"I was wondering if you could clarify something for me Detective?"
"Jim. I was just curious, exactly what does Blair
do for the department?" Katie had finished her spaghetti and was nursing
a second cup of coffee, sitting opposite Jim.
"His knowledge of subcultures
and human behavior has been a great help in several cases I've been working on."
Jim replied. "Our Captain decided he might be a helpful addition to the department
in an advisory capacity."
"Fascinating." Clive said, shaking
his head. "I find it fascinating that he's so adept at getting himself into
such adventurous circumstances. Makes my life here at the station sound so completely
"I wouldn't call living out here dull, Professor. I mean,
Clive." he corrected himself just as he realized Clive was about to. "It's
incredible out here. I'd forgotten just how beautiful these islands are."
"Yes, they are that." Katie said, snuggling closer to her husband.
"Listen, why don't you and Amy take Jim on a tour? I'm going to take some
food upstairs to Blair. And it's Lucy's turn to do the dishes." She had raised
her voice for the last sentence and Jim heard a soft moan behind him.
drat." Lucy said, reluctantly pushing herself away from the table. "I
guess it is."
"Good idea dear." Clive kissed his wife quickly
and stood, digging his pipe out of his sweater pocket. "Jim, Amy, shall we
go down to the barge?"
Jim stood and let Amy precede him across the room.
They each grabbed coats from the pegs near the door to protect them against the
late afternoon chill blowing up from the bay. Jim glanced at the sky, taking note
of the black clouds building there. "Looks like another storm."
I think you're right." Clive glanced up just before starting down the steps
to the pier. "We've had a few rough nights lately. And fog. Which is precisely
why I can't talk that supply pilot into getting up here before Tuesday."
he led the way down to the water and out across the pier, towards the research
barge docked at the end. "We've had to extend this pier by nearly double
what it was. The ship was found relatively close, so they decided it would be
much easier to just elongate the dock, and set the barge up at the end. It's worked
out rather well." They reached the barge now and climbed aboard. "The
tanks and diving gear are stowed below, but the real fun stuff is over here."
Clive led the way to the bow and into a large room filled with banks of lights
and monitors. Jim noticed the submersible camera on the table and recognized the
remote equipment lining the far wall.
"I haven't seen one of these in
a while," he said, admiring the small, propeller driven machine.
quite old actually." Amy said, smiling at the machine. "The University
bought it new about ten years ago, but we've managed to keep it going." She
moved over to the monitor next to the table and flipped a switch. "Igor still
takes great pictures."
Jim turned and watched the screen as a clear image
of an anemone covered rock filled the monitor. "Igor?" he asked.
what we call it. Someone dubbed it that years ago, and it stuck. Here's the ship,
as much as we've found of her." Amy pointed to the monitor and Jim could
see the faint outline of a hull, half buried in the silt and sand.
right, there wasn't much of the ship there other than the main beams of the hull,
a section of main mast, and two barnacle encrusted cannons. "How deep is
"Right here, 80 feet." Amy pointed to the tip of the hull,
then moved her finger back to a point they couldn't see. "And back here,
the farthest we've found pieces, 110 feet. And cold." she shuddered visibly.
"I don't go down there. Diving isn't something I've ever been brave enough
to try. Maybe if we were in the tropics, I'd be more tempted. But here, especially
this time of year, when you have a twenty minute survival time, that just doesn't
make me want to try it any time soon."
"I'm sure if you wanted a
closer look, we could talk Blair into going down with you." Clive said, watching
the screen as the camera view panned the length of the ship. "Did he ever
tell you about the time he nearly lost Igor for us?"
said, watching the ship on the screen. "No he didn't."
like to hear this one." Amy added, turning to the Professor.
lighting his pipe again. "He found a rather impressive native ceremonial
canoe, sunk out there in the channel, and was trying to get some clear pictures
of it without having to dive down out there. Well, he gets Igor all the way out,
which is at the absolute limit of the poor machine's remote range, and it dies.
