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Blair Sandburg hummed softly to himself as he locked his car and headed for the university buildings, not really caring that he had been forced to park about as far from the place as it was possible to be and still be inside the grounds. For once it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining from a cloudless sky, there was just enough breeze to be pleasant, and all was right with his world.
He turned a corner and bumped into someone; taking an automatic step backwards, he said, "Sorry, man! I wasn't paying - Oh my god! Bob! What happened to you?"
Bob Gemmell swayed slightly. "Mr. Sandburg," he acknowledged.
His face was set in the unfriendly scowl that Blair remembered, but was there just a touch of appeal, of need, in his eyes?
Blair repeated, "What on earth happened to you?" - because the football player's face was badly bruised, and Blair had been aware of an ever-so-soft gasp that he could now identify as pain as their bodies made contact.
"I had a bit of an accident at practice last night," Gemmell said, his voice off-hand.
"Why don't I believe that?" Blair murmured. "Come on, Bob. You can tell me. Who did this to you?"
"I had an accident - a clumsy tackle," Gemmell repeated.
"Bob, I work with a cop. I know the marks of a deliberate assault, and that's what your face looks like - those are 'walked into a door' bruises. Is there something I can do?" His voice was softly encouraging.
Gemmell shook his head. "There's nothing anyone can do," he said, abruptly dropping his habitual attitude and allowing a hopeless note to sound in his voice.
"Bob, victims of abuse can only be victims if they let themselves be victimized."
"There's nobody who can help me," Gemmell said dully.
"That's not true. There's Dr Stoddard here on campus and all the students who were on that bus - they all appreciate what you did climbing out of that hole - and don't try telling me it wasn't far more dangerous than you led us to believe. Those rocks were wet, man, and once I got out I could see that the ground around the edge of the hole was far from solid - and I'm pretty damn sure I wasn't the only one who saw that.
"Chancellor Konoe knows what you did, and she's on your side. And then there's me. My partner's a cop. Believe me, we both value what you did; so does our boss at the PD. That puts the law on your side. If there's anything the law can do, Jim and Simon will do it."
Gemmell shook his head. "The trouble is, there's nothing to do anything about."
Blair looked at him for some moments, then said, "Come on. If you don't believe me, come with me to see Dr Stoddard. You can at least tell us what the problem is. Let us decide if something can be done to help you. Yes, I know you think you're old enough to make your own decisions, and a lot of the time I'd agree with that, but you don't have the experience in life that we have."
He knew, when Gemmell nodded, that the student was desperate for some sort of help, and only the habit of years had made him resist accepting it as soon as it was offered.
There was a note in Stoddard's voice that Blair recognized; it was the sound of a man who was stressed out by something, probably too many carelessly done essays, and who was more than happy to be interrupted, even for a few minutes.
Pity this was an interruption that was probably going to add to his stress, albeit in a different way.
He opened the office door and went in, Gemmell behind him.
"Blair! How can I help you?"
"Not me, Doctor." Considering the circumstances, and in the presence of the student, Blair, normally the most informal of men, kept his address formal; he had begun to learn that there were times when informality was inappropriate, and this certainly seemed to be one such occasion. "It's Bob." He glanced back, saw that Gemmell was apparently trying to hide behind him, and stepped to the side.
"What's the pro - " Stoddard began, and stopped short, mouth still open as he took in the student's appearance. "You were attacked." There was no doubt in his voice. He too could recognize the bruises as something deliberately inflicted.
"Bob seems to feel there's nothing anyone can do to help him," Blair went on.
Stoddard's response was instant. "Bob, nobody has the right to assault you. Nobody. There's always something someone can do."
Gemmell looked helplessly at the older man, who glanced at Blair and gestured with a barely perceptible jerk of his head towards a chair beside the window. Blair nodded his acknowledgment of the silent order and crossed to sit in the chair, deliberately staying in the background. For the moment this was Stoddard's responsibility; it was not Blair's place to interrupt. Equally, however, because of his contacts with the PD, it was a good idea for him to remain, to hear what Gemmell said, and Stoddard clearly realized that.
"Have a seat, Bob." Stoddard indicated the visitor's chair beside his desk. "Was it on campus?" Stoddard went on as Gemmell sat very cautiously, his movements showing clearly that the damage was not just to his face, the question carefully worded so that all the student needed to do was nod or shake his head; Gemmell was too clearly close to his breaking point, driven there, Blair suspected, by the kindness, the sympathy, he had been shown in the last few minutes.
Gemmell shook his head, and Stoddard made a face; off campus it was more likely to be a matter for the police.
"Was it bullying? Another student?"
Another head shake.
"Were you mugged?"
"No." It was little more than a whisper.
Stoddard stiffened, and Blair realized that the suspicion beginning to dawn on him was also dawning on Stoddard. If Bob hadn't been mugged or attacked by another student or on campus... You're playing in an important game tomorrow... The memory of those words from a man whose temper was clearly on a hair trigger was enough to rekindle the anger Blair had felt when he heard them.
"Your father?" Stoddard asked slowly, almost reluctantly.
For a long moment there was no response, then Gemmell nodded.
"But why?" Stoddard asked.
Gemmell stared at the floor for a minute, clearly fighting to maintain control of his voice. "He found a packet of pills in my pocket, thought they were Ecstasy."
"Why the devil was he going through your pockets?" Stoddard asked incredulously.
"He does that occasionally, if I'm going out... I think he's checking to see if I have any condoms, as if I'd ever have the chance to use them. The only time I'm allowed out of the house is for school, football practice, games or to go climbing."
Suddenly it seemed almost as if a dam had broken; a dam of repression, of control, even one of long-felt resentment. "When he found them, he said he'd teach me to spoil my chances of a career in football....
"But they weren't mine! I don't do drugs! I don't know what they were, I don't know that they were Ecstasy tablets or how they got into my pocket, Professor, but they weren't mine! Only he wouldn't listen. He wouldn't believe me. He thought I'd be stupid enough to leave something like that in my pocket when I know he checks them!" He fell silent for a moment then went on. "He doesn't give me any sort of allowance, so I couldn't have bought drugs even if I wanted to and he knew that, so then he accused me of stealing them or stealing the money to buy them." His voice choked on a sob, then he forced out, "I'm not a thief, Professor. I didn't... I don't know what to do, what to say, to convince him. I'm nearly twenty, and he still doesn't know me, still thinks I'd steal, and lie, and take drugs... "
Stoddard gave the young man some moments to regain control. "And you've no idea how these tablets came to be in your pocket? The packet wasn't something you saw lying somewhere and picked up?"
"Then someone must have put them there deliberately."
Gemmell stared at him. "I... Professor, I know I've given you a hard time in class - I haven't given you any reason to believe me - and you... do." The word was clipped off, as if he had just managed to utter it before breaking down.
"Bob, I don't deny that you've been the class pest, but I can see past that. You saved my life. It would have been very easy for you to have left me on the road that day and run for shelter and nobody would have blamed you for panicking if you had, especially after Mr. Sandburg came back to help as well. But you stuck with me and got me up that road - and I was furious that your father refused to give you any sort of credit for all you did in those two days. Unfortunately, I could also see that all he saw was that it might interfere with your performance in a game, and that if I'd said anything more to him it was just going to irritate him, so I let it go.
"I'm sorry now that I did.
"But even without that, even discounting gratitude, I think I have more sense than to assume that someone who's as involved in sports as you are - and whose hobby is extreme climbing - is going to mess up his future career or risk his safety by taking 'recreational' drugs."
"Thanks." It was a whisper so soft that Stoddard could barely hear it.
Again Stoddard gave the young man time to pull his tenuous control tighter, then he said, "Have you any idea who might have planted that packet in your pocket?"
Gemmell shook his head. "No. I'm not liked, I know that, though it hasn't been so bad recently - but I didn't think anyone hated me enough to... to... " His voice broke again.
"Where is the packet now?" Blair asked quietly.
Gemmell took a deep breath - a way to regain self-control that he remembered from when he had spoken to Jim Ellison some months previously. "Dad flushed the tablets down the toilet."
"So we can't even check whether they actually were Ecstasy," Blair muttered.
"You see now why nobody can do anything?" Gemmell asked. "There's no proof of anything, and I... I'd have to accuse him, and... He's not much of a father, but he is my Dad."
"Well, we could get the police to have a quiet word with him," Stoddard said, "or I could go and see him, saying I'm concerned about your having been mugged - no - " he added before Gemmell had the chance to speak - "I wouldn't let him know I knew he did it. It might make him think twice about doing anything like that again, though, if he realizes there are people watching out for your welfare."
"He's never actually hit me before," Gemmell offered. "It was just that he was so angry."
"He might have had the right to smack you for something you'd done when you were a child," Stoddard said, "but he has no right to beat you black and blue now, especially for something you didn't do. And he should certainly have listened to what you had to say."
Blair said slowly, "You know, Bob... This happened yesterday?"
"Then maybe it wasn't something deliberately aimed at you. Two days ago, I was in the library when a couple of the jocks came in, and man, were they complaining - loud and long! - until Mr. Inglis reminded them it was a library, people were trying to study, and told them to shut up or get out. Nobody who was in there could have missed hearing what it was all about. Do you remember what happened the day before yesterday?"
Gemmell looked puzzled for a moment, then said, "Coach Pearce gave us a lecture on drugs, then did a spot check - called out a dozen guys at random, made them turn out their bags, their pockets and open their gym lockers... but they were all clean. Everyone in the class was annoyed about it - and the ones who were checked were the most pissed off."
"But what if someone in the room wasn't clean?" Blair went on. "He might have slipped his stash into someone else's pocket, then he'd seem clean if he was called out - and he wouldn't care that the other guy would have seemed not to be, if he was checked. Probably realized he wouldn't get it back - how could he without actually admitting what he'd done and asking for it - but felt that was less important than checking out clean. And of course he'd join in the chorus of 'It isn't fair!' - wouldn't he?"
"You think that was it? And just chance that I was the fall guy?"
"It seems likely," Stoddard agreed. "But Bob, I think I'll still have that word with your father."
"Bob - what did your Mom have to say about this?" Blair asked.
"She's dead," Gemmell said quietly. "She died when I was eight."
"Oh. Sorry, man."
Gemmell shrugged. "You couldn't have known. And Dad - he was okay then, or seemed to be. He didn't spend much time with us, though he'd always tried to get us interested in sports; it was a couple of years later, after he was injured... that was when he got so obsessed about it." His gaze dropped to the floor as if the pattern on the carpet was the most compelling thing he had seen all day.
His listeners looked at one another, each knowing the other must feel the same uncertainty. Was that the whole truth, or was the young man trying to defend, at least in part, a man whose behavior was basically indefensible?
"What classes do you have today?" Stoddard asked.
"I was supposed to be in the gym at nine. I really don't feel up to it but I can't just stay home. The mood Dad was in, he'd have killed me for giving in to a few aches. Then there's your anthro class in the afternoon."
"Well, the anthro class is easy enough, you just have to sit there and listen, maybe join in the discussion if you want, but I agree, there's no way you could go to the gym and I'm glad you had the sense to realize that. I'll let Pearce know you were attacked by someone - I won't say who. After the anthro class, I'll take you home and have that word with your father."
"You can come to the library with me for the rest of this morning, if you want," Blair invited, careful to keep his voice briskly matter-of-fact.
Gemmell looked at him, gratitude in his eyes, but all he said was an off-hand, "Thanks."
Stoddard watched them leave. Once the door was safely shut he muttered some words - in a language that Blair at least would have recognized - about his hopes for Gemmell Senior's eventual destination, then reached for the phone. He doubted that he would accomplish much with Gemmell senior, a man he had disliked on sight, but he could at least get young Bob off the hook with Pearce.
Gemmell's control was tested once again in the afternoon by the obvious sympathy directed his way by the rest of the anthro students, though they accepted his lie about a mugging readily enough - his original claim of a clumsy tackle would not, he had realized, work in a class that contained three other members of the team; he had been taken by surprise by Blair's question, and had blurted out the first thing that occurred to him. There had been time since then for him to realize that a mugging was the most realistic explanation for his many bruises.
Because his father had never allowed him to attend any of Rainier's purely recreational functions he had never quite realized just how readily he would have been accepted by the other students if he had only given them the chance - especially since they had all so narrowly escaped with their lives after the field trip to Professor Meechan's dig.
Stoddard wisely allowed the class several minutes to tell Gemmell how sorry they were that he'd been so badly hurt, then he called them back to business, and began his lecture.
In the car on their way to Gemmell's home, Bob said suddenly, "Mr. Sandburg really knows what he's talking about, doesn't he." It wasn't a question.
Stoddard wondered for a moment what Blair had said to Bob after they went to the library, but all he said was, "Yes. He's probably the best student I ever had."
"So why did he make up all that stuff about sentinels?"
"The historical facts were genuine - he got those from a book written over a century ago by a Victorian explorer called Burton; and he amassed a lot of information about tribal sentinels over several expeditions, though he couldn't find any tribe that would admit to actually having one at the time we were there," Stoddard replied. "What he wrote was never actually meant for publication. It was... mmm... how he would have liked things to be, written in the form of a thesis. He never submitted it to the university, never intended to. Unfortunately, someone he trusted thought it was his genuine thesis and without his knowledge sent it to a publisher who also assumed it was fact."
"And because he had too much integrity to allow it to be published..." Stoddard allowed Gemmell to finish the sentence for himself.
He stopped his car on the street outside Gemmell's home and followed the student to the front door.
Bob unlocked the door. "Come in, Professor," he said quietly, then continued, "Dad will probably be in here." He opened an inside door.
The older Gemmell was indeed there, sitting in a chair beside the fire. He laid down his paper as he turned, and came to his feet, a scowl on his face. "What the devil...!"
"I'm afraid Bob's been mugged, Mr. Gemmell," Stoddard said, smoothly appearing to assume that the man he had come to see was reacting to the bruises on his son's face. "He couldn't tell us who was responsible.
"Of course, the university authorities will do everything possible to find out who attacked Bob. We can't and won't tolerate our students being assaulted.
"Bob is stiff and sore from the assault, so I brought him home after his class with me this afternoon."
The older Gemmell glared at his son. Even if Stoddard had believed his own words he would have recognized the anger in the man's eyes - anger clearly directed at Bob. Then Gemmell turned to Stoddard.
"All right, you've brought him home. Now get out. I don't want any weakling academics in my house. If I had my way he wouldn't be taking any fucking academic classes - they just interfere with the important things he should be doing. He'll never make a professional football player unless he concentrates on that."
"Mr. Gemmell, doesn't it occur to you that football is a short career? That some sort of academic qualification would be useful for Bob to fall back on once he's too old to play football?"
