The ride to Rainier is silent. I can't believe Emily's dead. Questions
keep running through my mind. How? Why? Was she murdered too? Was she connected to
Martin's death? Was that why she was killed?
God. I can't believe another person in the department is gone.
I hit a pothole, and a hiss emanates from the passenger seat. Glancing over at Jim, I scowl. He shouldn't be here, but the moment Cassie broke the news about Emily, he insisted on signing himself out of the hospital AMA. He can barely walk, and right now his face is gray with pain. I know every bump in the road has to be radiating up his spine, increasing the throbbing in his head.
"I should just take you home," I say. "We don't know she was murdered. She could have had a heart attack or something."
Jim gives me a pained look. "And who's going to handle the investigation if she was murdered? You and Cassie?"
Ouch, that hurts. I find words spilling out of my mouth before I fully comprehend what I'm saying. "Why, you think we couldn't?"
Jim's cheek muscle twitches, then he says very slowly, as if I'm a child, "Sandburg. You. Are. Not. A. Cop."
"So?" I persist. "Simon's there. What's he, chopped liver?" I pull into a handicap parking space in front of Hargrove. Getting out of the Volvo, I walk around to the passenger side and open the door, then reach in and grab Jim under the arm, slowly pulling him to his feet. He leans against the roof of the car to steady himself for a moment, then pushes off and heads inside the building. Muttering curses under my breath, I shut the car door and follow him.
One of my team is covering Dr. Watson's body with a sheet when I enter the
room, crime scene kit in hand. "Thanks, Sharon," I tell her. "Let me take a
look first, and then I'll let you process the room." Nodding, she steps out in the
hallway as I squat by the body and pull the sheet away from her face. A large, bloody
bruise is visible over her right temple.
"Oh, god." Looking over my shoulder, I can see Blair standing in the doorway, his face pale, horror plain in the blue depths of his eyes.
Simon steps in front of him, blocking his view. "You all right, Sandburg?"
Blair moves around Simon, his eyes on me, on Emily. "Yeah, I'm fine. I can't I can't just leave. She's a friend of mine." He leans against the wall, wrapping his arms around his stomach.
Jim appears behind his partner. "Nobody's asking you to do that, Chief."
"Should you be out of the hospital, Ellison? No, I don't think I want to know the answer." Captain Banks glares at Jim for a moment, then asks Blair, "Did you know she was diabetic?"
He shakes his head, his eyes never leaving Emily's body. "Uh no."
Banks waves a hand toward her desk, indicating the syringe and vial of insulin resting there. "Looks like she was giving herself an injection. Probably had an insulin reaction."
"Isn't that kind of unusual?" Jim asks.
I get to my feet. "No, not if a person accidentally takes too much insulin, or hasn't had enough to eat. Diabetics usually keep a stash of sugar around, just in case." I open the mini-fridge sitting on a counter a few feet away from the desk. It's filled with orange juice and candy bars. "See? That way, they can reverse the action quickly if they need to." I move to stand behind the desk. "Okay, so Watson, at her desk, realizes she's having a reaction. She stands up, probably feeling pretty dizzy. She trips, falls, hits her head. That's why she never made it."
Blair makes a small, choked sound and looks away. Shit. I don't mean to make it harder on him.
Banks says, "We'll have to wait for the ME's preliminary report. But if you're right, what we're looking at here is probably just an accidental death."
Jim objects. "Accidental, sir? I mean, first Gillman, now Dr. Watson. That doesn't sound like a coincidence to me." He gives me a look, like I'm responsible for the poor woman being dead.
"I outlined a possible scenario, Jim. I didn't say it was set in concrete." My tone is sharper than it should be, and I can see Blair wince out of the corner of my eye.
He moves between us, his voice strained as he says, "There's somebody dead here. Can't you two quit taking shots at each other long enough to respect that?" Jim touches him on the shoulder, but Blair sidles out from under his hand. "I'm going go down the hall to my office."
"Blair, I'm sorry," I apologize as he starts to leave, but he ignores me. Damn it. Hurting him is the last thing I want, but I can't go chasing after him now.
