Beta Read by Cheri Allen and Gina Jones
Written for PetFly by:
Teleplay by: Harold Apter and Steven Baum
Story by: Stephen A. Miller
Blair's eyes bugged out and his mouth twitched up in a wide smile of
delight as he studied the photo in the yearbook. "Oooh, check out the bow-tie. 'If
not us, who? If not now, when?'" He threw his head back and chortled. "And I
thought I was a geek in high school."
Simon and Jim exchanged amused looks. "Was?" they said in unison.
"Give me that!" Simon pulled the yearbook from Blair's hands in mock exasperation. He laid it carefully on his lap and pulled a cigar from his breast pocket.
Blair settled himself back on the seat as he watched Jim's eyes slide over to look at the captain.
"What are you doing?" Jim asked casually.
"Three hours in the car with him." Simon hooked a finger over his shoulder at Blair who shrugged good-naturedly. "I need something to help me relax," he continued as he tore the wrapper from the fragrant cylinder. "I've been dying for a smoke ever since we left Cascade."
"Not in my car."
"You know," Simon retorted, not ready to capitulate just yet, "I could order you to let me."
"We're off-duty, sir," Jim reminded him.
"Well, if we're off-duty, quit calling me sir," Simon grumbled. "Did I ever tell you how much I hate that?"
Jim grinned. "Yes, sir."
In the backseat, Blair snorted. It was going to be a long trip. It was one he was looking forward to, though. Jim had been promising, since he'd moved into the loft, that he'd take him kayaking on the river someday, after discovering that Blair had never seen this part of the state. Their lives had become so busy, with police work and Blair helping Jim to learn about his senses and how to control them, plus working on his dissertation and teaching at the university, that the time had never seemed right. Until now.
Jim was still dealing with his guilt over the death of his previous partner, Jack Pendergrast. Now, finally, it seemed the ghost of his past had been laid to rest and it was only up to Jim to forgive himself. Simon had received an invitation to his high school reunion and when Blair had realized that it was in the same area as the kayaking trip, he took Simon aside and explained his plan. Simon had played his part with gusto, ordering Jim to take time off, insisting it was a legal requirement, and Blair had casually dropped in his request to go kayaking. Now, here they were, on the way. They would drop Simon off at his hotel and then pick him up in two days time on the way home. And Jim was none the wiser. Blair watched as Simon lovingly scented his cigar, then reluctantly put it back into his pocket.
"I tell you, man," Simon said, tapping the book on his lap. "This sure brings back memories. Twenty years!" He shook his head. "Everybody's going to be so old. You know, Jim, if it wasn't for Peggy, I don't think I'd go."
Blair hunched forward and leaned over the back of Simon's seat, his interest piqued. "Peggy? Who's Peggy?"
"Nobody," Simon answered grumpily.
Blair turned his attention to his partner. "Who's Peggy, Jim?"
"Simon's first love," Jim answered, casting a quick look at the captain. "But he never told her."
Blair nodded sagely. "Uh-huh. Now I see why you're nervous." He turned back to his partner. "What about you, Jim?"
Jim Ellison regarded the anthropologist in the rear view mirror. "What about me?"
"Did you have an unrequited love in high school?" At the detective's quizzical look, he pressed on. "You know, a major crush, man? Some pretty little thing who didn't even know you were alive."
"Oh yeah," Jim said, his voice taking on a dream-like quality as he slid into a memory. "Susie Jenkins, cheerleader...and girlfriend of the high school football champ. She was built like you wouldn't believe, and she could do this trick. She'd do the splits and ..."
"How about you, Sandburg?" Simon broke in, looking uncomfortable.
"Me?" Blair squeaked. "I was a geek, man. Who would have wanted to go out with me? Besides we never stayed around one place long enough for any girl to get to know the real me." He sighed, lost in thought for a moment then shook himself. "Anyway, back to Peggy." He turned his attention to Simon and nudged the older man, wiggling his eyebrows theatrically.
"Give it a rest, will you?" Simon grumped. "We were friends, okay? Geez! Very good friends." He smiled. "We were considered the college radicals. Led demonstrations, championed causes, even got suspended for it a couple of times. We were going to make the world a better place. Oh yeah, she was really something."
"She in there?" Blair asked, indicating the yearbook on Simon's lap.
The captain nodded and opened the book, holding it up for the two men to see. "Right there."
