Home > Kris Williams > China White

by Kristine Williams

Part 9


Jim turned to Blair and shook his head.

"I'm sorry, officer, I was detained." Harry sneezed again and found yet another Kleenex in his pocket. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"I'll need copies of these documents." Jim handed back the file, then realized Elizabeth was approaching. Harry seemed unaware of her having followed him from the back door. "And I'd like to know where you were the night of the break in, around midnight."

Harry looked up sharply, stopping his Kleenex mid-wipe. "Me?" His question was somewhat muffled by the tissue. "I--I was.."

"Harry was with me. All night." Elizabeth was beside him now, and held a hand out to Jim. "Hello. I'm Elizabeth Evans."

Jim shook her hand and smiled politely. "Ms Evans, I'm Detective Ellison, Cascade PD. You and Mr. Bilks were together that night?"

"Yes, we were." She glanced at Blair. "You're Blair Sandburg, aren't you? That was your shipment those people broke into?"

"That's right." Blair shook the hand she offered. "Luckily none of the artifacts were damaged."

"Yes, I was glad to hear that. My father would have been held responsible, ultimately, had anything happened to the art."

"Yeah, right after they fired and expelled me." Blair let both eyebrows rise and fall quickly as he glanced from Elizabeth to Jim.

"Can you tell me where you both were?"

Elizabeth looked at Jim with a slight smile curving her full lips. "If you promise not to tell Daddy." She glanced at Harry, who quickly turned and walked to the photocopy machine behind his desk. "Harry and I were down on the pier. Till around 1:00, when we took a walk back to my apartment."

"You don't live on campus?"

"No. I have an apartment down by the Bayside Marina. There was a free concert on the pier that night, and Harry took me."

Jim nodded. "I don't suppose anyone saw you there?"

"Oh, I'm sure many people did." Elizabeth pulled something from her purse and handed it to Jim. "But I don't recall having seen anyone I know." Jim accepted the flyer announcing the concert. "I'd produce ticket stubs, Detective, but like I said, it was a free concert."

"Here you are." Harry shoved several papers at Jim. "Is there anything else?"

"Not right now, thank you." Jim took the papers, noting the still-rapid pulse and sweaty pores. "But I'll be in touch."

"Can I walk you out? I have to go visit with Professor Kinyon." Elizabeth moved toward the door. Blair opened it.

"Certainly." Jim motioned for her to proceed them, then glanced at Blair, who shrugged. "I understand you work at a museum?" Jim walked beside Elizabeth and Blair positioned himself behind them.

"Yes. I'm an intern with the Art Department." She smiled up at Jim and her eyes sparkled. "Not exactly rocket science, but it's a valid career."

Jim looked at her, then pushed open the door that took them into the stairwell. Elizabeth Evans was definitely more than she appeared. In fact, he'd already decided this was one woman who did her best to make people underestimate her. "I'm sure it is."

"So you can imagine my relief when none of the artifacts were damaged that night." She mounted the steps and glanced back at Blair. "Not that I'm happy these people got away with such a heinous crime, mind you. I'd just hate to see art like that be destroyed just so some drug pusher could make a fortune."

Jim's eye caught the sparkle of metal as Elizabeth lifted her skirt to clear the stairs. Around one finely-carved ankle was a gold chain. He didn't need to focus too closely to see that it was quality gold, and the small stone set at the front appeared to be a genuine diamond.

"The art department really lost out on this as well." She pushed open the door that led to the hallway where both Blair's and Professor Kinyon's offices were.

"How's that?"

"The artifacts were going to be on display at the museum for three weeks after the function here," Blair offered. "But now I suppose they'll be going straight back?"

"Yes. You haven't heard?" Elizabeth stopped in the corridor and they stopped beside her.

Blair shook his head and glanced at Jim. "No, I haven't been here for a bit."

"Oh." She looked at Jim, then Blair. "Well, I'm sure you'll find out soon enough. The artifacts, all of them, are to be returned as soon as possible. I guess our guests weren't too pleased to have their exhibits part of a drug smuggling operation. Can't say as I blame them."

Blair nodded and rolled his eyes. "Yeah."

"Thank you, Ms Evans." Jim pulled a business card from his wallet and gave it to her. "If you think of anything, or remember anything you might have seen in the past few days, give me a call."

"Sure thing." She took the card and smiled widely at them both. "Good luck."

Jim nodded and Elizabeth continued down the hall. "That's no can of spam, Chief." He nodded toward Blair's office and they started down that corridor.

"Trust me, Jim, that's as bright as she gets." Blair opened the door to his office and walked straight to the coffee pot.

