Sins of the Father
Jim and Blair were on their way into the PD when Jim got a call from Simon that two bodies had been found in the woods on the outskirts of Cascade. Sharing a grim look with his partner, Jim did a U-turn and headed toward the site as fast as he could.
Dan Wolfe was already there when they arrived and Blair wondered for a moment how the gentle man could stand to deal with this for so long. Every time he thought he was getting a handle on his emotions, the very next case seemed to still have him doubting his ability to harden his heart against the senseless loss of valuable lives.
"What have we got, Dan?" Jim asked as he crouched down beside the first of two plastic-shrouded forms.
"Two bodies - skeletal remains, actually. I can't be sure until I post them but I'd say both are female, probably mid-teens."
Blair shook his head sadly and looked at Jim. "Any chance this is related to the other girls?"
Jim stood and ranged his gaze around the heavily wooded area. "Seems unlikely, Chief. The girls we're focusing on have only been missing a few weeks."
"Still..." Blair began. He let out a sigh and rubbed his hands over his face. "I don't know, man. I just have a feeling about this."
"And we all know your 'feelings' should be listened to," Dan put in, giving Blair a smile. "Why don't you share with us?"
Blair thought for a moment, trying to get his thoughts in some order. "Okay. Two bodies here already, though obviously at least a year old, right?" He looked to Dan for confirmation and when the M. E. nodded, he continued. "When we were checking the missing persons reports, we found probably a dozen girls who all matched the more recent disappearances, and some of them have been missing for at least a year or longer."
Jim nodded. "Serial killer. So, they could be connected after all." He looked at Blair. "Daryl thought the kid Marissa met was about his age. Starting early on his career?"
Blair shrugged. "Dahmer killed his first victim when he was barely a kid himself. It's believed that Bundy might have too. Henry Lee Lucas -"
"Yeah, I got it, Chief. Let us know when the post-mortem results are in, would you, Dan?" Jim grabbed Blair's arm and led him a short distance away. "You seem to have more than just a feeling about this case. Can you sense anything?"
Blair looked at his partner, puzzled. "Huh?" Then he got the gist of Jim's question. "Oh. No, no visions, no dreams, just a hunch. You?"
Jim's confused look matched Blair's from a second before and Blair nudged his partner in exasperation. "You're the sentinel," he said. "Can you sense anything."
"Oh, right." Jim nodded in understanding. Looking around, he began to walk slowly around the area, stopping every now and then, the familiar tilt of his head, indicating he was focusing on one of his senses.
Blair rested a hand on Jim's arm. "Don't go too deep, man," he said softly. "Look for disturbed earth, new foliage. Smell..." He thought a moment. "Decay, I guess." His stomach churned a little at the very thought of what Jim was enduring.
They worked through the area slowly for an hour, stopping every so often to examine patches of earth that looked as though they might have been dug into but were coming up empty. Jim was starting to look strained, the usual result of an in-depth workout of his senses. Blair tripped on something partly buried in the ground at the same time as Jim called out a warning. "Look out, Blair!"
Blair looked down, one foot raised precariously and swallowed convulsively. "Oh god!" A small hand showed through a patch of overgrown bush, the fingers outstretched as though beckoning for help. Pushing down his nausea, Blair gave Jim a horrified look then turned to call back to the crime units still at the scene. "Find!"
Carefully, he knelt down and began to gently brush the earth away from the exposed hand.
"Easy, Chief," Jim advised him. "Don't disturb any evidence."
Blair looked up at him. "Trust me, Jim, I know what I'm doing. This used to be my job, remember." He felt a twinge of regret at his words when Jim frowned and glanced away briefly. Even now, it only took a few words to revisit the guilt over the dissertation. With a small sigh, he turned back to his task. There was a tiny, dirt-encrusted ring on the fourth finger of the hand and the memory came to Blair immediately: Brittany Fredericks. Her mother had described the ring Brittany had been given by her grandmother on her last birthday.
Blair sat near the door of the autopsy room and averted his gaze from the in-progress post mortem being performed by Dan Wolfe. He didn't know any of these girls, having been absent from Rainier for over a year now, but that didn't make it any easier to look upon the bodies. Decomposition on all the bodies meant that DNA and dental records would be needed for ID but it also meant that none of the four girls discovered so far could be Marissa.
Dan straightened and pulled off his gloves, depositing them in the trash before walking over to wash his hands. "Same as the other three. Strangled and raped. The rape's impossible to verify on the skeletal remains but it's a safe bet. We might get DNA from these remains, if we're lucky."
