Petak stared at Blair, then in an uncharacteristic gesture, put his arms around him. Blair returned the hug.

“I’ll miss you, Petak,” he said in the language of the Umaua.

“My heart will have an empty space that only you may fit. You came to study, but we both learned, Omaki. You are Umaua. You are shaman.”


Blair, or as the Umaua called him, Omaki, shook his head. “No, Petak.

Not shaman. But honored to be Umaua. And friend.”

Petak smiled, then reached up and removed one delicate necklace from around his neck. Holding it reverantly, he said, “Shaman yes. The way of the spirit is within you, Omaki. And I see that it will work well and aid you in the future. Trust yourself. Trust the spirit that resides within.” He held out the necklace made from small, raw gemstones and hand-painted beads. In the center was a small, tan engraved stone. Petak placed the necklace over Blair’s head.

“You are shaman. This will remind you that the way has been shown to you and now you must follow. And in the following, evil will be shown to you.” Then he took Blair into his arms once again.

The morning had been filled with such hugs for Blair and the others, but moments before they were due to head out, Petak had come to Blair, Ortuna by his side. Blair felt his face heat up with color at Petak’s words, gestures and his gift. How had he known? Blair had never once told Petak or any member of the tribe about Incacha or the *passing the way of the shaman*. In fact, no one other than Jim knew. Not that there was anything to really know.

Too soon it was time for the Eli Stoddard expedition to leave. As the eight members headed into the jungle, rain their constant companion, Blair looked back. Petak remained standing on the edge of the village, one hand raised in farewell.



University of Brasilia


Blair sat in the small office that had been graciously loaned out to him upon their return from the Amazon. In less than twenty-four hours, the entire team would be heading back to the USA. But at the moment, Blair was taking the advice of his mentor and surfing the net.




“Well, it’s all done. The videos, the reports, everything. And tomorrow, back to the States. You looking forward to home, Blair?”

“Sure, Eli. Home. A great place.”

Stoddard took the only other chair in the tiny office and leaned an elbow on Blair’s desk. “I’m hoping you’ll come to New York with me.  Present with me.”

Blair stared open-mouthed at his teacher. “Eli—“ “Blair, you shouldn’t be surprised.”

“I guess not. But I—well, I—did as you suggested. I started to do some research, a little surfing, you know? And well, there are two positions open, um, two civilian positions, one in Los Angeles, the other in—San Francisco.”

Eli’s hazel eyes widened. “Ah. And you’re thinking of applying?”

Blair nodded, a bit uncertainly. “I need to find my place, Eli, and I think we’ve both learned that expeditions aren’t really me anymore. I don’t know if applying is the right answer, but I have to try.”

“I think—you should.” Eli picked up a pen and as he started to fiddle

with it, he said, “You no longer simply observe, Blair. Maybe it’s a

result of your years with the Cascade Police Department, I don’t know—“

“I wasn’t much help to you with the Umaua, was I?”

Eli sat forward. “Blair, your presence there was invaluable. Surely you understand that we’d never have gained their trust in time to do any good if not for you. Your ability to become one with the subject, to get involved, while not looked upon favorably by our fellow scientists, was absolutely vital with the Umaua. Thanks to you, we learned a great deal not only about them, but about ourselves as well. Don’t start short-changing yourself.”

“Thank you, Eli. But—“

Stoddard held up a hand. “No buts. Now, suppose I go into my borrowed

office and do up a reference letter for you? Then when you’ve decided

which city to send your application and resume—you’ll have the required

reference. And I do believe that I can get Doctor Montoya and perhaps

even Doctor Sterling in Boston to add theirs.”

“I don’t know what to say—“

“Say nothing. Have you decided which city? Or perhaps both?”

“I’ve—only one.”

“I see. Well then, I’d best get that letter written.”




Blair studied the information page for the San Francisco Police Department. Another city by a bay and as close as he could get to Cascade.

He clicked on the icon for sending an on-line application and as soon as it came up, he started typing. When he came to the section labeled references, he attached the three letters of reference that, thanks to Eli, had been emailed to him. He typed in, *Further references on request*, then attached his resume and with finger poised over enter, he took in a deep breath, released it, and punched the key.

As he logged off and shut down, his future traveled the cyber highways.  Tomorrow his flights would ultimately take him to Reno, Nevada and Naomi while Eli flew on to New York, and the rest of the team flew to their respective homes and or institutes of higher learning.

Blair stood and packed his laptop away. Tonight, everyone was gathering at a pub called El Gato to celebrate. He thought it a fitting end to one possible life for Blair Sandburg. Oops, Doctor Blair Sandburg.



San Francisco, California, SFPD

“I think we’ve got our man, Captain.”

Captain Harold Lyons looked up at Lieutenant Pillings, who was holding out a file. He took it and began to read through the paperwork.  “Impressive.”

“And he worked for three years with the Cascade Police Department, Major Crime.

Three years experience, Harold.”

“I see. His references aren’t half bad either.”

“No, sir. Can’t do much better than Eli Stoddard. Should I contact the Captain Banks mentioned in the resume?”

“No, don’t bother. I know Commissioner Willard, I’ll call him. We need to tie this up and hire someone, ASAP.”




Commissioner John Willard signed off on the report and handed it over to his assistant. As he did, Joan, his secretary, poked her head in the door. “Sir? There’s a Captain Harold Lyons on the line for you.”

“Harold? Great, put him through.” With a wave at his assistant, he picked up the phone.

“Harold? I can’t believe it. How long has it been?”

//Too long, John. Too long. How’s Katie?//

“She’s great. And Lola?”

//Never better. Gets more beautiful with each passing day.//

“But you didn’t call so that we could wax poetic over our wives, right?”

//You nailed it, buddy. I have an application in my hand, for a special

civilian position and according to his resume, he worked for your police

department. Major Crime, to be exact.//

“Oh? His name?”

//Doctor Blair Sandburg.//

The doctor part gave Willard pause. But of course, it made sense. Banks had told him that Sandburg had finally earned his doctorate.

“Yes, Blair Sandburg was an observer while working on his doctorate.

Rode with Detective Jim Ellison for three years.”


“And, he was—quite different. But I have to admit, he was, according to Captain Simon Banks, quite helpful. Several cases were wrapped up thanks to his assistance.”

