Jim was startled out of his focus by a quiet knock on the door. He looked up to see a young woman, in her twenties, with long black hair hanging loose, and a skirt that threatened to reveal too much at any time. "This is a crime scene, Miss. You'll have to stay out there."
"Yes, I know. I'm Kathy Fisher. I was just wondering if I could get to some of those files back there? There's a shelf of maps and files and things that I need very badly."
Jim glanced over to the cabinet she was pointing to, then walked over to the door, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Miss Fisher, everything in here is evidence right now. May I have a word with you?"
She released her hold on the door and stepped back into the hallway. "Sure, I suppose so. I have class in thirty minutes, can we walk? My class is on the other side of the campus."
Jim closed the door and replaced the seal, "Sure, lead the way."
She turned ahead of him and began walking down the corridor, towards the far exit. Jim was beside her when she slipped, and he caught her by the arm, steadying her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. They cleaned the carpet last night." She regained her balance and lifted her feet one at a time. "It's these shoes. They are going cause me to break my neck one of these days."
Jim idly looked at the shoe she was examining. Women's footwear was never an interest of his, but he realized they had a flat heel. "What's wrong with them?"
She put the foot down after examining the offending shoe and shook her head. "Oh, nothing really. They just slip a lot. No grip." They were at the exit now and both stepped into the cool afternoon air. "So, what can I help you with, Detective?"
"I was wondering, about the research grant. I understand if Professor Wilson was unable to take it, that it would most likely have gone to Blair Sandburg?"
"Yes, most likely. But, under the circumstances, it didn't."
"Oh? And where did it go?"
"To me, actually." she replied. They were walking across the campus, sticking to the paved sidewalk and walking at a leisurely pace. "I was stunned, but they accepted my proposal to continue in Professor Wilson's place. That's why I need those files and maps. Do you know when I might get them?"
"When the investigation is over. Until then the office will have to remain sealed."
"But, I thought Blair was arrested? I mean, how much more is there to investigate?"
"He didn't kill Professor Wilson. And until we can find out just who did, the case is open." He paused and she stopped, looking up at him. "You said you were present during an argument between Professor Wilson and Blair. Can you tell me about that?"
She looked around, waiting until the three students passing them were out of earshot. "Well, like I told the officer that night, Blair came up to the office to speak with Professor Wilson. It was on my behalf, I'm afraid." Jim raised his eyebrows and she continued. "You see, I was rather upset at being slighted in a paper the Professor had published. I did quite a lot of work on it, and, well, he didn't see fit to give me any credit for my work. I was in Blair's office that afternoon, kind of venting steam I suppose. Anyway, Blair got pretty upset, and insisted he speak with Professor Wilson about it. He was going to demand that the paper be re-written, giving me some credit, as well as a few others. Well, I wasn't going to let him. I mean, Professor Wilson and I had discussed it the week before, but I was still upset. I shouldn't have let him. This could be partially my fault."
"What exactly did they say?"
"Well, I don't remember exactly, except that Professor Wilson began to call Blair's work a waste of University resources. He said if it weren't for Blair's teaching skills, he wouldn't be there at all. Of course, Blair defended his Sentinel theory. I mean, he has documented cases and everything. And Dr Stoddard certainly thought highly of him. Well, they began shouting, and Blair said something about how he deserved the grant, and it should have been his, and how he could still find a way to get the award."
"But I thought it had been decided months ago?"
"Yes, it had. But, if you can prove any prejudice to the Board, they have the right to change their minds. I didn't think Blair wanted to do that, you know, try and get the decision reversed. He just didn't seem all that upset about it." She shrugged. "I guess I was wrong." She indicated her need to keep walking and Jim followed.
"So you were in the room at the time?"
She nodded, "Yes, for most of it. I came upstairs a few minutes after Blair had gone up there. I wasn't going to, but I could hear them from downstairs. I knew they were fighting. It wasn't until I came into the office that I heard anything they were saying. I think the entire floor heard them, it was pretty loud."
"I checked. The only other person to hear the argument that night was a Professor Kinyon."
Kathy laughed. "Ah, yes. Professor Kinyon. She can go on, can't she? Yes, I suppose she would have heard them. She really has excellent hearing. And she's usually in her office around that time of night, if I remember correctly." They stopped just outside the door to a building Jim identified as the Communications Center, from the large stone sign. "Well, if you'll excuse me....I have to get to class."
He glanced at the sign again, then back to Kathy. "I though you were in Anthropology?"
"Oh, I am. But my boyfriend's a Communications Major. He's out sick today and I promised to tape this lecture for him." She produced a micro cassette recorder from her purse. "We do this now and again."
"Well thank you for the time. I'll be sure and check on those files for you in the Professor's office, but I wouldn't count on them soon."
"Damn. I need those files before I leave."
"Leave? Where are you going?"
"Well, to the Amazon. The research group has to get settled in as soon as possible, before the weather turns."
"You do realize, that until this case is closed, you'll have to remain in Cascade? As a witness."
Kathy was turning to join the group of students that were beginning to enter the lecture hall when she stopped. "What? How long can that take? I have to get this project started within the month."
