stared at Blair, then in an uncharacteristic gesture, put his arms around him.
Blair returned the hug.
miss you, Petak,” he said in the language of the Umaua.
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.”
or as the Umaua called him, Omaki, shook his head. “No, Petak.
shaman. But honored to be Umaua. And friend.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
it’s all done. The videos, the reports, everything. And tomorrow, back to the
States. You looking forward to home, Blair?”
Eli. Home. A great place.”
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.”
stared open-mouthed at his teacher. “Eli—“ “Blair, you shouldn’t be
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.”
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.”
think—you should.” Eli picked up a pen and as he started to fiddle
it, he said, “You no longer simply observe, Blair. Maybe it’s a
of your years with the Cascade Police Department, I don’t know—“
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.”
held up a hand. “No buts. Now, suppose I go into my borrowed
and do up a reference letter for you? Then when you’ve decided
city to send your application and resume—you’ll have the required
And I do believe that I can get Doctor Montoya and perhaps
Doctor Sterling in Boston to add theirs.”
don’t know what to say—“
nothing. Have you decided which city? Or perhaps both?”
see. Well then, I’d best get that letter written.”
studied the information page for the San Francisco Police Department. Another
city by a bay and as close as he could get to Cascade.
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.
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.
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.
Francisco, California, SFPD
think we’ve got our man, 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.”
he worked for three years with the Cascade Police Department, Major Crime.
years experience, Harold.”
see. His references aren’t half bad either.”
sir. Can’t do much better than Eli Stoddard. Should I contact the Captain
Banks mentioned in the resume?”
don’t bother. I know Commissioner Willard, I’ll call him. We need to tie
this up and hire someone, ASAP.”
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.”
Great, put him through.” With a wave at his assistant, he picked up the phone.
I can’t believe it. How long has it been?”
long, John. Too long. How’s Katie?//
great. And Lola?”
better. Gets more beautiful with each passing day.//
you didn’t call so that we could wax poetic over our wives, right?”
nailed it, buddy. I have an application in my hand, for a special
position and according to his resume, he worked for your police
Major Crime, to be exact.//
doctor part gave Willard pause. But of course, it made sense. Banks had told him
that Sandburg had finally earned his doctorate.
Blair Sandburg was an observer while working on his doctorate.
with Detective Jim Ellison for three years.”
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
you’d recommend him?//
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
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.”
was a slight lie, but then Simon had shown him the error of his way. And damn,
now the SFPD had him. Fuck.
that’s exactly what I wanted to hear, John. Thanks.//
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—
put down the phone and looked up at Pillings. “Make the offer.”
Pillings took his leave.
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.
never works, Simon. They can’t hear you.”
shot Jim a nasty look. “Thanks so much, Ellison. Your ability to state the
obvious has always been your greatest strength.”
snorted and took another gulp of his beer. “Yelling at the screen always
worked for Sandburg, why not me?”
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.”
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.
rose and joined him. “Jim, come on. This is ridiculous.”
left him a message, weeks ago. He never called.”
Simon shrugged his shoulders, “He’s still in the jungles—“
reached back and picked up a copy of National Geographic and handed it to Simon.
where they tell you what’s coming up.”
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.”
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.”
can’t believe that, Jim. We’re talking about Blair here. He lov—“
got a better explanation?”
looked down at the magazine, then closed his eyes.
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?”
gave an exaggerated sigh. “Yeah, I think I have a working idea.
to accompany me? Make sure I do it right?”
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.
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.
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.
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
honey? How about Chinese chicken salad for dinner?”
great,” he said over his shoulder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
landed on his shoulders and began to massage. He closed his eyes and leaned
your muscles are bunched up like your sheets.”
well, I’m running out of time. I know this guy is gonna get
know, I know. But you’ll catch him, Blair.”
Sandburg leaned down and dropped a kiss on her son’s temple. “Yes, well,
you’re good at this.”
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.
gave him a playful slap on his shoulder and said, “Come on, dinner is ready.
Let’s eat out on the balcony.”
talked me into it, Mom.”
his work behind for a few minutes of peace, he rose and joined Naomi on the deck
where she’d set up dinner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
shock had been complete.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
knew that the next child would suffer even greater pain and degradation than
Bobby. They had to find the guy and stop him.
