Jim climbed the stairs to the upper level and glanced around, noticing
the impressive view of the island from the large picture window he was facing
as he stepped away from the staircase. The entire island could be seen from that
level, as the windows circled the building, with no walls to block the view. At
the far end of the room, standing next to Tim Phillips and Katie Hathaway was
a greying gentleman with his arm wrapped around Katie's shoulder. Jim could smell
the pipe tobacco from there, as subtle as it was, with a hint of vanilla. Tim
caught his eye and waved him over to join them. Jim took one last look at the
incredible landscape and turned to follow the windows around the room to where
they waited. Professor Hathaway was exactly the image of a Professor Jim had always
kept in mind. From his dark blue cardigan sweater, khaki colored pants, greying
beard and glasses pushed over his head, right up to the pipe that smoldered gently
as it hung from his mouth.
"Jim Ellison, this is Professor Hathaway. He's
the supervisor here at the station." Jim took the professor's hand and returned
the smile. "Professor, this is Detective Jim Ellison."
do you do Professor?"
"Fine, considering. It's Clive, by the way.
We don't stand too much on formalities around here." He removed the pipe
and nodded to his wife. "You've met Katie?"
"Yes, I have."
Jim looked around at the circular view. "This is some place you have here."
"Ah, yes it is. We've been in operation for nearly ten years now. Come,
let me show you around."
Jim let the Professor step ahead of him and begin
a slow walk around the room, gazing out the windows.
"We were originally
set up to study the whale migration through the Straits." He pointed out
the window they were walking past, to the water beyond the island. "But,
as the funding changed, and new stations were set up in better positions, we were
switched over to a more anthropological staging area. There were so many local
tribes on these islands. Many of the mainland tribes used these islands as summer
vacation spots, just as we do now." They moved on around the room and Jim
could see more of the pier and the barge at the end. "But, a few years ago,
they found that thing, just sitting out there all this time, waiting for someone
to come along and look down." He laughed a little, putting the pipe back
in his mouth for a long pull. "Of course, she wasn't expected to be found
there, so why would anyone be looking, eh?"
Jim nodded, smiling at the
Professor's attitude. "Is that what the students are here for, to study the
He nodded, lowering his head sadly. "Yes. This group is from
the archeology department. Solely interested in what they can find down there."
He sighed heavily. "As I was telling the Inspector, each of them is a certified
diver. That's required for them to come up here, unless they just want to catalog
findings and coordinate the search. But Ms Cummings was certified. She was up
here last summer, for the first time, and was diving even then." He paused
and Jim stopped, waiting. "Yes, this accident has hit us all pretty hard."
"What exactly happened?"
"Hum? Oh, yes, let me see. I wasn't
down there, but her diving partner, Kenny Pritchard was with her. That was tragic.
The two of them were, what is it they say these days? An item? Anyway, they simply
stayed down too long, and Ms Cummings ran out of air." He made a clucking
sound with his tongue and re-lit the pipe. "Shame, really. These accidents
are so avoidable if they would just remember their diving rules and pay closer
Jim nodded, glancing back at Tim, who was busy talking to
Katie Hathaway. "Was there an autopsy?"
"Hum? Well, my wife
performed a preliminary exam. But, since there were so many witnesses, and they
had tried so hard to revive her down on the pier, there really wasn't any need
to desecrate the poor girl's body. Unless her parents request one. But I'm sure
they can do that after she's back in the States." He pulled on the pipe,
trying to keep the tobacco lit. "I understand the University sent Blair Sandburg
down to collect her?"
"Yes." Jim replied, looking back out the
windows. He could see a small boat approaching from across the channel and was
about to comment on it when he realized it would still be too far out for anyone
but him to see. "The students who were down on the pier, are they all here
"Yes. Well, no, not right now. Two of the students are here,
but they weren't diving that day. I'm not sure exactly where they are...oh, most
likely out on the barge, working on the equipment. The other three went to the
mainland together for a coffin. They didn't want their friend going back in that
old metal thing. Can't say as I blame them. The boat should be back soon, if you'd
like to talk with them. I'm having trouble getting the regular float plane to
come out this week, what with the holiday, and the fog we've been having lately.
