DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Paramount Studios and Pet Fly Productions. These stories are offered for the enjoyment of the fans. No money has exchanged hands.


The Black Widow of Cascade
by
LRH Balzer

.

Act I

It was a beautiful invitation.

He put down his bag of groceries and studied the envelope again, whimsically smiling at his name hand-calligraphied across the top. There was just something about the word "Doctor" before "Blair Sandburg" that always guaranteed his full attention. He didn't get much mail with his anticipated title on it.

His fingers absently traced the embossed latticework bordering the expensive, goldleaf paper. The invitation was inviting him to view an exhibit of rare artifacts from a private collection. Frowning, he glanced at the date of the 'invitation only' event, then quickly at the calendar. Well, that explains why there's no stamp on it. Must have been hand delivered. The viewing was for eight o'clock that evening. However....

Sandburg sighed and tossed the invitation in with the rest of the bills and junk mail he had just brought up from their mailbox. They had a stakeout that night and they were going on duty at eight o'clock. Wasn't that always the way? He put the few groceries away and tossed the rolls of toilet paper under the bathroom sink, then hurried back into the kitchen to grab the phone.

"Hello. Blair Sandburg at your service."

"Really? Great. Could you bring me a sandwich -- no, make that a burger, deluxe, extra ketchup, no lettuce or tomatoes?"

"Ha, ha. Funny, Jim."

"I'm serious, Sandburg. At my service, you said. And a chocolate shake."

"In your dreams. What do you want?"

"I'm just leaving the gym and gotta run a few errands before the stakeout tonight. We have to be there at nine now -- it's been pushed back an hour. I'll swing by and get you around 8:30."

"Really? Hey, 8:30 works great for me. Can you do me a favor? Pick me up at the Museum instead of here. I'll take the bus there; it's a direct route."

"The museum? What museum?"

"The Cascade Museum of the Arts. On Chancellor Boulevard near the University."

"At McBride? The one with the goofy statue out front?"

Sandburg rolled his eyes. Sanchez Romero was an outstanding sculptor, but he had to agree with his partner on this one. Even if he knew the statue was of a horse and rider, he hadn't seen any evidence of it yet. It looked more like a something that Scotty hadn't beamed up right. "Yeah, Jim. The one with the goofy statue out front."

"Sure. I guess. What's there?"

"An exhibit of Central and South American artifacts. I want to check it out."

"Be out front at 8:30."

"No problem. Bye." Sandburg hung up the phone smiling. Ah, the gods are smiling on me.


Cascade Museum of the Arts
Friday
8:00 p.m.

Eyes averted from the unfortunate statue looming to his left, Sandburg was on the steps of the museum, invitation in hand, when the doors to the exhibit opened. First in line, he handed his invitation to the guard, who stared at it and handed it back.

"Aren't you keeping track of the guests?" Sandburg asked.

"No."

"But it says by 'invitation only.'"

The guard glanced at the invitation again and shrugged. "Don't know nothing about invitations. No one else has one."

True enough. Sandburg looked around to the growing crowd behind him, and he did appear to be the only one with an invitation in hand. "Okay, then, uh, have a great day."

"Whatever." The guard turned back to the steady trickle of people entering the museum's special, time-limited exhibit.

Before Sandburg could ponder it further, he caught his first glimpse of the artifacts and crammed the invitation into his pocket. He only had another twenty-five minutes, so he had to make this fast. He grabbed a program and did a quick dash around the room, peering at everything quickly, then zeroed in on a series of small stone statues based on a larger mural shown reproduced on the back of the glassed exhibit. The mural portrayed the various animals worshiped by the pre-Inca Indians of Peru. The dog, it said, was worshiped for its faithfulness and noble character. He found the corresponding statue, one from shortly before the arrival of Manco Capac, the first Inca to come to Peru from Lake Titicaca. The statue was said to have originated in the Puerto Viejo province.

Sandburg moved on quickly. There were a lot of little statues. The cat, it said, was worshiped for its agility. Fox and Monkey were adored for their cunning, Owl for the beauty of his eyes and head, and Bat for his quickness of sight. Lizard. Frog. Condor. His eyes darted from the descriptive mural to each stone statue, in turn, his anticipation growing as he caught a glimpse of the word jaguar. "Bear, Puma, and Jaguar were worshiped for their fierceness."

However, when he looked at the spot where the stone jaguar should be, it was empty.

"No, no, no. This is not happening." Crouching as close to the glass as possible, he looked for it again. "What are the odds of that one being missing?"

"Can I help you?"

Sandburg whirled around, startled at the voice, then stood and stared at the beautiful older woman beside him. She was in her early sixties, wearing a long black gown, an elegant string of pearls around her neck. She was tanned and fit, as though she enjoyed the outdoors as well as fitting into what was obviously a wealthy lifestyle, judging by her clothes. "Oh. Hello. Sorry. Just babbling to myself."

"You seem very intense." She held out her hand to him, her beautifully manicured nails paling beside several rings whose value Sandburg couldn't begin to guess at. "Let me introduce myself. I'm Emily Rothschild."

Sandburg's eyes widened. "The Emily Rothschild who donated these artifacts?" Her name had been on the exhibit brochure he'd picked up at the entrance.

"Donated? In a manner of speaking. I've just made a substantial donation to the Museum of Anthropology, including part of my personal collection of artifacts. These particular statues you're looking at right now will be returned to Peru next Friday. I'm making an attempt to 'do the right thing'." She had a beautiful smile. "Before they're shipped off, the Museum here agreed to do a limited showing of the pieces, for any of the public who were interested."

Sandburg pulled the rumpled invitation from his pocket. "Did you send me this?"

Rothschild nodded, her eyes sparkling. "I did. I thought you'd be interested, considering your studies while you were at Rainier."

"How do you know me?"

"I have always kept tabs on the anthropology and archaeology departments at Rainier University. You've been there for quite a while now."

"True," Sandburg said with a laugh. "Not lately, though."

"I realize that. I had the invitation sent to your home for that very reason."

"I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I only wish I had more time." He glanced at his watch. "I have enjoyed seeing this display, though. Thank you for allowing your collection to be shown. These pieces are in incredible condition, considering their age."

"They've been in private collections for over a hundred years, carefully maintained." She looked at him thoughtfully. "Dr Sandburg, would you like to see the remainder of my collection before it's packed?"

"I'm not a doctor, actually. I'm working on my doctorate degree, but my doctoral thesis isn't finished yet."

"You've done the work, and more, dear. I followed the reports of what happened, and I've spoken with your sponsors. They feel you should have been allowed to submit your original thesis, and they told me you would have already had your doctorate if not for the meddling of that woman, Chancellor Whatever-Her-Name-Is. It was a disgrace to the university the way that was handled. I'm just glad you're back there now."

"Well, thank you for saying so, but I'm not really with the university anymore. I'm not teaching or anything, just working on my doctoral thesis. They agreed I could pick a new topic and redo it. I'm a police officer now, Mrs Rothschild, and I actually start my shift in forty minutes."

"What you do for a living is none of my concern. Your degree was in anthropology, and I'm sure your passion is still rooted to that field." Before he could respond, she continued, "My invitation stands. You are welcome to come to my home for dinner tomorrow evening and see the collection -- including the jaguar statue you seemed to be looking for."

Jim Ellison suddenly appeared at his elbow. "Ready to go?" he asked Sandburg, then smiled warmly at the woman his partner was speaking to.

"You're early. I've got two minutes left." Sandburg turned back to Emily Rothschild. "I would love to accept your invitation for dinner tomorrow night, Ms Rothschild."

"We'll see you at six, then. The address is on the back of your invitation." She looked Ellison up and down. "And bring your friend."

Before Sandburg could say anything, Ellison held out his hand. "Thank you, Ms Rothschild. It'll be an honor. We'll be there at six."


"You know, Jim, sometimes you totally confuse me."

Ellison glanced across the truck to his partner. "It's payback. You always confuse me."

"No, really -- you accepted an invitation to dinner at the Rothschilds? That's just like so out of character for you."

"Why do you say that?"

"Why? Because it's Saturday night tomorrow and there's a Jag's game on and you never like going out on Saturday night, let alone to a formal dinner at a mansion -- have you seen the Rothschild estate? I've seen pictures. It's huge! I mean, it doesn't make any sense why you'd want to go."

"Don't you want me to go?"

"Of course I want you to go. She invited you. I just can't believe you said yes."

"I'm just going for dinner, not marrying her. Relax, Chief." He pulled into a drive-through espresso lane for Mister Bean. "Your usual?"

"Yeah."

Ellison placed their order, then winced as the espresso machine whined and hissed. Sandburg was still staring at him, frowning, so Ellison tried to head him off. "By the way, how do you know Emily Rothschild? She's a little out of your league, isn't she?"

"I don't actually know her. Just met her now. She sent me an invitation to the opening. It said the exhibit was by invitation only, a limited showing, which is why I wanted to go."

"No one asked me for my invitation at the door. There wasn't even a charge; I just walked in."

"I guess they changed their minds after the exhibit was scheduled. Or maybe she just sent me a special invitation, considering the nature of the exhibit."

"Bit of coincidence --"

"She's a wonderful woman, isn't she? She just donated a huge amount of money to the Cascade Museum of Anthropology for research, and has placed a large part of her Aztec and Mayan art collection at the Rainier Anthropology Museum for...."

In light of Sandburg's enthusiasm, and not being able to get a word in anyway, Ellison decided to say nothing.

Yet.

But there was something about Emily Rothschild that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.


Cascade PD
Saturday
1:00 p.m.

"You're going where?" Simon Banks looked up from his desk, incredulous.

"To Emily Rothschild's for dinner tonight." Ellison grinned as he helped himself to a cup of coffee.

"How'd you pull that off?"

"Sandburg knows her. Well, he said he just met her last night, but when I realized who he was speaking with, I made sure I got over to them in time to be invited for dinner."

"Sneaky bastard." Banks shook his head. "Emily Rothschild. What do you know about her?"

"Well, despite Sandburg's new infatuation with her and artifacts, as I recall, she has a rather dubious reputation."

"That's an understatement." Banks pushed his files aside and poured himself a cup of coffee as well. Rothschild was a favorite topic of his. "Emily's marriage to multi-millionaire Paul Rothschild was her second marriage. Her first was to the owner of a large supermarket conglomerate. Both men died within a few years of marrying her. And in the fifteen years since Paul Rothschild's death, she's never remarried, but lives alone with her dozen servants in that huge Rothschild mansion. She's become respected in the community as a humanitarian and a supporter of the arts, but she's never been an accepted part of the upper society circles, probably due to her impoverished background and the mystery surrounding the deaths of both her husbands."

Ellison nodded. "When I realized who Sandburg was speaking to, I remembered you referring to her once as the Black Widow of Cascade, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to check her out."

"Black Widow, is right. Nothing has ever been pinned on her, but her name has shown up on police reports for over twenty years -- including, I might add, on a case here on my desk." Banks looked up suddenly. "Where's your partner? He's not with her alone, is he?"

"He's still sleeping. We were on surveillance from nine o'clock last night until six this morning."

"What are you doing here then?"

"I slept until noon, then woke up and figured I'd come in and talk to you before dinner tonight." Ellison moved his chair closer. "So Rothschild is mentioned in this file? What's the case?"

