by Melinda Holley
Written For PetFly by Darrel Fetty
internal thought in * *
~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~Cascade Sports Arena
Jim Ellison kept a careful eye on traffic as he turned left into the parking lot for the Cascade Sports Arena. His partner, Blair Sandburg, was listening closely to the radio.
"And that was the story in Portland last night as once again the sensational Dwight Roshman comes through for the Jags’ second straight win on the Rapids’ home court."
"Roshman is such a glory hog," Blair snorted.
"You’ve been doing nothing but complaining about that all morning, Chief." Jim glanced at his partner. "He’s a great player."
"But he’s not a team player," Blair pointed out.
"Today the Jags are back in Cascade. With two wins already in hand, they’re heavily favored to sweep their best-of-five series with Portland."
Blair grunted as he turned the radio off. Then he waited until Jim parked the truck close to the back entrance. "And what’s with this truck, man?"
"They don’t build them like this anymore," Jim proudly pointed out. "This baby’s made of good ol ’60’s sheet metal."
Blair smirked. "I would have thought you’d have gotten this year’s model."
"So did I until my insurance agent said I’d have to take out a second mortgage to pay the premiums," Jim admitted. "Simon told me I could forget about filing for line-of-duty compensation." As they got out of the truck, Jim fondly patted the hood. "Two cars totaled in two years. I figured this truck would hold up better. And if it gets totaled, my out-of-pocket expenses are minimal."
"Uh-huh." Blair nodded, eyes narrowed.
"All she needs is a little TLC," Jim assured him.
"Uh-huh." Blair nodded again. "I never would have pegged you as a retro."
"I’ll have you know 1969 was a very good year for me," Jim protested.
"Hey, that’s the year I was born," Blair grinned.
"It was still a good year for me," Jim shot back.
Blair followed his partner into the darkened arena. *Now why was 1969 such a good year for you, Jim? Inquiring minds want to know!* He followed Jim through the arena until they found themselves courtside, watching the Jags players begin practice.
"Man, this place looks completely different when there’s no one here." Blair looked around in awe at the darkened seats. Then he spotted three of the Jags cheerleaders who were practicing nearby. Catching their eyes, he waved. "Hi, ladies. How are you doing?"
Jim grabbed Blair’s shirt and pulled him away. "Listen to me. Sitting in on a Jags practice is a privilege. Now behave."
Blair chuckled. "I know, Jim, I know. How’d you swing this anyway?"
"Thank Simon," Jim answered. He turned his attention to the players who were running up and down the court. "He set it up through Arthur Dell."
"Simon knows the Jags’ owner?" Blair’s eyes widened. "Can he get playoff tickets?"
Jim shook his head. "Sold out weeks ago."
Blair frowned then shrugged. "Hey, this is better anyway."
Jim tore his eyes away from the scrimmage to see a middle-aged man with graying brown hair.
"I’m Arthur Dell." The man held out his hand.
"Mr. Dell, nice to meet you." Jim shook the man’s hand. "Captain Banks sends his regards." He indicated Blair. "This is my partner, Blair Sandburg."
"Pleasure to meet you." Blair gripped Dell’s hand. "This is such an honor. I’ve been a Jags fan for so long."
"Glad to hear it." Dell smiled. He indicated the man behind him. "This is Ray Krause, head of arena security."
"Call me Ray." Krause smiled. "Glad to meet you."
"If you need anything, just ask Ray," Dell advised. "Enjoy yourselves."
"Thank you again," Jim replied as Dell walked away.
"We’ve met before, haven’t we?" Blair asked with a half-frown.
"No, I don’t think so." the dark-skinned man shook his head.
Jim, watching the players, only kept half an ear on the conversation.
"I remember! At the University. Outside the coach’s office." Blair snapped his fingers. "You’re the point guard at the display case with all the trophies."
"Yeah, that was me," Krause admitted with a chuckle.
"You went pro right after college," Blair continued.
"Sandburg!" Jim snapped, finally listening to his partner.
"It’s okay, Detective," Krause assured him. "He probably doesn’t remember. I was going to be a first-round draft pick. The last night of finals I was heading up to my dorm room. The light was out in the hallway and bam!" He slammed his right fist into his left hand. "Went down a full flight of stairs. Left elbow and right knee smashed."
"Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry," Blair apologized.
"Forget it." Krause shrugged. "I have. Probably for the best. I ended up with a job that’s good past the age of 35." He glanced to where the coach had called a break. "Would you like to meet some of the players?"
"Can we?" Blair excitedly asked.
"Sure." Krause approached a tall young man. "Hey, Dwight. You got a minute to meet some of your fans?"
"What do you think?" Dwight Roshman swaggered past them.
"Don’t mind Dwight. He just likes to stay focused. Distractions irritate him."
"Orvelle Wallace." Blair’s eyes widened.
Jim curiously eyed the younger man. *Sounds like he just saw Santa Claus or something.*
"Orvelle, this is Detective Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg," Krause introduced.
"Nice to meet you." Orvelle held out his hand.
"It’s an honor," Blair assured him as he gingerly shook the man’s hand.
"Same here," Jim added.
Krause’s cell phone rang and he excused himself. "Krause," he answered as he walked away.
"You are my favorite player of all time," Blair told Orvelle. "I’ve still got a card you signed for me when I was 13."
"Thanks for making me feel my age," Orvelle joked.
"No, no, no," Blair shook his head. "It was the last year you played in Houston."
Orvelle smiled. "Not one of my favorite memories," he admitted. "I don’t know who was happier when I graduated from the University of Houston. Me or the coach."
"I’m sure this is just practice to you, but to me…meeting you is something really special," Blair hesitantly explained.
Jim curiously eyed his partner. *Kid’s got quite a case of hero worship.*
"It’s still special to me," Orvelle confided with a grin. He heard the coach yell and apologized, "Excuse me. Gotta get back to work. It was nice meeting you both."
"Wow," Blair murmured under his breath as he watched Orvelle trot across the court. "Is he a class act or what? See, that’s what Roshman should be like."
"I can’t argue with that, Chief," Jim admitted. He watched as Roshman grabbed the ball and ran down the court. "Guy’s got a real attitude problem. And all his talk about wanting to be traded. And with Wallace retiring next year, it’s not looking good for next season."
"That’s not the worst of it." Blair shook his head. "I heard if Roshman gets his wish to be traded, Dell’s thinking of selling the team."
"If the Jags leave Cascade, this city is losing a big part of its history." Jim sadly nodded.
"Like when the Browns left Cleveland," Blair recalled "Better break out the riot gear." He shook his head. "Jeez, look at Roshman."
Jim’s eyes narrowed as he watched Roshman hog the ball. Several of his teammates were shouting they were open, but the big center refused to acknowledge them. As the coach yelled for a pass, one of the defending players stepped into the big center’s path. Both players fell sprawling to the floor.
"Come on, man! What are you doing?" Roshman angrily demanded as he got to his feet. "Trying to put the franchise on the disabled list? I had a free lane."
"And I was defending. Franchise." Keenan Lang sneered.
"This is bull…" Roshman snapped.
"I’m not listening to you!" Lang yelled as he turned away.
"Guys, chill out." Orvelle edged between them. He put a hand on both men’s arms.
"Get off me, Wallace!" Roshman shouted as he shoved Orvelle away. The older player stumbled, wincing as he turned his ankle.
"Oh, man, what does he think he’s doing?" Blair edged closer to the court.
Jim quickly caught his arm and extended his hearing.
"Dwight, it’s just a scrimmage," Orvelle pointed out.
"This game getting too physical for you, old man?" Roshman sneered. "You need your cane and chair?"
Orvelle stared at the younger man. "I ought to do the game a favor and just take you out," he angrily shot back.
"Any time you think you can get the job done, grandpa," Roshman cockily retorted. "Any time."
Coach Egeland muscled his way through the players. "Enough!" He looked at Orvelle. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I’m fine." Orvelle nodded.
"All of you! Get on the line!" Egeland shouted. Then he motioned for Krause.
Blair anxiously watched as Orvelle limped towards the foul line. "That the same ankle he injured a few years ago."
Krause walked towards them. "I hate to say this, but practice is closed the rest of the day," he apologized.
"We understand." Jim nodded. "We appreciate what we got to see."
"Is everybody okay?" Blair worriedly asked, glancing again at Orvelle.