//So you’d recommend him?//

John sat back and smiled. How many arguments had he and Simon had in this very office about Sandburg? But the evidence had always been overwhelmingly in favor of the young man.

“I’d recommend him highly. I can’t deny that having an anthropologist on my team raised our arrest and conviction rate by over thirty percent.  No, can’t deny that. He was—quirky—to say the least, but I never regretted allowing his observer’s pass.”

That was a slight lie, but then Simon had shown him the error of his way. And damn, now the SFPD had him. Fuck.

//Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear, John. Thanks.//

They spoke for a few more minutes, promised to get together, then hung up. As Commissioner Willard put down the phone, he wondered again about possibly trying out the cultural or forensic anthropologist position with his department, like so many other cities—




Lyons put down the phone and looked up at Pillings. “Make the offer.”

Smiling, Pillings took his leave.



Jim sat on the couch watching the game. It wasn’t a bad game, pretty interesting really. On the opposite sofa, Simon was leaning forward, beer in hand, as he yelled at the set.

“That never works, Simon. They can’t hear you.”

Simon shot Jim a nasty look. “Thanks so much, Ellison. Your ability to state the obvious has always been your greatest strength.”

“Ooh, a little testy are we? Betting on the losers getting to you?”

Simon snorted and took another gulp of his beer. “Yelling at the screen always worked for Sandburg, why not me?”

Jim closed down faster than a small town on a Tuesday night. Simon shook his head. “Jim, we should be able to talk about him. He’s not dead, you know.”

Jim got to his feet and headed into the kitchen. He dumped his empty bottle, grabbed another, twisted off the cap and downed the brew in two gulps.

Simon rose and joined him. “Jim, come on. This is ridiculous.”

“I left him a message, weeks ago. He never called.”

“So?” Simon shrugged his shoulders, “He’s still in the jungles—“

Jim reached back and picked up a copy of National Geographic and handed it to Simon.

Puzzled, Simon took it. “Um, Jim?”

“Inside, where they tell you what’s coming up.”

Simon did as instructed and when he found what Jim wanted him to find, he sighed. Closing the magazine, he said, “Okay, so he’s back.”

“Weeks back.”

“Okay, so why wouldn’t he call you?”

Jim turned his head and dead blue eyes stared at Simon. “Because—it’s over. He got what he wanted and he’s finally doing what he always wanted to do. We’re old history, Simon.”

“You can’t believe that, Jim. We’re talking about Blair here. He lov—“

“You got a better explanation?”

Simon looked down at the magazine, then closed his eyes.




The woman held out a small cup and waved it under Blair’s nose. “I’m betting you know what to do with this, young man?”

Blair gave an exaggerated sigh. “Yeah, I think I have a working idea.

Care to accompany me? Make sure I do it right?”

Helen Shields grinned. “Why honey, I’d love to.” Blair backed away, laughing. As he headed to the men’s room, he wondered if this time, he’d be able to pee into the cup in peace. Five minutes later, he was returning his sample and thinking that at this rate, San Francisco might be too quiet for his tastes. Not one single person had tried to take over the station while he was in the bathroom. This city would be a piece of cake.



Three months later—San Francisco

Blair sat at his dining room table, laptop on and humming, papers spread out around him. It was Sunday, the window opposite was open and the salty air of the bay filled him and brought a smile to his lips. The day was sunny and bright and in San Francisco, most welcome.

Blair was twelve weeks on the job, had a new apartment that overlooked the bay, great people to work with—yep, he was satisfied. He worked hard and had already successfully closed two high profile cases and was working on his third. But San Francisco was most definitely not a piece of cake.

Seven square miles of hills and wonderful, odd people, detectives who were called inspectors (and he constantly expected Inspector Megan Conner to answer him whenever he said Inspector) wild and wooley car chases and truly strange criminals.

“Blair, honey? How about Chinese chicken salad for dinner?”

“Sounds great,” he said over his shoulder.



Smiling, he went back to work and as he perused the information that flickered on his computer screen, the smile faded. His current case had a habit of doing that—wiping smiles off the faces of all involved.  Even more so than Blair’s first two cases. This one involved children.

Someone was very clever. No long term kidnappings here. So far four children had simply been late in returning home from either school or play. But when they’d returned, they’d been in shock or crying or silent and withdrawn. Parents panicked, called doctors, called schools and finally—called the police.

To the tired, we’ve seen everything eyes of the SFPD, the problem seemed isolated and unrelated, until Captain Paul Innes decided to drop the four files on the desk of one Blair Sandburg. Two hours later, the investigation changed radically as Blair had taken his suspicions to his captain.

Now the city was on the alert and Blair was trying to profile their perp and stop him before his crimes escalated—and Blair didn’t think he had much time.

Hands landed on his shoulders and began to massage. He closed his eyes and leaned back.

“Honey, your muscles are bunched up like your sheets.”

“Yeah, well, I’m running out of time. I know this guy is gonna get

serious and—“

“I know, I know. But you’ll catch him, Blair.”

“You’re pretty confident.”

Naomi Sandburg leaned down and dropped a kiss on her son’s temple. “Yes, well, you’re good at this.”

Blair twisted in his chair and looked up into his mother’s face. “Man, you’ve come a long way, baby,” he teased with a smile.

She gave him a playful slap on his shoulder and said, “Come on, dinner is ready. Let’s eat out on the balcony.”

“You talked me into it, Mom.”

Leaving his work behind for a few minutes of peace, he rose and joined Naomi on the deck where she’d set up dinner.


Naomi watched her son from her vantage point of the living room. He was on the balcony, his body horribly still. A fifth child had been attacked and was in the hospital and as Blair had feared, the criminal had escalated his actions.

She sighed in pain for her son and was again grateful she’d decided to accompany him to San Francisco when his application had been accepted.

It seemed strange to be staying with him, in his home. Stranger still to have no inclination to leave, to travel, to visit others half way across the world.

The moment Blair had shown up on her doorstep in Reno, she’d known he was in great pain. She’d also understood that he had changed beyond her ability to grasp.

In the past, when they’d reuited upon his return from an expedition, she’d been faced with a ball of such energy that it would wear her out just to watch him. He’d talk non-stop about his adventures, his eyes glowing, face suffused with excitement. And she’d lived those trips through his words. But in Reno he’d told her quietly, and only after she’d prodded him gently. Then—he’d broken the news that he’d applied for a civilian position with the San Francisco Police Department.