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.
honey? Come inside. It’s cold.”
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?”
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!”
Can you imagine? Our Martha never held an ordinary job in her life, and now
she’s going to be a crossing guard.”
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!”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
was leaning on Captain Lyons desk, palms flat against the metal.
I know what Shaeffer is saying, and at the moment, I don’t really
why the guy is doing it, but damn it, I know he’s a crossing
I know it. Let me go out with Russell, let us talk to a few—“
raised a hand and Blair stopped. “Go. Do it.”
Blair straightened. “Thank you, Captain.”
shook his helplessly. Like he could ever refuse that look? Geesh.
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.
on a minute. I’m working here.”
you couldn’t have done that in your office? You know I hate this underground
looking up, Blair chuckled and said, “For a man who fears earthquakes, don’t
you think it odd that you live in San Francisco?”
as odd as you, a man who hates fog, cold and rain, choosing to live here.”
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.”
was used to the weird and whacky Sandburg, but he trusted him and his instincts.
He put the peddle to the metal.
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.
me a moment. I’m crossing off the women and any man too old.”
old? How do you figure age—“
Danny Watkins? Said he gave the masked bandit a run for his money?”
Even the most agile grandparent can have trouble keeping up with an eight year
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?”
Blair pointed at one red dot. “Just this one.”
his head, Russell said, “Huh?”
held up the map. “Just look. Carefully.”
looked. And spotted the pattern. “Holy shit.”
Whatcha waiting for? Christmas?”
on it, Blair. I’m on it.”
Russell checked his watch. Two-twenty. “Shouldn’t he be here by now?”
nodded. He picked up his newspaper, rattled it a bit, then started to read.
Bi-ll?” Blair sing-songed a few minutes later.
over the top of his paper, he growled, “Let me guess, he just pulled up.”
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.
their stake-out, the school bell could be heard and within minutes, they were
surrounded by children. They watched.
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.
binocs still to his eyes, said, “I can sympathize. Those kids were
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
he’s leaving. Should we follow?”
I need to answer that, Bill?”
minutes later, Russell said, “Um, Blair? What the hell is he doing?”
I’m not mistaken—he’s choosing his next child.”
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.
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.
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.
chosen. He’s gonna move in a minute.”
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.
breathed out loudly. “That’s how he gets to them—“
need to move, Blair. Call it in.”
now there was something new. Shaking his head, hand already reaching, Blair
called it in.
had to be careful, couldn’t risk the child, yet if they moved too soon—
started to get out of the car, but a hand stayed his action.
let me go. He won’t even notice me. Trust me on this.”
looked up the street, then back to Blair. He nodded slowly.
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.
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?
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.
caught her easily.
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.
syringe? But none of the children had been drugged—
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.”
approached his car, girl in his arms. As Blair came abreast, the man smiled at
him. “My daughter. Sound asleep, as usual.”
smiled in return and praying that Russell was right behind him,
“San Franciso Police Department, Mr. Griffen, and you’re under
eyes widened. Behind them, Russell hit the siren and Griffen threw the little
girl at Sandburg and ran.
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
Blair cradled the unconscious child, he could hear Bill’s booming voice
yelling out the usual, Freeze you sucker!, his favorite. Griffen froze.
Lyons stood in front of the two-way mirror and watched the interrogation of
have more than enough evidence, Mr. Griffen. Make it easy on yourself and
confess,” Russell prodded.
man said nothing.
who’d been standing against the wall, now pushed himself away and
quietly, “You don’t hate them, do you? But they’re so
glanced up and something flickered in his eyes. Blair went on.
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,
it was the only job you could get. But the children, so loud. The
would be perfect without them, wouldn’t it? You could sit in your
in the shade—“
Griffen nodded. Then he said, “I tried to warn them, but they kept it up.”
course. Susie Mullens was your first warning, wasn’t she?”
I didn’t really—hurt—her.”
nothing got better, did it?”
voice was gentle, undersanding and Griffen nodded. “So you tried to embarrass
But they don’t learn. They just don’t learn.”
you hurt Bobby—“
had to. I had to.”
course you did,” Blair said, his voice weary.