"Oh, yeah," Krause assured him with a grin. "Everybody’s just wired for the game. Playoffs do that."
Jags Dressing Room – Later That Night
Roshman turned to see Jerome Burke, one of the gophers. "What?" he demanded.
"You’ve got some reporters waiting out there for you," Jerome confided.
"I don’t need any reporters asking me stupid questions," Roshman grumbled. He took a deep breath and tossed his car keys at the younger man. "You’re going to be my decoy tonight. Bring my car around to the side, and I’ll meet you there."
Jerome’s dark eyes widened in eagerness. "Cool, man."
Roshman tossed him his team jacket. "Wear that. And pull up the hood."
*Man, I don’t know why everybody’s on Roshman’s back all the time,* Jerome silently grumbled as he entered the garage. *He’s a great player… best the Jags could have. They just need to treat him better. He’s always treated me okay.* He jingled the keys in his hand as he reached Roshman’s car.
He never saw the figure standing in the shadows who pointed the gun at the back of his head.~~~~~Act II ~~~~~Cascade Sports Arena – Next Morning
"After a tumultuous year of trade rumors, team relocation, and player discords, another shadow has fallen across the Jags. Someone has murdered Jerome Burke. Mr. Burke was Dwight Roshman’s assistant. His body was found at the service entrance of the sports arena. At this time, the Cascade Police are not releasing any further information. This is Don Haas, reporting from the Cascade Arena."
Jim warily eyed the news reporter as he followed Blair around the media area. He was already in a bad mood since the PD hadn’t approved his vehicle for official use. A heated telephone conversation with a clerk in Human Resources had gained him a promise his truck would be approved by the end of the day. In the meantime, he was stuck riding around in Blair’s Volvo.
Jim found Captain Simon Banks standing to one side, watching as the Forensics team packed up their equipment. "Do we have anything yet, sir?" He watched as Don Haas intercepted Arthur Dell and stuck a microphone in his face.
"Just before midnight, Roshman sends his assistant for his car. When the kid didn’t show, the security guards checked and found him lying here. Shot once in the back of the head. We found casings from a .32 automatic."
"Carjacking?" Jim guessed.
Simon grunted. "Roshman’s received death threats ever since he began publicly talking about leaving the team. I’m concerned we may have some sort of psycho fan gunning for Roshman."
"Where is Roshman?" Jim asked.
"We sent him home," Simon admitted. "He condescended to answer a few questions but wasn’t exactly forthcoming."
"C’mon, Simon," Blair spoke up. "This guy’s gotta be shook up. His friend was murdered."
"Associate. Not friend." Simon sourly corrected. "Mr. Roshman corrected me about that."
"Can you tell us anything more, Mr. Dell?" Don Haas was shouting.
Dell turned and faced the reporter. "Jerome Burke was a good kid. His death is a tragic loss for all who knew him." When Haas began to speak, Dell held up his hand. "Anything further will have to come from the Cascade Police Department. Thank you." Resolutely, he turned away from the reporter and walked to where Simon stood.
Ray Krause motioned for the security guards to escort the reporter outside. Then he followed Dell.
"Just tell me you’re going to nail the SOB that did this. Jerome was just a kid." Dell looked at Simon as though expecting him to produce the killer then and there.
"We’re already working on it, Arthur," Simon assured him.
"Mr. Krause, don’t you generally have men patrolling this area?"
"Yes, but…" Krause began.
"Give him a break, Detective," Dell interrupted. "Can the police cover every place at once?"
"Apparently Mr. Roshman received some death threats," Jim calmly continued. "Were they in the form of letters, phone calls, or something else?"
"Phone and letters," Krause nodded. "But you’d need to talk to Dwight about that. He didn’t take them all that seriously. Considered them more of a nuisance than anything else. He didn’t want anyone else taking them seriously."
"Do you think Jerome’s murder has something to do with…" Dell looked at Simon in shock.
"It’s a possibility we have to consider," Simon admitted.
"Someone killed an innocent kid in my arena and now I may have some nut stalking my star player?" Dell angrily hissed.
Jim and Simon exchanged a quick look.
"Arthur, if someone has it out for the team, you could be a target as well," Simon pointed out. "I think it would be best if you went home."
Kentwood Heights – Dwight Roshman’s House
"I’m Detective Ellison, Cascade PD." Jim held up his badge to the young woman at the door. "This is my associate, Blair Sandburg."
"Hi, there." Blair smiled.
"We’re here to see Dwight Roshman," Jim explained.
"Sure. I’m Shelley." The young woman led them through a huge entry room with cathedral ceilings. At the opposite end of the room, she slid open a sliding door and pointed across the patio. "He’s on the court."
"Thank you." Jim nodded.
Roshman saw them coming and grimaced. "Shelley! I thought I said no more reporters!"
Jim pulled out his identification. "I’m Detective Ellison, Cascade PD. This is my associate, Blair Sandburg."
"Hi. We sorta met yesterday." Blair nodded.
Roshman smirked. "Vice Squad, huh?" He ignored Blair’s sigh and looked at Jim. "You found my car?"
"We’re investigating Jerome Burke’s murder," Jim explained. "But, no, I don’t believe your car’s been recovered."
"Man, you being here won’t bring Jerome back," Roshman grunted. He bounced the ball and moved towards the foul line. "You find my car, and you’ll find who killed him."
"We understand you’ve received some threatening letters," Jim continued.
"I tossed that trash." Roshman sent the basketball sailing through the basket. He walked over to recover the ball.
"Do you remember anything about them?" Jim pressed. "Anything that would help us identify who wrote them?"
"What the hell is your problem?" Dwight shouted. "You’re worried about some trash I got in the mail! You need to get out there and find that nut before he hurts somebody else." He walked away. "I’m gonna shoot some ball. You need to leave."
"Wouldn’t you get a better workout with some competition?" Blair eagerly spoke up. "I was all-city point guard."
Roshman snorted. "Where? In Munchkin-land?"
Blair chuckled. "You’re a funny man. Seriously, my partner played a little college ball. How about it? We win and you answer our questions. You win and we’re outta here."
"Two on one?" Roshman studied them for a few minutes. "Sure. I can do that."
Jim shook his head, but moved into position. *I hope you know what you’re doing, Sandburg.*
It didn’t take long until Roshman was ahead 12-0. All Jim and Blair had managed to do was get in each other’s way. Besides being humiliated on the court, Jim felt a stabbing pain in his ears each time the ball hit the rim of the basket.
"Man, you said you guys could play!" Roshman complained as he recovered the ball.
Blair shrugged. "We just wanted to see what you’ve got before we take you to school."
Blair pulled Jim aside. "We’ve got to get our act together before we lose this guy’s respect."
"Sandburg, we never had his respect." Jim rubbed his ear. "And quit throwing the ball away."
"Loser’s ball!" Roshman yelled as he tossed the ball to Blair.
"Yeah, thanks." Blair caught the ball then turned back to Jim. "You should’ve been ready for it."
"You should have looked before passing," Jim argued.
"Whatever!" Blair angrily hissed. He shoved the ball into Jim’s midsection. "You’ve got some special skills. Use them!"
Jim stared at his angry partner in surprise then shrugged. Narrowing his vision as he stared at the basket, he aimed and watched as the ball arched then fell through the basket.
"What the hell kind of shot was that?" Roshman demanded.
"A three-pointer," Blair chuckled. "C’mon. Let’s play."
Following Blair’s advice, Jim used his senses to their advantage. He was able to spot what looked like blind passes from his partner when he realized Blair held his breath just before passing. He was gratified when Roshman began taking them seriously.
Blair stole the ball from Roshman and aimed a jump shot towards the basket. The ball hit the backboard and bounced towards Roshman. The player immediately drove towards the basket and jammed the ball home.
"Wooooo!" Blair yelled in appreciation. He trotted forward to grab the ball.
Jim heard something creaking and looked to see the backboard breaking away. "Sandburg! MOVE!" Even as Jim yelled, he ran towards Roshman.
Blair immediately moved towards the center court even as Jim tackled Roshman. Both men rolled to safety as the backboard fell to the concrete and was smashed to pieces.
"Jim! JIM!" Blair yelled as he ran towards the two men. Reaching them, he held out a hand to help his partner to his feet. "You okay?"
"Yeah." Jim nodded. "What about you?" He glanced at Roshman who was quickly getting to his feet.