"A missing person. Eugene Merrell is a senior lawyer and partner in the firm Rothschild employs. He was reported missing by his son and daughter two weeks ago. Merrell was last seen leaving Rothschild's home after a private dinner engagement there. The other couple -- another lawyer and his wife -- together with Rothschild and her staff all claimed the man left the mansion at 10:30 p.m., exiting the driveway before the other lawyer's car. He'd had only two glasses of wine at dinner. He hasn't been heard from or seen since then, and his late model Porsche was discovered the next morning at Cascade International Airport."

"It's not really a Major Crimes case."

"No, it's not. I routinely have Ms Rothschild's name flagged for any cases where she's mentioned. I'm keeping track of it all. Consider it a little hobby of mine. Eventually she'll slip up."

"I'll let you know how it goes." Ellison stood up to leave.

"I'm serious, Jim. Be careful."

"I'll wear my special Spiderman boxer shorts."

"Why am I not reassured?"

Ellison stopped in the doorway. The humor had vanished from his face, his eyes were icy cold. "Then hear this. That woman went out of her way to get Sandburg to the museum last night, then had the one statue Sandburg would want to see conveniently not there. She bumps into him, and presto -- he's over to her place, invited to her lair. I want to know what the Black Widow of Cascade has planned for dinner tonight, sir. And it better not be my partner."


Loft
Saturday
5:15 p.m.

Blair's eyes darted from the clock to the two outfits spread out on his bed.

What can I possibly wear to Ms Rothschild's place? Do I go comfortable-casual? -- She saw me in jeans and an old jacket last night and invited me anyway, so she's not too hung up on appearances.

Jeans just didn't seem appropriate though, for a place like the Rothschild estate. Suit? Or semi-dressy? What if she expects me to wear a tux? I can't run out and rent one now. It's too late.

Besides, Jim would freak if he had to dress up. Maybe jeans would be okay, with his tweed jacket and a black T-shirt. Sort of a "hip professor" look. Or is that look out already? Damn. I'll call Rafe. He'll know what's appropriate. Blair thought about it for a moment and decided the teasing wasn't worth it. He could hear the Harold and Maude jokes already.

This is stupid. I can't believe how nervous I am. You'd think this was my first date, or something.

"Sandburg, we've got to leave in fifteen minutes. You ready yet?" He heard his roommate come down the stairs from his bedroom and go into the kitchen. "We can't keep the lady waiting."

"Almost ready, Jim." Blair eased the door open a crack and took a sneak peak at what his partner had on. His mouth fell open in shock. Mister Don't-Make-Me-Wear-A-Tie was wearing his good navy suit, a crisp white shirt and tie. There was even a white hanky in his breast pocket. Blair chortled and slammed his door shut, hand over his mouth.

"What?" Jim demanded, from the other side of the door.

"I'll be right out." Still laughing, Blair pulled on Plan D, his dark shirt, suit jacket and dark slacks. "You are so weird, Jim."

"I heard that."


After a brief debate over which vehicle to take, they were on route.

"You're bouncing."

"What?"

Jim glanced over to the driver's side of the Corvair. "You're bouncing. You're really excited about this, aren't you?" It was good to see Sandburg displaying his old enthusiasm, although it would have been nicer if it was about something less... "sinister" probably wasn't the right word, but Ellison had long shared his captain's suspicions about Emily Rothschild. "What's the deal with this dinner anyway? She have the hots for younger men?"

"Get off it, Jim. She's just a nice lady. Really in touch with the arts and everything. Did you see the display we were standing in front of at the museum?" At Ellison's negative shake of his head, Sandburg continued, "Well, it was a collection of stone statues of animals -- different animals worshiped by pre-Inca Indians of Peru. They actually worshiped pretty well everything: herbs, flowers, hills, rocks, hollow caves, all kinds of stuff."

"Hollow caves? Aren't all caves hollow?"

"That's what they're called in the texts. Kinda weird. But, yeah, they worshipped caves. The statues in the exhibit were of animals, though. The mural describing everything mentioned a jaguar, but there wasn't one in the exhibit. Ms Rothschild said it was back at her place. She decided not to show it."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. We could ask her."

"I plan on it." Ellison saw the worried look Sandburg tossed his way. "Don't worry. I won't interrogate her." Much.

"Be nice to her."

"I'll be nice to her," he promised, glancing up at the heavy rain clouds. "By the way, I saw the envelope your invitation came in, Doctor Sandburg."

"Yeah. Pretty funny, huh?"

"It was at first. Now I'm not so sure."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Why is she calling you doctor?"

"She said she thought the entire thesis thing was handled poorly, and I should have received my doctorate."

"Why does she know so much about you?"

"Jim, it was on the news, for heaven's sake. A lot of people knew about it. If she gives money to the anthropology department, she was probably really interested in the case, and watched the whole dismal report."

"Why did she send you an invitation? Why only you?"

"How do you know I'm the only one with an invitation? She could have sent a lot of them out."

"Only one was couriered."

Sandburg leaned over and smacked his arm. "I can't believe you checked that. Why would you do that?"

"Better question: why did she send you an invitation?"

"Because she wanted me to come to the exhibit. That's why you send out invitations. So people will come to your showing."

"But why you?"

Sandburg banged his head against the side window slowly, without losing his grip on the wheel. "You're driving me crazy here, Jim. It's no big deal. She must have thought I'd be interested. Maybe she's read one of my papers or something. I've done a paper on the pre-Inca Indians of Bolivia. Maybe she read it and for some reason remembered my name."

"I don't like coincidences."

"Don't make a Federal case over it, Jim. It's just a dinner. Just an artifact."

Thunder rolled ominously. "Correct me if I'm wrong here, Chief, but from where I sit, it looks like Emily Rothschild has lured you to her home, holding back the one piece from the exhibit that would guarantee your acceptance of her invitation to her home."

Sandburg looked at him incredulously, then burst out laughing. "You have seen way too many bad movies, Jim. Don't you pay attention when they say 'Parental Discretion is Advised.' "

Sandburg pulled his car off the winding oceanside road and stopped at the entrance to the driveway of the Rothschild mansion, just as a downpour unleashed.

"Wow. I imagined it would be big, but look at that place." Sandburg's face was plastered against the side window, trying to get a glimpse of the huge residence high up the hill.

With a creak and a groan, the huge ironwork gate swung open, allowing them access. "Step into my parlor," Ellison muttered to himself as they drove in.


Cascade PD
Saturday
5:30 p.m.

It was pouring rain outside, the sky occasionally flashing with lightning.

So why am I still here?

Simon Banks adjusted the lamp and stared at the cleared surface of his desk. His "out" box was full, ready for Rhonda to deal with on Monday morning. He should go home now, make some dinner, watch the Jags game. Relax.

Instead, he absently wiped a fingerprint from the surface of his desk, then flipped open his bottom right drawer. He pulled out several files and spread them over his desk, the storm outside forgotten.

For the next half hour, he pored over the cases, refamiliarizing himself with them, then jotted down some information and the case numbers. Going to the door of his office, he checked to see who was still around at that time of night on a Saturday. "Rafe?"

"Yes, Captain?" The detective stopped halfway out of the Bullpen, his arms laden with files. "Problem?"

"You have a few minutes to spare?"

"I could. I'm just putting in time waiting for Serena to verify some fingerprints Henri and I lifted from that Sony burglary we're working on."

"Can you check these case numbers for me? See if there have been any updates since the dates beside them. I'd like copies of anything new."

"Sure. No problem, sir." Rafe happily dumped his filing in Brown's box. "I'll just leave these for Henri to deal with."

"Have him see me if he has a complaint."

"I'll do that, sir."


Rothschild Estate
6:00 p.m.

A butler opened the door at their knock and ushered them into an elegant side room. Tall windows were framed by heavy drapes. Across the room from the windows, a fireplace blazed, catching the colors in a red and gold Oriental carpet. Several plush dark leather chairs were arranged around the fireplace. The remaining wall space was covered in bookshelves and a circular, black stairway led up to the narrow second floor mezzanine, also floor-to-ceiling in books.

Ellison frowned. It was a man's room. He could picture a man sitting at the large desk in the corner of the room.

The butler motioned them toward the chairs set around the fireplace. "Please have a seat. Madam Rothschild will be with you shortly." He moved over to a side bar. "May I offer you a drink, sir?" he said to Ellison.

"Bourbon is fine. Thank you."

Beside him, Sandburg whispered, "Bourbon? I've never seen you drink bourbon before."

"And you, sir?" the butler asked his partner.

"Red wine, thank you."

Ellison walked to the central window of the library. The view looked out east over the front gardens. It was too low to see above the massive hedges around the property. Any grand vista of the ocean or of Cascade City off to the south was reserved for the upper floors. He listened to the hum of the security system, his eyes finding the thin wires in the window casement.

It has been automatic. He could hear his father's voice ordering a bourbon. He had been in this house before, as a child. He couldn't remember why, but he had stood in this room and looked out this window. His father had had many bourbons before the night was over. His mother hadn't been there. Neither had Stephen. Stephen... had been away at camp. It was summer. He wasn't sure if it was before or after his mother had left, but she hadn't been there that evening.

Everything else was the same. Exactly the same. The smell of the leather and the books. The rich colors of the carpet. The smoothness of the mahogany casement on the window.

The butler brought the stiff drink and Ellison took a small sip, staring over the rim of the glass to his amused partner. Amazing that he was already off-base here. He wasn't sure if the memory meant anything. Thirty years ago, or more, Emily Rothschild wouldn't have lived here. Paul Rothschild had. Paul Rothschild had sat at that desk and done business with his father.

He had no memory of what Paul Rothschild looked like, only the memory of his father slowly getting drunk that night.

"The view is lovely, isn't it?"

He turned, surprised that he hadn't heard her enter. Emily Rothschild was in her early sixties, still a stunningly beautiful woman with a figure a twenty-year-old would envy. Tonight she was wearing an elegant, royal blue, raw silk dress that brushed the tops of her ankles and hugged her curves.

"The view is breathtaking," he agreed, putting his drink down, "but it pales compared to the hostess." Ellison enjoyed Sandburg's openmouthed stare at him as he moved forward to greet Emily Rothschild. "You look lovely."

She took Ellison's offered hands, squeezing them warmly. She smiled as he raised one to her hands to his lips and kissed it gallantly. "You are so kind, Detective Ellison. Please, call me Emily. The dress is one of my favorites, although I rarely have opportunity to wear it. It was designed for me by a late friend of mine, Carlo DePrimo, a designer who died a few years ago from a late-night mugging. The streets are so unsafe to walk at night."

"My first name is Jim, and may I assure you that the Cascade Police has been doing all they can to keep the city safe. In fact, the crime rate for assaults at night has actually gone down over the last few years."

"With you working for the police, Jim, I can't imagine why anyone would feel uneasy."

Ellison could hear his partner behind him, making little gagging noises, then suddenly Sandburg was at his most engaging, greeting Emily as though she were the Queen of England, trying to outdo his own performance.

Ellison's skin was crawling from touching her.

Once the pleasantries were over, Ms Rothschild looked them each over warmly. "I'm thrilled you could both join me for dinner. I don't get company up this way very often." The butler handed her a glass of white wine. "Thank you, Timothy. Gentlemen, why don't we take our drinks from this dreary room and go for a pre-dinner stroll around the botanical gardens? That way, we won't have to go outside in this horrible weather."

"Sounds like a plan. Right, Jim?" Sandburg looked over at him, the intense gaze begging his partner to behave.

Ellison nodded as the butler refilled his drink, then offered his arm to Emily and escorted her through the lead-paned doors.