I'm afraid we'll all be stuck with each other for a few days."
take a while to get things squared away, so we can take her home anyway."
Just then Jim saw Blair walking out across the island, behind the building. "How
big is this island, anyway?"
"Oh, not big at all. The center is situated
on the only flat ground there is. Then, off behind us is some rocky area, with
several trees, as you can see. Lots of places for these students to get away if
they feel the need. Some of them even like to sleep in tents, out and about the
area." The Professor was looking outside as he pointed, and he, too, noticed
Blair. "Ah, Blair Sandburg. I haven't seen him in a while. Archeology isn't
his field, you see. But he used to like to come up here to relax, and we'd chat
for hours about the natives. He hasn't been up for nearly a year." He sighed.
"This must be hard for him. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that he and Ms
Cummings had a history."
"Yes, they did." Jim replied, watching
Blair walk into the woods at the south end of the island. "If you'll excuse
"Clive." he corrected, reaching into his pocket
for another match.
"Clive. If you'll excuse me. It was nice meeting you."
He nodded, striking the match. "We'll talk again. It's a small building."
Jim smiled and walked back to the staircase, noting as he did so that Tim and
Katie were gone. He descended the stairs and found them both in the kitchen.
my boat's coming in so I'll be pushing off." Tim reached out and shook Jim's
hand again. "I'll do my best with the paperwork, but I can't promise anything
"That's fine, Tim. Thanks for your help. We'll be
here." He slapped his friend on the back as he turned for the door, "Oh,
hey, congratulations on the promotion, Inspector."
"Ha. Long time
coming, my friend. We may be a bit different up here, but even Canadians get promoted."
Jim laughed and watched him leave, then turned to Katie who was standing beside
him, holding out two steaming cups. "Fresh and hot," she said, handing
him the cups of coffee. "He went out that way. There's sort of a trail that
takes you right to the edge. There's a great rocky spot there that's perfect for
Jim smiled, nodding. "Thanks."
He found the
trail, such as it was, and followed it into the sparse tree line, then out to
the rock he could see Blair sitting on. There was a second rock, just behind him
and slightly lower, and Jim sat on that, handing Blair a cup.
behind him for just a moment, accepting the cup, then turned back to stare out
at the surf crashing against the rocks twenty feet below.
They sat for a few
minutes in silence. Jim knew his friend was having trouble dealing with Emily's
death, it was natural. But it seemed to be closing him up, and that wasn't good.
Jim had been through the grief process enough to know, if you didn't open up,
it would tear you apart. He wasn't going to let Blair get that far. "The
boat is in. Tim's gone back to get things started. Should have everything taken
care of by Tuesday."
Blair nodded, not looking back. "Thanks, Jim."
He sipped his coffee and looked out at the waves Blair was studying. "This
is a beautiful place. It's been a long time since I've come up this far. I'd almost
forgotten just how incredible it is." He could hear the boat pulling up at
the opposite end of the island. "You want to talk about it?"
really, Jim." Blair looked out over the waves, then at the sky for a second,
but wouldn't turn around. "I think I just need to be alone for a while."
Jim sighed, glancing around. This wasn't going to be easy, but it had to be
done. "No, Blair, not this time," he said. Blair glanced back at him
for a moment and Jim could see the redness of his eyes. "It's not going to
just go away, not before you deal with it."
"I don't want to deal
with it, Jim. I just want to get past it." He looked back out over the water.
"You're not going to get past it, not like this," Jim said, leaning
forward a little. "Listen, until you can bring it out, deal with it, get
used to it, it isn't going to go away. It's called grief, and we all go through
it the same way. Some of us at a different pace, and different intensity, but
it's the same all around. Now, until you can talk to me, or someone, about this,
it's not going to go away."
"What about you?" Jim could hear
the subtle anger in his friend's voice, but he knew it wasn't an anger directed
at him. "If I talk to you about it, are you going to go away?"
was quiet for a moment, letting Blair calm down a little. "No Chief. I'm
not going to go away." Was that what had been scaring him all this time?
Didn't he realize by now, the two of them were partners? He didn't, did he?
Blair still thought Jim was going to end their relationship at any time. This
fear had to stop.