"I am gonna sue the company that made that piece of…" Roshman swore.
"Dwight! Dwight! Are you hurt?" Shelley frantically grabbed the player’s arm. "Do you need a doctor?"
"I’m fine. I don’t need a doctor." Dwight shook his head.
Jim walked towards the wreckage. Blair followed and watched as Jim knelt on the court. He pointed at one piece of metal. "See this, Chief? The bolt looks like it was scored nearly all the way through so it would snap."
"You mean that thing was rigged?" Roshman demanded.
"Well, a forensic team will determine that," Jim replied as he stood.
"Orvelle," Roshman grunted.
"Dwight, baby, no." Shelley shook her head.
"I saw Orvelle out here this morning shooting baskets by himself," Roshman continued.
"He probably came to see me, but I wasn’t here," Shelley explained. She looked at Jim and Blair. "Orvelle’s my uncle. I’m the only family he has."
"Well, that would explain Orvelle being here." Blair nodded. "Besides, why would Orvelle sabotage your hoop?"
Roshman grunted. "He hates me. And he hates to see me get glory on the court."
"Dwight…" Shelley put a hand on his arm.
"The night Shelley moved in, he busted down my door." Roshman angrily moved away from Shelley.
"He heard us arguing." Shelley hesitantly smiled Jim. "Sometimes Uncle Orvelle can be overprotective."
"The guy swings at me in my own house!" Roshman yelled. "He almost knocked me out. And it’s not the only time he’s threatened my life."
"Like yesterday in practice?" Jim smoothly asked. He ignored Blair’s angry glare.
"How’d you know about that?" Roshman asked.
"I overheard some of the players talking," Jim quickly answered.
Roshman shrugged. "The guy hates my guts. Talk to Orvelle. He’s your man."
Cascade Sports Arena
"I’m telling you, man. Roshman’s full of it!" Blair angrily muttered. "All that stuff about Orvelle…that was just trash talking!"
"Maybe. Maybe not," Jim quietly answered. "I had Records pull the report on a domestic disturbance call last summer at Roshman’s. According to the report, Roshman’s living room looked like a tornado hit it. And Shelley’s left eye was swollen."
"Did she file charges?" Blair demanded.
"No." Jim shook his head. "Apparently Dell called in some favors and kept it out of the papers. Now if Roshman was hitting Shelley, Wallace could be carrying a big grudge."
"What are you talking about?!" Blair jumped in front of Jim, forcing him to stop. "You think Orvelle wants to add murder to his career stats? Come on, Jim! He’s a six time all-star!"
"What’s your problem, Sandburg?" Jim demanded. He moved around Blair. "We’ve got a murder to investigate. Plus attempted murder." He turned to look at the younger man. "Now, are you going to help or not?"
Blair curtly nodded then followed Jim to the basketball court. They watched the scrimmage for a short time. Finally, the coach called an end to practice. Orvelle spotted them and walked over, wiping his face with a towel.
"I hear you two guys whipped my teammate so bad, he broke the backboard." Orvelle grinned.
"Yeah, well…" Blair shrugged with a smile. "How’s the ankle?"
"It’s okay." Orvelle flipped the towel around his neck. "That collision with Dwight just aggravated an old injury."
"The separated shoulder from last year?" Blair quickly asked.
Orvelle shook his head. "My back."
"Yeah, that collision with Lambeer over the broadcasters’ table a couple of years ago," Blair recalled. "Man, you’ve got a lot of battle scars. Your threshold of pain has gotta be amazing."
"You get used to it." Orvelle shrugged. "Besides, this is my last year. I’m not about to let anything keep me off the court."
"Mr. Wallace, since you’ve already talked with your niece, you know why we’re here," Jim spoke.
"Dwight thinks I set him up." Orvelle nodded. "There’s some bad blood, but I wouldn’t kill anybody."
"He claims you disapprove of his relationship with Shelley." Jim folded his arms across his chest.
"I love that girl like she was my own," Orvelle admitted. "But she’s an adult. As long as he treats her okay, it’s not for me to approve or disapprove. I couldn’t live with Dwight…but then I’m not the one who is living with him."
"And does he treat her okay?" Jim asked.
Orvelle hesitated then shrugged. "My opinion? He pushes her around. But not in front of anyone…especially me." He sighed. "Shelley denies it, but how many times can you walk into a door, Detective? Nobody’s that clumsy."
Jim slowly nodded. "What were you doing on his court this morning?"
"Waiting for Dwight," Orvelle explained. "I was going to apologize for the fight and offer my condolences for Jerome’s death. But Dwight wouldn’t see me, so I left."
"Look, I apologize for the inconvenience. But I need you to come down to the precinct so we can get a formal statement about your whereabouts at the time of the murder. It won’t take long," Jim promised.
"No problem." Orvelle nodded. "Let me grab a shower and change. I’ll meet you outside the locker room."
Blair waited until Orvelle had walked away before punching Jim lightly on the arm. "See! I told you he’d have a good reason for being at Roshman’s. He went to apologize."
"He could have still sabotaged the backboard," Jim pointed out. "He told us his motive."
"He couldn’t have done the carjacking," Blair pointed out. "He’d left practice early to get his ankle x-rayed. And if he didn’t do the carjacking, it makes no sense for him to have sabotaged Roshman’s backboard."
"He had plenty of time to get back here after getting x-rays." Jim started to walk away. "Look, I’m a fan, too, Sandburg. But I’ve got a job to do."
They waited in silence outside the Jags’ locker room, Jim lounging against one wall and Blair leaning against the other.
"Okay, guys." Orvelle smiled as he left the locker room.
Blair noticed the tall man walking stiffly. "You okay, Orvelle?"
"Had a little muscle spasm in my back," Orvelle admitted. He held up a hand when Blair opened his mouth. "It’s okay now. I’ll be fine."
"Well, maybe you shouldn’t drive. We could go in my car," Blair suggested.
"Thanks, I appreciate it." Orvelle smiled.
*Oh, yeah. Squeezing into your little car is gonna help his back.* Jim rolled his eyes as he followed the other two men to the parking area.
"Want me to carry that?" Blair offered, pointing to Orvelle’s small sports bag.
"Nah, it’s okay." Orvelle shook his head. "There’s nothing heavy in it."
Blair eyed the bracelet on Orvelle’s right wrist. "That bracelet. It’s Masai, isn’t it?"
"Masai?" Jim asked.
"From Tanzania," Orvelle explained. He looked at Blair in surprise. "How did you know that?"
"I did a paper on them once," Blair explained. "When I was working on my Masters."
"I went to Africa a few years ago," Orvelle explained. "It was the greatest trip of my life. The bracelet was given to me from the Samburu clan." He sadly smiled. "But it’s about to fall apart now. Just like me."
"Ah, no way, man," Blair denied.
Reaching the car, Blair quickly unlocked it. "Here you go. You can have the whole backseat."
"What there is of it," Jim muttered. He was truly interested to see if the tall basketball player could fit into the back of the Volvo. He was honestly surprised when, after a little struggle, Orvelle managed to do just that. *We’re gonna need the Jaws of Life to get him outta there.*
"Oh, man." Blair grinned at Jim as he walked to the driver’s seat. "Orvelle Wallace is in my car."
"That he is, Chief." Jim nodded with a rueful smile. "That he is."
As Blair drove out of the parking lot, Jim’s cell phone rang.
"Ellison," Jim answered. He listened for a few seconds then nodded. "Got it. Notify all units we’re in a green ’68 Volvo." He grimaced. "Yes, I said a green ’68 Volvo."
Orvelle briefly smiled then looked out the window.
"What is it?" Blair asked, glancing away from the traffic to look at Jim.
"Just got word units are in pursuit of a blue Viper with white stripes." Jim pocketed his cell phone.
"Roshman’s?" Orvelle asked.
"Jim, this is not a pursuit vehicle," Blair warned.
Just then a blue Viper whipped around the corner, fishtailed, then sped away.
"It is now," Jim grimly corrected. "Floor it, Sandburg."
Blair’s fingers tightened on the steering wheel as he pushed down on the gas pedal. "You okay back there, Orvelle?"
The basketball player moaned as they hit a pothole. "Slow down! My back!"
"Jim, this isn’t a good idea!" Blair protested as he moved in and out of traffic. "We’re in a Volvo! Chasing a Viper! It’s not a contest!"