Just flat out dies. Floats, thank God, to the surface, and just sits there. Well,
we had a slack tide that was only going to last another twenty minutes, then all
we'd be able to do would be to wave as our University's $48,000 piece of equipment
floats out the channel into the sea." Jim was grinning now, picturing his
housemate's face. "So Blair sails off the pier, which at that time was much
shorter, and starts swimming out there like a madman, trying to reach Igor before
the tide changes. One other student jumped in to follow...Eddie, I think was his
name. They get out there, get hold of Igor, whose camera is still functioning
as we were watching this from the monitor, and get the propeller unclogged. Then,
just as they turn to swim back with it, Blair comes eyeball to eyeball with a
migrating humpback." Clive was shaking his head, trying not to laugh too
much. "They rarely ever get into the channel here, usually they miss these
islands altogether on their way up north. We mostly see killer whales here. Anyway,
there he is, he and Eddie, and there's this whale. And at that time we had switched
over from being a whale migration observatory to anthropology, and here comes
this anthropology student, who gets the absolute best pictures of a whale so rarely
seen...Well, the biology department was so impressed, they tried for days to recruit
him out of anthropology."
Jim was laughing, trying to picture Blair out
there, in the near freezing water, face to face with a creature so huge. Jim had
seen whales that close before, but never a humpback, and never without a complete
diving suit and several companions around. The experience was one he would never
forget. Just then lightning flashed outside, followed quickly by thunder.
we go again." Amy said.
"We'd better get inside. Maybe this time
it will blow over and clear out some of the clouds." Clive flipped off the
monitor and instructed Amy to secure the instruments.
"I'd like to have
a quick look at the diving equipment if you don't mind." Jim said, following
"Certainly. It's all kept down below." He pointed
to the hatch that led down to the belly of the barge. "Help yourself. I have
to go batten down the hatches, so to speak."
Jim nodded and watched him
leave, then headed down below to have a look at the tanks. They were lined up
in rows, chained to the wall unit that held them in place. Twenty tanks in all.
Jim glanced at each one, noting they were all full. Kenny had said the tanks were
turned in that morning for replacements. He couldn't help but think that was a
little convenient. When Tim got back to them, he could check with the dive shop
that maintained the tanks, find out if there was anything wrong with the one Emily
had used. He heard another clap of thunder and decided to head back up to the
research center. Amy had just completed her shut down of the equipment and accompanied
him back up the pier.
"How's Blair taking this?" she asked just before
they reached the door. "I know he and Emily were close once."
be okay. It's never easy to lose someone like this. She was very young."
"Yes. She would have turned 26 this summer. I still can't believe it."
The entered the building then and both left their coats by the door. It had
started to rain halfway up the pier and they were dripping already.
don't think I'll ever get used to this weather. I'm from Arizona originally."
Amy shook her coat out slightly before hanging it up, then she glanced into the
living area and Jim followed her gaze, seeing Kenny and his two followers sitting
together around a table that was covered with papers. Jim focused in on what the
boys were studying and recognized nautical maps and charts.
have you been finding down there, in the wreck?" he asked, handing his coat
to Amy who was reaching for it.
"Oh, artifacts mostly. Personal items
from the ship's crew. It was originally from Mexico, and had several lovely custom
made captain's galley items, plates and art work." She hung up his coat and
they both walked to the kitchen. "Coffee?"
"No thanks. I think
I'll take a hot shower, get warmed up." As he walked to the hallway that
would lead to their room he glanced back out to the couch, noting that Kenny was
watching him as he went.
Blair wasn't in the room, so he found the bathroom
across the hall and the stash of clean towels, and took a long hot shower. Kenny
Pritchard filled Jim's mind as he let the hot water run down his back, warming
the chill he'd been feeling down at the barge and tried to work out that bunched
up muscle in his back. There was something he didn't like about that one. And
Blair's reaction to him earlier that day only confirmed it. For someone who had
just witnessed the accidental death of his girlfriend, he seemed way too glib.
Everything about him was too neat and tidy. From his perfectly tailored clothes,
which were odd enough at a College research station, to his yuppy hair cut. Jim
had never liked boys like Kenny when he was in school. Rich, spoiled, and with
way too much free time on their hands. He had to wonder how a girl could date
two of the most opposite men he had ever known.
This whole situation was beginning
to smell fishy. Sure, diving accidents happened. But at 80 feet, they weren't
down so far as to be unable to make it back up in a hurry. And if Kenny had noticed
their tank levels, why hadn't Emily? If they were both using full tanks, they
should have had the same amount of air. Her, even more, as women tended to breath
more shallowly underwater, doing a better job of conserving air. And his attitude
about not only her death, but Blair's arrival, just wasn't sitting well with Jim.
