly what he wanted. Nothing else was touched, nothing was disturbed. He came in through a broken window, probably left the same way, and he was clever enough to choose a time when the house was empty for several days."
"So you think the thief knows the significance of a tupilak?"
"I'm afraid it's possible."
Blair was silent for a moment, then he said, "Bob has his brother's phone number, doesn't he?"
"Yes. Dan's still based in Cascade, anyway, and they meet at least one evening a week, unless Dan is away at a craft fair."
"Phone him. See if there were any anthropological items in his share of the antiques, and if so, check what they are."
Stoddard was quietly nodding, satisfied that Blair, at least, had already seen the significance of the missing item.
He hung up, and looked at Bob. "Blair suggests asking Dan if he's lost anything," he said.
Bob nodded, frowning. "I'd have phoned him tonight anyway. I told him I'd let him know when we got home again." As he picked up the phone, he added, "I know there was a jade Aztec statuette among the pieces he got. I'd have liked it as well as the tupilak, but the way the value of everything worked out... I did say to Mr. McFarlane that I didn't mind getting less than half, that Dan could have one of the ceramics that was in my share, but he insisted that he had to stick with the terms of Mom's will - and once she saw the statuette, Holly liked it, so Dan wasn't willing to do a swap." He dialed quickly. "Hello, Dan - we're home."
"Good trip?" Dan asked.
"Oh man, it was great. They've a lot of work to do on the site yet, and I'm hoping to join Professor Meechan's team next season, at least for a few weeks. But Dan, when we got home, we found the house had been broken into. What's weird is that the only thing that was taken was one of the pieces Mom left."
"Bob, we had a break-in too, on Saturday night - we'd gone to an art exhibition, and when we arrived home about four hours later, we found a window broken - and the only thing missing was the Aztec figure. We reported it, of course, but - "
"But the cops didn't consider the theft of one item particularly important when nothing else was touched? Yeah, that was what we found. It has to be the same thief, but it's funny that it was the anthropology things that were taken, and not any of the rest of the stuff. I mean, the whole collection, yours and mine together, is worth four hundred thousand dollars, maybe more. Why settle for just two items worth only a few hundred?"
"Maybe he was stealing those two things for someone?" Dan suggested.
"In that case, why didn't the thief take some of the other things too, even if it was just to pawn them for a fraction of their value?" Bob asked. He was silent for a moment, then said, "Dan, Mom inherited half of her father's collection, her sister got the other half. Do you have any idea where our aunt is?"
"No. Dad didn't like Mom to visit her family, though she did go to see them sometimes when he was out of town, and took me with her a couple of times to see Aunt Beth, so I know where she lived back then. After I came back to Cascade I went there, hoping to see her, but she'd moved away, and the people in the house didn't know where she'd gone, or even when - they'd bought it from an elderly unmarried man who was moving into a home.
"Trouble is, her married name was Turnbull, which isn't exactly uncommon. I can't remember her husband's first name. I did try phoning some of the Turnbulls in the phone book - but none of them was the right one, and after a while I gave up. I do remember she had a son, Mark, about my age, and a daughter a year or so older - I don't remember her name at all; I never met either one, but I remember Aunt Beth talking about Mark."
"Okay, Dan - it was just a thought I had. See you on Monday."
"Usual place. See you."
Bob hung up and looked at Stoddard. "The Aztec figure's been stolen."
"I realized that from what you were saying." He reached for the phone. "Blair will want to know about this, too."
As Blair put the phone down for the second time in half an hour, Jim came in carrying the laundry. He took one look at his partner's face, and put the basket down quickly. "Trouble?" he asked.
"I don't know, but I'm a little worried," Blair admitted. "That was Eli. They've been away for a few days, and got home to find one of Bob's antiques had been stolen. When they phoned Dan Ashford, he told them one of *his* antiques had been stolen, too."
"Just one from each collection?"
"Yes. The thing is - Dan lost an Aztec statuette, which is worrying enough, but what Bob lost was a tupilak."
"A tupilak?" Jim asked. "What's that?"
"A bad luck charm."
Blair gave a mirthless smile. "A figure carved in bone or ivory by a Kalaallit shaman, specifically to wish evil on an enemy. They can be anything from pretty crude to quite ornate, depending on the artistic ability of the shaman. Once the curse has taken effect, the tupilak can be reused to wish evil on someone else."
"Kalaallit?" Jim stumbled slightly over the pronunciation.
"The native people of Greenland."
"Oh. I thought that was Inuit?"
"Well, the word 'Inuit' is often used for all the indigenous people of the American Arctic, but the Inuit are actually Canadian. In Alaska they're the Inupiaq or the Yupik. In Greenland, they're Kalaallit. Different tribes, you see?"
"Ah. Yes. But... I thought antiques were ceramics and things like that, not a bit of carved ivory."
"Well, I don't know," Blair said. "Little ivory figurines from the Orient, carved two or three hundred years ago, can be worth quite a lot of money. And a collector of antiques might consider buying a jade Aztec statuette - but I wouldn't have expected a private collector to consider a tupilak worth buying, even though they're not exactly common. An anthropologist or a museum, yes - they would certainly consider it well worth getting. But for a collector, it's too... well, I suppose you could say esoteric, unless he specialized in ivory figures."
Jim frowned. "Why did you say the theft of an Aztec statuette was worrying?"
"Because a lot of Aztec things had ritual significance... just like the tupilak. It looks to me as if someone is stealing ritual objects. I wonder if either Cascade Museum or Rainier has had anything stolen from their anthropology departments recently?"
"Wouldn't Eli have mentioned it if something had gone missing from Rainier?"
"Yes - I suppose he would," Blair admitted. "Even though he was on vacation, Rainier would have phoned him if the anthropology department had been broken into. Okay, the museum, then."
"We can check in the morning. That's all we can do, though. Petty crime will have this one - and we've no justification for asking then to hand it over to us. Simon wouldn't authorize it even if we did. He couldn't."
"Even though it's almost certain that these petty crimes could be leading up to a really major crime?"
"It's the way it goes, Blair. Yes, we can take action to catch someone red-handed if we have good reason to believe there will be a crime - that's what undercover cops do, at least some of the time - but would you like to try persuading the Chief of Police that the theft of a couple of not-very-valuable, possibly ritual, objects is going to cause a major crime?"
Blair made a face. "Western man doesn't believe in magic," he muttered.
"Exactly," Jim said. "'Magic' is sleight of hand, misdirection at best, pointless superstition at worst. A lot of the time, he's right. But there are always some things that you can't explain away, some things for which there's no... well, rational explanation."
"Hey, man, isn't that what I've been telling you for the last six years?"
"No," Jim said.
Blair grinned, unabashed, and went on, "Seriously, you're not telling me anything I don't know. There are always some things you can't explain away."
When they arrived at the PD the following morning, they went first to see Simon, who looked from Jim to Blair, then back again to Jim.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" he asked wryly.
"Probably not," Blair admitted. "Simon, we want to have a word with Petty Crime about a couple of cases from the past week. They're linked, but the guys there won't realize that. And... well, we're afraid that although they seem petty, there's more to the theft than is obvious."
"Is this something to do with the sentinel thing?" Simon asked warily.
"No." Blair waited long enough for Simon to relax before adding, "It's more of a shaman thing."
"Why is nothing ever simple where you two are involved?" Simon asked, resignation in his voice. He took a deep breath. "Tell me."
"We got a phone call last night... " Blair began.
By the time he finished speaking, Simon was frowning. "Are you telling me you believe in lucky charms?"
"Yes and no. Simon, a lot of what a shaman does is... well, psychological. It works because the tribe believes in him. But there's always part of what a good - that is, a really competent - shaman does that can't be explained rationally. He can do things that defy explanation because he believes he can.
"Shamans often use things to help them focus their attention. The trouble is, one of the items that has been stolen was always used with the intent to harm, and the other... The other is almost certainly a representation of an Aztec god, and Aztec worship revolved around the shedding of blood. I don't say Aztec priests were shamans, per se, because their duty was to... well, keep the gods strong, propitiate them, bribe them, always with blood. They weren't in it to work with their tribes for the welfare of the tribe. Their job was to protect the tribe by keeping the gods happy, and if that meant killing some of the people, well, their attitude was you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs - though they mostly sacrificed prisoners of war, who weren't from their own tribe.
"And that's what's worrying me about this. This thief - it has to be the same one who took both things - knew exactly what he wanted. He completely ignored items of far greater material value."
Simon opened his mouth to speak, but Blair carried on, ignoring him.