Jim responded by putting his foot over Blair’s on the gas pedal and pushing down. "Come on, Sandburg. Show me what this car’s got."
"Hey! Slow down!" Orvelle pleaded when they barely missed hitting a UPS truck. "You guys are dangerous!" He saw a several police cars behind them. "Let those guys take care of this!"
Ahead of them, the Viper tried to turn left at the intersection. All three men in the Volvo saw the brake lights come on as the sports car skidded to a halt as all sides of the intersection were blocked by police cars. The engine was briefly gunned, then died.
Blair brought the Volvo to a halt. Jim immediately got out, drawing his gun. Blair looked over the seat. "Orvelle? You okay?"
The basketball player nodded, catching his breath.
"Okay! Out of the car! Now! Hands first!" Jim yelled.
The doors of the Volvo opened and two young boys slowly climbed out, hands in the air. They took one look at the cops with drawn guns and fell to their knees.~~~~~ Act III ~~~~~Major Crimes – Simon’s Office
"Their story checks out, sir," Jim reported. "They found the Viper abandoned with the keys in it. So they took it for a joyride. The only fingerprints in it were theirs, Roshman’s, and Burke’s."
"I can’t see those two kids killing Burke for the car," Simon grunted. "They’re what…13? 14?"
"Also makes the carjacking theory pretty thin," Jim pointed out. "Nobody kills for a car like that then just dumps it."
"Guess that brings us back to Orvelle Wallace as our primary subject," Simon sighed.
*Which is going to make Sandburg really happy.* Jim slowly nodded. "Unless you consider the ‘battered girlfriend’ angle. We do have that domestic disturbance call from last summer."
"So she decides to take Roshman out with a rigged basketball hoop when she fails at the arena?" Simon reluctantly shook his head. "Has Wallace given us a statement?"
"He’s finishing up." Jim nodded.
"Anything else?" Simon asked.
"There is someone else who would stand to benefit from Roshman’s death," Jim slowly answered. "Arthur Dell."
"Oh, come on, Jim," Simon scoffed.
"Simon, team owners usually have big insurance policies on their star players," Jim quickly explained. "Now maybe Dell figured the insurance payoff would be better than trading Roshman or moving the franchise. If Dell moves the franchise, he’d have to either build a new arena or pay rent on an existing one…while trying to either rent out the Cascade Sports Arena or sell it. And selling it without an accompanying team would be next to impossible."
"Jim, I’m as cynical about professional sports as the next guy," Simon replied. "But what you’re talking about makes the Tonya Harding incident look like model sportsmanship."
"I didn’t think you’d like it," Jim admitted.
"Well, I don’t!" Simon snapped. "Arthur had nothing to do with this."
*Well, this is great! Sandburg doesn’t want the perp to be Wallace and Simon doesn’t want it to be Dell. Wonder if they could agree on a suspect so I could please them both!* "Simon, you know as well as I do he could have hired somebody. I’ve got to follow up on this."
"Then do it discreetly. Is that understood?" Simon brusquely ordered. "Arthur’s having a reception tonight for the team…something about getting their spirits together for tomorrow’s game. Maybe you could come along and keep your eyes and ears open."
"Is that such a good idea, sir?" Jim asked. "Dell’s going to be more than just a little upset that we’ve brought Wallace in for questioning without consulting the Jags’ front office."
"I’ll smooth it over with Art," Simon promised. He opened the lap drawer of his desk and handed Jim a ticket. "This will get you in tonight."
"The Jaguar Club." Jim whistled. "Guess Sandburg’s going to have to press his tie."
"You mean the kid has a tie?" Simon snorted. He grudgingly handed over the second ticket.
"That’s very generous of you, sir." Jim smiled as he left the office. *Maybe this will get me off Sandburg’s shit list.*
Major Crimes – Breakroom
"Hey, Orvelle. Here’s some tea from my personal stash." Blair held out a mug. "The stuff over there…" He shuddered.
"Thanks, Blair." Orvelle smiled as he sat on the couch. Sipping the hot liquid, he nodded with approval. "This is great."
"I’m sorry about your back," Blair apologized. "I hope that wild ride didn’t hurt it more."
"I’m sorry about your car." Orvelle chuckled. "I think the springs and shocks took some damage."
"Don’t worry about it," Blair assured him. He hesitated then reached into his pocket. "There’s something I want to show you. Take a look at this."
Orvelle smiled at the basketball card Blair held out to him. "You know, if you’d sold this thing a couple of years ago, you could’ve made some money."
"Sell? No way, man!" Blair denied. "I remember the day you signed this for me. There were like…I don’t know…maybe 50 of us kids waiting after the game for the players to come out. Some of them signed, but most just walked away. But you…you took your time with each of us. You asked how we were doing…told us to stay in school and learn as much as we could…stuff like that. Like you really cared." He shyly smiled at the basketball player. *How do I explain how much that meant to me at that point in my life?*
Orvelle rubbed his forefinger across the card. "I look like a kid." He sighed. "My manager told me I should’ve retired before people started saying I was over the hill."
"Nobody says that, Orvelle." Blair shook his head. "I mean…you’re the heart of the Jags. You hold them together."
Orvelle slowly handed the card back. "Roshman is the franchise. If he and Dell can’t work things out, the Jags will be playing somewhere else next year."
"But you’ll still be with them, right?" Blair eagerly questioned. "You’re moving up to the assistant coach’s position."
"If the team is sold, my deal with management is null and void." Orvelle shook his head. "This is all I know how to do. Play. Nobody’s going to put in me in front of a camera or microphone." He grinned. "Or in a movie with a cartoon rabbit."
Jaguar Club – That Night
Jim and Blair stood just inside the door. Blair stared in amazement at the lights and local celebrities. Jim eyed the crowd more closely, mentally cataloging who was with whom and if they looked happy about it. He saw Arthur Dell glare at him then turn back to Ray Krause.
"Hey, Jim, I forgot to tell you." Blair happily bounced on his toes and ran his forefinger around his shirt collar. "My cousin, Robert, called and said the odds on the Jags winning the playoffs this year are 6-1. You want in on the action?"
"Robert. The bookie cousin?" Jim grimaced.
"It’s just a gentlemen’s bet," Blair defended. "I used to do it all the time. How do you think I put myself through school? Grants and scholarships will only go so far, you know."
Jim eyed the younger man, not sure if his leg was being pulled. "You do realize you’ve just admitted to the commission of a misdemeanor to a police officer, don’t you? I could bust you right now."
"It’s a victimless crime." Blair airily waved his hand in dismissal.
Jim grunted. "Except when you lose."
Blair started to argue then stopped when several Jags cheerleaders walked by. One of them, a tall brunette, smiled at the two of them and giggled.
Jim rolled his eyes and reached over to close Blair’s open mouth.
"Oh. My. God," Blair softly moaned.
"Cool your jets, kiddo." Jim tried not to laugh.
"Did I ever tell you the story about Alexander the Great and how he used to travel with seven maidens?" Blair kept his eyes on the cheerleaders who were now standing at the bar waiting for their drinks.
"No, you never did," Jim sighed.
"Yeah, they would encourage him with incantations during the battle." Blair smiled as the brunette cheerleader looked over her shoulder at him. "Sorta like ritual cheerleaders."
"Really?" Jim shook his head.
Blair suddenly grinned up at Jim. "Nope. But I bet they’ve never heard that pickup line before."
Jim groaned under he breath as he followed the younger man to the bar. He was aware that both Dell and Krause were watching them.
"Is Arthur Dell still a suspect?" Blair quietly asked.
Jim was surprised that Blair’s attention had drifted from the cheerleaders long enough to notice Dell’s interest in them. "He checks out clean so far," Jim admitted.
"What about Ray Krause?" Blair waved at the bartender to get his attention.
"What would his motive be?" Jim curiously asked.
"Maybe Dell didn’t want to get his hands dirty," Blair theorized. "Maybe Krause’s job description as Chief of Security covers a lot of ground."
Jim had already thought of it, but he simply nodded. "Good idea. We’ll see."
Blair looked at Jim to see if he was kidding. Then he broke out into a big smile. "Orvelle!"
"Almost didn’t recognize you two in ties," Orvelle teased.
"How are you doing?" Blair asked with concern.
"I’m feeling pretty good," Orvelle admitted. "You two looking for the usual suspects?" He grinned. "Or the unusual ones?"
"Strictly a social call on Mr. Dell," Jim answered.
