Title: SVS-01: What Goes Around
Email address: FiveSenses@egroups.com
Archive author: Yes
Archive email address: Yes
Series/Sequel: The Sentinel Slash Virtual Season
Category: Series: The Sentinel Slash Virtual Season, Drama
Author's website: http://www.squidge.org/5Senses/
Disclaimer: This story is an episode of The Sentinel Slash Virtual Season (SVS), produced by FiveSenses, Inc. SVS is based on characters and concepts developed by, and belonging to, Pet Fly Productions. This story is intended for private, personal enjoyment only. No money is being made, or will be allowed to be made, by the author of this story or by FiveSenses, Inc. from the writing and distribution of this story. Any original characters introduced in an SVS episode belongs to the episode author and to FiveSenses, Inc. and should not be used without their permission.
Notes: Episodes of SVS may contain depictions of consensual m/m sex. These depictions may or may not be accompanied by specific mention of items necessary for safe and healthy intercourse. It is the intention of FiveSenses, Inc. and all SVS authors that, even when such items are not explicitly mentioned, their use is to be assumed as a matter of course. All of us at FiveSenses, Inc. are aware of the risks of unprotected sex in today's world, and strongly advocate the practice of safe sex, including the use of condoms and other protective devices.
Summary: As Jim and Blair come to terms with the aftermath of the press conference, a new case takes them back to Rainier and Blair ponders the wisdom of continuing as Jim's roommate.
Warnings: Other: see story notes
Warmest thanks from FiveSenses, Inc. to WoD and Zerena for their much appreciated contributions in beta reading this story.
Author's Notes: Since I got episode number one of the Slash Virtual Season, I got stuck with the one episode with no sex! ARRRRGH!!!! Save me someone.
Author's e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's webpage: www.skeeter63.org/k9kennel
What Goes Around
The man moved quietly through the deserted halls. Lighting was dim, but for him, the illumination was enough. He'd memorized the floorplan; he could have found his way blindfolded.
He turned left noting the placard that directed visitors and students to the Biochemistry Lab. He didn't need that either. At the end of the hall he faced two doors. One, a standard lab door with a standard lock, and the other, a heavier door with a computerized card-locking mechanism -- very out of place for the halls of Rainier University.
The invader slid his right hand into his pocket and pulled out a thin, square box. He attached it to the card-lock mechanism, then removed a thin white plastic card and slipped it into the slot. Immediately a series of lights flashed across the intruding black square. A moment later, the red light on the card-lock glowed green. He pushed open the door and slipped soundlessly inside.
As the door closed behind him, a campus security officer turned the corner, shone his flashlight over the two doors, then proceeded on his way. Inside, the intruder checked his watch and smiled. Right on time. He moved stealthily to one of two desks that flanked the far wall.
Both desks were virtually empty of paperwork, with only an upside-down coffee cup on the desk to his left. He moved to the desk on his right.
He took out a key, quickly unlocked the desk, and pulled out the middle drawer. Instead of showing any interest in the contents, his hand slid under the drawer and felt along the bottom until his fingers encountered a catch. He pushed.
A whooshing sound alerted him to the three drawers on the left. They swung out. They were fake. As they swung, a steel door was revealed.
The man knelt before the safe, took out a folded piece of paper from his pocket, read quickly, checked the safe, then put the paper back into his pocket. In the bottom right hand corner of the safe were the words:
Chubb Data Safes.
Running his finger over the second b in the word "Chubb", he felt the loose metal, and using his nail, lifted the thin fake b to reveal a small lock, into which he inserted the same key he'd used to unlock the desk. The strange lock was unique to this safe alone. Anyone trying to open it without prior knowledge, even with the combination, would have been rudely surprised by the sudden screeching of an alarm.
But the intruder did know.
He turned the key, then taking out another small electric box, rested it two inches over the combination lock and put the earplug that dangled from the box into his ear. He turned the dial to his right, heard a click and stopped at the number eleven. He turned it to the left, two revolutions this time, before hearing the click. He froze at number 22. He repeated the turn to the right and this time, the click paused at 44. The handle gave and the safe door swung open.
He removed the earplug, removed the box, and pocketed them. Inside the safe were several thin, pull-out file drawers. He pulled out the one third from the top, flipped through several dividers and finally stopped at a file marked "Raymond Shaw Project".
He slipped the folder out, rested it on the desk, opened it and took out a small camera. He began to photograph-one page at a time.
When finished, he put everything back in its place, closed the drawer, the safe door, spun the lock, turned the key, removed the key and closed the drawers. He relocked the desk, pocketed the camera and checked his watch.
Right on schedule. He slipped out into the hall and moments later he was outside.
He ran swiftly to a black Jeep Cherokee, pulled a new black gym bag from the back seat, unzipped the black nylon jumpsuit he wore, stepped out of it, but not before pulling out the camera. He rewound the film, opened the back, took out the roll, slipped it into a tube, then stuffed everything else into the gym bag. He wrapped the tube in a handkerchief, then pocketed the tube. With practiced ease, he removed the gloves and dropped them into the bag.
He climbed in, started the engine and drove out of the parking lot.
Ten minutes later, a well-dressed man sauntered into Colette's Bistro.
He stopped at the front podium, gave a name and was immediately ushered to a secluded table in the rear of the restaurant.
He sat down and ordered a martini-extra dry.
"No. Smooth as silk."
"You have it with you?"
The man's hand dipped into his pocket and took out a handkerchief. He dropped it into the outstretched hand. From the folds of the handkerchief, the well-dressed man removed the small film tube, rolled it in his fingers, then slipped it into his pocket.
"Well done. You have a few other items for me?"
"You'll find them in a bag resting under your car by the right rear tire."
"You have something for me?"
The older man nodded, removed a thick, white envelope from his dinner jacket and slid it across the white linen tablecloth.
"I wouldn't count that in here. Just a suggestion."
"I have no intention of counting it at all. I trust you." He tucked the envelope away and picked up the menu. A menu with no listed prices.
"So, what do you recommend? I've heard that the coq au vin is excellent."
Blair Sandburg leafed through the large Police Procedural Manual he had propped up on the kitchen table. Interesting, he thought. He closed it, set it down and picked up a thick pamphlet labeled: "Cascade Police Academy".
As he munched a bagel, he read about the cafeteria, the uniform code and prices, the lounge, the dorms, the many and varied rules, parking and parking stickers. He grinned. Just like school.