"Western Man doesn't believe in the power of a curse, and claims that if someone doesn't know he's been cursed, nothing will happen to him; and certainly the power of suggestion is very real, especially in many non-technological tribes. If a man in one of those tribes knows he's been cursed, odds are he'll die unless he can get a powerful shaman to remove the curse. But years ago, on my first expedition, I saw a man who didn't believe in the power of a curse become ill after he insulted the local shaman. The leader of our expedition went to the shaman, apologizing, to ask him to remove the curse. The shaman just said that the man would recover - he had simply wanted to teach him a lesson, and he hoped it had been learned."
"Perhaps the guy had been slipped a mickey," Simon suggested, finally getting a word in edgeways.
Blair shook his head. "He hadn't eaten or drunk anything different from the rest of us, the plates and cups we used were expedition stock, and it was sheer chance which one any of us picked up. None of the rest of us got sick. I doubt any of us had believed that a shaman had any real power - I suspect we all thought a shaman's power was due to his community's belief that he had it. Apart from Jan, though, we were either too polite to say so, or we had the sense to see that you didn't insult the most influential man in the tribe if you wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with the tribe. As it was, we were lucky the shaman was a reasonable man who didn't blame the rest of us for one guy's rudeness, and treated the schmuck as... well, a child who needed a short, sharp lesson. That little incident... let's just say it changed a lot of minds."
"You mean you really do believe a shaman has magic powers?" Simon asked blankly.
Blair opened his mouth to answer, then hesitated and closed it again, making a gesture that said, 'I don't know'. He thought for a moment before saying carefully, "Like I said, I believe that a lot of shamans do work through suggestion and... well, psychology. They know herbal medicine. That all makes them effective doctors, psychologists and advisers for their tribes. I also believe that the most powerful shamans can do pretty well anything they want to, just by wanting to, in a way that defies logic. And no, I have no intention of saying that to Captain Darville. We want him to listen to me, not kick me out and tell you you'd better check that I'm not on drugs."
"So what are you planning on saying?" Simon asked.
"Not too much," Blair admitted. "Really just... Well, I wouldn't expect Petty Crime to have linked the two thefts, for example; and ask if there had been any other similar thefts, where one thing was taken and objects of greater monetary value left untouched. The real ritual significance of what's been stolen bothers me, but officially what I'll be saying is that it could point to something like a gang initiation ritual. It's the stealing that proves they have guts, not the value of what's stolen, and deliberately choosing items of low value means they don't gain anything from the theft except the respect of their peers."
Simon nodded. "You wouldn't be trying to take over anything, just pointing out a possible link between two cases," he said.
"All right." He opened a drawer to check a list, picked up the internal phone, and dialed. "Simon Banks," he said when it was answered. "One of my men would like to come down to see you - Blair Sandburg. A friend of his had something stolen last night... Yes, it was reported. Who? Stoddard - Professor Stoddard. Yes. Okay, he'll be right down." He hung up and said, "Captain Darville says he can give you five minutes."
"Thanks, Simon." Blair walked briskly out, leaving Jim with Simon.
Simon looked helplessly at Jim. "Thank the lord the kid's law-abiding," he said quietly. "If he put his mind to it, he could con the President into giving him the keys to Fort Knox." *****
Jim and Blair were just washing up after dinner when the phone rang. Blair, drying the dishes, went to answer it. "Sandburg."
"Hi, Blair." It was Bob, and a quick gesture from Blair told Jim to listen. "Look, I had an idea. Well, I actually had it yesterday, but... You know we only got half of the original collection of antiques. Mom's sister got the other half, and that might have included some anthropological things too. We lost touch with her, though, after Mom died. I don't think I ever met her, but Dan did, once or twice. Anyway, during the night he remembered her husband's name - Martin Turnbull. I checked the phone book, and there's a Martin Turnbull living at 1485 South Cascade Drive.
"We discussed going there to find out if his wife was our aunt, that he wasn't just someone with the same name, but then we wondered whether she'd even want to meet us if she was. After all, she didn't try to contact me after Dad was killed, and goodness knows there was enough publicity about it that she couldn't have missed it."
"But we could visit her in our capacity as cops, check that she is your aunt, and the reason for our visit being to advise her to be careful of her part of the collection," Blair said. He glanced at Jim, who nodded. "Okay, Bob, we'll do that, and if she is your aunt, try to find out if she's willing to meet you."
Blair put the phone down. "We need to do this on our own time," he said, "since there's no way we could say it's official police business."
"You took the words out of my mouth," Jim agreed. "When do you want to go?"
Blair shrugged. "Might as well make it now," he replied.
They finished the dishes quickly, put them away, then headed out.
1485 South Cascade Drive was in one of the more affluent suburbs of Cascade, and Jim's truck looked more than slightly out of place when he pulled up on the street outside the house. Despite the apparent respectability of the area, however, he was careful to lock it before following Blair up the path to the front door.
The door was opened by a woman whose looks bespoke Mexican origin. "Is Mrs. Turnbull at home?" Blair asked.
She looked doubtful, as if she was about to say, "No", and Blair pulled out his ID. "Police," he said.
"Come in." She left them standing in the hall while she went into one of the rooms, returning a moment later to show them into it.
The woman who stood as they entered was slim, but with a gaunt look that hinted at a strict diet rigidly followed. Her clothes were well-cut and expensive, but more suited to someone at least twenty years younger. "Good evening, gentlemen. Carmen said you're with the police? How can I help you?"
"Blair Sandburg, Major Crime," Blair said. "My partner, Jim Ellison. We're looking for an Elizabeth Turnbull whose maiden name was Ashford."
"That was my name before I married," she said.
"You had a sister, Cathy, who married Andrew Gemmell?"
She frowned slightly. "Yes, but I don't see what that has to do with anything. Andrew - " her tone made it a curse - "was always very possessive of Cathy - she was his property, and he made that very clear. She did visit me occasionally, but only when his team was playing away. She never came again after he was injured - I don't suppose she had the opportunity. I saw him three times after Cathy's wedding - at my mother's funeral, then at my father's; he attended them with her, and both times he hustled her away as soon as he could after the interments. Then at Cathy's... when he made it clear he wanted nothing more to do with me."
Blair nodded. "Why didn't you try to contact your nephews after Andrew Gemmell died?" he asked.
"Andrew's dead?" She was clearly startled.
"About a year and a half ago. It made the news." Jim was very careful to keep his voice casual.
"Ah." She had regained control very quickly. "I was in Australia all last year; my husband went there on business, and I accompanied him." She hesitated for a moment. "I had no idea... " The mild regret in her voice was obviously forced, the practiced response of a society wife.
"However, that's history," Blair said. "The thing is... Your father collected antiques, right?"
"Yes. Mom used to complain about it - she always said we'd have been quite rich if he hadn't spent every available dollar on adding to his collection, though I don't remember that we were ever short of money. There was certainly enough in the bank for them to leave my children a respectable amount of money. I don't think they left anything to Cathy's children - but then they never met them. Anyway, I've no complaints; although I married a very successful businessman, my half of Dad's collection means I have a nice little nest egg. I've even added to it over the years, although more as an investment than because I actually like the things."
Now is she just saying this to us because we've identified ourselves as cops, or is she as forthcoming about it to everyone? Jim wondered.
"That's actually what we came to speak to you about, Mrs. Turnbull. How efficient is your security?"
"Efficient? We have the usual burglar alarms, and I do keep the collection in a locked display unit. And although regular visitors to the house know about it, I don't broadcast the fact that I have a valuable collection of antiques."
"Neither did Bob or Dan - your nephews," Blair added in response to her slightly puzzled look. "Your sister split her share of the antiques between them. But both had their houses broken into during the last week, and both had one item from their collection stolen. We're not officially investigating the case, but Bob's a friend of ours, and... Well, there's something odd about the things that were stolen, and we wondered if there happened to be anything equivalent to them in your collection. Could you possibly show it to us?"
"Odd?" she asked.
"Well, they weren't things we'd have expected a collector of antiques to buy."
She looked at them for a moment, then said, "Through here." As she turned towards the door, she added, "How did you know about me?"
"Dan remembered meeting you," Blair said. "And the lawyer knew the... well, the history of the collection, and how it was split between you and your sister."
"I remember," she said. "Cathy brought Danny to visit once or twice, but she never brought the younger boy - Bob? He couldn't have been more than seven or eight when Cathy died. I think she was afraid he might blurt something out in Andrew's hearing; Danny was old enough to know how to keep a secret. Here we are."
