Beta Read by BethB
Written for PetFly by:
Teleplay by: Harold Apter
Story by: Steven Kriozere and Harold Apter & Laurence Frank
It's a typical fall day in Cascade, gray, gloomy and raining. I'm glad to
be inside the warmth of the loft, sitting in companionable silence on the sofas with Jim.
He's watching television with the sound turned down, waiting for the Jags game to come on.
I'm on the other couch with a textbook and highlighter. All told, a rather boring
afternoon for both of us.
Glancing up at the TV, I see the blonde reporter from the local channel standing out in the rain at what looks like a construction site. I don't give it much attention, until a worried looking woman in her mid-forties with dark curly hair appears on camera. "Hey, turn this up."
Jim doesn't move. "Why?"
"Why? Because I can't hear it." I shake my head, silently laughing. "There's some definite drawbacks to living with you."
Pointing the remote at the screen, Jim turns up the volume in time for me to hear the reporter say to the other woman, "It looks like we have a very grave situation here."
I indicate the interview subject. "That's Emily Watson. She's an archaeology professor."
Jim raises an eyebrow. "She doesn't seem like your type."
Shooting him an irritated look, I say, "Shhh "
The reporter sticks her microphone in Dr. Watson's face. "We understand your graduate assistant, Martin Gillman, is missing and may have been buried alive when the tunnel collapsed."
Emily looks like she's on the verge of tears. "We're praying that's not the case, but yes, I'm afraid it doesn't look good."
"Is there anything else that you can tell us about this incident?"
Dr. Watson shakes her head. "No, I'm sorry. Right now, I know about as much as you do." She brushes past the camera and walks away.
I'm stunned. "Oh, my god."
Jim turns his attention to me. "You know this Gillman, too?"
Shrugging, I answer, "I've heard the name a couple of times." Doesn't matter if I know him or not. The university Social Sciences department is a close-knit group, and we still haven't recovered from Hal Buckner's murder. Another death will deeply affect everyone, students and staff.
A chill runs down my spine as the reporter finishes up. "We know very little about this incident at this time, but we will keep you up to date with any further developments. Until then, this is Helen Mersky reporting."
The camera zooms back to show a wide-angle view of the site. Both Jim and I stare at the familiar redheaded figure among the rescue workers at the scene. She's drawing a cell phone out of her pocket and punching in a number.
"If it isn't Nancy Drew herself," Jim quips just as the phone rings next to his elbow. He looks at me, then the TV, then back at me. "Nah."
I laugh. "Oh, that'd be strange."
Cautiously, Jim picks up the phone.
Leaning against the front of my van, I watch the firemen work at the dig
site as a steady drizzle makes everything a cold, slippery mess. A shout goes up. They've
found him. Pushing myself off the bumper, I pick up my case and head to the edge of the
pit. "What have you got?" I ask the fire chief.
"He's dead," he answers.
I nod. "I suspected as much. Tell them to move the body as little as possible. Is it stable enough to send someone from my team down yet?"
He speaks into his radio, then hands me a hard hat. "They've got it shored up. Go on down, Ms. Welles."
Knowing I won't be able to do much in the small space once I'm there, I grab only my digital camera and climb down the ladder. I take a few photos of the body where it was found, then wait until it's been moved to a more open area to do a thorough exam. When I brush the dirt off Gillman's face, I can see what looks like bruising along his jaw. His lips and skin have the bluish tint found in asphyxiation victims, which is consistent for someone buried under debris. Just to be sure, though, I take a quick look in his nose and mouth. The absence of dirt is startling. Anyone trapped under that much earth would naturally breathe some in--unless he was already dead.
I look up at the rescue team. "Leave him, and the rest of the area, guys. I'm going to have to get a team down here." Gillman's body is covered with a plastic sheet while I climb up to the top of the pit and gesture for the rest of my team to get to work.
Pulling out my cell phone, I dial Ellison and Sandburg's number. Normally I would just request whoever's on duty from dispatch, but Gillman was from Rainier, and I have a feeling Sandburg's connection to the university will come in handy.
