A cop. Three weeks now. Carry a gun. A badge. And three more weeks until payday. I *would* have to get hired in the middle of the month. Shit.
Am I the only one in the universe still awake? It's after one. Money problems will do that to a person. Looked at the calendar just the other day and was mildly surprised to see just how long it had been since *any* payday. Mildly is a lie. I was shocked. Then I looked at my checkbook. $26.78. Woo-woo.
As a teaching fellow I received a stipend, but it kept the Volvo running. My published works kept me in food and clothes, and the odd date or two. Fertile brain, good with words, odd ideas and conclusions, works every time. Years ago, I published often, hell, years ago I *dated* often. So wha' happened? Sentinels happened. Jim Ellison happened. I should wake the ingrate up, make him share my misery. I could moan. That would get him up and down here in five flat. Nah, he needs his beauty sleep, he's got ten years on me. Sentinels, ride-alongs, and slowly the publishing dries up. And coincidently, so do the dates.
Playing pseudo-cop kinda interferes with academia and women. Keeping a Sentinel focused and unrepressed takes up the rest of the time. Jeesh, he's a handful. High Maintenance. Not that he sees it that way. Oh, no, to him, *I'm* the high maintenance one. Have I got him buffaloed or what.
So, the purpose of this midnight mind ramble? I'm broke. Which returns me to my original thought: Three more weeks until payday and I'm wondering if I'll make it. Of course, there are some pluses to being a cop and living with Jim Ellison; 1) I ride to work with Ellison, hence no wear and tear on the Volvo, and 2) I *am* rent free, a phenomenon I'm still reeling over even after almost four years. Of course, for every plus, there are about twenty minuses.....like, oh, food. My turn to shop, and I have, oh, forget it.
God, I love these midnight mind rambles. They are so......fucking productive. NOT!
What I need is a small miracle.
No, what I really need is a large, 6'2 miracle. With blue eyes. Okay, *that's* not going to happen, he's made it clear, *so* not interested, understood, signals neatly deflected, can't blame the guy, no prize here.
How often does a guy need to eat anyway?
Blair's midnight ramblings really cost him the next morning as he literally had to *crawl* out of bed. He contemplated crawling to the bathroom, but a soft query from his roommate, "SANDBURG, WHEN DO WE GET GROCERIES?" convinced him to "walk like a man".
As he passed the kitchen, he managed to mumble, "today, Kemosabe, today," which brought a satisfied grunt from somewhere near Mr. Coffee.
Once in the bathroom, he took a bleary-eyed perusal of the man in the mirror and wearily shook his head. No change. No sudden growth spurt.
Funny, he'd always been perfectly happy with his height, but lately, well, lately, nothing about himself seemed to satisfy. He wasn't getting taller, just thinner. And older.
God, he was pathetic. Thirty years old and $26.78 to his name. He swiped a hand over a beard stubbled face and absently reached over and flicked on the shower. He turned away in disgust, slipped his sweats off and stepped in, letting the hot water - ACK! and remembered he'd neglected to remove his briefs. He slipped them down and tossed them angrily over the rod to a squishy "splat" as they landed on the tiled floor.
"Wet spot, wet spot, wet spot," he chanted happily, not carrying one whit.
He made fast work of his shower, spent ten minutes shaving and brushing teeth, took the dampness out of his hair before tying it back, slipped on his robe, and perversely left the wet, steamy mess.
He got half way to his room before his conscience spoke up. None of this was Jim's fault. Not his fault Blair wanted to be a cop, not his fault Blair got hired in the middle of the month, not his fault Blair was broke, not his fault he didn't want Blair.
He did an about face and cleaned up the bathroom. Which left him five minutes to get dressed.
Seven minutes later, he and Ellison were walking out the door with a grinning Jim saying, "Didn't think you'd make it this time, Chief."
"Ellison, Sandburg? A moment of your time, please?"
Two heads swiveled to look at each other before Jim pushed himself up and lightly punched his partner's shoulder saying, "What fine mess have you gotten us into this time, Stan?"
"Aw, shucks, Ollie, I'm giving this one to you, I'm the rookie."
"I can't believe after all these years you don't recognize Simon's "do me a favor" voice."
