Case #1 “All Skate (or, The Birth of Scorpius)”

Sept. 15th, 2015

This wasn’t my idea.

It was my shrink’s idea (OK, THERAPIST, what’s the difference?).

It appears that I have Anger Issues!

Duh.

So, my therapist thinks it would be a good idea to “talk it out” on a blog. She thinks it would benefit me to re-live some of my more, shall we say, difficult moments of my career by going over old cases.

My personality mis-alignment issues need exposure to realign my positive blah blah blah. . . .

UGH!  FINE.

So, I will begin at the beginning; the case that brought me back to my birthplace and nearly killed me. (clearly, it didn’t) 

Case #1 – “All Skate (or, the Birth of Scorpius)” -May 2001

I have recurring dreams. Nightmares really. Sometimes they come at, shall we say, inopportune times? Who has nightmares sleeping on a plane?

THIS GAL!

I have several, so if I had to pick one, while sleeping on a plane, a very public space, it would be this one.

It always begins the same way. . . .

The dream was deeper this time.  I was back under the stadium chasing him, gun drawn, sweat running down my back.  Would I get him this time?  Could I stop him before. . .

My footsteps echoed in the tight, subterranean, tunnels.  Service pipes running water, sewage, electric, and other necessary stuff lined the corridors making the space feel even tighter.  A steady drip of water kept getting louder and louder.

The scores of fans up above were clueless about the horror 30 feet below them.  They screamed their opinions at a ball field.

Another scream came right on cue.  I was too late, again.  As before, I picked up my speed, I didn’t care if my footsteps could be heard.  He knew I was coming.  That was the point.  He wanted me to come.  He lured me here to finish things.  The game had gotten old and he was bored.  After months of playing cat and mouse we would finally end things here, right where we began.

I knew his prisoner was bleeding out. I could hear him moaning.

And then I heard him lose his cool.

“BITCH!”

Oops.  He didn’t mean to show a sign of weakness.  He was always so controlled. I was getting to him.

I quietly laughed to myself. “Hah, nervous?”

I knew I was getting close.  I wiped the sweat off my shooting hand and reset myself.  He was not going to get away this time.  Just a few more steps . . .  I was close now . . . very close. . .

“BOOM!”

The combined thunder and shaking of the plane AND the insistent hand of the flight attendant woke me with a start.

“Huh? Wassamadder?”

“You need to sit up and get your seat belt on now.  We are making an emergency landing in Portland.  Right Now!”

We were supposed to be landing in Seattle.

Great.

I was supposed to be in Seattle in two hours.

The rental car agent was sympathetic but otherwise unhelpful.  I was at the mercy of heavy rain, wind, and traffic from Portland to Seattle.  It’s a three-hour drive in normal conditions.  This was a snag I had not prepared for.

I was so pissed. I was driving too fast and I knew it. I didn’t care. The Washington State patrolman was nice, at least. I’ll just bill the client for the cost of the ticket.

I’m nice like that.

I was in a rage. So, I stopped the car.

“OK, Kwan, breath. Slowly”, I tried several techniques to calm my nerves. I had a job. Yes, it was a BS job but a job, nonetheless. I was so much more capable than what this job required. I had scored top female of my graduating class at Quantico and top five overall. That meant only 4 men scored higher in Procedure, Law, Firearms Proficiency, and Physical Fitness. It was my stupid Psych evaluations that prevented me from a choice assignment and possible admission to the Behavioral Science Division. I wanted to be a Profiler. I PLANNED on it. Only 3 other women had done that successfully before. I was determined to be the next.

A probationary assignment that went very badly put me on the street and out of a job.  But Jack being Jack, he intervened and gave me a lead.  (Jack was my advisor at Quantico and the head of the Behavioral Science Division)

So, I had to drive to what my Nav computer called, “Poulsbo.” I was to investigate the mysterious “die-off” of an entire batch of hatchery salmon. This was the second complete die off, while still in pens, of fish dying for no apparent reason.

My temper started to rise again.

“FISH?!!”

I arrived in Seattle a little sooner than expected considering the conditions.  The skies cleared up a little after Olympia.  But the traffic did not.

The ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island was surprisingly relaxing. I needed it. Even the coffee was decent. Coffee Shops on ferries tend to be nasty, but not here.

The reputation in Seattle seemed to be true.

There was even WI-FI on the boat. Crazy.

I could focus on the task before me. Dead fish were serious here. The economy in Poulsbo was based on fishing. If the Salmon population was too small, the boats would have to remain in harbor. That was bad.

The drive to Poulsbo was pleasant.  It was well past seven when I arrived, and the sun was only just starting to set.  The town was very quaint.  I had never seen a place so dedicated to its ethnicity.  It was like being in Scandinavia in the springtime.  The shops that lined the main street all had overflowing flowerboxes that exploded in colors and fragrance.  Wall murals depicted the town’s Norse heritage and fishing lifestyle.

I found my hotel with relative ease.  It wasn’t hard to miss.  The sign read “The Fishing Trawler” and was covered in colorful nets and sea buoys.  The robotic shrieking Sea Gull didn’t hurt.

The room was surprisingly clean.  The whole facility was a non-smoking establishment.  Washington State had been smoke-free for several years.

I found a busy Fish and Chips restaurant within walking distance and marveled at how good the halibut was.  It was a far cry from Florida or Virginia. The people seemed warm and friendly too.  Commercial fishing, it seemed, was in trouble.  The region, and this town especially, had been hit hard recently.  It would be a shame to see a nice place like this come to an economic end.

I called the Tribal Sheriff and apologized for my late arrival.  We arranged to meet in the morning.

Ransom. His name was Ransom. I have never known anyone named Ransom.

Now, before I met the Tribal Sherriff with the funny name, I had to check in with the local FED.

(A little history here, to explain my attitude about the Feds.)

I failed to make Agent with the FBI. Yep, pooched it. A murderer killed someone on my watch and I got blamed. I was only a probationary Agent at the time too. Yeah, people die, people get killed by murderers who are being investigated all the time and the Agent responsible doesn’t get fired. It comes with the job. But I was a probie (with an attitude) and therefore a liability going forward.

Whatever.

Fortunately, I have a great relationship with my academy supervisor, Jack. He lined up this job for me. (must remain grateful, must remain grateful) And since he had access to personnel files, he forwarded me everything about the players in this ‘Fish Scandal.’

With a warning; the SAC (Special Agent in Charge) Gerald Hinch is an asshat.

You can tell a lot about an agent from their case reports.  I spent several hours poring over Gerald’s.  In Graduate School, I had been pretty good at profiling an individual from their writing.  I can spot distinctive character traits by selective word choice and the use of “I” or “ME.”  SAC Hinch was no different.  I knew I was in for his special brand of narcissism and was well prepared for him.

He had me meet him really early at a coffee shop in Poulsbo. (He works out of the Seattle field office.)

He was seated and apparently on the phone when I walked in.  He made me wait while he finished his chat.  It wasn’t an important call.  He was establishing dominance.

He hung up.  “Kwan? Please,” he motioned to a chair. “Sit down.  Make yourself comfortable.”  I parried, “that’s OK, I would rather stand.”  I now stood over him and he didn’t like it.  Score one for me.

He suddenly jumped up from his seat.  He grabbed his coat, badge, and firearm.  “Let’s go for a ride.”

Shit, I didn’t even get coffee.

I wasn’t entirely sure where Gerald was taking me.

I’m a terrible passenger.  Gerald was a daredevil driver.  He pushed his Lexus pretty hard in what appeared to be a rural area.  The “Entering Suquamish Tribal Reservation” sign went by in a blur.  I white knuckled the door arm rest but made sure he never noticed.  I had called Tribal Sheriff Johns ahead of time so he could meet us at the hatchery.  Needless to say, I was surprised when Gerald pulled into the Tribal Casino parking lot instead.

“Um, ok.  Why?” I gestured toward the Casino.

“Why, what?” Gerald asked as if he didn’t know.

“Shouldn’t we be going to the Hatchery?”

“What’s the rush?  I want to show you something first.  Loosen up.” He was enjoying this.

He looked at my shoes. “Are those standard issue?  How the heck do you run in those?”

What? He was judging my clothes?  What was wrong with my clothes?  .

“Not a fan of skirts?”

“What?  No.  Never.”  What was his issue?

Gerald seemed to know his way around the Casino property pretty well.  I was still unsure as to the reason for this visit.  Sheriff Johns was waiting for us at the hatchery.

“Mizz Kwan.”  I didn’t like the way he said Mizz. “This is the future of the Indian tribes in the Puget Sound.  It is a renewable resource with unlimited potential.  Fishing is a dying industry. ”

“Your point, Agent?”  I stopped walking.

“The point is that the Salmon are a non-issue.  This is a pointless investigation.  It isn’t going to matter how or why those fish died, in the long run.”  Gerald stopped too.  He looked at me directly, I think for the first time.  “Don’t waste too much of the Bureau’s time on this.  Find a reasonable explanation and leave it at that.  That is my advice.”

“Well, that’s all well and good, but I didn’t ask for advice.  And I don’t work for the Bureau. Can we go to the Hatchery now, please?” I didn’t wait for an answer.  I turned on my heel and headed for what I hoped was the exit.

I flew out into the Porte-cochere only to realize Gerald wasn’t following.

“Prick!”