As Jim's examining Watson's body, I look at the scene again. If she fell, what did she hit her head on? The desk would have been on her left, but the bruise is on the right side of her face. Pulling out a magnifying glass, I check both the desk and the counter. There are no traces of skin or blood in either place.
Getting my attention, Jim points at the injury to Emily's head. "This kind of trauma could have been made by any sort of blunt instrument."
I nod tersely. "And I don't see any evidence she hit her head on the desk, or the counter."
He points to a needle mark on her thigh. "I'll bet the killer hit her over the head with something, then injected her with insulin in the same spot she injected herself."
"So the autopsy will show there was twice as much insulin in her bloodstream than normal." I suppress a shudder. "What kind of person uses a life-saving drug as a murder weapon?"
Jim simply shakes his head, then says to Banks, "Captain, I'd like to take a look outside. Would you mind accompanying me?"
The two men leave the room, Jim obviously in pain. I call Sharon and Harold back in and give them instructions on processing the room. Then I go looking for Blair.
I find him in an office a few doors down, sitting behind his desk, his elbow propped on its surface, his chin resting on his fist. His eyes are dark and troubled. Entering the room, I cross to stand next to his desk. "I'm really sorry about that back there. I shouldn't let what Jim thinks affect me. You were right, picking a fight with him was being disrespectful to Dr. Watson, and I apologize."
"Apology accepted," he says, then sighs, running both hands through his hair. "What in the hell is going on, Cassie?" Blair waves his hand to indicate the room. "This used to be my safe place, you know? Everything was nice and normal here. No kidnappings, no murders, no drug dealers or rapists. I could come here and escape the ugliness I see working with Jim. Now it's here, too. Is it me? Did I bring the ugliness to Rainier? Or was it here all along, and I just didn't see it until now?"
I can only shake my head. I don't have any answers for him, only a promise. I squeeze his shoulder tightly. "I swear I'll do everything I can to help find her killer, Blair. I promise." He gives me a half smile, but I can see in his eyes my oath is not enough. Once lost, innocence is gone forever.
Later that afternoon, I walk into Cassie's office at the PD. Seated at her
computer, she looks up as I enter. "Hey, Blair. Did you get Jim settled in at your
"Yeah, but he's not happy about it, even though his back is killing him. He gave me a list of stuff to go over with you." Taking off my coat and hanging it on the coat rack, I drop into the chair beside her desk and pull a piece of paper out of my pocket. I wasn't kidding about the list. "Any results back on the hypodermic needle Jim and Simon found in the sewer outside Hargrove Hall?"
She nods. "It contained insulin. No fingerprints."
"Any strange prints from Emily's office?"
"No, just hers and some students."
"Find anything in Gillman's car?"
"My techs didn't the first time through, but I haven't had a chance to go over it myself yet." She gets to her feet. "Wanna come down to the forensics garage and give me a hand?"
"Sure." I follow her down the hall to the elevator. We're the only ones aboard, and the silence is awkward. I think we're both uncomfortable about what happened at the university today, and our foolish kiss last night.
She's leaning against the wall, her hands in her pockets, her eyes on the floor. Seeming to come to a decision, she looks up at me. "Are we okay?"
"Um, yeah, I guess so. I'm not mad at you or anything." Geez, Sandburg, that was reassuring. I sigh. "Sorry, I'm not explaining myself very well. I like you, Cassie, I really do. And I want to get to know you better."
She smiles at me. "Okay, just checking. Because I'm still interested." The elevator bings and the doors open.
Once we're inside the garage, Cassie leads me over to Gillman's car and hands me a screwdriver. "If there's something here, we'll find it."
Two hours later, we've completely stripped the car. The seats have been removed and searched. The carpet's been pulled up. The door panels and dashboard have been taken off. The trunk has been thoroughly searched as well as the undercarriage. I've got my hand in the empty glove box, feeling around the lining. It's lumpy.
Pulling out my Swiss Army knife, I cut a slit in the cloth and peel it back. Underneath it is something wrapped in plastic. "Cassie!" I yell. "I've got something."
She comes around to my side of the car, and takes a look. "You think this is what Gillman was killed for?"