"Chief, you are so wrong. That was definitely his, "Boom is about to fall on Sandburg's head" voice."
"Hate to take your money, Chief. You're on."
They walked into Simon's office and took their usual seats, both wearing smirks.
"Sandburg, tell me you know how to dance."
"Simon, if this is your way of asking me out, I think you should rethink it, given your position and......"
"Sandburg, shut up."
"Do - you - dance?"
A snort from the left sent blazing brown eyes toward Jim.
"If you call those native contortions of his, dancing, then yes, sir, he dances."
"Jim, I'd stick out my tongue, but it would be *so* unprofessional."
"You children done?" Simon waited. When no answers or spitballs were forthcoming, he asked, "Sandburg, I mean *dance*, as in Mambo, Cha-Cha, Tango, you get my drift?"
"Mambo, Cha-Cha, Tango, drift. Yes, sir. I *dance*, sir."
"Good, I have a favor to ask. Have either of you heard of the Lake Chelan Resort?"
Jim sat forward, suddenly very interested, as he answered, "My father used to take Steven and I there for summers, from about 1965 to 1970. It's quite posh."
"It's pretty famous."
"Then this should be easy for both of you. I'm sending you in undercover. Jim, you'll be their new Security Director and Sandburg, you'll be their substitute dance instructor."
Jim really tried to contain another snort, tried being the operative word.
"Dance instructor, Simon? *Dance* instructor?"
"Yes, Sandburg, *dance* instructor."
Jim interrupted another round of "dance instructor" queries, "Simon, what's up? The Chelan isn't exactly in our territory."
Banks sat back and eyed his best team as he answered, "There have been a series of....unusual accidents lately and Karen Phillips, a close friend of Joan's, came to me because she's gotten no help from the local authorities. She and her husband, Jeff, are part owners. Karen's maiden name was Chastain, as in the original owners. In 1986, her father Winston, sold half to a brit, named Stuart Styles. Now they're in trouble. I'm sending Rafe and Connor in with you. Rafe will be part of your security team, Jim and Connor is going in as a guest. Any questions?"
"*Dance* instructor, Simon?"
"Get over it, Sandburg. You get two or three days, all expenses paid, at the classiest resort in the Northern Cascades. Stop whining."
The whining insult missed it's mark, the mark being too busy chortling over the words, "all expenses paid." Sandburg stood happily, "We're on it, Captain, sir. Have no fear, Sandburg and Ellison are on their way," he paused, then added, "And we're on our way, exactly when?"
Simon rolled his eyes dramatically before answering, "Jim and Rafe leave today by car, Connor leaves this afternoon, by train, and you leave tomorrow. Any comments, Jim?"
"Yes. It's *Ellison* and Sandburg. These rookie dance instructors can get so pushy."
"Outta my face, gentlemen."
The next two hours were spent studying the "accidents", confering with Karen Phillips by conference call, and arranging all arrivals and meetings. Connor would arrive late that evening, her cover being a harried executive in need of rest. Jim and Rafe would leave around one-thirty, and Blair, the following morning, for a scheduled mid-day arrival and two o'clock dance class. Blair ignored the three smirks as he pondered the state of his empty gas tank. He did some quick calculations, like miles to the gallon, and the Volvo's miles to the gallon, which bore no resemblance to any decent vehicle, and figured he'd be about twenty bucks shy.
"You got everything straight, Chief?"
"Yes. Now go, you're going to be late picking up Rafe."
Jim slung his garment bag over his shoulder and looked down at his partner. "Alright. See you tomorrow, two o'clock sharp, drive safe."
"Yes, dad, bye, dad."
"Very funny", but Jim continued to stand, continued to look.
"I know we were kinda riding you about this dancing thing, but I just want to say.....I mean....."
"Don't forget the pink tu-tu, Chief."
"Fuck you, Ellison."
They smiled at each other and Jim took his leave.
As Ellison walked to the truck, he chastised himself for being a chicken-shit and hoped Sandburg had understood what he'd really wanted to say, which was that he'd much prefer working security with him than with Rafe.
In the loft, Blair stared at the closed door and grinned, "Ellison, you're such a chicken-shit."
Downstairs, Jim smiled.
"Okay, need money."
