I should have known.
When I got back to my hotel room, my phone was ablaze with missed calls and voicemails.
I placed the call. Supervisor Hinch came on in a bluster. “Just where the HELL have you been?!”
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?
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.”
Next – Gerry ‘aint Buyin