His smile faded.
"Hey, Chief. Morning."
Blair glanced up and the grin returned. "Hey, yourself. Bagels on the sink, cheesecake cream cheese in the fridge and the coffee's hot."
"Great." Jim paused on his way into the kitchen to look over Sandburg's shoulder. "Getting a leg up on the competition?"
"Leg. Ha, ha, Jim. Very funny. And truthfully? Yeah, I am. I figure I'll need all the advance help I can get. Joel picked these up for me."
"You're not worried, are you?" Jim leaned on his cane as he regarded his partner, a small flicker of worry buried in the pale blue depths of his eyes.
"Nah, bookwork I can ace. But the physical part, well," he twisted his head around to glance up at Jim and grinned. "I figure I'll have plenty of expert help."
"Mmm, anyone I know?" Jim limped the rest of the way into the kitchen, grinning at Blair's retort-a very rude noise. He got his mug, poured the coffee, dropped a spoonful of creamer into it and, with his back against the sink, watched his roommate.
It had been two days since he'd tossed the badge to his partner in Major Crime. Two days.
As he observed Sandburg, he could honestly say, to anyone who might inquire, there didn't seem to be any discernable change in the younger man, considering that a few days ago he'd trashed his life and career. He wasn't all that quiet, seemed to be sleeping well, and was certainly eating. Jim took a thoughtful sip of his coffee and continued his watch.
"Uh, Jim? You're staring, man."
"Right. Just thinking. About?"
"Life, the cosmos, the importance of a great cup of coffee, the usual."
"A good cup of joe is life altering."
"Excuse me? Joe?"
"Hey, mom worked at a diner, believe it or not. In Wyoming. I was ten. I'd have breakfast there every morning before catching the school bus and there was this sign over the cash register proclaiming that a good cup of joe was life altering. I really wanted a good cup of joe. But mom always said no, said it would..."
"Let me guess, she told you it would stunt your growth?"
"No-o, that was masturbation. Mom eschewed the whole going blind schtick.
What she said about coffee was that I was already too hyper."
"So that's why you're so short. Figures."
The ringing phone cut off any attempt at a clever Sandburg retort.
Blair picked up on the second ring, even as he stuck out his tongue.
Jim happily flipped him the bird.
"Blair? I need Jim."
"Hey, Joel. Sure, he's right here. Nothing wrong with Simon, is there?"
"No, nothing like that."
Jim came up behind Sandburg and plucked the phone from his hand and Blair immediately yelled, "Okay, here's Jim." At Jim's wince, he grinned, swatted the back of Jim's head and went back to the kitchen table.
"Joel, what's up?"
"I hate calling, knowing you're still on leave, but Simon asked. There's a problem at Rainier."
Ellison turned away from the kitchen table and faced the stairs as he tried to force his body to relax. "Oh?"
"It's hush-hush right now and Simon is asking if you'll check it out."
"I see. You want me to drop by the station first?"
"Yeah, I can fill you in and there's some material you'll probably want to read."
"Be there in thirty."
Ellison hung up and started to make his slow way to the stairs.
"Jim? Something wrong?"
"Not really. Just a bit of paperwork Joel wants me to look at."
Blair scraped back his chair and stood. "I can be ready in ten."
"No need, Sandburg. Go back to your reading."
"Ellison, you need someone to drive you, hel-lo?" He motioned to Jim's leg.
"Uh, Joel has it covered. No sweat."
Jim moved up the stairs, pausing once he reached his room. With his left hand rubbing his sore leg, he tried to figure a way out of the obfuscation he'd just told. Moving to his nightstand, he picked up the phone.
Fifteen minutes later, Brown showed up to deliver him to the station. For a few awkward minutes, H fidgeted while Jim made his way down. Blair smiled tightly and offered up a weak good-bye as the two men walked out. He knew damn well that Jim had lied and he figured he knew why.
He put the books away, cleaned up a bit, then sat down on the couch to stare at nothing.
"This is what I know, Jim." Joel rose from his seat at the conference table, picked up a folder on Simon's desk and slid it across to Jim.
"The Biochemistry Department is currently working on three government subsidized programs. All three are highly sensitive and top secret. Big surprise. This morning, the Commissioner received a call from his good friend, Doctor Jonathan Wiseman, who's the department head. The call was important enough for the Commissioner to call Simon at home."
Jim opened the file to find a psychological profile and biography of Wiseman, noted his specialty-molecular neurobiology. He glanced up and questioned, "And?"
"This Dr. Wiseman is certain there was a break-in of his office, but there was no alarm and nothing is missing."
One eyebrow arched.
"Yeah, I know. But Simon would like it if you'd unofficially speak with Wiseman. He's strongly against bringing in the Feds. Therein lies the favor."
Jim perused the folder for a few silent minutes, then dropped it back onto the table and stood.
"I can understand his reluctance where the Feds are concerned. He could lose the government funding if something was taken, but what exactly am I supposed to do?"
"Ascertain the extent of any evidence, listen to the man and his suspicions, then make a recommendation. We'll go from there."
"Joel, this is outside our boundaries. What's really going on?"
"Wiseman is Commissioner Lowell's brother-in-law and if anything is amiss, he becomes the number one suspect."
"Ah, the fog lifts. All right, I get the picture. Do I still have my chauffeur?"
"Oh, yeah. H is dying to cart you around all day." Both men smiled, then Joel added, "You'll check back with me?"
"You know I will."
As Joel Taggart watched Detective Ellison limp out of Major Crime, Brown at his side and complaining all the way, he sighed. That had been- strange. He'd given up his rank of Captain to go back to being a detective, working side by side with Ellison and now, as Acting Captain in Simon's absence, he was giving the man orders.
Joel scratched his head and sat down heavily.
"Whoever broke in had very sophisticated equipment. He got past the guards, the special card-lock mechanism, knew the safe was hidden in my desk, and knew how to get in."
Brown was standing against the wall, taking notes, as Jim knelt awkwardly in front of said desk, the safe open before him. He looked up at Dr. Wiseman and asked, "Everything looks fine, Doctor. How do you know the safe was tampered with? A hunch?"
"Our burglar knew a great deal, but he didn't know everything." He held out a small, black flashlight and said, "Here, shine this on the drawers."
Frowning, Jim took the offered item, flipped it on and directed the beam at the drawers. A fine, yellow, powdery substance, unseen by even sentinel eyes, was now visible. Thanks to the odd beam of the light, he could see the powder covering the drawers, the folders... could see where it had been disturbed, then tracked to the desk, the chair, even the floor...
