by Melinda Holley
Beta read by Cheri Allen and Wolf
Written for PetFly by John Vorhaus

Rated PG
internal thought in italics

Act I

America. The land of opportunity. Henri Tusseau wished he had more time to explore that possibility. Most of all, he was intrigued by the innocence and naivety of its citizens. Bad things never happened within her borders. At least not as bad as those that happened elsewhere.

Henri's dark eyes glanced in the store window next to him. He momentarily stopped as if studying the display of toys, then he determinedly walked away. The brief stop had confirmed his instincts.

They were coming for him…and coming quickly. They wanted the envelope in his pocket.

Henri quickly turned the corner and bumped into a grocery cart pushed by a raggedly dressed homeless woman. The woman screeched angrily as the cart tipped over.

"My things! Look what you've done!"

"I'm so sorry," Henri apologized as he righted the cart. "It's entirely my fault." His softly accented voice betrayed no hint of his increasing panic as he replaced the various pieces of dirty clothing and broken household goods into the cart.

The dark-skinned woman sadly shook her head when Henri nodded once more in silent apology. Pushing the cart, she passed the three men who were intent on following the young man.

Henri trotted down the street. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the three running after him. Stumbling slightly, he broke into a run, turning the corner…and running into the one man he never wanted to see again.

Before Henri could call out, he was pushed into the back of a dark late-model sedan. Seconds later, the car drove away.

Henri tried to calm himself as the man in the front passenger seat turned to look at him. As best he could, he tried to ignore the large men sitting on either side of him.

"You are a hard man to find."

Henri felt a strange calm come over him. "That is because no one wants you to find them, Jean Christophe. You bring nothing but pain and misery."

Christophe's dark eyes snapped in anger. "Where is it?"

Henri casually shrugged. "I have nothing. You may search me if you wish."

Christophe coldly chuckled. "You know I will do more than that. You will tell me what I want to know."

Henri silently consigned his soul to God then lunged forward. He grabbed Christophe's jacket, pulling the man half over the seat towards him. Wrapping his hands around his captor's throat, he began squeezing.

So intent was Henri on trying to strangle Christophe, he barely felt the knife blade slide between his ribs. But a solid punch to his kidneys broke his concentration. As pain from his wound began to register, Henri's hands loosened around Christophe's throat. He clutched at the other man's jacket as he began to collapse. He felt the green pin on Christophe's jacket come loose in his hand and clutched it tightly.

The crowd stood watching as crowds will do whenever they spot the flashing lights of police cars and EMT's. They talked quietly among themselves, speculating about what had happened, who it had happened to, and why it had happened. Before the day was over, most would be convinced they knew the whole story.

Detective Jim Ellison heard most of the speculation as he walked past the spectators towards the tall dark-skinned man who was questioning a small dark-haired woman. Behind him, his partner, Blair Sandburg, trotted to keep up.

"Jim!" Captain Simon Banks motioned him to come closer. "This is Elizabeth Chin. She was driving the car." He glanced at the woman. "Please tell Detective Ellison what happened."

The woman wearily shrugged. "He just…lurched off the sidewalk. I thought he was drunk when he hit the front side of my car. I slammed on my brakes and got out. That's when I saw all the blood." She wrapped her arms around her body as she shivered. "I called 911 on my cell, but…"

Jim glanced at the ambulance.

"He died. Multiple stab wounds," Simon quietly explained. "But he said something before he died, didn't he, Ms. Chin?"

The shivering woman nodded. "Something about someone called Benet. It sounded like a warning, but I can't be sure."

Simon nodded at a nearby EMT. "They'll take you to the hospital, Ms. Chin. Is there someone we can call?"

"My brother." Elizabeth nodded. "I can call him on my cell."

Simon nodded. "Thank you for your help. If we have any more questions, we'll be in touch."

"I don't get it, Simon." Jim frowned. "Why are we involved? Shouldn't this land in Homicide's lap? And who's Benet?"

"Dr. Genevieve Benet from St. Germaine," Blair answered.

Jim looked at his partner then frowned at the tone of admiration in Blair's voice. "The peace activist you've been talking about for the last couple of days?"

Simon nodded. "Probably has something to do with the Amnesty International conference this week. Dignitaries are coming from all over the world for the lighting of the torch."

Jim glanced up at the cloudy sky. Why Cascade? He shook his head. "So why is Benet coming? Is she a delegate or something?"

"She's a vocal advocate for Amnesty International," Blair eagerly explained. "She'll take on anybody, but she's mostly involved working against the repressive government of her home country of St. Germaine."

Jim sighed. "Do we have anything on the victim, sir?"

"No identification." Simon shook his head. "I'll have his prints run. In the meantime, check with the airlines and Immigration. We need to find out when Benet's arriving so we can arrange security for her. The last thing I want is for this conference to turn into an international incident." He turned towards his car.