"Wow, Simon. She's a babe, man."
Simon closed the book and looked thoughtful. "Yeah, well, people change. I mean, look at me, campus radical to cop. I probably won't even recognize her."
The subject of the three men's conversation climbed into her car and drove
out of the gates of the Canyon Lake Paper Corporation. Her attention firmly fixed on the
road ahead, she stole occasional glances at the memo in her hand.
Peggy looked in the rear view mirror and breathed a sigh of relief as the car that she feared had been following her turned off onto a side road. She steered carefully around the dump truck lumbering along the road, not noticing the same car do a U-turn and begin to trail her again as she fumbled for the cell phone in her handbag. She muttered in frustration as she saw that reception in the area was poor. She drove a few miles further on until she got onto the bridge before trying again.
Pulling up on the side of the bridge, Peggy got out of the car, taking her cell phone with her. "Hello? Hello? Hi. Um...Kerry Lance, please. Well...when will she be back?" Her brow furrowed at the reply, and she gazed around absently as the woman at the other end of the phone checked on Kerry Lance's whereabouts. At first, she thought she was imagining it, as she saw the car bearing rapidly down on her.
"Oh my God!" Peggy dropped the phone from a suddenly nerveless hand as the vehicle hurtled toward her. Looking around frantically, she threw herself over the hood of her car, screaming in terror as her car door was torn from its hinges with a screeching of metal.
Peggy staggered to her feet and backed away from her car, her eyes wide with fear, fighting to catch her breath. In the periphery of her vision, she saw the other car turn around and start back toward her. Panting rapidly, her heart pounding in her chest, she screamed again as the truck she'd passed before rolled into view directly in front of her. Shutting her eyes tightly, Peggy dove beneath the chassis, wrapping her trembling hands over her head as the truck rumbled directly overhead. She shuddered at the loud explosion of sound that followed as the other car smashed into the truck in a headlong collision.
Staggering to her feet, Peggy stumbled back up the road, tears streaking her grimy cheeks. She headed toward town, her breath coming in strangled sobs of fear.
Simon Banks looked over at Jim as the detective pulled into a parking lot
in front of the hotel. "You know, guys," he said slowly. "I haven't been
kayaking in a long time. I mean, we could still..."
Jim shook his head and tried to banish the smile from his face. "I'm sorry, sir, but we only have two kayaks."
"We could trade off, you know?" He groaned. "All right, how about this? How about you guys come in for a drink with me?" At the doubtful expressions on his companions' faces, he sweetened the deal. "One drink. I'm buying."
Blair grinned and patted his partner on the shoulder. "You know what, Jim? I believe that our otherwise fearless captain...I think he's afraid to go in there alone, man." Jim laughed, then shrugged and opened his door.
Simon looked around the lobby of the hotel and smiled at his friends. "You know, I got my first job at this place as a bellhop when I was 16." He shook his head. "It was the worst summer of my life." Another frown creased his forehead. "You know, guys, the reunion's not until tomorrow night, I think we could..."
Jim held up a hand. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, we only have two tents, otherwise we'd love to have you."
"I could sleep out under the stars."
"Well, maybe you could do that on your balcony," Jim suggested, but Simon's attention had turned elsewhere.
"I'll be damned," he muttered. He walked quickly toward the booking desk where a small black man was trying to placate a young couple. "Still like to overbook them, huh, Billy?"
Billy looked up and smiled. "Simon Banks. Always figured you'd turn out bad. Well, I guess I was right." He laughed heartily and shook the captain's hand.
"You still managing this place?" Simon asked.
"What do you suppose?" Billy groused. "That I'm going to retire? They'll have to drag me out of here with both feet in the air, just like a racehorse."
Simon waved a hand at his companions. "Billy, I'd like you to meet my friends." He grimaced a little at Sandburg's wide grin at the comment. "This is Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg."
Both men shook hands with the manager and exchanged pleasantries. "Are you checking in?"
Jim shook his head. "Actually, no, we're going kayaking."
"And I'm still deciding," Simon mumbled.
"That's not like you, Simon. You were the most decisive man I ever met."
All four men turned at the comment and saw a tall, well-built sheriff standing behind them.
Simon smiled widely and extended his hand. "Dave Becker. Hey, how are you doing?"
"I can't complain much."
"I've got some business to take care of, Simon. I'll see you later." Billy waved good-bye to Simon and hurried back to the desk.
