On the drive to the Station, he flipped on the radio, searching
for news. Each station he settled on immediately went to commercial. Frustrated
after seven tries, he switched it off. By the time Jim reached the Station, he
was beginning to feel irritated and somewhat disjointed. He parked the truck and
walked to the elevator, seeing no one on the way. The ride up seven floors was
slow, adding to his irritation. When he reached his desk, he decided it was due
to having been out of the loop for several days. That feeling that he was missing
something was probably due to his having missed so many days of work.
Jim." Simon approached the desk just as Jim sat down. "Agent Mills is
downstairs. He's taking those two to the Federal Building in Olympia."
"How's Sandburg doing?"
"Better. I just
thought I'd come in for a few hours, get some paperwork out of the way."
Simon nodded. "Did you change your mind about him coming back?"
Jim shook his head, preparing for yet another argument.
Simon sat on the edge of Jim's desk. "It's your decision, and you know I'll
back you on it. But I still think you need to re-think this one. Give it some
time. This whole thing is still too fresh."
Jim sighed, resigning himself
to having to agree with his superior, for the time being. "Okay, Captain,
I'll give it some thought." There, that should satisfy him for a few days.
Maybe when he'd managed to get Blair to calm down and see the light, Simon would
also. Jim's line rang then and Simon nodded, then got up and returned to his office.
"Jim, I need you to stop by the U on your way
"Sure, Chief. What do you need?" His tone had improved
from earlier that morning, maybe he was calming down?
took my class the other day. There's some papers I need. She's got them."
"She's got them?"
It had to be her.
"In her office, yeah."
"Okay, Chief. I'll stop by there around noon."
"No problem." Jim hung up the phone then rubbed his eyes. Great,
no problem. Maybe she'd be out to lunch, and he could get Blair's papers
from her assistant or something. This was probably his way of punishing Jim for
He set his mental clock for 3 hours, then settled in to tackle
the reports that had begun to pile up. An hour later, Simon came out of his office,
"Jim, Agent Mills just phoned in. He's been attacked."
"Come on, I'll tell you what I know on the way."
Jim grabbed his coat and followed the Captain to the elevator. "Edwards
"They're dead." They reached the garage floor
and Simon headed straight for his car, Jim right behind. "Mills radioed in
to Olympia that he had a flat tire. A few minutes later, he was attacked while
"He didn't wait for backup?"
the car and shook his head. "He said he was hit from behind. When he came
around, Patterson and Edwards were dead."
They arrived at the scene, along
with a few other FBI cars and a forensic team. Jim saw Agent Mills talking with
two other agents and breathed a sigh of relief at seeing him apparently unharmed.
The two bodies were still in the backseat of his sedan, and the car still jacked
up, right rear tire flat and hanging on the rim. Jim glanced inside at the bodies
first, noting the bullet holes in each man's head. They were still both handcuffed
and locked in the back seat. The front passenger door was open, and judging by
the angle of the wounds and the position of the bodies, that was where the shooter
had entered. Jim's jaw muscles flexed at seeing the two men who had been responsible
for Blair's injuries sitting there, dead.
what happened here?" Jim looked up as Agent Mills approached.
made a rookie mistake, that's what happened." Mills looked disgusted as he
rubbed the back of his head. "Got a flat, called it in, then figured right
here, out in the open like this, with them both secured in the back, why not fix
it myself?" He nodded towards the offending tire. "Well, if there was
ever a question about a third man, I think we have our answer."
you get a look at him?" Jim walked closer to the tire and bent down, examining
"No. I was jacking up the car, didn't even hear anyone come
up." He glanced behind them. "Must have come from over there. No car
pulled up on the shoulder, I'm sure of that."
Jim turned and glanced behind
them. There was a small stretch of grass, then the back of an industrial park.
"If he came from there, he must have known when you'd have a flat and where."
He returned his gaze to the tire. There was a large hole in the rubber, with its
edges sticking out. Jim reached out and felt them, noting the multiple fragments.
He felt around inside the deflated rubber, and was just pulling his hand back
out when he heard a soft, deep growling behind him. He spun his head around and
found only Agent Mills, watching him.
"What's wrong? Did you find something?"
Jim shook his head, trying to recover his composure. "Just fragments,"
he replied. He pulled his hand out and stood, glancing once again across the grass
towards the buildings on the other side. Something large and black moved through
the tall grass, then disappeared. Jim's heart skipped a beat, and he searched
the waving strip of overgrowth.