The two men stared in some awe at the collection. "Impressive," Blair murmured, and Jim nodded agreement.
The items were neatly displayed, each with what might be called its own personal space. As Jim studied them, he noticed that although the unit was kept locked, there was the thinnest layer of dust on the shelves, a layer that was probably invisible to anyone else; and in a space somewhat larger than the rest, there was a faint, very faint, outline where something had been removed. A quick check didn't show anywhere else where something might have been removed fairly recently.
"Has something been taken from there?" he asked, pointing.
Mrs. Turnbull drew a sharp breath. "Not by me, or with my knowledge," she said.
"But there is something missing?"
"A turquoise figure," she replied. "To be honest, it gave me the creeps - it was one of two my father picked up in Mexico City. It was a double-headed serpent - Dad said it represented the Aztec god of rain. Cathy got the other one - it's jade. Dad said it was the Aztec sun god."
Blair closed his eyes briefly. Then he said quietly, "Is there anything else missing?"
She looked carefully over the shelves. "An animal - Dad called it a weasel - carved out of ivory," she said.
Blair blew out a long breath.
"I'm not sure where he got it," she went on, not noticing Blair's reaction. "He really liked it; carried it with him everywhere." Her voice broke. "Even when he was dying, he insisted on having it beside him in the hospital."
Jim gave her a moment to recover her composure before asking, "Do you have any idea when the pieces might have been taken?"
"The serpent was here last week," Mrs. Turnbull said. "I'm sure it was. I'm not so sure about the weasel. But nobody broke in here. And the unit is locked - "
"In that case, it was opened with the key," Jim said. "Where do you keep it?"
She moved to a small, ornately carved table at the side of the fireplace, and opened a drawer that was so well-disguised that even Jim hadn't realized it was there. She reached in and lifted out a small key and held it up.
"Who knew where you kept it?"
"Just... my husband, and the children - Mark and Vikki. But they don't need to steal anything - Martin is successful at his work, and the children know they'll inherit all this one day. And anyway - if one of them really needed money, why not just ask me? Or their father? I don't say we didn't spoil them - we tried not to, but we were away a lot while they were growing up, and we probably did over-compensate for that when we were at home. If they needed financial help, even if they'd done something silly, I'd certainly have given them that help, and I'm sure their father would, too!" As she spoke, she put the key back in its drawer.
Blair said quietly, "No, Mrs. Turnbull. Whoever took these pieces didn't need money."
"How can you know that?" she asked.
"What was the value of the missing items?"
"I'm not sure... I have the entire collection valued for insurance purposes, but I don't know the value of most of the individual pieces - just the ones I added - although the insurance company probably has a list of them all."
"Bob and Dan lost similar items," Blair said quietly. "The jade Aztec figure and a small carved ivory one. The combined value of the two wasn't more than a thousand dollars. Your two missing items would be about the same. A thousand dollars, Mrs. Turnbull - out of a collection worth over four hundred thousand. Whoever took them didn't take them for the money."
"Then... then why?"
"We're not sure yet," Blair admitted. Then, more briskly, "Do you want to report the theft?"
"No. You say they're not worth all that much, and... It has to have been Mark or Vikki who took them, and how can I do that to my own children?"
"I understand," Blair said.
"I'll speak to them about it," she said.
Blair doubted it, but didn't call her on it. "Mrs. Turnbull, did your father tell you anything about the Aztec figures and the... the ivory weasel?"
"Not much, but I wasn't very interested in the things in his collection. Neither was Cathy." She hesitated, then went on. "Mark and Vikki, though... I said we were away a lot while they were growing up. Martin's work took him abroad several months every year, and it was good for business if I accompanied him. We left the children with my parents - they were happy with my parents; and Dad said once that they listened to his stories about the things in his collection. So either Mark or Vikki could probably tell you about them."
Jim decided not to tell her that Blair probably knew more about the missing items than Mark or Vikki did. "Do they live here?" he asked
"No, they both have their own apartments." She gave Jim their addresses; Jim made a note of them, then asked, "Where do they work?"
"They don't," Mrs. Turnbull admitted. "As I said, their grandparents left them money. They can't afford a lavish lifestyle, but they are both financially comfortable. Which makes it unlikely that either would feel the need to steal from me."
Thanking her, Jim and Blair left.
Back in the truck, they looked at each other. "The thief is one of the kids," Blair said, "and the reason is probably because of what they were told about the things."
Jim nodded agreement as he started the engine and drove off. "But even if he didn't think his mother would notice the things were missing - which she clearly didn't - you'd think he'd have the sense to make it look like a break-in. As it is, the two things obviously had to have been taken by someone with access to the key."
"And the kids would know that their mother wouldn't make a fuss about her items disappearing, and that their aunt had the other two items they wanted."
"You didn't like what Mrs. Turnbull said about the Aztec figures," Jim commented.
"Huitzilopochtli, the sun god, and Tlaloc, the rain god. No wonder they gave her the creeps. There were probably more sacrifices to them than all the other Aztec gods put together. Tlaloc was basically a good and generous god - he sent the rain, after all - but children were sacrificed to him in times of drought, and the more they cried, the more effective the sacrifice was - so the priests would set out to terrify them or hurt them beforehand to make sure they cried."
"And the parents accepted that?" Jim sounded outraged.
"It was an honor for their children to be chosen for sacrifice," Blair said. "And in return for a 'little' suffering as they died - so that they would cry - Tlaloc rewarded them by taking them to heaven - a place of light that lay in the east.
"Huitzilopochtli was believed to be in a continual battle with the moon and the stars, and needed blood - lots of blood - if he was to retain his strength. If he didn't, the sun would fail to rise and the land be condemned to perpetual darkness."
Jim shook his head in complete incomprehension. "Don't ask me how such a belief originated in Mesoamerica," Blair went on. "I could see that in the Arctic, with months of darkness every winter, they might begin to be afraid the sun would never rise again, but the tribes there never went that way."
"And you think that whoever took these things - ?" Jim asked.
"Might be planning on playing with their own version of Aztec religious practice."
"What about the ivory weasel?"
"That's Alaskan - a kikituk, which could be used either for healing or to attack an enemy. If old man Ashford always carried it around with him, it's pretty certain he knew its significance in Inupiaq and Yupik culture. He might not have known exactly how an Alaskan shaman used it, but I'd guess that he was a wannabe shaman, and that he managed to persuade one or both of the Turnbull children that that could be their destiny too.
"Each shaman made his own, and things like that don't often leave their makers' hands. I wonder how Ashford got hold of one?
"The other odd thing is - two things from Mexico, and two from the Arctic. It's a weird combination." Blair fell silent, thinking.
It was late enough that Jim drove them straight home - it was probable that Mark and Vikki Turnbull were typical early-twenties, and had both gone out for the evening, and they'd be wasting their time trying to see them that night. Back in the loft, Blair selected one of his anthropology books, Jim picked up The Five Ways of Strategy, that he was rereading, and they settled down for the rest of the evening.
They were both wakened by the phone. Jim went quickly down the stairs and as he reached for the phone, he glanced at the clock. 3.06.
"Ellison," he was saying as Blair opened his bedroom door.
It was Simon. "We've got a killing, Jim - a nasty one. Two children, brothers, twins aged eleven. They'd been visiting a friend to go over some schoolwork together, and when they didn't arrive home by ten, their father phoned the friend's house - they'd left about nine, and it shouldn't have taken them more than ten minutes to get home. Mr. Crowe went out to look for them, and when he couldn't find any sign of them, he called the police.
"A little over hour ago, one of the patrol cars was waved down by a young couple. The man was taking his girlfriend home, and they'd cut through the old playing field - you know the place, where we caught Aaron Foster. There's a full moon tonight, so they had no problem seeing where they were going. They saw something that puzzled them not far from the gate, and when they went to see what it was, they found two bodies; two boys, both naked. Even in the moonlight they could see that both bodies had a serious injury to the chest.
"When Forensics got there, they discovered the boys' hearts had been cut out."
Blair was very quiet as they drove to the old field.
They left the truck beside the patrol cars and walked briskly over the moonlit ground to join the cluster of people even Blair could see clearly in the white light.
Serena looked up as they joined Simon, who was standing watching her. "What have you found?" Jim asked, without preamble.
"I don't think they were killed here," Serena said. "I know the place is pretty deserted, but if they were alive and conscious when they were brought here, they would have screamed, and it's not so deserted that they wouldn't have been heard."
"What if they were gagged?"