"This some sort of bluelight?"
Wiseman smiled smugly. "It's some sort, yes. Designed it myself to work in darkness and daylight. I shake it on, then when working with the folders, I simply vacuum it up. No one knows about it." He indicated the smudges. "You can see exactly what the thief touched and that he knew exactly what to go to. He had only one target."
"Yes, I can see that." He lifted the folder in question and held it up for Brown's inspection. Prints were clearly visible.
"He wore gloves, Jim."
Wiseman nodded his agreement and added, "You can see he moved the papers inside very carefully, but not carefully enough. I'm a very precise individual and my notes were disturbed."
"But everything is here?"
"So our burglar must have taken photos," Brown correctly assessed.
Jim stood stiffly, then sat down on the chair Wiseman quickly pushed over to him. Looking at the contents, at the label, he asked, "Care to clue us in on this Raymond Shaw Project?"
Wiseman bit his lip and considered the request. The notes would mean nothing to the detective, only another scientist would understand the numbers and the formulas. And his brother-in-law had sent these men and he needed to trust someone...
"Detective, have you ever seen a movie called 'The Manchurian Candidate'?"
"Yes," Jim responded with suspicion as Brown's eyebrows rose in question.
Suddenly Jim snapped his fingers. "Got it. Raymond Shaw, Lawrence Harvey."
"Exactly. Raymond Shaw had been brainwashed in the movie. The formulas you see before you are for a very powerful mind-altering drug that can accomplish in less than an hour what would take weeks of brainwashing. This drug can turn a human being into a machine. A robot."
"An assassin," Jim added thoughtfully.
"Yes. But this drug will leave no aftereffects, no symptoms, no memory, nothing. It was originally conceived and developed for psychiatrists to assist them with the treatment of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses."
"And like all things that can be perverted, our government jumped on it, " Brown quietly added.
Wiseman turned his attention to the large, black detective. "You sound bitter, Detective, but yes, the government scientists immediately recognized its potential. I'm not excusing it, nor am I ashamed of my work here. My job in this is to find the counteragent. After all, when we have something, it's not long before our enemies have it or something like it."
Jim gave a time-out signal and said, "In any case, this formula is now very probably in the hands of god knows who, correct?"
"*A* formula, Detective. They're still working on perfecting the original. It is by no means ready. It hasn't even been tested yet. And I don't think you've quite realized the full potential for this drug. At its baser level, this could be the recreational drug of all time. The possibilities -- endless."
Brown leaned away from the wall and queried, "How could a drug that can do what you say purport to be a recreational drug?"
"Well, Detective, imagine having a substance that when introduced into someone's bloodstream renders them completely at your mercy? That would leave them without a memory of what occurred and other than feeling slightly euphoric, had no other aftereffect?"
"Aptly stated, Detective Brown."
Leaving Brown with Wiseman, Jim spent several minutes checking the door, the alarms, the hallway leading to the biochemistry lab and the offices. While checking the card-lock device, he found a black nylon fiber and immediately bagged it.
Using the flashlight, he was also able to track the intruder's movements, thanks to the man's having unwittingly stepped into the powder. The trail led outside and into the parking lot where his luck continued. One of the tires had crossed the footpath left by the burglar.
Jim made his way slowly back to Wiseman's office and after gratefully accepting a cold bottle of water, made his call to Joel.
"So you're saying that even out here, you're able to follow the trail with that little flashlight and that's why we're crawling down Muir at approximately two miles per hour?"
There was no way he was going to ask Jim why he couldn't see the powder as Jim flashed on the street. He knew better.
"You have a fine grasp of the obvious, H."
"That's why they pay me the big bucks, Ellison. And where's Hairboy?
How come I got stuck with cab duty?"
"I figured he could use some-downtime."
H nodded sagely as Jim directed him to turn right at the next corner.
"The talk has been-interesting. He's in for a rough time, Jim."
"I expect you're right, H."
Brown dropped it, having become accustomed to Ellisonspeak over the years.
Jim's I expect so meant drop it.
"Take this next left."
He did as directed and heard Jim exhale a relieved "yes".
"Go into the driveway, the one for Colette's."
Brown signaled and when it was clear, he made the turn, parked and gazed around. "What? Our thief left the University and decided on a quick hundred buck dinner at Cascade's most celebrated French restaurant?"
"Evidently." Jim scrambled from the car as quickly as his bum leg would allow and hobbled over to an empty parking space. "He parked here, then walked," the flashlight moved across the blacktop to another space, "over here." Jim paused and ran his hand over his jaw." But why?" He mused. He limped to the spot and bent over.
"He set something down just-here."
Using his cane as support, he lowered himself and ran his finger over the spots of powder, then seemingly satisfied, gazed up at Brown. "He set something down, something like a gym bag."
"So, under a car?"
"That would be my guess."
"I'd bet the farm he was returning equipment and kept the film for his contact inside."
"You don't own a farm, Ellison."
"Okay, I'd bet Sandburg."
"Damn, you must be pretty sure."
Ellison chuckled and with Brown's help, he stood. Brown glanced over at the restaurant. "Definitely closed. Doesn't even open until a respectable seven."
"So we come back. We've pinned the time down fairly well, what with two late staff meetings and one janitor repairing a ceiling in a classroom. Our guy made his pictures sometime between ten and midnight which, unless I'm mistaken, represents Colette's closing hour."
"Let me guess. You can even describe the guy, just from his footprints, right Sherlock?"
"You're a laugh a minute, Brown. Yep, you should take over for Conan O'Brien. And no, I can't describe him, but how many men do you think came in alone, between ten and midnight and then met another man, also alone?"
"Good point. Must be why they pay you the big bucks."
Sandburg walked into his room and sighed heavily. While usually neat, his room now looked like a disaster area, what with all the boxes from his office. In fact, his room looked like - his office. Only-nuclear.
His office. His door, his-etched glass. His wolf.
Designed by him, created by a grateful student. He was going to miss that door.
Blair sat down on the edge of his bed and pulled one of the boxes toward him. He brought out two spiral-bound notebooks; his early Jim journals. He flipped open the first one and let his finger trace over the words as he read:
'I found one today. A real Sentinel and it's odd because I don't know what I expected, but I sure as hell didn't expect him. If I were to be honest with myself, and why wouldn't I be, isn't that why I'm writing in these things? Anyway, I'd sort of, almost always expected to find my Sentinel in some village in the jungle of some third world country, not in the middle of Cascade, Washington.'