Blair walked to the phone, punched in a number and let it ring.
"Hey, Terry, how's it hanging?"
//Same as always, Sandburg, loose and heavy. What can I do for you?//
"Still looking for a good PC?"
//Man, am I ever. Why? You know where I can get one? Cheap?//
"Yep. Mine. It's all yours, today, $800."
//You're shitting me? $800?//
"$800 cash and it walks over and plops itself down on your desk."
//For only $800, I'll pick it up, do your windows, *and* bring you dinner. What about a printer?//
"Terry, it's $800 for the works."
A moment of silence, then, //What's wrong, Blair? You have over $2000 worth of equipment and you're selling it for $800?//
"Hey, it's not like I'll need it anymore and you do. Full time cop and partime law student."
//But I distinctly remember you saying that you were going back to school, something about that minor in psychology?//
"Not anytime in the future, buddy. The PC's all yours."
//Well, far be it from me to argue. I'll be there in twenty//
"It'll be here."
With a satisfied smile, Sandburg dropped the envelopes into the mailbox and walked back to his bathed and fueled Volvo. He still had a bit over $300 left, bills partially paid, and the future looked bright. His smile faded a bit as he envisioned one happy Homocide cop carrying off his Mac, which meant telling his mother, no more emails. Talk about ironic.
And it's not like he really needed it anymore.
He pointed the car in the direction of the Northern Cascades.
Jim had been busy most of the morning, checking out the sites of the four "accidents", getting as much information about the staff, the regular patrons, and witnesses, as well as doing "security" type business. And all morning, his eyes kept searching. For Blair. Not very "detective-like", but a fact, never the less.
Sandburg should have been here by now, it was as simple as that. And Jim's excuse for his worry at eight am? And nine? And ten? Well, no matter, it was after twelve, his class was in less than two hours, and he should have been here by now.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Looking hassled, tired, and dusty, Blair walked into the huge lobby, looked around and spotted Jim, who got the distinct impression that it was taking all of Sandburg's considerable will power *not* to wave happily. Jim smiled in spite of himself.
Rafe was just making his rounds of the lobby when Sandburg stomped in and the sight of the GQ detective in an ill-fitting red blazer, accompanied by a rusty brown "bow" tie nearly undid the younger man. Rafe, the ever alert cop, spotted the smirk and managed to surreptitiously flip him the bird. Sandburg's smirk grew and as he passed, he made his own gesture, pretending to tweak an imaginary 50's fashion statement at his own neck.
Fortunately Jim, as the Director, had been spared the "uniform" and wore one of his own suits and looked entirely too good for Blair's comfort level. He sighed and moved through the lobby to his planned meeting with Karen Phillips.
His directions led him to a glass enclosed office across from the gift shop. She was on the phone, but as she caught sight of him, she gave a beckoning motion, so he slid open the glass door and stepped in.
"That is unacceptable. We placed this order over eight weeks ago. What do you mean it was *cancelled*? I did not cancel....So where does this leave us? The fucking BBQ is Saturday! Oh, great, thank you *so* much, for nothing!" The phone was slammed down with enough force to rattle the windows.
"Tell me you're Blair Sandburg? Please?" The young woman was clearly distraught, pushing bright, penny red curls off a freckled forehead. Blair stuck out his hand and said, "Fred Astaire, at your service."
She lifted irish green eyes that a moment before blazed with anger, but now glittered with mirth as she took his hand and shook with a firm, friendly grip.
"Sorry about the welcome, but we now have no meat for the BBQ and no chance of getting any by Saturday. The jinx strikes again."
"You know, there's an Ostrich Farm not far from here. Only about twenty miles south and ostrich meat is good, healthy and I expect they can help you out."
Her eyes widened in surprise as she gasped out, "Ostrich Farm?"
"Yeah, it's called Stretch Farms, don't ask. You should give 'em a call. It couldn't hurt and your patrons will never know the difference. After the BBQ you can let them in on your healthy secret."
Karen looked at her watch and grinned up at him, "You've been here, what? Fifteen minutes? And already you've saved Saturday? Too bad you're a cop, you'd have liked the bonus."