"If he's good enough he'll be in demand as a coach. I'd have been in demand as a coach if it hadn't been for my injury. And what real man would want to do anything else? He'll be good enough," he added with another scowl, one that said, you'd better be! directed at his son. "A real man would have walked home even after being mugged."
Bob glanced at Stoddard. "Professor Stoddard - thanks for bringing me home," he said. The unspoken message was clear.
"You don't need to thank a fucking weakling for anything," the older Gemmell growled.
Pulling himself to his full height, Stoddard looked at him, clearly unintimidated. "Mr. Gemmell, politeness never hurt anyone."
"I won't have my son turned into a fucking fag!"
"Oh, I don't think that's likely," Stoddard murmured. Then his voice sharpened. "No doubt you'll be gratified to hear that Bob is the most disruptive student it's been my misfortune to encounter in my entire career, but unfortunately someone has to educate the sports students so that they can get the necessary academic credit to let them continue at Rainier."
"Oh." The comment seemed to have taken the wind out of the man's sails.
"And the only reason I brought him home was common humanity. I wouldn't expect a dog to walk home after a beating like the one he obviously received. If you think getting a lift home is weakening Bob, blame me for it, not him."
Stoddard glanced at Bob, noting the slightly hurt look in his eyes, and deliberately winked.
"See him out, Bob," Gemmell senior ordered as he returned to his seat.
In the hallway, Stoddard muttered, "Sorry, Bob. I don't think that helped. - Come and see me tomorrow morning, first thing."
The young man nodded. "Okay, Professor."
Outside, Stoddard paused for a moment, staring at the closed door, then returned to his car. He could only hope that his final comment to the older man had improved the way Gemmell would treat Bob that night; but somehow he couldn't help feeling that he was deserting the young man.
Blair beat his partner home, but not by much; he had just started getting dinner ready when the door opened and Jim walked in. With the ease of long practice, he tossed his keys into the basket then hung up his coat without breaking stride, and joined Blair.
"So how was your day, Chief?"
"Mixed. Remember Bob Gemmell?"
"His father beat him up last night."
As Blair explained, Jim's frown intensified. "...so Eli planned on taking Bob home, having a word with Gemmell senior. We're hoping that it won't happen again if the man realizes someone is watching out for Bob."
"And unless Bob himself reports it, there's nothing I can do," Jim muttered.
"And we can't even do anything about the Ecstasy in Bob's pocket - if that's what it was - because we've no proof it ever existed," Blair finished. "I know, man - it sucks, it really does." Then he chuckled. "You know, though, Eli's attitude... it reminds me... "
"He's always tended to have a... favorite isn't exactly the word, because he never did play favorites. A protege? Yeah, that's probably the best word. It wasn't easy either, being his protege usually meant a lot of hard work keeping up with his expectations."
"You were one? You said once he was your mentor."
"Yeah. He hasn't had one since he came back to Rainier this year - I have no idea what it is he's looking for, whether he actually looks for someone to 'adopt', or if he just sees something, some potential, that makes him take someone under his wing, so to speak - but I think he's found one now."
"Uh huh. Unlikely though that might seem. And if I'm right - old man Gemmell had better watch out." He turned and carried on preparing dinner.
After eating and washing up, they settled on the couch to watch TV. "How was your day?" Blair asked lazily as he flicked through the channels, knowing that Jim had intended spending the day at his desk.
"Boring," Jim replied. "A couple more witnesses came in to give a statement about the break-in at Brewster's on Monday night, but you know what it can be like - you end up wondering if the witnesses all actually saw the same heist. That makes eight statements now, and damned if I can get any corroborating details out of them. Will you be coming in tomorrow? Yes?" as Blair nodded. "Then I'd welcome your comments on them."
Blair nodded again. "You got it."
Stoddard went in to Rainier early the next morning, and spent the time before his first class compiling questions for a pop quiz for the freshmen whose essays had so irritated him the previous day; in all fairness, he expected most of them to get a reasonable grade, but he wanted to teach the others a short, sharp lesson in concentration, thought and not jumping to easy conclusions.
He was mildly amused to realize that he himself was failing to concentrate fully on what he was doing; although he knew he could not expect Bob Gemmell to appear before 9 am at the earliest, half of his attention was aimed at the door. It was fortunate that he knew his material so well, he reflected, as he deliberately inserted a question designed to trap the unwary into betraying how little attention they had paid to the recent lecture - the one the essay had been based on. Oh, if only they were all as interested in the subject as his second-year class!
He was seriously worried about the young man for whom he was waiting. It was quite clear to him now that Bob's father had been mentally abusing his son for nearly ten years, even though Bob himself probably didn't recognize that the pressure to make a career out of football was a form of abuse. This might have been the first time his father had actually assaulted him; but there was always a first time for physical assault, and once that began in a domestic situation, it could only escalate.
His mind went back some eighteen years to a student, slightly older at the time than Bob, who had appeared one day sporting a black eye. She had claimed it as an accident, but a few weeks later her face had again been bruised - at which point she had admitted to him that her husband had been hitting her. She had accepted his apologies the first time, given him a second chance, even a third... but after the third occasion, she left the man and divorced him. It had taken her a long time to trust again... but over the years since then, Lesley Quinn had learned to trust him, first as her teacher, then as a colleague on expeditions, and now, finally, as her husband.
The previous evening, she had not hesitated to tell him that they must do something to help Bob.
Stoddard didn't think the man would have hit his son again after he left - the trigger did appear to have been anger at the thought that Bob would take drugs. It was fairly certain though that the man would give Bob no privacy at all now that the suspicion had been planted in his mind...
But how poorly the man knew his son; for as little as he had known of the young man before he knew the lad's problems, even when Bob had been nothing more than the class nuisance, Stoddard - as he had told Bob - would not have pegged him as someone who would take drugs.
Gemmell arrived just before 9.
Stoddard looked at him carefully. Gone was the cocky, to hell with the world attitude; Bob's attitude was, rather, a hopeless one of 'why bother?' Was it just that Bob now trusted him enough to drop his shields, or had his father finally gone too far and broken the lad's spirit?
"Did I make things worse for you?" Stoddard asked quietly.
Bob shook his head. "No. What you said... He was proud of that. Proud to hear you considered me disruptive - 'The sign of someone who will make his mark on the world', he said. It made last night easier. But it showed me something, too, something I've known for a long time but only really accepted last night." He sank into the chair beside the desk. "What am I going to do, Professor? I don't want the future he has mapped out for me, but I don't have the strength Danny had either."
"From what you said, Danny didn't walk out, he was thrown out."
"Yes, but he had the strength to rebel, to take art classes instead of sports. He had to know Dad would find out. I just gave in, did what Dad wanted."
"Bob, there are those who would argue that by pushing aside your own wishes, by trying to do what your father wanted, you've been showing more strength than Danny did."
Bob looked thoughtful for a moment, then he said, "But at least Danny had another skill. I don't."
"Apart from climbing. Have you ever considered becoming a wilderness guide? You do extreme climbing, so ordinary climbing, even at a difficult level, should be relatively easy for you. You've already got a skill you could fall back on if you had to."
Neither seemed to realize that they were talking as if Bob had positively decided to walk away from his father's plans for him.
"Yes, but that would mean taking responsibility for other people's lives, and I don't think I want that. What I'd really like to do... " Bob hesitated.
"I enjoy your lectures, Professor. You probably didn't realize it but I loved it at the dig. Even when I asked what good it was, digging up things twenty thousand years old - it wasn't just an awkward question though it sounded that way, I really wanted to know. Professor Meechan's answer didn't tell me much - but you covered a lot of the whys in your lectures since.
"Yesterday, when Mr. Sandburg took me to the library... I think he was probably just trying to keep my mind off things, but instead of getting on with what he'd gone to the library to study, he told me so much about what he was working on, about small societies inside bigger ones and how some of them, like the police, were closed societies with their own... well, rules and attitudes and loyalties. It was really interesting."
Stoddard grinned. "Actually, sometimes I think Blair could talk about a telephone directory and make it sound like a fascinating research possibility." He looked thoughtfully at the student. "You mean you'd like to make a career out of anthropology?"
"Yes. But how can I? I'm totally dependent on Dad."
"Bob, I could tell you about a certain 16-year-old who was bright enough to be accepted as a student here about fourteen, fifteen years ago. No father, and his mother didn't seem to have money. If she did, she didn't use it to support him. At his age, of course, he was given university accommodation. Other than that... He got student loans, worked weekends and holidays to supplement the loans - he never admitted it but from something he said once I think he stocked supermarket shelves for three hours a night as well. He wrote up a report on his first field trip - 'A Beginner's Perspective' - that was accepted by a reputable magazine and established him as a potential contributor to it; and he continued contributing to it on a reasonably regular basis for close on ten years. He only stopped when his studies led him into a field where publishing articles seemed to be inadvisable."
"Oh." Bob thought for a minute. "Mr. Sandburg?"
Stoddard nodded. "He seems to be one of those lucky people who can get by on about three or four hours sleep a night.
"Granted, his mother supported - or at least accepted - his decision to come to Rainier. You have a parent who actively discourages education, seeing it only as an unavoidable evil. He didn't. I'm not even saying you should actively rebel, drop football and change to a major in anthropology.
"I'm just pointing out that you don't have to accept being totally dependent on your father. And at your age, he couldn't accuse anyone of - well, coercing you into defying his authority. You're over eighteen - as you told me once, you don't have to do what anyone tells you."
Bob looked at the older man for a long time. "Professor - would I be able to change to anthropology as a major?"
"It would ultimately be my decision as to whether I accepted you, and I'm prepared to give you the chance. It would mean a lot of hard work, though; you'd have quite a bit to catch up."
"Professor, I paid a lot more attention in your classes than you think I did. But... if I tell Dad I don't want to continue with football, would you come with me? I... I don't think I have the nerve to stand up to him on my own."
"If you want - but be sure you really do want to do this. Once you've dropped out of the football program you won't be able to get back into it."
"All right. We'll go and see him tonight. I expect, though, that he'll do what he did with Danny, and throw you out. Are you prepared for that?"
Bob swallowed, and nodded.
"I'll make sure he gives you enough time to pack some clothes, at least, even if I have to do it by arguing with him so that you can sneak off and get them; and you can come home with me. My wife won't mind." He grinned. "She'd be more likely to scold me if I didn't take you home."
Bob opened the living room door, took two steps into the room and stopped. Standing behind him, Stoddard saw a bloodstained body lying on the floor.
He laid a hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Dad!" Gemmell tried to pull away from Stoddard, but the older man gripped his shoulder painfully hard.
"No, Bob. Don't touch anything." He moved forward and looked down at the body.
Over the years he had seen death several times. There was no doubt in his mind that this was a body.
"Bob - call 911. And then - " He pulled out his wallet, searched through it and picked out a card - "Then call Mr. Sandburg." He gave Gemmell the card.
Gemmell nodded and retreated to the hallway; Stoddard heard him on the phone as he studied the scene. There were bloodstains spattered around much of the room; two chairs were overturned, and a heavier chair and a table looked as if they had been pushed violently away from their usual position. The dead man clearly hadn't died without a struggle. Then he joined Bob in the hallway as he finished the first call and dialed Blair's number.
"Mr. Sandburg... this is Bob Gemmell. Professor Stoddard said to phone you. Someone... someone has killed my Dad." His voice trembled.
"Have you called it in officially? Through 911?"
"All right. Detective Ellison and I will be there as soon as possible. What's the address?"
Gemmell gave it and hung up. He looked at Stoddard.
"This is going to sound terrible, Professor... It was a shock, walking in and seeing him like that... but all I can think of is that I don't have to worry about what he wanted any more. I'm free now. Really free to live my own life."
Blair rang off, then sat for a moment just staring at the phone in his hand.
"Chief? What's the problem?"
"You weren't listening?"
Jim Ellison shook his head. "I was concentrating on this report, but I heard you say the two of us would be 'there' as soon as possible."
"Bob Gemmell's father has been killed."
"Killed. You mean murdered?"
"Professor Stoddard seems to be there as well - he was the one who told Bob to call us. They've called 911 too, but - "
"But homicide is too likely to look first at the other people in the house for the killer," Jim finished.
"Even if the only other person living in the house is a nineteen-year-old boy."
"Has he been at Rainier all day?" Jim asked.
"How do I know? I was here, wasn't I?" Blair growled as Jim tossed him his coat.
They arrived only a few minutes after the police car.
As they went up the drive to the door, Jim felt in his pocket for his ID, since the cop standing guard at the door wasn't one he recognized. He waved the ID at the man. "Detective Ellison, Major Crime; my partner, Blair Sandburg."
In the hallway, they found Bob being questioned by Lt. Wilmot from Homicide while Stoddard hovered almost protectively nearby. Jim went straight forward, nodding a greeting to Wilmot - a man he privately considered was an insensitive jerk whose solve rate was reasonably good but who plunged headlong into his cases with no regard whatsoever for the feelings of the family of the murdered victim.
"Ellison? What are you doing here?"
"Mr. Gemmell called 911, then he called us because we know him and Sandburg had met his father."
Wilmot grunted. "This seems to be a straightforward murder inquiry. I have enough problems with this busybody - " he indicated Stoddard - "interfering."
Ignoring the implication that in Wilmot's opinion Bob was the most likely suspect, Jim merely said, "Dr Stoddard has a personal interest here, Wilmot. Bob Gemmell is one of his students."
"So he said."
"That makes him, in effect, Bob's guardian, at least for the moment." That was maybe pushing the point with a nineteen-year-old, but what the hell. Blair was interested in Bob, so Jim had no intention of letting Bob suffer Wilmot's usual insensitivity without protest. "Is Forensics here yet? No? Mind if I take a look?"
Wilmot pointed to the living room, the door of which was standing open. "The body is in there."
The man's voice was as flatly, brutally blunt as his words. Bob winced; he might not be feeling much grief, but he had experienced a considerable shock when he walked in and found the bloodstained body, and he was still clearly shaken. Stoddard dropped an encouraging hand onto the student's shoulder.
Jim crossed to the door. Already acutely aware of the smell of blood, he cautiously filtered it out. As he reached the doorway, Blair joined him.
"Oh, man!" Blair muttered as he registered the amount of blood.
Jim stopped just inside the room and looked around carefully - something that he knew Wilmot hadn't had the time to do. He had probably taken one look then started questioning the dead man's obviously shaken son.
"He looks as if he put up a fight," Blair commented, carefully avoiding looking directly at the body but unable to avoid seeing the blood spattered all around.
Jim nodded absently. "There are some faint smells in here that seem a little out of place," he murmured. "Someone's been here recently - probably this morning - who uses something - possibly aftershave - with an unusual scent. Actually quite a pleasant scent at this intensity. The dead man isn't using aftershave, and I didn't notice any on Bob - from what you said about old man Gemmell, I'd guess he considered aftershave was something 'real men' wouldn't use."