The line rings several times before it's answered. "Ellison."
"Hey, Jim, this is Cassie Welles. I'm down here at the Cascade waterfront--"
"Yeah, I know. I can see you on TV right now."
"You can?" I look up to see the TV camera pointed my way. Turning my back to it, I say, "Then you know a man named Martin Gillman was missing in a tunnel cave-in. His body's just been found, and based on the evidence, I think he was murdered."
"So why are you calling me?"
"Look, Ellison, if you don't want this case, I can call someone else "
"No, no, we'll be right there." There's a click as he hangs up the phone.
Someone calls my name and, grabbing my kit, I head back down into the pit.
I glance over at Jim as he hangs up the phone. "So? Was that
Getting to his feet, Jim nods. "They just found Martin Gillman. She thinks he was murdered." His eye roll lets me know his opinion of that. "Get your coat, Chief."
Putting my books away in my room, I shrug into my jacket and follow Jim out the door.
Twenty minutes later, he's parking the Ford next to the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles surrounding the Rainier University dig site at the waterfront. He gets out of the truck, continuing the griping he's been doing ever since Cassie called. " I don't know why I'm doing this anyway. It's my day off and I'm missing the Jags game. The guy was crawling around underground and the tunnel fell in on him, case closed."
I follow him through the gate in the chain link fence surrounding the area. A sign hanging on it reads Cantor Construction. "Come on, Jim, you wouldn't be here if you didn't think Cassie was on to something. She's a pro; she wouldn't have called you if she didn't think there was foul play involved. In fact, I think it's the fact that she's a professional you can't stand." That earns me a glare. "I mean, you're the walking crime lab, but she's the one with the training to put all the details together. Why don't you just try to work with her, instead of complaining?"
"I don't want to work with her, Chief. She's abrasive, pig-headed, loud--"
I can't help taking a poke at him. "Like someone you know?"
He shoots me a look. "Carolyn was never that bad."
"I'm not talking about Carolyn." Grinning, I wiggle my eyebrows at him.
He makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a growl, and stops by the coroner's van where the attendants are lifting a stretcher with a body bag on it. "Hold on a second." He unzips the bag and takes a look inside.
I turn away from the sight, glancing around the area for Cassie. I don't find her, but I do spy Emily Watson a few feet away, talking to a blond man in a dark raincoat. He's shaking his head, saying, "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do."
Touching Jim on the arm, I point toward the pair. "Hey, there's Emily over there."
He motions for the guys from the coroner's office to continue what they were doing, and follows me toward Emily and the man. As we approach, we catch the tail end of their conversation. She seems to be pleading with him about the dig. "Mark, this project represents over a year of my life."
Mark doesn't seem swayed. "And it got Gillman killed."
"Martin got himself killed." Whoa, that's kind of harsh, coming from Emily. He was her assistant!
The man shakes his head. "The bottom line is you're three months behind schedule. I need to put my building up."
"I need more time," she begs.
"Well, I changed the locks. You're finished as of this morning." He walks away without a backward glance, even when she calls after him.
She's standing there, looking both angry and defeated, as I say, "Hey, Emily."
For a moment, she doesn't recognize me, then she asks, "Blair? What are you doing here?"
I give her a sympathetic smile. "I saw the news report on television. I thought I'd come down." I turn toward Jim, including him in the conversation. "This is my friend Jim Ellison--he's with the police department."
"How do you do?" she says, then ignores him. To me, she adds, "It was really great of you to come down here, but we're going to have to talk later, okay?"
She walks away before I can get "Sure" out of my mouth. Something weird is going on. Emily's one of the sharpest people I know, and she seems distracted to the point of rudeness. "Who do you think that guy was she was talking to?"
Before Jim can say anything, I feel a light touch on my shoulder, and a familiar voice speaks up from behind me. "It's Mark Cantor; he owns the land."
I turn around to see Cassie smiling at me, and I find myself smiling back. "Hi."
Jim's all business. "So you think Gillman was murdered?"