Act II

Cascade PD
Saturday
6:20 p.m.

Rafe entered with the requested files, and both men jumped as lightning flashed through the room, followed by a loud crack of thunder. Rain began to lash against the windows.

"Wow, that was close. The storm must be right overhead." Rafe went to the window, looking up at the ominous clouds racing across the early evening sky. "I'm going to wait until it ends before I leave. It looks wicked out there." He turned and headed to the bullpen. "Let me know if you need anything else, Captain. I'll be at my desk."

Simon leafed through the updates. "Where's Henri tonight?"

Rafe paused in the doorway. "His wife's father's birthday. Family thing. He said he'd drop by later."

"You're not going to watch the game?"

"It's on the radio. Should start at seven o'clock. I've got a radio at my desk, if you don't mind, Captain."

"No, go ahead. Let me know when it starts, and I'll turn my radio on, too."

Rafe left, and Simon took his files over to the conference table and spread them out. A few minutes later, he brought the white board closer to the table, and started a simple chart listing names, ages, cause of death, etc.


Rothschild Estate
Saturday
6:40 p.m.

Emily Rothschild was a very charming lady.

What was entirely weird was that Jim was being charming, too. What's up with that?

The entire time they were walking through the solarium, Blair felt like a little kid trying to keep up with the grownups. There was only room for two to walk abreast along the path, so he ended up trailing after them. The solarium was well planned, featuring plants of the Pacific Northwest. It would take a full-time gardener to take care of it, plus the other solarium he could see next to it.

He couldn't hear what they were talking about. Something about roses and soil. Acid content? Light meters? Just as well he couldn't hear; he wouldn't have been able to add anything to the conversation.

A subtle chime of bells signaled dinner was ready. Emily led them into a monstrous dining room with a table that was easily thirty-one feet long and could sit thirty or more guests comfortably. Their place settings were at one end if it. Rothschild sat at the head of the table, and Blair found himself across the table from his partner. Another fireplace cheerily crackled behind her. The dining room looked old, but well-maintained. Three monstrous chandeliers hung over the table. The mahogany paneling gleamed. There was mother-of-pearl inlaid about the window as well as the open doors leading to yet another solarium off the dining room.

"The chandeliers are beautiful. They look like Waterford," Jim said.

"You have a good eye, Detective. They are Waterford crystal and were made in Ireland more than 200 years ago."

Jim, you're scaring me here. Blair forgot sometimes that his partner had had a vastly different childhood than he'd experienced. Certain manners and customs seemed to come naturally to Jim, but were more the result of years of formal dinners, country clubs, and receptions. He could imagine that William Ellison would have made certain that his sons didn't disgrace him at any of those events.

"Do you entertain often?" Ellison gestured down the extended table.

"There's certainly room, isn't there?" she laughed. "Next Saturday afternoon, I'm hosting a luncheon here for the Horticultural Society of Cascade. Yesterday, Timothy had the table extended in preparation. He feels the table leaves need time to settle, or they'll creak. I find it's a huge expense to maintain antiques, but there's nothing more appalling than seeing a piece of furniture destroyed forever from neglect." Emily turned to Sandburg. "I have been wanting to redo the southern sitting room. It's closed right now. We finally had to retire some of the French pieces we had in it. I donated them to a furniture museum back east. I thought of you the other day when I saw the etched glass window you'd had installed in your former office at Rainier. An exquisite piece. I've become interested in Native American art as a result. Do you know of anyone I could contact about adding local art to my collection?"

"Current art or historical?"

"Historical. I prefer older pieces that fit better with the theme of the estate."

"I'll ask around. I can't think of anyone offhand," Blair said. "I know some local artists, but they specialize in silver jewelry."

"It's more the furniture I'd be interested in."

"I'll see what I can find," he said.

She turned back to the detective. "How is your father these days? William, isn't it?"

"Yes. He's fine, thank you. He's retired, but still manages to go in to his office every day."

"Paul was like that, too. Even when he was supposed to be relaxing, he'd often have men up for a game of golf on his mini-course in the back of the house. He said more business deals were done on the golf course than in the executive offices."

"True." Ellison raised his glass in toast. "To our lovely hostess. Thank you ."

"Thank you," Blair echoed. "This is all very impressive."

"It's my pleasure." She turned to Blair. "You find me a source for Native American goods and I'll be forever in your debt."

The first course arrived, steaming soup that tasted as good as it looked. As the dinner progressed, Blair kept glancing over at his partner from the corner of his eye, monitoring which spoon or fork he was supposed to pick up next and which plate he was supposed to put his bread on. Jim knew all that, too, it seemed.

Emily seemed captivated with his partner. She had read the same books as Jim, she turned out to know Jim's favorite professor from when he went to college, and she even told a funny story about Jim's father at a civic library meeting the previous year.

Not that Blair was ignored for a moment; Emily made sure to include him, dropping subjects into the conversation for him to contribute to. The perfect hostess. Despite their dinner served in a very elaborate setting, Blair noticed she still managed to keep them at ease and relaxed in her company.

Finally, when the main course was placed before them -- roast lamb with mint sauce and a beautiful array of roasted potatoes and vegetables -- Jim took his wine glass, swirling the rich ruby liquid before taking another sip. "Emily, tell me about this artifact that my friend here is so anxious to see. I spent some time in Peru, so I'm obviously interested in your decision to return the statues there."

That grabbed Blair's attention. Way to go, Jim. Sneaky way of wording it.

"Oh, I accessed the black market." Emily smiled at the sudden silence at the table as she dipped a piece of lamb into the rich sauce. "Well, it's true. I found out about the artifacts being for sale and made some inquiries. I contacted a black-market thief who admitted he had acquired them from another private collection. I feared they would never be returned to the people of Peru, their true owners, so I made the decision to take a loss and buy them rather than risk them disappearing forever from the public eye."

"Why not contact the police about it?" Jim asked, looking at his wine glass.

"The artifacts would have disappeared immediately had I done that. These people are professionals, Jim. I'm sure you're aware of their methods of operation."

The detective sighed and nodded. "Still, buying on the market is illegal --"

Blair cut in. "Not if she gives the artifacts back to who they belong to, right? That's righting a wrong."

"It doesn't quite work like that, Sandburg. But I'm sure it's been taken into account."

"I've had my lawyers set everything up with the Peruvian government. The National Anthropological and Archaeological Museum curators in Lima are thrilled to get the artifacts back, and in such excellent condition."

"There. See, Jim?"

Talk turned to other matters as they continued to eat their main course. As Timothy cleared their plates, Emily leaned forward and spoke quietly to Jim across the table from her. "I can give you the phone number the black market gave me to contact them. I tried it recently and it is no longer in service, but perhaps you can do a trace or something with it."

"Thank you. Every bit of information we can get helps. If you think of any names, locations, we can use, please let us know." Jim took a business card from his wallet and placed it on the table. "My card, if you wish to contact me at the precinct."

"I'll get you that telephone number. Now, would you gentlemen like a hot drink? Timothy makes a wonderful Monte Cristo, or perhaps an Irish Coffee?"


Cascade PD
Saturday
8:00 p.m.

Simon stared at the white board set up in his office. Still no pattern was emerging. He needed more information.

He needed more coffee.

It was time for espresso.

He went to the open door of his office, looking across the darkened bullpen to Rafe's desk, the desk lamp still burning. "Rafe? Want an espresso?"

"You're a life saver, Captain. I just got the report back from Serena and I was debating how I could get the energy to enter it into the computer."

"Leave it for Henri to do. I'll make the espressos, if you get me any unsolved open or closed files of businessmen who have disappeared in Cascade over the last fifteen years, and any men who died of suspicious causes during that time."

Rafe blinked, then gave a short laugh. "Anything else?"

"Yes, actually, any unsolved murder cases involving single men in the same time period."

"That's a tall order, sir. It's going to take awhile, even if I get someone in records to help."

"You're right. It's going to take an hour or so. We might as well have our espressos first. If you want a latte, bring me the milk from the Break Room. We can take fifteen minutes and watch the beginning of the second quarter of the Jag's game."

"I'll be right back. Regular or 2%?"

"Regular."


Rothschild Estate
Saturday
8:30 p.m.

Dessert was apple pie with brandied whipped cream and the best vanilla ice cream Ellison had tasted in a long while. He suspected it was home made. He could make out the individual bits of vanilla bean seeds in the frozen dessert.

Timothy brought them their coffees in yet another solarium, this one just off the dining room. Blair was obviously anxious to see the antiquities she had described, but smiled good-naturedly and sipped at his Irish Coffee. The glass roof echoed with the sound of rain, still falling heavily. Low lights cut through the foliage, casting shadows and catching flashes of color from the jungle flowers.

"I smell Cattleya violacea," he murmured.

"You have a good nose, Jim. It's an unusual flower. Where did you hear of it?"

They paused in front of a beautiful pinkish -violet orchid. Ellison reached out with one fingertip and touched the petals. "I lived in Peru for eighteen months. It grew wild in the area I was in."

"And you knew the Latin name for it?"

"I looked it up when I got back. There were several Cattleya orchids that I remembered. Cattleya rex --"

"I have some over here." She pulled him by the hand over to some large orchids with creamy white petals and sepals, and a red and yellow labelo.

"Yes." He smiled, remembering his first scent of one in the jungle. Incacha had followed him for ten minutes as he had tried to track it down. When he found it, he ended up sneezing for almost half an hour, managing to get pollen up his nose. Another scent caught his attention now. "Brassia longissima."

"My favorite." They walked farther through the jungle solarium, then stopped before it.

The Spider Orchid, Jim thought. Figures. The petals were very long and thin, giving the flower a spider-like appearance. The Black Widow likes Spider Orchids. Simon will love this.

"Why were you in Peru?" Emily asked.

"I was stationed there."

"His helicopter crashed and it took a year and a half for anyone to find him," Blair added.

"That must have been a harrowing experience for you."

Ellison nodded, then noticed again that Sandburg was getting antsy, his eyes roaming longingly back to the exit, one foot absently vibrating.

"It'll wait for you, Chief." Ellison laughed. "He's anxious to see the statue," he added in explanation to Emily.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Blair. Here we've been talking about flowers while you've been patiently waiting. Let me finish my coffee -- it's getting cold already, we've been chatting so much -- then I'll take you there."

"Oh, no rush --"

"Rubbish, dear. I know you want to see my beautiful statue. But first, Jim, where ever did you get the name 'Chief' for him?"

"It used to be a 'tick' of mine. I called everyone 'chief'. But when this guy came along, the nickname stuck, so I keep it just for him, right, Chief?"

"Right, Jim. Actually, Emily, it's better than some of his other goofy nicknames for me."

"Such as?"

"Oh, Darwin, Junior, Guppy, Sparky." Blair stopped the moment her empty cup touched the saucer. "Okay, you're done. At the risk of sounding totally rude, can I see the statue now? Please, please, please." His face crinkled into a look Jim couldn't begin to describe as anything but "puppy dog pleading."

Emily laughed and stood. "Right this way, Doctor Sandburg."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you." Blair popped out of his seat, gesturing for Jim to get up quickly. If Emily Rothschild wanted to call him "doctor" he wasn't going to argue. Not if he could see the artifact.


Cascade PD
Saturday
9:15 p.m.

The fourth quarter was just beginning when Rafe returned to Simon's office with Henri in tow, both men laden with files.

"I found him at the elevator on my way down to records, so between us, we've got about 50 files here."