He went down on one knee beside the body and held one hand close to it, concentrating on the body temperature. I don't think he's been dead more than - oh, three to four hours."
"And that loses Wilmot his obvious suspect, since Bob has probably been at Rainier all afternoon." Blair was careful to talk quietly.
"Can you find out?"
Blair nodded and walked back into the hallway. Ignoring the lieutenant still snapping questions at Bob, he crossed to Stoddard and asked softly. "Eli - can you establish where Bob was for most of today?"
Stoddard looked sharply at him. "Then it isn't my imagination? This idiot thinks Bob might have killed his father?"
"It's his usual method - be nasty to the family in the hope that one will crack and own up. Surprising how often it works, too. It's horrifying how many people are killed by one of their relatives."
"Hmm. Well, Bob's been with me all day - came in to Rainier about 9, sat in on all my lectures during the morning so there are plenty of independent witnesses, and we had a meeting with Chancellor Konoe just after lunch that went on till about three - after what happened on Tuesday night, Bob had finally decided to rebel, drop football and follow his own wishes, and we were discussing his options. Then I had some work to finish and he sat in my office with a book while I did it. We were there till just after four."
"And I don't suppose you've been asked for a statement yet?"
"No. Until Ellison arrived, I don't think it even occurred to... Wilmot? to find out who I am, other than someone from Rainier who brought Bob home. He targeted Bob right away - I've tried to keep him from getting too intimidating - how insensitive is it possible for someone to get? I haven't had much success though."
Blair grunted and crossed to the homicide lieutenant. "Lt. Wilmot - Bob looks pretty shattered. He's still recovering from being mugged a couple of days ago. Why not give him a break and take a statement from Dr Stoddard? He was here too when the body was discovered, after all."
Wilmot looked at him then swung round to stare at Stoddard, having apparently dismissed him as little more than an interfering busybody.
"Dr Stoddard?" There was an ungracious note in his voice.
"Head of Anthropology at Rainier," Stoddard identified himself for the second time, only this time Wilmot was listening. "Bob is one of my second year students. As Mr. Sandburg said, he was mugged on Tuesday, so I brought him home last night and tonight."
The door opened, and Dan Wolfe entered with Serena and half a dozen men Blair didn't know by name with him, although a couple of the faces were familiar.
"Hello, Dan, Serena," he greeted the two he did know.
"Blair. If you're here, that means Jim is too?"
Blair indicated the living room door. "He's in there." Wolfe nodded, glanced at the homicide cop, said, "Hello, Dick," and followed Serena into the living room.
Blair joined Bob as Wilmot turned his attention back to Stoddard. "You brought young Gemmell home, you said. Did you see him at Rainier during the day?"
"Yes. He arrived just before 9. Because he's still very stiff from being mugged, he wasn't able to participate in football practice, so as well as attending his own anthropology class, he sat in on a first year class during the morning. In the afternoon, he had a meeting with Chancellor Konoe, who is understandably extremely concerned that one of our students was assaulted, which I also attended."
"Oh. So he was with you all day?"
"Did he seem agitated at all?"
"Mr. Sandburg," Bob whispered, "does that cop think I killed Dad?"
Damn. Blair had hoped Bob wouldn't realize that. "I'm afraid so," Blair murmured, "but Forensics will soon prove that he was killed while you were at Rainier."
"Jim figures he was killed not more than four hours ago, and it shouldn't take Forensics long to confirm that."
Jim came out of the living room and joined them. "Bob, do you have anywhere you can go tonight?"
"Go?" Bob looked puzzled.
"Well, under the circumstances, I don't suppose you'll want to stay here." His voice was gentle.
"Oh. No, not really... but there isn't anywhere else I can go."
Bob shook his head. "None that I can contact. I have an aunt somewhere - my mother's sister - but Dad lost touch with Mom's relatives after she died. There's my brother, of course, but I don't know where he is either."
Jim had made no attempt to keep his voice down, and Bob had unconsciously raised his voice to a normal level as well. Stoddard glanced over.
"I already told you, Bob, you're coming home with me, and you can stay as long as you need to. My wife will be more than happy to have you with us."
Wilmot scowled. "I don't think - " he began.
Three strides took Jim to stand nose to nose with the homicide cop. "I do," he growled. "Dr Stoddard is a senior member of the Rainier staff and Bob is one of his students. Quite apart from anything else, he feels it's his responsibility to watch out for the welfare of his students."
"The son is still a suspect. I would expect to take him in to the PD for further questioning - "
"Suspect, huh? Did you take a good look at the body?"
Behind him, Bob flinched and Blair gripped his arm sympathetically, whispering, "Cop speak, Bob. They have to stay impersonal or they couldn't live with some of the things they see."
"I didn't need to! The man obviously bled dry - "
"And how long ago?" Jim snarled. He raised his voice. "Dan! Could you come out here a minute?"
Wolfe joined them. "Yeah, Jim?"
"Have you had a chance to establish how long the victim has been dead?"
Wolfe grunted. "I can't say closer than two to four hours."
"So at earliest he was killed - ?"
"Midday or thereabouts."
"Thanks, Dan." Jim swung back to Wilmot. "And Bob was at Rainier from around 9 am, three hours earlier than that, with witnesses to prove he was there all day. Still think he's a suspect?"
Oops! Blair thought. Jim could only have known that if he had been listening to the conversation in the hall as well as checking out the murder room and speaking to Dan Wolfe.
Luckily, Wilmot didn't seem to realize that. He glared back. "All right, in the face of Dan's estimate, I have to say no - but even you can't deny how often a close relative turns out to be the killer."
"It happens, but I've yet to see certain cops looking beyond the relatives." Jim took a long breath. Whatever else he might have said was lost when Stoddard seized the opportunity to say,
"Have you finished with me, Lieutenant?"
"Then I'd like to take Bob home as soon as possible. If you need me again, you can always contact me at Rainier."
"All right, you can go."
Stoddard turned to the student. "Bob, you'll need some clothes. Would you like me to stay with you while you get them?"
Bob glanced at Jim, who said, "Hold on a moment, Bob. You need a cop to accompany you as well." He went to the door; beckoned one of the uniforms in.
"Young Gemmell will be staying with a friend," he said. "He'll need some clothes. Go up with him while he gets them."
Bob led the two men up the stairs.
Wilmot swung back to Jim. "Are you accusing me of not looking beyond the relatives?" he hissed.
If the shoe fits... Jim thought. Cliche? It might be, but it felt apt.
"Did I mention any names?" he asked blandly. "Dan, did you hear me mention any names?"
Wolfe shook his head. "No. And Dick, he's right - there are some cops who automatically suspect the relatives. I'm sure you can think of one or two without even trying."
Wilmot looked from one to the other and grunted noncommittally. "Well, yeah, I suppose," he muttered ungraciously. "Okay, I'd better take another look at the room."
Dan led the way; as Wilmot followed, Jim glanced at Blair. "Coming?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah," he muttered, although it was basically the last thing he wanted to do. As much as he had disliked the way the dead man had behaved towards his son, the victim was someone he had known, albeit very vaguely.
They entered the room to hear the photographer saying, "I have all the photos I need, Serena."
"Right." Serena motioned to her assistants, who moved forward with a body bag. "Unless you two want a closer look at the injuries?"
Wilmot leaned over the body; Jim shook his head. "Already took a good look," he murmured, carefully not saying that he thought Wilmot should have done so as soon as he arrived but clearly hadn't.
After a moment, Wilmot straightened and nodded to Serena's assistants. They quickly and efficiently enclosed the dead man in a body bag, lifted him onto a stretcher and carried him out. Serena nodded to the others, who promptly began dusting the room for fingerprints - a simple enough task, for the room had a starkly bare look; some furniture that included a small, half empty bookcase, but no pictures or photographs except a large one of a football team on the wall above the fireplace. There were no ornaments in the room - not even a clock.
"Stabbed twice at least," Wolfe said, "maybe three times, though I can't be sure of the exact number of wounds till I see the body stripped."
"A deliberate killing? Someone who knew what he was doing?" Wilmot asked, having obviously decided to accept that Jim's comments were general and not specific.
"Or someone who panicked?" Blair suggested. "If - say - someone broke in, thinking the house was empty, and Mr. Gemmell surprised him?"
Jim looked around. "I'd have expected a thief to have been able to make a start on collecting the things he planned on stealing, and I don't see any sign of that," he said. "The room is very bare - I'd have expected Bob to mention it if there was anything obviously missing. I do think though - from the amount of blood spattered around - that the dead man put up quite a fight even after he was initially stabbed."
Wilmot nodded. "I don't see any sign of a safe, either," he said, "though there might be one in another room and a possible thief just started looking in here."
Jim moved to the window. "No sign of a forced entry this way," he said.
Hearing footsteps on the stair, he crossed quickly to the door. "Bob - "
"Yes, Mr. Ellison?"
"Did your father have a safe in the house?"
"Not a safe," Bob said. "There is one of those fake books that can be used to hide valuables." He hesitated, clearly unwilling to enter the living room unless he had to. "It's the fifth one from the right on the second shelf of the bookcase."
Blair crossed to the bookcase. A quick glance showed the selection of books was mostly about football. He checked quickly. "Called 'Handyman's Guide'?"
Jim joined him, pulling on gloves as he went, and pulled it out. He opened it; unfastened the tie that held the inside lid shut. It contained some papers and a thick bundle of banknotes. He flicked through them - one or two tens, a few twenties, mostly fifties and some hundreds. "Must be at least four thousand here," he said.
"Dad always liked to have some money in the house," Bob said from the doorway, where he stood carefully not looking in, clutching his bag as if it was some sort of lifeline.
"Who all knew that he kept money in the house?" Jim asked.
"Well, any workmen who were here might have guessed, because he always liked to get a bill as soon as any work was done - if possible, from the men who did the job - and paid immediately in cash, but there haven't been any workmen in for over a year. There's Mrs. Perez who comes in twice a week to clean, but for all she knows he gets the money from the bank the day before to pay her at the end of each month. And me. Dad and I were the only ones who knew where the money was kept, and I only found out by accident. It seemed an odd book for Dad to get, 'cause he wasn't into DIY, so I had a look at it one day - I thought it was a real book and wondered what it covered. He never knew I knew."
"What about your brother? I suppose he'd have known there was always money in the house?"
"Yes, but Dad got that 'book' after Danny left. I think he was scared Danny would come back one day when there was nobody in and steal his money - until then he kept it in a drawer in his bedroom, and Danny and I both knew that."
Blair and Stoddard looked at each other, the same thought in both their minds. The man had thrown his older son out of the house, presumably with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, and he was scared that, in desperation, the boy might break in and steal some money?
"All right, Bob, thank you." Jim closed the false book carefully. With Wilmot there, he was careful to stick to procedure. "I'm afraid we'll have to hang on to this for the moment, but you will get it back as soon as possible."
Bob stared at him for a moment, clearly not quite understanding, and Jim went on quietly, "I imagine everything will be yours, if he disowned your brother."
"Oh. I don't know... "
"Do you know the name of your father's lawyer?" Stoddard asked.
"No. Dad never encouraged me to be interested in his affairs, always said I wasn't old enough to know anything about... anything except football. Any important papers will probably be in there, though." He nodded at the box in Jim's hands. "How am I going to manage? There's so much I don't know!"
Stoddard caught Jim's eye; Jim nodded. "We'll keep you informed," he said quietly, directing his words to Stoddard.
Bob glanced from Jim to Stoddard, clearly puzzled by the tone of Jim's voice. Stoddard smiled reassuringly. "You don't have to worry, Bob. We'll help you."
"Just one last thing, Bob - can you take a quick look round. Is there anything missing, do you think?" Jim asked, wanting positive confirmation.
The look was very quick. Too quick; he was obviously trying not to see the blood. "No, nothing."
"You didn't have any ornaments, a clock, anything like that?"
"No. Mom had some ornaments, but after she died Dad got rid of them - he said things like that were useless, just gathered dust."
"Did he ever use a letter opener?"
"Where did he keep it?"
"On the mantelpiece, just under the photo." He looked directly at the mantelpiece, then at Jim. "It's not there." He sounded surprised. "It... it was a really good one - a sort of parting gift from the guys in the team when he had to retire. I think they had to have had it specially made."
"Can you describe it?"
"It was sort of a silvery colored metal, and the handle was in the shape of a football, carved with a football player on one side."
"Okay, Bob - thanks."
Stoddard guided Bob out; a minute later, Jim heard his car driving away.
"Letter opener?" Wilmot asked.
Jim pointed to where an envelope lay, partly hidden by the displaced chair. "That was opened with a letter opener."
Wilmot simply grunted.
With the dead man's son now safely out of the way, Jim seemed to relax. He looked carefully round the room again.
"There's no sign of that letter opener, so I'd guess that was the murder weapon and the killer took it away with him. If this was an attempted break-in, I think whoever it was must have left immediately after the killing," he said slowly. "We should check the rest of the house, of course, but I don't see any sign of a search - no drawers pulled part way out, nothing disarranged except the furniture and that's accounted for by the struggle..."
He laid the 'Handyman's Guide' down on the table. "Let's have a look round the house."
The upstairs rooms - all as bare, as bleakly functional as the living room - were clearly undisturbed; the windows were all closed. They went downstairs again and checked through the rest of the house. There was no sign there, either, that anyone had tried to force open the windows, most of which had security locks; only one window, in the kitchen, was open, and it was firmly fastened with a small bolt, unreachable from the outside, that prevented it from being opened more than three to four inches.
The back door was locked; the key hung from a hook high on the hinge side.
Blair noticed Jim breathing deeply as he examined the door. After a moment Jim - who was still wearing gloves - took down the key and used it to open the door. He glanced outside, and if he paid particular attention to the two steps leading up to it and the ground in front of them, only Blair noticed.
Jim pulled the door closed and relocked it, replacing the key on its hook. "No sign that anyone's used that door recently," he murmured. "The ground is quite muddy, but the steps are clean, as if they were swept recently - unless the killer had the nerve to sweep the steps, lock the door and go out the front after he killed Gemmell, I don't think he came in that way."
"That only leaves the front door, then," Wilmot said.
"Looks that way," Jim conceded.
"And there's no sign that it was forced."
"Not that I can see," Jim agreed.
"Which means that the dead man probably knew his killer. We could be back to family."
Jim shook his head. "Not necessarily. Bob only mentioned two relatives - an aunt he hasn't seen since his mother died, and his older brother, who hasn't been near the place since his father threw him out seven or eight years ago - "
"How do you know that?" Wilmot interrupted.