"Based on what?"
"For one thing, the fact there was no dirt in his mouth or nose, yet he appears to have died of asphyxia. Come on, I'll show you where he was found." She heads toward the large pit.
I look at Jim. He shrugs and follows her. As I climb down the ladder into the hole, I say, "I've been dying to look at this place for months now. Visitation was strictly limited. Emily invited me once, but I couldn't come because I was working on a case."
Jim's not impressed by the site. "What's the big deal? I mean, it doesn't look like much."
I know it's a big muddy hole in the ground, but still, this is the kind of thing that turns me on about anthropology and archaeology--discovering the past. "Maybe not to you, and maybe not on the surface, but most of the work here consists of brushing away dirt millimeter by millimeter. It's actually a really fascinating process."
Cassie seems to share my enthusiasm. "When they were digging the foundations for the new building, they discovered Cascade's old waterfront."
Jim looks bored. "Hmm. Yeah, so?"
I shake my head. "So, it has historical value. Think of the things we can learn about our past, about the people who lived in Cascade a century ago."
Still not impressed, Jim squats by a smaller hole in the ground. "Yeah. This must be where they found Gillman, huh?"
Cassie kneels next to him, pointing out the area where the body was discovered. "Yeah. It was a brand new excavation. At first it looks as though Gillman was crawling in the dark and his movements made the side walls collapse on his head."
Shrugging, Jim gets to his feet. "Sounds reasonable."
"Well, yeah, except for the fact that I spoke to Professor Watson and the site closes at sundown. What was Gillman doing crawling around in the middle of the night? Add that to the fact that the autopsy will most likely show he was dead when the tunnel collapsed."
I can tell Jim doesn't want to hear it. His mind is on the Jags game he's missing. He says, "It doesn't rule out accidental death. I mean, if it was murder, where's your motive?"
"I have an idea on that. Follow me." Cassie heads up the ladder and out of the hole. Jim rolls his eyes at me, but climbs after her.
I wait for Jim and Blair to reach the top of the pit, then I lead them
through the gate and out of the dig site onto the street. Gillman's car is parked a block
away from the area. I
point out the shattered driver's side window. "This is Gillman's car. Killer broke in
and was looking pretty hard for something."
Blair leans in, looking at the disarray, contents of a backpack dumped on the seat, glove box open and empty. "You know, she might be right, Jim."
"I don't know about that. Doesn't have to be an isolated incident. There's two other cars down the street that have been broken into and vandalized." He starts to walk off.
The next car is two blocks away. How in the hell can he tell from here that it was trashed? I break into a trot to catch up with the two men. Jim's standing next to the car in question. It, too, has a broken window, and the contents strewn all over the interior.
"This is one. The other one is down there." He points toward a second car, parked in a warehouse lot.
I refuse to believe this is a coincidence. "Yeah, well, maybe the killer didn't know which car Gillman was driving."
Ellison doesn't look convinced. "Right." His cell phone rings and he answers it.
I head toward the other car, Blair on my heels. Catching up to me, he says, "You know, I think you're right."
Pausing, I raise an eyebrow at him. "You do?"
He nods enthusiastically. "Yep."
I sigh. I can't tell if he's sincere, or if he's trying to make time with me. "Look, Blair, it's okay if you don't think I'm right. Ellison's a good cop, but it's exhausting having to fight every time just to be heard."
"I know what you mean, Cassie. I have the same problem with him, sometimes. Probably because I'm not really a detective, either." He gives me a smile.
Amazing how he can make me feel better when he does that. "Eh, well, I like a challenge. But if you tell him I said that, I will kill you."
He holds his hands up in mock surrender. "Okay, all right, back off." He laughs. "A forensics chief committing murder. You know, that might be the perfect crime." He switches subjects. "Listen, why don't you and I go out to lunch?"
Okay, so he is flirting. I stare at him for a moment, unsure how to respond, ignoring the part of my brain that suddenly wants to know what his lips taste like. "Blair look, that kind of thing can get really awkward, and well, I'm having enough trouble adjusting to the Cascade PD as it is."