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.
sat down and stared at the picture on his desk.
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.
would have loved to know that they’d finally brought Romano down.
he got up, put on his jacket, said good-bye to Rafe, the only other detective in
the squad room, then he headed home.
stood in the pouring down rain as Bill Russell gave him the news.
apartment was empty.
damn close, Blair.”
away, Blair muttered, “Close only counts in horseshoes.”
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.”
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?”
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.
at least when he does strike again, well, the next police force will have a
stood in the rain staring down at the body of a woman. The second body in one
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Blair, you’d better hang up now.”
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.
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.
I hate it when you say it like that.”
good. I’d hate to disappoint you.”
sat and waited.
calling for help on this one.”
leaned forward. “Simon?”
this guy has hit in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.
he’s here. The commissioner feels that we need help.”
rose and walked to the window. “Simon, what can I say? Maybe he’s right.”
Simon said, “Okay, that’s not your normal response. What’s up?”
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.”
got up and walked around his desk. “Jim, this isn’t you.”
Jim smiled. “Wait, now you’re complaining because I’m not fighting you?”
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.”
shook his head. “I’m not doing the calling, the commissioner is.
all goes well, this guy will be here by Friday.”
you have a problem with being loaned out to the Cascade PD?”
swallowed hard. “No, sir, not at all. You just surprised me.”
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?”
you. Those words struck home.
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?”
Crime wanted him. They’d asked for him.
Blair started out the door, Lyons said, “And Blair? They can’t keep you, so
don’t even think about it.”
hell they can’t, Blair thought with a grin.
he felt like a ten year old. He was walking on air. The Cascade PD had asked for
mom. And thanks for taking me, by the way—and not asking if you could go.”
if I’d do that?”
right. Sorry. Don’t know who I was talking about.”
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?
are you here?”
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?”
Mom? Why are you here? Not here.”
looked over at her son, watched his profile for a moment, then said, “Didn’t
we already have this discussion? Back in Reno?”
but you’re still here. I’m settled, Mom, so why are you still here.”
I feel insulted by that question? Has my welcome already worn thin?”
sighed. Her son could certainly be difficult at times. “Because I figured you
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.”
it or not, I’m aware of that fact. I was present when you were born.”
guess what I’m saying is, that I needed you when I was six, seven,
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
Doctor. It’s an honor to meet you. I’m Raul Marquez, assistant to the
Commissioner. I’m your ride.”
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?”
then, if you’ll just follow me, Doctor? I’m parked right outside.”
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.
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.
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.”
did whistle this time. “The Strand?”
nodded, proudly. Blair just shook his head in wonder.
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.
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.”
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*.
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.
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.
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.
turned to see Joel moving toward him, arms outstretched, surprise and delight
written all over his face.
he was engulfed within the big man’s hug and Blair found himself smiling like
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?”
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.”
was now Joel’s turn to be confused. But before further explanations could be
shared, a booming voice interrupted.
stopped and Joel turned toward Simon, which had the added benefit of revealing
Blair. Simon froze.
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.
Banks? Raul Marquez, Commissioner Willard’s office. We met several months
took his eyes from Blair and focused on Marquez. “Of course, Mr.
It’s a pleasure to meet you again. And—“
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?”
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.
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.
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.
damn it, when the fuck was he going to learn? And he knew damn well that his
face was probably ten shades of red.
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
couldn’t even nod.
managed to shake his head and say quietly, “Not a cop, just a consultant.”
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.”
Simon asked without taking his eyes from Blair.
large cities across the United States have begun programs where either forensic
or cultural anthropologists are utilized in an official capacity on the
Marquez, I’m well aware of that fact and I suggested just such an endeavor to
the commissioner two years ago.”
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.
was the expert from San Francisco. Blair squared his shoulders—but didn’t
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
idea, Captain. Has an officer been assigned to drive Doctor Sandburg?”
Officer Sheldon.” Simon turned to Joel, who immediately said, “I’m on it,
again, Captain. This Officer Sheldon can drive Doctor Sandburg to his hotel,
then drop me at City Hall before returning for our guest.”
nodded, his gaze once again on Blair. “So, you joined a police force,
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.
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
was being dismissed. Blair held back every bit of emotion he was currently
experiencing and took the file. But speech was beyond his capacity.