"Bob told me about it - last October," Blair said. "Mr. Gemmell wanted Danny to be a football player, Danny refused - Bob said Danny hated football - and his father threw him out. Like a bad melodrama - you know the sort of thing - 'Never darken my doorstep again'. Bob hasn't seen him since then, and he probably isn't even in Cascade any more."
"Doesn't mean he couldn't have come back, come to see his father again, maybe hoping for a reconciliation, been allowed into the house, then either they quarreled and he stabbed the man or he came deliberately planning on killing him."
Blair shook his head. "No, man, I don't think so. I didn't actually know the man, but I have met him, and from what I saw of him Gemmell was more likely to have slammed the door in Danny's face than let him into the house. 'Never darken my doorstep again' meant exactly that. The only way he was going to be allowed into the house was if he came back with a reputation as a top football player, and that wasn't going to happen."
"It could be worth checking with the neighbors, see if anyone saw someone come to the house," Jim said.
Wilmot looked at him, "Are you taking over this case?" he asked bluntly.
"This seems to be a straightforward homicide; I'm not planning to butt in, although I have something of an interest here," Jim replied. "I know the boy, although I only spoke to him once before today; Blair knows him a little better, through the university - "
"But still not well," Blair interrupted. "I first met him back in October, briefly, and I've seen him once or twice on campus, but never to say more than hello to until yesterday."
"And yet he told you about his brother being thrown out?" Wilmot sounded slightly disbelieving.
Blair nodded. "Remember the busload of students that went missing, back in the late fall? The bus was caught in a mudslide? He was on it, and so was I. When you're trapped together and think you'll probably die, you do sometimes exchange confidences with virtual strangers."
"The only reason we're here now is that Bob called us as well as calling you." Jim said. "Obviously I'll have to report back to Captain Banks; after that it's up to him. If he feels Major Crime should be involved, then I'll be happy to work with you on it." He looked round the hallway again, took two or three more deep breaths. "Come on, Chief. We still have to finish going over the Brewster reports, and I'm sure Lt. Wilmot wants to get on with things here."
On the way out, Jim casually picked up the false book. Not that he distrusted Wilmot, who would, he knew, probably hand it straight in; but if the 'book' contained the dead man's business papers, he didn't want them lost in evidence lockup, possibly for months, because Bob would probably need access to them. This would be safe in Simon's hands.
"So," Blair said as Jim started the truck, "what was the scent you picked up?"
Jim frowned slightly. "I don't know," he said. "It definitely wasn't a woman's perfume; it was too spicy for that. It had to be something like aftershave, or maybe a man's cologne, but it wasn't any kind I've ever smelled. It could be a new one or a foreign brand, I suppose. Unless whoever was using it was very sparing when he applied it, though, he was in the house in the morning, and Gemmell was killed in the afternoon."
"You're sure it was this morning? If it was that faint, mightn't it have been lingering for two or three days?"
Jim shook his head. "No, it wasn't that old. Something a day or two old smells... I dunno, sort of stale, sort of blending in with the furniture." He gestured impatiently. "I can't describe it. I just know when something smells as if it's been there for a while. This didn't."
"Which means there were at least two visitors?"
"And they both came in the front door. There wasn't any trace of anything other than house smell at the back door. Add to that, one of them smoked."
"You think it was one of the visitors?"
"I didn't smell tobacco on either Gemmell or Bob, so yes, it must have been one of the visitors. I don't think he actually lit a cigarette while he was in the house - it was more as if his clothes were carrying the smell. I couldn't identify the brand, but I'll know it if I smell it again.
"Then there was a third smell, only just noticeable... like paint, but not - it's similar to the stuff we put on the walls and doors of the loft, only not quite the same... "
Blair stiffened. "Artists' paint?"
"It could be."
"Danny Gemmell was artistic."
"Hell," Jim said mildly. "That's a pretty fair jump in logic, Chief. So maybe Wilmot was right after all. Family. Maybe Danny was one of Gemmell's visitors."
Andrew Gemmell's death hit the Friday news, though not exactly big time. In his day, before the injury that ended his career, his had been a known name in football even though it wasn't yet a top name, so his murder was elevated to an importance that it might otherwise have lacked; even so, it didn't rate much more than a twenty-second mention on TV and a single short paragraph in the sports section of the paper.
It was, of course, barely a one-day wonder. Even by Friday evening the media had its attention turned to other things.
Over breakfast next day, Blair said, "You know, there's a crafts exhibition at Wilkenson Tower I wouldn't mind visiting."
"I didn't think there was room there for any sort of exhibition," Jim said.
"There wouldn't have been, but the lease ran out on one of the stores a few months ago, and the people didn't want to renew it; a couple of days after it closed, someone asked Wilkenson for a short-term lease - just a couple of weeks - to put on a display of some kind - well, it was pretty successful, and word got around quickly that if it paid Wilkenson to keep it available for exhibitions and displays, it was a good site for them. He charges a percentage of whatever take the display gets as well as rent for the lease, apparently, unless it's for a charity. Then it's just a flat rent, and a little lower than he charges an organization that's making money out of it."
"I wouldn't have pegged him for a philanthropist."
"It's good publicity for Wilkenson, when you think about it. He's not losing on the deal, that's for sure - he must be making at least as much as he'd get renting the place out to one business, and it's making him look good - especially the charity angle."
"How do you know about this, anyway?" Jim asked.
"One of the guys at Rainier was speaking about it two or three weeks ago. Apparently he was involved with an exhibition there, and he said it was a great venue for things - people already visiting the Tower went in who mightn't have bothered otherwise, so the exhibition got more exposure than it might have done anywhere else, and people who went in primarily for the exhibition mostly had a look round the shops in the Tower while they were there. So everyone benefited. And he said the total rent wasn't any higher than they'd have paid somewhere else that wasn't as good a site."
Jim grunted, unconvinced. He hadn't exactly taken to Mel Wilkenson even although the man had eventually shown that he had a human side.
"Okay," he said as he finished his coffee. "What time does this exhibition of yours open?"
"Half past ten."
"Then let's get the dishes washed. We can be there before eleven, have a look round and be finished in time for lunch. You won't need more than a couple of hours max, will you?"
Blair grinned. "Probably not," he said, knowing that if anyone delayed them it might very likely be Jim. It was amazing what sometimes caught the big cop's attention.
Signs advertising the craft exhibition were prominently displayed; there was no way that anyone entering Wilkenson Tower could avoid seeing them. They directed everyone interested - or even everyone not interested - to the third floor; Blair, after casting one glance at the elevators, firmly led the way towards the stairs.
Jim said nothing as he followed. Blair had suffered surprisingly little elevator-phobia after their encounter with Galileo, but Jim was not surprised that his friend preferred not to use the elevators here.
The exhibition was a cacophony of bright colors. The entrance was hung with glittering, endlessly moving mobiles; Jim stared, utterly fascinated by the kaleidoscope of shifting light, until Blair touched his arm. "Careful, Jim," he muttered. "Don't watch the mobiles..."
"I can't help it. They're drawing my eyes to them." In self-defense, Jim shut his eyes.
Blair grunted. "Yeah... they're almost hypnotic." He grinned as he saw the stall just inside the door. The two women manning it were doing an extremely brisk trade in the mobiles.
His hand lightly on Jim's arm, he guided his partner through the doorway and safely past the mobiles. "Okay," he said softly.
Jim sighed, relieved, as he opened his eyes. "I suppose just one of those things would be all right," he muttered, "but there are so many... "
"Right. I'm surprised none of the other vendors near them are complaining, asking them to take down a lot of them. Pretty sure I would if I had a stall here."
They wandered round the exhibition, pausing here and there as something caught the attention of one or other of them. Several stalls were selling pottery of different degrees of craftsmanship; none had anything they felt good enough to tempt them to buy.
Blair paused at one stall that was selling jewelry; he picked up a silver pendant set with a moonstone and a freshwater pearl. Jim grinned. "I don't think it's quite you, Chief," he teased.
"Oh, I don't know," Blair replied, straight-faced. "It would be unusual, to say the least... I can just see Simon's face any time I walked into the bullpen wearing this."
"Chief, you wouldn't!" Jim was seriously startled, and Blair laughed.
"No, I wouldn't. I was thinking though, it would be perfect for Naomi." He glanced at the vendor. "How much?"
The little packet safely in his pocket, Blair moved on, Jim following - not quite bored, but getting close to it; although he often found places like this interesting, nothing here was really catching his attention, but since Blair was enjoying himself he was happy enough to tag along.
Near the back of the room was a stall displaying a mixture of paintings and pencil drawings; beside it, a man was sketching a girl of about seven or eight while an older woman, probably her grandmother, hovered proudly nearby. They could only see his back, but he had the muscular appearance of a man who worked out on a regular basis.
As Jim and Blair approached, the man finished, beckoned the woman over, showed her the sketch then, at her nod of approval, gave it a quick spray with something, slipped it carefully into an envelope and gave it to her. They exchanged a few words, then the woman and child left.
The artist looked round, and Blair gasped at his first sight of the man's face. He and Jim looked at each other, and moved forward as one, Jim's hand already going to his pocket.
The man grinned at them. "Would you like your portraits sketched? Fifteen dollars for a pencil sketch, and it only takes about five minutes. I'd find it quite a challenge, since I mostly do children."
Jim held out his badge. "Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade PD. This is my partner, Blair Sandburg. Are you Danny Gemmell?"
The artist's eyes widened. "I haven't used that name for eight years," he said quietly. "I'm known now as Dan Ashford."
"All right, Mr. Ashford," Jim said quietly. "And in case you're wondering how I know you - you look very like your brother."
Ashford nodded. "I know," he said.
"Do you live in Cascade?" Jim asked.
"I moved back to Cascade about two months ago - I'm not sure yet whether I'll stay here. Probably not, but I'll be here for at least another year, maybe two. But why do you want to know?"
"Have you visited your father since you moved back?"
Ashford looked at him, clearly puzzled. "I went to see him on Thursday morning. I... Do you know why I changed my name?"
"I can guess," Jim said quietly. "We know your father threw you out about eight years ago when you told him you didn't want to be a football player."
Ashford nodded. "Yes. I left Cascade at that time. It took a couple of years before I got enough money saved to allow me to study art, but I got my degree three years ago, and I've been reasonably successful since. I'm not rich, but I'm making a steady income. At fifteen dollars for a five minute sketch - I can make at least five hundred dollars on a quiet day at an exhibition like this one, double that on a busy day.
"I'm living with a Rainier TA - she's one of the reasons I moved back to Cascade. I was picking her up one night when I saw Bob - there was no doubt who he was. He's exactly the same as I was five or six years ago, before I filled out and developed some muscle. I asked Holly to keep an eye on him for me; she saw him on Wednesday, and from what she said - well, I wasn't happy about what she said."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other.
Ashford went on. "You're cops. I don't know if there's anything you can do, but... From what Holly said, I figured that our father was hitting Bob. So on Thursday morning I went to see him. He... wasn't exactly welcoming, but - " he grinned - "I'm too big now for him to manhandle. I admit I sort of used my weight to force myself into the house, then I told him that I'm now in a position to support Bob, and that if I saw any further indication that Bob was being abused in any way, I'd step in and give him a home. He blustered a bit, then told me to get out and stay out. I left and came straight here."
"Did you see the news yesterday?"
Ashford shook his head. "I was here all day, then I had some work to do when I got home. I spent the evening in my studio and Holly was grading tests from just after breakfast till nearly midnight; we didn't have the TV on at all."
"Then I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you. Someone killed your father... on Thursday." Jim watched Ashford, every sense alert.
"Wha..." Ashford stared at Jim, obviously shocked.
"Sorry, man," Blair murmured.
"What... what happened?" Ashford asked.
"All we know is that when Bob arrived home from Rainier, he found your father lying in a pool of blood."
Ashford swallowed. "God. Poor Bob."
"Do you realize - you've just admitted seeing your father on Thursday. That automatically makes you a suspect."
Ashford shook his head. "He was alive when I left. Alive, and muttering insults..."
There was no change in his heartbeat; either he was telling the truth or he had better control over his physical responses than anyone Jim had ever met.
"Can you tell me what time that was?"
"I got there not long after nine, and I was there ten, maybe fifteen minutes - no more. Say half past nine."
Jim grunted. "And you arrived here...?"
"Around ten - maybe five past. Most of us get in early - it gives us a chance to sort out our stock, especially if we've brought in anything new - I had a couple of paintings of the bay I finished framing on Wednesday night, and I wanted to display them." He pointed to a picture. "That's one of them - the other sold yesterday."
As Jim went over, ostensibly to look at it, Ashford glanced at Blair. "How's Bob doing? Is he all right?" he asked quietly.
Blair nodded. "One of the Rainier professors is looking after him."
Standing beside the picture, Jim took a deep breath, then swung round and crossed back to Ashford. "I don't know much about art, but you've caught the mood of the bay quite nicely." Abruptly, he changed the subject back to the original questioning one. "Can you tell me - do you normally wear aftershave?"
"Aftershave?" Ashford shook his head, a blank look on his face. "Not for months. Holly doesn't like it, so I stopped using it."
Jim nodded. "The sacrifices we make for the women in our lives."
Ashford grinned. "You, too?"
Jim grinned back. "Well, no. I was in the army - we weren't exactly encouraged to use the stuff there unless we wanted to get a reputation for being... well, you know. So I never got into the habit of using it. But I was married, so I know what it can be like."
"So you were here from ten until the place closed?" Blair asked.
"Yes. We were pretty busy on Thursday - I didn't even get a break for lunch. I think the schools were maybe off for some reason - during the week most of the kids we see are younger than five, but on Thursday it was more like a Saturday; there were a lot of kids old enough to go to school, but still young enough to be hauled around the shops by Mom when they're not in school, mostly bored out of their minds. That's one of my best earners - five minute sketches of kids. You can't depend on them staying still longer than that. I'm good at those, though I do say it myself. The mothers love 'em." His lips twisted in a mockery of a grin. "It's not exactly world-shattering art, but it keeps food on the table and a roof over my head. While stuff that takes far longer to do and is far more technically demanding... let's just say that if I depended on that, I'd starve."
"You do get the likenesses, though," Blair said. He hadn't actually seen one of Ashford's five-minute sketches - they had been standing too far away when Ashford finished the one he had been working on for Blair to see it properly - but it seemed a fair comment; at fifteen dollars a sketch, the artist wouldn't get much trade unless the likenesses were accurate.
"Oh, yes, and occasionally I even get a commission to do a proper painting of one of them. I usually do most of that from a photo."
"I didn't think artists liked working from photos," Blair said.