The cab driver knew where the Hatchery was, fortunately, because I certainly didn’t.  And, yes, I was mad.  Mostly at myself.  Then my phone rang.

“WHAT!”  It wasn’t Gerald.

My sister was barely understandable.  She was sobbing.

“Hil? What?  I can’t hear you honey.  Are you crying?  What’s wrong?” I felt my heart beating hard now.

“It’s Mom.  She wants to leave the hospice and come home.  She told me not to tell you.  But I couldn’t do that.  She’s going to kill me.  Where are you?” Hilary was sobbing but making sense.

“In Washington State.  What do you mean she wants to leave?  I don’t understand what you want me to do about it.”

I was pretty sure the taxi driver saw me roll my eyes.

Salmon are fascinating creatures.  Many people don’t realize that Salmon are born as fresh water fish, change into saltwater fish, and then change back into fresh water fish before dying in the same place they were born.  At least that was the way things worked normally.  So many Salmon never made it back to their birthplace with dams, pollution, overfishing, dried up rivers and streams, and disease preventing it.  Human intervention and innovation teamed up with science to find ways to supplement the Salmon population.  In the Pacific Northwest, a home to Salmon fishing for generations, the American Indian has struggled to regain control of the dying fish that has meant so much to their spiritual center and culture.  The native fisheries were paramount to regaining that control.

When the manager of the Suquamish Tribal Hatchery found all his fish dead for a second time without explanation, he called for help.  Tribal Sheriff Ransom Johns made another call and the feds sent me.

The Sheriff was bigger than I had expected.  He was also a little testy.

“Did you get lost Ms. Kwan?”

“I’m sorry about the time Sheriff.  I was delayed.”

“Not traffic?” he wasn’t buying my explanation.

“No.  Not traffic.  Are you familiar with SAC Hinch?” I ventured a guess.

“Oh.  Yes.  Very familiar. Say no more.” He finally cracked a smile.

He offered his hand then.

“Sheriff Johns, Suquamish Tribal police.”

“Bobby Kwan, Private Investigator. Nice to meet you.  I hear you have a fish problem.”

The Tribal Fish Hatchery was larger than I expected.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  There were high fences all around the long pools, or pens, as the Sheriff referred to them.

“The fences are not to keep people out.  They keep the predators out; mainly the crows and gulls.  They are pretty smart and could easily pick out the fish from these pens.  The netting over the top needs repair almost daily.  The damn birds make holes so they can get in and feast.”

I walked the perimeter.  There were several sets of pens.

“Why so many pens?”

“There are different pens for different species.  Within each pen there are several long pools.  Each is used for different life cycles.”

He pointed at one.

“This one has juvenile Sockeye.  As they grow to older stages, they are moved into the other pools.  They keep moving until they are mature enough to be released into the stream.”

He pointed at the nearby stream.  I could see gates that held back water from the final pools where the mature fish could be released into the wild.

“What are those buildings for?”

“That building is the nursery.  Eggs are fertilized, incubated, and hatched there before the young ones are dumped into the first pen.  The other buildings are for administration and maintenance.  The power houses are behind there.”

We walked towards the power houses.

“This is where the saboteur came in.”  He knelt down and pointed at a part of the fence line that had been severed.

“The fence was cut?”

“That is how we know it wasn’t a predator.  You don’t see too many cougars carrying wire cutters.”

The sirens woke me up.

Not that I was asleep, really.

I knew wherever it was the patrol cars were headed was close.  I turned on my portable Police Scanner.  Yes, I knew it was none of my business, but I never could help myself.  Then I heard the code that made my skin crawl.  It was a rape and assault of a minor.  Female.

Shit.

I didn’t bother fixing my hair.  I threw my clothes on and grabbed my P.I. license off the night stand.  The clock read 3:52 AM.

I bolted out of the motel room and followed the sirens and lights.  They were only a couple of blocks away, so I ran to the scene.  I didn’t give any thought to jurisdiction or what the local police might say or do.  This felt personal.

There are reasons.  (later)

I arrived on the scene and noticed several neighbors and lookie-loos hanging around near the freshly posted police tape.  I grabbed my license and went looking for the nearest patrol officer.

“Who’s in charge?” I hollered at a fresh-faced night patrolman.

“Who’s asking?” Came a deep voice from behind me.

I whirled around and saw a rather handsome plain clothes detective walking briskly toward me.  “I’ll ask again, who’s asking!?”

“Bobby Kwan. Here on assignment.  Can I lend a hand?”

“On assignment? From? Newspaper, radio? . . .”

“Um, FBI.”

A little fib.

“We have it under control, Bobby.  Why don’t you go back to bed.”  He dismissed me.

“Wait.  I can be of assistance.  I specialized in sex crimes.” I didn’t mean to blurt it out.

The detective practically rushed me. “Keep your voice down Agent!”  He was firm.  “These people don’t need the details of this crime flung around like that.  You, of all people, can understand the need for sensitivity in these kinds of cases.  Go back to your hotel.  NOW!”

I refused to move.  It was nearly dawn and light was beginning to creep up the street.  I was cold but I would not show it.  I had been waiting for a chance.  If that detective jerk would answer just one simple question for me when he came out of the house, I just might be able to make my mark on the investigation.  To hell with fish.

There was one fact I wanted to know.  It would provide a key to how to proceed with the case.

As if on cue, Detective Nelson slowly emerged with his crime scene technicians.  He saw me and paused.

“Why are you still here, Bobby?”  His gaze was tired.

“Just one question and I’ll go. ”

“Ok, shoot.”  He leaned on the mailbox post.

“Did he leave anything biological?”

There was a pause.

“No.  So what?”  He looked at his watch.

“He’s a local.”  I said it with certainty.

“What makes you think so, Agent . . .?”  He probed.  He was curious.

“Kwan; P.I.  A careless stranger wouldn’t care if he left a sample in the victim.  A careful criminal, one who probably knows the victim somehow, would NOT leave anything so damning.  Doncha think?”

He looked down for a moment.  Then right at me.  “P.I.? I thought you said FBI.”

“The director asked me to investigate a case here. So, I was already here.”

He must have been really in need of assistance. There is no way he should have let me get involved.

“Fine.  Ok.  Sure.   I might, might, not have concluded the perp was local. . . right away.”  Another pause.  Just a little bit longer.  He didn’t want to do it.  “What do you want?”

I was in.

I didn’t sleep worth a damn that night. So, I wasn’t terribly enthused about my meeting with Ransom the following morning.

He picked me up after breakfast and we headed for the Rez. He wanted to show me just how important the Salmon are to the people.

On the way I broached the subject.

“Do you know Theresa Carlton?”

“I know her family, I have seen her around.  Cute kid.”  He squinted a little, trying to remember.

“It’s so sad.”  I was having trouble.

“Hey, they’ll get him.”  He tried to be encouraging.  It wasn’t working.

They arrived at the Ceremony Grounds next to the Hatchery.  There was a long house and a LOT of people.

The Longhouse was packed with people.  Many sitting, many standing around the edges of the smoky room.  In the center, near a small fire, the master of ceremonies cleared his throat.

“Great turnout! It feels good to see this longhouse full. It lifts our spirits. It lifts our voices.”

This was, according to Ransom, the First Salmon Ceremony; to welcome back the returning salmon and to ensure a good run.  Times had been tough during the last 12 years as traditional salmon runs dried up or became impassable.  Overfishing had decimated the wild runs and diseased farm fish were contaminating the species.  That is why the Native hatcheries were so important.

The MC continued.

“This ceremony was revived in 1979,” he said. “Before, we were forbidden to practice our ceremonies. Then the elders got together and remembered. They asked their grandparents. We may not do it the way it was done 200 years ago, but we do it the best way we can.

At the salmon ceremony, we come together for two reasons. To bless the fishermen, and to welcome back Haik ciaub yubev (”big important king salmon” in the Lushootseed language). He comes to scout for the other salmon. We go down to greet him and treat him with respect, because he’s going to provide for us all through the year. He will return to the salmon people and report to them how well we treated him, how well he was received. We’ll take his remains, and we return him to the water and send him on his way.”

As the ceremony continued, the MC urged all the fishermen – including several women and the three uniformed sailors – to come forward.

“We bless the fishermen and remember those lost at sea. The waters are good to us, but they are dangerous,” he said.

The blessing had just ended when a youngster ran into the longhouse to announce the approach of a canoe.

The crowd filed out of the longhouse and down to the shore, where a black carved canoe with a high prow was nearing the beach. One of the rowers raised a king salmon and everyone applauded. The fish was placed on a pallet of sword ferns and cedar branches, and two men carried it up the gravel road to the longhouse. It would become the ceremony’s symbolic first returning salmon.

“Our visitor has arrived to honor us,” said the MC. “Thank you for helping us celebrate the first returning salmon, our scout, our reporter.”

As the ceremony ended, the singers and drummers, followed by the visitors, walked behind the remains of the ceremonial salmon as they were carried back to the beach. The salmon remains were placed in a canoe, taken far out into Tulalip Bay and then returned to the water.

We walked back to the tents that had been set up near the large parking lot.  There, several large Salmon had been prepared to feed all of the visitors.

I had never, in my life, eaten such wonderful fish.  There was nothing special about it.  It was cooked traditionally over coals of burning alder chips.  No seasonings required.  The whole tent was quiet as everyone devoured the feast.  Then a lot of talking and laughing.  I felt the peace in the tent was palpable and for the first time in days, I felt comfortable, relaxed.