"You onto something, Cap?" Henri asked, dumping his load on one of the chairs.

"I might be. Do you have time to help?"

"Sure. Why not? Beats what I was going to do." Brown smiled and gestured to the muted television. "What's the score?"

"Jags behind by two. But there's still another quarter," Simon added. "I'll leave it on low while we work. We can catch the replays if anything happens."

"Works for me. What are we looking for?" Henri plopped into another chair and grabbed the top file.

"I want to add to this board any unsolved cases of involving men in Cascade. I'll list ages, occupations, status, and if they are missing or murdered or died by unusual circumstances."

Rafe nodded. "How about if Henri and I flip through these and feed you the information, while you write it down. It'll go faster that way."

"Get comfortable, gentlemen. We have a long evening ahead of us."


Rothschild Estate
Saturday
9:20 p.m.

The room was absolutely empty, except for the statue. The walls and floor were a dark slate gray, the windows covered in dark blinds the same color. The room was dim, lit only by several pot lights in the ceiling, their beams of light trained on the lone statue set on a pedestal in the center of the room. The shadows seemed to make the statue come alive. Carved etchings and hieroglyphics covered its base, the stylized stone jaguar appearing ready to roar and pounce.

Even Ellison was impressed with the display and the powerful lines in the ancient sculpture. He watched as Sandburg approached it reverently, circling around it several times before stopping at the front.

Ellison's attention shifted to Emily Rothschild. There was almost a hunger in the way she was looking at his partner, her full attention on him, cataloguing each move he made.

As if she felt him watching her, she smiled at Sandburg, the harsh gaze changing to a softer indulgent look. "Do you like it, dear?" she asked.

Keep your paws off him, lady.

"I'd like to draw it, if I could." Sandburg's voice broke, testament to the feelings so apparent on his face. "My backpack is by the door. I'll just pop back and get it."

"Tonight, is for viewing only. For relaxing," Emily said, firmly. "Tomorrow you may come back and spend the day with it. Draw it, take pictures of it, doing rubbings or whatever else you want. Tonight, though, enjoy it. I have other artifacts in my display room downstairs. We'll tour around and see everything. Tomorrow, you can concentrate on this one statue. Tonight, you're mine." She looked Sandburg over again, then turned to Ellison. "My guests."


Cascade PD
Saturday
10:30 p.m.

The storm had ended. A single bulb in Banks' office lit the white board, casting shadows through the venetian blinds to stripe the darkened bullpen. Major Crimes was now closed for the night, and Simon was alone again. The game was over, and his two men had left for the evening.

"Damn it. There's a pattern here somewhere. There's got to be some reason..."

He stared again at the names, the dates, in the long list of men missing through the years, or unsolved murder or suspicious death cases.

"You're tied up with some of these, Rothschild. I just have to find the connection."

Ignoring the rules, he lit a cigar and sat at his desk, staring across the room at the board.


Rothchild Estate
Saturday
11:20 p.m.

It was close to eleven-thirty before they left. Timothy had a brief word with Emily that a flashing light on the security panel near the front entrance was indicating a window was open when it was clearly shut.

Emily glared at the light. "There's been a problem with this security system for some time now, and I'm ready to replace it. Jim, would you mind coming back tomorrow and taking a look at it for me? I'd love your opinion on what I'm considering buying."

"You'd be better off bringing in someone from a reputable security firm. There are several good ones in the city; I can check and see which one my father uses, or if he has any suggestions. I'd be happy to look at it for you, Emily, but I'm not a home-security expert."

"But you are a police officer, and I'd like to hear your suggestions. I'll try to find that phone number for the black-market group for you, as well -- if it can be of any help."

"Thank you. I still wish you would have called the police at the time, rather than getting involved in illegal purchases."

"If I had done that, then the exhibit never would have happened, and the people of Peru would never have seen a valuable piece of their history."

The rain had stopped, the air was fresh and clean as they exited the mansion and walked toward the Corvair. Ellison stopped and looked at several expensive cars belonging to Rothschild. One was an antique early model Ford, one an Italian racing car, a classic Rolls Royce, a sporty convertible, and a stretch limousine. He half-expected to see a sleek BMW or a Merecedes Benz among her collection, but looking at the ten-car garage off to one side, there was still a possibility she owned one of those, as well.

Sandburg's Corvair looked somewhat bedraggled beside her cars. Time for a good wax job and some detailing for both the Corvair and his truck. Maybe tomorrow morning.

Sandburg took Emily's hand. "Thank you so much for dinner and the evening. I apologize for being so anxious to see the statue. I had a lovely evening."

"You'll enjoy taking time tomorrow to do your research right, Blair. Sometimes it's nice to do as Paul liked and mix business and pleasure, but I find myself more focused if I can stick to one or the other."

"I'll try to find that Native American information you wanted."

"Forget I asked, dear. Anything close to what I'm looking for is probably unavailable, or else it should be in a museum for everyone to share."

"That's probably true."

"I've already decided to go with a different theme. It was just an idea. Blair, you're a lovely young man, and I mean it when I say that you should continue your anthropological pursuits and get that doctorate. I've read some of your papers; you're a true scholar."

"Thank you. I enjoy what I'm doing right now, though, working as a police officer, as Jim's partner. It's the right choice for me. Down the road, I might return to my studies -- I'm not writing that off -- but it's just not that important to me right now. My job as a police officer is something I feel very good about."

"Then you need to be where you shine."

"Come on, Sunshine," Jim put in. "Time to hit the road. Emily, thanks for everything. The food and drink were marvelous, your home is spectacular, and your company was a pleasure." He held out his hand to her, then allowed her to kiss his cheek, as he returned the embrace. "I'll pop by tomorrow and take a look at your security system. Are you okay for tonight?"

"Yes, thank you. Timothy has it working again."

They got in the Corvair and headed down the long, winding road to the front gate, which again creaked open as they approached.

"See, Jim. You were acting so suspicious of her on the way here. She's just a nice, old, rich lady."

Ellison shrugged. Something was wrong. He didn't trust her for one moment, but he had nothing to hang that on. "Just be careful, Sandburg. She deliberately worked everything to get you to her house, then worked everything so you have to come back again tomorrow. She wants something from you."

His spidey-sense was tingling. He had watched her as she watched his partner looking at the statue, and had wanted to arrest her on the spot -- or at least challenge her.

"Just be careful, okay."

"Okay. Okay. I'll be careful. There. Satisfied?" Sandburg shifted topics, idly speculating on the jaguar statue's origins as they drove back to the loft


Rothschild Estate
Sunday
12:00 a.m.

Emily Rothschild sat at her desk in her private office, humming as she cut out the cover of a magazine. The clock chimed midnight, and she glanced over at it, waiting for it to stop before she continued.

She resumed her off-key humming, and placed the picture face down onto a mat, taped it, then slipped the mat into a frame, securing the four corners. She turned the picture over and smiled down at it.

From her archives she had found the magazine cover she had remembered while they were speaking. Ellison. Captain James Ellison. That's where she had seen him before. On the cover of "News" magazine. Beyond the Call: G.I. Survives Jungle Ordeal." He was gorgeous, besides. The returning soldier. The strong crusader for justice.

"You'll do perfectly."


Act III

Cascade PD
Sunday
11:00 a.m.

Ellison hung up his jacket and headed straight to Banks' office. "You called, Simon? What's up?"

"First, how did your dinner go?"

Ellison sat across from him. "Hard to say. She appears to be nothing more than a wealthy socialite. Knows all the right things to say. But she makes me nervous, the way she watches Sandburg."

"You think she's interested in him?"

"She went to a lot of work to get him to her place. Now he's going there again today, to look at the statue."

"I thought that was why you went over last night."

"She worked it out so he just saw it briefly last night. She said she didn't want to mix business with pleasure." Ellison gestured toward the white board. "What's all this?"

"I pulled a few cold cases out, just to see if there are any tie-ins."

"To Rothschild?"

"Exactly."

"What's your interest in her? Is there a personal angle?"

"There is. I met Emily Rothschild a few years ago. It was at a 50th birthday party of a cousin of Joan's, Owen Frankwell, a prominent physician in Cascade, and Rothschild hosted the event at her estate. Owen had gone to work each day the week following the party, but no one knew what he had done during the evenings. He had hinted to his receptionist that he was seeing someone, but no names were mentioned. Owen's body was found a week later in the swimming pool of his apartment building; he appeared to have drowned from a seizure while swimming alone. He never swam alone; it was a hard and fast rule of his, since there was a family history of seizures."

"Do you think he was dating Emily Rothschild?"

"She was questioned at the time, but claimed not to have seen him since the party."

"And you didn't believe her?"

"No. But there was nothing I could do about it. There was no evidence to link the murder to Rothschild."

"How did she know him? Why host his birthday party?"

"He was her doctor."

"Did either of them have dates for the party?"

"No. There were several other single people there. There's never been any indication Rothschild has dated since the death of her last husband."

Ellison picked up a picture of Joan's cousin, Owen, as Simon was talking. Another picture, with the name below, caught his eyes. "Carlo DePrimo? Rothschild mentioned him last night. Said he designed the dress she was wearing."

"Bingo." Banks jumped up and moved the file from one pile to another. "There's another tie-in." He went to the white board and added Carlo DePrimo's name to the list filling in the blanks and adding that he was Rothschild's dress designer. "I've got six files now that have some sort of connection to her. But I can't find anything in common with the men. They are all from very different backgrounds. Two vanished without a trace. Two were found murdered, with no clues as to who did it or why. Two, Joan's cousin included, were found dead under suspicious causes."

"Do you want me to look into this? I've got a couple of cases on the go --"

"No. Just keep your eyes open. Enjoy your day off. I just wanted to bring you up-to-date on what I was working on with this, in case you see something that might tie-in."

"I appreciate it, sir." Ellison stopped by his desk to check his email and see if some information he had requested had come in yet. One thing led to another, and almost two hours had gone by before he phoned home to see if Sandburg was back from the library. His partner had taken off first thing, wanting to do some research before working on the statue.

Sandburg's voice came on the answering machine. "Hey, Jim. It's me. It's noon and I'm just heading over to the Rothschild mansion now. A friend of mine will drop me off there on his way north. Whenever you want to come by and get me, I'll be there, okay?"

Ellison hung up the phone and grimaced. He hadn't planned on going to the Rothschild estate so soon, but he really didn't like the idea of leaving Sandburg there alone. Not with so many questions about their hostess.


Rothschild Estate
Sunday
2:00 p.m.

The detective made the drive up the coastal highway to the Rothschild estate in twenty-five minutes. Timothy met him at the front entrance, solemnly escorting him through the myriad of corridors until he arrived at the back-corner of the mansion where his partner worked.

Sandburg was alone in the room, sitting cross-legged in front of the statue, open notebook in his lap, as he sketched the symbols written on the base of the statue. He didn't seem aware that Ellison was there.

"Jim."

He'd heard her coming this time, but waited for her to touch his arm before acknowledging her.

She was more casually dressed today, a cashmere sweater, a string of pearls, and tailored wool pants. "I admire his concentration," she said softly, next to him in the doorway. "He's hardly moved since he sat down."

"He doesn't have much time these days to indulge in his studies."

"He should. Make sure he gets that doctorate. I think you have a lot to do with how he spends his time."

"He has my full support."

"Good. Now, I think I'll get him a magnifying glass. It will help with the smaller letters." Rothschild excused herself and left.