"Well, let me introduce you around," Orvelle offered.
"Can you start over there?" Blair eagerly pointed at the group of cheerleaders at the end of the bar.
"Down boy." Jim patted Blair’s shoulder.
Orvelle looked over his shoulder and widely smiled when he spotted his niece. "Excuse me."
Shelley happily hugged her uncle. "Uncle Orvelle, look at my engagement ring!" She held out her hand.
"That’s great." Orvelle kissed her forehead. "Are you happy?"
"Oh, yes," Shelley blissfully sighed.
"Then that’s all that matters." Orvelle looked past her to Roshman. "You just be good to her."
"We’ve been all through this, man," Roshman groaned. "Look, I messed up with Shelley just once. She doesn’t need you to look over her shoulder all the time. No matter what you say or do, it won’t change the fact we love each other." He held out his hand only to drop it when Orvelle ignored it. "You just won’t let it go, will you?"
"Not when you’re telling anybody who listens that I’m trying to kill you," Orvelle angrily shot back.
"I never used those words," Roshman denied.
"Then how did I become a damned suspect if you didn’t say it?" Orvelle demanded.
Roshman saw Jim and Blair standing at the bar, watching them. "Hey, 2 plus 2, baby," he cockily answered. "Even cops can do simple math."
"Are you trying to set me up?" Orvelle stepped closer.
"Uncle Orvelle, no," Shelley pleaded.
"I don’t have to set you up, old man," Roshman sneered.
Orvelle moved Shelley out of the way as he lunged towards Roshman. Roshman put his hands up to shove Orvelle back. His hand snagged Orvelle’s bracelet, breaking the strands and sending it to the floor.
Several Jags players as well as Jim moved to separate the two players.
"Easy, guys," Jim urged. "C’mon, not here."
"You saw him," Roshman angrily accused. "I tried to shake his hand, and he blew up."
Krause picked up the pieces of Orvelle’s bracelet. "Here you go, Orvelle."
"Thank you," Orvelle quietly spoke.
"You talk to him, Shelley," Roshman angrily ordered. "You make him understand."
Shelley looked from her fiancé to her uncle. "I can’t make either of you understand," she tearfully replied. Sobbing, she turned and ran from the room.
"Are you okay, Orvelle?" Blair quietly asked.
The tall basketball player briefly nodded then left the room.
Roshman angrily pushed past everyone and headed towards the bar.
Cascade Sports Arena – Just Past 2 AM
"Damn freakin’ parties. People got nothing better to do than stand around drinking ’til all hours of the mornin’. Never a thought for the guy that’s gotta clean up after ’em." The janitor muttered under his breath as he pushed open the door to the Jags’ locker room. "Traipsin’ all over the freakin’ arena doin’ who knows what…"
He stopped, seeing the legs of someone lying in the shower. "Oh, for cryin’ out loud," he muttered. "Hey! Buddy! C’mon! Party’s over!" He walked over to the shower and looked in. He slowly backed out. "Mother of God," he murmured in shock.
Cascade Sports Arena – Jags’ Locker Room
Simon and Jim stood, silently watching as Dwight Roshman’s body was taken away. Blair leaned against a nearby wall, studiously ignoring the removal of the body.
"I remember watching him play college ball," Jim mused. "Saw him score 60 points in one game."
"What happened to him?" Blair asked, finally walking over to join them.
"Shot twice in the back," Simon quietly explained. "With a .32 automatic…same as Jerome Burke." He nodded towards the shower. "Looks like Roshman was forced into the shower." He frowned when Jim stepped into the shower. "What is it, Jim?"
Blair squeezed past Simon and watched as his partner crouched on the shower floor. "Not sure," he judged. He looked at one of the Forensic technicians. "I need tweezers and a bag." He carefully picked something up from the floor with the tweezers and sealed it within the evidence bag. "Looks like a piece of…maybe porcelain." He handed the bag to Simon. "It’s not part of the shower grout or tile. Wrong texture." He handed the tweezers back to the technician.
"Can I see that?" Blair asked, holding out his hand.
Simon handed the bag to the younger man and sighed. "This is not getting any better."
Simon’s Office – Early Next Morning
"As the investigation into the murder of Dwight Roshman continues, league officials announced that after a postponement, Game 3 of the Divisional Playoffs pitting the Cascade Jags against the Portland Rapids will finally take place tonight at the Cascade Sports Arena. Critics have charged team owner Arthur Dell with exploiting the tragedy that stunned fans and players throughout the world. Mr. Dell has responded that the best way to honor Roshman was, to quote, ‘Get the ball back into play and win the championship.’ end-quote. This is Don Haas. I’ll be reporting further details as we discover them."
Jim rolled his eyes as Simon turned off the television. "Why am I not surprised?"
"What does that mean?" Simon snapped.
"This whole thing is about money," Jim grumbled.
"Yeah? Well, I don’t have to remind you how powerful Arthur Dell is in this town," Simon grunted. "The Jags bring people to the Cascade Arena…which is downtown. The Cascade Downtown Merchants Association likes that fact. And they’ve made that known to the Mayor." He waved a handful of message notes in the air. "All these messages are from the Chief. Dell is already wanting a new investigator."
"Is that what you want, sir?" Jim formally asked.
"No, it’s not what I want!" Simon smacked the messages onto his desk. "But unless we get some hard results and get them fast, that decision may be taken out of my hands."
Jim silently nodded and left. He heard Simon grumble under his breath as his phone began ringing. Shaking his head, he walked down to the break room. He was surprised to see Blair sitting there, alone at the table, his hands wrapped around a mug.
"I need chocolate," Jim muttered as he fed coins into the vending machine. "Isn’t that supposed to be good for depression?"
"What’s wrong?" Blair quietly asked.
Jim unwrapped his candy bar and sat at the table across from Blair. "If I don’t crack this case and fast, I’m gonna be replaced."
"We still have the insurance angle." Blair hesitantly looked up.
Jim took a bite of the bar and shook his head. "Dell’s policy only pays off in the event of accidental death. Murder doesn’t qualify, so bye-bye motive." He swallowed then took another bite. "As for Krause, aside from a misdemeanor gambling charge 20 years ago, he’s clean."
Blair nervously tapped the side of his mug. "What about Shelley? If Roshman was beating her…"
"There’s no proof of any recent abuse." Jim shook his head. "Roshman was a big guy. That body was dragged about 20 feet into the shower. There’s no way she could’ve done that by herself."
"She could have had help," Blair almost desperately argued. "Maybe she was seeing somebody on the side."
Jim sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "You’re reaching, Chief. Like it or not, Wallace is our only suspect."
"I read his statement," Blair stubbornly replied. "He went home after the party. He was asleep at the time of the murder."
"With no witnesses," Jim pointed out. "All we’ve got is his word." He crumpled the candy bar wrapper in his fist. "Look, nobody wants to see his hero fall; but it happens." He started to stand up, but stopped when Blair put a hand on his wrist. He waited for Blair to speak, but the younger man just stared into his mug. "What’s wrong, Chief?"
Blair removed his hand from Jim’s wrist and wrapped both hands around his mug.
Jim frowned, seeing the slight tremble in Blair’s hand. "Chief?" He sat back down.
"I…I…uh…" Blair cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "I was hoping if I waited long enough, things would turn out differently." He forced his eyes to meet Jim’s. "You remember what you found next to Roshman’s body?"
Jim slowly nodded. "Forensics said it was some sort of bone."
"Rhino horn," Blair identified. "Actually, it’s an ornamental bead. Made by the Samburu." He saw Jim’s eyes narrow and turn cold. "Masai in Tanzania," he forced himself to continue. "It came from Orvelle’s bracelet," he whispered.
Anger flared in Jim’s blue eyes. He quickly got to his feet and slammed the door of the break room shut. Coming back to the table, he pulled his chair next to Blair’s and sat down. "Do you realize what you’ve done?" he angrily demanded.
Blair nodded. "I have willingly and willfully withheld information vital to an ongoing investigation." He almost flinched at the anger he saw on Jim’s face. "Yes, I know what I’ve done," he murmured.
"God! You can’t even claim ignorance!" Jim hissed. "Simon’s gonna kick your ass for this." He angrily shoved his chair back from the table. "I ought to kick your ass for this."
Blair lowered his head as Jim got to his feet. "One stupid bead isn’t enough to arrest someone for murder."