"It depends. I enjoy painting landscapes from life, but with the weather as uncertain as it is here, I find it's safest to take a few photos of a scene before I start work on it. Then if necessary I can finish off the details from the photos in the comfort of my studio. And with children and animals - well, they find it difficult to sit still long enough." He glanced behind Jim. "I'll just be a moment, Ma'am." He returned his attention to Jim. "Business," he murmured. "Thanks for letting me know about my father, and I'm sorry I can't help you at all. If Bob needs any help, let me know. If he wants to see me..." He took a card from his work table and gave it to Jim. "I'll be here for the next three weeks, and after that, if I'm not at home you can always contact Holly - Holly Armand - at Rainier."
"Right, Mr. Ashford," Jim said. "Thanks for your help."
As they moved away, Blair said softly, "What do you think?"
"He's telling the truth, Chief. The smell of the picture matched the smell of paint at Gemmell's house, and if he was here all day, that's easily checked."
Blair nodded. "You got it."
He paused at a stall selling carved wood - one where the vendor was in a perfect position to see Dan Ashford's stall. He picked up a small wolf and stroked the smooth wooden head gently. "Look, Jim - isn't it beautiful?"
The wood had been perfectly selected, the grain helping to simulate the fur. The pose was relaxed, yet alert - this was the master of its pack, an animal secure in its strength but not carried away by that security; it knew that danger was never far away but it was not afraid to face whatever chanced - a winter blizzard, a marauding bear, a hunting biped.
"Now that is you, Chief," Jim murmured. He glanced at the vendor as Blair replaced the wolf with a last lingering touch to its head. "How much?"
"No, Jim!" Blair protested.
"You want it, don't you, Chief?"
"Yes, but it's not as if I need it, man."
"There was a long time when I only got things I needed... and you know how bare the loft was in those days," Jim said, very quietly. "You taught me the difference between living in a house and living in a home. This is the kind of thing that makes it a home. Call it a late... solstice present."
Blair laughed. "Jim!... Well, when you put it that way... thank you."
As the vendor wrapped the wolf, Blair said, "You wouldn't have a black panther by any chance?" The glance he threw at Jim silenced the bigger man before he had the chance to say anything.
"No, but I could do one for you, sir."
"Any particular pose you'd like for it?"
"Just something that shows its nature - the way you did with the wolf. Size - about the same in relation to real life as the wolf."
"Right - it'll take a day or two. If you come back next Saturday I should have it by then. It'll be bigger than the wolf, so it'll be more expensive, but I can't say till it's done just what the price will be."
"That's all right, and thanks, man." He glanced round. The crowd had thinned somewhat - this close to lunchtime, that was hardly surprising. "Been busy?"
"Yeah - this is a great place for an exhibition. Mark you, not everyone does as well as Dan, there - " he nodded over to Ashford's stall. "But he's found a hole in the market."
"Yes, we were speaking to him. He said mothers love to get their kids' pictures drawn."
"And he's good at it. Me, I'm good at what I do, but it doesn't have the 'aahhh!' appeal of kiddie pictures."
Blair chuckled. "There are times I wish it was illegal for mothers to get pictures done of their children, at least when the kids are younger than about ten. The potential for embarrassment when they grow up..." He threw a mischievous glance at Jim. "Though I suppose a straightforward drawing isn't as bad as a candid camera photo." Casually, he added, "We were speaking to him. He said he'd had the equivalent of two Saturdays this week - you find that too?"
"Yes, Thursday was crowded. There must have been something going on, but I don't know what. I did quite well, but I wasn't nearly as busy as he was - every time I looked over there seemed to be a line of two or three kids waiting for him to draw them. I don't think he had a break all day."
"I don't know how these places work. Can you leave your stall during the day?"
"Oh, yes. You just put a cover over it, or ask a neighbor to keep an eye on it if you nip off to the john. And if you want, you can bring in a sandwich and just stay at your stall while you eat it. I usually do that. So does Dan - however, I don't think he got a chance to eat anything on Thursday. But Chris there - " he nodded towards a nearby stall displaying tinted glass - "gets his daughter to come in for a couple of hours and he goes home."
"Better you than me, man," Blair said, unblushingly ignoring the many hours he had spent forgetting to eat when he had been busy. "Anyway, thanks - I'll come in next Saturday. The name's Sandburg, by the way."
"I'm Rudi, if I'm not here when you call. Someone will know where I am. But I'll remember you. I have a good memory for faces."
"Doesn't surprise me, man - anyone who can get that sort of pose on a carved wolf this size has to have a good eye for detail. See you!"
As Blair turned away, Jim nodded to Rudi then followed. He didn't think Dan Ashford had been aware of their lengthy conversation with the woodcarver, but if he had noticed it, their purchase should have been enough to explain it - though in Ashford's position, he would have expected the police to double-check his alibi.
They went around the rest of the exhibition fairly quickly, neither man seeing anything else that tempted him, and returned to the loft after a late lunch in one of the Tower's restaurants.
Jim watched almost indulgently as Blair literally purred over the small carved wolf before placing it carefully on the table in front of the couch.
"It would have been criminal not to buy it, Chief," he murmured. "It's small and it's feisty - just like you." He ducked the slap Blair aimed at him and changed the subject. "So - what did you make of Bob's brother?"
Blair grunted. "I didn't -- I just didn't get a good impression."
"Yeah, I thought you were pretty quiet. Any reason?"
"Nothing I can really put a finger on. I know Gemmell tried to force the guy into a career he didn't want and threw him out when he said so, and I'd guess he didn't have it easy that first couple of years he mentioned - but even with that, he seemed... He seemed to recover from hearing about the murder, like, really fast, and he didn't ask for any details - as if he just wasn't interested. The only real emotion he showed was when you told him Bob found the body, and then it was Bob he was thinking about, not that his father was dead. And then he turned away and carried on sketching kids as if... as if you'd just told him it was raining."
"I mean - man, you hadn't spoken to your father for eighteen years, not just eight, but when Aaron Foster attacked him, you forgot all the bad stuff in your upbringing and just remembered that he was your dad."
Jim nodded, not entirely agreeing with Blair's comment but not about to say so. He had been surprised how well he understood Ashford. William Ellison and Andrew Gemmell had been alike in so many ways...
Blair carried on, unaware of his partner's disquiet. "And I can't help but think it's a helluva big coincidence that he turned up like this the same day that his father's murdered."
"Yeah, I know, but coincidences do happen. All I can say is that I couldn't detect any sense of nervousness about him. I'd swear the news of the killing came as a surprise to him.
"We know he's doing well in a job he enjoys - what did he say again? 'Not rich, but a steady income' - if he's making around five hundred dollars a day on a quiet day just doing five minute sketches, and that exhibition is running for - what, a month? That's... um... around twelve thousand dollars minimum in a month. Three or four exhibitions like that in a year, say at least forty thousand dollars just on pencil sketches, add on commissions and sales from pictures... he's not doing badly. He isn't going to risk that just to get back at a man who kicked him out eight years ago.
"And even though he admitted he went to see his father about Bob, all he did was say he could give Bob a home if he saw any more signs that Bob was being abused. I didn't get any sense that he was hiding anything when he told us that."
"I know, I know." Blair sighed. "He sounded genuine enough. Oh, don't pay any attention to me. I'm just thinking that when it came to it, you couldn't reject your dad. I couldn't reject Mom even after she... I just wonder at the mentality of a man who could apparently ignore the fact that someone who's just been murdered is his dad."
Jim Ellison sat at his desk on Monday morning reading through the final forensic report on Andrew Gemmell. The man had been stabbed three times; one of the wounds was in his arm, as if when it was inflicted he had been trying reasonably successfully to defend himself; much of the blood spattered around had probably come from it; but the other two were deep body wounds. Death had been caused by blood loss; the wounds would not in themselves have been fatal if help had arrived quickly, but they had bled profusely, giving him only a short while before the blood loss killed him. There was some minor bruising that was consistent with a fight. There was also one severe bruise on the left temple - "This probably caused either unconsciousness or severe disorientation, otherwise the victim could have phoned for help once his killer left."
There was one final comment that Jim read three times before he passed the report to Blair, who began to read it. Part way through, he looked up. "This is going to be hard on Bob. He's bound to feel guilty that he didn't get home any earlier."
Jim shook his head. "Even if he'd left Rainier for home as soon as his meeting with the Chancellor was finished, he'd still have been at least an hour too late. And he'd have been alone, since Stoddard was tied up till four. If he'd actually left at lunchtime and gone home then, he might have walked in on the killer and been killed too. It was better for his sake that he waited. But there's more. Finish it."
Blair looked at him, read on, and stiffened.
"The two-faced bastard! 'Traces of heroin in the dead man's pockets'..."
"Yeah. I want another look at the house."
Blair nodded absently, his attention still on the report, then looked up. "So. You've matched the smell of paint to Danny. There's still the cigarette smoke and the aftershave."
"Which could be off the same person." Jim leaned back, scowling. "We were lucky to find Ashford. But there's nothing, absolutely nothing, to help us track down whoever else was at the house, unless the neighbors saw someone. I don't want to tread on Wilmot's toes, but I really would like to stay involved with this. Especially with that coming into it." He nodded at the report.
The phone rang; Blair, sitting slightly nearer it, picked it up. "Detective Ellison's desk."
"Blair, it's Eli. Andrew Gemmell's lawyer has been in touch with Bob - he wants to see Bob at two this afternoon. I'm going with him, but he said he'd like you, and Ellison if possible, to be there as well. I think he's feeling a bit intimidated and wants as much backup as possible."
"Hold on." Blair put his hand over the mouthpiece. "Did you hear that?" he asked softly.
Jim nodded. "Yeah. I can go."
"Okay, Eli, we'll be there. What's the address?" He scribbled it down. "Right, we'll see you there just before two. How's Bob holding up?"
"Pretty well, all things considered, and Lesley's been a great help; of course, she can identify in a way the rest of us can't. He got all guilty last night for a while, blaming himself for being so reluctant to do what his father wanted, and she put him right before he had a chance to wallow too deep."
Stoddard chuckled. "I don't say she's mothering Bob, but she's certainly aunting him."
"That's good too - I think it's something he's needed," Blair said. "Oh, and Eli - you might want to tell him. We've found his brother."
Just then Blair heard Simon shouting for Jim. "Gotta go, Simon wants us," he said quickly, hanging up before Stoddard had a chance to reply.
They had to park some distance away from the address they had been given, and had almost reached the waiting pair before Bob saw them. He pounced on Blair immediately, with an animation that made him a completely different young man from the sullen one Blair had first met.
"Is it true? You found Danny? Where is he? What - "
"Whoa, whoa!" Blair grinned. "He's calling himself Dan Ashford now."
"Oh. That was his middle name - it was our mother's name."
"Currently, he's living in Cascade - and he's been keeping an eye on you."
"He has? But why didn't he speak to me?"
"I'd guess he didn't want to risk you mentioning him to your father and maybe getting into trouble for it," Blair said. "Anyway, after he left here he studied art and he's been working for the last couple of years going round craft exhibitions, selling some paintings, doing on-the-spot sketches, and he seems to be doing quite well."
At Stoddard's urging, they turned to enter the building. Blair went on. "He knows what happened on Tuesday; and on Thursday morning he went to see your father about it."
"Told him that he could give you a home, and would if he saw any further signs that your dad had been hitting you."
"Wow." Bob was silent for a moment. "How did you find him?"
"We bumped into him by sheer chance on Saturday. He looks very like you."
"Yes - we both took after Mom. Can we go and see him after this?" He glanced at Stoddard.
"I don't see why not," Stoddard replied.
Blair looked at Jim, and grinned. "Amazing what a little kindness will do," he breathed.
They announced themselves to the receptionist, who buzzed through to the lawyer; moments later he appeared - an elderly, paternal-looking man. "Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is McFarlane - I was Andrew Gemmell's lawyer. And you're Bob?"
"Yes." Bob shook the outstretched hand. McFarlane glanced at the three men, and Bob added hastily, "This is Professor Stoddard, Mr. Sandburg, and Detective Ellison."
"Detective?" McFarlane asked, his eyes widening.
"I'm just here as Bob's friend," Jim said.
McFarlane nodded. "Of course. This way."
He led them into his office, and indicated seats. Then he walked round the desk and took his own seat.
"There are actually two wills involved here," he said. "The first one, your father's, is relatively simple; everything is left to you, with the stipulation that your brother, should he reappear, gets nothing. However, he could try to claim his share, and you would be wise to remember that."
"Oh." Bob glanced at Blair.
"Actually, Danny is in Cascade and knows about his father's death," Blair said.
"Ah. It would be advisable for me to meet him."
"We'll tell him," Blair said.
"Now - your father left relatively little; the house, of course, and some ten thousand dollars in the bank - an amount that has remained fairly static over the last ten years. From time to time he added a little to the balance, which of course has also been accruing interest. He appears to have lived off a relatively small pension which lapsed with his death; this is money he appears to have been leaving untouched for you."
Bob frowned. "He always seemed to have plenty of money."
"He may simply have been good at managing his money," McFarlane suggested.
Bob nodded, but Blair could guess that he was thinking, and wondering, about four thousand dollars hidden in the house. He was thinking about that, too - and about a forensic report he had read just a few hours earlier.
"The other will - " McFarlane shuffled papers and selected one - "is your mother's." He glanced down the page. "You may remember that she owned a number of small ornaments and several porcelain vases?"
"Yes. Some of them were really ugly. Dad got rid of them after she died."
"Well, no. He left them with me. Your mother's will left these in the care of your father, to be divided at his death between you and your brother in such a way that you each received objects that, in total, carried the same value." He smiled at the puzzled look on Bob's face. "Your maternal grandfather collected antiques - he spent a small fortune on them. Your mother told me, when she made her will, that when he died his collection of antiques was split evenly between your mother and her sister. She chose to do the same with her share, dividing them between you and your brother.
"Your father was my client as well, but I have to admit that her opinion of him was also mine - he would have sold them on her death if she had not specified that the actual objects were to be kept for you and your brother. After she died, I suggested that he leave them in my care."
"The current value is around four hundred thousand dollars."
Bob's jaw dropped. "Four hundred thousand... "
"Of course, your share would only amount to approximately two hundred thousand."
"For those ugly things?"
McFarlane nodded. "For those ugly things."
"I think this would be a good time to have another look at the Gemmell house," Jim said.
They had taken Bob to Wilkenson Tower and left him, and Stoddard with him, talking to Dan Ashford, who had closed his stall early to speak to his brother. Although he was unlikely to lose much income this late on a relatively quiet Monday, that he did close down had done a lot to improve his image in Blair's eyes.
Now Jim and Blair were on their way down the stairs again on their way back to the truck.
Blair glanced at his partner, his eyes questioning.
"Traces of drugs - specifically heroin - in Gemmell's clothes. I obviously missed something there," Jim said.
"You were probably misled by his reaction to the suspicion that Bob might have been on 'em."