He flipped through some more pages until:
'Jim is-more. More than anything or anyone I've ever encountered. He's incredibly complicated, not unlike some tragic Greek hero. There are wounds going deep, soul deep and getting the man to talk takes a Herculean effort. (And what's with the sudden Greek references?) But damn, the kindness in the man, the incredible tenderness never ceases to amaze me.'
In the second journal:
'I turned down Borneo today. Me, Fast Track Sandburg, turning down one of the most prestigious expeditions to ever come his way. And yet -- I turned it down-for Jim. Why? I mean, friendship is good, very good, but Borneo? Padded room time, folks.'
And later, in a sloppy, sprawling scrawl:
'okay, i figured it out. it took watching him agonize over an old love, watching him cradle her dead body in his arms, holding lila close to his chest and catching myself wishing i were the dead lover, just so i could be the one held close to him. yes, I know that if i were dead, i wouldn't know that i was being held by jim. what, you think i'm an idiot? don't answer that.'
The handwriting became bolder then, darker, as Blair continued to read his own words.
'And would it be so farfetched? Jim holding me? Jim in love with me?
Didn't he tell me he was bisexual? Haven't there been men in his life?
All the way back to his teens? What about Earl? And-and-but-'
Shaking fingers started to close the book-but somehow, he knew he needed to go on, needed to finish it.
His hands tightened on the journal and he willed himself to reopen, to revisit. His finger wedged itself in, sliding over one particular earmarked page, hesitating, not really wanting to relive the event through his words, but his hand had a different game plan and the book suddenly lay open again.
He had no control. His eyes fixed on the black ink, the smudged black ink and he read:
'Be careful what you wish for-you may just get it. Isn't that what they say? Be careful of your wishes-they can turn against you. That's what I say.
'I died. DIED. I didn't just stop breathing for a few minutes. Oh, no, not me. I FUCKING DIED. Bye-bye, Adios, Sayonara, and no fucking Hasta Luego.
'he held me. so i'm told. he worked on me, never gave up. So they tell me. i was the dead body in his arms, cradled against his chest. i assume. the emt's gave up, the assholes, but not the Sentinel of the Great City. can't let one of our tribe die, can we? [Note for future: how does one imply sarcasm in one's journal?] personally, i thought it was a bit more than just saving one of the tribe. after all, when was the last time a sentinel of a great city went into the hereafter for one his own? yeah, that's what i say too. never.
'well, aren't we cozy? i'm back, he's back, we're joking, he's nervous, his normal unfuckingbelieving self and i'm left with my jeans down around my ankles and no where to go. um, dr. metcalf? do i really need to state for the record that the jean remark was a metaphor?
'fantasies suck big time. well, unless you live in them. Now there's an idea. commit myself, sit in a rocking chair by a window all day and fantasize. oohwee.'
He let the journal slip from his fingers. There were no more books. He'd stopped writing anything that didn't pertain to the scientific aspects of his dissertation after his return from Sierra Verde.
Jim's voice on the answering machine finally roused him and he lifted his head to listen.
"Sandburg? This is taking longer than anticipated so don't expect me anytime soon and no, there's no need for you to come running. Enjoy your day."
Blair snorted. Right. Enjoy his day. Doing what exactly? Like he had a day?
He stood and headed for the front door. Fuck Ellison, he was going to the station. It was the only place he had now.
He parked in his usual spot and pocketing the keys, started toward the elevator. Two motor officers were approaching from the opposite end of the garage and one of them caught his eye when the man immediately grabbed his partner's arm, holding him back.
Blair paused in his stride, puzzled, but recovered and kept going. He passed the two men and frowned at the sneer on the face of the taller officer.
MacDonald. He knew him, had seen him at various crime scenes, the officer usually having a kind word for the anthropologist.
"...you have your nerve."
The hissed out words brought another pause in Blair's walk to the elevator and he almost turned, almost asked what the hell was he talking about, but then-of course-he remembered.
The elevator slid open just as he reached out to press the up button and, relieved, he stepped in. The two scowling officers turned away and headed for the stairs. Blair pushed the close door button and stared straight ahead as the elevator groaned its way up to the seventh floor.
The door slid open and he stepped out and into quiet mayhem, what with officers and detectives hurrying about, the hall so crowded Blair had to find a pause in the foot traffic to jump across to Major Crime. When he finally had his pause, he tried to run the steps to the MC doors, but a large, burly detective came around the corner and they collided.
Strong hands gripped his arms, holding him upright and he heard a deep voice laughingly say, "Whoa there, buddy."
Sandburg glanced up and the man's smiling face froze. Hands dropped away from his arms as the detective stepped back.
"In the future, watch where you're fucking going or next time..." the man let his sentence trail off as he pushed Blair aside and continued on his way.
Rubbing his right arm where strong fingers had tightened convulsively upon recognition, Blair watched the retreating form. Then he gazed around him, at people avoiding his eyes, at outright rude stares, at lips muttering curses...
...and he looked back at Major Crime, spotted Jim smiling and laughing with H and Joel, noted the other detectives walking around, smiling, yelling out insults in their usual manner...
...and he turned, walked back to the elevator, pushed the down button and waited.
He was lucky again. Empty elevator. He rode down alone, got into his car and drove home.
He let himself in and walked immediately into his room.
Standing in the small space, it hit him.
Talk about foolish. Completely naive, completely the fool. There was -- no way-he could partner with Jim, or work in Major Crime, or go to the academy. Maybe in time, but not now. Not now.
And Jim knew it. He knew what they would all face if Blair...
Blair turned, walked back out, searched for the morning paper, found it in the bathroom, carried it back to his room and pulled out the classifieds.
He needed a job and a new place to live.
Fantasies. Never meant to come to fruition. He should have remembered that.
Jim managed to stay busy until time to head back to the restaurant, and he'd even managed to accept the myriad of gimp jokes flung in his direction, but he was getting antsy now, eager to pursue the non case he wasn't working on.
He and Joel had spent an hour with Simon on the speakerphone, deciding on the direction to follow, and that had resulted in all three men calling in every marker any of them was owed. But now, early evening, and all reports indicated no activity suggesting a major buy from either Russia or any Arab country. No noises from any third world country trying to make a name for themselves by use of robotic assassins-which left local drug organizations.