(Some of the passages were taken from a report from this year’s First Salmon Ceremony held in Tulalip Bay, Washington. -Seattle Times.)

SUPPLIMENTAL

As a student of forensic psychology, I have studied a number of cases that highlight various “special” circumstances. These cases go beyond the usual criminology and enter the realm of deeper psychoses.

My fascination with these cases started when I was fairly young.  (for reasons we will visit later)

Because of my criminology “quirk”, as many called it, I placed very highly in psychology and advanced criminology courses in school and ranked very highly at the FBI academy.

Little help that did me.

But many of these cases helped me to assist others and I made a name for myself for a while. Now I am relegated to divorce cases and missing people (and now FISH).

By my nose was starting to twitch here in Poulsbo. I wasn’t not sure what it was exactly, but the Theresa Carlton case had me curious.  It was familiar somehow.

Bear with me a minute. There was a case in Florida that got a lot of attention when I was a kid. I gained access to the FBI files while at the academy.

Daniel Harold “Danny” Rolling (May 26, 1954 – October 25, 2006), also known as the Gainesville Ripper, was an American serial killer who murdered five students in Gainesville, Florida. Rolling later confessed to raping several of his victims, committing an additional November 4, 1989, triple homicide in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attempting to murder his father in May 1990. In total, Rolling confessed to killing eight people. Rolling was sentenced to death for the murders in 1994. (He was executed by lethal injection in 2006.)

What wasn’t released to the public was a peculiar series of statements made by Rolling while he was in prison and backed up by documents collected during the initial investigation. These statements were not used in court.

Danny Rolling believed he was a God. (or was the vessel acting FOR a God)

This got my attention. Was he merely angling for an insanity plea?  Not according to Rolling. He never directed his defense to play the angle.

Did he actually believe he was acting as a vessel, a Host for a God?

More on this later.

As I previously implied, I have several different nightmares. That night I had a doozy.

This dream began as it usually did.

My room was darker than normal. Or so it seemed to me. The temperature dropped.

I knew he was there.

Again.

I no longer bothered to scream. No one would hear or come. Just him.

Again.

But this time it was different.  Instead of my Uncle glaring at me, hungrily, in the dark, there stood a Salmon; a full fish, on its tail, staring blankly at me.

I woke screaming.

I had never screamed before.

“What the F*** wuzzat?!”

The cold water from the bathroom sink was refreshing.  I kept the cold, wet washcloth over my head as I laced up my in-line skates.  “This is going to be a long one.”

(NOTE: When I am stressed out beyond rest, I skate. I go as far as to pack my skates when I travel because I know the dreams will come and I must work it out of my system. So far, this has been the only remedy.)

I didn’t bother bringing my phone.  I didn’t want to be bothered.  Not that anyone would call me at 2:15AM.

The air was cool and humid but not frigid.  It was just what I needed.

After what I thought was about 5 miles of hard, laborious, skating, I stopped and turned around, ready to head back. I looked ahead, towards where I thought I had just come from.  It was still dark except for the rare street light every 100 yards or so.

“Where the hell am I?”

When the old Indian stepped out from nearby trees, I nearly had a heart attack.  He made a lot of commotion with his push cart.  I thought maybe he was homeless until I saw that his cart was full of dead leaves and branches.  Was he working at the break of dawn?  He must have been hard of hearing because HE nearly had a heart attack when he turned and noticed me rolling up to him.

Can you imagine?

I must have been a fright.

“I’m sorry.” I half yelled, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Well now. You MUST be lost.” He quite calmly said.  “I don’t think Angels visit me at this time of the morning.”  His eyes glistened at me.

Sly dog.

I think I actually blushed.  “Yes, thank you, I am lost.  I got turned around.  How do I get back to town?”

He looked a little confused. “Town?  Why, you may be surprised to know this,” he leaned in towards me, “you ARE in town.”  Then he giggled a little.

“Huh?”

“You are one street back from the main street, ma’am.  Come with me.” He giggled and walked away.

I rolled after him as he led me to a dirt path.  Sure enough, just on the other side of the dense stand of trees lining the road, was the back side of several buildings and homes that I surmised lined main street.  The old man called out to someone.

From a cute cape cod style building, a short, middle aged woman opened the back door.

“Jerry, keep your voice down.  People sleep around here.”

Then she noticed me.  “Oh, hello.  I didn’t know Jerry had a guest.”

“Oh, no. Sorry, he doesn’t.  He is just helping me find my way back to town.  I got turned around back there.”

The woman noticed my skates.  A quick flash of confusion played over her for a moment and then, just as quickly, went away.

“Well, you must be cold, dressed like that.  Would you like to step in and have some coffee?”

“Oh, no, I don’t want to intrude.”

“It’s no intrusion.  Believe me.”

From inside the house, I could now hear and see that there were several people inside.  This was no house.  It was a hall of some sort.  Jerry smiled at me, patted his hands on his dirty pants, and walked into the hall.  Several voices could be heard in unison;

“JER!”

“It’s a homeless shelter dear.  It’s safe.”  The woman smiled.

I didn’t want to appear rude, so I untied my skates, took them off, and walked into the back door of the hall.

I didn’t mind finding myself in a homeless shelter eating pancakes.  My FBI training kicked in when I realized that no one there knew who I was or what I was doing there.  I could move freely amongst the men in the shelter and no one would suspect me of being anything other than a young woman alone on vacation or business.  And besides, I was hungry.

“So, how is it you ended up needing this shelter?  If you don’t mind my asking.” I asked a relatively young man seated near me.

“Logging dried up.  This is my home.  Don’t wanna go nowhere else.”

“Why did logging dry up?  Don’t tell me it had to do with some protected species or something?” I played coy.

“Fish.  Salmon.  Go ask a fisherman how that worked out for him.”  He was clearly NOT in a chatty mood.

“Pff.  As if it was our fault.” Another man chimed in. “You destroyed the breeding grounds by over logging!”

“Right,” said another, “Overfishing had NOTHING to do with it I suppose?”

“There will be none of that here, boys!” Came a surprisingly sweet but firm voice of Mrs. Little, the shelter matriarch.  She looked at me.  “One of the main rules here.  No fighting, especially over jobs.  We are all in the same boat here.  Sorry, bad analogy.” She blushed at her slight.

Then she spoke to a little boy sitting across from me. “Billy, it is not polite to stare.” Then to me, “I hope my son doesn’t bother you.  He can’t talk, but he can get underfoot sometimes.”

“It’s no problem Mrs. Little.  He isn’t hurting anything.  Besides, I think I have something he wants.”  I smiled at Billy and slid a syrup dispenser over to him.  He smiled and blushed.

I should have known.

When I got back to my hotel room, my phone was ablaze with missed calls and voicemails.

“Gerry! Dammit!”

I placed the call.  Supervisor Hinch came on in a bluster. “Just where the HELL have you been?!”

“Excuse me?”

He wouldn’t hear it. “No, excuse ME Ms. Kwan.  As acting supervisor, I expect you to be available 24/7, is that understood?”

I made a valiant but fruitless effort. “Now you wait just a damn minute. . .”

“There was a break-in at the Hatchery last night.  Where you AWARE of that?  Of course, you weren’t, you were busy butting in on a local jurisdiction that had nothing to do with your case.”

How did he know about that?

“Get out there and do your God Damn job!” He hung up before I could reply.

“CRAP!”  Another break in?  He didn’t say anything about any dead fish.  Was it just a break in?

“Odd timing.”

I placed another call.  Sherriff Johns wasn’t answering.

When I arrived at the hatchery, Ransom Johns met me in the parking lot.

“The current batch is fine.  Nothing seems to have happened this time.  The perp was scared away by the dogs.”

The sheriff looked down on the ground as he spoke.  “I could have used you last night.”

“I’m sorry.  I was away from my phone.  I made a mistake and for that I apologize.  You reported this to Supervisor Hinch didn’t you?”

He looked right at me. “I didn’t have any choice, Bobby.  We need the Feds help and it seems we aren’t getting it.  We never do.”

“I’m here now.” I looked back at him, softly and with real conviction. “Let’s get this guy.  Okay?”

He shuffled some dirt with the toe of his boot. “He gave you hell, didn’t he?”

“Nothing I can’t handle. Yeah. He did. I don’t work for the FBI, fortunately.  Although, they did hire me, so. . .”

I put a hand on his arm. “It’s ok, you had no choice. It’s my fault. I made a commitment to help”

He smiled a little then.  “There are some tracks near the point of entry I want to show you.”

He turned and started towards the main gates.  I followed.

“I always thought that farmed fish were bad for the environment.” I wondered aloud.  Ransom responded.

“These fish are starters, so to speak.  They are born and raised here as if it were their natural habitat.  Then released to their own defenses in the wild.  They must fend for themselves once they leave here.  Atlantic farmed fish grow in open water pens and don’t grow as hearty.  They also take food from the natural habitats so wild fish can’t really compete.”

“So, what would over-logging have to do with fish habitat?”

He looked at me quizzically and grinned. “You’ve been doing some homework eh?  Watershed.  It is all about the watershed.  When the rains come in the mountains and foothills, the water drains naturally into streams that lead to rivers and out to lakes and/or the open waters of Puget Sound and the Pacific.  It’s those streams and rivers that are the breeding grounds for the Salmon.  If an area near those breeding grounds is over-logged, the waters could wash out the streams because the root systems are gone.  They could also dam up do to mud that normally would be kept in check as top soil.”