"That's possible," Jim agreed. "Drugs were certainly the last thing on my mind."
"Four days... " Blair said slowly. "It's a long time, Jim. Any faint scents could have dissipated completely by now."
"Yeah, I know, any scents will be pretty faint now, but I won't have to tone down my sense of smell quite so much to filter out the blood," Jim replied.
"So you want to go now, before we go back to the PD?" Blair asked as they reached the truck.
"Might as well. And tomorrow I think I'll see if I can get a look at Wilmot's report - I imagine he'll have checked by now if the neighbors saw or heard anything."
There was still crime scene tape around the doorway and a uniform on duty at the Gemmell house. This time, however, it was a man they knew.
"Detective Ellison. Blair. I thought Homicide was dealing with this case?"
"Yes, but we know the dead man's son, so we came along too when we heard what happened. Things were pretty busy for a while on Thursday, though, and we had to leave while Wilmot was still checking through the house. We thought we'd have a look around now. See if we could spot anything Wilmot missed; you know what it's like - the more eyes there are, the better the chance of finding something." There were times when Jim could obfuscate as readily as his partner.
"Yeah. I heard the son found the body. Must have been quite a shock for the kid." Donohue was already unlocking the door for them.
"Thanks." Jim went straight in; Blair hesitated for a moment. "How's your daughter doing, Tim?" Irene Donohue's fiance had broken off their engagement a couple of weeks earlier, for no obvious reason, and left Cascade.
Donohue shook his head. "She'd find it easier if she knew why - even if he'd fallen in love with someone else. Not knowing why is what's making it so hard for her. We're tried telling her she's better off without someone who would do that to her, but she says she already knows that."
"It's early yet," Blair offered.
"I know. She's pretty bitter about it, though. It's going to make it hard for her ever to trust anyone that much again. She really loved the bastard."
Blair nodded. "All you can do is be there for her. Listen to her if she feels like talking about it. I'm sure she'll work through it."
"Well, I sure hope so. It's pretty miserable at home right now."
Blair gave the man's arm a friendly pat, then followed Jim into the house.
He found his partner in the living room. Nothing had been moved; the overturned chairs were still overturned, the bloodstains - dry now - still spattered the carpet. Jim was standing in the middle of the room, looking carefully around.
He crossed to the bookcase and crouched to look at the books.
Blair joined him. "Interesting reading - if you're obsessed with football," he murmured.
Jim nodded. He pulled on a pair of gloves and took the books out one by one, replacing them carefully after checking that each was, in fact, a book.
They were all genuine.
He prowled around the room again, pausing for a moment to examine the football picture above the fire, then rejoined Blair, shaking his head. "Nothing else in here," he said.
Upstairs, the bedrooms were even more starkly functional than either man had remembered, and Blair shivered.
Jim glanced at his partner as they entered the first one. "This was me four years ago," he said quietly.
"Not really," Blair said. "The loft was pretty bare, yes, but that was just your instinctive attempt to keep stimulus to a minimum. This house isn't just bare; it's soulless. There's..." He hesitated, looking round, clearly searching for words. "There are houses you can go into, and feel that they're just waiting for their occupants to come back. This one - it doesn't care. No wonder Bob was so sullen, if this is what he's lived in and with for the past ten years or so."
Jim nodded, only half of his attention on what Blair was saying.
"And the change in him today, after just a couple of days with Eli and Lesley, in a totally different kind of environment..." Blair looked round. "That's the bag he uses for his university stuff. He didn't have it with him on Wednesday or Thursday - he must have forgotten to pick it up." He moved to collect the bag. "I'll take it in to Rainier tomorrow."
"Hold it, Blair... I can smell something... "
Blair swung round, Bob's bag forgotten. "Something you didn't smell on Thursday?"
"Yes. The blood was a bit overwhelming, so I was filtering things a bit, and when it was obvious nothing had been disturbed upstairs I kept my sense of smell turned down. I was lucky I smelled as much as I did."
Blair nodded absently. "So what's this smell, Jim?"
"It's really faint... Not in this room. The other one."
In 'the other one' there was on the wall a photograph of a different football team, another photo that included Andrew Gemmell. Apart from that, the room was as bleakly impersonal as the first.
The only item of furniture in this room that Bob's lacked was another, fairly small, bookcase. Jim strode straight to it.
The first 'book' he picked out was another fake.
Blair joined him as he opened it. It was full of largish packets of a green substance.
"Drugs," Jim confirmed, and sniffed again. "I think this lot is just marijuana, though. But this sort of quantity... This isn't someone's personal stash."
He put it down and kept on checking. All the 'books' were fake. He opened one after the other. The first three all held large packets, and Jim's nose wrinkled; "This lot is all heroin." Then came one that held several small plastic bags containing the same substance.
"These are the packets he's selling." Jim said again, his voice grim.
The next 'book' held several packets of pills.
"And that's why he thought the packet in Bob's pocket was Ecstasy," he muttered. "He knew how they're packaged."
Blair grunted. "I wonder if he actually flushed away the tablets he found in Bob's pocket, or if he only pretended to, and kept them to sell?"
Jim glanced at him. "That's pretty cynical, Chief. What happened to the 'think the best of everyone' guy I used to know?"
Blair shrugged. "Oh, he's still here. But I think Gemmell gave up his right to be considered anything other than a bastard, don't you?"
Jim nodded as he turned his attention to the next 'book'. It was full of small, empty plastic bags. Then came two full of money.
The last one held a notebook as well as more cash. Jim took the notebook out, and opened it. Blair peered over his shoulder.
It was clearly an account book.
"I wonder... " Jim said. "This all looks as if he restocked fairly recently - like Thursday morning.
"Dan said he was here just after nine, and he was chased away very quickly. Either his father was totally unforgiving, even though he must have seen that Dan was doing all right financially, or he was expecting someone else, someone he didn't want Dan to meet. Dan doesn't use aftershave and there was no smell of smoke off his clothes, so we know there had to be at least one other visitor after him. That visitor could have been Gemmell's supplier."
"And I don't suppose there's any way of finding out who that was."
Jim gathered up the fake books. "Let's call this in," he said.
Once Forensics arrived, they left the team to it and went back to the PD. They went straight to Simon and reported to him.
Simon listened to what they had to say, and frowned, "Who did you say is dealing with this murder?" he asked.
"Wilmot, Wilmot... Oh, yes. He's reasonably competent, good solve rate - so how the devil did he miss these? He already knew there was one of those fake books in the house."
"That could be why," Blair muttered. "He didn't expect there would be more than one, not when the one we found - the one Bob knew about - was the one with the business papers and enough money to be some savings stashed away."
Jim nodded agreement. "We only discovered through the Forensics report that the dead man had some contact with drugs. It could have been as a user, but between the size of his income and Bob saying he always seemed to have plenty of money, that didn't seem likely. Although we went in basically to look for signs of drugs, I only checked the 'books' in the bedroom because I could smell the drugs there - though it's easily explained that knowing about the false book downstairs led me to check the upstairs 'books' for Gemmell's stash. There didn't originally seem to be any reason to check out the upstairs rooms, after all; they were clearly untouched by whoever killed Gemmell. What I don't know is why Wilmot hasn't apparently followed up the report from Forensics."
Simon grunted. "The combination of murder and drugs makes this a matter for Major Crime now, anyway. You've already done a lot of work in the case - "
"I'll go over to Homicide and have a word with Wilmot," Jim agreed.
"Wait a minute!" Simon growled. "We don't want to tread on Homicide's toes here. Why did you go back to the house without checking with Wilmot first?"
"We were in the area," Blair offered, "and because we'd read the Forensics report, we thought we might as well give the place a look."
"It might serve," Simon muttered. "Now, this money - most of it obviously came from the sale of drugs, so it'll be forfeit."
"Yeah," Jim said. "There's an account book in one of the 'books', so it might be possible to estimate what percentage came from the drugs. He did have an income from a pension as well; he could have saved all that money and only spent what he got from the drug sales."
"That's a specious argument and you know that as well as I do," Simon growled.
"I know, but I'd hate to see Bob lose all of it," Jim told him.
"Yeah," Simon muttered. "It's going to be hard enough on the kid..."
"Simon," Blair said, "you don't know the half of it."
Simon looked from Blair to Jim and back again, seeing identical scowls on both faces. "Do I want to know?"
"The actual details don't matter now, but in any case Bob wasn't willing to press changes," Blair said quietly, "because the man was his father, after all... but Tuesday of last week, Gemmell battered Bob because he thought Bob might be on drugs."
"His face is still black and blue," Jim said.
"And green and yellow," Blair added, with precise detail. "Eli Stoddard took him home, let his father know that Rainier was looking into the 'mugging'. It was all anyone could do under the circumstances, though I tried to let him know how much the law was on his side."
"But the man was his father, so he was prepared to put up with it," Simon finished. "Poor kid."
"Well, he's free of abuse now," Jim said. "It's just a question of who tells him what his father's been doing. He'll have to be told."
"I think," Blair said, "Lesley Stoddard is maybe the best person to tell him. We can have a word with her now, before Bob and Eli get back. As for Dan - you and I had better go and tell him tomorrow."
"Dan?" Simon asked.
"Dan," Jim said. "Danny Gemmell. We found Bob's older brother."
With two things they wanted to do immediately, Jim and Blair decided to split up, and while Blair went to see Lesley Stoddard, saying he'd rejoin Jim at the PD, Jim went to Homicide to have a word with Wilmot, advancing his planned visit to the man by about sixteen hours.
He found Wilmot reading the Forensic report on Andrew Gemmell.
Wilmot looked up as Jim reached his desk. "Ellison. You've seen Dan's report?"
"This morning. I was passing the Gemmell house earlier today - sheer chance - and with that report in mind, I looked in. Found some more of those fake books in Gemmell's bedroom, some of them stuffed with drugs, and a couple of them full of cash. It hadn't occurred to me he might have had several of them - who'd have expected him to use more than one?"
Wilmot glanced suspiciously at him, but said nothing more than, "I suppose this, added to the homicide, makes it more a matter for Major Crime than my department," as he flicked the report with a would-be casual finger. It was quite clear to Jim that Wilmot was feeling his nose just a little out of joint, though he was putting a better face on it than Jim would have expected.
"Probably, and since I'm already involved, that would mean me; but I'd appreciate your input - and of course I'll credit you with that." He knew instantly that he had said the right thing; Wilmot lost a fair amount of his bristly defensiveness between one breath and the next.
"Well, I've been round the neighbors," he said, "but not many of them would admit to seeing anything. It's a very quiet area; the sort of place where you might expect some of the old biddies to know everything that's going on, see every stranger who comes within half a mile of the place. But no; most of them claim to have seen nothing. One guy admitted that Gemmell didn't 'take kindly to being neighborly, preferred to be left to himself' and said he 'felt sorry for the boy' - then added 'but you have to make allowances - he was okay before his wife died. He never really got over that, then he lost his football career just as it was really taking off'."
"So Gemmell had lived there for - what? Over ten years?"
Wilmot nodded as he said, "If you hold on a minute, I'll give you copies of the reports." He turned to his computer.
Jim left with a thin folder of papers; as Wilmot had said, the house-to-house inquiry hadn't turned up much. Returning to his desk, he began reading.
Saw nothing. Saw nothing. Was at work. Saw nothing. Was at work.
Finally he reached a comment that was positive rather than negative.
"Statement from Gail Deborah Absalom, 76, widow, living at number 867.
"Someone called at Mr. Gemmell's house around ten. I know it was about then because I always make a cup of coffee at ten and sit down for half an hour to read the paper.
"He was wearing a raincoat - just an ordinary dark raincoat, very dark blue, or maybe black. He looked like a businessman - he was carrying a briefcase, and I thought he was maybe visiting Mr. Gemmell on business. Anyway, he only stayed for a few minutes. He got into a pale green car and drove away. I don't know the make - most of these cars look the same to me. Yes, I saw the license plate, but I didn't pay it any attention. Well, I didn't have any reason to think it would matter.
"I did see his face, but I don't think I'd know him again. It was a very ordinary kind of face. He had dark hair and he was clean-shaven. He was smaller than Mr. Gemmell, five or six inches smaller, but a lot of men are smaller than Mr. Gemmell. He's a very big man, after all. Oh - I should have said 'he was', shouldn't I?
"I don't know if anyone else called at the house. Mr. Gemmell went out himself after that - I noticed his car was gone when I was getting my lunch ready. I always have a good meal in the middle of the day, you know. When you're on your own it's too easy to forget to eat properly, and I promised my David when he was dying that I would remember.
"His car was back at the house when I was washing the pots, and that was about half past twelve.
"I didn't see anyone after that, but I wasn't in the kitchen again until nearly five, and the police cars were there by then. My living room faces the other way, you see, so I wouldn't have seen anything."
Jim laid that page down and turned to the next one. It turned out to be the one Wilcox had quoted -
"Statement from Ronald Alexander Duthie, 68, retired, living at 674.
"Well, I wouldn't say I knew Gemmell all that well, though we've been neighbors for about fourteen, fifteen years - always said howdy to him over the fence if I ever saw him, but he didn't talk much. He didn't take kindly to being neighborly, preferred to be left to himself. I really feel sorry for the boy - Gemmell never let him go out much; you can't protect your kids from everything, but he was way too over-protective, and you have to admire the kid for not rebelling. He never looked happy, though. 'Course, you have to make allowances - Gemmell was never what you'd call real friendly, but before his wife died he'd occasionally stop and have a chat. He never got over that properly, then he lost his football career just as it was really taking off. And of course his older son walked out one day, too - that'd be about, oh, seven or eight years ago. All he had left was Bob. My brother's a doctor, and he reckoned, near as he could without an examination, the man suffered from depression.
"But no, I didn't see anything. Well, living next door the way I do, I wouldn't see much of what goes on, would I? I know more about what the folks on the other side of the street do. They could probably help you more'n me about Gemmell."
Jim reread the two statements.
At a guess, the 'businessman' who visited so briefly mid-morning was Gemmell's supplier; a 'very ordinary', easily forgotten face would serve such a man extremely well. And not long after that, Gemmell went out. Why?
A pity Mrs. Absalom hadn't seen him returning; if he had been carrying a bag full of shopping, that would have provided an answer. But if he hadn't been shopping, where had he been? Out selling?
"Hey, man! Found something?"
"Hi, Chief. How'd you get on with Mrs. Stoddard?"
"I won't repeat what she said," Blair said, mock-primly. "I wouldn't have thought she'd know half of those words..." Abruptly, he dropped the act. "She'll tell Bob tonight, once she's had time to think of the gentlest way to do it. And you found?"
"One of the neighbors thought Gemmell was suffering from depression."
"Whoa. That could explain a lot. Doesn't explain why he should turn to selling drugs, though."