Naomi’s shock had been complete.

Her son was choosing to be a cop. All right, a civilian working with the police, but still, it was now a choice that wasn’t tied to his doctorate. She’d ranted, raved, and railed against his decision and some of it had even been done in his presence. But in the end, it was Blair’s life, his decision.

She could still remember his expression when she’d asked if she could come with him, help him find a place to live. At first, he’d been stunned, but then, he’d grinned. And now, here they were. Mother and son. Already together longer than at any one time since he’d turned sixteen.




Blair stared out over the city. If he looked at the bay and the lights of San Francisco just right, he could fool himself into believing that he was on Jim’s balcony and that the city he was looking at was Cascade.

He closed his eyes, which turned out to be a bad thing, because he immediately saw little Bobby Peete. So small in the large hospital bed.

The sobbing boy had been found huddled in the corner of a sandbox at a park five miles from his home. He was six years old. The only good news was that their perp had managed to continue to avoid rape. The children had been touched, fondled and undressed, but never had there been penetration of any kind. But Bobby had been found bruised and covered with bite marks.

Blair knew that the next child would suffer even greater pain and degradation than Bobby. They had to find the guy and stop him.

Of course now Blair faced a new hurdle, namely the psychiatrist who’d been called in, disagreed with Blair’s assesment of their perp. Doctor Shaeffer was convinced that they were looking at a run of the mill pedophile. Blair was convinced that their suspect, while not hating children, was greatly bothered by them. Sex, control, these were not the reasons their perp acted on children. But for now, the SFPD was going with Shaeffer.

“Blair, honey? Come inside. It’s cold.”

He turned, smiled wanly at his mother, and walked inside. They both sat on the couch and as Naomi tucked her legs under her, she said, “I talked with Martha today. You remember her, don’t you, Blair?”

“Sure. Stayed with her, what, when I was in fifth grade?”

Naomi nodded. “It was a strange conversation. She’s settling down, Blair. Has a house not far from her grandchildren. And are you ready for this? She’s going to be a crossing guard!”

Blair stared at his mother. “A crossing guard, mom?”

“Yep. Can you imagine? Our Martha never held an ordinary job in her life, and now she’s going to be a crossing guard.”

Blair jumped to his feet, planted a kiss on his mother’s cheek, grabbed his jacket and said as he ran out, “I’ll be back, gotta go to the station. And tell Martha that I love her!”

Left alone, Naomi scratched her head. Was it something she’d said?




Blair tore into his office, flipped on the light and went immediately to his evidence board. In the middle of it sat the large map he’d posted when the case had been given to him. Red stars marked where each child had been found, including Bobby Peete.

For several minutes Blair stared at the map, then went to his desk, picked up a file, carried it back and as he rifled through the material, he began to add blue stars, each representing not where the children lived, that would come next, but rather, the schools the children attended.

The first child (Blair refused to call any of the children by the term victim) attended Alvarado, the second, Carver Elementary, the third Buena Vista, the fourth child, Alamo and Bobby Peete, Chin Elementary.

Blair, for the sake of creating the picture he suspected was hidden within the information, added a green star that represented where each child lived. But the pattern was incomplete. He needed one more piece of information. And for that, this late in the day, he’d need his computer.

He sat down at his desk, powered up and five minutes later he was printing out what he did need. Blair started adding yellow stars this time. When he was done, the pattern was complete. Unfortunately, his suspicions and his pattern would have to wait for tomorrow, another school day, before he could test his theories.




“But that’s just it, Captain. Our guy wouldn’t pick the children he crosses every day. He isn’t stupid. But it is those children who feed his anger.”

Blair was leaning on Captain Lyons desk, palms flat against the metal.

“Sir, I know what Shaeffer is saying, and at the moment, I don’t really

care why the guy is doing it, but damn it, I know he’s a crossing

guard. I know it. Let me go out with Russell, let us talk to a few—“

Lyons raised a hand and Blair stopped. “Go. Do it.”

Smiling, Blair straightened. “Thank you, Captain.”

Lyons shook his helplessly. Like he could ever refuse that look? Geesh.




“So where do we start, Blair?”

Blair had his notes, a computer-printed version of the map in his office on his lap, and was gazing at it as Inspector Bill Russell put on his seat belt. Russell was the detective that, more often than not, Blair was paired with when he went into the field. Russell was a tall, tough, twenty year veteran of the SFPD and as different from Blair Sandburg as it was possible to get. Around the station, they were called Mutt and Jeff.

“Hang on a minute. I’m working here.”

“And you couldn’t have done that in your office? You know I hate this underground garage.”

Without looking up, Blair chuckled and said, “For a man who fears earthquakes, don’t you think it odd that you live in San Francisco?”

“About as odd as you, a man who hates fog, cold and rain, choosing to live here.”


“So what are you looking at, anyway?”

“The areas where each child came from versus where they were found—“ Blair’s voice trailed off as he picked up another piece of paper. He fingered the necklace given him by Petak, then said, “Head over to the school district office. We need to check on a few things. And put the peddle to the metal, man. We only have an hour before the two-thirty bell rings.”

Russell was used to the weird and whacky Sandburg, but he trusted him and his instincts. He put the peddle to the metal.



Superintendant Rawlings had been more than helpful and a copy of the list of crossing guards for the area indicated by Blair, now resided in Blair’s hands. He and Russell were back in the car as Blair checked off names.


“Give me a moment. I’m crossing off the women and any man too old.”

“Too old? How do you figure age—“

“Remember Danny Watkins? Said he gave the masked bandit a run for his money?”

“Ah. So age.”

“Yep. Even the most agile grandparent can have trouble keeping up with an eight year old.”

By the time Blair had finished crossing off names, he was left with five people. He immediately dotted their corners on his map. Russell, looking at Blair’s work, said, “So we go to all five corners?”

“Nope.” Blair pointed at one red dot. “Just this one.”

Scratching his head, Russell said, “Huh?”

Blair held up the map. “Just look. Carefully.”

Bill looked. And spotted the pattern. “Holy shit.”

“So? Whatcha waiting for? Christmas?”

“I’m on it, Blair. I’m on it.”