“Which in turn makes these hatcheries necessary.” The light bulb in my head came on.

“You got it.”

“So, if there are no salmon coming from the hatcheries, the salmon could be in real trouble.”

“Right, and therefore the fishing industry dries up.” The sheriff finished the thought.

“So, someone has a motive in killing off these fish.  Who that is is a real pickle.”

“It appears to have been tampered with.  I don’t suppose we could check it for prints?” I examined the padlock carefully, without touching it. The sheriff was already on the radio.

“The crime unit will be here in 5.  They should be able to get prints, even if for exclusions.”

“Good.  Maybe the perp screwed up this time.  It seems they were rushed.”  I followed a set of partial footprints.  “Do any of these prints seem odd to you?”

Ransom didn’t even look.

He had an answer.  “The size?  Yeah.  I noticed that too.  Someone has small feet.”

“A teenager or. . . “ I began.

In unison.  “A woman.”

This potential discovery required a visit to the annoying SAC. Gerry had set up a temporary office in Kingston, near the ferry terminal.

I did NOT want to visit.

“You are suggesting that it is a woman who is behind the Fish Hatchery die offs?”  Gerald was incredulous.

“That’s what the evidence seems to suggest.” Ransom beat me to it.  My responses recently had been tart.

“You are aware of the statistics against that sort of thing are you not?” Gerald was looking right at me.

Heat.

“You are a piece of work you know that Gerry?” I was done with him.  “Call the Director at Quantico; I really don’t care at this point.”  Ransom tried to settle me down.

“No, I won’t calm down.  He thinks I am stupid or something.” I turned to Gerald.

“I am VERY aware of stats and figures.  These sorts of crimes are not traditionally committed by women.  This tells me something about the motive of the crime.  What does it tell you Ger?”

I didn’t wait for his answer.

“It means it probably has nothing to do with FISH Gerry!  These crimes are probably a diversion to make us look somewhere OTHER than someplace or at someone else.”

I turned on my heel and walked out of his office.  I didn’t bother to correct my grammar.  If SAC Gerald Hinch was confused, I didn’t care.

“Where does she think she is going?” I could still hear Gerald asked Ransom calmly.  Sheriff Johns looked at Gerald and said, quite seriously. “To catch a fish killer.”

Attaboy.

Of course, my phone rang the moment I stepped outside the FBI Field office.  My sister Hilary sounded upset.  She always sounded upset so this was nothing new to me.

“What now, Hil?”

“What do you mean they are kicking her out, what did she do?”

My mother had been a resident at a Hospice facility in Florida.  She had terminal pancreatic cancer and was certain she would die within days or even hours to hear her tell it.  She had also been a HUGE pain in my backside most of my adult life.  Attempting to becoming an FBI Agent seems to have missed my mother’s stubborn radar.

Failing to do so didn’t miss.

“BIT?!  Who did she bite?” I was furious.  My mother was a master manipulator, and this was no doubt a ploy to get me to come home and personally take care of her as she dies in the agony of disappointment over her my choices.

I nearly threw my phone into a nearby decorative fountain in a rage.  My mother wanted me to feel this way.  She was winning.

“Over my dead body Hilary.  She stays put, even if it drains the rest of the retirement account.”

I hung up fighting back tears I always SWORE I would never shed over my Mother’s ploys to the contrary.

“DAMN that woman!”

I had just gotten back to my room and was about to lace up my skates when both my scanner and cell phone blared; another possible rape victim.

“SHIT!!”

The Detective gave me 5 minutes to get to the scene.

The victim was talking, and time was of the essence.  I grabbed my side arm and made sure my temporary badge was visible.  (being deputized and all)

Jessica Thompson sat at the end of her bed.  She wasn’t crying or showing any signs of trauma.  She stared off into nothingness directly in front of her.  She held a corner of what looked like a baby blanket firmly in her left hand.

I scanned the room.  There was no sign of struggle but there was what appeared to be a half full glass of wine on the bed stand and another glass fallen on the floor near the door, its contents spilled on the carpet.

I looked at the 14 year old.

“Where is he Jessica?”

She looked up with a sad expression and clenched her pillow now, her heavy makeup still in perfect condition.

“What?  How should I know?”

I wasn’t buying it.

“You had a fight and he left, right?  After you had sex?”

The Detective touched my arm and gave me a secretive but stern glare.

“A fight?  Why do you say that?  HE RAPED ME!”  She started crying.

Mrs. Thompson sat next to her daughter and put an arm around her.  She looked angrily at me.

“Just what are you implying Ms. Kwan?  My daughter is an innocent young girl, taken advantage of by an older, more experienced boy.  HE is the one you should be talking to.”

The detective spoke up now.

“You are right Mrs. Thompson.  We should be talking to him.  But we still don’t know who he is or where we should be looking.  We need Jessica’s cooperation so we can get this guy.”

I picked up the wine glass from the floor.  I held it out for Mrs. Thompson to see.

“What do you suppose went on here?  There is another one on the bed side table.”

Mrs. Thompson looked confused and then indignant.

“He OBVIOUSLY tried to get her drunk first.  What do you THINK happened?”

I kneeled down and took Jessica’s hands in hers.

“Look at me Jessica.  You thought he loved you right?  You thought you knew what you were doing, but then it got too intense.”

I held one of Jessica’s arms and flipped it over revealing some slight bruising on her wrists.

“He got angry with you, didn’t he?  He called you a tease and held you down.”

Jessica pulled her hands free and sobbed.

“NO.  NO.  He. . he. .tried to get me drunk. . .and then. . .and then. . .”

“And then you said YES Jessica.  You invited him here.  You poured two glasses of wine and made yourself up all pretty.  You wanted him to like you.  LOVE you.”

“NOW JUST A DAMN MINUTE!” Mrs. Thompson was heated.

“Ms. Kwan, a WORD!  OUTSIDE!”  The detective walked me out of the room.

Briskly.

I whirled on him once we got out of earshot.

“What are you doing?”

“What am I doing?  What are YOU doing?  This girl is a victim.”

“No, she isn’t.  Well, maybe technically, but. .”

“Technically?  That is not our call to make Bobby!  We aren’t the morality police or parents!”

I stepped closer to the Detective.

“No.  I won’t be a party to codling these stupid girls.  No, she didn’t deserve to be raped.  But that word is too harsh in this case.  In my opinion.”

“No one is asking for your opinion, just, I can’t believe I am saying this, the facts.”

“The FACT is this stupid teenager is a victim of peer pressure.  AND a victim of a smooth come-on by a boy who knows better.  She will be mocked, ridiculed, and teased relentlessly for being a slut now.  It was AVOIDABLE!”

I was having a hard time keeping myself under control now.

Rage.

Rage was welling up inside of me; deep inside.

“Is this what they teach at the FBI Academy now?  Well, we follow procedure here Ms. Kwan.  If you are incapable of helping me capture a rape suspect, then I suggest you go back to your hotel.”

Through welling up tears, I merely shut my mouth, refused to cry, turned on my heel and headed for my skates.

Ransom’s search came to an abrupt end. The Detective informed Ransom that I had left in such a foul mood and so quickly, he worried what I might do.  He was right to worry.

A call from a friend at the local Emergency Room led Ransom to a wounded but otherwise undaunted Private Investigator with a chip on her shoulder.

In my rage fueled state, I skated into a moving UPS truck.

Concussion.

“WHAT NOW?!” I hollered at the Sherriff.

“Does that JERK want my head on a platter?  Well. . He can just get in line, buddy.  I only have the one.”

Pain meds. Fun.

Ransom gave the nurse a look that meant “I’ll handle it.”

“She’s dying and it’s NOT my fault.” Was all I could muster.

Of course, he had no idea what I was on about.  It didn’t sound like anything to do with Fish or Jessica Thompson.

“Ok.  Let’s take a walk.” He tried.

I took his outstretched hand and without warning I collapsed in a sobbing heap into his arms.

I don’t remember the drive to my Motel.

After fumbling with keys and lights, Ransom managed to get me into my room.  I made a B-Line for the bathroom where I heaved a good portion of what was left of lunch.

Pain meds. Fun.

Embarrassed and still dazed enough to have trouble walking or even standing, I managed to take a glass of water from Ransom.

“Thanks.  I’m Sorry.”

“It’s all right.” Ransom lied.

“No.  No, it’s not all right.  I have been a sloppy nincompoop and not very much value to you.  Or anyone.”

“Just get some rest and we can talk about it over a hearty breakfast.”

He dropped my pair of beaten up in-line skates by the front door.

“Did you actually pack these or are they rented?”

“I packed them.”

“Wow.  You are dedicated.” He was actually a little impressed but also confused.

“No.  Not dedicated, more like deranged.”

“What does that mean?”

“I have nightmares. Sometimes they are bad enough I have to skate.” I looked at the empty glass of water.

“Why not just run?  It would save baggage space.”

“It doesn’t work for me.  I HAVE to skate.  It’s an old habit.”

Tears.

I didn’t want to, but Ransom deserved an explanation.  I poured my soul out.