"I was just trying to work out a link between the way he treated Bob and depression."
"There are different kinds of depression, Jim. One of Naomi's boyfriends had what the doctor called agitated depression. If things didn't go the way he thought they should, he threw what in a kid you'd call a temper tantrum. Then he'd be all right again for a couple of weeks except for being what you might call over-protective, then something would trigger another one. She stayed with him for about three months, and man, as far as I was concerned, that was ten weeks too many. If I'd had my way, we'd have been out of there halfway through the first tantrum. But she persuaded him to see a doctor, and she really thought she was helping him - till he hit me in one of his attacks. I don't think it was deliberate, but Naomi didn't stop to find out; by the time he'd calmed down again we were twenty miles away."
"How do you know that?" Jim asked, not sure whether to believe Blair's story or pass it off as another of his partner's attempts to lighten a situation.
"The attacks usually lasted about half an hour, by which time he'd got whatever was bothering him out of his system. He hit me very early on; we always had an emergency bag packed anyway, and it took Naomi all of five minutes to throw her clothes and mine into another case, grab the emergency bag, chuck everything into her car, and take off. Roughly twenty minutes at sixty miles an hour...
"Okay, it clearly took Gemmell a different way, but yeah, now I think his obsession with football - which was his career, after all - and his determination that his sons should follow in his footsteps could easily be a symptom of a depression that started with his wife's death." He reached for the phone. "I'll tell Lesley that - it might make it easier for Bob if he could think his father was ill, rather than bad."
Jim nodded. "Yeah, go on." He listened while Blair told Lesley Stoddard of the neighbor's suspicions, and clearly heard her reply.
"Well, yes, Blair, but are you sure it'll make Bob feel better? He might feel guilty for not realizing his father was ill."
"Lesley, he was eight when his Mom died, and ten when Gemmell was injured and had to retire. At that point he'd had two years of seeing Gemmell getting more and more morose, then it would seem there was a good reason for the man to get even worse. By the time he was old enough to suspect Gemmell was actually ill, he'd become so used to things - of course he wouldn't suspect."
"All right, then, I'll tell him that too."
"I don't think anyone could do it better, Lesley. Thanks." Blair hung up and turned back to Jim. "Anything else from the reports?"
"Not much. The guy who came up with the depression theory lived next door, and as he said, that's not the best position to see anything. The only other piece of information came from a woman living on the other side of the road. She saw someone calling at the house about ten, but she couldn't describe him - here, see for yourself." He handed the two statements to Blair.
"Ten... we know Dan was at the exhibition by ten, so this could be the guy who supplies his drugs?"
"That's what I thought."
"And not the killer, because Gemmell went out afterwards... and anyway he was killed after twelve." Blair read on. "Pale green car... "
"Blair, do you know how many pale green cars there are in Cascade?"
"A fair number, but it's not one of the commoner colors. Jim - if this guy is a supplier, would Narcotics be able to help? They might know who's likely to be driving around in a pale green car?"
"Sandburg... Hell, I knew there was a good reason to keep you around! Come on - let's pay Narcotics a visit."
Blair grinned as he began to follow his sentinel. "That's the trouble with you Major Crime detectives - you forget there are other departments too," he muttered, just loud enough for Jim to hear.
"Come on, Tonto."
"Lead on, Kemosabe," Blair responded cheerfully.
Captain Blanchard looked tired. As a senior cop in Narcotics when Tommy Yuan was Captain, one who was not involved in Yuan's dishonesty, he had been given an unwanted promotion 'as a temporary measure' when Yuan was proved dirty; 'temporary' had become 'permanent' within six months, and there were times when he cursed his conscientiousness. He had been much happier without the ultimate responsibility for his department.
"Hello, Jim," he said with forced cheerfulness. "Blair." Unlike his predecessor, he did not consider the men in his department the only ones in the PD worth a damn; he had made a point of getting acquainted, at least, with the top men in all the other departments. "What brings you here?"
"We have a problem," Jim said with a frankness he would not have used in Yuan's day. "We've got a homicide we suspect of being a drug dealer. Until the drugs came to light, it was Dick Wilmot's case; now it's mine. We don't think the death was drug-related, but we would like to track down the guy we think might have been the man's supplier. Do you know of any possible supplier who drives a pale green car, make unknown?"
"Yeah. Pale green car, that has to be one of Chris Ng's boys. You'll find Ng in Chinatown - he runs the Scarlet Dragon. Damned good restaurant, too. Pricey - don't expect much change from a hundred dollars if you have a full meal, including wine, there - but worth every cent. It's a completely legitimate business, and he keeps it totally clean. We keep an eye on him, but we haven't been able to track down where he operates his drug business from - even with those pale green cars as a giveaway."
"If you want a word with him - I'm not butting in on your case, but the quickest way will be if I go along with you. He's surprisingly co-operative - apparently co-operative - but of course he knows we have nothing more than suspicion. His men are completely loyal to him."
"I'd be glad of your help," Jim said.
The Scarlet Dragon was in the heart of Chinatown, and even this early in the evening, it was relatively busy.
The doorman greeted Blanchard with polite familiarity. "Captain Blanchard. Nice to see you, sir. Are you wanting a meal?"
"No, Harry, I'd like a word with Mr. Ng if he's available."
"For you, Captain, always." He picked up a phone, hit two numbers, and exchanged a few quick words in Mandarin. He hung up the phone. "He will see you in five minutes, Captain."
It was barely five minutes before he appeared - an impeccably-dressed businessman. "Captain Blanchard!" A stranger could have been excused for thinking that Blanchard was one of Ng's closest friends. "What can I do for you?" He was already ushering them through a door clearly marked STAFF.
"Well, it's really for Detective Ellison here," Blanchard said as they turned into a comfortable room that, although it clearly doubled as an office, could have been a sitting room. As Ng gestured them to chairs, one of his men came forward to offer tea. Blanchard accepted the offer immediately, Blair, with a meaningful glance at Jim, did so just a moment later, and then, getting the message, Jim too accepted. With the weak Chinese tea served to all four, the man left.
"Detective Ellison?" Ng asked.
Jim paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "First of all, what is said in this room won't go beyond it."
Ng nodded. "Captain Blanchard and I are old adversaries, but he would not try to trick me."
"I am investigating a murder. Two or three hours before the man was killed, he had a visitor... a visitor who looked like a businessman, and drove a pale green car."
"Ah. And Captain Blanchard, of course, told you that men who work for me all drive such cars."
"Yes. We believe that he may have sold the victim certain... goods. At the moment, I'm not interested in these goods. We would simply like to be able to eliminate this man from our inquiries."
"I see. I saw the news on Friday. Would the dead man have been called Andrew Gemmell?"
"I expected this visit." He picked up a phone, hit a number, and said simply, "Come in."
The door opened, and a man entered. Jim saw instantly why Mrs. Absalom had called his face 'very ordinary'; he had the kind of face nobody was likely to notice. Ng said, "This is the man who visited Mr. Gemmell. You can call him Smith."
Jim stood and held out his hand; the man went to him and shook it.
"Mr. Smith. Can you tell me when you saw Mr. Gemmell?"
"I called at his house at ten o'clock on Thursday, and spoke with him for perhaps five minutes. He was still alive when I left."
"Were you on friendly terms with him at all?"
Smith shook his head. "No. He wasn't the kind of man to make friends; nor was he a man who would think to offer a visitor, especially a business visitor, a cup of tea or coffee. Our contact was always short and completely impersonal."
"Tell me, Mr. Smith - do you smoke at all?"
Smith frowned, clearly puzzled by the question. "No, sir. I've never smoked."
"Thank you. That's all I need to know."
Smith glanced at Ng, who nodded; he left quickly.
"Thank you, Mr. Ng. That confirms the evidence of a witness who saw the victim's visitor at ten. I don't think we need bother you or your man about this again." He swallowed the last of his tea and glanced at Blanchard.
Both Blair and Blanchard took a courteous couple of minutes to finish their tea.
"This is very good tea," Blair said softly. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Ng replied politely.
They had gone to Chinatown in Jim's truck; after they dropped Blanchard off at the PD, Jim turned for home.
"So?" Blair asked.
"Well, that disposes of the 'aftershave'. It's obviously an oriental scent, possibly even incense, and I definitely picked up the smell of it from Mr... er... Smith. I could detect it easily in the restaurant, and I'd guess his clothes have picked up the smell. And since he doesn't smoke, that leaves us with a third visitor, the smoker, who is probably the killer."
"You're not doing anything about Smith as Gemmell's supplier?"
Jim shook his head. "Blanchard is keeping a pretty good eye on Ng's operation. I think we can leave that side of it up to him."
He turned the truck into his normal parking space and switched off the ignition. Into the silence, he said, "I know you think we should have arrested Smith, but you may have noticed I didn't mention the word 'drug' at any time. I don't think Ng or his man had any involvement in Gemmell's death, and that's all I'm concerned with at the moment. We're already treading on Homicide's toes; I don't want to piss off Narcotics as well. There are times when the different departments need each other, and it does help if the departments are on speaking terms and not trying to score points off each other."
"Jim - wasn't that more or less what I tried to tell you earlier?"
Jim grinned. "I suppose it was."
They split up again the next morning, with Blair reluctantly going off to see Dan Ashford while Jim went straight to the PD.
Blair reached Wilkenson Tower just before ten. The door to the exhibition was open to let in the exhibitors, but a member of the Tower security staff was on guard at the door to keep out the public. Blair flourished his consultant's badge.
"I need a word with one of the vendors - Dan Ashford - has an art stall at the back."
The guard, a man who obviously took his duties seriously, scowled at the ID, noting that it was a consultant's badge, not an actual police one. "Is this police business?"
"The man isn't in trouble, if that's what you mean," Blair told him. "His father was murdered last week. We're trying to keep the family informed of developments before any details hit the papers."
The guard stood aside.
"I take it he is here?"
"Yes - came in about ten minutes ago."
Blair moved quickly to the back of the room, and went to Ashford's stall. The man was hanging a picture; Blair waited till he had it hung properly, then moved forward. "Hello again, Dan."
Ashford jumped, clearly taken by surprise, and turned quickly. "Mr. Sandburg! What - Is Bob all right?"
"We haven't been told he isn't. But Dan, something came up yesterday you should know about. The Forensic report turned up something, and Detective Ellison and I went to check the house.
"Dan - there isn't an easy way to tell you this. Your father was selling drugs."
"What? Impossible! He - Bob said that's why - It's impossible!"
Blair shook his head. "He didn't have much of an income, Dan, and - well, we can only guess, but he might have been afraid that it wasn't enough to live on, that he might have to sell his home and end up renting somewhere cheap - a real drop in the world for him. We found over a hundred thousand dollars in the house, as well a stock of heroin, some Ecstasy and some marijuana.
"As for what he did to Bob - classic double standard, man. It would never do for his son to be involved in the drug scene, but other people's sons were a source of income to him."
"Oh. Like the fella who encourages his son to fuck all the girls in the neighborhood, but heaven help the guy who gets too fresh with his daughter?"
"God. Does Bob know?"
"We asked Mrs. Stoddard to tell him."
Ashford stood for a moment staring across the room. "I think I shocked you a little the other day, didn't I? When I took the news of Dad's death so - well, calmly."
"A little," Blair agreed.
"You must realize - when he threw me out, he made it very clear that as far as he was concerned, I no longer existed. That I was beneath contempt. That artists, along with academics, actors, astronomers and a whole lot of others including astronauts, were fags, parasites, freeloaders on society. He told me my mother would have been disgraced and humiliated by my choice of career, and finished off by saying he had only one son, that it was a pity I was ever born - though at least as a fag I wouldn't be passing on my useless blood to anyone else. And he threw me out with nothing. No clothes except what I was wearing, no money, nothing.
"I left Cascade that day, hitched a ride on a heavy truck that was going to Tacoma, but I was living on the street, begging, for a month before I got any sort of break, and lucky to get that; then I had two years of struggling - really struggling - to support myself and get some money saved before I managed to get into art college. All the way through college I had to work, too, to supplement the student loans. Are you surprised that... well, as far as I was concerned, my father died that day. Hearing about his actual death - it was like hearing about the death of a stranger." He sighed. "I have a good life now, but I'm still bitter about the way he treated me. All he wanted me - and Bob - for was as an echo of himself. He never wanted either of us to be ourselves, never thought that either of us might have taken after Mom. If she'd lived it might have been different - though I can't remember him ever paying much heed to what she wanted, what she thought. All he really wanted his wife to be was an echo, parroting his opinions and his thoughts. I don't know if Bob realized that - I don't think so; he was probably too young when she died - but I could see it. Sometimes I think she died just to get away from him.
"But considering everything - I'm still surprised that he got involved in the drug scene."
"We don't know who his customers were," Blair said quietly, "but - going by what Bob has said about him - I'd suspect he didn't sell to anyone he knew was involved in sports. Remember, he considered everyone else weak. What he did to weaklings didn't count as 'bad'. If they bought what he was selling, it just confirmed his belief that they were weak."
"God, how much more screwed up can you get?"
Blair shook his head. "Good question, man. Seriously, I've had twenty-four hours to think about this, and you know, I doubt that he was completely sane. He took his interest in football, in sports, past fandom into fanaticism."
"But selling drugs?"
"I think that was indicative of his contempt for anyone who wasn't into any sport as a career. In a way, I suppose you have to pity him. He told Dr. Stoddard that a successful player would be in demand as a coach. Pity he hadn't gone that route."
"He tried, but his injury... He could walk all right, but when he tried to run, he couldn't."
"Of course, that's the other contradiction; he'd been crippled, why did he want you and Bob following a career that might mean your becoming crippled? We're back to blind fanaticism again."
"Yeah, I guess we are. Thanks for letting me know, anyway. Mr. Sandburg - "
"What about Bob? What's he going to do? I can give him a home if he needs one."
"I'll let him know that, but I have a feeling he wants to stay with Dr. Stoddard; I know Dr. and Mrs. Stoddard are more than happy to let him stay as long as he wants."
"And I'm a stranger."
"Not your fault, man, and you can get to know each other over the next few months - but if you're only going to be in Cascade another year or two, and he's studying at Rainier beyond that, he'd have to find another home when you left anyway."
"That's true. Holly should get her degree next summer, and then, unless she decides she wants an advanced degree, she'll be looking for a permanent job somewhere, and that's not likely to be Cascade; while I can move anywhere. And even during this year - I'll be moving around a bit. My next exhibition will be in Tacoma, a couple of weeks after this one closes. I'll have to stay there for three weeks. A month after that I'll be in Seattle. Holly understands."
"She'd have to be more than understanding, though, to give a home to your brother while you're not there," Blair pointed out.