Ellison listened to her walk away, then turned and followed her. His intent had been to ask about her security system, but from the end of the northern hallway, he saw her apparently step through the wall. As he approached, it was clear there was no door in that area. Turning up his hearing, he followed the sound to her location, and after a brief search, found the hidden catch in the wall. Realizing he was probably being watched or filmed by the security system, he went past it, pretending to check the security instead. He made two passes down the back corridor, checking doors and windows, while managing to focus his hearing on her activities. There was a room, probably a good sized one from the echo. From the creaking of a chair and the sound of drawers opening and closing, she seemed to be sitting at a desk, humming, cutting paper with a pair of scissors.

He circled around the area to get his bearings, then found the room that housed the security system. The butler was letting in a delivery truck at the front gate, and Ellison watched the monitors as the truck cleared the entrance, and the controls activiated to shut the ironwork gate after it.

"Hello, Timothy. Does the system advise you only when a vehicle turns onto the property?"

The elderly man seemed nervous about being questioned. "Yes, Detective. It sends a signal through my pager, and I come here. Unless, of course, we are expecting someone, and Madam has me monitor the entrance so the guests do not have to wait."

"Are you the only one who handles the security?"

"No, sir. There are several of us trained to let vehicles onto the property."

"What about the problems with the security that Mrs Rothschild mentioned to me? Are you familiar with them?"

"No, sir." Timothy stood abruptly. "I'm unable to help you further, sir. Perhaps I could get you some tea?"

Ellison started to refuse, then decided a cup of tea would be good about now. He watched Timothy hurry down the corridor, then took the opportunity to check out a map on the wall, blueprints to the house.

After Timothy returned with his tea, then left again, Ellison checked out the hidden area, but the map seemed to ignore about a fifteen foot strip of the house. The sitting room wall was shown to border the north hallway. Ellison casually went in the room and paced it off, his teacup in hand, then returned via the hallway to the room Sandburg was in. If his calculations were correct, the map wasn't entirely correct. The sitting room was only twenty feet deep, not the thirty-five feet shown on the map.

He put his teacup down on a serving table outside the artifact viewing room. Sandburg was standing already, talking with Emily, his backpack over one shoulder.

"Hey, Jim. You just get here?"

"I've been here awhile. Just looking at the security."

"Thank you so much, Detective. Your suggestions will be helpful."

"Ready to go, Sandburg?"

"Yes." Sandburg turned to Rothschild. "My thanks again. This has been wonderful. I rarely get the time to study one particular statue. Especially a jaguar motif."

"I hope your pictures turn out."

"I took a whole roll of film on it."

She beamed at the young man, and Ellison felt a growl roll in his throat as she continued, "Blair, I have something to show you. I was saving it."

Dear Lord. Now what? Ellison tried to keep his impatience under control. He had figured she would try something else.

"I've unpacked an artifact I'm sure you'd love to see."

Sandburg's eyes lit up, on cue. "Really?"

"Uh, we have to get going, Sandburg. Simon called us in to work this evening. Case happening."

"Oh." Disappointment was quickly covered with a laugh. "That's life in the fast lane, Ms Rothschild."

"Do you have time just for a quick look at it? I'll be packing the statue tomorrow night."

Sandburg glanced his way hopefully, and Ellison shrugged. "Sure, we've got a few minutes." He waved them both ahead of him.

"Thanks, Jim. I'll be quick."

Ellison trailed them down the hall, listening to the excited banter as Emily told his partner how she had 'stumbled' across this piece at one of the black market auctions. She wanted him to look at it as she wasn't sure what era it was from. She led them downstairs into the viewing room she had shown them the day before, but now there was a new exhibit in the central stage already set up.

"Oh, my God." Sandburg was shaking he was so excited, swallowing nervously. This statue definitely fell in the Sentinel/jaguar mythology, and completely hooked Sandburg. It was a jaguar/man statue, as if one was morphing into the other. "It's early Inca, I believe. But this is incredible. When are you sending it away?"

"I'm packing it tomorrow night and we're shipping them off first thing the next morning."

"Jim, I've got to spend some time cataloguing this. Please, is there any way I can take some time off tomorrow and do this?"

No. She's planning on killing you, and I can't allow that. The words stuck in his throat, of course, and he nodded.

Sandburg whirled to face her. "Tomorrow, around noon? Is that okay? I won't be able to stay long because we've been working afternoons, but I'd love to have the chance to give this a good look."

"I'm just so thrilled that you are finding this all helpful, dear. Anything I can do to help a Rainier student."

"We have to get going, Chief," Ellison said, pointedly. "We have an appointment that we can't be late for."

They were met at the front door by Timothy, who had their coats ready for them. Ellison noted the butler didn't make eye contact with them, there was a faint bead of perspiration on his upper lip, and his heart rate was a little too rapid.


"So what's the big meeting?" Blair asked, buckling his seatbelt.

"I told Simon we'd drop by tonight. There's another Jag's game on at seven."

"A Jag's game!!" Blair stared at his partner as though he'd grown a second head. "Are you nuts? I could be studying that incredible statue, and we have to leave because of a basketball game that's not even on for another three hours?"

"You like basketball." Ellison was staring straight ahead, jaw clenched.

"I love basketball, but that's beside the point. Why'd you tell her we had a big meeting?"

"Because I wanted you out of there."

"Why?"

"Because it's not safe."

Blair snorted. "Yeah, like what's she going to do? Hit me with her purse?"

"She's not what she seems --"

Blair cut him off. "Oh, please don't start on the manipulation theory again. I'm there because I want to be there."

"Then why didn't she show you that last statue yesterday? Or when you arrived today? Why string you along like that?"

"She wasn't stringing me along. I mentioned to her that I was interested in jaguar motifs, and she remembered a statue she had just unpacked."

"It was already set up on display."

"So what, man? Big deal." Blair turned and looked out the side window, as they cleared the entrance to the Rothschild property. "I can't believe you, sometimes."

"Listen, I followed her today. She spent some time in a hidden room. I couldn't tell what she was doing, but the room doesn't show up on the map of the house."

"It's an old house. All old houses like this have hidden rooms and corridors."

They travelled a quarter mile in silence before Jim tried again. "I've been talking with Simon about this --"

"Great. Drag him into your paranoia."

"He agrees. She's dangerous. He's been watching her for years."

"Why?"

"Her name seems to be involved with a lot murders and missing people."

"It seems to be? Has she ever been charged?"

"No. Circumstantial evidence."

"Must have been pretty flimsy then. Maybe she's just unlucky with her friends." He stared at the gray ocean, the incoming tide crashing against the rocks along the coastal highway. "I think she's lonely."

"Sandburg, you are not going to visit her place alone. There's no way I want you to be another statistic."

"I'm not a little kid. How the hell are you going to forbid me from seeing a nice elderly lady?"

"She's not a nice elderly lady. And if you have to visit her tomorrow, I'm going with you. And I'm going with you every time you want to visit her, if it means canceling work, canceling dates, canceling appointments. She's dangerous. How do I get that through your head?"

Sandburg bit back his retort. He'd rarely seen Jim so upset about something like this. What if his partner was right? Maybe he was letting himself be blinded by seeing only what he wanted to see -- a nice woman who was interested in anthropology and archaeology as a hobby and had the money to track down artifacts. The weird part was, he didn't remember seeing her name around Rainier before. Why had she just contacted him now, and not years ago? How long had she had these artifacts anyway?

There seemed to be a lot of questions he didn't have answers for yet. "You're serious, Jim?"

"I'm damned serious. So is Simon."

Sandburg nodded finally. "Okay. For now. If I visit her, I see her with you."

Ellison's cell phone rang and he answered it. "Ellison... Yeah, Simon, he's with me. Why?... Where?... Okay, you're right. That's not far from where we are... About a mile... Sure... Bye."

"What's up?"

"Brown and Rafe are at the scene of a crime, and Simon wants us to investigate."

"Any other details?"

"A body was found washed up on shore at North Cascade Beach."

"Swell." Blair grimaced, a shiver running up his spine. Bodies washed ashore were gross; there was no other way to put it.

Three minutes later, Jim pulled into the beach parking lot. "They're at the water line."

"Tarp?"

"Already over the body."

"Let's go then," Sandburg said with forced grin. It was starting to rain, so he pulled his rain slicker out from behind the seat, tossing Jim's to him.

"Hey, Jim, Hairboy." Henri came across the damp sand to meet them. "What are you doing in the neighborhood?"

"We were up at the Rothschild estate --" Blair began, then dropped it at Henri's rolled eyes. "What?"

"What's with that chick? She's got her fingerprints all over everything these days."

"What's that supposed to mean, H?"

"Our dead body. ID in the wallet says he's Eugene Merrell."

"Who's that?"

Ellison groaned. "A missing person called in two weeks ago. He was Emily Rothschild's lawyer, last seen leaving a party at her home."

"That doesn't mean anything. He was leaving the party," Sandburg whispered, but his partner was already striding across the sand to the crowd gathered there. "Doesn't mean she killed him or had anything to do with it."

Ellison stopped, turned around and stared at him, then continued toward the body.


Cascade PD
Sunday
6:00 p.m.

Simon Banks added Merrell's name to the list. "That's it. Another firm match."

Ellison glanced to his rather silent partner, sitting in one of the chairs in front of Simon's desk. Sandburg had been noticeably quiet on the way back to the police station, and although they had showed him all the photos and the cases, he had made no comment in response to their discussion thus far.

Sandburg cleared his throat now, though, quietly asking, "What's the tie-in with Emily Rothschild on all these cases?"

Simon joined them at his desk. "Nothing concrete. It's all speculation."

"What do you know about her? Her history?"

"Not much. She's pretty closed on the subject. We know she was born on a farm near a small town in northeastern Washington. Mother died when she was a child. They moved to Seattle when she was eight, then up to Cascade when she was fourteen. Social services lost track of the family then. She married Daniel Peters when she was twenty."

"She's had some rough breaks in her life," Sandburg said, still speaking softly. "She was on her own since her father died when she was fifteen. She had to work hard to make enough money to allow herself to finish high school, and while she was in first year university, she was working as a clerk in a department store, when she met the owner and they fell in love."

"She told you that?"

"Yeah. We had tea before I started today. She said it's why she supports Rainier University, because of how hard she had to work to go there."

"We basically had that information already."

"Just because she knows people who died, doesn't mean that she's a murderer."

"No, it doesn't, son. But after awhile, when people keep dying, we've got to investigate."

"Which is why you call her a Black Widow."

"Both her husbands died under suspicious circumstances, Sandburg." Simon looked over to Ellison, wanting to change the topic. "What did you get at the crime scene on Merrell?"

Ellison reached into his pocket to get his notepad and he found an envelope. He pulled it out by the corner of the envelope, showing it to Banks and Sandburg.

"From the look on your face, I take it you didn't put that there," Banks said.

"I didn't notice it earlier." He put on some latex gloves, then slit open the envelope; a key and a distinctive gold button fell into his hand.

"A key?" Sandburg asked. "To what?"

"And a note." He read it out loud. "This is the master key to the Rothschild mansion. Mrs Rothschild will be at a charity event this evening, and most of the staff has the night off. I will be retiring early. The security system will malfunction between 8 and 10 pm."

"What's the button about?" Simon asked.

"I suspect this button matches Merrell's jacket. There was a button missing."

"So maybe the butler did it." Sandburg stared back at them. "Okay, it was a joke."