Blair turned then and looked him in the eye as if searching
for something. He met his gaze and waited, hoping his friend would find what he
wanted there. After a moment, Blair turned back to the sea and stared at his coffee
mug. "Emily and I were pretty close, for a couple of months anyway. Before
Kenny came along. Now she's dead, and I don't...I should feel..." He faltered
and Jim remained quiet, waiting. "I should feel something. I do feel something,
but it's not enough. Not nearly enough."
Jim waited, watching his friend
as he stared at his coffee growing cold. When he didn't continue, Jim took a deep
breath, glancing out over the water. "How much is enough?" he asked.
Blair shook his head, "More than I do. Jim, she was...She deserved more.
I'm upset, but I'm not as upset as I should be."
"And that's got
Blair nodded and Jim could see him trying to gain control.
"What does that make me?"
Jim shook his head and moved closer. Setting
his cup down on the dirt beside the rock he was sitting on, he put a hand on Blair's
shoulder. "It makes you human, Chief. That's all. There's no hard and fast
rule, or gauge that tells you how much or how little to feel when someone you
know dies. Any more than there's a rule about how much you can feel for a person
when they're alive. If you felt more worried and upset about the trip up here,
and what it would take to get her back, than you were about her death, that doesn't
make you any less human than if you had simply fallen apart back at the loft last
night." He paused then, giving Blair's shoulder a squeeze. "It doesn't
make you any less of a person either way."
Blair wasn't moving, but he
seemed to be listening. They could both hear voices now as the students from the
boat approached the back of the building. Jim glanced over and focused on the
three entering the lower level from a wide back door, carrying a large wooden
coffin inside. He could feel Blair take a deep breath under the hand that was
still gripping his shoulder.
"So, I've spilled my guts. You can go away
now." he said, gazing out at the waves once again.
replied, retrieving his cup. "I might go inside, get warmed up, but I'm not
going away." He stood then and stretched, still trying to ease that kink.
"It's going to get stormy again this afternoon. Don't stay out here too long."
With that he left, glancing back once to see Blair drinking his coffee, which
was no doubt cooling off as fast as Jim's butt had been on that rock.
his steps back to the front of the main level, walking back into the kitchen to
deposit his cup. Katie Hathaway was still there, beginning to take various pots
and pans out of the cupboards.
She looked up and smiled. "How's he doing?"
"He'll be okay." Jim replied, rinsing out his cup. "These things
are never easy."
"No, that's for sure." She stood from her search
of the lower cabinet and motioned towards a chair at the nearest table. "Please,
sit down. Being the resident den mother here requires at least an hour in the
kitchen this time of day. Your Inspector friend left with the boat, and except
for my husband, who is too often preoccupied with his findings, I miss some adult
Jim laughed a little, glancing around for the students
he could hear in the basement. "That doesn't surprise me."
into the refrigerator and pulled out several pounds of hamburger. "Oh, now
and then we get a grad student up here, like Blair. Someone with more experience
and travels under their belt. In fact, my husband and Blair used to spend hours
upstairs, just talking. He's quite a well rounded young man. Have you two been
"Not long. He's been working as a consultant to the
department for several months now, and we share an apartment since his blew up."
"What? His place blew up?"
"Yeah. An unfortunate choice of
neighbors." Jim replied, shaking his head. "He was renting out a warehouse,
freezing cold, no windows, and the other end was being used as a methamphetamine
"My lord!" Katie was shaking her head in amazement. "How
does he end up with such an adventurous life?"
Jim was about to give her his theory concerning Blair's adventures when they both
heard the three from the basement coming up the staircase. Jim turned to watch.
They were led by a tall, blond young man with piercing blue eyes and what Jim
decided was a look of wealthy arrogance about him. Two more followed, both young
men, each with darker hair, and each one remaining slightly behind the first,
glancing at each other when they spotted Jim sitting there.
is Detective Ellison, from Cascade. He's here with Blair Sandburg to take Emily
"Blair Sandburg? He's here instead of Professor Kinyon? I'm
surprised he had it in him."