"I hadn't thought of that. I don't think she had either - she agreed that I should try to get him away from Dad but I don't think she'd thought it completely through either. Yes, he's best with Dr. Stoddard, if he doesn't mind."
Blair chuckled. "I have a feeling that Mrs. Stoddard will spoil him rotten. Don't lose touch with him again, but remember that you have eight years of silence - even though it wasn't your choice, either of you - to overcome."
The first customers of the day were beginning to appear; Blair said quietly, "I've taken up enough of your time; we'll let you know when we have any more information."
As Blair turned away, a young mother with a small child in a stroller approached the artist. "I'd like a picture... "
Blair paused by Rudi's stall; the woodworker grinned a welcome. "I've made a start on your panther," he said.
"That's great, man," Blair responded.
"Is Dan having a problem?" he asked.
Blair looked at him for a moment then decided on a modified truth. "Dan's father died last week. His younger brother lived with the father, so there's been a little concern over where he was going to go, at least in the short term. That's all." He hesitated for a moment. "I wouldn't say anything to Dan about it. He and his father didn't get along."
"Ah. Right. I won't say anything about it to anyone."
Blair went back to the PD, where he found Jim surrounded by reports.
"Hi, Jim - how's it going?"
"It isn't," Jim said. "I've given up on Gemmell for the moment - I've gone back to the Brewster case. Half of these eye-witness accounts are contradicting the other half."
"Let's have a look."
Just after four, an elderly woman entered the bullpen, a boy of about nine following at her heels. She spoke to Rhonda, who directed her to Jim's desk.
Predictably, it was Blair who glanced up and smiled. "Yes, ma'am?"
Blair's grin widened, and he leaned over to thump Jim's arm. "Wake up, partner. There's a lady here to see you."
Jim looked up from the report engrossing him. "Oh. Sorry. I'm Ellison. You wanted me?"
"Lt. Wilcox left his card with me when he came by asking if anyone had seen anything at Mr. Gemmell's house last Thursday, so I came in to see him, but he said you'd taken over from him?"
"Yes, there are reasons why Major Crime took the case over from Homicide. Lt. Wilcox spoke to you, you say?" He was already groping for the reports Wilcox had given him.
"Yes. I'm Norah Meadows, I live at number 869."
"Next door to Mrs. Absalom?"
"That's right. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary that day, but Barry here - he's my grandson - he says he did. Barry's mother works, you see, part time, three days a week, so he comes to me after school Tuesday to Thursday, so I didn't know till today that he saw anything. Anyway, the schools were off last Thursday - the teachers were having some sort of meeting, I don't know why, so Barry was with me all day."
"I see." Jim looked at the boy. "You're Barry - ?"
"Barry Leimich," his grandmother said.
"Thank you, Mrs. Meadows," Jim said. "I need Barry to answer me now. Blair, will you write down Barry's answers for me?"
Blair nodded and reached for a pencil.
"Right, Barry - how old are you?"
"Ten next month."
"And you were at your grandmother's all day on Thursday."
"Yes, because the schools were off."
"And you think you saw something at Mr. Gemmell's house?"
"Yes. I'd gone to the kitchen for a drink when his car pulled into his driveway and he got out and went into his house."
"And what time was that, do you remember?"
"Just after twelve. Gran has a clock in the kitchen that makes a funny noise on the hour, and it had just made that noise.
"Then another car stopped on the road outside the house and a lady got out - I know it was a lady, though she was wearing trousers and her hair was really short. She knocked on the door, and when Mr. Gemmell opened it, she sort of pushed in as if she was in a hurry. And I know I was being nosy, but I stayed in the kitchen to look at her car - it was a red Ford, one of the big pricey ones, and it had a personalized license plate."
"Did you see what was on the plate?" Jim asked, keeping his voice even with an effort; this could be the break they needed.
"Yes, but it didn't make a word. It was spelled S-E-W-N-S-E-W."
"Right. So you were looking at the car - admiring it?"
"Yeah - real cool! Then she came out of the house in just as much of a hurry as she went in, got into her car and drove away, and nearly hit a parked car at number 872 - she swerved just in time to miss it."
"And do you know what time that was?"
"About ten past twelve. She came out again so quickly I looked at the clock to see how long she'd been in the house, and it was about ten past twelve, so she was only there maybe five minutes. Then I went back through to the living room and I didn't say anything to Gran because I was searching for the channel for a program I wanted to see and then I forgot about it till I got to Gran's today and she said the police had been round there asking everyone if they'd seen anything and when I told her she said we'd have to come and tell Lt. Wilcox."
"Barry, what you saw is really important," Jim said. "You're the only person who saw that red Ford.
"And you think it was a lady who got out of it?"
"Can you tell me why? You said she was wearing trousers."
"They didn't look like a man's trousers. I mean, they were pink with yellow dots." He glanced at his grandmother, clearly wondering if his next comment would get him into trouble. "Even Randy and Ralph who live next door to us don't wear pink trousers with yellow dots, and half the time when you see them you'd think they were girls. And her hair was curly. Men usually have straight hair."
Jim glanced at his partner, who carefully continued to pay attention to the paper in front of him, refusing to look up although Jim was sure he was aware of his gaze.
He returned his attention to the boy. "Pink with yellow dots," he repeated. "You're right, I find it hard to think of a man wearing pink and yellow trousers."
"And her jacket was yellow too," Barry added as if he had just remembered that.
"Definitely a lady," Jim agreed. "That was very observant of you, Barry. Can you remember anything else?"
Barry thought for a moment then shook his head.
Blair moved quickly to the computer and started typing as Jim said, "Mrs. Meadows, you should be proud of your grandson."
"You think this will help you?" she asked.
"Yes," Jim said.
"Is that all? Can we go now?"
"If you'll just wait a moment till my partner gets it typed up," Jim said, "then Barry can check that what we have on record is exactly what he saw."
Blair came back a minute later with a printout. "Right, Barry," he said. "Like Detective Ellison said, will you read this?"
Half awed, the boy obeyed, then looked up.
"Now - is that exactly what you told us?" Jim asked.
"Right." He handed over a pen. "Will you sign your name at the bottom - that's our proof that our record is right, that we haven't added anything to it."
The boy signed his name very carefully, then his grandmother led him out.
"Right, Chief. We've got that personalized number plate - who's it registered to?"
Blair hit several keys on the computer. "Right, here we are... SewnSew; Mrs. Amanda Norris." He scribbled down the address and handed it over.
"Right, Chief - coming?"
"Like you need to ask?" Blair muttered.
The address proved to be a store; its name, unsurprisingly, was similar to the personalized plate: Sew 'n Sew. The window was full of sewing materials; embroidery kits, cross stitch kits, sewing floss, books of charts, printed tapestry canvas, a sewing machine...
Jim shook his head. "What would half of those stores do without puns?" he asked.
"It's hardly a pun, man. It is a pretty crummy play on words, though."
"Okay, but what's wrong with just calling it - oh, 'Norris Sewing Supplies'?"
"That doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?" Blair asked as they entered the store. "And she couldn't get that on a personalized plate."
The woman behind the counter had a badly bruised face. She laid down her half-smoked cigarette in a convenient ashtray. "Can I help you, gentlemen?"
Jim's nose twitched as he identified the smell of the smoke. "Are you Mrs. Norris?"
He pulled out his badge. "James Ellison, Cascade PD. I'd like to ask you - "
She exploded into movement; raced around the edge of the counter, shoving Blair hard out of her way, and shot out of the door. Turning to follow her, Jim tripped over Blair's legs. He pushed himself up and raced after her.
She was headed for the red Ford parked nearby. Jim pulled his gun as he yelled, "Cascade PD!" although he knew she knew who he was. "Stop!"
She had reached the car, but stopped at that, clearly recognizing that she had no chance of unlocking the door and escaping with a cop so close. As Jim handcuffed her, he Mirandized her; then he walked her back to his truck, wondering why Blair hadn't followed him.
He pushed her back into the store where Blair was still sitting on the floor. Jim looked down, anxious about his guide but unwilling to give Mrs. Norris another chance to escape. He unfastened one hand and snapped the cuff to a bar on a freestanding, but heavy-looking display unit, and bent over Blair.
"What happened, Chief? What did she do to you?"
"I was winded - nothing more. I'm okay now."
They took Mrs. Norris back to the PD, her wrists cuffed behind her back.
Anxious to get it over with, Jim began the interrogation as soon as possible.
He began by glaring intimidatingly at her and at the lawyer sitting beside her - a glare that was lost on her as, after one quick glance at him, she sat with her eyes fixed on the table. "You do realize, Mrs. Norris, that we could charge you with resisting arrest?"
She looked up for a moment and nodded before returning her attention to the table.
"However, that is minor charge compared to the one of involvement in the death of Andrew Gemmell.
"We know you visited Gemmell just after midday last Thursday. What I'd like to know is, why?"
She licked her lips and glanced at her lawyer before speaking. "He was selling drugs. I... I'd suspected that my son had started taking drugs; I've been watching him, following him, to find out for certain. On Thursday I watched as Rod bought some drugs; I followed the seller home. I pushed my way into his house, told him to stop supplying Rod." She looked up then, for the first time showing some animation. "He just laughed, and said he'd sell as much to idiot weaklings as they were willing to buy." Anger tinged her voice as she went on. "He was selling drugs, making money off kids like mine, and it was so obvious that he despised them for buying.... I told him I'd go to the police if he didn't stop - and then... then he hit me." Her voice broke slightly. "I thought... He was threatening me, and I thought he was going to hit me again. The look on his face...
"He was between me and the door. I punched him a couple of times, trying to make him get out of my way, and he laughed again. Then he kept coming after me again... threatening me... There was a knife on the table; I... I grabbed it and hit out at him. It was self defense. I hit his arm, and tried to get away, but he was still between me and the door." She hesitated for a moment, clearly fighting tears. "He kept after me - he hit me, but I managed to stab him again, in the chest. He went down, but he pushed himself up again right away and still came after me, and from the look on his face I knew he'd kill me if he could get his hands on me - and he did grab my arm. I stabbed him again and this time when he fell he hit his head on the table and it seemed to half-stun him. He was still trying to get up though, so I ran for it. I took the knife with me; got into the car and drove away. He was still alive when I left, I know he was. He was trying to get up."
"And what did you do with the knife?"
"I took the road past the Bay and threw the knife into the water. Then I went home and washed the blood off and changed my clothes." She fell silent for a moment, then went on. "I hadn't thought beyond confronting him, asking him to stop selling drugs to Rod... hadn't thought how he might react. I'm sorry I killed him, but I'm not sorry he's dead. Can you understand that? Can you even begin to imagine the misery he's caused?"
"As it happens, Mrs. Norris, I can," Jim said quietly, "but I'm not here to pass judgment on him or his way of life; I'm here to uphold the law."
The lawyer said quietly, "My client wishes to plead guilty to the charge of causing Mr. Gemmell's death, Detective. At most, however, she is guilty of manslaughter in self defense. The bruises on her face and arm - "
"Could well have been caused as Mr. Gemmell tried to defend himself from her attack," Jim murmured.
"No! He hit me first!" she exclaimed.
"We only have your word for it," Jim said, though his voice was gentle. "A jury can decide that."
"Think she's telling the truth?" Blair asked as she was led away.
"Yes, I do," Jim replied. "She was agitated, but she wasn't sweating it out the way a liar would. We know he'd become too handy with his fists; it seems likely he'd lash out. I can sympathize with her; but I keep remembering that if she'd called the police when she left, he might have been found in time."
"If he was trying to get up as she left, she was entitled to think that he'd be able to call for help for himself," Blair pointed out. "I don't think I'd have hung around, in her position. Hit hard then run like hell - it's a good defense strategy when you're facing a bigger, stronger opponent who's determined to hurt you. And if she'd followed him home, she didn't necessarily know his name or even exactly where he lived, to call once she was well away.
"And Jim - think of this. I know I muttered about Dan's reaction when he heard, but not even Bob, who still lived with him, grieved. Eli told me that after the first shock, Bob was relieved to be free of him. Says a lot about the man, doesn't it."
Blair spent part of Friday afternoon at Rainier, but left just after three and went home via Wilkenson Tower. He made his way to the wood carver, pausing en route beside Dan Ashford.
"How's it going, Dan?"
"Fine. I suppose you know Dad's body has been released - he's being buried on Tuesday - the funeral is at 1 pm."
"Yeah, Dr Stoddard told me the time. He and his wife will be there; I'm planning to attend. Detective Ellison will come along if he can get off."
"Thanks." He shrugged. "It's crazy - I hated the man, but I do want to see he gets a decent burial, with at least one or two people there to give the illusion that he'll be missed. I don't expect there'll be many there though - it's been a long time since he was in the public eye."
"You might be surprised," Blair said, and moved on as a woman with two young children paused; as he went, he heard her say,
"Will you do them both in the one picture?"
He crossed to Rudi. "I know I'm early - "
"That's okay, I have your panther here. What do you think?" He reached under the counter and produced it.
Blair took it almost reverently. The pose was alert, watchful - this animal was silently waiting, motionless, but with every muscle alert, ready to pounce on something. "Man, it's beautiful. It's perfect. It's exactly what I wanted."
"Good. Yet it was surprisingly easy to do. Sometimes I know what I want to do, but I have a problem getting it even approximately right; this one... the wood just spoke to me, if you know what I mean."
Blair nodded. "I'm an anthropologist; I've spent time with so-called 'primitive' tribes. They sometimes speak about what we call inanimate objects having spirits. I know exactly what you mean."
He paid Rudi and headed for home, the wrapped panther safely in his pocket.
He arrived first, and began to prepare a meal that could be reheated easily when they were actually ready to eat; since he had no idea when Jim would get home. Everything was ready when the door opened and Jim entered.
"Smells good, Chief. You must have arrived home early?"
"Fairly early. I stopped by the exhibition - this is yours." He handed over the wrapped box.
Jim opened it, and paused, mouth open as he saw the panther. "Chief, it's... it's... "
Blair nodded. "He said the wood spoke to him."
He put it on the table beside the wolf. For a split second it seemed almost as if the two animals greeted each other, and then they were just two beautifully carved wooden figures standing together on the table.
"Did you see that?" Jim whispered.
Blair nodded. "They belong, just as we do - and they know it."
They moved into the kitchen area and ate, then while Jim washed the dishes, Blair returned to the couch. He sat and looked down at the table - and drew in a sharp breath.
"Chief?" Concerned, drying his hands as he came, Jim crossed to his guide.
"Look," Blair whispered, and pointed at the table.
It was possible that as they went to the kitchen one of them had bumped into it so that everything on the table had been shifted. It was the only logical explanation.
The carved animals had moved. The panther was now standing with its head poised protectively over the wolf's - the one protective, the other supportive; and together like that, they said clearly that they were the invincible guardians of their territory.