He shut off the water and began to towel himself dry. He had cared enough about
her to go to the mainland and purchase a nice coffin, but not enough to even fake
a more emotional response to being questioned about the accident that killed her?
Blair had been more upset than Kenny seemed to be, and yet Blair was feeling guilty
about not feeling worse. No, there was definitely something going on here.
finished toweling off, wrapped the larger towel around his waist and crossed the
hallway to their room. Blair was inside, sitting on top of the desk, watching
the lightning that was flashing across the sky with more intensity.
Jim. Katie tells me you got the tour?"
Jim smiled, reaching into his bag
for clean socks. "Yeah. That's some set up down there." he pulled on
the socks and found some underwear. "They've got good footage of the wreck
from the underwater camera." He tossed aside his jeans and pulled on sweats
"Igor? That old thing is still working?"
Working pretty well, judging by the pictures I saw of that wreck." he pulled
on a sweatshirt and rubbed the towel through his short hair one more time. "I
heard about you nearly losing that camera."
Blair laughed. Jim was relieved
to see him smiling again. "Man, that was something. I thought I was going
to die right there on the spot." He shook his head, looking at Jim, but his
eyes were blank for a moment as he remembered. "God, it was incredible. I
was staring right into its eye, and it was watching me. You could see the intelligence
there, like he knew exactly who I was and what I was doing."
not something you ever forget."
Blair nodded. "Yeah. I actually considered
switching to marine biology that night. Until I saw the pictures I had taken of
the canoe we were looking for."
Jim laughed a little and settled in on
the bed, leaning against the wall so he could watch the storm outside. "This
place is something. We should come up to these islands more often, bring the kayaks,
do some camping."
Blair looked out the window as another flash of lightning
lit up the night sky. "Clive's been up here for a long time. He keeps saying
he should leave, find something more interesting to do. I can't see him ever leaving.
And Katie, she's been here with him since the beginning. They've really got a
little piece of paradise here." he paused, watching the wind blow the branches
they could see from the few trees next to the building. "Hey Jim, I know
I've been a little out of it lately, and I just wanted to say..."
it Chief. I understand."
"No, really. I need to say it Jim."
Blair looked at him then, "I've been a little self-absorbed, and I wanted
to thank you for putting up with it."
Jim smiled, nodding. "No problem."
Another round of thunder hit, closer this time, and Jim squinted against the echoing
in his head. He had his hearing turned down, but that one was louder than he had
anticipated. "If this clears up tomorrow, how about a dive?"
looked at him, "You want to see the wreck?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't
mind. Seeing as how we'll be up here for a couple of days. Clive tells me you're
a pretty good diver. Another little aspect of you I had no idea about."
laughed, "Sure, okay. I haven't seen it myself yet, could be fun." He
paused, glancing outside. "Cold though."
"I saw plenty of wetsuits
down on that barge. Besides, cold water diving gets your heart pumping, your blood
"Yeah, your teeth chattering, your fingers turning blue.."
"You're not getting too old on me are you Sandburg?"
laughed. "Okay, you're on."
Jim was glad to see his housemate's return
to whatever normal was for Blair. He was still a little quiet, a little sad around
the edges maybe, but he did seem to be perking up. Jim hoped it was from their
chat earlier, although it could have been something Katie or Clive had said to
him upstairs. He doubted that, though, after what Clive had said about Blair never
talking about himself. And Jim had been forced to pry him open, out there on the
rocks. No, he was coming around now. He'd be fine. He still needed work, but he'd
"Listen, Blair, how well do you know these students up here?"
Blair raised his eyebrows for a moment, considering the question. "Larry
Dike, and Ross something..."
Edwards, I hardly know at all. Amy and I have been on research projects together
before, when she was in anthropology, before she switched her major. The other
girl, I saw her in the kitchen earlier, I've never met her."
Evans. What about this Pritchard guy?"
Blair paused, rolling his eyes,
and moved from the table to the bed, sitting down and leaning against the wall
to face Jim. "Kenny Pritchard. I've known him for a little while. Knew more
about him, really, than actually knowing him. Emily, well, her mother wasn't too
keen on she and I staying together for very long. And Kenny was the son of a friend
of a friend, or something." He sighed a little, looking at his hands. "Her
parents had higher goals for their only daughter. And we were nowhere near being
that serious anyway, so she broke it off and started seeing him."
he's your typical spoiled rich kid, getting an education off his parents' hard
"Seems to me he's just a little
"What do you mean?" Blair looked at him
then, a slow dawning of worry crossing his face.