Joel had put out a directive for all detectives to hit the streets, check with informants and see what could be gathered, but so far, nothing.
It was now after four and Jim had nothing to do but think. About Sandburg. About their future. He knew damn well the next weeks wouldn't be easy for Blair, wouldn't be easy for any of them, but if Blair didn't have Major Crime backing him, then... but Jim couldn't finish that thought because of course, it would lead to having to think about his biggest fear-Blair Sandburg's departure from his life and his work.
Odd-just days ago, that was exactly what he thought he'd wanted. Now the fear of no Sandburg was greater than the fear of his own death.
Damn, he should have had him with him today. But at Rainier? No, he couldn't have done that to him. Not two days after being forced to clean out his office. So Jim hadn't been able to ask. But now?
There was no reason not to include Blair in tonight's work, was there?
Jim picked up the phone and punched in the speed dial number.
Sandburg circled another apartment-in Little Cuba. Not bad and only seven hundred a month. If he could talk the landlord into skipping the first and last months rent-he just might be able to swing it.
On the other hand-wasn't it stupid to be looking at apartments without procuring a job first? Yes, but then it was a given that he was an asshole.
The phone jangled beside him and without thinking, he reached out and picked it up.
"Need you, Chief. You able to meet me and Brown at Colette's around six?"
Choking back the yelled out answer of "YES!" he swallowed and stuttered out, "yeah, s-sure, no p-problem, Jim." Congratulating himself on not sounding like a teenager in love, he added cleverly, "Want me to pick you up? I can do a great imitation of a taxi cab."
"You certainly have the cornering for it, Chief. But no, Brown will do the honors, but we both agree we could use your take on people and this whole situation, so-parking lot at six sharp."
"You got it. Do I get dinner out of this?"
"Don't push your luck, Sandburg."
They pulled into Colette's within seconds of each other. Blair made his way to Brown's Impala and slipped into the back.
"So, fill me in."
"We're tracking down a burglar, Chief."
One eyebrow rose in appreciation as Sandburg whistled. "Wow. A burglar who dines at Colette's? My kind of guy."
"A techno thief, Hairboy. Stole vital government info from Rainier."
Jim tried to stop Brown, but he was too late. Way too late.
Blue eyes flicked up to the rearview mirror and captured Jim's and the detective didn't miss the accusatory look. But something else flickered in the steady gaze, something that might be-understanding? And gratitude?
Now that it was out-Jim looked away from that honest gaze and filled his partner in.
Brown flashed his badge and the maitre d' stepped aside, allowing the three men to enter the empty restaurant.
"How can I help the Cascade Police Department, gentlemen? Is it time for tickets to the Policeman's Ball?"
Jim stepped ahead of Brown. "I'm Detective Ellison, Major Crime. Were you on duty last night? Between ten and midnight?"
"Yes." The man's answer was calm and unruffled, certain that this questioning could have nothing to do with him nor his restaurant.
"I believe a man may have come in between those hours, certainly alone and he probably met someone, also alone. I suspect they might have been at one of your more-secluded tables."
Jean Batiste pinched the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes and concentrated on the previous evening. After a moment, he nodded.
"Yes, a tall, rather athletic man in his early thirties came in at 10:30 and asked to join Mr. Eliot Jamison's table. I believe they enjoyed our Coq Au Vin and both gentlemen left a bit before midnight."
Before either Ellison or Brown could ask, Blair spoke. "Could you show us to their table?"
Batiste looked from one man to another and satisfied, nodded. "Follow me." As they stepped down into the restaurant, Batiste motioned to one of the waiters currently setting a table. The young man stopped his task and hurried to his superior's side.
"This is Luc. He took care of Mr. Jamison and his guest last night. This is their table. If there's nothing else, I'll leave you in his hands."
Jim nodded and said, "Thank you, Mister...?"
"Jean Batiste. And you're welcome."
Sandburg cleared his throat and said, "Mr. Batiste, would you be able to direct one of our sketch artists in recreating a drawing of the man who joined Mr. Jamison?"
"Most certainly. In fact, I'm certain I could draw the man myself, if that would be helpful?"
Jim glanced at Brown who immediately took Batiste's arm. "That would be perfect, Mr. Batiste. Detective Brown will go with you and collect the drawing."
Brown led the maitre d' away as Jim turned his attention to the waiter.
"Luc, isn't it?"
"You waited on a Mr. Jamison last night, at this table?"
"Yes. Mr. Jamison is a frequent visitor."
"When Jamison's guest arrived, Luc, did they exchange anything?" Blair asked.
The man fidgeted a bit, but finally said, "Well, I did see Mr. Jamison pass his companion a thick white envelope."
"Did the man open the envelope?" Jim prodded quietly.
"No. He immediately put it in the pocket of his jacket."
"Anything out of the ordinary occur while they ate?"
"No, Detective. They ordered, ate, talked a little, then left just before closing."
Jim took one of his cards from his wallet and handed it to the waiter.
"If you think of anything else, give me a call at this number."
"Of course, Detective." Luc moved away, leaving Ellison and Sandburg alone at the table. Jim knelt down, and taking out the flashlight, aimed it at the floor. He wasn't surprised to see very minute traces of the powder. As he had done in both parking lots, he scraped some up and bagged it.
The three men sat in a back booth at Tommy's Sea Shanty. In front of them sat steaming bowls of clam chowder, hot sourdough bread, and cold glasses of beer.
"Why do I only have a picture of this Jamison's guest and not Jamison?
Should I know Eliot Jamison?" quipped Brown.
Jim put down his beer glass and glanced at Sandburg, one eyebrow asking the same question.
"Lynx Pharmaceuticals. He's CEO," Blair supplied between mouthfuls of the chowder.
Brown frowned. "Okay, why would a major honcho want a drug like this Raymond Shaw Project shit? He couldn't use it, couldn't manufacturer it."
"Sure he can, H. Number one, from what you two have told me, the formula is untested and number two, incomplete. He can have his people work on it, even perfect it. He can take the formula and bastardize it. At the very least, he could beat everyone with a spectacular drug in the treatment of mental illness. And of course, if he should perfect the drug, he could even sell it back to the government."
Brown stared at Sandburg with something akin to awe. "I always knew you had a criminal mind, Hairboy. No wonder you work so well with Ellison."