"Forensics thinks there might have been
a small charge inside the tire, set off remotely."
Jim turned back to
Mills, then a movement once again caught his eye and he looked out across the
strip of grass, in time to see a crow jump up and fly away. He sighed. "I
take it they haven't found anything inside?"
"Not yet. The killer
probably removed it before he left."
Jim turned away from the grass and
looked once again at the car. "So, he comes up behind you, knocks you out,
kills them, then leaves?"
"I know, why leave me alive?" Mills
shrugged. "Dumb luck, maybe? When I was coming around, a highway patrol car
was pulling up, maybe he scared the killer off before he could finish the job?"
"Maybe." Jim moved back to the passenger door and peered inside.
There was something about this he didn't like. More than something, but what exactly
it was, he couldn't quite finger just yet. He leaned inside and took a closer
look at the dead men. Just as he was backing out, he heard it again. Low and deep,
and right beside him. Trying not to move quickly, Jim turned his head and scanned
the area, opening his senses as he did so. Again, nothing. Before he could begin
to question his sanity, Simon approached.
"They'll be taking these two
and the car back to Cascade for forensics to go over, seeing as how you're only
twenty minutes out," the Captain was saying to Agent Mills. "Your people
are on the way over, to use our labs."
"Sorry about the imposition,
Captain. Seems this case just didn't want to be over quite yet."
"Yeah." Jim followed Simon back to the car, then got into the backseat
as Agent Mills got in front. "Is anyone canvassing the business park?"
"Two of our agents are," Mills replied. "Plus we've got two
others trying to find any witnesses that might have been driving by at the time."
"What about the DOT cameras?"
"Whoever did this, his timing
was perfect. Not only did he stop me at one of the few sections of road that can
be reached by foot, but he timed it so I would stop just out of range of the last
camera passed, and too far away for the next one to pick up."
pro." Simon shook his head. "He must have been the brains behind the
whole kidnapping operation. I never did believe those other two capable of anything
more complicated than tying their shoes."
Jim's eyebrows knitted together
as he contemplated the evidence. "But then why kill them? Why not break them
out, so they could continue on? After netting 8 million, they had something profitable
going. Why end it?"
"Maybe it was too close a call, and the 8 million
sounded like a good deal when there were no partners to split with?" Mills
turned slightly to project his voice to Jim in the backseat.
"If we don't
get some leads soon, this guy's gonna be in Cancun or somewhere with his 8 million
all to himself." Simon pulled into the parking garage and shut off the car.
"Jim, why don't you give that car a good look when they bring it in, see
if you can pick up anything. I'll check with records, see if anything's come up
yet on Edwards or Patterson."
"So far, we've found nothing on either
of them." Mills got out of the car and glanced at Jim. "If I can use
your computer, I'll bring up what little we have."
Jim turned to Simon. "So far, it looks like a small charge, remotely set
off, was in the right rear tire. I'll go see if I can get any more from the forensics
Jim turned to leave and Mills followed the
Captain to the elevators. He crossed the garage, then walked around the back of
the building to the forensics garage. Agent Mills' car was just being towed inside
when he arrived. While he waited for the car to be set down, he pulled out the
cell phone and called Blair.
"Hey, Chief. I'm gonna
be a little later getting back."
Mills had some trouble transporting Edwards and Patterson back to Olympia."
"Is he all right?"
"Yeah, he's fine. The kidnappers are dead."
"What?! Jim, what happened?"
"Mills' car got a flat. When
he got out to change it, he was blindsided. By the time he came to, Edwards and
Patterson where dead."
"I knew there had been another one."
"Looks like it. Listen, I need to go over the car, do some checking. Are
you going to be okay for a few more hours?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"I can stop by the U on the way home, but I don't know what time that
"That's okay, Jim. I can have someone drop the papers by.
Is Agent Mills okay?"
"Yeah, just a bump on the head. If you need
anything, call me."
Jim hung up, then walked to
the car that was now being examined by several members of the forensic team. He
stood behind the officer who was examining the blown tire and concentrated his
sight on the fragments of rubber that were obviously facing outward, as if from
an internal explosion. Jim let his vision focus on the inside of the tire, trying
to get a closer look at the edges of the torn rubber. As his sight narrowed in,
Jim felt the blackness reach out, taking hold of his sight. Before he could blink,
his eyes were drawn inside, pulled in by some outside force that drew his focus
completely into the hole. Jim suddenly lost sight of everything else around him,
even his peripheral vision was filled with the blackness. His ears began to ring,
and he heard again the deep growling from somewhere nearby. He tried to blink,
to bring his focus back out of the black pit it had fallen into, but he couldn't.