"I'm not sure yet."
Jim replied, shrugging. "I just know there's something about this guy I don't
like. And those other two, they hang on his every word. I have a feeling if he
said jump, they'd do it. Amy seems to have a will of her own, though."
been around longer than the others. She's a grad student, working on her doctorate
in field research. All the others are under grads, but Kenny likes to take charge
wherever he is. Doesn't always work, but he tries."
"He's tried that
with you? What's the story here, Chief?"
Blair sighed, looking at his
hands, then out the window. "I just blew it, that's all." He shrugged.
"I'm not from the right circles, and Kenny was. And he liked to remind me
of that after...Well after Emily left me and started to date him." Blair
shifted on the bed and Jim could see a struggle behind his eyes. "You know,
I never did care about a persons background, not that way, but Kenny...he makes
you think about it. He likes to remind you of things." Blair shrugged again
and stopped talking.
Jim was nodding, and opened his mouth to speak when there
was a knock on the door. He stood and opened it,
"Ah, Jim. I was going
to offer you a drink and some conversation, now that the young ones are in for
the night." Clive smiled in at Blair then looked back at Jim expectantly.
"Sounds good. I'd love to hear more stories about my friend here."
Jim grinned, glancing at Blair for just a moment.
"Hey now, come on."
"Just you relax. I'm sure there's not much I can say that would be a surprise
to someone like Detective Ellison." Clive winked at Jim and motioned for
him to follow.
"You kids have fun. I'm going to bed." Blair called
after them as Jim shut the door.
Jim followed Clive back down the hall and
up the stairs, where he found Katie sitting on the couch pouring white wine into
glasses. She smiled as they approached, and offered a glass to Jim.
"I think it's past his bed time." Jim said, accepting
the glass with a smile. "He's afraid we'll embarrass him."
I don't think that's possible." She sat back with a glass in her hand and
patted the couch for her husband to sit next to her.
Jim took one of the chairs
facing the couple and sipped his wine, looking outside at the storm that was blowing
past the windows. The lightning and thunder had stopped, and the clouds were beginning
to move, allowing the bright white light of the moon to peak through on occasion.
He found himself admiring Blair's choice of friends in the Professor and his wife.
His friend could be so easily influenced by the people around him that Jim had
to wonder what kind of effect he was having on the younger man.
tells me there's a story behind that ship out there."
Clive sat down and put a hand on his wife's knee. "Legend, really. During
those gold rush days, there were ships coming and going through this inside passage,
from California, to Washington, then up to Alaska. During the trips back down,
there were some pirates who would occasionally sink a ship for it's gold. Many
of the prospectors took to shipping their gold down on the trains when that started,
but they'd run into hassles coming down through Canada, which was not too happy
about being a tramping ground at the time. You may recall reading about that little
war, with the pig?"
"It's my contention that the pig was only wounded
in that war." Katie chimed in, laughing.
Jim nodded, trying to recall
his local history. He never was good about the lesser known facts, and the Pig
War was one he simply couldn't bring to mind.
"Well, anyway, these ships
often tried to out maneuver both the pirates and the authorities by sailing in
and around the islands a few times, either to confuse their chasers or hide from
the locals. This ship was thought to have been empty, on its way up from California.
But, legend has it that the ship was full of gold that had already been melted
into bars, and was going down the coast, not up." He paused to light his
pipe and took a few long puffs. "I will admit, when it was discovered, I
was entertaining thoughts of the glittering metal myself. For research funding,
"Of course." Jim smiled.
"But, there was
nothing found. At least, nothing of that type of value. But archeologically speaking,
and scientifically, it's a wonder to behold. It was a beautiful vessel in its
day. I have pictures somewhere, I think. Hard to believe it was there for so long
and we missed it all this time."
"Well, no one was looking for it
here." Katie said, patting her husband's knee.
"How was it found?"
"Nearly a year ago, or more like 8 months I suppose, anyway,
there was an earthquake, not too terribly big, but enough to shift around some
rocks that weren't too well balanced to begin with, and voila. She poked her broken
nose out and Igor spotted her one afternoon. I have to admit, it took me a few
rewinds of that tape before I recognized what I was looking at was a ship. We
were looking for more finds like the canoe Blair spotted that time. And we were
picking up some lunch on the way back. Igor has a nice claw fitting for grabbing
the occasional lobster or urchin."