"Hang on." Jim's blue eyes narrowed as he walked towards the curb. "This looks interesting." He carefully picked up a round green lapel pin and slid it into an evidence bag. "There's blood on it." He glanced at the coroner's van. "Maybe our victim's."

Simon grunted. Then he motioned towards the uniformed officers. "Let's get this crowd cleared out!" he ordered.

One of the spectators moving away was a dark-skinned woman pushing a grocery cart of dirty clothing and broken household goods. She wore a very sad expression.

Gustavo Alcante really loved America. He especially loved the way her people abandoned places. If they didn't like a place or it had outlived its usefulness, they simply moved away and built elsewhere. They abandoned buildings that in less affluent countries would be used over and over, no matter how decrepit the buildings became.

But America's abandoned buildings made perfect meeting places for those who didn't want to conduct their business in public. This particular abandoned warehouse sat on the banks of the Kodiak River just outside the Cascade city limits. Similar abandoned warehouses lined the opposite side of the river.

Gustavo's quick dark eyes studied the man who got out of the car parked next to his 4x4. Tom Janover was a dangerous man, and Gustavo hadn't gotten as old as he was by being negligent. "Seņor," he greeted. Opening the back of the 4x4, he pulled out a large blanket-covered case and set it on the ground.

Janover angrily frowned when Gustavo opened the case. "What the hell is this? I told you I need surface-to-surface. These are surface-to-air!"

"Seņor, please," Gustavo smiled. "Why would I sell shoes to a fish? I have what you need. They have been modified. Their sensors will lock onto virtually any reasonable heat source. Even on the ground. And against strong background clutter. So surface-to-air becomes surface-to-surface."

Across the river, two Federal agents sat in their car in an abandoned warehouse listening to the conversation. One turned to the other. "Okay, you win. He probably could sell ice to an Eskimo."

Janover took one of the launchers and hoisted it to his shoulder. "Nice. Very nice. I like the flexibility this will give me." He began to scan the area through the launcher's site. "How did you get your hands on them?"

"Seņor…please," Gustavo smiled. "As they say in America…does Gimble tell Macy?" When Janover glanced at him, he shrugged. "A soldier goes AWOL with a truckload of experimental weapons. A deal is made. Money is exchanged."

Janover smiled when he spotted the car visible in the abandoned warehouse across the river. "Nice story, Gustavo. Wish I believed it." He squeezed the trigger.

Gustavo backed away as the missile flew across the water and exploded inside the warehouse. He quickly got into his 4x4 and started the engine thankful the explosion covered the noise.

Janover smirked and turned around. "Now, Gusta…" His eyes widened when he saw his car being pushed over the riverbank by Gustavo's 4x4. Drawing his gun, he aimed at the 4x4.

Gustavo spun the tires, kicking dirt towards Janover. Cutting the wheels hard, he put the 4x4 into a tight circle, then drove away. Glancing at the back window, he breathed hard. "Madre de Dios."

Simon wearily nodded as Jim and Blair entered his office. The day was still young, but he'd already had two calls from the Mayor and one from the Police Commissioner. Neither was happy and both were anxious that the Amnesty International Conference proceed without any disruptions. The responsibility for seeing that nothing went wrong had just landed in his lap. "What do you have?" He gratefully nodded when Blair gently closed the office door.

"The Medical Examiner put a rush on it for us, sir," Jim reported. "The cause of death is a knife wound. Due to the damage, Dan said it was a miracle the guy made it to the street then lived long enough to say anything."

"Has there been any word on Benet?" Blair asked.

Simon glanced at his watch. "Her plane was due about an hour ago. She was to be taken directly to her hotel."

"You know that Feliz Lemec will be at this conference," Blair pointed out.

"He's the president of St. Germaine, Sandburg," Simon grunted.

"President by way of force," Blair irritably replied. "He stole the last election and rules by terror. He and Benet couldn't be any further apart in their beliefs."

Simon and Jim eyed the younger man then exchanged a quick look.

"Sandburg, I don't suppose you'd know about any demonstrations that might be planned during this conference, would you?" Simon politely asked.

Blair hesitated then squared his shoulders. "Peaceful dissent isn't against the law." He hesitated then added, "Sir."

"As long as it's peaceful, no," Simon agreed.

"Chief, if you know something…" Jim began.

"Lemec is a killer!" Blair burst out. His hands began waving in front of him as he paced. "He killed his way to power! He uses terror and torture to stay there! And the man has the unmitigated gall to show up at an Amnesty International Conference as though his hands weren't covered with the blood of his own people!" He swung around to glare at both older men. "Of course, there's going to…" His blue eyes widened. "Oh my God…that's her."

Just then the door to Simon's office was flung open. "Which is you is Captain Banks?"

All three men stared at the angry dark-skinned woman. Her dark eyes angrily flashed as she waited for an answer.

"I'm Captain Banks," Simon admitted.

"Well, Captain Banks, I'm Genevieve Benet." The woman closed the door and angrily walked to stand in front of his desk. "I would expect this treatment in St. Germaine, Captain. Not in America."