Sandburg broke off a chunk from the still warm sourdough loaf and laughed. "I think you have it backwards, H. I have a criminal mind because I've spent the last three years working with Ellison. And you," he added pointedly.
Ellison poked his elbow into Brown's side as he aimed his spoon at the large man. "He's got you there, H. We've corrupted the man."
They finished the meal with a pleasant sense of camaraderie and Jim almost believed things would work after all. Maybe the men and women of Major Crime could accept Sandburg back into the fold. Maybe.
Not that everything would be solved. Not by a long shot. As Jim watched Brown and Sandburg exchange insults, he found himself dwelling on Blair's ruined career.
It was one thing to sacrifice for a friend, but to give up a dream, any chance for his doctorate?
No, that was too much to ask any man, especially one as gifted as Sandburg.
Unfortunately, at the moment, there was no way to undo the damage.
Brown happily picked up the check, chuckling over the expense account he planned on turning in to Simon - namely charging everything to his new chauffeur duties.
As they walked out into the summer night, Jim gave Brown a slap on the back. "Thanks for today, H. You made a great cab driver."
"My pleasure. What's on the docket for tomorrow?"
"I'm going to see Jamison and Wiseman. Try to find a connection between Jamison and the University. There's obviously a leak and we need to plug it."
"Jim?" Blair's voice was slightly hesitant. "Why don't I go back and see Wiseman? I do know him."
Jim's surprised look was mirrored by Brown's. "You know Wiseman, Chief?"
"Yes. Pretty well, too."
"And you're-comfortable with the idea of going..."
"To Rainier? I'm fine with it, Jim."
Brown had been watching the by-play and decided it was time to step in.
"Uh, guys? Any reason you both, as in together, can't do the interviews?"
Sandburg actually glanced away, not wanting to hear Jim's answer, but Jim's eyes were on him. He could feel them. He suddenly found something very interesting in the street. The empty street.
"No, H. No reason at all. What do you say, Chief?"
Blair glanced back at the two men, face suddenly unreadable. "Sure, why not? You get a built in taxi cab that way."
"Well," Jim said, his voice carefully masked to hide his excitement, "I guess we're set."
His ceiling had a crack. He grinned, suddenly seeing the ceiling collapsing and Jim falling through and landing on him - face down. He suppressed a laugh.
Unfortunately, visions of tomorrow's return to Rainier interrupted the more erotic vision of Jim, face buried in Blair's groin.
He put his hands behind his head and thought back over his years at Rainier.
Early on, it had been very difficult. Too young, too inexperienced. But as he'd grown, taken command so to speak, he'd found his life at Rainier to be heaven. Working, teaching, his research, the expeditions, stubbornly sticking with his dissertation subject, writing articles, making a name for himself...
...of course, he'd known he was a bit of a puzzle to his fellow scientists and the University. On the one hand, he was admittedly searching for something most believed to be a myth, but on the other hand, he was a kind of a prodigy, an asset to the University, to any expedition. He had published early, was a good teacher, he was-in short-everything the University wanted.
He was also first to admit that university life had never been his goal, nor had teaching. In the last years, he'd grown away from it, found only disappointment in the politics, the behind-the-scenes machinations of promotions, assignments and tenure.
How was it possible that a life that involved the criminal element was more honest than life within the walls of a respected university?
For all that had happened to him, for all the decisions he'd happily made, Blair Sandburg did have one regret: the loss of any chance at his doctorate. He hated leaving anything unfinished, incomplete.
And he-wanted it. Wanted his doctorate.
He turned over and tried to sleep. Tomorrow would be a big day, what with the interview with Jamison and-Wiseman. He'd need all the rest he could get.
He failed miserably.
The next morning, two bleary-eyed men sat glumly at the kitchen table, coffee in front of them along with a plate of cold toast. Jim looked a bit gray around the gills, prompting Blair to ask, "Haven't you been able to dial it down, Jim?"
"The pain. The dials?"
"Oh, yeah. The dials. No."
"No? Just like that, no? Why not? What's wrong? Did you do too much yesterday?
And why didn't you say anything?"
"Jeesh, relax, Chief. You'll stroke out on me."
"Just-hasn't been working, okay?"
Blair angrily knuckled back some hair and regarded Jim impatiently. "So? Try right now." He rose, walked up behind Ellison and placed his hands on Jim's shoulders. As he began to gently knead the tight, twisted muscles, he said softly, "Go on, try. Close your eyes and let's do this right."
Jim started to protest, but damn, Sandburg's fingers felt - too good. He closed his eyes and stamped down the urge to rest his head back and against the man behind him.
"Now, drift. You're in that safe place, your place. When you're comfortable, picture the dials we've talked about."
Jim's breathing deepened as Blair's fingers and voice worked their magic.
"You've got the dial?"
Jim nodded slowly.
"What number do you see?"
"Nine," he breathed out.
"Move - it - down - slowly."
He waited and listened, fingers kneading. He felt the body relax, the shoulders slump forward.
"What does it say now?"
"Can you bring it comfortably up a couple of notches, to protect from further injury?"
Jim nodded again and a moment later said, "Four."
"Great. Now just relax for a few more minutes and let me finish this massage."
Blair worked his thumbs in a circular motion just behind Jim's ears, watching as the man's head automatically dropped forward. Five minutes later, there were no tight spots left, no corded muscles, just one pudding-like detective. Blair moved back to his seat and sat down.
Pale blues opened and groggily regarded his new masseur. "Anyone ever tell you that you have great hands?"
"You know, Ellison, I do believe that's come up on occasion." Blair smiled broadly as Jim realized just what he'd asked. The man actually went crimson. Blair took pity on him and took the coffee cups into the kitchen. From the sink, he said, "So what time do we meet Jamison?"
"Joel is arranging that-in the Commissioner's name. He'll call. We're meeting Wiseman at ten." Jim turned in his chair, draping his arm over the back and asked, "You sure you're up to this, Chief?"
"Stop worrying. Other than Wiseman, no one will even know who I am."
It wasn't true, but Jim let it go. If that's what Blair needed to think, so be it.
On the other side of town, another man sat at his breakfast table. His maid poured him a glass of juice, then scurried back to the kitchen. As she disappeared, he picked up the mobile phone.
"You blew it."
"I doubt it."
"Really? Then perhaps you'd care to explain why the Cascade Police Department, in the form of one Detective Ellison, is scheduled to meet with me at two this afternoon?"
"That means nothing. May not be related."
"Get real, Madison."
