Act IV

Ellison, Sandburg and I troop back into the sheriff's office, and Jim drops our little bombshell on McNeil. She looks shocked. "People around here love Doc Morrow. I just can't believe he's a criminal."

Jim shows her the printout of the prison record. "Well, what about this?"

Kelli gives the photo a cursory glance. "So there's a resemblance."

What in the hell? What happened to the professional law enforcement officer who was willing to do anything she could to help another department? "A resemblance," I state forcefully.

She actually takes a step back. "Look, I am not going to put a man in jail based on a…on a photograph."

Jim rolls his eyes in frustration. "Well, then why don't you just bring him in for fingerprints?"

Giving him a defiant stare, she answers, "I don't have to. Got them right here. Took them last spring when the doc applied for his hunting license." She enters her office and returns a few seconds later with a fingerprint card.

I pull out a magnifier as she hands the card to me. Taking my time, I compare the prints from the arrest record to the card, but it takes me only a few seconds to reach my conclusion.

"Well?" Jim asks.

I shake my head. "They don't match."

With something akin to a growl, Jim storms out of the office. Shrugging, Blair goes after him, and I'm left alone with Sheriff McNeil. I give the card back to her as I say, "Kelli, I'm not completely clear yet on what's going on around here, but I do know one thing. Whoever these guys are, they're playing for keeps. They've already killed to keep their secret. If Dr. Morrow is innocent, then surely he wouldn't object to us asking him a few questions."

She shakes her head vehemently. "No. You've disrupted my town enough. Go back to Cascade and harass somebody there. Leave Doc Morrow alone." With that, she folds her arms across her chest and stares at me until I head for the door.

I leave, pondering her reaction to our accusation of Morrow. I don't think she's working with him; her reaction was more outrage than guilt. Shame maybe? Ashamed that she didn't pick up on a criminal operating in her small town? Interesting that she supported him in the face of damning evidence, almost like a wife defending her husband. Shit! She's sleeping with him!

By the time I reach that conclusion, I've joined Jim and Blair at my van. Jim's saying, "I don't know. Something about this whole thing just doesn't sit right with me."

"So, what are we going to do now?" Blair asks.

Jim reaches inside his jacket for his cell phone. "First, I've got to put in a call to Interpol about Jean Duval, then you and I need to have another talk with Dr. Morrow."

"How did you know about Duval's connection to Interpol?" I ask. "I only found out right before you showed up earlier, and didn't get a chance to tell you."

Ellison actually looks guilty. "Ah, um…Captain Banks called and told me."

Uh-huh. So that was the phone call he took earlier. "I thought we had an agreement, Jim," I say, using his first name to stress my disappointment at his unwillingness to share.

He shrugs. "Sorry, it didn't seem that important at the time."

I find myself bickering with him again. "Oh, so it's only important to share when I have information you don't, and not the other way around?"

Blair steps in between us before I can really get started. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Time out." He holds up his hands in the shape of a "T". "Do we really need to do this now? Because the way I see it, we're all we've got here. Sheriff McNeil isn't going to give us any help, and the rest of our support is back in Cascade."

He has a point. Sighing, I say, "I'm all in favor of cooperating and sharing everything. How about you, Detective?"

Jim doesn't look happy, but he mumbles, "Fine."

Blair looks relieved. "Good, good. Now, what's the plan? Cassie, you wanna test those soil samples? If you get a hit on those pesticides, then you can call us on the cell phone. And Jim, you wanted to talk to Morrow again."

He nods. "That plan okay with you, Welles?"

"Fine, just as long as you call me if anything breaks on your end."

Blair fairly beams. "Great! See, we can all get along if we work at it."

I start to climb back into the van when I remember my conversation with McNeil. I call after the two men. "Oh, boys! Watch your backs. I think there's something going on between the sheriff and the doctor. I don't think she's working with him, but she may tip him off to our suspicions."

Jim looks surprised for a moment, then nods. "Thanks for the heads up, Cassie." Getting into his truck, they drive off.

Entering my van, I go to work on the soil samples, but I don't hold out much hope. I don't have much to work with, and I have a feeling I'll need a bigger specimen to make a positive ID of Leland's as the last place Jean Duval's feet touched the ground.

We drive the short distance to the clinic in silence. I start to ask a question, but Jim shushes me with a wave of his hand; he's thinking. As he pulls into the empty parking lot, I see a police cruiser in front of the building. "McNeil's already here," Jim says.

Getting out of the truck, we walk past the sheriff's car toward the clinic. Jim stops as we round the trunk. "I smell blood…and gunpowder. You smell that?"

I give him a look. Sometimes he forgets I'm not the one with the heightened senses.

He points toward the front of the car. "Pop the trunk on this."

Opening the driver's side door, I pull the release and return to Jim's side, taking a look in the trunk. It's all I can do to keep from vomiting. Sheriff McNeil is lying there, her eyes wide and staring at nothing, blood staining her tan uniform a dark reddish-brown. "Oh…my god…" I turn away unsteadily. We were just talking to her fifteen minutes ago….

I hear Jim say tersely, "This makes three."

A siren wails sharply, then cuts off as a second cruiser screeches to a stop behind us. The town's two deputies, Toliver and Nichols, jump out and take defensive positions behind their doors, guns pointed at us. "Get your hands up now!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. We found her like this," Jim says.

"Get your hands up!"

I don't have to be told twice. Mine shoot up into the air and Jim slowly follows suit, still protesting. "There's a mistake here."

The deputy gestures with his gun. "Hands against the car. Let's go."

They come toward us, and Nichols thinks he has to help me assume the position. "Hey, don't point that thing at me. Come on." Ignoring my protest, he slams me against the hood, pressing my face into the metal.