"The butler, as well as the other staff members, will all be questioned about this. We're not on a crucade against Emily Rothschild, Sandburg. We want to find out the truth about this." Banks looked across to Ellison. "So what are you going to do?"

Jim shrugged. "Pay the Rothschild estate a visit, I guess."

"The note isn't enough for a warrant. If you go there, you'll be trespassing, and I don't want to know about it."

"If we get caught, I'll just say I was checking on her security system."

"Sounds a little flimsy."

Ellison shrugged, then looked over at his partner. "How are you doing? You going to come with me?"

"Yeah. I'm there. Just to prove you wrong, if nothing else."


Rothschild Estate
Sunday
8:45 p.m.

The two men slipped through the open gate and slowly made their way up the hill to the darkened mansion. Nasty looking clouds hid the moon. Other than the front lights, the entire place looked shut down. Sandburg shivered again. It look haunted, but that was probably just his imagination. He really didn't know what to think about the whole situation. His track record with women of any age was reportedly poor. She really seemed like a nice lady though.

"The limo is missing. She must have taken it to the charity event." Ellison took the key out, then went in the front door. Inside, they could hear no alarms sounding, and the security panel just inside the entrance continued to flag an 'all clear'. Jim went to the security room around the corner, and they could see where some of the switches had been pushed into the 'off' position. "We can't open any windows or go into the solariums. The entire third floor is off limits, as well."

"What's there?" Visions of torture rooms and other creepy stuff flashed through Sandburg's head as lightning flashed outside.

"Servant quarters." Ellison headed out, down the hall. Thunder roared ominously.

They searched the house quickly, doing a circuit of each room. "What are you looking for?" Blair asked, peering out the top floor bedroom window at the distant skyline view of downtown Cascade at night.

"I don't know. Just getting my bearings."

"Casing the joint?"

"No, looking for evidence."

"But you haven't found anything yet, right?"

"Not yet."

"See that proves --"

Ellison turned around and put his finger up to his lips. "Look now, talk later, Chief. We're on a time limit here."

"Okay." They headed back to the first floor. "So where else are we going to check? We've already done this floor. We done yet?" Blair asked, then followed Jim closely until he stopped suddenly. Blair plowed into his partner's back, then teetered, struggling to get his balance. Jim stood in front of a panel that looked no different from any of the other panels. "What's this? The secret entrance to her lair?"

"Exactly," Jim whispered back, and tripped a catch. The panel slid aside, revealing an entrance to an office.

More thunder.

"Cool." They entered quickly, and Sandburg hit the light switch as the door slid shut behind them. "Do we know how to get out of here?"

Ellison nodded, then triggered the release and the door opened.

"Good." Blair had more visions of their skeletons being found in the room when the place was demolished in another hundred years.

"I'm going to check her desk. Look around."

Sandburg nodded. There really wasn't much else in the office besides the huge desk and some framed photographs on the wall, one mounted in the center of each panel, almost circling the room. Each photo had a plaque beneath it and a display lamp above it.

He stopped at the first one. "This is her father."

"How do you know that?" Ellison asked, glancing up.

"There's another picture of him in the hallway outside. She told me. She's got a little brass plaque below his photo here that says "Poor Man" on it. That's kinda a sad commentary on a life, isn't it? She was from a really poor family."

Ellison was trying to get the lock on the desk open, but having no luck.

Sandburg went on to the next picture. It was an 8 x 10 blown up snapshot of a hollow-eyed panhandler. Beside the photo was a small clipping from a newspaper that said a homeless man was found shot to death. No one had come forth to identify him. There was no picture with the article and Sandburg wondered how she knew they were the same person. Below the picture was a plaque that read: Beggarman.

Sandburg didn't recognize the next photo, but it looked like a surveillance photo, taken from a distance. Beneath it was the word 'Thief'.

"Poor Man, Beggarman, Thief."

"What?" Ellison looked up.

"Nothing." Sandburg kept walking. The next plaque on the wall said 'Doctor' and he recognized the photo from Simon's office. It was Joan Bank's cousin.

"Damn," he whispered, feeling the beginnings of chill up his spine. "Poor Man, Beggarman, Thief, Doctor." He kept walking, moving to the next panel, already fearing what he would find. "Lawyer, of course." He stared at the photo of Eugene Merrell on the wall. The next photo was behind the desk where Jim was working. He didn't go back there, but he could see the photo was of her first husband, Daniel Peters, which fit, too, then some blank panels with nothing but darkened lights in place.

Across the room the photos began again; he walked slowly across to look at them. "Tinker", he didn't recognize, but "Tailor" was the clothing designer DePrimo. There was another blank spot -- a lamp but no photo or plaque -- then "Sailor", another face he didn't immediately recognize, but who looked vaguely familiar, probably another photo from Simon's desk. The "Rich Man" was Paul Rothschild. And then back to the picture of her father, where he had started in the middle of the rhyme.

"Jim."

"What? I'm still trying to get this desk open."

"I've got to show you something. Something to do with these pictures."

Jim looked up at his shaky voice. "What's wrong?"

At least he was being nice about it, Blair thought. Because this was one of those really big "I told you so's."

"I hate to admit this, but there's a kid's rhyme that these pictures all match. They're the missing men, or dead men, I guess."

Jim got up and looked at some of the pictures.

"See. The rhyme goes 'Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Sailer, Richman, Poorman, etc.' She's got pictures of men up whose professions match the names from the rhyme. "

"They all have the same frame," Ellison noticed. "There's one here on the desk that's not up yet." He went to the desk and handed Blair a photograph.

Sandburg slowly turned it over. It was the magazine cover of his partner. He slowly read the caption on the photo. "Beyond the Call: G.I. Survives Jungle Ordeal." He looked up and met the sentinel's eyes. Shaken, he whispered, "Soldier. Shit, Jim. She's after you. She never was interested in me. This was all a ruse to get at you, through me. Tinker, Tailor, SOLDIER -- See there's an empty spot. She's after you!"

"I'm still alive though," Ellison said with a smile, then held up one finger. "Shhh." He listened for a moment. "Let's get out of here." He killed the light switch, returned the photo to the desk, then grabbed Sandburg by the upper arm, hurrying him through the door into the corridor. They ducked into the room with the artifact in it, hiding in the shadows.

Blair saw Rothschild walk by the open door, then disappear into her office. He wanted to confront her, to yell at her, scream at her, but Jim had a firm grip on his arm and was pulling him from the building. He felt sick to his stomach at the violation, at what she had done to them, at how she had deceived him.


Ellison half dragged his partner to the truck. He knew what Sandburg was feeling, how devastated he was, but they had to get away from the estate and back to Major Crimes as soon as possible, before she could get away.

They had hidden the truck down the road, past the entrance to the estate and down by the beach. Once inside the safety of the Ford, Sandburg exploded. "I cannot believe I fell for her. She's a witch. What did you call her? The Black Widow of Cascade? She's all that and more. She's evil. I can't believe she's after you, Jim. Did she know you were a soldier before she met you, or did she find that out afterwards?"

"We'll ask her when we pull her in later. Right now, we've got to call Simon and let him know what's happening." He smiled over at his younger partner. "We're okay, right?"

"I'm so sorry, Jim." Sandburg stared at him, eyes threatening to brim with tears.

"Yeah, well, there's a lot I'm sorry for, too. Let's just bring her in before she can hurt someone else."

"Right." Sandburg sniffed loudly once and pulled himself together. He hauled out his cell phone and dialled Simon's number as Ellison pulled onto the winding coastal highway and headed toward town. "Simon, hi, it's Blair. Hey, we're heading back to town and we've got some bad news." The truck swerved suddenly and Sandburg pulled the phone away from his mouth and grabbed hold of the dash. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," Ellison yelled back. "I can't steer it and the brakes aren't responding."

"Shit. Simon, we're in trouble here. We're near the place where they found Merrell's body and the truck is going all over the place."

The cellphone dropped to the floor as the truck went into a spin, then flipped off the road, skidding on its side until it crashed into a light pole.


Rothschild Estate
Sunday
10:00 p.m.

Emily Rothschild removed her oil-stained gloves and set them aside.

She picked up the photo of Ellison, and smiled at it, pleased. "Well, that's done. You can go up tomorrow, along with this one." She unlocked her desk and removed another frame. From her bag she drew out a plastic bag from the developers' lab. Inside was a glossy 8 x 10 she had just picked up.

Blair Sandburg sat cross-legged, staring entranced at the artifact in the viewing room. She had just taken the photo this afternoon, then sent Timothy out to have it developed. It was absolutely perfect.

"We'll find a nice place for you, as well. I wasn't expecting to add you to my collection, my dear, but you'll do nicely."


Act IV

Cascade North Public Beach
Sunday
10:40 p.m.

Simon Banks pulled up to the accident site, his stomach clenching as he caught sight of the familiar blue and white Ford, now smashed into the lamppost. Part of the roof of the truck was bent in and the front windshield was cracked. A fire truck, ambulance, and several black and whites -- all with emergency lights flashing -- littered the roadway.

Rafe appeared out of the shadows. "We got here a few minutes ago, Captain. Henri's with Sandburg in the ambulance."

"How's Elli--?"

There was a loud noise as the Ford was pushed upright. "Hey, Detective Rafe, come here!" A voice called out of the confusion, a uniformed officer, and Rafe veered off to go talk to him.

"Damn it." Banks swung out of his car and jogged over to the ambulance. He stopped when Henri climbed out the back. "How's he --?" But the detective was already on the move, detouring around a clump of rescue workers toward Ellison's truck. Banks shook his head and approached the ambulance.

Sandburg was sitting on the edge of the bench, the attendant applying a butterfly bandage to his forehead. He looked a little dazed, another bandage on his upper arm.

"Hey, kid. How you doing?"

Sandburg slowly tracked to the new voice. "Hi, Simon. Been better."

"How's Jim?"

The young man shook his head. "I don't know. Can't tell."

"I'll go see. Stay here, okay?"

"Stay in the truck. Got it." The confused eyes closed.

Banks headed over to the damaged Ford. It had been set upright by the fire crew, a camera somewhere taking additional photos, while crew scurried around. The ambulance attendent was crouched down looking under the truck, but no one seemed to be in a rush to do anything. This did not bode well.

Rafe stood to one side, one hand over his eyes. As Banks approached, Rafe shook his head slowly, then turned and walked back toward the ambulance. "I'll tell the kid, Captain."

Banks grabbed his arm as he passed. "Detective, thanks, but I'll handle it."

Rafe looked tired, rubbing the back of his neck as he looked back at the truck. "Sure. I'll see if there's anything I can do with the foresics specialist. They might need help."

"Let me know what their initial findings are. Anything to explain this."

"Yes, sir."

Banks watched his young detective walk away, then turned to Brown, who was crouched down beside the truck, talking to someone who was partly under the truck.

Brown looked up as he approached. "Did you tell him, sir? Hairboy?"

"Not yet. I had to see for myself, first."

"I understand, sir." Brown looked back to the man under the truck. "What do the brakes look like?"

A camera flashed under the truck, followed by a muffled curse.

Brown tried to see what was happening. "Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah." Jim Ellison slid out from under the truck. "Chuck didn't warn me he was taking the picture."

Banks froze halfway down. "Jim?" he exclaimed, his voice breaking like Daryl's had not so long ago.

"Oh, hi, Simon. You should see this. The brakes have been tampered with." Ellison was blinking still from the camera flash, but he appeared to be fine, otherwise.