Sweat was beginning to build on his upper lip, and the growl grew in volume and
intensity. Just when he thought he could feel himself physically falling, there
was a hand on his shoulder, and his eyes snapped back into focus, making him shake
his head with the dizziness that followed.
"...if there was to begin with."
The officer who had been talking to him finished his sentence, then walked over
to the workbench. He realized the hand on his shoulder was still there, and Simon
was standing beside him.
"Whoever it was, he must have taken the device
out before leaving the scene. Leaves us damn little to go on."
they had found nothing inside the tire. "I don't like this, Captain. Why
leave Mills alive? If they were willing to kill me, as well as one other man along
with Raymond, then why not kill one more?"
"I don't know, Jim."
"And right there in the open? It's a sure bet, given some time, we'll
find someone who saw something." Jim shook his head, then followed his Captain
back out of the garage.
"Maybe he's already on a plane out of the country,
with the money. Figured by the time we found a witness, or enough evidence, he'd
be lounging on a beach somewhere."
"Yeah." They went back into
the Station, and Jim found Mills still at his desk. "Any luck?"
Mills shook his head, then leaned back and stretched, popping his knuckles. "Nope.
Dead end here. Neither Edwards or Patterson had any kind of record. No family
ties. Both residents of California, both unemployed for the past five years. Basically,
these men are unremarkable in every way."
"Except they kidnapped
three people, and beat them all to death. Including a 16 year old girl."
Jim glanced from Mills to Simon. "I want this one, Simon. He's got to have
been the brains behind the whole operation. Edwards and Patterson were the muscle.
That would explain how those two idiots could mistake Blair for Raymond. And,
it would explain why the directions for the deliveries were so convoluted."
"How do you figure that?" Mills asked.
"He must have been
following, keeping an eye on your agents as they kept an eye on the delivery.
Maintaining contact with the other two, so that they could change directions often
enough to lose all the tails."
"Jim, that sounds an awful lot like
you're suggesting someone on the inside." Simon shook his head. "The
profilers would have taken that into consideration." He looked at Agent Mills.
"Yes, they would have," Mills agreed. "But, that doesn't rule
out the possibility of someone trailing. He'd just have to know who we were."
He turned back to Jim. "You're sure you saw nothing in that club?"
shook his head. "No, nothing."
"And I never caught a glimpse
out there on the highway."
"But then, that doesn't explain why he'd
take me and Sandburg in the club, but leave you behind."
a lot about this case that isn't making sense." Mills shook his head slowly.
"I'm afraid we may never know the facts. He's most likely already out of
"Probably," Simon agreed.
"We might get
more when forensics is finished with the car, but I'm not holding out much hope."
Mills reached around to the back of Jim's desk where he'd set his coat. "Now,
if you'll excuse me, I've got more paperwork to fill out." He pulled on his
coat. "I was looking forward to heading home today. I guess that's not going
"Yeah." Jim nodded, then glanced at the clock. "Simon,
I'd better to check up on Sandburg. Let me know when the forensic report is in
on the car?"
"Ellison, I'd like to stop
by in the morning, maybe go over this whole thing once more with your partner.
He might just recall something."
"It's worth a shot," Jim replied.
He left then, pulling his cell phone out of his jacket pocket as he crossed the
hall. It took three rings before he heard an answer this time.
"Hey, Chief. I'm on my way home. Do you still need those papers from Professor
"Oh, no, man, thanks. I had someone bring them over."
Thank God. "Okay. I'll be there in a few minutes."
did you find out?"
"Not much. I'll fill you in when I get there."
Jim ended the call and put the phone back in his pocket as he reached the truck.
Blair sounded like he was in a better mood. Maybe he was realizing the new arrangement
would work out. No, he never would realize that. Of that, Jim was certain.
he pulled in to his usual spot across the street, he noticed a young, attractive
woman leaving the building's apartment entrance. He thought she looked somewhat
familiar, and she smiled at him as he caught her eye. Must be the person Blair
had deliver his papers. He'd been to Sandburg's office often enough to begin to
recognize several people by sight, but her name was escaping him.
door was unlocked, so Jim came inside, finding Blair still sitting at the kitchen
table, glasses on, with papers strewn about the table.