Simon nodded, then turned back to Becker, sizing his old acquaintance up. "Yeah, I heard you were the law around here."
Becker shrugged. "When Jenkins retired, he passed the baton to me. So, I heard you made captain. Way to go."
"Well, that was four years ago, but thanks."
Dave Becker indicated Jim and Blair. "Part of your troops?"
"Oh sorry, Dave. This is Detective Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg."
Becker studied Blair for a moment. "You guys must do a lot of undercover work, huh?"
"Blair's actually a special consultant to the department," Jim said. Becker nodded but kept his eyes on Blair.
"Oh, well, here in Rossburg, we got two kinds of cops - deputies and me. It's a much simpler way of doing business." He finally looked back at Simon. "Of course, we don't have all the murders, robberies, carjackings and gangs like you guys do."
Simon grinned easily. "I guess that's why people move to small towns."
Becker nodded, then acknowledged the deputy waving at him from the other side of the room. "Yeah. We're pretty good at handling what we do have. Well, listen, I've got to go. It was good to see you guys."
"Nice meeting you," Jim responded.
Blair eyed the sheriff with undisguised unease. "What's his story?"
"We were in high school together," Simon replied. "He was captain of the football team, I was captain of the debating team. We were both very popular, but coming from very different directions. Had kind of a friendly rivalry going on. Guess you could say we still do." His eyes tracked to a dark-haired woman entering the hotel and he walked slowly toward her.
"That must be her," Blair whispered. "Peggy."
"The one that got away," Jim and Blair said in unison, then grinned goofily at each other.
Simon turned back to them. "Say, Jim, about that drink? You think we could save it until you guys pick me up on Sunday?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Maybe we should stick around in case you decide to leave or you need some..."
"Backup," Blair put in helpfully when Jim faltered.
"Backup," Jim agreed.
"Get out of here," Simon hissed.
Jim rubbed his hands and looked at his partner. "Very good. If we hurry, we might be able to catch some supper."
"Sounds like a plan."
Jim nodded his head. "Beautiful." Blair wasn't entirely sure he was talking about dinner.
Simon hurried after Peggy and saw her talking to the barman. "Her
name is Kerry Lance, and I'll be right over there. Thanks." She walked quickly over
to a corner booth, and Simon called to her.
Startled, the woman spun on her heel and stared at him for a moment. "Simon? What are you doing here?" She wrapped her arms about him and hugged him tightly. "I forgot. It's the reunion...this weekend."
"Well, isn't that why you're here?"
"Me? No. I live here, remember? I hardly want to be hanging out with people I see every day," Peggy answered. Her words were directed at Simon, but her attention was fixed on a spot over his shoulder. "It's great to see you," she continued. "I hope you have fun at the reunion." Still looking past him, she sat down at the table.
Simon frowned at the obviously distressed look on his old friend's face. "Peggy, is something wrong?"
"I mean, I was hoping we'd have a chance to talk. You know, catch up?" Simon indicated a chair at the table, and Peggy nodded.
"I'm meeting someone." Peggy's face was pale and she again looked past the captain.
Spooked, Simon looked as well and saw Sheriff Dave Becker at the entrance to the bar. "You and Dave Becker still friendly?" he asked.
Peggy shrugged and toyed with a napkin. "He stopped me for speeding a few months ago. I haven't seen him for years. He let me off with a warning. He said it was on account of old times."
"Yeah, that'd be Dave," Simon chuckled. He didn't miss Peggy's soft gasp. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that another man in a suit had joined Becker, though a large plant just inside the entrance to the bar mostly hid his face. "Who's that?"
"Art Sturges. He owns Canyon Lake Paper. I work there."
Simon turned his attention back to Peggy. He could see now that she was frightened of something. "Peg, is something wrong?" he asked again.
"I'm sorry Simon, I have to go." Peggy gathered her handbag to her and rose.
"Peggy, look, if there's a problem, please, let me help you." Simon stood as well and reached out for Peggy's hand, hoping to stay her departure. She was shaking, and her skin was as cold as ice.
"Can we go someplace else?" she asked.
Simon nodded and led her out to the desk. He checked in and collected his key, then hurried over to where Peggy waited for him at the elevators. "This is us," he said, ushering her in as the door opened. He didn't see the deputy who stood on the other side of the lobby and watched them carefully.