“I was in the 6th Grade.  A boy, Paul, asked me to go with him to the skating rink.  I was overjoyed at the prospect.  I was also young and naive.  He was an 8th grader that I had a HUGE crush on.  I prepared myself all week and didn’t tell my parents that it was a date.  They would have forbidden it.  Not only because I was so young but because he wasn’t Korean.  Of course, that wasn’t going to stop me.”

Ransom sat on the floor.

“My Dad dropped me off and left.  My sister was there too, so it wasn’t like I was unsupervised or anything.  Paul was there.  I thought he was waiting for me.  Instead he took one look at me, all dressed to the nines, and he laughed.  His friends laughed with him.”

I paused to clear my throat and suppress a sob.

“They LAUGHED at me!”

“Assholes!”

“So, I put on a pair of skates and just skated and skated and skated.  The DJ changed the floor to ‘Couples Only’ but that didn’t stop me from continuing to skate as though it was still ‘All Skate.’  One look at my face and no one tried to stop me.  My sister tried once, but one look from me was enough.  She stopped trying and called my Dad to come and get me.  I wouldn’t stop. Imagine that; a tiny, Korean, 6th Grade, girl, pissed as hell and skating herself bloody.”

“I am imagining.” Ransom said thoughtfully.

“Dad came and had to physically stop me and take me off the rink.  I screamed a fit and then buried my face into his shoulder and cried my eyes out.  But THAT isn’t why I continue to skate now.  It would be silly to have nightmares about a stupid boy.  My terrible evening was only just beginning.”

I didn’t finish telling Ransom my story.  I fell asleep mid-sentence.  The sheriff must have tucked me into bed and quietly left.

But that didn’t stop the story from continuing in my subconscious.  I relived the events of that night anyway as I has done for the last 16 years.

I have never told this story publicly. But, since that is why I am writing all this stuff down. . . .

Here goes.

(I wrote this in third person a few years ago.)

She felt the room turn cold.  She had cried herself to sleep and a noise had woken her.  It was the door knob to her room that rattled.  She could see the dark outline of someone standing in her bedroom doorway.  It was a man; her mother’s brother.  He had been staying with them for a few days while he and his wife were working a few things out.  She didn’t know what and didn’t care.  She had her own problems.  But what was he doing standing in her doorway? 

She pretended to be asleep.

He slowly walked in.  “Hello, little one.”  He always called her that.  It bothered her every single time he did.

She rolled over and looked at him.  He was smiling.

“I hear you had a bad day.  Need a shoulder to cry on?”

“No.  I am fine.  Please let me sleep.” She spoke firmly but quietly.

He touched her shoulder. “I am here for you little one.”

She stared to panic but made no noise.  It wouldn’t be proper for her to accuse a man in her family of anything indecent.  No one would believe her.  She had no choice but to keep still and quiet.

He didn’t stop with just her shoulder. 

All she could do was cry silent tears.

I woke suddenly in a heavy sweat and nausea washed over me.  I stumbled to the bathroom and my stomach vacated all that was left.

Pain Meds.

Fun.

Detective Nelson found me at a local Coffee Shop, Don’s Delightfuls, at 10AM.

“You look awful.”

I didn’t look up from my pastry.  I was embarrassed and still angry with him.

“Gee thanks.”

“May I join you?” He sat down anyway.

“Please.  Rough night.  Sorry.” I took another sip of coffee.  “Damn fine cuppa Joe.”  I managed a fake smile.

“Should you be out and about after a concussion?”

“Doctors said I could leave the hospital, so. . . “

He could sense my tension.

“Look, I don’t know what set you off and I don’t care.  I understand what you were trying to do.  I agree with you, but we aren’t at liberty to ask those kinds of questions to victims.”

I threw my hand up.

“I know, but, seriously, when are we going to wake up?  Someone has to tell these kids that these things aren’t games.  They have consequences.  People get hurt and sometimes they never heal.”

“I said I agree but, well, our hands are tied most of the time.”  He paused.  “Are you ok?”

“Hmm?  Oh, yeah.  I am fine.  Just stupid.  How is Jessica, did they get the guy?”

“Not yet.  She clammed up and her Mother wants a lawyer.”

“What?!  Hey, now that is NOT my fault.”

“I didn’t say it was, jeez.”  He sat back, sort of bewildered.

“Change of subject.  I have some news about the Theresa Carlton case.”

Now I was paying attention.

“You were right about the lack of evidence from the crime scene.  It seems our boy doesn’t want to be found out.  There wasn’t even a hair or trace DNA on her.”

I knew this was a big breach of jurisdiction on the Detective’s part.

“Yeah, not a big surprise.  Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you seem to have a great deal of ability according to your Supervisor and I am not too proud to accept any insights”

I spit my coffee.

“WHAT!?  Gerry said that?”

“Gerry Hinch?  No, Supervisor Dean at Quantico.”

I recomposed myself.

“When did you talk to Jack? Moreover, why? You checking up on me?”

Det. Nelson sipped his coffee. “Of course, I was.  You didn’t give me a lot of choice.  I am glad I did.  But let me preface that with this.”

He paused for effect and looked right at me.

Here it comes.

“I don’t like people interfering with my investigations.  That being said, I don’t believe you meant to.  You are impetuous; it’s in your nature.”

“Thanks DOCTOR Nelson.  I wasn’t aware I needed a shrink.”

“SEE?  That, right there.  What was that for?  I am being perfectly cool with you and all I am getting is back talk. I don’t need to be talking to you at all.  So, I guess I’ll just be moving along.”  He made a poor attempt at leaving slower than he needed to.

I got the drift.

“Hang on Detective.  I am impetuous.  It works for me.”

“Does it really?  How long were you an Agent?  A month?  How do you know what works for you?  Because I gotta tell you, I kinda have doubts.”

I took a deep breath.

“I am fighting an urge Detective.”

Another deep breath.

“Because I know I have a hot temper and I think what you are suggesting is supposed to be constructive.”

I paused for a quick sip of coffee.  Detective Nelson watched me carefully.

“I don’t do ‘constructive’ very well.  But today, I’ll give you a break.  So let’s drop the therapy and get on with the crime solving.”

I smiled sweetly, “Shall we?”

Nelson clapped his hands in mock applause.

“Very good Agent.  Very good.  I think I might like you after all.”

“Theresa Carlson will be fine, but she has a long road ahead.  A home invasion and rape is not something one just ‘gets over.’”

“I don’t think she will ever ‘get over’ it, Detective.  The scar will remain her whole life.” I found myself staring into nothingness.

Then just as quickly I snapped out of it and asked, “has she said anything about the intruder?”

“Only that he had peppermint breath and he wore a mask to cover his eyes.”

“Only his eyes?”

“Apparently.”

“Well, that sounds like an MO if you ask me.  Why not a full mask and garlic breath?”

Detective Nelson looked concerned. “Yeah, that was my concern as well.  It seems planned and, even worse, rehearsed.”

I jumped in “he has done it before Detective.  It wasn’t rehearsed, it was practiced and refined!  Just how many other cases do you have in this town?  Is there a serial rapist running loose?”

“Please!!  Keep your voice down.” Nelson lowered his own voice and continued.  “This is the 4th case in the last year.  All home invasions.  All the same perp it seems.”

“Why didn’t anyone mention this before?” I could feel my face was red.

“Believe me, I wanted to.  I shouldn’t have told you.  But it is getting out of hand and I hoped. . .”

I cut him off. “GETTING out of hand?  Detective, I’d say it is WELL out of hand!  You should have asked for assistance after the second incident!!”

“I tried but was told that it was an internal matter.  But I have had it now and AM asking for help.”

“An internal matter?  Who told you that?” I was furious but kept my voice down.  I sensed something.

Detective Nelson paused, looked around carefully, and then answered gravely.

“The Mayor.”

I could only shake my head.

“Lord, I hate politics.”

“Tell me about the others.” I said grimly.

“You already are familiar with Theresa.  There were three others.  Each one three months apart.  All the same M.O.”

“So, you have known this all this time.  That you have a serial rapist in your midst.”

“Yes.”

“And you are fully aware that serial rapists can and usually do escalate?”

“Yes.”

“And what exactly was the plan?” I folded my arms and tried to look menacing.

Detective Nelson rubbed his face.

“We hoped he’d move on.”

I suppressed a laugh.

“Well, then it’s a good thing I came when I did.  Isn’t it?”

“Don’t be smug, EX-Agent.  I wasn’t going to let this continue.”

“You weren’t letting anything.  This guy has been playing you all for fools.  You practically laid down a red carpet for him.  You LET him rape three more girls after the first one.  Did you think ol Gerry was going to be of any help?”

“The FBI would have been available. . .” Detective Nelson began.

I cut him off. “Supervisor Gerald Hinch is an idiot and incompetent and a narcissist.  He wouldn’t have given you the time of day.  He would have taken over your entire precinct and ruined you AND the mayor just to get a medal of his own!”

“OK!  I know that . . . now.  I’m eating my hat here, Bobby.  I’m talking to you aren’t I?”

“Well, that is a start.  Isn’t it?  Let’s get this asshole before he hurts anyone else.”

“You DO remember that I am no longer an agent?”

He smirked a little.

“All the better.”

Detective Nelson walked me back to the hotel.

“There is one other thing Ms. Kwan.”

“Isn’t there always?”

He stopped.

“Yes, as a matter of fact.  Get used to this sort of thing.  It is part and parcel to the business.  Secrets and information are our business.”