Officer Sheldon, I think we should be on our way. Here are the keys.”
was simple after that. He said good-bye to Joel, nodded at Simon and walked out.
Just like that.
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
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.”
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.”
looked up at Joel, a stupefied expression on his face. “Tell me you’re
why? You’ve heard from—“
shook his head.
telling me that Blair never called Jim?”
what I’m telling you.”
something wrong, Simon. That’s not Blair. But damn, it sure explains Jim.”
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.
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?
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?
neither of him could.
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.
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.
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.
stared at the banana peel in his hand. He could always call his mother.
Mom? This is your almost thirty year old son and—they didn’t want me.”
Not like that.
They don’t want me.”
you go. Blair Sandburg. Big—scratch that--*short* baby. Short wuss. Short.
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
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.
take a Cobb salad and a coffee.”
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.
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.
stood, dropped a twenty on the table, picked up the file and his jacket then
headed outside and Officer Sheldon.
where is he?”
his thing. We’re in the alley where Sharon Furey was found.//
his cell phone?”
He forgot to charge it.//
closed his eyes. Jim never forgot to charge his cell phone.
he’s in one of those moods--//
time I checked, Inspector Conner, I was your captain. When I say
Sir, you know when you ask me to jump, I ask why.//
is the expert sent by San Francisco.”
know, Sir, I think I’ll go get Jim.//
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.”
turned, a surprised look on his face. “I didn’t hear you.”
surprising. You were concentrating pretty hard.” She held out the phone.
the expert arrived a couple of hours ago and you need to prepare
this is no time—“
not joking. He’s part of the San Francisco PD.//
telling me he’s a cop!?”
On the payroll.//
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.”
at the Strand.//
not going over there.”
know the Strand? The big building on the corner of Broadway and
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?”
By the way, the Strand is twenty stories tall. You can’t miss
it up, Simon. Unless you’d rather go over there?”
tsk. That is no way for a modern, progressive leader to talk.”
handling this better than I did, Jim.//
wasn’t exactly my usual, charming, progressive, modern self.//
a big boy now. He can handle it.//
so help me--//
turned around so that he wasn’t facing Conner. “Simon, was there ever a time
when he couldn’t handle us?”
flicked the flip-top of Conner’s phone and handed it to her.
heading over to the Strand?”
pulled up in front of the Strand and stared up at the building.
stared at him.
be right back.”
course you will, Jim. Say hi for me.”
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
I’m sorry. Doctor Sandburg left about fifteen minutes ago.”
nodded and slowly turned away. He’d been primed and ready to see Sandburg
again and now—
walked back outside.
rolled her eyes. “It’s—Blair. He’s here to see you.”
checked his watch. Damn, it was only one. He kept staring at the second hand of
wasn’t up to this. Not now. Not yet.
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.
I thought—we should talk before the briefing.”
managed to smile and hold out his hand indicating the chair in front of his
desk. Blair moved over and took it.
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
watched Blair drop his head in a gesture that was so familiar, Simon found
to admit—I thought, when Captain Lyons told me that I was
loaned out—well, I thought you’d asked for me. I realize now—“
paused and Simon found himself leaning forward—
it was obvious no one told you anything, which also means this isn’t your
finally looked up and Simon caught that gleam of stubborness he’d always
(almost always) looked forward to seeing.
the fact is, Simon—I can help. I’ve closed three high profile
in the short time I’ve been with the—“
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.”
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.
probably visiting friends—“
be in shortly, Jim.”
Jim looked at her, pale blue eyes open and hurting. “Why, Megan?
do you mean, Jim?”
the SFPD? Why not us?”
placed a hand on Jim’s. “Maybe because we never asked him?”
was stunned. Simon was asking why?
you kidding, Simon?”
don’t make it a habit of kidding someone who, at the first opportunity, took
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.”
rose. “Then why, the minute you had your doctorate, did you *take off*?”
don’t fucking believe this. I waited almost all week for Jim to say
anything. I stood right here, in your office, told you—“
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
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.
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!”
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.”
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
started to turn, hand reaching out for the door, when it opened and a red-faced
Jim Ellison stood in the opening.
Chief. Long time no see.”