"No, you get real. If anyone had the remotest clue, you'd be seeing a federal agent, not some foot soldier from the Cascade PD."
Jamison drummed his fingers on the faux marble tabletop. Madison had a point. If anyone believed there'd been a theft, the Feds would be crawling all over the University and he'd have received a warning call by now.
"You'd better be correct. I'd hate to see a talented man like yourself -- disappear." He hung up.
"So you don't know Eliot Jamison?"
Jim sat opposite Dr. Wiseman, Blair standing behind him. They were in the lab after belatedly hooking up with the scientist, who'd been in a last minute department meeting.
Wiseman rubbed his jaw, as he answered, "No, I don't know the man But I know of him. He's a major contributor to the University."
Blair groaned inwardly. Were there any honest contributors to Rainier? When had it suddenly become de rigueur for the rich, but highly criminal element of Cascade to fork money over to Rainier?
Jim leaned forward and asked, "A major contributor?"
"Yes. As you're undoubtedly aware," he looked up at Blair, then back to Ellison, "we're a private university and rely heavily on donations from alumni etc. Chancellor Edwards has done-a commendable job of soliciting those donations. I'm constantly-amazed."
Jim searched the doctor's face, so at odds with his tone. The man was obviously intimating something.
"So who might have a connection with the man? Someone who would also know how your lab works? Would know where the safe is located?"
"I couldn't begin to guess, Detective. I certainly don't move in the same circles as Jamison and to my knowledge, neither do any of my contemporaries.
As to the safe, my assistant, of course. Our government liaison, Agent Watkins, who was responsible for the set-up, and of course, Chancellor Edwards."
Of course-Chancellor Edwards. Why did everything seem to come back to her? Or was he simply overly sensitive regarding the woman since the fiasco between Sandburg and Ventriss, not to mention the dissertation disaster?
Ellison stood and extended his hand. As Wiseman took it, he said, "Thank you, Dr. Wiseman. You'll call if you think of anything else?"
"I will. But I must admit, I'm stunned by the idea that Jamison might have anything to do with this."
"And yet," Blair interjected, "he's actually quite a likely suspect."
"I suppose you're right, Blair. If one considers that the majority of major crime is committed by the white, wealthy male, he could be considered the most likely suspect."
The two men smiled at one another and Jim had the feeling this was part of an old discussion between the two. He also had a hunch Dr. Wiseman was most definitely on Blair Sandburg's side-in spite of the press conference.
There was hope in this world yet.
As the two men walked down the hall toward the exit doors, Jim asked, "Care to tell me about Wiseman's last remark?"
"Nothing much. Wiseman was fascinated by my work with you and we'd had some pretty lengthy talks about the criminal nature of man. Basically we both decided that the more money a man had, the more likely he was to indulge in criminal activities and thus the more likely he would be to erase any line perceived as existing between himself and the street criminal."
"Which led you to extrapolate that the majority of crimes in America..."
"Were scripted by wealthy, white males. Yeah."
Jim gazed thoughtfully around him, taking in the so-called hallowed halls of Rainier. "Um, really shouldn't be so politically incorrect, Chief. We mustn't leave out the wealthy, white females, should we?"
They caught each other's looks and Blair grinned. "No, Jim, we shouldn't."
Jim dropped his arm across his partner's and said with a grin, "You up to a visit with the Gorgon of Rainier?"
That caught him by surprise and he tried to bite back a chuckle. "I think I can handle that, Jim. In fact, I might even be looking forward to it."
Ellison gave Sandburg a small smirk and quipped, "Getting a little back?"
Blue eyes widened innocently as Sandburg's hands came up in a gesture that said, who, me? "Why, Detective Ellison, I'm surprised at you. How could you think I'd be capable of such..."
"Joy at the thought of the misery of another?"
"I know. I'm a fool. I tend to judge everyone by my own standards. Asshole that I am."
"You said it, Jim, not me."
A hand thwopping the side of his head was Jim's only response.
"I'm afraid Chancellor Edwards can't see you right now. Maybe you could..."
Jim took out his badge. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear? This is official police business."
The young woman let her eyes just skirt over to Sandburg before flicking back nervously to Ellison. She stood quickly and excusing herself, backed into the Chancellor's office.
A minute later, she opened the door and indicated that Jim should follow her. The door started to close before Sandburg could follow and Jim had to put out his hand and block its closing. "He's with me." She had the grace to blush.
Edwards was clearly angry and remained seated as Jim and Blair approached her desk. She also made it a point not to offer either man a chair, in spite of Jim's cane. Of course, offering a chair to Sandburg would have been ridiculous, since she refused to acknowledge his presence.
"Detective Ellison? How can I assist the Cascade Police Department?"
Her words were polite, cordial, but her eyes were cold and forbidding.
Jim wondered how Blair Sandburg had ever worked with her.
"There was a break-in last night, Ms. Edwards." No one missed Jim's refusal to use the woman's title. Cold and forbidding? She couldn't touch Ellison.
"A break-in? Here? Ridiculous. We have security, alarms, and I would have been immediately notified."
"The intruder used very sophisticated equipment and was armed with inside information. And you are being informed - by me. I'm afraid one of the University's government projects has been compromised."
Only Jim noticed the slight contraction of her pupils. And only Jim sensed the increase of her heart rate.
"You have proof of this, Mr. Ellison?"
Blair had to bite back his explosive laughter. The gorgon was in rare form today. But she would never be able to keep up with Ellison.
"Yes, we even have a suspect, Ms. Edwards. What I need to know from you, is how well you know Eliot Jamison."
She finally stood, resting both hands on her desk as she asked, stunned, "You're not seriously considering Eliot a suspect? And what proof?"
Neither man missed the use of Jamison's first name.
"The proof is of no concern at the moment, Ms. Edwards. And right now, the Department is simply interviewing anyone who might have knowledge of a new wonder drug. Rumors in the pharmaceutical industry are common, almost legendary, as is theft. And no matter how jealously guarded, these things slip out. As you're well aware, I'm sure. Mr. Jamison is just one-of many interviews scheduled."
Jim shrugged and smiled as he continued, "Of course, he is the only pharmaceutical executive we're interviewing who also has ties to the University. He has made some heavy donations, I believe?"
"Elio... Mr. Jamison is an alumni, but I'd have to look it up to make any confirmation regarding donations."
"Really?" Blair stepped slightly ahead of Jim. "There have been several fund raisers in the past, and I distinctly recall on several occasions your publicly announcing Eliot's generous donations."