They shared a laugh and then she took a good look at her new dance instructor. And winced. He was no Tony. Of course, under all that wool and flannel, she couldn't really assess his *attributes*, but....maybe the other one, the one called Rafe......
"So, where do I go for my two o'clock?"
Okay, he'd helped with the BBQ, maybe, just maybe....."Um, what kind of dancing clothes did you bring?"
"Dancing ~ clothes?"
Inwardly he groaned, outwardly he smiled his best as he answered, "Jeans and flannel?"
"Oh, dear. Um, Mr. Sandburg, I realize that you are a detective, and you're here to stop this....whatever it is, but you have to understand, Tony was a big draw. His classes were always full, with twenty or thirty women, many coming here *because* of him. He did more than sell lessons, he sold, well, *sex*." At Blair's shocked expression she hastened to add, "I don't mean he sold himself, I mean he *was* sex, do you see?"
"I get it."
"What he wore, it was as much a part of the lessons as what he taught and what he did. If you show up in jeans and flannel, we'll be defeated from the top and you guys might as well pack and go home because my summer will be ruined anyway."
"Would you mind going next door to Nirvana, our clothing shop, and getting a couple of outfits? I know it's a lot to ask, but at least if you're dressed the part, well, you see, this would have been his last weekend anyway, and ....", she didn't have to finish. Blair jumped in, "First impressions. I understand completely. I'll just hop next door and see what I can do. Can you give me some idea of what, exactly I should purchase?"
"Oh, don't worry, Ben Webber, the owner, will help. I'll call him right now. He'll set you up. And thank you, Mr. Sandburg, thank you very much. And you can leave your luggage here, I'll have one of the boys take it to your cabin. You're in number 7, anyone can show you where to go. Nirvana is right around the corner and your class is held in the nightclub, The Lakeside Room. Your group lessons are every day from two to four thirty, with private lessons starting at five. Um, right now, you have no privates, but hopefully after your group lessons?"
Blair got the message. The privates had been cancelled when it had been discovered there was no Tony.
"I'm afraid you'll be expected to show up at the club each night, around nine. Tony would usually find one woman to showcase, dance with her, then spend the rest of the evening working the room. I'm sorry, but, well....."
"It's okay, isn't that what a detective does? Work a room?" He smiled winningly.
She grinned back, relaxing a bit at the way the smile transformed him. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all?
"You're being an awfully good sport about this, and I'm grateful. This is a mess, and if we can't salvage this summer, well, The Chelan may finally close it's doors. Jeff and I really do appreciate what you are all doing for us."
"No problem. I'll get over to Nirvana and see what this Ben can do."
They shook hands again and Blair headed over to the clothing store.
Nirvana could just have easily been located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. It was classy, and expensive. Sandburg could see Simon's face now, as he took a gander at his newest detective's first expense report.
"You had to do *what*?"
"Sell sex, sir."
Oh, yeah, that would go over like a lead balloon.
A man slightly older than Blair, sat at a french provincial desk and as Blair walked in, he got up, strode over and circled him, clucking in disdain the whole time.
"Dear me. All this *flannel*. It must go."
"I'll have you know, I'm considered the flannel king of Cascade."
"Well, dear, *here* flannel is out. And Cascade? Well, doesn't that just say it all?" As he spoke, critical eyes roamed up and down, tsk-tsking from Blair's hiking boots right up to his tied back hair.
"You're not tall. Too bad. Tony is very tall. Built like a brick house. But can he move."
Oh, goody. Tall.
The critical gaze tried to see past the bulky clothes, but it was virtually impossible. However, the eyes, and maybe with his hair down? And those lips, now that he'd gotten up to the face.....um.
"You do have great eyes, that's a plus. And you're surprisingly, actually, even more masculine than Tony. And don't tell him I said that, he'd be devastated. Such a macho prick. Yes, I do believe I have just the right look. Go into that dressing room, strip and I'll bring you the clothes. Go, hurry up. Shoo."
As Blair did as he was told, Ben walked over to a rack in the corner and began to pull out several silk shirts and a couple pairs of black chinos. When he was satisfied, he handed them over the dressing room door and asked, "Do you have anything besides hiking boots?"
"Uh, tennis shoes."
"Right. Shoes. With ~ heels."