Bill Russell checked his watch. Two-twenty. “Shouldn’t he be here by now?”

“Any minute.”

Russell nodded. He picked up his newspaper, rattled it a bit, then started to read.

“Oh, Bi-ll?” Blair sing-songed a few minutes later.

Peeking over the top of his paper, he growled, “Let me guess, he just pulled up.”



They watched their suspect from their vantage point of one block down, and as both men spied through binoculars, Blair wished, not for the first time, that he was sitting next to Jim. And not just because of Jim’s senses.

From their stake-out, the school bell could be heard and within minutes, they were surrounded by children. They watched.

One hour later, their suspect, Louden Griffen, aged forty-five, retired due to a disability, walked to his car, opened the trunk, put his stop sign and folded chair inside, then closed it. He stood a moment, rubbing at his temples.

Russell, binocs still to his eyes, said, “I can sympathize. Those kids were something.”

“So were the neighbors. You’d think they’d be used to school getting out, to crossing guards, and the traffic. I mean, the school was here first, you know?”

“Hey, he’s leaving. Should we follow?”

“Do I need to answer that, Bill?”

“Right. We follow.”

Ten minutes later, Russell said, “Um, Blair? What the hell is he doing?”

“If I’m not mistaken—he’s choosing his next child.”

“Well, God damn.”

They were in the area of Garfield Elementary School which had a later bell time than where they’d just come from, namely Fremont Elementary.  Children were still heading home, running helter skelter, papers flying as they taunted, teased, played and yelled.

As Blair watched, dividing his time between Griffen and the children, he noticed one little girl sitting on the curb, an open book on her lap. As the minutes ticked by, the neighborhood began to empty as the children moved further away from school and closer to their homes.

Blair felt a tingling on the back of his neck. He turned his attention back to their suspect and wasn’t the least bit surprised to find the man’s gaze fixed firmly on the girl.



“He’s chosen. He’s gonna move in a minute.”

“What? How do you—“ Russell didn’t finish. The trunk of Louden’s car popped open and the man got out of his car, walked back, pulled something out and stuck it in the pocket of the orange vest he slipped back on.

Russell breathed out loudly. “That’s how he gets to them—“


“We need to move, Blair. Call it in.”

Ooh, now there was something new. Shaking his head, hand already reaching, Blair called it in.

They had to be careful, couldn’t risk the child, yet if they moved too soon—

Russell started to get out of the car, but a hand stayed his action.

“No, let me go. He won’t even notice me. Trust me on this.”

Russell looked up the street, then back to Blair. He nodded slowly.

Blair climbed out, pulled the tie from his hair, quickly ran his fingers through the mess, took off his jacket and threw it back into the car, then untucked his blue shirt and undid the top buttons. He rolled up his sleeves, grabbed the small transmitter that Russell was holding out, stuck the tiny earpiece into his ear, and with a look at Russell, took off at a slow pace.




Louden Griffen approached the girl. Her head was bent over the book she was reading and he quickly scanned the area around him.  Nothing. No cars, no kids, nothing but what looked some long-haired weirdo two blocks away. As he closed in on her, she looked up, saw his vest, and went back to her book. He smiled. Wasn’t it always this way?  What child runs from a crossing guard?

He slipped the syringe from his pocket, bent over and quickly stuck the needle into the side of her neck. She gave a little moan, clapped her hand over the spot, then slowly slid back.

Griffen caught her easily.




Blair saw the man check the street and ignore him. Then he watched as the man slipped something out of his pocket, no doubt the same something he’d just put in it, and Blair could just make out what it was. He nearly froze in place.

A syringe? But none of the children had been drugged—

Which meant that this time—Griffen was at the apex of his crimes and would, if he had the chance—Blair shook his head. No, Griffen wouldn’t have the chance. Blair picked up his pace and hissed into the receiver, “Move now, Bill.”

Griffen approached his car, girl in his arms. As Blair came abreast, the man smiled at him. “My daughter. Sound asleep, as usual.”

Blair smiled in return and praying that Russell was right behind him,

said, “San Franciso Police Department, Mr. Griffen, and you’re under


Griffen’s eyes widened. Behind them, Russell hit the siren and Griffen threw the little girl at Sandburg and ran.

Blair caught her heavily and went to the ground on one knee. Bill was already out of the car and with gun drawn, was running after Griffen as the man took off down the street.

As Blair cradled the unconscious child, he could hear Bill’s booming voice yelling out the usual, Freeze you sucker!, his favorite. Griffen froze.




Captain Lyons stood in front of the two-way mirror and watched the interrogation of Louden Griffen.

“We have more than enough evidence, Mr. Griffen. Make it easy on yourself and confess,” Russell prodded.

The man said nothing.

Blair, who’d been standing against the wall, now pushed himself away and

said quietly, “You don’t hate them, do you? But they’re so


Griffen glanced up and something flickered in his eyes. Blair went on.

“Loud, and full of life. They run when they should walk, don’t they?  Yell when they could talk quietly. And they run across the crosswalk too, don’t they?”

Slowly, Griffen nodded.

“And it was the only job you could get. But the children, so loud. The

job would be perfect without them, wouldn’t it? You could sit in your

chair, in the shade—“

Again, Griffen nodded. Then he said, “I tried to warn them, but they kept it up.”

“Of course. Susie Mullens was your first warning, wasn’t she?”

“Yes. I didn’t really—hurt—her.”

“But nothing got better, did it?”

Blair’s voice was gentle, undersanding and Griffen nodded. “So you tried to embarrass them, right?”

“Yes. But they don’t learn. They just don’t learn.”

“So you hurt Bobby—“

“I had to. I had to.”

“Of course you did,” Blair said, his voice weary.




Another case closed and the Romano family was down and out. Jim got up and took his report from the printer and slipped it into Simon’s box.  How long had they been working on Romano? Four years? Yeah. Four years.

He sat down and stared at the picture on his desk.

The picture of he and Blair at some retirement party. They were seated next to each other at the table and Jim’s arm was around the younger man so that he could put up the two fingers behind Sandburg’s head. They were both laughing.

Blair would have loved to know that they’d finally brought Romano down.

Or maybe not.

Slowly he got up, put on his jacket, said good-bye to Rafe, the only other detective in the squad room, then he headed home.