"Jim? I thought you were dead," the captain growled, ignoring Brown's startled look.

"Not this time, sir, but my brakes were tampered with. Damn it," Ellison said, lying on his back but fiddling with a wrench in his hands.

"Are you okay? Any injuries?" Simon watched carefully, still alert, as he noticed his detective didn't get up right away.

"What? Oh, no, not really. We were both lucky. The truck went on its side, slowing it down, so by the time we hit the post, it was only going about 20 miles per hour." Ellison paused for a moment, his head tilted, obviously listening to his partner. "Blair got it a little worse than me, but nothing they're going to keep him for."

Banks sank all the way to the ground, his adrenaline used up. "So who did it? Who knew you were there?"

"I'm assuming Timothy, the butler wrote the note. And Emily Rothschild was at the house when we left. She didn't look like she was dressed for a charity event."

"How do we handle this? We've got no proof either was involved."

"But there is evidence in Rothchild's private office that she was at least aware of all the murders, even if there's no proof she did them."

"We need a warrant to check it though. Your search was basically illegal, Jim. It wouldn't hold up in court."

"I know that. I have an idea, sir. Emily Rothschild was trying to kill me tonight. I was one of her targets. So let her think she succeeded and I'm either dead, or almost there. We'll set something up at the hospital, which leaves us free to investigate." As Jim was speaking, a stretcher pulled up beside them. "We're going to do a show for whoever is watching, letting them see me being put in the ambulance." Ellison's eyes were blazing. "I'm going to get her for this."


Rothschild Estate
Monday
3:15 p.m.

"Blair, my dear boy, what happened to you?" Emily Rothschild drew the rather battered young man into her arms.

"Jim's been in an accident, Emily. It was awful. They don't know if he's going to make it." The tears didn't take much coaxing. He was so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open.

"What happened?"

"We came here last night to check out your security system. Jim had an idea about -- Well, that doesn't matter. When we headed home, the truck went out of control, and we hit a light post. Jim's in intensive care. I was there all night, but I just had to get out of the hospital for a while. They said he wouldn't be waking up for a few more hours at least. Maybe never."

She was looking at him with so much compassion that Blair had to remind himself again that this woman had probably killed ten men and had atempted to kill one more. He clutched his backpack; it had his cell phone and his gun. He didn't want to think about using it on her, but he would if he had to. They were setting her up to go after Jim, after all.

"You have to believe he'll survive, dear."

He sighed dramatically. "I know. I didn't know where else to go, so I thought I'd come here and look at the statue. At least do something constructive, right?"

"Does anyone know you're here?"

"Yes, Captain Banks knows. I called him on my cell phone when I got here. I promised I'd only be a few minutes, then I'd drive back to the hospital. I just had to get away for a while."

"Let me get you some tea, then you can go down and look at the statue. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend."


Cascade PD
Monday
4:00 p.m.

At the station, Ellison, Banks, Rafe, and Brown were still going over the names when Connor entered the office to hand her own case information to Banks.

"How's Sandy?"

Ellison looked up. "He's okay. A little banged up."

"Where is he?"

"Sandburg's foolish idea -- which may I say I've gone on record saying I hate -- is that he needs to keep an eye on our hostess."

Banks looked up, frowning. "Come on, Jim. We've gone over this. It was a valid proposal. He's the best one to monitor her. He can drop the idea that you're not dead yet, and we'll see what she does. He phoned when he got there. She knows that I know where he is. She won't do anything."

"She's crazy."

"If she's killed a few times, why won't she kill him?" Connor asked.

"Because serial killers like her only kill for some master plan of theirs. If she's not threatened in any way, she won't feel the need to kill again. Sandburg figures she's got the whole rhyme now, so he's not in any danger. I'll be calling him in a few minutes, to check up on him. We've got code words set up."

"What if she just puts a gun to his head and shoots him? How are you going to stop her from here? He's not armed, is he?"

Banks glared at her, then over to Ellison who was rubbing his forehead. "Might I remind you both that Sandburg is a cop. He's made the choice to go undercover to her home. He feels he's safe, and I agreed with his reasoning. He has his service revolver in his backpack, which he promised to keep on him at all times. His purpose in going in is to let Rothschild know that Jim is still alive, which we hope will spur her to go to the hospital and finish him off. Regardless, Sandburg's going to be leaving there in," he glanced at his watch, "another ten minutes. We gave him one hour, no longer." Banks glared back at Connor. "End of subject."

Connor stared down at the new arrangement of photos, as the men continued to document their discovery. "Who are they?" she asked, pointing to two of the new photos.

"Two more deaths we've confirmed with our Black Widow. Bill O'Brien was a captain of a yacht found murdered in his stateroom. Rothschild was one of fifty people aboard that night. Happened about five years ago."

"And this other bloke?"

"Our 'Tinker'. Samuel Fedora was an artist, a metal sculptor. He died of acute alcohol poisoning ten years ago. She was one of his sponsors."

Connor walked around the table murmuring the rhyme and pointing to each picture in turn: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Richman, Poorman, Beggerman, Thief."

"What kind of song is that, anyway?" Banks asked, irritated. "I've always thought it was just the titles of some mystery novels by Le Carre."

Connor shook her head. "It's a skipping rhyme called 'Who will I marry?' You come to the end of the first part of the song, then jump though the names until you trip up. Whoever you land on, is supposed to be the one you marry. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Richman, Poorman, Beggerman, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer.." Her voice trailed off as she looked at the last picture. "Who's this?"

"That's her first husband. He was part Native American, so we figure he's the 'Indian Chief'."

"That's not how it goes. There's no Indian Chief in the rhyme."

Simon Banks didn't bother looking up. "Sandburg says it ends with 'Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. We've got them all, Connor."

She persisted. "I haven't heard that version."

Jim Ellison slowly straightened. "There's another version?" he asked her, his voice low.

"I guess. It says here her first husband was a store owner. That would make him a merchant, right?"

"And?"

"The rhyme I know ends with 'Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief. She might still be looking for someone."

Ellison's heart started beating faster. He knew this had been too easy. "She was asking about Native American furniture on Saturday night, then at the end of the meal told Sandburg not to bother."

"She could have been fishing for some links to Indian Chiefs," Banks said.

"There's another explanation for why she changed her mind." Ellison turned deathly pale. "Simon, she thought my nickname for Sandburg was interesting. She asked me about it." The detective grabbed his jacket. "I called him, 'Chief', Simon. We've got to get him out of there now." Ellison took off running, Banks and the others racing after him.

"My car, Jim. She knows your truck," Banks yelled as they cleared the stairway and entered the garage.

Ellison turned mid-stride and headed for the captain's car. Once inside, he pulled out his cellphone and tried to call his partner, but the phone rang unanswered.


Rothschild Estate
Monday
4:30 p.m.

Sandburg rummaged through his backpack, trying to find the phone. It was in there somewhere, the ringing getting louder and louder. Finally, he got his hand around it, blinking when he saw the incoming call was from Jim. "Hello?"

"It's Jim. Don't respond to this question, but I need to know if Emily is there."

That didn't sound promising. "Oh, thanks for calling, Captain. Any news on Jim?" Blair smiled at Emily, crossing his fingers as though for good luck.

"I take it she's with you?" Ellison asked.

"No, I'm not alone. Thanks for asking. Emily is still with me, keeping me company. I'm still a little freaked out by the accident." He reached out and took her hand, and she squeezed it reassuringly. "I'm leaving soon, though."

"Okay. Listen carefully, Ch-- Blair. You need to stay calm, but we think that you're probably the next one on her list."

That was so not what he wanted to hear. Blair tried not to look over at her again, but the room was starting to spin. He glanced down at his cup of tea, resting on the edge of the service tray. "Uh, maybe you better come and get me, Simon. I want -- I want to go see Jim now, okay? Please come and get me."

Jim said something, but he couldn't hear it. Instead Blair's head leaned toward the floor, somehow drawing his body with it. He was dimly aware of Emily Rothschild taking the phone from his clenching fingers as he slowly crumbled to the plush carpeting.

"You just relax, dear. We'll fix this mess up," she purred at him.


Cascade North Highway
Monday
4:35 p.m.

In Banks' car, Ellison heard Rothchild's voice and quickly handed the phone to Simon.

"Hello?" Banks said loudly. "Sandburg, are you there? Hello, who is this?"

"It's Emily Rothschild. To whom am I speaking?"

"Simon Banks. I'm the captain of Major Crimes and Blair Sandburg's department head."

"Oh, Dr Sandburg just ran out the door, heading to his car. He seemed very upset about something. Is Detective Ellison okay?"

"Uh, he seems a bit better. They think he'll make it." Banks glanced over to Ellison and shrugged.

"Blair seemed upset, though. Extremely upset."

"I didn't have a chance to tell Sandburg that Jim was better. I had started to say that there was a change in Jim's prognosis when he interrupted and said he wanted to go the hospital. I'm concerned that he fears the worst."

"That would explain it. He seemed so distraught. I hope he doesn't do anything rash. He called out to me as he left saying he'd meet you at the hospital. He had to do something first."

"Do what?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't ask him. He didn't seem to be thinking very clearly."

"Do you think I should meet him at the hospital, then? How upset did he seem when he left?"

"Quite. He even left his backpack here, as well as his cell phone. I'm sorry, Captain Banks, I'm going to go to my car and see if I can find him. I'll get right back to you. I might be able to catch him. Just stay whee you are and I'll call you. Is this number your office phone?"

"Yes," Simon lied. "He's gone already, you said?"

"Ran out of here in a panic. I''ll see if I can find him. I've got a meeting at seven that I have to be at, but that still gives me some time to look for him. I'll call you."

Banks heard the phone disconnect. "Damn. I was hoping to keep her on the line awhile longer."

"Sandburg was still there. I could hear his heartbeat. It was all wrong though. She's drugged him or something." Ellison hit the dash, frustrated as the car zoomed along the windy coastal highway.

"How long will it take to reach the estate?"

"Another twenty minutes." Ellison stared straight ahead, his jaw twitching. "She's going to kill him."


Rothschild Estate
Monday
4:40 p.m.

Emily Rothschild disconnected the call and looked down to Sandburg, lying in a heap at her feat, his eyes wide open.

She smiled at him, running a hand along his cheek. "I'll just deal with you, then I've got an errand to run. I'm sorry you've taken all this so hard, my dear. Your friend's death and all. He will die. He's part of the overall plan."

Yeah, you crazy bitch. But my plan is that Jim gets here on time. He knows I haven't left. Blair tried to move, but whatever she had drugged him with was powerful.

With a strength born of madness, she hoisted him to her shoulder and walked from the room. He could see his phone lying on the carpet next to his backpack. And his gun was in the bottom of his backpack.

He tried to move but his limbs seemed to be ignoring him. Blair, from his upside down perch, noticed the butler following them down the hall. Maybe the butler would do something. Help him. He tried to call out, but his mouth wasn't working either. He wished now he hadn't refuse to wear the wire. At least they could be listening to him.

Timothy quickened his pace when he saw Sanburg's predicament, and his hopes soared. "Madam?" the butler asked.

"The door, please, Timothy."

"Certainly, Madam. Will you be needing the car?"

Sandburg's hopes were dashed. The butler was in on it. Just as crazy as she was.

"Yes, Timothy. Please follow me in the limo -- no, the Rolls. I have a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Cascade Public Library at 7:00 tonight. The Rolls is much more appropriate than the limo. Would you get the gray garment bag from my room and bring it to the Rolls? We'll need to make a few stops on route, and I don't want to get my clothes mussed."