"Take it easy!" Jim snaps as he's shoved against the side of the car and patted down.

Cuffs are snapped shut around my wrists, and I'm hauled up again. "We didn't shoot her, guys," I protest, but they're not listening. I give Jim a look that asks, "What are we going to do?"

His only answer is a shrug.

Great. Just great.

The spectrographic analyzer beeps and a graph pops up on my computer screen. Leaning forward in my seat, I scrutinize the peaks and valleys on the chart. "Damn it." There wasn't enough pesticide in the dirt on Jim and Blair's shoes for the machine to pick up.

Picking up my phone, I dial Jim's cell. It rings ten times, no answer. Punching it off, I swear again. I need a better sample. I drum my fingers on the countertop for a few seconds, considering my options. Decision made, I dial another number. "Yeah, Dispatch, this is Forensics Chief Welles. I'm with Detective Ellison and Blair Sandburg in Pinecrest. They've gone to interview a physician here, a Dr. Morrow, alias Vern Delanian. I'm on my way to get a soil sample from a small landing strip near here. Please let Captain Banks know our status."

Ending the call, I climb into the driver's seat of my van and start the engine. It should only take me about half an hour to drive to the airfield, get some dirt, and get back here. Jim and Blair will never miss me.

Fifteen minutes later I come to a stop at a sign reading "Leland's Crop Dusting." Driving down the road a bit, I pull off on a side road and park. Grabbing a sample jar and a small hand trowel, I head out. A few minutes later the driveway ends at a blue garage type building. There are no vehicles in sight, save for a biplane parked at the end of a grass runway. I skirt the building, looking for an entrance and evidence that the ground was used as a walkway. I find them on the far side of the building. Quickly, I loosen some earth with the trowel and dump it in the jar. Sticking both the jar and tool in my pocket, I start back toward the van, then pause.

Curiosity gets the better of me, and walking over to the door, I try the handle. To my amazement, it's unlocked, and swings open toward me. Reaching under my coat, I unfasten the security strap holding my Sig Sauer in its holster. Digging out a flashlight, I enter the darkened room. There's not much here save a workbench, barrels of pesticides and pieces of equipment.

Spying another doorway on the other side of the room, I cross and pass through it. The contents of this room are much more interesting. A surgical chair sits in the center of the room. Along one wall are tanks of anesthesia and oxygen. I move to a small table next to the chair and flip back a cloth covering it. A row of sharp, shiny scalpels and other surgical instruments are laid out. Things are beginning to make sense. This is probably where Baldacci, or Loomis, had his plastic surgery. And my guess is the surgeon was good old Doc Morrow.

The rumble of an engine reaches my ears. Shit! I head for the exit, and manage to slip outside before anyone sees me. I take cover behind some large oil drums, not wanting to make a run for my van until whoever it is, is inside the building. A car comes into view on the dirt track leading to the airfield. It stops, and a big man in a plaid shirt and overalls gets out of the driver's seat. There's a second man with him. I don't recognize either of them.

Instead of going inside, however, the large man stands at the end of the runway, alternately glancing at the sky, and then his watch.

Sighing, I settle in for a long wait.

"This is crazy," I protest as Toliver shoves Jim and me into the single jail cell at the Sheriff's office. "What are you doing wasting time with us when the real killers are getting away?"

He just grins and slams the cell door shut, then walks over to his desk.

Jim looks out the barred window in the wall. "Save your breath, Chief. They know we didn't kill her."

I sit down on the small bed, running a hand through my hair. "What are you talking about?"

He walks to the front of the cell and addresses the deputies. "Morrow must be paying you a hell of a lot to throw away your careers, huh?" They both ignore him.

I feel sick. "Is that why he killed McNeil? Because she wouldn't go along?"

Toliver heads toward the door. "I've got to go find the girl." He leaves as Nichols takes out a CD player and puts on headphones, effectively blocking us out.

Getting to my feet, I come up behind Jim. "He's going after Cassie, man. We've got to do something."

Jim's hands clench into fists and he nods tightly. I know he agrees with me, but right now the situation looks hopeless.

The faraway whine of an airplane engine becomes a roar as it circles the runway, flying lower and lower, then landing at the end of the grassy strip. I watch as it taxis toward the building and comes to a stop. A second car races up the access road and parks next to the first one. Good old Doc Morrow and his nurse get out. The big guy, who I'm assuming is Leland, goes over to them, and they wait for the plane's engines to shut off, and the door to open.

A slim dark-haired man carrying a large briefcase gets off the plane and approaches Morrow. "Welcome to America," the doctor greets him. "How was your flight?"

When the newcomer speaks, it's with an accent. French? Italian? "Oh, long and tiring." European, I know that much.

"Everything's ready as we agreed. All we need is the money."

I peer through a crack between the barrels as the foreigner opens the case. "One million dollars…American."

Holy shit! No wonder Morrow and his buddies killed Duval.

Morrow hands the man an envelope and relieves him of the case. "These are your documents. As of tomorrow, you'll be Edgar Kleist, a naturalized American citizen born in Vienna, and wanted terrorist Luc Resnais will cease to exist."

My mind is reeling. Resnais is wanted in just about every country in the world. My heart pounding, I duck lower in my hiding place, waiting until I hear the door to the building close before cautiously peeking out. I don't see anyone.

Getting to my feet, I turn around to leave--and find myself staring down the barrel of a gun. My hands slowly go up as I say, "Hi there. I'm with O.S.H.A. I guess this means those MSDS forms aren't up to date?"

He doesn't see the humor, and gives me a shove toward the building entrance.


Act V