Blair pulled off the tie around his hair and yanked off his clothes, wondering if he could feel any worse. Probably. In about one hour. Shit. Rafe should be doing this.
A couple of minutes later he walked out and stood in front of the mirror, tucking in the midnight blue silk shirt.
Ben had a pair of shoes in his hand when he turned and got his first real look at his charge.
Apparently, jeans and flannel could hide a gold mine. The shoes dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers as Ben decided that this young man definitely did *not* need height. He didn't need a thing. Ben on the other hand, needed reflective sun glasses. On second thought, Blair *would* need something, moth repellent.
"Dear boy, take my advice. Dump the flannel. It does not do you justice."
Blair caught Ben's eyes in the mirror as they roamed appreciatively now, lingering on the "rear" of the snug chinos. Now if only Jim would look at him like that, he'd be a happy man.
Ben made a few adjustments, letting his hand smooth down the back of the silk shirt. "You'll still need something for the evenings. You stay right here while I shop." And Ben let his hand trail down to *smooth* the chinos.
"Nonsense, it's my job. Must check the merchandise, make sure it's a tight fit."
"Silly boy, it's a perfect fit. Perfect. Now stop fidgeting."
They were smiling, understanding each other perfectly and enjoying the by-play.
As Ben searched, Blair decided to sneak a bit of cop into the discussion.
"So, what exactly happened to Tony?"
"He broke his leg on Broadway."
"On Broadway? So he's a legitimate dancer?"
"Not *on* Broadway ~ *on* Broadway. He was called back to New York last weekend, and he was running to catch a bus at Fifth and Broadway. And Tony, legit? Don't make me laugh. You, you're legit. And you'd best be prepared for being eaten alive. By the women *and* the men."
"Chelan is very gay friendly. Tony would *allow* us in his class, but he ignored. We have a very strong gay clientele, I'm proud to say."
Ben found what he was looking for and took all the shirts, slacks and shoes to the cash register. A few minutes later he rattled off the total and Blair nearly gagged. $212.27! As shaking hands wrote out the check, he decided he'd better do well with the dance class, it might be his next job after Simon got a look at this receipt.
"I'll have everything taken to your room, you stay in what you're wearing, it's perfect for your first lesson. I'm going to throw away the jeans and flannel."
"Ben......", he warned.
"Oh, alright. But don't you dare put them back on. It's a crime, that's what it is, and do you mind if I drop by this afternoon? Give you a little moral support?"
Blair smiled thankfully at his own personal fairy god-mother, no pun intended. "I'd like that."
"Good. See you at two. And good luck."
When Blair arrived at the night club, he found it empty, but set up for class. A roster of participants sat on the CD player and he noted twelve names written down, and as he scanned the list, he was shocked to see a very familiar signature; Kisha Monroe. Before he could figure out why a cop from Burglary was enrolled in a dance class, he was hailed by Rafe.
"Hey, Sandburg. You ready for a tough afternoon of *dance*?"
"Love the bow tie, Rafe. So you."
"Yeah, yeah. Laugh, hairboy, but while you're dancing up a storm, I'll be doing *real* detective work."
"Well, just don't go outside. There's a real wind and if it catches that tie? Bye-bye, Rafe."
"Fuck you, Sandburg."
"If you're looking for bad guys hiding in here, try under the sink in the men's room. And do you know why there's a Kisha Monroe scheduled to take this class at two?"
"Yeah, Connor had an emergency. Simon came instead, with Kisha. They're posing as newlyweds. Gee, Sandburg, didn't anyone tell you?"
"Bite me, Rafe. And don't you have some *real* detective work to do? I know I saw a very suspicious old lady skulking around the drinking fountain. A terrorist if I ever saw one, and just your speed. And try to come up with a gesture better than your earlier effort."
Rafe was stumped and he hated it when Sandburg did that. Damn, he was good. He shrugged and made as graceful an exit as a man in a bow tie can make. Blair's sniggering didn't help.
By two-fifteen, eleven of the scheduled pupils were gathered on the dance floor, looking expectantly at their new instructor. Seven single women, two men, and one set of newlyweds. Aged seventy and seventy-two respectively.