"I'll be with you shortly." Timothy took a few steps, then stopped. "I almost forgot, Madam." He reached into a deep pocket and handed her a pair of leather gloves. "You'll be needing these, I suspect."

"Quite right. Thank you, Timothy." Emily shifted her deadweight and walked outside.

It was beginning to rain again, big cold drops that pelted Blair through his thin jeans and shirt. There was a sudden movement and he opened his eyes to find himself on the grass alongside his Corvair.

"The beach, I think. Where they found Eugene." Emily put on her gloves, then opened the door to the Corvair and hoisted Sandburg into the passenger side. "There's no one around there at this time of day. It won't take us long." She went around and got in the driver's door, pausing to roll down the window and talk to Timothy as he exited the mansion with her garment bag. "Is the wig in the back of the Rolls?"

"Yes, Madam."

"Excellent. Follow me and wait by the concession stand. I won't be long." She drove down the winding driveway and out onto the coastal highway.


Cascade North Public Beach
Monday
4:50 p.m.

Blair watched, his eyes slightly unfocused still, as she pulled into the beach parking lot. Despite his prayers otherwise, the lot was empty. He couldn't tell if there was anyone on the beach, but with the weather cold and damp, it was unlikely anyone was there, especially at five o'clock at night.

"Now, we have to do this just right." Leaving the car still running, she wrapped his fingers around a short length of garden hose, guaranteeing his fingerprints on the metal edge. "Perfect. Now, I'll be right back."

He could hear her at work, knowing she was threading the hose into the exhaust pipe, then bringing the other end through the side window and into the car. From the road, nothing could be seen. No one would notice.

"Jim?" He said it aloud, nothing more than a whisper, but in his mind he was screaming hysterically. Get me out of here!

"There we go. Bye, Chief. Thanks for everything. I had no idea how I was going to find an Indian, but the rhyme did just say "Chief" so you qualified nicely. I really didn't want Daniel to have to be both the Merchant and the Chief. He hated anything complicated."

Blair wanted to argue with her, to point out that she really should have looked a little harder for someone else. He was a poor substitute; it was only a nickname, not a job description. For everyone else, it was a job description. Beggerman. Thief. Doctor. Lawyer. Indian Chief. He was sure the rhyme said 'Indian Chief. And Daniel Peters' father was the tribal chief from northeast Washington. Daniel might have inherited the title, had he chosen to remain on the reservation.

Indian Chief. It fit. Doctor. Lawyer. Indian Chief. Where did Merchant come in to it? He'd looked up the rhyme. Doctor. Lawyer. Indian Chief. No mention of a Merchant.

Blair was sitting at the wheel of the car, his hands on the rim. It was quiet. He could feel his toes again, and move them, but his head felt thick. Like one poison was draining and another was taking its place. Which is exactly what was happening.

He was sure the rhyme had said 'Indian Chief'. He was willing to bet his life on it.

Apparently, he had....


Cascade North Highway
Monday
5:00 p.m.

"That was her Rolls." Ellison watched it go by.

"I couldn't see if there was anyone in the back. The windows were darkened."

"She was in there, putting on a black wig. That was Timothy, the butler, driving."

"Where's she heading?"

"My guess would be, the hospital. She'll want to make sure I'm dead."

"Call Taggart. He's a few minutes behind us. Have him tail the Rolls when it goes by."

Ellison made the call quickly. "He's on to it. What about the others?" he asked, when he hung up.

"We'll get Rafe, Brown, and Connor at the hospital to secure your room there -- What are you doing??" The steering wheel was suddenly wrenched from Banks' hands, the car skidding across the empty highway into a parking lot.

"That's Blair's Corvair."

Banks grabbed the wheel back, aiming his car over several speed bumps, straight to the classic car. They could see Blair sitting inside, his head leaning on the steering wheel. He looked like he was just resting.

"Gas. Carbon monoxide." Ellison half-fell from the car, trying to get the locked Corvair door open while Banks kicked the hose from the exhaust pipe. With a wild growl, Ellison smashed the back window open, then reached through and unlocked the driver's door, dragging Sandburg from the polluted car.

He sat on the parking lot pavement, Sandburg upright, resting against him. "Blair? Come on, buddy." He could feel the feeble heart beat as he loosened Sandburg's shirt and undid the top button of his faded denim jeans.

"Jmmm?"

Ellison could feel his partner stirring, gasping for breath. "Hey, buddy. Take a couple deep breaths for me, okay?" He pulled off his jacket and wrapped it around his partner.

"Head hurts."

He laughed, ridiculously happy to hear Sandburg's voice. "I bet it does. We'll get you all fixed up, though. Wake up, okay?"

"Sleepy."

"Sleep later. We're going to make a quick trip to the hospital. You need some nice pure oxygen."

"Jim?" Banks appeared with the phone to his ear. "They're sending a fire truck. Should be here in --"

"I hear it. It'll be here in a minute. There's a station just a few blocks down."

"Yeah. Well, I was about to say that. It should be here any time." Banks moved away from them toward the highway, his arms waving when he saw the fire truck.

A few minutes later, Sandburg had an oxygen mask over his face, 100 per cent oxygen feed, and Banks was heading back to town, his sirens on. He tossed his cellphone on the empty seat beside him, then glanced at Ellison in the back. "It's all set up. They're going to use hyperbaric therapy on Sandburg when we arrive, whatever that is."

"They'll put him in a chamber that administers oxygen under pressure greater than atmospheric. It's standard. They've been doing it for years for carbon monoxide treatment." Ellison shifted his patient. "Don't worry, kid. It doesn't hurt."

Sandburg muttered something.

"Actually, I have been in a chamber. Inhaled something once in the Rangers. A long story, but the treatment helped."

Another mumble.

"It was an assignment. Top secret."

Mumble.

"No. It's classified."

Mumble. Mumble.

"How about we just compare notes about the chamber? I'll tell you everything I remember about it. Deal?"

Mumble.


Cascade General Hospital
Monday
5:40 p.m.

Rothschild, wearing a dark wig and hazel-colored contact lens, her features altered with makeup to give the impression of dark circles beneath her eyes and deeper wrinkles, paced outside the nurse's station. She glanced at her watch and approached the desk again. "I simply must see my nephew. I've come a long way, and I don't understand the delay."

The nurse, a tall, dark-haired woman with an accent, smiled at her. "Let me see if the doctor can okay it." She waved over a black man in a spotless, white practitioner's coat. "Doctor, this woman would like to see her nephew, James Ellison, in 403, but the room is restricted. Can she go in?"

"Her nephew? I don't see why that would be a problem. I'll check with his physician and have it authorized." He smiled warmly at her, his teeth flashing against his dark skin. "Please have a seat and I'll see to it right away." He pulled some candy from his pocket and handed her one. "Tootsie Roll?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Would you like a Tootsie Roll?" The doctor leaned closer. "I usually work in the Children's Ward, but they're short-handed here tonight." At her blank stare, he shrugged and walked away.

Rothschild moved over to the waiting area, but didn't sit. The delay was costing her valuable time.

Another doctor approached her, this one also young and handsome, reading some notes on his clipboard. "I'm Doctor Rafe. You wanted to see James Ellison?"

"Yes."

"I'll allow it, but just for a short time." Doctor Rafe glanced up at the nurse, then beckoned Rothschild around the corner. When he had her complete attention, he said quietly, "I must prepare you. Mr Ellison is still in very serious condition, and we're waiting for his family to arrive."

"I am his family."

"I understand that." The doctor straightened and glanced back at the nurse's station. The nurse nodded at him. "Okay, I'll authorize the visit. Room 403. You have five minutes." He left her alone and went back to speak with the nurse.

She opened the door. The room was dark, but she could see Ellison lying on the bed, blankets covering his body up to his neck, one bare arm lying on the bed, the IV needles in the back of his hand. She approached the bed, reaching into her bag and withdrawing a needle. Silently, she went to the IV pole, and inserted the needle into the IV bag, smiling as she did so.

She ran her hand along Ellison's jaw, then caught her breath as Ellison stiffened, as though going into arrest. She closed her eyes, enjoying the moment.

But it was only short-lived.

"Good thing I don't have the IV connected, isn't it?"

At her startled, angry cry, Ellison pushed the covers back, showing that he was still clad in his T-shirt and jeans. He grasped her wrist as she pulled away, but she still had the needle and tried to jab him with it.

The door opened and Dr Rafe reached out from behind and took the needle from her. "You know, Ms Rothschild, non-professionals should not be allowed to practice medicine without a license."

She pushed past him into the corridor, then halted. Before her, the nurse stood quietly, arms folded, a gun resting in one hand. Beyond the nurse, the black doctor waved, popped a Tootsie Roll in his mouth, then tapped his gun on the counter.

Rothschild spun around. A tall, stern-looking black man sat in the waiting area, where she'd been only moments before, his badge held out. Next to him, Blair Sandburg sat in a chair, an oxygen mask over his face.

Detective Ellison handcuffed her, while the candy-eating officer read her rights. Holding her head up high, she allowed them to lead her away.


Epilogue

Cascade PD
Wednesday
10:30 a.m.

Blair Sandburg sat on the edge of Ellison's desk, reading the file. "Weird. That whole nursery rhyme tie-in was bizarre. Any idea why she did that?"

"They're going to be doing a full psychiatric profile on her. They've asked her already and all she said was she always liked the song. There were so many possibilities."

"There were so many endings to it. How was I supposed to know there were two different versions? Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, and Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief."

"Hey, Hairboy." Henri walked by, heading for his desk, popping a Tootsie Roll in his mouth.

"You shouldn't eat those, man. They'll rot your teeth."

"Hey, kid. You're looking a mite healthier then last I saw you." Rafe followed his partner in and sat at his desk. "Appetite back yet?"

"Almost. That gas sure messes up your taste buds."

"Welcome back, Sandy. When did they let you out?" Connor passed by him, then plunked down in her chair.

"Hi, Megan. This morning. I was only in for two days. They wanted to make sure my lungs were okay."

"They're fine, Chief. I told them that yesterday."

"I think they wanted a second opinion, not that they weren't trusting your diagnosis." Sandburg went back to looking at the file. "You know, Jim, if you hadn't called me 'Chief' in front of her, I wouldn't have been a target. Can't you guys say: Blair? Henri calls me 'Hairboy'. Rafe calls me 'kid.' Megan calls me 'Sandy'. And you call me 'Chief'."

"You have a problem with that, Squirt?" Ellison asked calmly, moving a file to his out box.

"That's right, Professor," Banks called out as he passed from his office to the donut cart by the entrance to Major Crimes.

Sandburg grinned, shrugging. "Okay. You win. 'Chief' isn't that bad." He raised his voice so the captain could hear. "Speaking of rhymes, though, how about 'Simple Simon met a pieman...."

~ Finis ~

E-mail the author of this story, LRH Balzer, at lrhbalzer@yahoo.com
Read Lois' other fan fiction for The Sentinel at Sentinel Fan Fiction and Tour Site
E-mail Faux Paws Productions at fauxpawsproductions@yahoo.com
IN TWO WEEKS on THE SENTINEL: Blues for Henri Brown (11/7/01, FPP-615) by Susan L. Williams
    Detective Brown is accidentally shot by cops responding to a silent alarm. Was it a mistake, a case of racism, or something else entirely?
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