"Thanks, Dan." Jim rested a hand on Blair's shoulder and Blair took comfort from the gesture. "Let's go, Chief. I want you to keep looking into the van license plates and see if you can track down who the Collins girl chatted to on the Net."
"What about you?" Blair asked as they got into the elevator and headed for Major Crime.
"Someone has to inform the parents as soon as the identifications are complete."
"I'll come with you," Blair said.
Jim shook his head. "You keep on the van. Brown and I can handle the IDs."
Again, it was a long day of cross-referencing and Blair was ready to shout in frustration when a call finally came in from Records. After listening to the report, Blair hung up and rested his head in his hands.
He looked up at Jim's voice and gave his partner a weary smile. "I think we may have hit paydirt. Records were cross-checking the owners of all the vans with any priors. They found several but one in particular, a Harry Mathews, aka Henry Martin, had priors for sexual assault on two young girls."
Jim grabbed his jacket and tossed Blair his. "Let's go pay him a visit."
The front door to the ramshackle shack, set on the outskirts of Cascade, hung open. Motioning to two of the uniformed officers accompanying them to go around the back, Jim pulled his weapon and waited for Blair to do the same, before pushing the door wide open and stepping to the side. Nothing moved within. Jim entered, followed closely by Blair and the remaining officers. They quickly swept through the rooms in a practiced routine.
"Jim!" Blair motioned to a door on the far wall of the kitchen. It probably led down to the cellar. Jim nodded as Blair opened the door.
At the exclamation from his partner, and the sound of clattering footsteps descending, Jim hurried to the cellar door. Blair was already bending over a huddled form at the bottom. "Sandburg, get back."
Blair glanced up at him. "It's just a kid. He's hurt."
Before either man could react, the body lying prone, launched into action. A fist lashed out, catching Blair on the side of the face and he stumbled back, his weapon flying out of his hand.
Jim reacted swiftly but by the time he hit the bottom step, the attacker had Blair flat on the ground. His hands were fisted in Sandburg's hair as he rhythmically slammed Blair's head onto the unforgiving concrete floor.
Jim launched himself, grabbing the shirt collar of the man who was attempting to crush his partner's skull. He dragged him up and slammed him face-first against the wall. The boy - and Jim could see now that he was a teenager - sagged downward, sobbing loudly. Spotting blood snaking down the side of the boy's face, Jim loosened his hold slightly. He turned back to check on Blair. "Sandburg! You okay?"
Blair was sitting up, his head cradled in both hands. "Think so," he muttered.
"Ellison?" a voice called from above.
"Get down here," Jim called, "and radio for an ambulance." He waited until the officer had taken custody of the boy then hurried to Blair's side. Gently, he rested a hand on Blair's shoulder and tipped his head up carefully with the other. "You sure you're okay?"
Blair's eyes were crinkled in pain and he was as white as a sheet. "Headache," he whispered. "Bad."
"I'm not surprised." Jim ran his hand over the back of Blair's skull, wincing at the large lump already forming but relieved to find no blood. "Ambulance is on its way."
"I'm okay." Blair looked over at the boy, who sat silently on the bottom step, still crying softly. He reached out and grasped Jim's hand, levering himself up. He wavered for a moment then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Releasing Jim's hand, he walked over to the boy. "Who are you?" he asked.
The boy spoke without looking up. "Brett. Brett Mathews."
"Where's Marissa Collins, Brett?"
Brett looked up then, his eyes swimming with tears. "He took her. I tried to get her home but... he took her."
"My... my dad."
Jim stepped up to stand at Blair's side. Sandburg was on his feet but he looked none too steady. "How long ago?"
"Ten minutes, maybe. Headed toward the woods. Red pickup."
"Okay." Jim looked at Blair. "I'm gonna go after him."
"Let's do it."
Jim shook his head. "Stay here with the kid. See what you can get out of him. When that ambulance gets here, get yourself checked out."
"I'll take Mercer and Donelli with me."
Jim headed up the stairs at a run, before Blair had a chance to argue. Heading for his truck, with the uniforms following behind, Jim barked orders for an APB on Mathews into his radio.
Tires screaming in protest, Jim rounded the sharp bend in the road and then stood on the brakes, almost slamming his head into the windshield as the truck came to an abrupt stop.
Mathews stood at the side of his red pickup, his hands locked around the throat of a young girl who struggled in his grip, screaming for help. From here, Jim could see the rear of the truck had jammed in a ditch on the side of the road. Mathews glanced up and his eyes widened. As Jim opened his door, his weapon aimed at Mathews, Harry grabbed the girl and spun her, pushing her toward Jim.
"Police! Stop!" Jim shouted.