Two months later—


Blair stood in the pouring down rain as Bill Russell gave him the news.

The apartment was empty.

“So damn close, Blair.”

Turning away, Blair muttered, “Close only counts in horseshoes.”

Russell grabbed an arm. “Blair, this isn’t your fault. We’d have nothing if not for you. And now, we have a description, a name, the works.”

“Bill, he’s already moved on. And how many other people will die before some other police force realizes that they have a seriel killer, uh?”

Russell couldn’t answer. Blair was right. One woman and one man had died in San Francisco before they’d realized that the killer dubbed the The Invisible Man in Los Angeles was now on their turf.

“Blair, at least when he does strike again, well, the next police force will have a heads up.”

“Great. Just great.”


Three weeks later - Cascade, Washington


Jim stood in the rain staring down at the body of a woman. The second body in one week.


He turned to see Simon, dark worried eyes visible to a sentinel in spite of the rain and Simon’s glasses. “Same MO, Simon. She’s number two.”





Jim sank down into his chair, hating himself. He was a God damned sentinel and they had nothing. Nothing at either scene. Nothing. He rubbed the back of his neck, eyes straying, as always, to the picture on his desk.




The rain came down and Blair found himself staring at the picture of he and Jim that sat on his desk (a larger version sat next to his bed at home). It had been taken at Riley’s retirement party and he and Jim had been feeling no pain when the picture had been snapped by Joel. Jim had dropped his arm across Blair’s shoulders but the younger man, even three sheets to the wind, suspected foul play. And the expression on Joel’s face only served to confirm that thought. Jim had been making devil ears. The jerk.

Slowly Blair reached out and lightly traced his finger around Jim. Funny how now, all these months later, he could easily admit his love for the man. He was in love with Jim Ellison. Had been for quite some time. But Jim had never returned his call. The call he’d made less than an hour after his plane had landed in Brasilia.

Someone had answered Jim’s extension, which meant that the voicemail system was down again. Blair had identified himself and left his number at the university, even though Jim already had it. He’d told the woman to please let Jim know that he was once again in communication with the rest of the world. But Jim had never called. Which had seemed so final to Blair. Out of sight, out of mind.

As the days went on and still no call, the idea of phoning Jim again nearly made Blair ill. Hearing Jim’s voice, listening to what he knew would be inconsequential words, and hearing the need in Jim to hang up—and hadn’t Blair heard that need before? So many times? In his mother’s voice, in Caleb’s voice—

Caleb. One of Naomi’s boyfriends and one of the men Blair had almost called father. When they’d moved on, Caleb had encouraged Blair to call him anytime. And Blair had. But it hadn’t taken long for the ten year old to hear that need in Caleb’s voice. The need to hang up, to go back to his life.

“Okay, Blair, you’d better hang up now.”

The ten year old had nodded unhappily and said a quiet, “bye-bye, uncle caleb,” and had slowly hung up, knowing that he would never call again.  That Caleb didn’t want him to call again.

Blair gazed at the picture of he and Jim. “bye-bye, jim,” he said softly. Then he stuffed all the usual feelings down and went back to his computer.




“Jim, sit down.”

“God, I hate it when you say it like that.”

“Well, good. I’d hate to disappoint you.”

Jim sat and waited.

“We’re calling for help on this one.”

Jim leaned forward. “Simon?”

“Look, this guy has hit in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Now he’s here. The commissioner feels that we need help.”

Jim rose and walked to the window. “Simon, what can I say? Maybe he’s right.”

Shocked, Simon said, “Okay, that’s not your normal response. What’s up?”

“Nothing. But let’s face it, we’ve got zip. The description we got from San Francisco hasn’t helped. We can’t find the guy. My senses aren’t helping, nothing is. So—maybe we do need an expert on this thing.”

Simon got up and walked around his desk. “Jim, this isn’t you.”

Turning, Jim smiled. “Wait, now you’re complaining because I’m not fighting you?”

“Well, yeah. I was all ready to argue back. Had my words in order, the whole bit. You blew it, my friend. Not a nice thing to do to your captain.”

“Sorry, Simon. So who you gonna call? The Feds?”

Simon shook his head. “I’m not doing the calling, the commissioner is.

If all goes well, this guy will be here by Friday.”




“Do you have a problem with being loaned out to the Cascade PD?”

Blair swallowed hard. “No, sir, not at all. You just surprised me.”

“Well, your killer has moved into their territory and this police department, thanks to you, got farther with the case then Los Angeles or Sacramento. Is it really a surprise that they’d want you?”

Want you. Those words struck home.

“You’re booked for a flight to Cascade leaving tomorrow morning at seven forty-five. You’ll report to your old boss, Captain Simon Banks upon your arrival. I understand that the commissioner is arranging for someone to pick you up at the airport. Any questions?”

Major Crime wanted him. They’d asked for him.

“No, sir. None.”

As Blair started out the door, Lyons said, “And Blair? They can’t keep you, so don’t even think about it.”

Like hell they can’t, Blair thought with a grin.




Shit, he felt like a ten year old. He was walking on air. The Cascade PD had asked for him.

“Honey, you ready?”

“Yeah, mom. And thanks for taking me, by the way—and not asking if you could go.”

“As if I’d do that?”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Don’t know who I was talking about.”

“You goose.”

They walked downstairs, then into the garage and finally, climbed into Blair’s most recent find, a 1966 Volkswagon Beetle. As they headed for the airport, Blair couldn’t believe the difference in the relationship between he and his mother. Hell, she’d knocked him for a loop when she’d asked to come with him to San Francisco, and then staying? Who was the woman?



“Why are you here?”

Naomi grinned. “Well, because without me, you’d have to pay a fortune to either park your car at the off-site airport parking lot, or pay a slightly smaller fortune for the airport shuttle?”

“Um, Mom? Why are you here? Not here.”

Naomi looked over at her son, watched his profile for a moment, then said, “Didn’t we already have this discussion? Back in Reno?”

“Yes, but you’re still here. I’m settled, Mom, so why are you still here.”

“Should I feel insulted by that question? Has my welcome already worn thin?”

“Mom? Why?”

Naomi sighed. Her son could certainly be difficult at times. “Because I figured you needed me.”

“I see.”