Serena shook her head. "There's no sign that they were gagged," she replied. "No bruising round the sides of the mouth that I can see. I'll know more once I have the chance to examine them properly, in decent light."
Jim glanced at Blair, who, after one look at the bodies, had turned his attention to the ground around them, studying it carefully. "Chief?"
"I think we need to go and see Mark and Vikki Turnbull as early as possible tomorrow - armed with warrants to let us check their apartments."
"Who?" Simon asked.
Jim explained quickly. Blair hardly gave him time to finish before rushing on. "The Aztecs sacrificed their victims by cutting their hearts out. I think someone has sacrificed these boys to Tlaloc - though it's not as if we need rain," he added dryly. "Not here in Cascade. It could have been to Huitzilopochtli," he added thoughtfully, "though his sacrifices were usually adult males... Of course, in a lot of cultures, boys of eleven or twelve were regarded as adult." He looked at Simon. "Taking everything into consideration, Simon, I'm pretty sure that this is linked to the theft of the Aztec figures from Dan Ashford and Elizabeth Turnbull.
"The figures might or might not represent Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, but Mrs. Turnbull's father told her they did, and undoubtedly told his grandchildren that, too. Whether he told them about the sacrifices made to the Aztec gods or not, it's not hard to find that information in libraries, on the internet, or even on the History channel. Not in detail, certainly, because as well as destroying the culture, the Spanish destroyed most of the written records of the native American races - what we know was written from the Spanish point of view. Some wall carvings and paintings on ceramics do survive, and a lot has been extrapolated from them, but... " He shrugged. "It's like trying to extrapolate the lifestyle of modern America by watching The Simpsons."
"All right," Simon said. "You think this Mark Turnbull could know something about this - " He gestured towards the bodies.
"There's his sister, too," Blair said.
Simon scowled. "I know women can and do kill, but do you seriously think a woman would have something to do with a killing like *that*?"
"Yes," Blair replied. "I can even give you an example. Myra Hindley in England - in the early sixties she helped her boy friend torture and kill several children. They were tried and convicted for killing five, though only four bodies were recovered. God, they even made an audio tape of the kids screaming, pleading for mercy... " He shivered. "So I say we need to visit both Mark and Vikki Turnbull." His voice was grim. "I think we also need to have a word with their father. I don't think Mrs. Turnbull is involved - Jim?"
Jim nodded. "I don't think she was hiding anything. I'm sure she was telling the truth, or the truth as she understood it. She was prepared to accept that one of her children could have taken the two items out of her display unit. However, she honestly believes that her husband wouldn't have taken the pieces."
"But why now?" Simon demanded. "They could have taken the things any time."
"I think it was because whichever one it was wanted all four, but didn't get the chance to take them until now," Blair said. "He - and I'm using 'he' as a default pronoun - could have taken his mother's two any time he wanted, but didn't know where the other two were. Even if he somehow broke into the Gemmell house undetected, they weren't there, because the lawyer had the pieces in Cathy Gemmell's share of the collection in a safety deposit box. After Andrew Gemmell was killed, he probably found out easily enough where Bob was, and possibly even that Bob had one of the items he wanted, but that was still only three; and even though Bob was seeing his brother regularly, it's possible their cousin didn't get the chance to see them together, and follow Dan home, until just a week or two ago. Once he knew where all four pieces were, it was just a matter of seizing his chance.
"He wasn't very clever, though; he should have made it look like a break-in at his mother's house, too."
By the time they had finished at the crime scene, there was no point in going home again; they stopped for breakfast at the small diner near the PD that the cops regularly patronized, then went on to the bullpen.
It was late morning before the warrants arrived, and Jim and Blair wasted no time heading for Mark Turnbull's apartment.
There was no answer to their knock.
Jim shrugged. "So we come back tonight," he said as they returned to the truck. He swung it back into the traffic, heading for Vikki Turnbull's home, which was nearer the city limits.
As they reached the door, Jim said, "There's someone in here. I can hear... I suppose you could call it music. Sounds like some of your 'earth music', Chief." He knocked.
A young man opened the door. Jim held up his badge. "Cascade PD, sir. We'd like a word with Miss Vikki Turnbull."
"Who is it, Mark?" a voice called.
"You're Mark Turnbull?" Jim asked.
He frowned, but nodded.
"Good - we wanted a word with you, too."
He looked a little nervous even as he called back, "It's a couple of cops, Sis. They want a word."
"Okay. Show them in."
Blair stopped in the doorway, hit by a wave of malevolence that he couldn't push through. Hands hit his back and pushed him forwards; he was aware of Jim, beside him, also stumbling forwards as if propelled by a hard push. Both landed sprawled on the floor.
Jim forced himself up onto his hands and knees, struggling to lift his head; Blair remained lying where he fell, battered down by the sheer hatred aimed at them. He was only vaguely aware of the music Jim had mentioned, feeling that he should recognize it, or at least its ethnicity, but he couldn't concentrate well enough to identify it. Without consciously moving, he could feel himself beginning to curl into a fetal position, as if to protect himself from the hostility aimed at him.
"Well, well." The woman's voice dripped mockery. "Two of Cascade's 'finest' bully boys. Think you're better than the rest of us, don't you?"
Jim managed to lift his head. "Cascade... needs someone... to protect it... from people... like... you."
She chuckled. "What can you do, pig? You can't even stand. You're only just managing to talk, while your little weakling friend is helpless, curled up like a baby. I have to admit, though, I'm impressed by your strength. You'll make a fine sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli. Tlaloc prefers children, though, and from the way he's reacted to my little spell, your partner has the correct mentality. Oh, the gods will be pleased with us; they've been starved of the proper sacrifices for far too long."
Another wave of malice was directed at them, and Jim dropped back onto the floor, unable to fight it. He felt consciousness ebb...
Jim regained consciousness slowly, aware of a headache; automatically he adjusted his pain level until it no longer bothered him. He was lying in what appeared to be an animal stall in a stone barn. The light was fairly dim, but it was daylight; the building clearly had a window. His right wrist was fastened to a metal bar with what he quickly realized were his own handcuffs. Blair lay beside him, still unconscious, similarly restrained.
"Blair?" Jim said. There was no answer.
Cautiously, Jim extended his senses.
There was no awareness of the miasma of hatred that had overwhelmed them at Vikki Turnbull's apartment. He pushed hearing a little further. There was only Blair's heartbeat anywhere near, although, a little further away, he was aware of a susurration that could only be caused by the heartbeats of a variety of animals. There was the sound of running water - a stream, fairly fast-flowing, he decided - and the shushing of wind blowing through trees. Wherever the Turnbull siblings had brought them, it was well into open country. But... why bring them here? Why hadn't the Turnbulls killed them already?
There was a faint smell that he identified as blood, and he looked back at Blair, concentrating on him, but he quickly ascertained that it didn't come from his partner; nor was it his own blood.
Ah. Was this where the Crowe twins were killed? But in that case, why take their bodies back into Cascade and leave them where they were sure to be found quickly? If they'd been buried out here, chances were the bodies would never have been found.
Jim frowned thoughtfully. Simon knew where they were going, but all the Turnbulls needed to do was deny that they'd ever arrived. It was more than probable that they'd moved his truck, either leaving it in a parking lot somewhere far away from their apartments, or driven off the road somewhere to look as if it had crashed, or - less likely - given false number plates and sold to an unsuspecting dealer.
It certainly seemed as if they had expected Jim and Blair to call, and Jim suspected that their mother had probably phoned them the previous evening, maybe even asked them about the missing pieces. Would they expect another visit from the police? Possibly. In their place Jim would have expected a follow-up call, if only while the PD checked on the movements of the missing cops. However, he didn't think the Turnbulls were stupid enough to try the same trick on any more cops. Two cops going missing was suspicious enough; two more would definitely enter the realm of 'enemy action'.
He was still wearing his watch; he glanced at it, and was surprised to realize that it was still only mid-afternoon. They couldn't have been brought too far from Cascade.
He tested the strength of the metal bar, and shook his head. It was solid.
Blair grunted softly, and Jim said, "You awake yet, Chief?"
After a moment, Blair mumbled, "Sort of. God, my head!" He pushed himself as upright as he could. "At the risk of sounding stereotyped - what happened?"
"What do you remember?"
"We went to talk to Vikki Turnbull, and... It was like walking into a solid wall. How could anyone hate so much? It was partly us, because we're cops, but it was more than that. It was like... like a hatred of life, but I don't think it was her hatred; I think it was working through her." He rubbed his eyes with his free hand.