"I don't know, but let's find out." Removing the packet with my gloved hand, I set it on the hood and cautiously unwrap it. A computer disk is resting on top of a cloth bundle. Moving the disk to the side, I unwrap the fabric. "Holy shit," I breathe as the object is revealed. It's a thick, odd-shaped piece of what looks like solid gold. Mysterious runes similar to the ones Jim and I found on the door at the dig site cover its surface.
"This explains a lot," Cassie says. "And raises a bunch more questions."
I set the package down on the coffee table and unwrap it. Jim's eyes widen
as he's appropriately impressed. "All my tests indicate it was smelted over a hundred
Wincing, Jim picks it up and runs his fingers over the surface. He's lying propped up on the couch in the loft, several pillows behind his back. Finally, he says, "Yeah, but what is it?"
I sit down in the yellow leather armchair across from him. "It's the thing that got two people killed."
He's turning it over in his hands, still staring at it. "Maybe maybe."
Pushing my hair out of my face, I say with a touch of frustration, "Oh, come on, Jim! Gillman had this so well hidden a whole team of forensics guys couldn't find it. And weren't you the one who was insisting Gillman's and Watson's murders are linked? I'm telling you, that's the connection. Blair was practically salivating when he laid eyes on it. It's an archaeologist's dream, a mysterious relic ALA Indiana Jones."
Blair enters from the kitchen, leaning over the back of my chair to hand me a cup of coffee. "Black, just the way you like it." He perches on the arm and continues, "Emily would have killed to get her hands on that--not that I'm saying she did. What about the computer disk? Did it give any background on this thing?"
I shake my head. "It's encrypted. The only computer that can read it is the one that wrote it."
"When I gave Gillman's place a cursory search before we knew he was murdered, I saw a computer. I hadn't had a chance to go back through his apartment before my accident." Jim's fingers curl around the relic in frustration.
"Why Emily?" Blair asks. "You know? I mean, if this is what they were after, and they knew that Gillman had it, why go after Emily?"
Shrugging, I answer, "Maybe they thought she had it when they couldn't find it in Gillman's car."
Holding up the gold piece, Jim says, "Check out this irregular side. Doesn't it seem like it's a piece of a puzzle to you?"
Blair bounces up from his seat at my elbow to take the relic from Jim. "Yeah. So, if there're other pieces "
Jim finishes his thought. "Maybe the killer thought she had one."
"Okay, so it's a puzzle. Historically, it might be priceless, but I can't see the killer being interested in it for it's historical value. As gold, it's only worth a couple thousand dollars."
"Not much to kill for," Jim says.
Tracing the odd shaped side of the gold, Blair enthuses, "But when you put it all together, it's got to be worth a lot more. And--what does it make when you put it together?"
I fix dinner for Jim, then make sure he's taken his muscle relaxers and
pain pills, and that the TV remote is within easy reach. "You need anything else,
"I think I'm all set, Chief. You heading to the university?"
I shake my head as I put on my coat. "I thought I'd go by the station. Cassie's trying the cryptography program her friend sent on the codes. I thought I'd bring her dinner."
He raises an eyebrow at me. "Sounds like a date to me."
I give him a grin. "Maybe."
After I pick up Chinese, I head to the station. Cassie's sitting at her computer, talking to herself, when I enter her office. "Hey."
Her whole face lights up when she sees me, and I get a thrill, knowing I'm the one who made her smile. "Hey!" she says back.
Pulling over a chair from another desk, I drop into it, setting the bag of Chinese down on her desk. "How are you doing on the Mason's code?"
"This program my friend sent me is very cool. It's based on the alphabetical system, so whatever you feed into it automatically translates. Should be done pretty soon." One eyebrow goes up as I start to take cartons out of my sack. "What's all that?"
"Well, this is our rain check. And the beauty of it is, we're here at work. It's not a date; it's not even an appointment."
She leans her head on her hand, just looking at me, her gaze soft. Then she sighs and says, "Blair "
"Oh, come on, I'm serious. And you know you're interested. You know you want this." I hand her a container and a pair of chopsticks. "This is just two friends having a casual working dinner. That's all. Slow is good, right?"