Simon made his way to the Security offices, looking every inch the irate patron. He didn't bother to knock, he just barged in and started yelling about poor security and how was his wife supposed to feel safe? He slammed the door behind him and smiled.
"So, have you got anything new?"
"I wish. So far, each "accident" looks to be exactly that. An accident. We have a set of wooden stairs that had a step break and tumbled a Mrs. Jackson down several dangerous feet before she caught herself. We have a case of eight partygoers who all came down with food poisoning, a smoke fire on the third floor, and finally, brakes that failed on the trolley car that takes the guests down to the lake."
"I've managed to talk with just about every witness that's still here, the broken wood was thrown out, so I was unable to check it, the food that the birthday party group ate, was from a nearby restaurant, brought in by Karen as a birthday gift, and the trolley car's brakes are gone."
"This doesn't sound good, Jim.
"You're telling me? We've got exactly nothing. Except too many coincidences. And I did look at the surrounding steps, and the wood is strong, healthy, no sign of wood rot or parasites. There should have been no breakage."
"You have any thoughts?"
"Karen went over the books with me, last night, and if they can't make it to the end of the summer, she's afraid Stuart Styles will sell his half."
"He's said that? And why would that be bad?"
"He hasn't said anything, and it would be bad, because he owns controlling interest. If he wants to sell, they sell."
"This place means everything to Karen. It would destroy her to lose it."
"I got that impression. Oddly enough, I haven't had the opportunity to talk with her husband, he works in town and isn't due until Saturday."
"So, let's hope Sandburg has better luck with his dance class."
A knock at the door forstalled any quip Jim was ready to use. Karen walked in, her face saying, "please have some good news for me."
"I was just heading over to The Lakeside Room, to check on Mr. Sandburg and thought I'd see if you have anything?"
Jim answered for them both, "Not yet, Karen, but we're working on it. Why don't I walk you over?"
She nodded, gamely hiding her disappointment.
"I'll go with you, after all, my *wife* is in that class."
They saw the people first, about twenty or twenty-five, gathered around the doors to The Lakeside Room, bodies moving in time to the music blaring from within, laughing and chattering, some trying to see over the tops of heads.
Three sets of heads swiveled, eyebrows were raised in question and three people hurried their pace. Once at the doors, they found they didn't have a prayer of getting inside. The club was jammed and the twenty-five people *outside* constituted the overflow.
"Guys, follow me. It pays to own the joint."
Simon and Jim dutifully followed Karen's lead as she made her way around back, through the kitchen and entering the club from the waiters side entrance.
The sight that greeted them was extraordinary.
Blair stood at the top of the dance floor, moving to the rhythm, hands clapping, shouting out encouragement and singing with the music. All around him were women, men, even three children, all with hips swaying, feet moving in the steps of the complicated Mambo, some were in pairs, but most were dancing solo, arms waving, laughing, twirling and dipping.
"Come on, ladies, get those hips moving, that's it, *feel* it, that sexy beat, imagine your husband's eyes, appreciating *every* move."
The song playing was Lou Bega's Mambo #5 and Blair's own steps were complicated, but sure, his hips moving seductively, and as the song got to the soul of the beat, Blair joined in, singing the words.
"A little bit of Mardi Gras in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side, a little bit of Rita is all I need........"
As he sang each woman's name, he moved about the dance floor, taking hands, dancing a few steps with each of one, encouraging, making each woman and man that he danced with, feel as though they were the only one on the floor with him.
Jim found his eyes glued to those hips, gliding from side to side, seducing him as he stood there, a silly grin plastered to his face, and then his eyes were drawn down, as Blair turned to face his next dance partner, and a round, tight, chino clad rear was displayed, and Jim groaned, which, fortunately, couldn't be heard over the music.
Karen could do nothing but stare.
Simon stared even harder.
The music came to an end, to much moaning, groaning and cries of, "Again, please?"
Blair shook his head, held up his hands and waited for quiet.
"That's it for today, but tomorrow, the Cha-Cha! And don't forget to come to the club tonight and practise! And if you haven't signed up for private lessons, the class sheet is hanging on the wall over by the fountain. See you all tomorrow!"
Everyone started clapping for their instructor, with a good many rushing over to the sign-up sheet.