Traffic had quadrupled as they’d crawled closer to the airport and for a few minutes, Blair was pretty busy trying to avoid people who were running late to their airline of choice. When they finally started moving again, Blair said quietly, “I’m almost thirty, Mom.”

“Believe it or not, I’m aware of that fact. I was present when you were born.”

“I guess what I’m saying is, that I needed you when I was six, seven,

eight, nine, ten—“

“Ah. Now I see.” Naomi felt choked up, but she cleared her throat and said, “Honey, we’re less than five minutes from dropping you off and I’m thinking now may not be the best time for this discussion, so let me leave you with this thought: I was a child when you were born, Blair.  And not very smart as a mother. And—I’d give anything to have those years back.”

Blair glanced quickly over at his mother. He couldn’t miss the truth of her words swimming in her eyes. He reached out a hand and gave hers a gentle squeeze. “Okay.”

As he pulled alongside the white curb and turned the engine off, he said, “I’m glad you’re here now.” Then as he climbed out, he threw over his shoulder, “Because airport parking costs are a bitch.”





Blair looked out the window and could see his city below, sparkling like a jewel in the morning sun. He sighed in contentment. He was coming home. Maybe for good.




Disembarking, Blair stepped out into the airport but before he could walk more than a few steps, he noticed a tall, good-looking man holding a white placard—with his name on it. He stepped up to the gentleman and said, “I’m Doctor Sandburg.”

“Ah, Doctor. It’s an honor to meet you. I’m Raul Marquez, assistant to the Commissioner. I’m your ride.”

“Oh? Well, thank you, Mr. Marquez.” Blair managed to hide his disappointment that no one—okay, that Jim hadn’t met him, but his mind immediately supplied the reason. They were all in the middle of huge case and knowing Jim, he was on the streets right now.  Marquez took the Samsonite Aspire garment bag from Blair’s shoulder, asking, “Did you check any luggage, or is this it?”

“That’s it.”

“Well, then, if you’ll just follow me, Doctor? I’m parked right outside.”

“Lead the way.”

When they got onto the sidewalk, a large black Lincoln Continental sat in the red zone. Unharmed and unticketed. Of course, the city tag flying proudly from the rear-view mirror might have had something to do with that. Blair gave the car and the tag a mental whistle. He was really traveling in style.

As Marquez put his bag in the trunk, Blair got in on the passenger side, grateful that his first day in Cascade was without rain or fog.

“We’ll go straight to the station, Doctor. I’m not sure when the briefing is scheduled, but I’m sure you’ll want to get together with everyone anyway. I’ll check with Captain Banks regarding your schedule and you’ll have this car and a driver at your disposal for the rest of your stay. We’ve got you booked into the Strand.”

Blair did whistle this time. “The Strand?”

Marquez nodded, proudly. Blair just shook his head in wonder.




Headquarters looked exactly the same. Blair smiled at himself. As if it would look any other way? Marquez had parked right in front, in the red, and since the car would be Blair’s for the duration, it was decided to leave his luggage in the trunk. As they walked inside the double doors, Blair took a deep breath, then exhaled.

God, the place even smelled the same. He looked about him and didn’t really see any familiar faces, but then, this was the lobby. As they approached the metal detectors, Marquez paused. “I almost forgot.” He took something out of his pocket and handed it to Blair. “Your official ID. Sorry about the picture, but we used the one already on file to make it easier for you.”

Blair took the chain and stared at the pass. Same picture, same Cascade PD logo, yes, but everything else was different. This time, in front of his name, it said Doctor. And the title under his name, was *Official Consultant*.

Official. Whoowee. He was inordinately pleased and grinned broadly.  Which was weird because of course, he had one very similar from the SFPD. But—this was the Cascade PD. His Cascade PD.

They walked through the metal detectors, then over to the elevators. The doors slid open and officers and civilians spilled out. Blair recognized a couple of faces, but that was about it. As they rode up to six, his heart started beating double time and he felt like an idiot.

The doors opened and he and Marquez stepped out and over to Major Crime.  As they entered, someone outside called out to Raul and he paused. Blair went on in and stopped, content to just look. And the first place his gaze landed—was on Jim’s desk. Which was empty. But then, he wasn’t surprised.


Sandburg turned to see Joel moving toward him, arms outstretched, surprise and delight written all over his face.

“Blair, I can’t believe it!”

Then he was engulfed within the big man’s hug and Blair found himself smiling like a fool.

As Joel finally let go, he asked, grinning down at the younger man, “What on earth are you doing here? And why didn’t you call? Tell Jim? Or did he know and just kept it a secret? No, he couldn’t have done that, because he’d be here. So, you’re surprising him, is that it?”

Blair frowned, confusion spreading across his features. “I—I’m—“

“Sorry about that, Doctor Sandburg, but—oh, I see Detective Taggert is taking good care of you.” Marquez held out his hand to Joel. “Raul Marquez, Detective. Commissioner Willard’s office. I picked Doctor Sandburg up at the airport.”

It was now Joel’s turn to be confused. But before further explanations could be shared, a booming voice interrupted.

“Taggert! Where’s Ellison?”

Everyone stopped and Joel turned toward Simon, which had the added benefit of revealing Blair. Simon froze.

“Sandburg? What the hell are you doing here?”

In the space of seconds, Blair felt like an errant five year old.  Marquez stepped forward and if he was surprised by Simon’s words, he gave no indication.

“Captain Banks? Raul Marquez, Commissioner Willard’s office. We met several months ago?”

Simon took his eyes from Blair and focused on Marquez. “Of course, Mr.

Marquez. It’s a pleasure to meet you again. And—“

“I picked Doctor Sandburg up at the airport and brought him directly here as I wasn’t sure about what time you might have scheduled the briefing?”

The confusion that had begun with Blair, then moved to Joel, now spread to Simon. Blair thought it almost funny. Except that it was now obvious that Major Crime had not asked for him at all and furthermore, had no clue that he was the guy sent from San Francisco.

Blair could feel his heart beating in his ears and couldn’t remember a time when he’d been more embarrassed or felt more the fool than now. And that included the time when he was 17 and his roommate had played a practical joke on him, a joke that resulted in the skinny 17 year old running around the dorm buck naked and locked out of his room.

Blair, as he looked at the frown on Simon’s face, had only one wish and it was the same one of twelve years ago: That a hole would open up below him and like Rumplestiltzkien, he’d disappear forever.