"Dr. Benet, I'm Blair Sandburg." Blair stepped forward, a look of admiration on his face. "It's an honor."

"And this is Detective Ellison," Simon introduced. "I apologize if you've been offended in any way, but what sort of treatment are you talking about?"

"The armed escort at the airport who strenuously suggested I go immediately to my hotel." Genevieve made a slashing motion with her left hand. "The 'escort' was not requested, and it is not appreciated. I will not be silenced."

"No one in intending to silence you, Dr. Benet," Simon quickly answered. "But we feel there's been a threat to your life."

"Another one?" Genevieve looked amused. "Who threatened me this time?"

"A man was killed today," Jim explained. "Just before he died, he muttered a warning to you."

"Who was the man?" Genevieve curiously asked, looking at the detective.

"He hasn't been identified yet," Jim admitted.

"With all due respect, Captain, it sounds as though you don't know much." Genevieve turned back to Simon.

"Perhaps you can help us." Jim opened the file and placed photographs on Simon's desk. "Would you look at these? Do you recognize this man?"

Genevieve looked down at a police photo of the dead man. She frowned as she studied it closely. Slowly she shook her head. "No. I've never seen him before," she sadly answered.

"You sound sad about it," Jim remarked. He ignored Blair's hiss of protest.

"I'm sorry when anyone dies of violence, Detective," Genevieve calmly answered. "You said this man was killed. I don't imagine that means he died peacefully in his sleep."

"How about this?" Jim showed her the picture of the lapel pin.

Genevieve shook her head then looked at Simon. "I receive death threats all the time, Captain Banks. I cannot allow these threats to interfere with my work. And I will not allow your security forces to dictate my actions."

"I understand, Dr. Benet." Simon nodded. "We can't force you to take our help. But I strongly suggest you do so. We can arrange for you to be protected by plain-clothes officers. Nothing obvious or intrusive."

"Thank you for your concern, Captain," Genevieve smiled. "But I must refuse."

"Uh, excuse me, Dr. Benet." Blair moved forward as Genevieve turned to leave. "I was wondering what you'd be doing with your free time?"

"I beg your pardon?" Genevieve asked in confusion. "Mr. Sandburg, wasn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am." Blair smiled. "Uh…since the conference isn't for a couple of days…I mean…" He mentally shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Staying in a hotel room in a strange city can't be much fun, can it?"

"You must not have many crimes to solve if you're offering yourself as a tour guide." Genevieve half-smiled.

"I'm not a police officer," Blair explained. "Actually, I'm an anthropologist."

"Really?" Genevieve questioned.

"Really," Simon grunted.

Jim nodded, although he scowled at this partner.

"You should have been a diplomat," Genevieve chuckled. She looked at Simon and Jim for several seconds, then nodded. "Very well, Mr. Sandburg."

"Blair," the young man quickly corrected. "I'd be honored if you'd call me Blair."

"Blair." Genevieve nodded. "I accept your offer." She looked at Simon. "I appreciate your position, Captain Banks. But I must insist there be no guards at my door. People come to me for help…to give me information. I must insist on unrestricted access."

"There are many delegates to the conference also staying at your hotel, Dr. Benet," Simon pointed out. "Security is mandated and is already in place." He held up a hand to forestall any arguments. "However, no one will have guards on their doors unless requested." He shrugged. "I'm sorry. It's the best I can do."

After a moment, Genevieve nodded. "I understand. And I do appreciate your sensitivity to my position." She turned to Blair. "I have one request, Blair, for dinner. I heard a great deal of advertising on the radio as I came from the airport."

"Sure." Blair happily grinned. "Anything you say." He ushered her towards the door. "After you." He glanced back and the two officers and waved his hand. "Where would you like to go?"

"It's called Wonder Burger," Genevieve replied as the door closed behind them.

If Jim hadn't been irritated at his partner, he would have laughed at the expression on Blair's face.

Simon sighed as he sat down behind his desk. "Trust Sandburg to get involved."

"At least he won't be involved with the demonstrations," Jim growled. He looked at Simon. "She was lying, sir. At least about the pin." His forefinger jabbed at the photograph on Simon's desk. "This insignia appears to be military. If it's an insignia associated with St. Germaine…"

"She would have recognized it." Simon thoughtfully nodded. "A man dies giving a warning about a threat to a political activist from St. Germaine. A lapel pin with this insignia is found in his hand."

"Her heartbeat and respiration was elevated when she denied recognizing either the man or the pin," Jim admitted. "But she was upset when she arrived."

Simon nodded. "Get on it. And make it quick. The clock's ticking on this one."

Jim briefly nodded then left. As he walked towards his desk, he hoped it wouldn't take long to identify the pin's insignia. This sort of stuff is right up Sandburg's alley. But no…he's got to be off hero-worshipping somebody who's just going to cause trouble.

Act II