"It’s enough to get a search warrant," Jim snapped. He took a deep breath. "Just tell me why, Sandburg? What’s so damn special about Orvelle Wallace that you’re willing to risk everything you’ve got going with the PD?"
Blair thought for a moment. "Stay in school. Say no to drugs. Study hard. Work hard." He met Jim’s eyes. "All the buzz phrases kids hear everyday from adults who say them because they’re supposed to say them." A ghost of a smile flickered across his lips. "But Orvelle didn’t have to say any of it. He didn’t even have to sign the damn card." The young anthropologist stared at the table in front of him. "But he not only signed the card, he looked me in the eyes. Looked at me and talked to me. He didn’t just use the buzz phrases, man. He talked to me." Softly he added, "He talked to me at a time when no one else did." Resolutely, he raised his head to stare at Jim. "I believe in Orvelle’s innocence the same way I’d believe in yours."
*Damn.* Jim acknowledged Blair knew how to drive the knife home. "You know, this isn’t a piece of cake for me either, Sandburg. I’ve got Simon mad at me because I had to treat his friend as a suspect. And you’re mad because I’m treating your hero as a suspect." He held up a hand to forestall whatever Blair was going to say. "Never mind. I’ll just…have to do some damage control. I know why you did it. We’ve just got to keep it between us." He glared at Blair. "Don’t you ever do this again. Do you understand me?"
Blair miserably nodded. "Orvelle’s innocent, Jim. He did not do this. I wish you’d believe it."
"I believe in the evidence, Sandburg," Jim angrily replied. He almost pulled the break room door off its hinges and headed for Simon’s office.
Blair sighed and walked to Jim’s desk. As he sat down, he buried his head in his hands.
"Hey, Sandburg, you okay?" Henri Brown asked as he passed Jim’s desk.
Blair held up one hand and waved it back and forth.
"You need anything?" Henri worriedly asked.
Blair shook his head and looked up. "Thanks anyway."
Henri glanced into Simon’s office where Simon and Jim seemed to be in the middle of a serious argument. He gave Blair a sympathetic nod and went to his desk. Sitting down, he turned his radio on and booted up his computer.
"And in just a couple of hours, we’ll have the answer to the big question. Can the Jags pull their team together and advance? The Jags were favored to sweep the series. But after the tragic murder of Dwight Roshman, odds-makers have now put the odds as 5-1 in favor of Portland. Even Jags fans must wonder if the team can rally one more time. This is Don Haas live with Channel 5’s simul-broadcast at the Cascade Sports Arena."
"Doesn’t that man ever get off the air?" Henri muttered.
Blair’s eyes widened. He glanced into Simon’s office then quickly picked up Jim’s phone. Keeping his eyes on Simon’s office, he quietly spoke. "Robert? Hey, man, it’s Blair. No, I don’t want to double my bet. What I need is a favor. Yeah, I know you’re busy. I’m sure tonight’s a bookie’s dream. But you gotta come through for me on this one. You just gotta."~~~~~ Act IV ~~~~~Moody Office Building – Later That Evening
Blair hesitantly entered the darkened office. Behind the man sitting at the desk, he saw Cascade’s skyline briefly outlined by the setting sun. "Umm…Mr. Glimmerman?" When the man looked up, Blair hesitantly smiled. "Hi. How are you?" When the man remained silent, Blair continued. "Robert sent me. He…uh…he called you, didn’t he?"
"Sit down, kid." Glimmerman, a heavy-set man in his late 50’s, indicated a chair opposite the desk. "What can I do for you?" He coldly smiled. "Within reason, of course."
Blair slowly sat down and gathered his thoughts. It didn’t help that Glimmerman reminded him of every gangster he’d ever seen in the movies.
Glimmerman saw Blair struggle to speak. "How about I make it easier for you? I owe Robert a couple of favors, and I don’t have all night. Ask your questions without trying to be politically correct about it."
Blair nodded. "Before Roshman’s murder, the Jags were favored. Now Portland is."
Glimmerman shrugged. "Stands to reason. Roshman was the Jags’ best player. Without him, Portland’s got the better team."
"If somebody wanted to make a lot of money, they’d lock in their bet then make sure the odds got changed in their favor," Blair slowly reasoned.
"True." Glimmerman leaned forward. "And you’d like to know who, if anyone, has a big bet with the anticipation of a bigger payoff."
"Yeah." Blair nodded. "That’s just what I’d like to know."
Glimmerman leaned back in his leather chair. "Ray Krause. The man has a serious gambling problem. He needs a big payoff just to break even."
"How big?" Blair eagerly asked.
"If Portland wins, he stands to win big. Picture George Washington with a lot of zeros behind him," Glimmerman confided.
"He’s in that deep?" Blair asked in shock.
"The guy’s been hooked on the action for years," Glimmerman snorted. "With him, it’s a disease…like cancer." He pointed at Blair. "If you can’t pay for your thrills, it’s terminal. And Krause is on life support."
"You don’t think Krause would actually…kill somebody over this, do you?" Blair asked. He saw Glimmerman’s expression and squirmed in his chair. "Question withdrawn." He glanced at his watch. "Oh, man, the game’s ready to go into the second half." He stood up and hesitated. "Thanks for your time and…education."
Glimmerman waited until Blair reached the door. "Hey, kid. My sources say the cops have Orvelle Wallace pegged for Roshman’s murder. You think he did it?"
"No," Blair immediately answered. "That’s why I’m here."
"Then you might be interested to know that even during his college days, Krause was heavy into the action and a serious welcher," Glimmerman explained. "He didn’t fall down those dorm steps." The man studied his fingernails. "I heard he was tossed down."
Cascade Sports Arena
Jim and Simon watched from the sidelines as both teams took to the floor for the second half. As the play began, Jim’s cell phone rang. Jim stepped away and pulled it out his jacket. "Ellison."
Simon split his concentration between Jim and the action on the court.
"The search unit found a pair of gloves in a trash can behind Wallace’s house," Jim explained. "There were traces of powder and blood on the fabric. Preliminary tests indicate the blood type is the same as Roshman’s."
Simon wearily sighed. "We’ve got to bring him in now. This is going to kill Sandburg." He looked around. "Where is the kid, anyway?"
Jim stoically looked at the Jags’ bench. "I sent him home, sir."
"Probably for the best," Simon agreed. "He doesn’t need to see this. It’s going to be rough enough on him as it is."
"Captain, we can’t arrest him in the middle of the game," Jim protested. When Simon gave him a long, level look, he explained. "We’d probably have a riot on our hands."
Simon judiciously nodded. "We can’t have that. After the game is soon enough." He slowly nodded, watching as Orvelle drove towards the basket. "The man wasn’t just a hero to Sandburg." He sighed. "Guess I better go tell Art."~~~~~~~~
As Blair quickly got through the turnstiles, he heard the color commentator over several radios in the concourse area.
"Jags lead by three as Lockwood brings the ball to Sloman. He goes behind his back, looks into the corner, and finds Wallace! He shoots for three! YES! A six-point lead now for the Jags as the Rapids bring the ball up-court. If the Rapids thought they could come into the Jags’ building and run all over them because the Jags are playing without the great Dwight Roshman, they’re in for a big surprise. Orvelle Wallace has taken his game to a new level. He’s definitely giving the fans a game to remember. And Wallace steals the ball again! Gets it to Sloman on the sideline. Back down the lane. To Wallace. To Sloman who fakes and passes to Wallace. SLAM DUNK!"
Krause leaned over to speak in Dell’s ear. "We’ve got a problem with one of the Portland reporter’s credentials. I need to go straighten things out."
"Go…go…go." Dell waved his hand although he might have been cheering on his team.
Krause edged his way through the crowd, stopping briefly to speak to one of the spectators. If anyone had been watching, they would have seen Shelley Wallace nod and get to her feet. Krause motioned for her to precede him up the steps.
Blair stood at the top of the steps leading down to the court. He anxiously searched for Jim and Simon, wishing not for the first time, he had Jim’s sentinel sight.
"The rebound comes to the Jags. Ramsey rebounds the ball as the Jags bring it up-court for one final shot as the third quarter winds down. Wallace has been the man so far in the game…and Ramsey passes through two Rapids defenders to Wallace! It’s up! Good for three at the buzzer!"
Blair saw Simon standing next to Dell near the Jags’ bench. Fumbling in his pockets for his Cascade PD identification, he worked his way to the opposite side of the stadium.