Giving me that smile again, she opens the box. "Well, I am kind of hungry."
"Good. Here's the fried rice "
"Ooh look at this. Sweet and sour shrimp!" She holds one up with the chopsticks, then directs it toward me.
Okay feeding each other I can do this. Plucking it from her grasp with my teeth, I chew, then say, "I will never steer you wrong when it comes to food."
I'm feeding her moo-shu pork when I glance up to see Simon standing in the doorway.
"Sandburg? Where's Ellison?"
"Where he should be--at home, under the influence of prescription drugs. Why?"
"All right. I guess searching Gillman's apartment again can wait until I can put Henri or Rafe on it tomorrow."
"Okay," I answer and go back to eating.
"Ooh, here try some of this," Cassie says, handing me a spring roll.
I pass her the Kung pow chicken. "Try some of this. It's really good."
She makes a pleased little noise and her tongue flicks out to get an errant bit of sauce at the corner of her mouth. Looking up at me, she reaches out and brushes her thumb across my chin. "Sweet and sour sauce," she says gravely, then licks her finger.
I swallow hard, my jeans suddenly feeling uncomfortably tight. Dinner might not have been such a good idea if I'm going to stay committed to keeping things slow.
A cough sounds from the doorway. Simon is standing there, glaring at me. "Can I see you a minute--privately?"
"Yeah, sure." Putting down my carton of rice, I join him in the hallway. "Did you want some?"
Letting out an exasperated sigh, he says, "No, I don't want some. Look, if there's anything going on here besides fried shrimp, keep it off the premises."
I flush. "Right."
Simon points to the ceiling. "Video."
My face grows even hotter. "Right." He leaves, and I return to Cassie's desk.
She hands me a container, then jumps in her seat. "Hey! The program's broken the code."
I scoot my chair closer to the computer screen. "Did you put in our message yet?"
She nods. "It's coming through now. Let's try the symbols from that little piece you found at the dig site, off the door." She taps the computer keys.
I read the message aloud. "Beware! There is no escaping--"
Her voice joins mine. "--the maze of the sacred chamber."
"It's not uncommon for Masonic lodges to have secret rooms. Maybe this one's underground."
"Protected by a maze. Let's try the symbols off that gold piece we found in Gillman's car." She enters the code.
"18 paces right 20 " comes up on the screen. Obviously important parts of it are missing, probably on the other piece of gold.
"Looks like part of a direction to a secret room," I state.
Leaning back in her chair, Cassie taps a chopstick against her cheek. "Yeah, but what were they hiding down there?"
I shrug. "Whatever it is, it's enough to kill two people over."
Cassie looks thoughtful. "I'll bet Gillman knew what it was." She picks up the evidence bag holding the computer disk I found. "That's why he encrypted the disk, to keep what he knew secret. Come on, let's go." Grabbing her laptop, she gets to her feet.
"What do you mean, 'Let's go'? Where?"
"Gillman's. I want to check out that computer."
"Um, wait a minute, Cassie. I know I'm probably risking bodily harm here, but--" I start to protest.
"I am not a detective."
I cringe under her gaze. I know I sound like Jim right about now. "Well, yeah. That's right."
"But I am a duly authorized agent of the Cascade PD empowered to collect evidence base on a specific crime. I'm also a member of the team investigating Gillman's murder. Are you coming or not?"
I don't budge from my seat.
Putting one hand on her hip, she tilts her head to look at me. "What? You think I'm just going to rush off without telling anyone where we're going? I'm going to stop by Captain Banks' office and let him know we're headed to Gillman's to check out the computer. I'll ask for a detective to go with us, since Jim's injured. If I can't get one, I'll request someone from patrol."
When it comes to her work, Cassie has always shown herself to be a professional. I don't know why I thought this time would be any different. Letting out a sigh of relief, I stand up and grab my coat.
The apartment complex manager leads us to Gillman's apartment. He starts
to insert the key in the lock, but the door swings open at his touch. The two patrol
officers with us are instantly suspicious, and draw their weapons, as do I. "Stay
back," I hiss at Blair and the manager.