"Does that mean anyone who tries to speak to her about this will end up the same way we have?" Jim asked uneasily.
"I don't know."
"But you knew about the things that were stolen - "
"Yes, I knew about them," Blair said. "I knew what a shaman used them for. But I haven't a clue how to counter the... spell, I suppose."
"But you're a shaman... "
"An untrained shaman," Blair said. "A trained, experienced shaman might know what to do to neutralize it - he'd have to. One of his jobs is to counter curses, render them ineffective, maybe turn them back on whoever did the cursing. But nobody can function properly as a shaman without training. I've actually been aware of that ever since Incacha passed the way of the shaman on to me, but there never seemed to be the time to do anything about it. Jim, if we get out of this, I've got to get time off and find someone to give me some training."
"Blair, I've never met anyone as good at thinking on his feet as you are. You'll come up with something."
Blair looked at him. "I wish I had your confidence."
They were silent for some minutes, both thinking over their predicament as Blair also checked the metal bar they were handcuffed to, then pushed his left hand into his pocket as if to warm it. Finally, Jim said, "If it wasn't the girl hating us, what was it?"
"Has to be the tupilak," Blair said as he took his hand out of his pocket again and began to fiddle, left-handed, with his handcuffs. "It was designed solely to be used to wish evil on the shaman's enemies - or possibly on someone one of his tribe wanted cursed. It has to be loaded with malice.
"However Bob's grandfather got hold of it, he can't have tried to use it; it was the kikituk he carried about with him, and a kikituk was mostly used for healing. While Bob had the tupilak, it never occurred to him to try to use it for anything. I imagine he has a fair idea of what it was used for - Eli would have told him even if it wasn't covered in any of his classes - but even when he was the class pest, he was never wicked. He was just doing what he thought would gain his father's approval. After his father died, his true nature emerged, and he's a nice kid. But once the thing was stolen - the person in possession of it might be influenced by it, because he - she - had already proved herself to be... shall we say less than reliable?"
"You mean you believe an inanimate object can think? Influence people?"
"There are precedents. It's not my field, but isn't there a jewel somewhere that's supposed to be unlucky? Whoever owns it runs into problems?"
Jim frowned. "You mean the Hope Diamond?"
"That's the one. Then there's a mummy in the British Museum - the guards in that part of the building change more often than anywhere else; they hear weird noises when everything should be quiet, and it scares them. The urban legend is that the mummy was on the Titanic, but it wasn't, though there is a link - the man who was studying it was on the Titanic. There's a piece of music - I can't remember what it is - but radio stations banned it because it seemed to drive people to suicide. There's a volcano on Hawaii - it's said to be unlucky to take lava off its slopes, but people have, as a souvenir - and often they've sent it back, care of the police, asking then to return it to the volcano because they've had such bad luck since they took it. And there's the green eye of the little yellow god - "
"Hold it - that's fiction. Well, a poem. Rudyard Kipling."
"It was based on Indian legend," Blair insisted. "But Jim, those are all things that seem to have a bad influence on people. Is it so much of a stretch to believe that an object that, ever since it was made, has been used to curse people, could end up with a mind of its own, knowing that that's its purpose in life?"
"It's still an inanimate object," Jim said, but without much conviction.
"Jim, you're a cop. Don't tell me you've never had a perp glare at you, hatred in his eyes as he swears vengeance."
"And as a teacher, I had students who did exactly the same because I didn't give them the grade their ego thought they deserved." Remembering Brad Ventriss, Jim nodded as Blair went on. "Tell me that what you felt in Vikki Turnbull's apartment was the same."
"I can't," Jim admitted. "I never felt anything like that... that hatred battering at us. You lost consciousness first, but I was only a minute behind you."
"So you've no idea where we are?"
Jim shook his head. "I've been listening, but all I can hear is country noises. There's nobody else within range of my hearing, just animals. I think... I think this is where they killed those boys. I can smell blood. But if I'm right, why did they take the bodies back into Cascade?"
"Pride," Blair said. "Arrogance. 'Two missing boys' as a headline isn't as sensational as 'Missing boys found murdered' - with all the gory details inflating the egos of the killers - 'WE did that!' So what if nobody else knows it was them? It doesn't reduce their self-satisfaction one bit. Ah!" He rubbed his right wrist as the handcuff, how open, clanged against the bar.
Jim's jaw dropped. "How did you do that?"
Blair grinned, and held up a partially straightened paperclip. "I wasn't sure I could remember how to do it. One of Naomi's boyfriends was an 'escape artiste', and he taught me a few tricks. A lot of his gear had hidden release catches, but he'd worked out a way to open ordinary handcuffs with a bit of wire. But that was... god, eighteen years ago. Here... " He leaned over, hands hiding what he was doing as he unfastened Jim's handcuff quickly and more easily because he could use his right hand. "It was just chance that I had this paperclip in my pocket."
"I want to check this place," Jim said, and Blair nodded.
The 'room' was divided into several stalls opening off a passageway. There was a door at one end, a window at the other, and in the stall furthest from the door they found a flat stone propped up on four smaller ones to make a sort of table. There were stains on the floor under and around it, and Jim said grimly, "Blood."
Standing in an alcove where some stones seemed to have been carefully removed from the wall, were the two Aztec figures; the jade one of a standing warrior with a turquoise headdress, and the turquoise two-headed serpent. In front of each was a small stone bowl of congealed blood.
Jim looked at them, cautiously opening his senses, and felt nothing. Blair said quietly, "If Aztec lore is to be believed, it would take a lot more blood than that to strengthen the gods. They've been starved of blood for five hundred years; if they still exist, they have to be very, very weak."
"Then let's take the figures so that the Turnbulls have no reason to kill anyone else, and get the hell out of here," Jim said.
"Just taking the figures won't stop them from killing," Blair said. "They can still make the sacrifices." He handed the jade figure to Jim, then picked up the serpent. "The workmanship that's gone into making these... " he murmured. "But I can see why Mrs. Turnbull didn't like them. There's something about the eyes... " He shrugged. "I've seen it before in Aztec figures. It's probably just the unavoidable association of Aztec and blood."
They made their way to the door. It was locked.
As one, they turned and looked at the window. It was fairly high, about eight feet from the ground, clearly designed to give some light to each of the stalls.
"On my shoulders, Chief," Jim said. They put the two figures down, and Jim boosted Blair up. Blair checked the window, grinned, and operated a side catch that wasn't immediately obvious from below. He ducked as he pulled it open, then leaned out.
"We seem to be in a wooded area. There's no sign of anyone," he said. "I can get down all right, but I hope it's possible to get the door open from the outside."
"Take the figures with you," Jim suggested. "If you can get the door open, fine; if you can't, go for help but hide the damned things somewhere, preferably in two different places not too close together. If they do come back before you can get help, I don't think the Turnbulls will kill me immediately - not if the figures aren't here. They'll look for you first, to get them back."
Blair froze for a moment. "You mean they planned to sacrifice us?" Of course they did! his mind added.
Without answering, Jim crouched carefully and picked up the figures, and passed them up to Blair. "Out you go," he said.
Blair reached out and dropped the two figures, then carefully sat on the edge of the window and swung his feet outside. He twisted to face the wall, and carefully lowered himself to the full stretch of his arms before letting go and dropping the short distance to the ground. He snatched up the figures and ran to the nearby trees, pushing them into the undergrowth before running back to the door.
He blew out a relieved breath when he saw that all that was holding it shut was a heavy bar across the centre, and bolts at the top and bottom. It took him only seconds to get it opened, and Jim joined him.
"Come on!" Blair said, and ran back to where he had hidden the two figures. Now that he was out of their prison, he was anxious to put distance between them and it. Jim paused for a moment, listening, but heard nothing but the sounds he had heard from inside the barn, a little louder now that he was outside it. Then he followed Blair.
Hidden from immediate sight among the trees, they paused again. "There has to be a road near here," Jim murmured.
"Come to that, there has to be a house not too far away," Blair said. "You don't get barns designed to house... probably horses, from the look of those stalls, all on its own in the middle of nowhere."
Peering between the branches, Jim focused on the ground near the barn door as he said, "You would if the house had been... oh, burned down, and not rebuilt. I can see tire tracks, Chief. If we follow them, they should lead us to the nearest road."
"Right," Blair said. "But we want to stay among the trees, or at least very close to them, and go parallel to the tracks."
"Why? I'll hear a vehicle coming long before anyone in it could see us."