Sitting on the bench, Orvelle wiped his face with a towel. Wrapping it around his shoulders, he leaned back and breathed deeply. In his sports bag behind him, his cell phone rang. One of the trainers reached for it, then handed it to Orvelle with a look of confusion.
"Yeah, who is this?" Orvelle demanded. "Ray? Is something wrong?"
Krause briefly smiled as he looked down from the rafters of the arena. "You could say that. You’re screwing up the point spread. Now, when you go back on the court, you’re going to be colder than Santa Claus’ front yard. No more baskets, you understand? You’re gonna start losing."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Orvelle hissed.
"You’re going to throw this game," Krause patiently explained. "I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure the Jags go down."
"You killed Dwight? Jerome?" Orvelle asked in stunned surprise.
"Yeah, although Jerome was an accident," Krause admitted. "And if the cops hadn’t been so damned stupid, you’d be in a cell right now. So get back on that court and start shaving points!"
"You’re crazy if you think…"
"Dammit! You listen to me!" Krause shouted. "I’ve got a very pretty lady with me, so you better do as I say! I don’t think Dell wants another stiff in his arena!"
Shocked, Orvelle looked over his shoulder to see Shelley’s seat was empty.
"You just make sure the Rapids take this game or your precious little Shelley will end up in a box right next to Roshman!" Krause pushed the end button on his cell phone. He looked to his right where Shelley sat, securely bound and gagged.
"Arthur, I need to talk with you. Now." Simon urged Dell to look at him.
"What, Simon?" With difficulty, Dell forced his attention away from where the Jags retook the court for the fourth quarter. Neither man noticed Orvelle slowly walking onto the court behind his teammates.
"Arthur, we now have enough evidence to arrest Orvelle Wallace on suspicion of murder." He saw the shocked look in the other man’s eyes. "I’m sorry."
"You’re not going to arrest him now, are you?" Dell demanded. "We still have a chance to win. You take Orvelle out of the game…"
"Looks like he’s already out," Simon noted, his eyes on the far end of the court.
"And that’s two easy shots missed by Wallace. You gotta ask yourself if he’s running out of steam. Certainly that’s what the Rapids are going to be asking themselves."
Blair snorted as he rounded the media section. "Not in this lifetime, pal," he muttered.
"We’re going to be a discreet as possible, Arthur," Simon assured him. "Nobody wants to take this game or this night away from Orvelle. Least of all me."
The crowd groaned as Orvelle missed an open pass. As he trotted down the court, he began limping.
Dell shook his head and quickly walked towards the Jags’ bench.
Simon glanced at Jim who had quietly joined him. "Do we have guards posted at all the exits?"
Jim nodded, sadly watching as Orvelle dribbled the ball on his foot, sending it out of bounds. The big center leaned forward, hands on knees, gulping air. Several of the Jags players patted his shoulders as they walked across the court to take their position for the in-bound pass.
"TIME!" the Jags coach yelled.
The referee blew his whistle, and the players walked towards the bench.
"Okay, Orvelle, what the hell’s going on?" the coach demanded. Before Orvelle could speak, he indicated the bench. "Take a rest, okay? Perna! You’re in!"
"Jim! Simon! Jim!"
Both cops turned to see Blair running full speed down the steep steps. Jim instinctively ran towards him when the younger man nearly tumbled down the last five steps.
"Whoa!" Blair gasped, managing not to fall.
"What are you doing here?" Jim demanded.
"I’ve been talking to an informant," Blair breathlessly began.
"What?!" Simon looked at Jim for an explanation.
"It’s not Orvelle," Blair explained. "It’s Ray Krause."
"Sandburg, it’s too late for idle speculation," Simon dismissively said. "Now, if you don’t mind…"
"DAMMIT!" Blair yelled. "I DO MIND!" He kicked a nearby folding chair.
Both Jim and Simon stared at the younger man in astonishment.
"I don’t want to hear I’m not a cop!" Blair held up one finger. "I don’t want to hear what I should or should not have done!" He held up a second finger. "What I do want is for the two of you to shut up and listen to me!"
Simon angrily glared at Blair.
"Okay, Sandburg," Jim curtly nodded. "Shoot."
"What are the odds on the game?" Blair asked.
"Five-to-one. Rapids," Jim answered.
Simon’s eyes moved from Blair to Jim then back to Blair, watching the quick give-and-take.
"Before Roshman was murdered, the Jags were favored six-to-one, right?"
"Your point being?" Jim demanded.
"If you locked your bet in before last week, then the odds flipped, and you’d win, you’d get a huge payoff," Blair explained.
"Speculation," Jim snapped. "It would have to be a big payoff to warrant killing two people. And there’s no guarantee your suspect would win the bet."
"My informant is in a position to know what he’s saying," Blair argued. "Krause is no armchair gambler. He’s got some serious debts with some very intense people leaning on him hard. And the day Jerome Burke was killed, Krause placed a 20 grand bet on the Rapids."
"We have enough evidence to arrest Wallace," Jim shook his head. "We found gloves at this house with Roshman’s blood type on them."
"Blood type; not blood match." Blair waved his arms. "These guys are tested for drugs on a regular basis. As head of Security, Krause could easily get some of Roshman’s blood."
"It’s a nice theory, Sandburg, but it’s pretty far out," Simon decided. "Like it or not, we’ve got to take Wallace in tonight."
"Without even questioning Krause?" Blair demanded. "Tell me why not!"
Simon angrily stared into Blair’s blue eyes, noting how the younger man was refusing to back down. He silently wondered how Jim had resisted throttling the kid if he got in Jim’s face like this very often.
"Please, Simon," Blair’s voice shook. "Just…question him first."
Simon growled deep in his throat and pulled out his radio. "Brown! This is Banks! I need you to find Ray Krause and bring him to me. He’s head of arena security so he could be anywhere around here. Contact me as soon as you’ve found him." He glared at Blair and walked away.
Blair let out a relieved deep breath. Then he eyed Jim, who was silently watching him. "Are you mad at me?"
Jim studied him for a moment. "Who’s your informant?"
"Off the record?" Blair asked. "Because there’s no way I’m putting it on the record." When Jim curtly nodded, he licked his lips. "Glimmerman." For a brief second, he enjoyed the look of shock in Jim’s blue eyes.
*Well, I’ll be damned. He gets information out of Cascade’s biggest bookie then squares off against both Simon and me.* Jim crossed his arms over his chest. "No, Chief. I’m not mad." He waited a moment then added, "A bit surprised, I admit." He glanced at the younger man. "Mostly, I’m proud of you." At the look of surprise on Blair’s face, Jim smiled. "You really go the mat for someone you believe in, don’t you?"
"Yeah," Blair nodded. "Yeah, I do." Slightly embarrassed, he looked up at the scoreboard. "WHAT!?! We’re losing? How did that happen?" He stood on tiptoes and looked down the Jags bend. "What’s Orvelle doing on the bench?"
"The coach put him there," Jim explained. "He went stone cold." The two men looked at each other in silence then back at Orvelle.
Miserable, Orvelle watched as his teammates struggled to catch the Rapids. He almost missed hearing his cell phone ring. Flipping it open, he waited.
"I need you back in the game," Krause demanded.
Jim’s eyes narrowed as he focused his hearing. Blair stepped closer and murmured, "Focus on Orvelle. Let every other sound fade away."
"You wanted me to tank the game, and I did," Orvelle hissed. "Did you think I wouldn’t get benched for it? I’ve done all I can. Let Shelley go, Ray. Whatever money you need, I’ll give it to you. All of it."
"Let me put this as simply as possible so you can understand," Krause threatened. "If the Jags win, I’m dead. If I’m dead, so is pretty Shelley here. Now get back in the game! And don’t pull anything, either. I can see your every move."
Jim immediately looked up into the rafters above and around the huge scoreboard.
"I don’t care if you have to beg, crawl, or take somebody out to get back in that game," Krause continued. "You just do it." He cut the connection and wiped his forehead.
"Krause is in the rafters, and he’s holding Shelley hostage in order to get Orvelle to throw the game," Jim quickly explained. He placed his radio com-link over his right ear. "Get Simon and tell him what’s going on. I’m going after Krause."
As Blair passed the scorekeepers’ table, he heard the color commentator.