The patrol officers enter the apartment, while I remain stationed outside, to provide backup firepower if they need it. Blair has his cell phone out, finger poised over the keypad, ready to dial if things go badly. Fortunately, whoever's been through the place has come and gone. Once the officers announce the all clear, Blair and I enter.
"Crap," I say, staring at the mess. The place has been thoroughly searched. "Guess this means I'll need to get a team over here. But first let's make sure the computer's still here."
Blair follows me into a bedroom that appears to have been turned into an office. On a desk at one side of the room is a computer. "Great!" he says, walking over to the desk and sitting down. Turning on the power, he waits for it to boot up.
Pulling out my cell phone, I call dispatch and ask them to send some of my people over. "No, no hurry." I tell them. "Whenever they're done with their current call." I close the phone just as the rookie member of the patrol team enters the room.
"Chief Welles, we just got a call about an attempted robbery a few blocks from here. We're the closest unit to the location. I hate to leave you here, but " His voice trails off and he shifts nervously from foot to foot.
"That's okay, Malinowski. Whoever did this--" I wave my hand at the mess "--is long gone. We should be fine."
"All right ma'am. We'll radio for someone to come take our place."
"Thanks again," I say, and the uniform leaves. Coming up behind Blair, I lean over his shoulder. "What have we got?"
He points at the screen, grinning. "I managed to get the file open. We were right, it is about the gold, just not the piece we found."
"Uh-huh. According to Gillman's research, the fire wiped out more than just the waterfront. When the fire took the lodge, it took the entire leadership; they were all killed and among them were two men thought to be Illuminati. Now, there was a memoir written in 1903 by this elderly mason. He reports that there is a huge vault filled with their collective assets in gold bars hidden beneath the foundations of the building. The Illuminati were keepers of two golden keys that have instructions leading to that vault. But the bad news is nobody believed this guy."
"How come?" I ask, as I open up my laptop and turn on the code program. Maybe using Gillman's information we can fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.
"He was institutionalized at the time, dying of dementia. Cut to, a hundred years later, Gillman digs up one of these gold keys. Now he's much more interested in being rich and famous than being a nice guy, so he cuts Emily out of the loop, goes directly to Cantor."
"Who in exchange for a large cut, makes sure Gillman is made Watson's assistant. That way he can do all the snooping he wants and no one will question him. Which most likely makes Cantor our murderer."
The sound of something falling in the other room makes us both jump. "It's probably nothing, but I'll go check it out." Pulling my Sig, I edge out the door. A tour of the second bedroom, the living area, and the bath turns up nothing. Entering the kitchen, I find the back door ajar. Opening it all the way, I stick my head outside. Nothing. It probably didn't latch when the uniforms opened it before, and the wind blew it against the wall. "False alarm, Blair," I call out as I start to leave the kitchen.
Something hits me on the back of the head, and pain explodes behind my eyes. My knees buckle and I pitch forward to land with my cheek pressed against the cold linoleum. The last thing I see before my eyelids slam shut is a pair of black boots walking away from me, silver taps winking.
I nod to myself at Cassie's reassurance the place is safe. I've got the
laptop up and running, and am trying to figure out the missing parts of the message. A
shadow falls over the computer screen.
"Hey, Cassie," I start to say but am cut off in mid-sentence by the gun pressed to the back of my neck.
"Stand up real slow," a male voice commands.
I get to my feet, raising both hands in the air. The intruder pushes me away from the desk. When I turn around, he has Cassie's laptop in his hand. I was expecting it to be Cantor, but it's some guy I've never seen before, with red hair, a goatee and orange colored glasses. Dressed all in leather, he looks like a refugee from a boy band. "What did you do to Cassie?" I ask.
"The police chick? She's taking a nap on the kitchen floor. If you cooperate with me, she'll get to wake up. Now move." He waves the gun in the direction of the doorway. Taking the hint, I leave the room.
We pass the kitchen doorway, and I see Cassie's body sprawled on the floor. Please be okay. God, please let her be okay. But as I'm shoved toward the front door, I realize I can't tell whether or not she's breathing.