God damn it, when the fuck was he going to learn? And he knew damn well that his face was probably ten shades of red.

Simon walked over to where they stood and looked down at Blair, his face now registering a polite, professional mask. “So you’re our expert from San Francisco?”

Blair couldn’t even nod.

“Wait,” Joel interrupted, “You’re a cop now?”

Blair managed to shake his head and say quietly, “Not a cop, just a consultant.”

Marquez chuckled. “*Just* a consultant, Doctor? Hardly.” Then he turned back to Simon. “The Commissioner is thinking very seriously of starting a program here similar to LA’s and San Francisco’s, Captain Banks.”

“Program?” Simon asked without taking his eyes from Blair.

“Several large cities across the United States have begun programs where either forensic or cultural anthropologists are utilized in an official capacity on the force.”

“Mr. Marquez, I’m well aware of that fact and I suggested just such an endeavor to the commissioner two years ago.”

“Ah, yes, well.”

Blair was feeling worse by the moment and as the two men sparred, he started edging backwards, trying to put distance between he and Simon.  Then he stopped.

He was the expert from San Francisco. Blair squared his shoulders—but didn’t move.

“The briefing is set for two this afternoon, Mr. Marquez. We felt our guest would appreciate the opportunity to rest, have a bite to eat and go over our file on the case.”

“Excellent idea, Captain. Has an officer been assigned to drive Doctor Sandburg?”

“Yes, Officer Sheldon.” Simon turned to Joel, who immediately said, “I’m on it, Simon.”

“Excellent again, Captain. This Officer Sheldon can drive Doctor Sandburg to his hotel, then drop me at City Hall before returning for our guest.”

Simon nodded, his gaze once again on Blair. “So, you joined a police force, Sandburg?”

“Um, yes—Sir.” Blair simply couldn’t say anything else. Fortunately, he didn’t have to. A young female officer entered and Joel immediately introduced her as Officer Sheldon.

Simon went to Jim’s desk and picked up a large file, then handed it to Blair. “This is everything we have, Doctor Sandburg. We look forward to any help you can provide.”

He was being dismissed. Blair held back every bit of emotion he was currently experiencing and took the file. But speech was beyond his capacity.

“Well, Officer Sheldon, I think we should be on our way. Here are the keys.”

It was simple after that. He said good-bye to Joel, nodded at Simon and walked out. Just like that.




Simon watched the elevator close and suddenly he needed to sit down. He walked over to Jim’s desk, Joel quietly following, and as he dropped into Jim’s chair, his friend said, “Care to explain why you treated Blair as if he were the enemy?”

“Joel, not now.”

“There’s no one around, Simon, yes, now. Blair is our friend, and he became a cop, of sorts, he’s here, and yet you treated him like shit.”

“Have you heard from him, Joel? Since he left?”

“Of course. Letters. True, not in awhile, but I’m the one who didn’t answer the last two, which probably explains why I knew nothing about San Francisco. The last letter I received, Blair was in Reno.”

Simon looked up at Joel, a stupefied expression on his face. “Tell me you’re kidding?”

“No, why? You’ve heard from—“

Simon shook his head.


Again, the shake.

“You’re telling me that Blair never called Jim?”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

“There’s something wrong, Simon. That’s not Blair. But damn, it sure explains Jim.”

“Shit. Jim. I’ve got to get a hold of him, warn him—“


Blair stood in the middle of his room, mouth open.  Okay, it wasn’t a suite, but so what? It was—spectacular. On the table in front of him sat a huge basket of fruit and wine. Okay, what the fuck was going on here? Police departments do not wine and—fruit—visiting consultants.  They just don’t.

Oh, shit. Of course, Commissioner Willard had made some huge error and thought Blair was someone else. Maybe—yeah, maybe Doctor Corning, the forensic anthropologist working with the LAPD?

Don’t be an ass, Sandburg. They used your old picture for the ID badge.  They know who you are. Okay, fine. So explain all this, if you think you’re so smart?

But neither of him could.

Blair walked over to the table, tore into the basket, grabbed a bottle of wine and a banana, then walked out onto the balcony. And what was with balconies and him, anyway? Couldn’t seem to get away from them.

With a little effort and not much thought, he got the wine open and before he realized it, he’d downed half the bottle. Not good. Especially since in exactly, he checked his watch, in exactly three hours, he’d be heading back to the station and—Jim. Blair finished the bottle.  Hey, it was a small bottle.

Dropping down into one of the two chairs, he peeled the banana and started to eat. Twice he almost called Captain Lyons and twice he stopped. There were two Sandburgs on the balcony and they were warring with each other. Unfortunately, the wine had confused both of them.

He stared at the banana peel in his hand. He could always call his mother.

“Hey, Mom? This is your almost thirty year old son and—they didn’t want me.”

No. Not like that.

“Mommie? They don’t want me.”

There you go. Blair Sandburg. Big—scratch that--*short* baby. Short wuss. Short.

Fuck. There was some nutcase out there killing people and here he sat moaning and bemoaning his fate. Blair got up, dumped the wine bottle and banana peel, then went into the bathroom, turned on the shower—cold water—stripped and stepped in.

He stood there for as long as he could stand it. When his mind was sharp and silent, he climbed out, dried off, put on clean clothes, grabbed the file Simon had given him and headed downstairs to the restaurant.




“I’ll take a Cobb salad and a coffee.”

The waitress nodded, smiled and moved away. Blair pulled the file to him, opened it and started reading. When his lunch was placed in front of him, he ate and continued to read. He could have been eating glass for all he knew.

An hour, one salad and three cups of coffee later, Blair closed the file. There was even less evidence here than San Francisco. Which was odd. Blair had been certain that with Jim, there’d be something no one else had been able to find. But he knew the two cases backward and forward now. He was ready. And first up on the docket was heading to the station now and facing Simon.

Blair stood, dropped a twenty on the table, picked up the file and his jacket then headed outside and Officer Sheldon.




“Conner, where is he?”

//Doing his thing. We’re in the alley where Sharon Furey was found.//

“And his cell phone?”

//Oh. He forgot to charge it.//

Simon closed his eyes. Jim never forgot to charge his cell phone.

“Put him on.”

