Act II

Forty-five minutes later, Jim and I are back in the bullpen, filling Simon in on the theft and destruction of John Doe's body.

"So all the fingerprints are gone," he remarks when Jim finishes his story.

I nod. "Yeah, Wolfe didn't even have a chance to send them off to the FBI."

"What about the vehicle?"

"It was stolen from an impound yard early this morning," Jim answers.

Simon looks thoughtful. "Somebody's going to an awful lot of trouble to keep us from finding out who our John Doe really is."

We enter the captain's office, and I cross to lean against the table as a thought crosses my mind. "Well, maybe they're scared if we find out who he is, we'll find out who they are."

Simon raises an eyebrow, then says to Jim, "You know, there are times when the kid actually sounds like a cop. Look, we're at a dead end here, Jim. You know what that means."

Nodding, his gaze determined, Jim answers, "Back to the beginning, sir, yes."

I'm already heading for the door as Simon calls out a warning. "Watch yourselves out there. Whoever these guys are, they've already killed one person. I don't think they'd mind killing a cop. Or an anthropologist."

Jim wants to take a look at the crime scene again, so we take a drive out to the bridge. The sky is gray and overcast, threatening rain, when I get out of the Ford and shut the door. I notice Cassie's van parked across the street, but there's no sign of her.

Jim either hasn't noticed it, or he's ignoring the fact that his new nemesis is somewhere on the scene. He's explaining the difference between the crime scene last night, and the normal, ordinary street of today. "See, the problem with the crime scene is you got cops, bystanders, reporters, what-have-you. Come back during the day when there's nobody around. Looks a whole lot different, wouldn't you say?"

I shrug. "Looks the same to me, man."

"Oh, no, things are definitely different in the daylight," Cassie's voice comes from behind us.

Jim scowls, but pastes a smile on his face as he turns around. "Fancy meeting you here."

She smiles back at us, shifting the unwieldy case she's carrying from her right hand to her left. "Hi again, guys. I came out to take some measurements." She taps the case. "State of the art laser rangefinder. Put it where you found the body, input the data, and it'll tell you where it fell from."

"So what did it tell you?" I ask.

She looks pleased. "I knew there was something wrong last night, but couldn't put my finger on it. He didn't fall from the bridge."

"I could have told you that without the fancy instruments." Jim actually smirks at her.

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah, Jim, how could you know?" I ask.

"Both of you are looking, but you're not seeing. Let's suppose our killer takes John Doe onto the bridge. He knocks him out and tosses him over the side. He hurtles a hundred feet through the air and lands right here on top of the car and you don't have a problem with that?"

I look up at the bridge and smack myself in the forehead. It's obvious, but one of those things we see so often we take them for granted. "Wow, that guy'd have to be pretty strong or have a catapult to get him over those wires, huh?"

"Exactly," Jim says, then focuses his attention down the road, ignoring Cassie's next words.

"We came to the same conclusion, Detective, just by different methods." She looks like she's got more to say on the subject, but her pager goes off. "Damn, that's the lab. I've got to run. We'll have to compare notes later." Climbing into her van, she drives off.

"Good," Jim says once she's gone.


"Yeah, feel like climbing a tree?"

Five minutes later I'm ten feet up in the air grabbing the thing that caught Jim's eye. "It's a man's suit coat. Looks like it matches our John Doe's pants." I throw it down to Jim, then descend the tree. By the time I'm on the ground, he's already going through the pockets.

He holds up a money clip as I approach. "Swiss Francs. You all right?"

I nod. "Yeah, yeah. Anything else?"

From an inside pocket he produces a passport booklet. Flipping it open, he says, "A European passport. Jean Duval from Marseilles, France. I'd say this is our John Doe."

I'm puzzled. "So Cassie was right. He was from Europe." Jim grimaces at her name, and I change the subject. "What's his jacket doing a quarter mile away from where he fell?"

Jim glances up at the cloudy sky and looks thoughtful.

Back at the station, Jim's explaining his theory to Captain Banks, but Simon's having a hard time believing him. "Fell out of an airplane?"

Jim nods seriously. "When I was in the military, Captain, we were doing parachute training and this poor kid's chute didn't open one time. His body was so badly mangled they wouldn't let us look at him. Broke every bone in his body."

Eager to add what I've learned today, I say, "Which would explain why the body missed the telephone wires and why the jacket was so far away--I mean, the wind speed could account for that, just torn it right off--and also why the body was so physically traumatized."