“You mean lies?”

Eric didn’t like that comment.

“Secrets don’t always mean lies Ms. Kwan.  Some things must remain out of the public for good reason.  I think you know that.  Even inter-agency secrets.”

“Ok.  Yes.  That’s true.  We can’t always blab everything we know.  Call it “Aces in the sleeves” if you will.  Ok.  Play your ace detective.  I’m all ears.”

The detective motioned for them to go into my room.  Once we were inside, the Detective opened his briefcase and withdrew a plastic bag.  It had an evidence seal on it.  Inside was what looked like a business card.  He handed me the bag.

“Evidence from. . ?”

“The rapist leaves one of these at each crime scene.”

I was shocked.

“You said there was no evidence?”

“I said there was no biological evidence.”

I looked closely at the card in the evidence bag. It was the size of a business card.  But this card didn’t advertise any business.  On it was a symbol, an astrological sign.

“Scorpio?”

“Yes, but this refers to it in a way no one expected.”

“Why?  What does it mean?”

“He leaves one of these at each scene.  A calling card if you will.  Refers to himself as Scorpius, a God.”

“How the hell do you know that?  It doesn’t say it on the card.”

“He told us.”

“WHAT?”

“Back in the early 90’s in Medford, Oregon, there was a series of home invasion rapes of young girls.  The only evidence left at each scene was a card with the astrological sign of Scorpio.”

“At what point did this rapist tell you he was a God?  I am missing something.”

“When we caught him.”

Ok. This was too much.

“Then you know who he is?  He’s here now?  How did he get out of jail?  I assume he was put away?”

“We have no idea who he is.  The Medford rapist died in prison a year ago.”

I could not hide my shock.

“So, what you are telling me is that we have a copycat?”

“What I am telling you is that we have a serial rapist who uses the same MO and leaves the same signature as the Medford rapist who died a year ago.”

“Sooo. . .a copycat.” I repeated.

“It could look that way, except for the fact that the signature, this calling card, was never made public.”

The detective let that tidbit set in.

I let it sink in.

“Ok, there was a leak in the Medford police department.  The info got out.”  I said with certainty.

“That was the thought at the time except that the chain of evidence was never broken. No one could have known about it outside the department and they all passed polygraph tests AND our current rapist could not have seen a copy of that business card.  Ever.”

I suppressed a laugh.

“Oooooooh.  An X File.  Scary.”

“We really don’t know what to make of it.  It is disturbing never- the- less.” The Detective was no longer looking at me.

“Disturbing?”

That’s your analysis?  What part disturbs you more?  The fact that someone knows about this little signature tidbit or that no one knows about this and yet, here it is, in the bag?  Impossible.  There is nothing comforting about this detective.  Either you have a copycat rapist or a ghost.  Neither is good.”

“It gets better.” The detective stood up and paced a little.

“Oh I can’t wait.”

“The Medford rapist escalated.  His fourth and final victim was murdered.”

“Crap.  So, if all of this is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt it, then our copycat plans to kill the next victim.”

“Wait a minute.”  A reality hit me square in the gut.

“Why did you show me this?  I am not officially on this case.  Did you just break the chain of evidence?”

The Detective looked grave.

“I am out of options Bobby.  I want these rapes to stop and I am willing to do just about anything at this point.  Even if I lose my job, if it prevents a single rape, it will be worth it.”

“But what happens to me is just collateral damage then I take it?”

“What would you have done in my place?”

I smiled at this.

“I guarantee I would have done EXACTLY the same thing.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure Bobby.  This could get messy before we are done.  You will be on the same hook I am if this goes south.”  Eric dried his hands on his pants.

“You did say that you spoke to my ex-supervisor at Quantico right?”

“I did.”

“I don’t think this is an accident then.; our working on this together.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember when I told you that sex crimes were my specialty?”

“Yes.”

“It’s deeper than that.  I specialize in sex abuse of minors.  I understand the victim-ology of these crimes.  It has made me wonder why I was sent here to investigate fish.  It seemed like a waste of time. But, now I wonder. . .”

After a few moments something occurred to me.

“If we fail, we are both screwed. You know that right?”

“We can’t fail.  We have to stop this guy.”

“What if we can’t make it stick because we broke a few rules?”

“That’s a bridge we cross when we get to it.  Agreed?”

I smiled.

“Agreed.  But let’s try and limit the damage eh?”

The Detective smiled.

“Can’t promise anything.”

I suddenly blurted, “CRAP.  Sheriff Johns is expecting me right now.”

“I’ll drive you.  Where are we going?”

“To the hatchery.  The tribal hatchery.”

“Ok. You call ahead and I’ll bring the car around.”

I fumbled for my phone.  There were two new messages waiting.

The first message was my sister, Hilary, going on and on about Mom.

I called her back.

“No, she isn’t on her death bed Hil. No matter what she tells you.  It’s too soon.  Beside she won’t die until it suits her.  And it won’t suit her unless it inflicts the most pain on me.”

I spent the next 10 minutes talking my sister off the cliff’s edge.  I actually felt bad for Hilary.  Our mother was a handful and now, home in bed, dying of stage 4 colon cancer, she was even worse.  I did feel guilty, very guilty, that I wasn’t there to lend a hand.  Not because I wanted to be there for my mother, not at all, but because Hil was trapped.

“I’ll make it up to you Hil.  I promise.”

The next message was Greta Little. (The homeless shelter, pancake lady)

She was in a dither about her son, William.  Apparently, he didn’t turn up after school.

The detective paused.

“Greta? The preacher’s wife?”

“I didn’t know she was married to a preacher.”

He offered to drop by and check on them on our way to the hatchery.

“I’ve had a chance to meet William. Nice kid. Likes the ladies.”

“He goes by Billy.”

“So his mother says.”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind.”

We arrived to find Greta pacing in the yard.

“BILLY!!, BILLY WHERE ARE YOU?!”

She addressed us.

“He was supposed to be home three hours ago and no one has seen him.”

She walked us back into the house to find her husband getting ready to go somewhere.

“Now where are you going?  I can’t find Billy.”

“He’ll turn up, he always does.” The Reverend spoke softly.

He nodded in our direction.

“Do you have to go?”

“Honey, you know it is my duty as Pastor to visit the sick.  It’s just to the Hospice.” He smiled sheepishly.

“Yes, but you were just there.”  Greta was clearly vexed now.

“This is the life of a Pastor. You know that.” He was getting antsy to leave.  His wife noticed.

We all noticed.

“But what’s the hurry? Can’t you wait until Billy is back in?  I’m worried about him.” She was standing in her husband’s way now.

“Greta darling, these patients are dying and need attendance by a man of the cloth.  I can’t keep up with that boy.  If he is misbehaving, we will take care of that in the morning.”  With that he brushed past us and got in the car.

As he drove away, his wife wept.

Mrs. Little was in a sour mood.

“I’m sorry about that. He’s been under a lot of pressure lately.”

I put on my “friendly” hat.

“That’s ok, Mrs. Little. Things are tough at the church?”

“So many parishioners are old and infirmed. He spends a lot of time ministering to shut ins. It leaves him very little time for organizing Church services.”

“Or time for family I imagine.”

Yes, I was fishing.

She just sighed and exasperated sigh.

I tried again.

“I’m sure William misses his father.”

“Billy? Oh, I don’t know. It’s hard to tell with him.”

The Detective cast a line.

“Where does Billy go? Does he have any friends?”

She seemed a little embarrassed by that.

“You must think I’m a terrible mother. I really don’t know if he has any friends. Things are so busy, he doesn’t talk, we just let him do whatever he does. He really doesn’t cause any trouble.”

She was wringing her hands. The detective noticed as well.

“Oh, I’m sure you are doing your best, Mrs. Little.”

Then she decided to turn on the waterworks.

“It’s just so hard. . .. he never talks. . .and his father is never home. . .I…”

My turn.

“He must have some acquaintances or even a daily routine?”

She brightened a little.

“He likes to walk into town and visit the shops. Especially the bakery. I think he sweeps their floor and gets a treat.”

Well, jeez. She couldn’t have opened with that?

The Detective got up to leave.

“It’s a start. Thank you, Greta.”

We headed for the car.

“I’m going to drop you off at the hatchery. I’m sure that Sherriff Johns is not happy with you right now.”

“Yeahbut. . .”

“Then I will check out the Bakery. Cheryl is a nice woman. I’m sure she knows something.”

“Ok, let me know what you find out.”

“Of course.”

When I got to the hatchery I had trouble finding the tribal sheriff.

His patrol car was there. It was empty and parked in a dark spot rather than under a light post. The pens seemed fine.  They were full of fish.  Each pen held a different stage of life for the salmon, the largest of which were only a few months old.

I wondered why someone would choose to poison captive salmon rather than some other distraction.  If this was indeed a distraction.

(I was pretty convinced that it was)

Either that or the deaths of the salmon were simply a separate and unrelated crime.

“Not likely.” I said to no one.

“WHAT!?” Ransom appeared out of nowhere.

“OH SHHhhh. . . ! You scared the hell out of me.  Where were you?”

My heart nearly stopped.

“Whoa. Sorry Agent.  Didn’t mean to spook you.”

Ransom approached from behind a nearby power shed.

I watched him carefully.  At this point in any investigation, anyone could be the rapist/God wannabe.

“You said something about evidence?”