Simon unlocked the door to his room and deposited his bag on the floor,
then turned back to Peggy who still stood in the hall. "Come on."
She hesitated a moment. "Look, maybe this isn't such a good idea. I-I-I should go."
Simon reached out and grasped the woman's trembling hand, pulling her gently into the room. "Peggy, come on. Relax. Look, is this because I'm a cop?" At the negative shake of her head, Simon went on. "I mean, are you doing something illegal?"
Peggy looked horrified. "No!" Then her face fell. "Yes. I don't know." A sob caught in her throat. "I'm doing something important, okay?"
"Well, if..." Before he could continue, the phone rang and he looked over at it in exasperation. "Excuse me a second." He walked over to the phone and answered it. "Hello?"
"Mr. Banks, please."
"This is Mr. Banks."
"We have a fax for you."
"Can't you have somebody send it up?"
"Not right now, sir."
"I can't do it right now."
"Let me talk to Billy Cates."
"He's gone home for the day. I'm sorry about the inconvenience. It's marked urgent, sir."
"All right. No, I understand. I'll be right down."
"Thank you, sir."
Simon hung up the phone and turned back to Peggy. "Sorry. That was the front desk. A fax just came in for me. They say it's urgent. They can't spare anybody right now to send it up. I've got to run down and get it. Shouldn't be more than a minute." He looked at Peggy, willing her to stay.
Simon walked toward her and rested his hands on her shoulders. "I expect you to be here when I get back."
"I will be."
"Good." Satisfied, Simon headed back to the elevator. Downstairs, he walked to the reception desk, surprised to see his old friend standing there. "Billy? You still here?"
Billy turned to him and smiled. "Oh, Simon," he admonished. "Leaving that pretty lady up there all alone."
"You still think that you know everything that goes on in this hotel, don't you?"
Billy tapped his skull. "Eyes in the back of my head," he agreed.
Simon laughed. "Hey, look. Somebody called upstairs, said there was a fax down here for me." His brow furrowed. "They also said that you'd gone home for the day."
"Well, you're talking to me, so I guess I must still be here," Billy said reasonably. "And there's nothing come in for you."
"Peggy..." Simon felt his heart jump. He turned without a further word and hurried back toward the elevators. He ran from the elevator to his room and opened the door. He didn't need to call out her name. It was obvious she wasn't inside. A shiver of apprehension snaked down his spine, and he reached for the weapon secured in his ankle holster as he spied the partially opened bathroom door. Suddenly, something hard slammed into the back of his head. He felt his knees buckle beneath him, and then the darkness claimed him.
He woke to a persistent thumping that reverberated in his head and he
shifted on the floor and moaned. Levering himself up onto his hands and knees, he looked
blearily around the hotel room. It had been turned over thoroughly. Seat cushions were
scattered over the floor, and cupboards and drawers had been upended onto the bed. His
suitcases had been ransacked as well and lay open, his belongings strewn about the room.
The rapping sounded again and Simon realized that someone was hammering at the door. "Yeah, just a minute." Carefully, he pulled himself up to his feet, leaning over and breathing deeply for a moment when dizziness threatened to toss him back to the floor. Finally, feeling somewhat steadier, he walked over to the door and opened it. Sheriff Dave Becker and two deputies stood out in the hallway.
"Simon, we had a report of shots fired," Becker said.
"Gunshots? Well, as you can see someone broke into my room." He ushered the men in and watched as the two deputies began to look around. His head throbbed badly, and he reached up to massage it, feeling the large lump on the back of his head that oozed blood.
"Sir?" Deputy Matheson stood at the open bathroom door and beckoned to the sheriff. Simon watched as Becker took a look into the bathroom and recoiled.
"Sweet Lord! Simon?" Becker turned to stare at the police captain. "Is this yours?" He held up a gun.
"I don't know," Simon answered, still rubbing his head. "I'd have to check the serial number. It looks like it, though."
Becker took a step toward Simon, his face twisted in anger. "You son of a bitch." Before Simon could react to the epithet, Becker grabbed the captain by the arm and hauled him over to the bathroom.
Simon attempted to pull away, but his arm was held fast. "Dave! What..." He directed his gaze into the bathroom and gasped in shock, feeling tears immediately sting the backs of his eyes. Peggy lay dead in the bathtub, a large red bloodstain marring the front of her suit.