"Yes, but I don't want to lose any time getting into cover when you do," Blair said. "Because we need to have time to hide these things where we can find them again, but nobody else can without a serious search, and put some distance between us and them, in case we're knocked out again."
"Ah. Right. Why not just hide them near here?" Jim asked.
"Jim, I know you don't really believe in this, but I think Vikki and Mark have formed a... call it a pact... with these things, and with the kikituk and the tupilak. The things might... I dunno, call to them somehow, if they're anywhere close."
"But they've only had the things a matter of days."
"Remember what their mother said?" Blair asked as they started walking. "They spent a lot of time with their grandparents, and listened to what their grandfather said about the things in his collection. It's possible they formed the pact as long ago as that. Their grandfather always carried the kikituk around with him. When Mrs. Turnbull said that, I thought he just regarded it as a good luck charm, but maybe it was more. Maybe he'd spent time in the Arctic. Maybe he'd learned to be a shaman there. Maybe he'd taught his grandchildren his skills. And maybe - just maybe - he misused his abilities, and mistaught his grandchildren. Maybe he used his abilities to draw money to him - they were never short of money, but he managed to amass a collection of antiques worth almost half a million dollars. And hidden in among those antiques were four items that would normally only be found in a specialist collection."
Blair stopped short as they pushed past a thick bush and found themselves facing the ruin of a big house. Empty windows stared out from a roofless shell that was fast being overgrown by nature and, looking at it, Blair shivered. The track they were following went around the side of it. The wheel marks were only detectable there because the flattened grass had not had time to straighten.
"There's the house that goes with the barn," Jim said.
"Think you were right? That it burned?" Blair asked.
Jim shrugged. "If it did, it was too long ago for any traces to be detectable," he said. "There's still nobody coming. Let's get moving."
They walked for nearly a mile before they reached a road, risking staying on the track because anything driving up it would clearly have to move very slowly. At the road, Jim paused. "Anyone wanting to go up it would need to know the track was there," he said. "Anyone just driving past wouldn't see it. I wonder... "
"If this was where their grandparents lived?" Blair asked.
Jim nodded. "Mrs. Turnbull didn't say anything to make us think she didn't live in Cascade as a child, but there's no reason to assume she did. If they lived here, it would certainly explain how Vikki and Mark knew about that barn." He looked up and down the road, breathing deeply, then glanced up at the sky. It was overcast, but he could detect a slightly lighter patch of cloud that told him where the sun was.
Blair waited, confident that Jim would know which way they should turn. Finally, Jim said, "This way."
"Wait a minute," Blair said. "I think we should hide the figures here. We can hardly walk along the road carrying them like this - " He waved the serpent. "I'll hide mine this side of the road, you put yours somewhere on the other side. I won't know where yours is, you won't know where mine is. Then even if the kids catch one of us, we can't tell them what we don't know."
"Right," Jim said. "Back here in five minutes, okay?"
Blair nodded, and as Jim jogged across the road he turned back into the wood, looking around for a possible hiding place. A bird - it sounded like a raven - called harshly from somewhere above him, and he glanced upwards; and grinned. The lowest branch of the tree that had caught his attention was within reach; he pushed the figure inside his shirt, then jumped up, caught the branch, and swung a leg up and over it; a short struggle and he was astride it. He looked down at the ground, took a deep breath, and started climbing. A little way up the tree, he straddled a thick branch, looking at the dark shadow he had noticed from below.
Yes! He reached into the hollow, feeling around inside it. It was, as he had hoped, big enough to hold the figure without being so deep that the serpent would be lost inside it; he slipped the figure carefully into the hole, and climbed down. He looked up again to check and, satisfied that the thing was fully hidden, turned away; then snapped his fingers. He had to make sure he could find the correct tree again. A moment's thought was enough to tell him what to do. Glancing around, he found several suitable stones, and carefully placed them at the base of two neighboring trees. He would know the mark, but he doubted anyone else would see the significance of the stones. It was possible that an animal might knock them away, but he didn't think it likely. He carefully counted his steps as he went back to the road, and at it he carefully placed another marker. Then, satisfied that he had done everything he could to find the figure again, he moved a few steps down the road and waited for Jim.
A few seconds later Jim appeared. Blair crossed to join him, and they set off, walking briskly down the road.
After perhaps half a mile, they left the trees behind and moved through more open countryside. The road was very quiet, and when Jim heard a vehicle coming towards them, they lay down quickly, hiding as best they could in the rank grass bordering the road, on the off-chance that it was their kidnappers. It passed them and as it disappeared into the distance, they regained their feet and walked on.
It was the first car of several, and when he glanced at his watch Jim realized that these were probably people who worked in Cascade heading home after work, so they didn't bother hiding again.
Before long, Jim could see, ahead of them, the signs that told of a city. "We were only three or four miles out," he said.
Slowly the traffic grew heavier. One car passed them heading into Cascade; all the rest were going in the opposite direction. Finally, a little more than two hours after their escape from the barn, they reached the first houses.
They still had to walk some distance before they found a bus route, but didn't have to wait long for a bus. Just over half an hour later, they walked into the bullpen and crossed to Simon's office.
Jim knocked and opened the door. Simon glanced up, scowling. "Where the hell have you two been!?"
"Mark and Vikki Turnbull are our perps, Simon," Jim said.
"You didn't send anyone else to see them, did you?" Blair asked anxiously.
"I was waiting for your report," Simon growled, and there was no mistaking his anger.
"Thank god for that," Blair sighed.
Some quality in his voice penetrated Simon's annoyance. "What do you mean?"
"They're dangerous, Simon. Very dangerous," Jim said.
Simon looked from Jim to Blair, and back to Jim. "I don't want to hear this, do I?"
"Probably not," Blair said wryly. He explained quickly what had happened.
Predictably, Simon pinpointed the mystical element. "You were both knocked out by a feeling of hatred?"
"You don't want to be the target of it, Simon, believe me," Jim said.
"These kids have had some training in the dark side of shamanism," Blair said.
"We need to know who that ruined house belonged to," Jim went on. "We think it probably belonged to the Ashford family and the quickest way to find out if it did is ask Mrs. Turnbull... but we can't be sure that she wouldn't tell her children that the cops were asking about it. Whether she's actually involved, or just can't keep anything from her family, I'm not sure; but we don't need them to know we're investigating their family history."
"I wonder why Andrew Gemmell wanted to keep his wife away from her family?" Blair asked suddenly.
Both Jim and Simon looked sharply at him. "Your point?" Simon asked.
"Gemmell valued success. Old man Ashford seems to have been successful - and rich. His sister-in-law married a successful businessman. Granted, it was sporting success the man valued most, but success and wealth is still success and wealth. Why would Gemmell want to shun his wife's rich and successful family?"
"Possessiveness? She was his?" Simon suggested, unconsciously echoing Mrs. Turnbull's opinion.
"What it if was more? What if he knew - or suspected - something about them that he didn't like? Yes, he eventually turned to dealing drugs, but in the days when he was a successful football player he seems to have been completely law-abiding."
Blair was silent for a moment, then said, "It could be worth checking the cold case files for unsolved murders that might be linked to a serial killer, where the killings stopped... " He paused again, thinking, glad that his headache had eased considerably in the time since he regained consciousness. "Bob's mother died twelve years ago, and she'd already inherited half the collection. Say fourteen or fifteen years ago."
"The Turnbull kids would have been pretty young, back then," Jim said. "When their mother died, Bob was eight and Dan would have been twelve or so. Take a couple of years off that - "
"I know," Blair replied. "But it's amazing how much kids learn if they're motivated enough, and if their grandfather got them really interested, maybe started demonstrating stuff to them when they were just five or six, they'd have had six or maybe seven years to learn... and no awkward preconceptions to unlearn, either."
"Come on, Chief, do any kids get that motivated as young as that?"
"I did," Blair said quietly. "I got interested in anthropology when I was five, maybe even younger. Mom travelled a lot, and I saw so many different cultures, some of them so different... It fascinated me. So yes, I could see Mark and Vikki being pulled into their grandfather's world. It's just a pity he turned them bad."
"You really think their grandfather might have been a killer?"
"Yes," Blair said. "Oh, I know it would be almost impossible to prove, but it could explain quite a lot."
"All right," Simon said. "In the morning, I'll get Rhonda to check the land registry. And you two can have the fun of going through the cold cases."
They were interrupted by a knock on the door, and Rafe stuck his head around it. "We've got another murder, Captain. A woman. It sounds very like yesterday's killings. The husband just phoned - he got home from work and found his wife in their living room, with a gaping hole in her chest."