"It’s been an uphill battle for the Jags ever since the beginning of the fourth quarter. They trailed by as much as seven but have evened the score at 79. Sloman’s going to have to be the man now for the Jags with Wallace on the bench."
Orvelle threw his towel onto the floor and ran to the coach. "Put me in."
The coach shook his head. "Sorry, but we need this win. You did what you could, but you’ve got to let the others carry it now."
Frantic, Orvelle returned to his seat on the bench.
Simon sighed and turned from where he was talking to Henri. "Not now, Sandburg." He turned back to Henri. "Search the arena again. Krause has got to be here somewhere."
"Pull as many men as you can from crowd control without compromising safety," Simon ordered.
"Don’t take anyone off the exits, though," Simon continued.
Henri watched as Blair’s face starting turning red.
"Simon, do I have to kick another chair?" Blair angrily asked.
"All right, Sandburg! What is so important?" Simon demanded.
"Krause is in the rafters holding Shelley Wallace hostage. Jim went up after him." Blair sweetly smiled.
Simon cursed under his breath.
Henri tried hard not to smile.
"Sandburg, you stay here. Keep an eye on Wallace." He handed Blair his radio. "Keep this channel open." He headed for the steps. "Brown, you’re with me."
Blair immediately ran back towards the Jags bench.
Up in the dim light of the rafters, Jim saw Shelley sitting against a steel rafter, her wrists and ankles secured with duct tape. Another piece of tape covered her mouth. Stealthily, he crept across the metal and cables towards her. Opening his pocketknife, he quickly cut through the tape.
Suddenly Krause turned around. Firing his gun in Jim’s direction, he began running.
Shelley screeched and grabbed Jim’s arm.
"You okay?" Jim demanded. Before she could answer, he heard footsteps approaching. Spinning around, he aimed his gun in the direction of the doorway.
"Whoa!" Simon held up his hands when he spotted Jim aiming at him. He felt Henri come to a halt behind him.
Jim lowered his gun and began running after Krause. "He took off in this direction. He’s armed!"
Simon walked towards Shelley, who had fallen to her knees sobbing and crying. "Brown! Alert everyone we have an armed suspect! Make sure all roof access doors are covered!" He knelt next to Shelley. "It’s okay, Miss Wallace. Come on, let’s get you out of here."
Down by the Jags bench, Blair heard Henri’s transmission. "Henri! Is Shelley okay?"
"Yeah, we’re bringing her down now," Henri radioed back. "Jim’s in pursuit of Krause."
Shoving the radio in his pocket, Blair ran towards Orvelle. Reaching over the chairs, he pulled at Orvelle’s sleeve. He ignored one of the trainers who tried to push him back. "Orvelle!"
Orvelle turned in surprise. He motioned the trainer back.
"Shelley’s okay!" Blair climbed over the folding chairs to get closer. Then he grabbed Orvelle by the arms. "Shelley’s okay. The police have her. She’s fine."
Orvelle widely grinned then ran towards the coach.
"Time out – Jags!"
Orvelle got in front of the coach. "Put me in. I’ve given my career and my life to this team. This is my time."
The coach glanced at the play clock. 58 seconds. Then he looked at his players as the crowd began chanting "Wallace – Wallace – Wallace…"
"Get in there," the coach ordered.
Broadly grinning, Orvelle led the Jags back onto the court.
Above them, Jim managed to tackle Krause as the man reached the catwalk where the huge scoreboard hung suspended from the ceiling. The impact of the two men hitting the metal flooring sent Jim’s gun sliding away from them. They began struggling for control of Krause’s gun.
Blair listened as the crowd chanted Orvelle’s name. He briefly closed his eyes, feeling the pulse of the crowd’s energy flow around him…through him. Suddenly calm for the first time in days, he opened his eyes and listened.
"Wallace is back! With the Jags down by three, can Wallace pull out a miracle? The Rapids drive to the goal. Blocked by Wallace! Sloman goes up court for the Jags then passes to Henderson. SLAM DUNK! Jags down by one now! The Rapids quickly bring it back. It’s up…no good! Rebound comes to the Jags! Silvan will go all the way for the lead!"
Above the court, both Jim and Krause wrapped their hands around the gun. Krause’s finger found the trigger but couldn’t aim the weapon at Jim. The pressure caused Krause to fire the gun…sending bullets towards the cable holding the scoreboard aloft.
Jim winced as he heard a sharp whine as the cable was cut by the bullets.
"Rapids take the ball quickly back down the court! It’s in! Jags now down by one! Six seconds left in the game! Wallace has the ball. He was a hero early but struggled ever since. Can he make this one last shot?"
"He’s got it…he’s got it…he’s got it…" Blair confidently chanted.
Jim desperately tried to shove Krause’s arm down. Krause jerked, sending two more bullets into the air, snapping another cable.
"This is it! Everything’s on the line! Wallace shoots…it’s good! Jags win! JAGS WIN! JAGS WIN!"
The crowd started to spill onto the floor, but the arena security guards, helped by members of the Cascade PD, kept most of them back. The Jags players mobbed Orvelle while the Portland players shook their heads.
Blair watched, a wide smile on his face, and clapped. He saw Simon appear with Shelley, who immediately called to her uncle.
Above them, the remaining cables, overstressed by the weight, began weakening. The catwalk tilted, and Jim desperately grabbed one of the dangling cables. Shrieking in terror, Krause grabbed Jim’s legs as he slid past him.
There was a terrific groaning of metal as the scoreboard began to fall. Everyone looked up, then began to scream and yell as they cleared the court.
The massive scoreboard hovered over them for a few moments, then dramatically plunged down to the court. There were a few moments of hushed silence, then the game announcer spoke.
"Let’s hear it, ladies and gentlemen, for your Division Champion Cascade Jaguars!"
The crowd roared in approval.
"Oh, my God!" Blair shrieked. "JIM!" He fumbled in his pocket for his radio.
"Uh, Simon…can I get some help up here?" Jim radioed.
"On our way," Simon assured him. "Can you hang on for a few minutes?"
Jim looked down at Krause. "Stop kicking!" he snapped. He leaned his forehead against the cable. "Yeah, Simon, guess so." He looked down again to see Orvelle tightly hugging Shelley. He also saw the scared look on Blair’s face. He was tempted to wave at his partner, but decided that wasn’t a good idea. Seeing the radio in Blair’s hand, he called out, "Hey, Blair. Answer me something."
"Sure, Jim." Blair stood helplessly looking up at the older man. "What?"
"Did we win?" Jim wearily asked.~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~Cascade Sports Arena – Jags Dressing Room
The trainer looked up at Jim after he finished putting a bandage on his right hand. "You should get that checked out by your regular physician," he advised. "But that dressing should be okay for now."
"Thanks." Jim smiled. He leaned back against the wall and watched as the reporters were finally escorted from the dressing room. Simon and Arthur Dell were laughing over in one corner. Orvelle, even when being interviewed by the reporters, had kept one arm around Shelley. For her part, Shelley didn’t seem inclined to get too far from her uncle’s side.
Jim’s eyes flickered to Blair who sat beside him. The younger man had been very quiet, seeming to be content to just take in all the excitement without becoming a part of it.
Suddenly aware of the scrutiny, Blair looked at his partner. "Hey, man, you ready to go? You’ve got to be exhausted!"
Jim slowly nodded. "We need to have a little talk anyway, Darwin."
"Talk?" Blair hesitantly asked.
Jim got to his feet. "Yeah, about the proper procedure for meeting an informant…especially your informant…without the proper backup…or letting your partner know what you’re doing."
"Uhhh….well, okay, sure, I guess we can do that," Blair stammered.
"And that’s even when your partner doesn’t agree with you," Jim quietly finished.
Blair turned to see Orvelle walking towards him, a basketball held between his hands. He eagerly smiled.
Orvelle held out the ball. "This belongs to you."
"Orvelle, that’s the game ball," Blair murmured. "They gave it to you after the game."
"And you deserve to have the game ball," Orvelle assured him. "I want you to have it." He smiled. "To go with the card."
Jim hid a grin as Blair reverently took the basketball.
"Oh, man…the whole team signed it," Blair murmured.
Jim sat down, realizing it would be a while before they would be leaving. He smiled and leaned back against the wall. *Okay. The talk can wait.*The EndPlease remember to send feedback to our authors. Feedback can be sent to: [email protected]Next week’s episode: Girl Next Door by CarolROI