I sounded completely calm.

I wasn’t.

“I did?”

“Yes.  You sounded urgent.”

“Oh right.  Yeah. Sorry.  I thought I found something but it was just an old tennis shoe.  Wrong size for the prints we found.”

“And you forgot to tell me not to come?”

“Oh, I wanted you to come anyway.  That’s why I didn’t call back.”

“Okkaaaaay.”

“Don’t worry; it’s important you see something.” Laughed Ransom.

“What? What should I see?” I casually let my hand go to my sidearm.

“It’s over there.”  He nodded to an area behind me.

“Ok.  You lead the way Sheriff.”

I followed Ransom back towards the fish pens as he had directed.

I kept my hand on my trusty Sig 40 caliber pistol.  I didn’t like this feeling.  Trusting fellow law enforcement officers is part of the job but instinct was telling me that something wasn’t right.

“I found a fresh set of shoe prints over here.” Ransom pointed to an area near an empty pen.

Then he paused.  His hand also went for his side arm.

“What are you doing Sheriff?”

“Shhhh.” Ransom was on alert.  His head was cocked to one side as he listened and scanned the area.

I wasn’t sure what to believe now.

So, I took his lead and drew my weapon as well.

Then I also heard something.

“What the hell is going on?” I whispered loudly.

“Our fish killer is here.  She is near.”

I blinked to clear my eyes and focused on a dark area near the pens.  I was still uncertain about Ransom so I kept my awareness on him as well.

I thought I could see movement.

“Let’s split up and flush her out.” I suggested but didn’t wait for a response.

“Wait. . .” Ransom tried to stop me.

I moved very quietly behind a power box while Ransom headed around the opposite direction.

Great.  Now I had potentially two targets out there.  Didn’t exactly think that one through.

I couldn’t see the Sheriff now.  I was surprisingly calm considering the situation.

“Focus Kwan.”

I thought I could hear light footfall directly ahead of me.

I stayed low and crept closer to the sound.

I had to stay out of the overhead lights and had to be careful not to look at them or I would lose my night vision.

Another small crackle of loose gravel came from directly in front of me.  Whoever it was wasn’t very skilled.

I raised my Sig.

“The games over lady!  Step out into the light with your hands up!  NOW!”

Ransom came out from a shadow closer than I had expected him to be.

“HANDS!  HANDS!  LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!!”  He demanded.

Slowly, meekly, a small woman in a dark hoodie stepped into an area of light.  Her hands were empty and raised above her head.

“D d d don’t shoot!”  She cried.

I moved quickly.

I reached for a single wrist and holstered my sidearm in one swift move.

Ransom backed me up.

As soon as the woman was cuffed I pulled the hood from the woman’s head.

There, in the light of a single halogen lamp, stood Greta Little.  Tears streamed down her face.

“Mrs. Little?”

My mind was a jumble.

I didn’t suspect Greta Little as the saboteur of the Salmon Hatchery.   Really, I hadn’t suspected anyone.

I was mostly surprised that this small, unassuming, woman, sitting in the back of the patrol car felt the need to commit this series of crimes.

It didn’t make sense. What was her reason?

I looked at Mrs. Little.  She seemed calm but wary.  What would she say when the questions started?

“Mrs. Little, I am a little surprised to find you here.  Can you explain to us what you thought you were doing?  What you thought to accomplish by poisoning fish?”

Mrs. Little said nothing.  She just looked at me, expressionless.

I began to wonder if my theories about these crimes were correct.  Was this a distraction from something else?  If so, did I expect Greta to confess?

“Why tonight?  The last attempts came further apart.  Why the urgency?”

The last question seemed to hit.  A small line of perspiration formed on Mrs. Little’s upper lip.

Ransom pulled me from the car.

“What are you doing Kwan?  She isn’t under Miranda yet.  Don’t blow this case!”

“Sheriff Johns we have a bigger problem than dead fish.  I sympathize, I do.  But this woman is not a fish killer.  At least she isn’t killing fish because hates fish or the industry.  She is killing fish as a distraction.”

“That’s a theory.  From a Private Investigator.  We have nothing concrete to act on here.”

“SHE’S PROTECTING SOMEONE RANSOM!”  I whispered rather loudly.

“Who?  Who is she protecting?”

“A rapist and perhaps a killer.  We need her to tell us who.  If my instincts are correct, someone out there is under the delusion that he’s a God and is intent on killing a young girl.  TONIGHT!”

Ransom looked worried.  He had been unconcerned about any secondary reasons for the fish poisonings, he had been single minded about that.  He was unapologetic about that.  His job was to protect the tribe and their interests.  Now, suddenly, it occurred to him that I was probably right.  Someone was in real danger tonight and we needed to find out who Mrs. Little was protecting.

“Ms. Kwan asked you a question ma’am.  There is no need for you to get into any more trouble than you already are.  Who are you protecting?”

Greta Little continued to look stoically at the space in front of her face.

“Well, Bobby, I guess we start with members of her family, right?  We have enough room in the car.”

Very clever Mr. Sheriff, Sir.

I got the idea right away.

“Yeah.  We sure do.  Let’s start with William; her son.  He doesn’t talk, but I bet we can make him.”

Greta’s expression didn’t change.

“Then I suppose we find her husband and really put it to him too.” Ransom sneered.

The perspiration on Mrs. Little’s upper lip seemed to suddenly dry and she blinked.  Then, without warning, she buried her head into my shoulder and sobbed.

This surprised me.

Not Greta’s actions but that it was her husband that she seemed to be protecting.

“Put out an APB on Mr. Little, now.”  I held Greta’s head.

I immediately called Detective Nelson.  I had a hunch.

“Detective Nelson. . .”

“Hey, it’s Bobby.  We just caught Greta Little at the Hatchery.  It seems she has been a naughty girl.  It also seems she has been doing it to protect someone else.”

“And you know who that might be?”

“Her husband, Reverend Little.  Quick question Detective, did our dead killer have any visitors in prison while in Oregon?”

“He spent his time in solitary, not GP.  Too dangerous I think.  I’ll check the file and get back to you.  What are you thinking?”

“The good Reverend may have been giving spiritual guidance to prisoners down there.  He may have been privy to some special information, if you catch my drift.”

“I catch it, Agent.  It would explain a lot.”

He hung up.

After a couple quick calls to SAC Hinch, Ransom and I raced back to town hoping to prevent a tragedy.  They needed to find and apprehend Robert Little.  How this unassuming preacher committed a series of home invasion/rapes without getting caught was mystifying.

It made Greta’s actions seem almost logical.  A preacher’s wife protecting her family by creating a huge distraction whenever her husband was out brutalizing young girls made a certain amount of sense to me. But it could only have been a matter of time before someone put the pieces together.  Detective Nelson had already begun to dig, in spite of a Mayoral mandate to leave it alone.

The Detective was already at the Little house when they arrived.

“You were right.  The Little’s have only been in Poulsbo for 10 years AFTER spending 10 years in Salem, Oregon, serving the State Penitentiary.”

“The good Reverend, it seems, made a friend in prison.  Damn.  We need to secure the house.”  I made for the front door.

“There is no one here.  I have already secured the house.”

“WHAT?!” Greta screamed from the back of the patrol car.

“Where’s Billy?  Where’s my Son?!”

I asked, “You’re sure you checked everywhere?”

“Unless he’s hiding, yeah.”

Ransom had a suggestion. “You guys keep looking for any clues here.  I’ll talk with Mrs. Little.”

After mutual agreement to the plan, we pulled our sidearms and made their way back into the house.

“BILLY!?” Eric called.

“I think he prefers William.  WILLIAM!?” I tried.

“How do you know that?  He doesn’t talk, does he?”

“I don’t know.  I could just tell.  He reacted differently when I used a more grown up name with him.  It’s an old trick I learned years ago as a babysitter.”

“Hey, there is a message waiting on the answering machine.” The Detective pressed the “listen” button.

Greta Little looked confused.

“Caleb? Caleb Morison?”

“That’s what the message said.  That William would be eating dinner at Caleb’s house.” I tried to be patient.

“Billy spends some time at a little boy’s house across town sometimes.  I didn’t know his name was Caleb.”

I was getting more perturbed by the minute.

“You don’t know your son’s friends?”

Greta continued to act unmoved.

“Billy does whatever he likes and doesn’t bother anyone.  He can’t talk.  He’s special.”

“He prefers the name William; did you know that about him?”

Detective Nelson intervened.

“Ms. Kwan, we can deal with parenthood issues later.  I have a feeling Mrs. Little had bigger fish to fry.  No pun intended.”

“Oh, so she gets a pass because her husband is a rapist?”

The detective pulled me aside.

“Mrs. Little is in enough trouble.  She will probably lose everything; her husband, her home, her son, everything.  Now, let’s focus on limiting the damage.”

“Fair enough.  Mrs. Little?  Where does Caleb live?  We don’t have any time to waste.”

*****

The house was eerily quiet.  The porch lights were on at the Morison house.  If there was a killer inside, you sure wouldn’t know anything was wrong from the outside.

The APB got the attention of the rest of the Morison family and it took several officers to keep them from rushing to their house headlong into possible danger.

Mrs. Morison explained that there was a babysitter, Becky, inside.

Now we knew who the target was.

The threat assessment was very unclear.  I was certain that the Pastor was the serial rapist that had been committing all the recent home invasion/rapes.