The next few minutes involved answering questions, showing a few people a couple of the steps, and assuring everyone that yes, he'd be at the club that night.
By four-thirty, no one was left except Blair and Kisha. Simon, Jim and Karen made their way over to the two and Karen spoke first.
"Tony is in big trouble. And Simon? You just lost one detective."
They all began talking at once then, with Kisha explaining how the class had started out, how Blair had wowed them, how he had them eating out of his hand.
"Uh, guys? I have my first private in exactly fifteen minutes?"
Everyone made moves to leave, Kisha and Simon exiting the front, Karen, after clapping Blair on the back, going out the way she'd come in and Jim staying right where he was.
"Not bad, Chief, not bad at all. Did you manage to get any *detective* work done?"
"Well, now that you mention it ~ yes. It's amazing what you find out while you're giving dance lessons. It's kinda like a beauty salon. They talk and talk."
"And they said what?"
"Well, before we get into that, have you noticed anything that all the *accidents* had in common?"
"No, besides seemingly unrelated."
"They all happened on the weekday. The lowest volume days."
"Okay, weekdays. That is peculiar. But what is the significance?"
Jim looked at Sandburg as if he'd lost his mind. "Jeff? Explain, Chief. Sometimes the Sandburg zone gets a little foggy."
"You know, there is *no* Sandburg zone. Just a Sentinel who gets lost alot."
"Lost in *your* ramblings. Now explain."
"Husband, not here. Pretty good alibi. They've been married less than one year, she met him while on vacation, they married two weeks later. No one really knows him very well, and while he professed to a desire to help her run the resort, *this* summer he's spent it in town, helping a friend run a nursery."
Jim gave a low whistle. "Not bad, Chief. How is it we didn't get that info from Simon?"
"I don't think he knows. Karen is Joan's friend, not his exactly."
"Have you found out any good gossip on the missing silent partner?"
"Yes, and he isn't missing. You might want to have a chat with him while I'm taking the privates. He's here in Chelan."
"Now wait a minute, Chief. Karen said he's in England. You telling me she doesn't know where her silent partner is?"
"She doesn't know. He's staying with Ben Webber, the owner of Nirvana, the clothing shop that Karen sent me to for "dancing clothes", and boy, is Simon gonna be pissed."
"Wait, one thing at a time. Simon's gonna be pissed?"
"Love your priorities. Yes, pissed. Over two hundred dollars later, I have dance clothes. Or did you think this outfit was mine?"
"I figured you were holding out on me. And don't worry, you can expense it out." Then as if realizing what he'd said, he whistled again, "Oh, I get it. Yeah, he's gonna be pissed. Now tell me about Styles."
"He and Ben are a couple. Styles is being pressured to sell, he's fighting it. At least according to Ben, he's fighting it. Me thinks Karen and Stuart need to get a dialogue going."
"My, you have been a busy bee, and a dancing fool."
"So, go. Do your detecting. And by the way? The wood from the stairs? It wasn't thrown away. Styles has it."
"Shit, how did you.....never mind, no need to ask. What time do you finish your last lesson?"
"Alright, we're sharing a cabin, I'll meet you there and we'll compare notes."
Blair's five o'clock lesson was late, so he took a few minutes in the men's room, splashing cold water on his face and trying to cool down.
When he came back out, a tall, willowy blonde was tapping her elegant foot.
"Sorry. I'm Blair Sandburg. I didn't see you in the class earlier?"
"No, I missed it. But I'm here now. Can we get started? I'm here to learn the Tango. I brought my own CD. It's over there."
Her purse, cigarettes and matches lay on top of the CD. He moved them carefully, not noticing when the matches fell on the floor. He checked out the music and nodded. Pretty good choice.
He put it in, but didn't start it right away. First, the basics. He moved back to her side.
"Have you had any lessons before?"
"Well, then, we need to start out with the basics, so we'll hold off on the music for a bit."
"I need music. I can't dance without it."
Okay, this was going well.
"Can't you put it in, play it softly? Mood music?"
"Right. Mood music."
He walked over to the CD player and as he fiddled with the volume control, a shadow passed above him and he looked up in time to see the strobe light coming straight for him.
A blood curdling scream followed his leap for safety.