"We checked with the airport. There were no scheduled flights at the time of the incident over the crime scene."

"Which means it was an illegal flight and probably below radar," I finish.

Simon looks thoughtful. "What do we know about Jean Duval?"

"Well, US Immigration has no record of issuing him a visa. I have a phone call in to the police at Marseilles," Jim answers.

The captain glances down at a folder lying open on his desk. "Here's another interesting piece to our puzzle. Just before you came in, I had a visit from your new favorite forensics chief."

Jim frowns. He's not happy; she left him a voice mail with the same airplane theory he'd come up with. "Ms. Welles," he growls.

"She ran an analysis on that soil sample found on the bottom of Duval's shoe. Appears it had high traces of iron and copper, as well as pesticides--definitely not from around Cascade." He hands the folder to Jim.

"Where would it be from, sir?"

"According to her report, the only place in Washington that fits the profile is an area east of Lake Quincy--the Watumsa Basin."

"Wa-toom-sa," I correct Simon, excited I probably know more about the place than either of them. Not often that happens. "Watumsa Basin, sir. I did research on the Watumsa Indians a couple years back. There's not much out there. I mean, there's some farmland and a couple of abandoned copper mines, but that's about it."

Simon shakes his head. "The breadth of your knowledge never ceases to amaze me."

I grin, laughing, "Yeah, well…oh, wait a minute, you know what? I'm wrong. There is a town out there. A really small one. Out there in the middle of nowhere. Uh, pine something. Pine tree, pine sol…I don't know. Something…"

"Pinecrest," Simon supplies helpfully.

"Yeah, that's it."

Jim's looking thoughtful again. "Pinecrest. So, a Frenchman falls out of a plane over Cascade with dirt on his shoes from a place 200 miles away. Time for a road trip, Chief. Thank you, sir."

He heads out the door, with me right behind him.

Four hours later, I'm riding in the passenger seat of Jim's truck through Pinecrest. The town appears eerily similar to the last time I was here. It's still a one stoplight town, with small mom-and-pop stores lining the main street, and people doing yard work, or sitting on their porches in front of Victorian-era houses.

"Place hasn't changed much," I remark as Jim parks the Ford in front of the sheriff's office.

Getting out of the truck, he replies, "Yeah, places like this usually don't."

I can't help but lecture as we walk toward the door. "Small towns like this are really just modern-day variations of tribal organizations--like the mayor's the chief, the doctor's the medicine man, the police are the lawgivers and the warriors."

The only response I get is a non-committal grunt.

"I remember the last time I was here, there was this sheriff with his gut hanging out over his belt--an old geezer, looked like an extra from Deliverance." I give a mock shudder, but Jim doesn't see the humor in my performance, he simply opens the door and walks inside. Sighing, I follow him.

"So, Sheriff, the reason I drove all the way up here is because I found some forensic evidence in a murder case in Cascade that seems to point to the victim having been in Pinecrest shortly before he was killed."

Sheriff Kelli McNeil, a tall, muscular blonde in her mid-thirties, hands me the cup of coffee she's just poured, and settles back behind her desk. "Well, I'm willing to help anyway I can, Ms. Welles. What kind of evidence?"

Taking a sip of the steaming java, I explain, "This is great, thanks. I found some mud on the victim's shoes that contains a unique mix of copper and iron only found here in the Watumsa Basin. What's really unusual is that there were also traces of pesticides. I'm trying to narrow down as closely as I can his possible whereabouts before he was killed. You don't have any pesticide manufacturers or storage warehouses here in Pinecrest do you? I also have a photo of the victim I'd like you to take a look at."

She taps a pencil on the desk, clearly thinking. "I don't believe so, but this is farming country. Just about every farmer keeps some pesticides around. Now maybe if you knew the specific brands of pesticide--" A noise from the outer office draws her attention. "Excuse me a minute." Rising, she leaves the room.

I continue to enjoy my coffee until I hear a familiar voice. Ellison's here? Putting the mug down, I exit the sheriff's office to find Jim and Blair engaged in conversation with Kelli. "Hi there. I was just telling Sheriff McNeil about our John Doe case." I hand her the print of the victim, as Blair gives me a smile and a little wave.

She looks it over, then shrugs. "Got to say he doesn't look familiar."

Jim gets a self-satisfied smile on his face. He hands McNeil a piece of paper. "Well, what Ms. Welles isn't aware of is that we've already made a tentative identification."

Well, this is news. "You have?"