Jim noted the undercurrent of disapproval
in the younger man's voice that he was trying to mask as polite concern. He reached
out and accepted the hand that was offered. "Professor Kinyon couldn't make
it. She asked Blair to come out here on behalf of the University."
why are you here, officer?"
Jim didn't like this kid. Not one bit. "I'm
a friend of Blair's." he glanced at the other two and Katie stepped forward.
"Ross Edwards, Larry Dike, come meet Detective Ellison." She was
waving them forward like a mother urging her shy ones to be polite. "They
were with Emily when it happened."
Jim shook each one's hand, taking note
of the slight shaking of each one, and the minute sweat that built quickly on
their palms. "Which of you was diving with her?"
"That was me,"
Kenny replied, stepping into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Jim waited, watching
him pour way too much milk into the coffee, then turn back to face him, smiling
oddly. "We always went down together. I can't believe it happened."
He sipped his coffee and the other two joined him there in the kitchen. "I
kept telling her we should go back, then when we did, she just ran out of air
halfway up." He took another drink and glanced out the windows behind Jim.
"I didn't notice she was in trouble until it was too late."
tried to resuscitate her." Larry interjected. "But it didn't work. And
Ms Hathaway tried too." He stopped suddenly and looked at the floor, eyes
darting furtively from Kenny to Jim and back.
"You both went down with
full tanks?" Jim asked, staring Kenny in the eyes.
He met the gaze and
smiled again. "Yes. But I think her gauge was wrong. You see, these tanks
are rented, and we get them traded in every week. I guess one of them just didn't
get checked out well at the shop."
Jim heard the doors behind them open,
and turned to see Blair coming in. Blair paused for a moment at the doorway, seeing
the others standing in the kitchen.
"Blair. I'm surprised you came up
here, considering. I would have thought they'd send a Professor, at least. "
Kenny had stepped forward before Jim could stand and was now walking across the
room, towards Blair. He stopped halfway there and Blair shut the door behind him,
walking around the couches and keeping an eye on Jim.
all he said, glancing at the others and nodding in recognition.
to Emily's boyfriend and diving partner did much to complete Jim's first assessment
of the younger man. He could see the tension build in Blair's face, the hesitation
as he entered the room, and his heartbeat increased for a moment. His housemate
was always the picture of politeness around others, but his cold reaction to the
three now in the room was a slight surprise.
"Listen, dinner will be ready
in an hour. Why don't you all go get cleaned up and changed?" Katie took
the coffee cup from Blair's hand and put an arm around his shoulder, leaning in
to say a few words Jim had to focus to catch. "Just ignore him Blair. He's
been that way since he came up last month. Clive is upstairs, he'd love to see
Blair glanced at Jim, then shot a quick glance at the three standing
now in the living area, watching him. "Thanks Katie." She lowered her
arm and Blair left, climbing the stairs to the upper level. Jim watched him go,
noting the almost blank look on his face as he looked down one last time, catching
Jim's eye for a moment.
"Clive just thinks the world of him." Katie
was standing next to Jim now, looking up the stairs. "They once stayed up
until sunrise just talking. God knows what about, he never opens up about himself.
Just those travels of his." She shook her head and returned to her cooking.
Jim stood and wandered over to Kenny and his friends, sitting now on one of
the couches. "How long have you been diving?"
Kenny looked at him
a moment before replying, as if he were testing out the answer in his head first.
"Up here, about two years. In general, I've been certified for five."
he paused and glanced at each of his friends, frowning a little. "If you
think I should have been paying closer attention to my partner, you're absolutely
correct. I feel terrible about this." he stood then, and was eye to eye with
Jim. "And I consider the accident entirely my fault. But, these things do
Jim knew then there was more to this than met the eye.
And it was most likely the one meeting his eyes right then that could explain
it all. He just nodded, raising his eyebrows for a moment. "Yes, accidents
happen. I'd like to have a look at the equipment after dinner."
gone." Ross said suddenly.
Jim saw Kenny's pupils constrict for an instant
when he heard Ross, and the almost imperceptible twitch in the corner of his right
eye. "Yes, actually the tanks we both used have already been sent back to
the dive shop we rent from, to be refilled and tested."
Jim nodded. "Ah."