"What's the address?" Jim asked, without waiting for Simon to respond.
"1485 South Cascade Drive," Rafe said. "The name's Turnbull."
Jim and Blair reached the Turnbull house a few minutes behind Forensics.
Elizabeth Turnbull's body lay, bent backwards across a sturdy occasional table, her blouse open. From the look of it, it had been carefully unbuttoned, not torn or cut, although her bra had been cut, the two halves dangling. Under and around the table was the dark staining of blood, where it had dripped down from the horrible wound in her chest.
Serena looked up from where she was examining the body. "Hello, Jim, Blair."
"Her heart?" Blair asked.
"Cut out, and there's no sign of it. Whoever did this had to be covered in blood after he'd finished."
"Any idea how long ago?" Jim asked.
"Three or four hours."
Leaving Serena to her work, Jim and Blair left the living room and turned to the patrol cop standing at the door. "Was the house checked for any signs of forced entry?" Jim asked.
"Yes," he said. "There was no sign of one."
Blair nodded. "Where's Mr. Turnbull?"
"In there." He pointed to the kitchen door.
Another patrol cop was sitting in the kitchen with Martin Turnbull. The man was pale, and looked as if he would like to be sick. Jim glanced at Blair, who nodded and moved forward.
"Mr. Turnbull," he said softly. "I'm sorry. My partner and I met your wife just yesterday; she seemed a very nice person."
"She... she was going to contact you in a day or two, to ask you where she could meet her nephews," Turnbull said dully. "You probably didn't realize she would want to. Discovering that her brother-in-law was dead came as a shock, and then you changed the subject to her antiques - and finding that two of the items were missing, well... But after we talked about it last night, she decided she wanted to meet Cathy's children. Now... " His voice broke.
"I know they wanted to get to know her," Blair said. "We meant to tell her, but the opportunity didn't really arise."
"How could someone do this?" Turnbull exclaimed in sudden anger, and then he slumped again. "Those two boys earlier this week... they were killed the same way, weren't they. How could anyone do that?"
Blair gave him a moment to recover before saying, "There's no sign of a forced entry. That means the killer came to the door, and was either allowed to enter or pushed in once the door was open. When we visited yesterday, there was a maid? Carmen?"
"This is her day off. She went out just after eight this morning," Turnbull said. "On her days off she always goes to visit her family, and doesn't get back until quite late - about ten."
"So it's your wife who would have answered the door today."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other. It was Jim who said, "Is your wife's antique collection still there?"
"I don't know... Finding Beth like that... I never thought to check, to see if anything was missing... "
"It's all right," Jim said. "I know where it is. I'll go and check it, if you don't mind."
"No. No, I don't mind." He carefully did not look towards the door as Jim went out.
The collection was, as far as Jim could see, exactly as it had been the previous day. He tried the door of the display unit, and found it still locked. He went over to the table, felt around for a moment and opened the drawer. It was empty. Nodding thoughtfully, he went back to the kitchen.
"Mr. Turnbull, did your wife move the key to the display unit?"
"Yes. She said she would happily give either Mark or Vikki any of the pieces they wanted, as long as they asked, but she wasn't prepared to have them steal something from her. She was meaning to speak to them about the two pieces that are missing."
Blair nodded, and changed the subject.
"What can you tell us about your father-in-law? About your children's relationship with him? Your wife told us they spent a lot of time with him."
"Yes. I... There was something about the man I didn't much like, although I got along with him all right. My firm sent me abroad a lot, and expected Beth to go with me. My own parents lived in Los Angeles, so it wasn't practical to ask them to look after the children. Beth's parents lived a little out of town - no distance by car - and were quite happy to have them. Both Mark and Vikki were devoted to their grandfather - I think he was their main care-giver when we were away; their grandmother's health wasn't very good."
"They lived out of town?" Jim asked. "East of Cascade?"
"Yes. After my father-in-law died, we were going to sell the house. We'd taken everything of value out of it and were discussing the sale with a realtor, and one night there was an earthquake. There wasn't much damage in Cascade itself, but it seriously damaged the house; some of the roof fell in. We put in workmen to finish demolishing the roof, in the interests of safety, and... well, just abandoned it. The land still belongs... belonged to my wife; I think her will leaves it to Mark."
"Do you have a phone number for Carmen?" Blair asked. "Or an address. We'll want a word with her, but if she left the house this morning, it'll just be routine. And we need to tell her not to come back tonight. Do you have somewhere you can go for a few nights?"
"Go? Oh, yes. I... I'll go to a hotel."
"And... please don't try to contact Mark or Vikki. We'll get the police to do that."
"I should be the one to tell them - " Turnbull began.
"Often it's easier hearing something like this from a stranger," Blair said quietly.
As they returned to the truck, Jim said, "Well, we know now why Mark and Vikki left us in the barn. It got us out of the way while they went about their next priority - killing their mother, probably because she did have a word with them about stealing from her collection. I imagine they showered before they left the house, to wash the blood off.
"It could explain why they didn't kill us when they took us to the barn - not enough time to do it 'properly'. We were probably the next item on their agenda."
Blair nodded, but distractedly. "Carmen was lucky it was her day off."
"What's on your mind?" Jim asked as he started the engine.
"That hatred they directed at us; it's a pretty powerful weapon. I don't think we can arrest them, let alone charge them with anything, unless we can neutralize it."
"You could be right."
"And I don't know what to do about it. I want to meditate for a while. Let's see about sending someone to 'tell' Mark and Vikki that their mother is dead, then go home."
"I wonder if they've found out yet that we've escaped."
"I'd suspect not," Blair said. "I think they've gone home and they're waiting to hear that their mother's body has been found. I don't think they'll try going back out to the barn until tomorrow, maybe even the day after. They'll have to go back then, though, if they're planning on killing us, rather than have us die from thirst. Though I wonder why they didn't just kill us right away? Like you said, lack of time could be one reason, but how long does it take to kill someone, even if they cut the hearts out of their victims too?"
"Maybe they wanted us awake and aware of what was happening," Jim suggested.
"It's possible," Blair said.
As they entered the loft, Jim said, "What do you want to eat?"
Blair shook his head. "You go on, have whatever you want. I want to meditate, and it's best if I do it fasting."
He set out his candles and settled down in front of them, closing his eyes. Jim watched him for a moment, then settled in the armchair, quietly guarding his guide.
Blair slipped effortlessly into a meditative trance, and opened his eyes to find himself in a snow-covered wasteland. He looked around. A wolf was sitting near him, apparently waiting patiently for him to notice it, because as soon as he did, it stood, shook itself, and turned away. It went two or three steps then looked back expectantly.
"Okay," Blair said. "You want me to follow you, right?" He moved towards it and it turned and trotted on.
He followed it for some distance; and then ahead of him he saw an igloo. The wolf reached it, crouched and made its way into it. Blair followed.
It was lit, more brightly than he would have expected, by a simple oil lamp - a wick lying in a pool of oil or fat. The light reflecting off the walls helped to augment the flame. It was quite warm, but that didn't surprise him; he knew how warm an igloo could be. An elderly man sat on a bed of furs, and Blair knew instantly that he was in the presence of a powerful shaman. He knelt in front of the man, and the wolf lay at his side.
"Welcome, young shaman," the man said. "I am Tulugaq."
"I'm not a shaman," Blair protested. "I've been called one, but I know nothing."
Tulugaq smiled. "Only the man who thinks he has nothing to learn knows nothing," he said. "A wise man knows that he continues to learn for all of his life. You are Amaruq, the wolf, shaman and guide to a sentinel."
"I try," Blair said, "but my greatest fear is that I will fail my sentinel."
"You have powerful helpers," Tulugaq said. "The wolf that is your spirit guide, the large black cat that is your sentinel's spirit guide. The shaman Incacha still watches over you both, and now I will stand at your shoulder offering such help as I can as you right something that I, unfortunately, set in motion many years ago."
"You?" Blair asked, and then he realized... "The man called Ashford?"
"Yes. He came here asking about the work of the shaman, and I taught him much, seeing in him a serious student. None of my people suspected that he sought to learn only for his own advantage, for such has never been our way. As part of his training, he learned how to carve and activate a kikituk; but where I used mine only to heal, he used his to curse people - to threaten them if they did not do as he wanted. When I learned what he was doing, I made him leave; I was too powerful for him to defeat, and so he returned to his own land. My spirit was able to watch him there. Alone, I could do nothing to stop him as he used what he had learned for his own benefit; I have been waiting for the one who could help me. That one is you, young Amaruq."