He looks horrified at the thought his offer has made me uncomfortable. "No, no. This wouldn't be a date. This would be--call it whatever you want--an appointment."
His smile warms me from the inside out. Damn, I told Carolyn this wouldn't happen to me, that I wouldn't fall under his spell like apparently every other woman at the PD, if the females in forensics are any indication. "Okay, right. Look, I already have an appointment, but I could take a rain check."
Blair smiles again, and the sun comes out from behind the clouds. Even Mother Nature is on his side. "Okay," he answers, and I make a hasty retreat to my van, before I make myself look like more of a fool than I already have.
Jim decides to head into the station to report to Simon, and I ask him to
drop me off at the University. I'm hoping to catch Emily there. If not, I plan to do some
digging into the research being done at the site. If Gillman was murdered, I'm betting the
reason had something to do with the dig, though what it could be, I have no idea at the
Walking down the corridor of Hargrove Hall, I see the door to Emily's office is slightly open. Tapping on it lightly, I enter. "Hey, Emily."
She looks up at me, her face lined with worry, her eyes red-rimmed and glistening with unshed tears. "Blair. Oh, my god. I am so sorry. I got so wrapped up in everything this morning, I completely--"
"I understand. I was just on my way to my office. I wanted to see how you were doing," I say.
She scrubs at her face with her hands. "I've had better days."
"Yeah, I can imagine." Coming into the room a little further, I lean against her worktable. "Especially since we just lost Hal. I'm sorry about Martin. Were you and he close?"
"Thanks. I'm sorry about him too. Though the truth is, he and I weren't exactly friends." She pushes some papers around on her desk, her expression uncomfortable.
"What? I thought he was heading the dig for you."
Her eyes glitter angrily as she glances up at me. "Not by my choice. Mark Cantor insisted on it."
Alarm bells begin to go off in my head. Since when do contractors have any say with university politics? "Mark Cantor. What does he have to do with departmental assignments?"
Again, Emily looks ill at ease, like she's hiding something. "He owns the site. Besides, he has enormous clout with the city council. He's the biggest developer in town. They never would have backed the dig without his full cooperation."
"Well, why was Gillman so important to him?"
Shrugging, she answers, "I don't know. Ricky Carson was my assistant up until two months ago. Martin Gillman was on one of his dig teams. Then I get a call from Cantor insisting that Gillman be put in charge. When I said no, he threatened to shut us down. Now he's going to use Martin's death as an excuse to bulldoze the dig."
"I'm sorry. That really sucks."
"Yeah," she replies bitterly. "Not as much as what happened to poor Martin."
I leave then, turning our conversation over in my mind. Why would Cantor be interested in Gillman? I can't imagine they ran in the same social circles. So what leverage did Gillman have to make Cantor upset the status quo on his behalf? Blackmail? Or something else?
Walking into Major Crime, I stride over to Ellison's desk and toss down
the preliminary autopsy report on Martin Gillman. Jim looks up at me, his expression
pained. "What was that you said about Gillman's death being an accident?"
Frowning, he opens the file and runs his finger down the page. "'Cause of death: asphyxia, related to water in the lungs.' He drowned?"
"Yep. Notice no trace of dirt in his mouth, nose or lungs, just water. Gillman's body was moved to the tunnel, then it was collapsed on him."
Jim can't deny the obvious. "That's probably a pretty good hunch."
I point to another line on the report. "Mm-hmm. Keep reading. They found cement in his lungs. I bet you five bucks it's the same kind of stuff used at that construction site."
"Don't jump to conclusions. I'm not saying your theory is wrong. We just have to prove it."
I nod. "Great. Let me grab my kit and my coat and I can be ready to go in five minutes."
"Uh, when I said 'we', I meant me and Sandburg."
His eyes shift from my face to a point behind me, and I turn around to see Blair walking in. Giving me a big smile, he says, "Hi."