"She was working something out under that calm exterior." Jim sat on the edge of Blair's desk and watched as he dumped out old, dried up grounds and took the pot to a little sink at the far end of the office. "Her heartrate was barely controlled. She was doing a good job, and might have even fooled a lie detector. But there's something worrying her that goes beyond her father's reputation as Dean." Blair returned and set up the pot, then filled the filter with the Guatemalan blend Jim had been so fascinated with the other night. "Then there's her involvement in the art department."

Blair paused in his scooping out of fresh grounds and looked at Jim, a sudden flash of realization crossing his face. "The artifacts. That's why they were all being so careful. Only someone who knew how important they were in the art world would have cared at all about them." He flipped the top of the coffee pot closed and turned it on, then shook his head. "But it doesn't make sense."

"Why? Because she's the Dean's daughter?"

Blair chewed his lip for a second, then shook his head. "No, I just can't picture her being able to come up with something like this."

"It's not what you know, Chief. It's who." Jim got off the desk and opened the little refrigerator, retrieving the milk. "She obviously would have had help, since you saw three that night. And there were two in the maintenance shed. There's a lot more to drug smuggling than just bringing it in. Someone knew how to cut it, and they must have a seller somewhere." He poured a cup of the fresh coffee, then added milk while Blair got his own. "As soon as it hits the streets, Narcotics will spot the increase."

Blair sipped his coffee and walked to the desk. "So, you think Elizabeth was in on this? You must think Harry Bilks took part too, right?"

"Probably. She'd have to have some kind of access to the shipping documents, in order to make it appear those crates weren't opened at any time during transport. And she'd need to know where they originated from, and when they were due in."

Blair sat down at his desk and set his cup down beside Jim as he sat on the edge again. "What now? We have no proof, do we?"

"Not yet." The rest of Jim's answer was interrupted by the phone on Blair's desk.

"Hello? Oh, yes, Professor. I know, I was home yesterday, I'm sorry. Yes." Jim sipped his coffee and contemplated calling the Captain for an update. Surely that cocaine would be on the streets by now. He couldn't imagine someone coming into what amounted to a windfall of product, and not getting it to his customers right away. They'd managed somehow to cut it all at the University that night, so it should be in the distribution phase. But from what the Captain had already relayed, Narcotics had no information regarding a new shipment from any of their sources. Which could mean a few things. But it still left them with several suspects, and no hard evidence. Not even probable cause.

"I'll have to check with---all right, thank you, Professor Peters." Blair hung up the phone and made a face.

"What was that about, Chief?"

"Professor Peters. He wants the artifacts packed up and ready tonight." He sat back and looked up at Jim. "I told him I'd have to check, see if you were done with them as evidence. But he said he'd already spoken to Captain Banks and got the okay."

Jim nodded, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. "He might have, if forensics got all they could." He dialed Simon's number and watched Blair as he stood and walked back to the coffee pot.


"Captain, it's Ellison."

"Jim, anything new at the University?"

"No, sir. Nothing solid, anyway." Blair pointed to the pot and Jim nodded, holding out his cup for a refill. "I've got a solid suspect, but nothing to warrant any action yet."

"This case is turning up a lot of dead ends."

"Yes, sir. Listen, Sandburg has been asked to pack up the artifacts from the display hall. Professor Peters said you gave the okay. Is forensics all finished up with them?"

"Yes. I spoke with the Professor this morning. Forensics has all they can get from the room, and you didn't come up with anything when you were in there. I think if the artifacts held any clues, we'd have found them by now."

"I agree. Anything from Narcotics yet, sir?"

"Nothing. These people aren't stupid, Jim. They'll probably hold off a few more weeks, wait till the heat dies down. You two see what you can get there, but don't give this more than one more day. By tonight, the case belongs to Narcotics and you're on to other things. You got that?"

Jim sighed. "Yes, sir." He canceled the call after hearing Simon hang up.

"What now? Back to the Station?" Blair stood next to Jim, cup in hand.

"No. Not yet." He set his cup down and stood, walking to the window at the back of Blair's office. He could view the grounds from there, and the maintenance shed could be seen off to their left. "The cocaine was brought into the country to the University. Then the pure drug was cut here, instead of in some lab or warehouse somewhere off campus." Jim focused tightly until the door to the grounds care building was sharply in view. "I have a feeling that whole shipment is still here."

"Still here?" Blair walked over to join him at the window. "To sell, or store?"

Jim shook his head. "I don't know." He turned from the window and looked at Blair. "Listen, I'm going to head over to Campus Security, see what I can find out about the local drug problem. Why don't you go meet up with Elizabeth Evans, see if you can get anything out of her?"

Blair nodded, but there was a look of skepticism on his face. "If you really think she's part of this, I don't think she'll open up to me."