His smile grows wider, if that's possible. I can tell he's enjoying knowing something I don't. "Yes. His name is Duval. He's a French national. I don't suppose you have any idea why or if he'd been in the area recently?" The question is directed to the sheriff.

She shakes her head. "No, I sure don't. But if I could keep this, I'd be glad to ask around." Walking over to a bulletin board, she pins the photo to it.

"I hope you don't mind if we do some checking around ourselves," Jim says.

McNeil looks at the three of us, then answers, "Not at all, though, frankly I think you're wasting your time. Truth is nothing much ever happens here in Pinecrest."

Ellison starts to leave; Blair right behind him. "Thanks so much for your help, Sheriff, and the coffee." I shake her hand again, then hurry after the two men.

We're no sooner out the door than Jim rounds on me, his expression furious. "What in the hell are you doing here, Welles?"

I feel myself do a double take. "What? I'm working the forensic end of this case. What's wrong with that?"

"Since when does a forensics chief drive 200 miles to confer with local law enforcement?"

Breathe, Cassie, breathe. He's not worth losing your temper over. "I'm here following the evidence, Detective. If I can find the exact location the mix of mud and pesticides on Duval's shoes came from, then we'll know the last place he was before he went skydiving without a parachute. As a law enforcement agent from another jurisdiction, it was only courteous to inform the sheriff that I was here. Besides, I figured she'd know better than I would who would have pesticides around."

"And did she?"

"Apparently many more people than I had considered. The farmers here keep them on hand. If we find out Duval knew any of them, then I can test their mud. Doing it the other way around would most likely be futile."

"Futile is right. I thought you were going to keep me informed on everything you uncovered," Ellison accuses.

"I have. You obviously talked to Captain Banks and got my message about the mud being from here, because you're here." I'm growing more and more frustrated and if I don't take myself out of the situation, I'll say something I'll regret. "Excuse me."

Blair gives me a sympathetic look as I walk away. I can tell he feels like his partner's giving me a hard time, but I understand why he keeps his mouth shut. He's not a cop, and his paper or whatever it is he's writing, depends on him keeping his observer's pass. So no one's more surprised than I am when I hear him say, "Wow, come on, Jim. She's just trying to help us out, man. She doesn't need your permission to follow up on the evidence."

"All right. I'll talk to her," he replies. I keep walking. Ellison catches up to me as I'm unlocking my van. "You know, this isn't some competition to see who can solve the case first. You're not a detective."

Turning to face him, I shoot back, "And I don't want to be one. I like what I do, Ellison, hard as that may be for you to believe. I'm good at it, and despite what you think, my science does solve cases."

To my surprise, he actually looks contrite. "Look, I'm sorry. You know, I just…" His voice trails off as something over my right shoulder catches his attention. Looking around, I see a dark-haired man in a tan jacket staring at Ellison. Without warning, the guy takes off at a run, and Jim bolts after him, yelling, "Hold it! Hey, stop! Police!"

"Ellison! What the hell?"

"Jim! Where are you going?" Blair calls.

I don't know who the guy Ellison's chasing is, but he's so scared of the detective he trips over a bin full of gardening tools outside a store and falls flat on his face. Jim whips out his weapon and aims it at the man, saying, "All right, get up! On your feet!"

He gets up all right--clutching a shovel. Swinging it at Jim, he knocks Ellison's gun out of his hands. Lunging at the man like a linebacker, Jim knocks him into the side of a car and gets a foot in the stomach in return. He punches the guy in the face, sending him to his knees on the pavement. The man comes up clutching Ellison's gun.

"Jim! Look out!" Blair yells.

The detective rushes straight at the suspect, forcing the gun upwards as they crash through the window of the hardware store. They're still fighting over the weapon as Blair and I run up to them. All of a sudden, the dark-haired man goes limp in Jim's grasp. Taking the gun from him, Jim rolls him over. A scythe is protruding from his back.

Ellison feels for a pulse, but it's obvious to me as well as Blair that the man's dead. Blair utters an "Oh, god," and walks a few paces away, his face paling.

I go with him, placing a supportive hand on his back as he leans against a car, resting his head in his hands, as I tell him, "Breathe, Blair, keep breathing. Don't think about anything but moving air in and out."

My attention turns back to the grisly scene as Sheriff McNeil and a deputy force their way through the crowd that's gathered. Ellison looks up at her, his expression grim. "Nothing ever happens in Pinecrest, huh?"

Act I