I know Blair's not the one with a problem with me, but my temper flares, and he's closest. "Good luck. Excuse me," I snap at Blair, bumping him with my shoulder as I leave the bullpen.
I can hear him asking Jim, "What'd I do?" as I head down the hallway, his voice genuinely confused.
Getting on the elevator, I stab at the button for my floor, then swear. "Fuck." Blair didn't deserve that from me. Running a hand through my hair, I realize I'm still shaking with anger. I really should go apologize, but not now, not when I'm likely to say something I'll regret even more. I'll catch Blair sometime without tall, dark and surly, and say I'm sorry, maybe even take him up on that lunch offer.
I feel better as I get off the elevator. It's late; I'm tired and cranky. I'm going to go home, take a nice long bath, and go to bed. If Ellison wants to tromp around that wet, muddy construction site tonight, he's more than welcome to it.
Stuffing my hands into my pockets, I shiver, watching my breath rise as
white plumes in the air, feeling the drizzle soaking into my coat. Jim insisted on coming
back to the dig site tonight, something about not wanting Cassie to get the jump on us. I
tried to gently remind him that it's not a competition, but he's a sentinel with selective
Cantor pulls up in a big black SUV and comes to meet us at the fence. As he's unlocking the gate, Jim says, "Appreciate you coming out on such short notice, Mr. Cantor."
"Well, a man was killed on my property, Detective. I'd like this solved as quickly as possible, you know, before the press turns it into a circus." He pushes the gate open and the three of us walk through.
"We understand you got Gillman promoted," Jim continues, asking Cantor about the information I got from Emily.
Surprise flickers briefly on the man's face, then he replies, "I knew him socially."
"Well enough to know he was a fine young man with a promising future. To lose him like this is just a damn shame. I'd appreciate it if you'd only let your officers have access. I'd hate to have this happen again."
As he's turning to go, I ask, "What's going to happen to the dig?"
"Professor Watson will have a chance to remove anything of importance she's already uncovered, but I'm afraid that's where it stops." He stalks off, effectively ending our questioning.
Shaking my head angrily, I follow Jim toward the pit. "Well, that's great." I'm more convinced than ever that something was going on between Cantor and Gillman. If he was so supportive of Martin and his work, then why is he so eager to shut down the dig? What is it he's hiding?
Jim climbs the ladder into the pit, and I follow, pulling a flashlight out of my pocket and turning it on once we're down. I shine it on the ground and on the walls, unsure what I'm looking for. Jim squats next to a puddle and I point the light in that direction.
"Cement," he says, running his finger through what looks like some silver grit.
"How'd that get down here?"
Jim looks up at the sky before he replies. "Well, it rained pretty good a couple of nights back. Lot of construction debris up top. Probably some loose cement mixed with water, ran down the edge here, gathered into a pretty good-size puddle." He stares harder at the ground, and I get the feeling he's got his sentinel mojo working. "The killer dragged the body from over here to over there." He points toward where Gillman was found.
"How do you know that?"
"Turn the light off."
I do so, and can barely see Jim, let alone anything else.
"There's cement on the killer's shoes. They made a print. Something weird about them, though. Some kind of metal tap on the heel." He walks across the pit and points at the ground. "You don't see that?"
I sigh. "No."
"I see some phosphorus in the cement."
Like glow in the dark footprints? "Oh, well, maybe the moonlight's working on your senses. Sort of like a black light effect, you know? That's wild." I take a few steps in his direction, straining to see what he's looking at.
The ground moves underneath my feet, and I hear a cracking noise. "Oh, shit!" goes through my mind as I look up to see Jim barreling toward me. He hits me right at the hips, knocking me flat on my back and a good six feet away. Air explodes out of my chest as a loud crash deafens me. Black spots dance in front of my eyes for several long seconds, until my shocked lungs kick back into gear and I inhale, choking on a rising cloud of dust.
"Jim?" I call, sitting up slowly. Somehow I managed to hold onto the flashlight, and I turn it on, pointing it toward where I last saw him. Where I had been standing is now a gaping hole in the ground. There's no sign of Jim.