What I didn’t know was if he was armed.

“Detective Nelson?  The dead convict in Medford Oregon; did he carry weapons or use any weapons during his crimes?”

The two of them had been slowly marking a perimeter around the house to keep neighbors from encroaching on the potential crime scene.

“Yes.  He carried a Bowie Knife; a very sharp Bowie Knife.”

“Then we go in hot, Detective.  We have no way of knowing the state of the girl inside.  She could be dead for all we know.”

Detective Nelson frowned.

“Let’s hope for the best then.  And if it means anything, you would have been a good Agent.”

I was flummoxed.

“Uh. . .oh. . well, thanks. . .er, Thank You Detective.  I got your back too.” I stammered.

They approached the door.

Detective Nelson unscrewed the porch light.

The other officers on the scene waited for the signal to light the place up.

“Shock and Awe, Agent Kwan.  Shock and Awe.”

“On Three. . .one. . .two. . .”

We entered quickly but saw nothing.

Pausing to listen.

Nothing.

“MOVE MOVE MOVE!!”

We split into groups.

I went up, followed by several armed officers.

(yes, they should have been in front of me)

A small child appeared at the top of the stairs.

Caleb.

“Where are they!?”

He simply pointed down the hall toward a door.

I motioned for him to head outside quietly.

Then we quickly headed for that door.

I kicked it in.

(the following is the witness transcript detailing William Little’s first-hand account)

William, after hearing strange noises, investigated by opening the door.  As it unlatched a strange smell passed his nose.  It nearly made him retch.  As the door cracked open further he began to make out shapes.  Then he saw her.  Tied to the bed from all four limbs, she was gagged and blindfolded.  She was also very naked.

Tears began to well up in his eyes, it blurred his vision.  Then another shape appeared.  A large shape loomed over Becky (the babysitter).  The man who towered over her held something in his hand, it glinted light reflecting from the dim table lamp.  He squinted to make out what it was.

The man held whatever it was over his head and began to chant.

“HIS WILL BE DONE – HIS WILL BE DONE!”

William suddenly recognized the voice.  How could it be?  No!  It couldn’t be.  His head was spinning now.  He shook his head. He couldn’t allow this.  He must do something.  He must SAY something to end this horrible vision.  He felt a small tremor in his throat.  He formed the word.  But nothing came out.  He tried desperately to conjure up the word and the tremor grew into a pain.

The knife flashed. He took a deep breath ignoring the stench from the room.  The boy who had never spoken reached out.

“DADDY STOP!!”

William watched as his father turned to look at him.  He almost didn’t recognize him.  He looked like someone or something else for a moment.  Then he saw his eyes change.  They each reflected each other in that moment of mutual recognition.

Robert Little seemed to return to his senses. He looked at the large knife in his hand and immediately threw it down.  He also noticed his own nakedness but did little to cover himself.  A greater realization took over.  He saw the girl tied to the bed, gagged and blindfolded.  She too was naked.  He covered her with a blanket and sobbed.

(Robert seemed to be having an argument with himself)

“FOOL!!  OBEY!!”

Robert grabbed his head in apparent pain.  William reached out.

“No, son.  Leave me.”

“YOU WILL OBEY YOUR MASTER.  RELEASE HER!! KILL HER!!”

“Aaargh” he grabbed his head again and sank to his knees.  “NO!  I won’t. . .!”

William again tried to go to his father.

“Son, NO, please.  I don’t want you to get hurt.  Leave.  NOW!”

“THE KEEPER MUST DIE!!  KILL HIM!!  OBEY!!”

“NOOOOOO!”

William froze with fear.  Robert Little was at war in his mind.

“I WON’T DO IT!” He screamed at no one.

“YOU WILL OBEY!!  YOU MUST OBEY YOUR MASTER!!  YOU ARE WEAK AND FOOLISH.  ONLY I, SCORPIUS, COMMAND YOU NOW.  MY WILL BE DONE!”

“No!  I won’t.  This MUST end now.”  Mr. Little’s voice was much calmer.

“The lord is my shepherd I shall not want. . .”

William knew this verse.  This was a sad verse but one that brought peace to the afflicted and sick.  Was his father sick?

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. . .” The Reverend reached for the knife glimmering on the floor.

(from outside the room – “MOVE MOVE MOVE!!”)

“He leads me beside calmer waters, he restores my SOUL!” He held the knife in front of him.

With a sorrowful look at his son he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Then he plunged the knife into his own throat.

(End witness account)

*****

I was the first to enter the room.  And I could not believe what I saw.

“HANDS!. .HANDS!. . .HANDS!  Lemme see your. . .!!  I holstered my Sig.

Mr. Little was lying in a pool of blood on the floor directly in front of William.  I immediately checked for a pulse and found none.

“DAMMIT!” I looked around and saw the girl on the bed.  Detective Nelson had arrived.

“She’s alive! WE NEED A MEDIC IN HERE . . . NOW!”

“William.?” I held him by his shoulders and looked at him.  He was expressionless.

“daddy. . .stop. . .?” He cried, then collapsed into my arms.

The debrief wasn’t pleasant but it was mercifully quick.  For that I was grateful.  SAC Hinch closed the hatchery case and then proceeded to berate me about inter-jurisdictional policies and blah blah blah.  He also gave me an envelope.

“Don’t worry.  I didn’t open it, Mizz Kwan.” Hinch attempted a little humor.

It came from Quantico; from Director Dean.  I would read it later, when I was alone.  Just in case it was bad news, I didn’t want to be around anyone, especially Gerry.

“Are we done here?”

“Yes, thank you.  Have a pleasant day.” He wasn’t even looking at me.

Thank God, I’m not an Agent. (first time I admitted that)

I tried to shake the essence of SAC Gerald Hinch off.  It might take a few showers and maybe a tropical vacation to complete that cleansing.  For now I met up with Detective Nelson for some coffee and an update.

“What about William?”

“He has been placed with an Aunt and Uncle in Seattle for now.  Greta Little may never get him back and I don’t know how I feel about that.” He frowned.

“And the girl?”

“Becky? She has not said a word since we found her.  She’s still in the hospital.”

“Damn.  This sucks.”  I decided I didn’t want my coffee.

“Don’t know how to feel either?” he asked.

“It isn’t our job to feel, is it?” I asked sincerely.

“HA, like we can just turn off the “human switch?” He scoffed.

“The Reverend did.  The Medford Rapist did.  I think William did.”  My voice wavered a little.

“There are going to be some tough questions coming.  Our little town and Police department are going to feel this for a long time.  As well we should.  There is going to be in investigation.  Heads will probably roll.”

“Including yours?”

“At this point I am not sure that it matters.  Aren’t I equally to blame?  I looked the other way.” He sipped his coffee.

“It should never have happened.” He looked away.

“It’s not your fault Detective.” I tried to look him in the eyes.

“I hear that, and I try to tell myself that, but I am not so sure if I believe it.  Those girls were victimized, and we did nothing to prevent it.  At least not entirely.” He tried to smile for me.

“You did what you thought was right at the time.  You didn’t ignore it.  When the opportunity came, you took it.”  I took his hand.  “And I was happy to help.”

He didn’t pull away immediately.  He took a sip of his coffee and sighed.

“We thank you for your help Bobby. I am not sure we could have done this by ourselves”

“I had help.” I smiled.

“I hope I didn’t drive you too crazy.  I have recently been ‘diagnosed’ as difficult.”  We shared a laugh.

******

Epilogue

On the ferry back to Seattle, I opened and read the letter.

“I was delighted to hear that with your help the Poulsbo Police Department ended the terrible crimes of Reverend Robert Parker Little.  A dangerous rapist and potential killer is no longer a threat to society. I only wish we could have prosecuted this menace and brought some closure and justice to the people of Poulsbo. I am proud that you could lend a professional hand in this case. I am especially proud of the work that you provided as an ex-Special Agent.  Your dedication to enforcing the law and your fierce tenacity to follow through with what you started is a direct result of your training and natural ability.  You are an example to be followed.”

It continued on a separate sheet.

“What I have not told you is this; I wanted you on this case.  You were sent to investigate an act of sabotage at the behest of the Suquamish Indian Tribe.  Sheriff Ransom Johns has sent a formal thanks to the FBI in your behest.  Detective Nelson had sent me an urgent request through back channels to assist him “unofficially” with his case in Poulsbo.  The political situation there had left him without options.

I knew you would be inclined to participate but I could not ask you directly as this was meant to be a quiet case.  It was also an opportunity for me to put a final seal on your record.  You needed this as much as Detective Nelson did.  I still think you have issues with authority, but you have proven that with focus and determination you can overcome this deficiency.   I had hoped for as much.  I took a risk with you and you made it happen.  I thank you for that.

I hope you continue to pursue your quest for Justice.

On a personal note, I hope that the events on the last week remain with you in your career as a Private Investigator in the Northwest. Never forget the horrors that man inflicts on man.  We need reminders from time to time so we NEVER lose our singular focus that justice, in whatever form it takes, must always win.  It is our job, our mission, to bring those who commit such heinous acts to justice.  Never forget that.

Sincerely,

Jack Dean, Director. FBI Academy, Quantico, VA.”

I watched the rain on the window as the ferry listed slightly from left to right.  I placed the letter back into the envelope.

I hope my therapist is happy.

I need a new pair of skates.

-End Case File.