"But we can still show you around the ship, if you'd like."
I think I would." He glanced at each of them for just a second, then turned
and walked up the stairs to find Blair and Professor Hathaway.
in thirty minutes." Katie called out.
Jim found Blair sitting on a couch
at the far end of the room, with his feet up on the table in front of him, talking
to Professor Hathaway who sat in a chair facing him. The Professor saw Jim and
waved him over.
"Detective, please join us." He stood and walked
quickly over to a cabinet. "Can I get you a beer?"
Jim smiled, taking
a seat in the chair beside the couch. "Yes, thank you."
smiling slightly, watching the Professor. "He thinks he's got this perfect
stash in there." he nodded towards the cabinet the Professor was digging
around in. "There's a little refrigerator built in back there, with a combination
lock," he explained, raising his voice ever so slightly for the Professor's
benefit. "And he thinks no one knows the combination."
hush. You're going to give away all of my secrets." He pulled himself back
out of the cabinet and handed Jim the beer he had produced, returning to the chair.
"This one, he thinks he's so clever, finding out the combination to my refrigerator,
and then the ice cream. Does he give you this much trouble Detective?"
in fact he does. And it's Jim." He laughed at the dirty look Blair gave him
then, glad to see at least a little spark in his eyes again. "So, what secrets
can you tell me about him?"
Clive laughed and Blair rolled his eyes. "Well,
about his exploits here, plenty. About him, not much. Our mutual friend here loves
to live, and experience, and learn, but talk? Ha. Oh, he's a great one if you
are interested in various cultures, living habits, and cooking. But try to get
personal and he's a clam."
Jim glanced at his friend knowingly. Blair
was grinning and shaking his head back and forth slowly, then he saw Jim watching
him and he stopped. "The man exaggerates," he said.
he's got you down pat," Jim replied. He turned to Clive, effectively turning
his back on Blair. "So, Clive, what's your take on him?"
come on. I didn't come up here so you two could compare notes." Blair stopped
suddenly and looked away, taking a long drink of his beer.
"No, of course
you didn't." Clive replied, then looked at Jim. "After the kids go to
bed, we'll talk." he said, conspiratorially.
Blair opened his mouth to
respond but was interrupted by Katie calling from below. "Dinner in five
"Come on, if we don't get there in time, we'll be fighting
for scraps." Clive stood and drained the last of his beer.
Jim stood and
looked down at Blair. "Go ahead." Blair said. "I'm not very hungry.
I think I'll just hang out here for a while."
"Okay Chief. How about
a tour of this place later?" He'd come out of it, in time.
and Jim turned to follow Clive. "Hey Jim."
I just wanted to say...thanks for earlier."
"No problem Chief."
Jim smiled down at his friend, then walked to the stairs and followed Clive down
to the kitchen. Sitting around the second table Jim noticed two more students,
both women, that he hadn't seen before. Katie introduced them as Amy Daniels and
Lucy Evans, two archeology students who ran the remote excavation equipment and
catalogued the findings. Neither one was a diver, and neither one had been on
the pier that day. Jim watched them during dinner, all of them. He, Katie and
Clive were the sole occupants of their table, with all five students sitting together
across from them. It wouldn't have taken a policeman's powers of observation to
see the hierarchy that had developed at that table. Kenny Pritchard commanded
the conversation, with Larry and Ross hanging on every word he said. Both Amy
and Lucy listened, but only Amy wore a look of bored detachment. Jim studied her
for a minute, watching her reactions to Kenny's words. They were discussing the
trip to the mainland, shopping for just the right casket for their dear departed
friend. Then the subject changed to the wreck and their latest findings. At that
point, Amy seemed to lose all interest. Jim wondered if Blair knew these two as
well, being from the University as they were. Amy Daniels was very attractive,
and closer to Blair's age than the others, as well as his height. She was dainty,
with short black hair and perfectly painted red fingernails. Her companion, Lucy,
was an exact opposite. Blonde hair almost white, at least as tall as Katie, and
most likely even as tall as Jim when she wore heels. Her fingernails were so short,
they must have been chewed on several times, and she kept darting her eyes around
the room, as if she expected someone to come in the front door.