The girl collapsed against him and Jim struggled with her, trying to get her behind him and still keep a bead on Mathews. "You're okay. You're okay," Jim reassured her but she clung to him like a limpet and by the time Jim managed to extricate himself from her death-like grip, Mathews had vanished into the brush.
Wailing sirens announced the arrival of the cruiser and Jim helped the girl over to the officers, leaving her in their care. He stepped back to the pickup and focused his hearing, ranging it out in the direction he thought Mathews had gone.
A rhythmic, rapid lub-dub came to his ears, accompanied by muffled crying. Jim's lips curled upward in a small smile of success. Striding into the undergrowth, he found Mathews hiding behind a nearby tree. The killer was huddled in on himself, trembling in fear. Jim reached down and hauled the blubbering man up by one arm. "Not much of a monster now, are you?" he said sarcastically.
He strode back to the uniforms, half-dragging Mathews behind him and flung him at Mercer. "Read him his rights and take him downtown."
He looked down at Marissa, who sat on the front passenger seat of the cruiser, quiet now, no doubt in shock. Jim hunkered down to squat beside her. "Marissa? I'm Detective Ellison. Are you hurt?"
Marissa's hand reached up to rub gently at her neck. "He... he tried to..." Her voice trailed off and she burst into fresh tears.
Jim patted her arm. "Okay. We'll get you checked out at the hospital."
She looked at him, her eyes wide and red-rimmed. "Brett? Did you find Brett?"
Jim nodded, still unsure of where the kid fit into all this. "He's okay."
Blair's head was really pounding now and nausea churned his stomach. He resisted the urge to rest his head in his hands as he sat down opposite Brett Mathews in the interrogation room. They'd both been checked out by the paramedics at the scene and pronounced bruised and shaken but otherwise okay. Brett had a small gauze square taped to the side of his head, protecting the gash caused by his fall down the cellar steps. He sported a black eye that he said he'd gotten when Harry hit him when he tried to help Marissa escape. Quiet and respectful, he hardly seemed a serial killer or even the accomplice of one.
Blair rested his folded hands on the table and spoke to the teen. "I'm Detective Blair Sandburg. You are...?"
"I told you," the boy whispered, "Brett Mathews, only -" He broke off and looked at the door.
"Only what?" Blair asked.
Brett shook his head. "Doesn't matter." He turned his gaze on Blair then. "Marissa's okay?"
Blair nodded. "She's with her folks, getting checked out at the hospital. She's gonna be fine." He paused a moment then spoke again. "Brett, the other girls..."
Tears welled instantly in Brett's eyes. "I didn't know. He said... he said we were helping them get away from bad situations. He's a preacher, you know, only he works as a postman right now, because we had to leave Idaho but I thought - He said we were helping them."
Blair felt sick at the mention of Idaho. He made a mental note to check for missing girls there as soon as he was done with Brett. "You know now that wasn't true, don't you?"
"Did you..." Blair swallowed. It was at times like this he really hated this job. "Did you do anything to the girls? Or help your dad to get rid of the bodies?"
Brett's eyes widened and he pushed himself up and away from the table. "What? No! I could never... I didn't -"
The officer on guard tensed, his hand going to his weapon but Blair waved him back. "Okay, Brett. Calm down." The door opened and Blair saw Jim standing in the doorway. Ellison motioned him into the corridor.
"You sure you're all right?" Jim asked as soon as Blair joined him.
"The headache from hell but I'll be okay," Blair assured him. He glanced back at Brett. "I think the kid's telling the truth, Jim. I don't think he had any idea of what Mathews was up to."
"That's for the DA to decide, I guess," Jim said. "Got a call from Forensics. They found souvenirs at Mathew's shack. A couple of items have already been identified as belonging to the dead girls."
Blair closed his eyes against the horror of it. "We need to check out Idaho for missing girls too and anywhere else Mathews might have been before he came to Cascade."
"I'll get on it," Jim said. "You done here?"
"In a few minutes. I'll see you in the bullpen in a while."
Blair watched Jim leave then walked back into the interrogation room and stood in front of Brett. Taking his arm, he led the unresisting boy back to the table and gently pushed him into a chair. Taking a seat beside him, he spoke again. "Let's talk about you for a minute, all right? Did your dad ever hurt you before today?"
Brett shrugged. "Sometimes, when he drank too much or lost his job. He got angry when we had to leave Idaho because the school was asking about my records. Said it was my fault. When we came here, he said I couldn't go to school anymore."
"What about your school records?"
Brett seemed to surrender at that point. His shoulders slumped as he turned to stare at Blair and tears ran down his cheeks. "He's not my dad. I think... I think he took me. A long time ago, when I was coming home from school."