//Well, he’s in one of those moods--//

“Last time I checked, Inspector Conner, I was your captain. When I say

jump, you say—“

//Now, Sir, you know when you ask me to jump, I ask why.//

“Sandburg is the expert sent by San Francisco.”

//You know, Sir, I think I’ll go get Jim.//

“What an idea.”




Conner held the phone in her hand and stared at Jim Ellison. Then with a shrug, she got out of the truck and walked over to him. “Jim? Simon’s on the phone.”

He turned, a surprised look on his face. “I didn’t hear you.”

“Not surprising. You were concentrating pretty hard.” She held out the phone.

A worried frown on his face, Jim took the phone. “Simon?”

//Jim, the expert arrived a couple of hours ago and you need to prepare

yourself—it’s Blair.//

“Simon, this is no time—“

//I’m not joking. He’s part of the San Francisco PD.//

“You’re telling me he’s a cop!?”

//Consultant. On the payroll.//

Jim pinched the bridge of his nose. The headache was back. He was probably repressing. He snorted, then said into the phone, “Fine. Great.  It’s not as if Blair being the expert is a bad thing, Simon. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have helping us.”

//He’s at the Strand.//

“I’m not going over there.”

//You know the Strand? The big building on the corner of Broadway and


“Simon, I am not going over to the Strand. We’ll all see Sandburg at two. I assume that the briefing is still set for two?”

//Yes. By the way, the Strand is twenty stories tall. You can’t miss


“Give it up, Simon. Unless you’d rather go over there?”

//Oh shut up.//

“Tsk, tsk. That is no way for a modern, progressive leader to talk.”

//You’re handling this better than I did, Jim.//


//I wasn’t exactly my usual, charming, progressive, modern self.//


//He’s a big boy now. He can handle it.//

“Oh, he’s grown?”

//Jim, so help me--//

Jim turned around so that he wasn’t facing Conner. “Simon, was there ever a time when he couldn’t handle us?”

//Go see him.//

“Good bye, Simon.”




Jim flicked the flip-top of Conner’s phone and handed it to her.

“We heading over to the Strand?”

“Conner, shut up.”




Jim pulled up in front of the Strand and stared up at the building.

Conner stared at him.

“I’ll—I’ll be right back.”

“Of course you will, Jim. Say hi for me.”

Jim shot her a nasty look, then jumped out and walked inside. He strolled up to Registration and when a pert blonde asked him how she could help, he asked for Blair.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Doctor Sandburg left about fifteen minutes ago.”

Jim nodded and slowly turned away. He’d been primed and ready to see Sandburg again and now—

He walked back outside.






She rolled her eyes. “It’s—Blair. He’s here to see you.”

Simon checked his watch. Damn, it was only one. He kept staring at the second hand of his watch.


He wasn’t up to this. Not now. Not yet.

“Show him in.”

Simon rose, faced the door and wondered why he felt like a criminal at his execution. Blair had left them behind. Not the other way around.

“Simon. I thought—we should talk before the briefing.”

Simon managed to smile and hold out his hand indicating the chair in front of his desk. Blair moved over and took it.

“I sensed a problem when you saw me earlier, Sir. A problem that could affect my ability to work with Major Crime—or should I say, their ability to work—with me—again.”

Simon watched Blair drop his head in a gesture that was so familiar, Simon found himself smiling.

“I—have to admit—I thought, when Captain Lyons told me that I was

being loaned out—well, I thought you’d asked for me. I realize now—“

Blair paused and Simon found himself leaning forward—

“I—well, it was obvious no one told you anything, which also means this isn’t your choice.”

Blair finally looked up and Simon caught that gleam of stubborness he’d always (almost always) looked forward to seeing.

“But the fact is, Simon—I can help. I’ve closed three high profile

cases in the short time I’ve been with the—“

“Why, Blair?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why San Francisco and not Cascade? You chose, against all the odds, to not teach, to not be this doctor you studied for fourteen years to become, and you end up with the San Francisco PD? You end up, for all intents and purposes, a cop, Blair, and I’m asking why.”



Jim pulled into his parking space and with an angry twist of the key, shut off the truck. As he sat there, Conner unmoving beside him, he wondered at his anger.

“He’s probably visiting friends—“


“He’ll be in shortly, Jim.”


Then Jim looked at her, pale blue eyes open and hurting. “Why, Megan?


“What do you mean, Jim?”

“Why the SFPD? Why not us?”

Megan placed a hand on Jim’s. “Maybe because we never asked him?”



Blair was stunned. Simon was asking why?

“Are you kidding, Simon?”


“I don’t make it a habit of kidding someone who, at the first opportunity, took off.”

Sandburg could feel the nerve in his face twitching dangerously. He clenched his hands into tight fists. “That is so typical of you, Simon.” He stood, anger barely contained. “Look, the only question is whether you and your team can work with me. There’s a killer out there and I think we can catch him. And I’ve never taken off in my life. That was my mother’s gig, not mine.”

Simon rose. “Then why, the minute you had your doctorate, did you *take off*?”

“I don’t fucking believe this. I waited almost all week for Jim to say

something, anything. I stood right here, in your office, told you—“

“That’s right, Sandburg. You told me. You’d already made up your mind.  How were we supposed to know that maybe, just maybe, there was another choice?”

“Gee, I don’t know Simon. Maybe three years putting up with all your shit, being told every day, what I wasn’t? Or maybe it was three years of killers, thieves, gun runners, drug lords, psychos, and mad bombers?  Not to mention God damn fucking stubborn sentinels.

“You think I put up with all of that for a stupid title in front of my name? Hell, I had a dissertation ten times over after my first year in this asylum. Twenty times over by my second and by my third year as Jim’s little tag-a-long, hell, I had a fucking Pulitzer!”

Blair exhaled as he shook his head. “Oh, yeah, I hung around here, went through all that shit for a title. Man, if that’s true, I need professional help. Hell, I need it anyway. I came back. I fucking came back.”

“Yes. Well.”

Blair blinked. “Yes well? That’s it? That’s what you have to say? Yes Well? Man, I’m a grade A asshole, that’s what I am. Try this on for size. Get yourself another expert.”

Blair started to turn, hand reaching out for the door, when it opened and a red-faced Jim Ellison stood in the opening.

“Hey, Chief. Long time no see.”