Jim slapped Blair lightly on the arm before turning to leave. "Why not, Chief? People open up to you all the time. It's a gift."

"Yeah, right."

"A gift." Blair mumbled, shaking his head as he stood outside Professor Kinyon's office. He knocked once, and was immediately told to come in. "Professor Kinyon, did Elizabeth Evans come by here?" He quickly glanced around the office when he stepped inside, noting the only occupant was the Professor, who sat behind her desk, nearly hidden from view by a huge stack of files and papers.

"Elizabeth? Why no, she hasn't been in to see me today at all." Professor Kinyon pulled her glasses down from their perch on the top of her head, then pushed back all the errant strands of hair that had accompanied them. "Is she supposed to?"

"I just thought..." Blair stayed near the door, hoping for a quick exit when he realized Elizabeth wasn't there.

"Oh, has Detective Ellison solved the case yet? Good lord, what happened to your face?!"

Blair realized then his hair was no longer hiding the bruise on his cheek, and in fact really hadn't been covering it well at all. "Oh, just a little accident, nothing serious."

"That didn't happen during the break in, did it? At least, I can't remember seeing a bruise like that the other night. Heavens, I do hope Detective Ellison solves this case soon, for the sake of the University." The Professor made a clucking sound with her tongue and shook her head, resting both hands on the top of her stack of files.

"I'm sure he will, but..."

"I was shocked. Shocked, that something as dreadful as this could happen right here, under our very noses. I mean, sure, the murder of Professor Wilson was a shock, but this. Well, this is different. This involves the entire University, you understand. What with our distinguished visitors from Africa. And you, having done all that work, finding the right pieces for display, going to all that trouble of researching the areas, the conflicts, the countries being represented."

Blair had given up his chance for a quick escape, and sat down in front of her desk, using the Professor's soliloquy as background noise while he went over that night in his mind. Jim was pretty sure Elizabeth and Harry were in on it. And if that were true, it would explain the thieves care in dealing with the artifacts they were moving aside. That would mean that Blair had been overpowered by one or both of them. Great, that's just great. That effectively ruined any chance he had of proving to Jim that he'd been subdued and tied up by some giant football player with no neck and bulging muscles. Oh no, Blair had been taken down by a shipping clerk with a dust allergy, and a very attractive can of spam.

"But then, at least the dinner party was a success. Yes, our guests did have an enjoyable stay, all things considered. But, all that hard work for nothing. And now you have to spend all that time shipping them back. If only these criminals had picked that shipment of paintings last month. Or the paleontology department's exhibit next week."

But then, the man who had tied Blair up was larger. In fact, larger than Harry by several inches. All of their voices had been muffled by the ski masks, but the heights seemed right. Although, who the third one was, Blair still had no clue.

"It's just too bad Elizabeth's not a brighter student. You and she would make a cute couple. That's not to say you have any trouble at all finding young, intelligent ladies on your own, mind you."

Blair re-entered the Professor's speech and found a pause. "I really do need to talk to Elizabeth, I should go look for her."

"Oh, yes, of course. I suppose you could find her downstairs." Professor Kinyon pulled her glasses off and returned them to the top of her tightly wrapped bun. "She's generally down there with Harry this time of day. Or so I've noticed."

"Thank you, Professor." Blair stood and tried not to hurry to the door.

"When you see Detective Ellison, tell him I said hello." She waved and smiled as Blair was opening the door.

"Yes, I will." Blair nodded and left quickly, shutting the door behind him. He'd only gotten a few feet from the Professor's door when the hallways filled with students hurrying from one class to the next.

Blair had to fight a grin as he worked his way upstream, through the crowds. It was entirely possible, after having met Jim and spoken with him several times, that the Professor no longer found Blair "simply adorable", and had taken a liking to his partner. Of course, she was married. And happily so, from what Blair understood. Still, it wouldn't be the first time he'd lost out to the taller man. In fact, it happened frequently. Women were just drawn to Jim, for some reason. Maybe some day he'd find a woman he could talk to about the subject, and learn just what it was about Jim Ellison they all found irresistible. Was it looks, or personality? Couldn't be hair, the man hardly had any. It was probably confidence. Jim practically oozed confidence. Or it could be height. Not that Blair could do anything about it if he found out what "it" was. Still, he didn't do all that badly himself. Besides, it wasn't as if he wanted to settle down any time soon. It's not like there's a contest going on here. In fact, Jim never seemed to be pursuing anything. Friendships were more his style these days. Maybe that's what a failed marriage does to you?

Blair's mental monologue took him all the way downstairs and down the long corridor to the shipping department, where he found Harry, alone and sneezing.


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