Jim shook his head, "You might want to contact a lawyer, Ms Fisher. At the least, you'll be subpoenaed to testify."
She looked at him for a moment and Jim tried to read her face. He was always good at reading the eyes of a suspect, and he definitely had her pegged at the top of his list. Now, to prove it.
"At the least...Detective?"
"Yes ma'am. You'll miss your class." Jim indicated the thinning group filing past and tapped his watch. "I'll be in touch, Ms Fisher." With that he left. She was still standing there, with her cassette player in hand, watching him go.
He fingered the cassette tape Professor Kinyon had given him all the way back to the truck. Once inside, he slipped it into the player and pulled out of the parking lot. He was going to head back to the Precinct and get a copy made of the tape, but he heard Blair's voice in the back of his head, telling him how he was a biological forensics lab, and to just trust his abilities. So he turned the corner and headed back to the loft. It was getting late in the day, and Blair was most likely up now, pacing the floor in his usual fashion, waiting for word on the investigation.
The lecture on Tribal food preparation rituals nearly caused him to fall asleep at the wheel. There was no way he could focus on the background sounds and drive at the same time. He ejected the tape and carried it upstairs, putting it in his shirt pocket as he unlocked the door. Blair was there, standing in the living room, his coat half on. Or was it half off?
"Where do you think you're going?" He tossed his keys on the table beside the door and pushed it shut, standing in the way of Blair making any exit.
"Nowhere. The damn car still won't start." Blair was trying to pull his arms from his coat and he winced, crying out softly.
Jim walked over, grabbed the coat, and pulled it off his friend's arms. "Sit down. You're not going anywhere." He hung up the coat and put a hand on Blair's back, directing him to the couch. "What were you trying to do, anyway? Skip town?" He smiled.
Blair sat down slowly, holding his right arm around his stomach as he did so. Jim's hands were on his arm, lowering him down. "No. I was looking for you. You wouldn't answer your cell phone. You've been gone for hours. Ow!" Blair winced as he sank down into the couch.
Jim watched him for a moment. The bruise on his jaw was purple and ugly. There was another, higher on his cheek, but it hadn't swelled too much. He could make out the purple outline of a man's fingers around Blair's throat, visible from underneath his shirt. It was hard to take comfort in knowing that the men who beat him were up for life sentences already. There was no more he could do to punish them. Which is why, no doubt, they had gone ahead and attacked Blair in the holding cell.
"The cell phone was on all day, just like always. I was at the University talking with a Professor Kinyon."
Blair sat back, leaning his head against the back of the couch. "I'm surprised you made it back alive." he joked, trying to smile around his split lip.
"Yeah, she's something." Jim stood and walked into the kitchen. "You eat yet? Want some Chinese?"
"No, Jim. I'm not hungry. What did you find out? Why were you talking to Professor Kinyon?"
Jim opened the refrigerator and began removing Chinese takeout boxes. "Have you eaten anything today?"
"No, Jim. What did you find out?"
"There's plenty here." He pulled out the last box and began opening them.
"Okay." Jim grabbed some pots and turned on the stove. "First of all, I know who did it."
"What!" Blair sat up suddenly, then gasped in pain and fell back, pressing his head into the pillows of the couch.
"Dammit Sandburg..." Jim hurried over to the couch, placing a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Would you just take it easy? I told you I'd get this figured out." He waited there, watching his friend until Blair opened his eyes. He was breathing heavily through his nose and flashed Jim a dirty look. Jim smiled and removed his hand, walking back to the kitchen. "Now, if you'll be good for a few minutes, I'll tell you."
Blair didn't reply and he smiled again, shaking his head at the younger man's recklessness.
"Okay, I give." Blair said quietly.
"What?!" Blair exclaimed, but this time he didn't jump. His stomach hurt too much. "Kathy? Come on Jim, why would she--I mean how could she...?" He shook his head in disbelief.
Jim was watching him from the kitchen as he warmed up the Chinese food. "I'm sure she had some help. Her boyfriend, most likely, but only in the set up. That spear of yours was pretty damn sharp. It's possible she could have done it herself. If Wilson had no reason to suspect that whoever else was in the office with him at the time was about to thrust a spear into his back, it would catch him completely off guard." He stirred the warming take-out. "She had opportunity, being there with him all night."
"But Jim, what about motive? God, they were about to go to South America. She'd be shooting herself in the foot. It doesn't make sense." Blair was trying to turn and face Jim so he wouldn't have to get up. He was having trouble sitting still, but getting off the couch earlier, when he made the decision to go find Jim, had taken nearly 20 minutes. The trip out to the car, then back upstairs, more than a half hour.
"Greed, Chief. Oldest motive in the book." Jim was dishing up the Chinese now onto two plates. "She convinced the board to give her the grant, and let her head up the research in Wilson's place. I understand that's quite an achievement? It would have gone to you, but if you were in prison, she stood a better chance." He walked into the living room now and set a plate on the coffee table in front of Blair, "Eat." he said, sitting on the chair across from him.