"Oh, there's something I haven't
had in a while." Katie sighed deeply and looked at Jim. "Blair got me
hooked on urchins when he was out here the first time. Clive prefers them boiled,
but Blair and I eat them raw." Jim was making a face and she laughed. "You
haven't tried them?" Jim shook his head. "Well, you're missing a treat.
I'll have to gather some up tomorrow for dinner. You just cut a circle around
their mouths, and dig right in. Well, I suppose it's an acquired taste for some.
Like oysters. Clive still prefers those fried."
Jim shuddered for a moment,
picturing himself eating a raw urchin. He did enjoy oysters, and even liked them
best raw, but the urchin was more stomach than meat. But then, Blair liked tongue.
I wonder what other organs he enjoys?
"How long have you known
Kenny Pritchard?" Jim decided it was time to change the subject, before he
had himself promising to taste something he'd regret. Although the tongue had
turned out to be rather tasty.
"Oh, not long." Katie glanced at Clive
for confirmation. "He came up the month that ship was found, with his class.
They were here for about a month, then it was summer and he didn't come back up
until the fall class came. By then, he was much more interested in the ship and
the artifacts they were bringing up." She paused, sipping her wine. "He's
not a very easy one to get to know. There's something about him I've seen in very
few students here. And it's not just his wealthy background, although that may
have been what shaped his personality. He's just, well, more reserved."
he's trying to outguess you at every step." Clive finished for her. "You
can see it whenever you ask a question. He's considering your reaction to his
answer before he answers you." he pulled on his pipe, shaking his head. "No.
That one isn't destined for much greatness as far as his studies go. He's not
curious enough. Too calculating, too cold."
"And the others?"
"Larry and Ross are okay, I suppose." Katie said, thoughtfully. "Not
much by way of personality. They seem to follow Kenny around everywhere, and just
do what he says. I'm surprised they're even here. As far as the wreck goes, they
both seem interested enough, but they don't have the drive you normally see in
students of this field. This is their first time up here, so I may be wrong. They've
only been up for three weeks."
"And Lucy, she seems to be another
Pritchard follower so far." Clive said. "Although she's much more intelligent
as the other two, she still seems to bow to Kenny's authority. Of which he really
has none, not here anyway."
"And Amy? She's a grad student, isn't
"Yes. Now there's a scientist in the making." Clive smiled,
re-lighting his pipe. "She's quick, intelligent, and curious. And, she's
just as adept at handling the equipment, like Igor, as Blair always was. Although,
she's never had to swim out to retrieve it." At that he chuckled.
you tell her about that?" Katie asked her husband. "She wasn't here
when that happened, was she?" Clive nodded, then shook his head, still trying
to light the pipe. "I'm afraid if it's an unbiased opinion you're looking
for on Kenny and the others, you've come to the wrong place. I usually enjoy these
students, but every now and again we get a group that just doesn't click. You
could speak to Amy about the other students, but I don't think she thinks too
highly about Kenny either. And I know Blair doesn't like him, though I've never
seen those two up here together. Amy has told me stories about Blair and Emily's
Jim raised his eyebrows slightly, wondering about the breakup
himself. Maybe later Blair would open up more about that. Maybe he'd have to open
him up. "Well, thank you for the wine. I should turn in." Jim stood,
setting the now empty glass down on the table. "Blair said he'd take a dive
with me tomorrow, if this weather clears up."
"Oh good. It'll be
good for him to do something other than wait around for that paperwork to come
back, and a pilot to take you all back. And I hear the wind should blow it all
out tonight." Katie looked outside at the now visible moon. "It certainly
seems to be trying."
"Well, good night."
Clive nodded, still
trying to get his pipe to hold a flame and Katie said goodnight.
As Jim walked
back down the hallway to the room he and Blair were sharing, he passed by the
now closed doors to the students quarters, automatically opening his hearing to
"Don't worry about it. We've got that nicer coffin, and once the
papers come through, she'll pass right through customs. It's not like they open
caskets for crying out loud. It's only Canada, not some third world country."
Jim could almost believe they were discussing a simple case of nervous sorrow
about having their friend shipped home in a casket. If it hadn't been Kenny doing