"But he died... years ago."
"Not before he corrupted the minds of two children it should have been his duty, and his privilege, to protect. His spirit lives on in the kikituk he made, and through it he is still influencing them and using them as his hands. You must destroy it."
"What of the tupilak?" Blair asked.
"That should also be destroyed, although all it is doing is augmenting the power of the kikituk. With the kikituk, and Ashford's spirit, destroyed, the tupilak would be relatively harmless."
"Unless it fell into the hands of someone else like Ashford."
Tulugaq smiled approvingly. "You see clearly, Amaruq."
Blair thought for a moment. "Should I also destroy the symbols of the two Aztec gods?" he asked.
"That is not necessary; they are symbols only, and have no power." Tulugaq's voice was fading as his figure, and the igloo, became transparent and disappeared, leaving Blair kneeling on the snow with the wolf beside him. As Blair stood, the wolf also came to its feet, and jumped into his chest.
He closed his eyes, and opened them again to see the familiar surroundings of the loft. Jim sat watching him, and relaxed as he straightened, then leaned forward to blow out the candles.
"You have an answer," Jim said quietly.
"Yes, though I'm not sure what to do," Blair replied. "Or, rather, I've got to destroy the two ivory figures, and I'm not sure how to do that. How do we get hold of them? The moment anyone approaches the Turnbulls, they'll throw up that wall of hatred. And I'm not sure how to destroy ivory, either."
"It's organic. A hot enough fire should burn it," Jim suggested.
"Well, we can worry about that once we get hold of the things." He thought for a moment. "I got the impression that it's Vikki who's the boss; that Mark just does what she tells him. So it's probably Vikki who has charge of them. I don't think she'll leave them behind when she leaves her apartment; I think she'll keep them with her at all times. Jim, first thing tomorrow, I'm going to hypnotize you - you know, the way I can talk you through remembering something," he added when Jim looked doubtful. "And I'll suggest to you that you don't feel that hatred; and I'll try to self-hypnotize and convince myself of the same thing. Then we'll go and see Vikki, try to get the two ivory pieces from her and - with luck - arrest her for attacking us this morning."
"Or for stealing the tup... whatever. We can prove that's Bob's."
"No, we can't mention it. If we do, it has to stay in evidence lockup for God knows how long, and I need to destroy it as soon as possible."
Jim nodded thoughtfully, and said, "All right."
Although the crew of a patrol car had found the truck in a parking lot late the previous evening, allowing Jim to retrieve it, Vikki Turnbull would surely recognize it; so it was Blair's car they used in the morning. He stopped a block away from her apartment, and they went the rest of the way on foot. They had told Simon what they planned to do, and as a result, two unmarked police cars were parked nearby as backup.
Jim's hand was on his gun as Blair knocked briskly.
Vikki Turnbull opened the door, took one look at them, and her jaw dropped. "You? How?"
She recovered very quickly, however, and they could feel the wave of hatred she threw at them, but it wasn't in any way disabling. Blair smiled, his eyes cold. "That won't work this time," he said softly. "This time, we're prepared." As he stepped forward, her eyes moved downwards. He glanced down too, not surprised to see that his wolf stood to his left, Jim's panther to his right, both animals showing their teeth threateningly. She looked up again, and stepped backwards, fear in her eyes as she saw the Chopec shaman standing behind the panther, the Yupik shaman standing behind the wolf.
Jim watched warily, not sure what was happening, but not trusting the young woman at all. All he could see was that she appeared to be afraid of Blair, and he was far from sure that she would continue to be afraid.
"I want the tupilak you stole from your cousin," Blair said, still softly. "And the kikituk you stole from your mother."
"No!" she exclaimed, her voice sounding very loud. "The kikituk is mine!"
"How long ago did you steal it?" Blair asked. "How did you keep her from realizing you'd taken it?"
"Grandfather wanted me to have it! He said he'd always be with me as long as I had it. It's mine!" She was staring fixedly just to Blair's left.
"So when you left home, moved into your own apartment, you took it with you?" Blair asked with deceptive gentleness.
She glanced quickly at him, then looked back to his left. "Mom never missed it! She didn't care about it! She didn't care about us! But grandfather did. He looked after us when Mom and Dad left us." Her eyes moved, following something Jim couldn't see.
"Vikki, my Mom sometimes went off and left me with relatives when I was young. But I never doubted that she loved me. Why do you think your Mom didn't care?"
"Grandfather told me." Her voice was suddenly sullen. "Grandfather loved us. He taught us a lot, but he taught me a lot more than he taught Mark. Mark wouldn't work at learning things properly, so sometimes he left Mark behind."
"Did your grandfather have that altar set up in the barn?" Blair asked.
"Yes, but he never used it properly. He said the gods needed blood, but sometimes it was his own blood he offered, and sometimes mine and Mark's."
"Did he kill people, Vikki?"
"Well, of course. The gods needed the blood. But he didn't do it properly. He never offered Huitzilopochtli their hearts."
"Why did you kill your mother?" Blair asked.
"She wanted me to give her back the kikituk and Tlaloc. She said I'd get them when she died, but not before. But while Tlaloc was locked up in a glass case, he couldn't benefit from the sacrifices. And the kikituk is mine."
"So you killed her. Why did you take her heart?"
"Killing without purpose is wrong. It made her the third sacrifice."
Amaruq. What you seek is here.
Blair glanced over to where Tulugaq stood beside the fireplace. As he moved to join Tulugaq, the wolf padding beside him, Vikki screamed, "No! Grandfather, help me!"
Tulugaq looked down at the kikituk and the tupilak standing on the small table beside the fire, and passed his hand over the top of them. It is finished, Ashford, he said.
It seemed to Blair that the kikituk attempted to move, almost as if it was trying to run away, then the illusion of movement was gone and it was just a piece of carved ivory lying on a table.
Vikki screamed again. "Grandfather!" She looked at Jim standing, with the panther and the Chopec beside him, blocking the doorway, then past Blair, who was picking up the two pieces of ivory, to the old Yupik shaman, knowing that he was the one who had defeated her. "Who are you?"
I was your grandfather's teacher. He never understood that a shaman serves his tribe, and the failure for that was mine. Now I am correcting that mistake. I am sorry that you must suffer for that failure - but you took Ashford's teaching and corrupted it even further, and for that, you too must pay.
Blair pocketed the two pieces of carved ivory and turned back to the girl. "Vikki Turnbull, you are under arrest for the murder of your mother, Elizabeth Turnbull. You have the right to remain silent..."
"... So I'm sorry, Bob, but I had to destroy the tupilak as well as your aunt's kikituk. We had to make sure there was nothing left that your grandfather's spirit could focus on, to try to return."
Bob sighed. "I'm sorry too, Blair, but I trust you. What'll happen to my cousins now?"
"Mark fell over himself accusing his sister of doing the killings, but she's been declared not mentally fit to stand trial. She'll be detained in Conover indefinitely. Mark will probably serve a prison sentence, but with the plea bargain - which includes giving information on some of the murders his grandfather did - it shouldn't be too long."
"There's no chance she'll be able to influence anyone at Conover?" Stoddard asked.
"None. She didn't really have any shamanic power herself, she was channelling her grandfather; and with his point of focus gone, he'll never be able to contact her again."
"Why didn't she kill you and Jim when she had you?"
Blair gave a twisted grin. "Mark explained about that, too. Their grandfather's ritual, which they followed, was the blood from two males and one female every full moon. They had their three for the last full moon. We were to be the two males to die next full moon."
"Blood so that Huitzilopochtli would be strengthened to fight the moon which, of course, was beginning to wane anyway?" Stoddard asked. "It makes a sort of twisted sense."
"I feel sorry for their father," Bob said. "What about the two Aztec figures? You got them back, didn't you?"
"Neither Dan nor Mr. Turnbull wanted them back, and they're both giving them to the museum. And Mr. Turnbull is going to have the barn destroyed and sell the land; your aunt left it to Mark in her will, and he'll get the money for it, but he won't have the right to go there again, ever. Mr. Turnbull is also selling his wife's antiques. She'd left them to her husband, on the understanding that he would split them between Mark and Vikki, but - understandably, under the circumstances - he's decided that because they killed her, they've abrogated their right to the collection. He plans to give the money to charity.
"I think that away from his sister's influence, Mark should be all right. His father is certainly willing to forgive him. I don't think he'll ever forgive Vikki, though."
Later, as they walked up the stairs to the loft, Blair said, "Now all I have to do is convince Simon to give me some time off... and find a living shaman to give me some training."