Blair didn't even look at the food. His stomach had barely kept the coffee down that morning, but he had been feeling the effects of no caffeine for more than 24 hours and had really needed that. Now, the smell of food brought to mind the taste of blood still in his mouth. "I don't understand."
"I know, it's hard to believe someone could do this to someone you know. Let alone frame you for it. It's natural to feel betrayed and confused."
"But why kill him? She was going to be with him in the Amazon. She was his research assistant."
"Yes, but they tell me Wilson had a habit of not giving credit where credit was due." Blair nodded. "And, if Professor Kinyon was telling the truth, then this credit was pretty damn important to a researcher. Someone's career could be made or broken by it, is that true?"
Blair nodded again. "Yes, it's true. That's why he went through so many assistants. I was surprised when Kathy stayed with him. But, that's what it's all about Jim, the research."
Jim took a few bites of noodles, thinking. "There's just the matter of this argument Professor Kinyon says she heard between you and Wilson."
"Jim, I never had any argument with him. Not then."
"I know. It's all too convenient. But, even if we know it's a frame up, we still have to prove it to get you off. That's where this tape is going to come in handy."
"It seems Professor Kinyon likes to dictate her lecture notes to herself, on one of those little hand-held tape recorders." Blair was nodding. "I've seen a lot of those on campus, like the one you have. I guess they're popular."
"Yeah, they are. But I don't get it."
"She was taping her notes during this so called argument. She even walked over to the wall to listen better."
Blair's eyes lit up then, understanding the possibility. "Oh man, she had the tape running? You mean this argument is on tape?" he paused for a moment. "But Jim, I never had the argument. How could it be on tape?"
Jim smiled. "You know, Professor Kinyon has the hots for you."
The total and complete change of subject startled Blair. An image of Professor Kinyon flashed across his mind. She was sweet, and very nice, but..."God Jim, she's married. And she's in her forties. And she is definitely NOT my type."
Jim was laughing now. "Relax Junior. She's a very nice woman, if a little long-winded, and she just may be your salvation." At that Jim pulled the cassette from his pocket. "We've got some work to do here."
Blair reached out and retrieved the tape, staring at it. He couldn't fathom how there could be a tape recording of him arguing with Professor Wilson, when that argument had never taken place. But Jim said this tape was going to answer all of their questions. How, he didn't know. But obviously Jim did. He tried to wait patiently for his friend to finish eating, but sitting still just wasn't what he was good at when there was something up. Every time he made a move to get off the couch Jim would glare at him and he'd sit back down. Finally, Jim finished eating and took both of their plates to the kitchen, remarking about the waste of food as he cleared Blair's untouched dinner.
"Jim, come on. You're killing me here."
Jim smiled, shaking his head. "Okay, okay. I'll get the machine." he stepped into the hallway and retrieved the tape machine, walking back with it to the couch. Blair handed over the tape and he put it inside. "I listened to some of this on the way over, pretty dry stuff."
"And...?" Blair wanted to drag the information out of his friend's mouth. Sometimes he knew Jim enjoyed giving him answers slowly, in bits, trying to get Blair to guess the answer before he said it. Maybe that was a good thing. After all, that was how one taught, and Blair was learning a lot being around Jim. But this time it was too important to play any games.
"And, I think we just came to the good parts." Jim had hit play and was listening to the tape, leaning forward as he tried to hear beyond Professor Kinyon's words.
"No, Jim. Don't try so hard." Blair said, pushing Jim back away from the edge of the couch. "Just sit back, calmly, and filter out Professor Kinyon's voice. Concentrate." Blair didn't realize that he had changed from a concerned suspect, anxious to clear his name, into Jim's Guide, but it worked. Jim sat back, closed his eyes, and did what Blair told him to. He did notice the change in Jim's face as the tape played. He was trying to listen, too, but he found it easier to concern himself with what his partner was hearing, and thinking. "Anything?"
Jim nodded, slowly, as the tape continued. "Yeah, I can hear Professor Wilson...saying something about Sentinel studies being a crock--I think--yeah, a crock, he said. Now...wait a minute...that's you."
"Me?" Blair raised his eyebrows. "On the tape?"
"Yes, but it sounds different. You've said...It's a matter of ethics...then...I could bring this to the board...now Professor Wilson, he said...Go ahead, see how far you get with it." Jim paused, and Blair could see him listening harder. "Now there's Ms Fisher. She's saying...No, Blair you don't mean that....please just drop it, for my sake."
Blair was baffled. He knew this conversation had never taken place, and yet Jim was hearing it plain as day. But how? Jim sat up and shut the tape off, then hit rewind.
"Jim...what? What did you hear?" Blair was too anxious for an explanation. Jim held up a hand and hit play again, leaning back onto the couch and listening to the tape one more time. Blair sat quietly, waiting, watching his friend's face.
"There's something there, kind of...behind your voice. Like it's--I don't know, sort of scratchy or something."
Jim stood so suddenly Blair was bounced on the couch and had to hold his stomach
against the sudden movement. His friend had gone straight to the phone and was
opening the back.
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