Her eyes narrowed but never left Ellison and the man could tell she was actually considering the idea of pretending Blair hadn't spoken at all. Her next words confirmed her choice.
"Of course, Detective. I don't see what a man's donations would have to do with any theft?"
Jim had to give the woman credit. She'd managed to ignore Sandburg while at the same time trying to put Jim on the spot and solicit more information. And she'd used his rank. He was tempted to applaud.
"There may be no connection. But you know the police," he shrugged again, "no stone left unturned. And of course, this was clearly," he fixed her with his best stony stare, "an inside job."
"Now you're accusing Dr. Wiseman?"
"Not at all. In fact, Dr. Wiseman is the only person who isn't a suspect -- which of course, narrows the field a bit." Jim raised his left hand and with slow exaggeration, ticked off the suspects. "There is Michael Moreno, Dr. Wiseman's assistant, Agent Watkins and," he turned to Blair and asked, "Sandburg, who else did Dr. Wiseman mention as having knowledge of the safe and the lab's precautions?"
Blair dropped his eyes while pretending to find his notebook. God, Jim was good. He finally pulled out a small, spiral-bound pad he happened to have in his jacket pocket and made a bit of a show flipping pages over and making a few mmm sounds. But he finally glanced up at his partner and said, "That would be-well, actually-Chancellor Edwards."
"Ah, yes." He turned back to the woman and smiled coldly. "And as you just heard, you. Rather limited list, grant you. We're naturally running extensive background checks on all of you, but let's face it. Agent Watkins is highly unlikely, which narrows the field to-two."
Edward's eyes glittered dangerously. "I believe," she said, controlled, white-hot fury in her voice, "this meeting is over. And the Commissioner will be hearing from me within the hour."
"I'm happy to hear that, Ms. Edwards. He's very concerned about Dr. Wiseman.
They're related by marriage, you know."
As he ushered Blair out, he threw out his last parting shot, "We'll be back, Ms. Edwards."
"She knows something, Chief."
"No, really? I'd never have guessed."
"Sarcasm does not become you, Sandburg."
"But I do it so well."
"What now, Kemosabe?"
"Now, the Lone Ranger, along with his faithful companion, Toto, will try to intimidate Eliot Jamison."
"Uh, Jim? That's Tonto."
Ellison looked pointedly down at his partner, one eyebrow arched.
Blair rolled his eyes, as he said with a trace of patient humor, "Right.
Giddyup and woof."
Eliot Jamison lived in the Marina District of Cascade, his home a two story art deco structure with its own boat slip. As Blair parked on Seacliff he gazed up at the home and whistled. "Pretty good digs, Jim."
Ellison shrugged as he stepped out, his cane supporting him. "Nothing less than I'd expect, given everything we know about him. He's what, the fifth richest man in Cascade?"
Blair walked around to the front of the truck and waited for Jim to join him. "Yeah, and the eighth richest man in Washington."
They walked across the quiet, sun-dappled street, the fresh scent of ocean air filling them.
When they reached the front door, before knocking, Jim looked down at his partner and said, "I need you to do most of the talking, Chief."
Blue eyes widened in surprise. "Excuse me? You want me to conduct this interview?"
"That's right." He pulled his hand from his pocket to wiggle Wiseman's flashlight. "I need a little distraction, namely you talking with Jamison."
Understanding flooded his eyes as he nodded enthusiastically. "Gotcha Jim. But if you do find traces of the powder?"
Jim tapped his jacket pocket. "I have the search warrant right here, Chief. Just get him talking, okay?"
"She has to have called him, Jim."
Jim smiled as he raised his hand and knocked. "I sure hope so, Chief.
I sure hope so."
Neither man was surprised to be greeted by a butler, an aged and very formal butler at that. As they were shown to Eliot Jamison's study, Sandburg couldn't help the soft whisper, "just tell me the butler did it, jim."
The man, who'd identified himself as "Hawkins" turned as Jim suddenly started coughing.
"Nothing, I'm fine, go on."
The butler missed the murderous look Jim bestowed on his partner.
They were still alone, Jamison yet to show.
Blair watched as Jim played the beam around the room, over the desk, the floor, and finally the wall.
"Bingo, Chief. Residue at nine o'clock."
Before either man could investigate, Eliot Jamison walked in, hand extended, a large, welcoming smile on his handsome face.
"Detective Ellison, it's an honor to meet Cascade's Detective of the Year."
The two men shook, as Jim introduced Blair. Jamison indicated both men should take a seat, then walked calmly around to his desk and sat down. Letting the chair tip back, he asked, "How can I help you this afternoon, Detective?"
The fact that they'd been left alone in the man's study made stalling unnecessary. Jim took out the search warrant.
"Mr. Jamison, I have a warrant here to search the premises."
The man was cool, no doubt about it. One eyebrow rose lazily as he smiled. "You want to search my home? What on earth for, Detective? What could I possible be suspected of?"
"Theft, Mr. Jamison. Theft of government property from Rainier University.
Would you mind opening the safe behind that Delacroix?"
The only clue that Jim had hit Jamison where it hurt was the slight clenching of the man's jaw. Jamison rose slowly, his eyes never leaving Ellison's face.
"Is this some kind of joke, Detective?"
"Mr. Jamison, the Cascade Police Department is not in the habit of entering the homes of its citizens armed with search warrants as a joke even if they are suspected of theft. This will go much easier if you simply comply with my request."
"I think I deserve an explanation."
Jim simply regarded the CEO impassively.
Eyes narrowing, Jamison walked to the picture, pulled it away from the wall and quickly opened it, then stepped back.
As Jim slipped on his gloves, he indicated that Jamison should move back to his desk, then he stepped up to the safe. Once Jamison was in place, the detective turned to the contents with the flashlight.
The powder, so faint as to be almost invisible to even sentinel eyes, lingered on a small manila envelope. He pulled it out, enjoying the sudden perspiration that had suddenly popped up on Jamison's forehead.
Jim bent the prongs of the envelope, then upended it and watched with satisfaction as black film canister dropped into his gloved hand. A canister with yellow powder dusting its surface. Jim pulled out an evidence bag and dropped the canister inside.
"Well, Mr. Jamison, it seems we've found what we were looking for. You have the right to remain..."
Knowing it was over the moment the manila envelope was picked up, Jamison's mind had begun to churn. Behind him, French doors leading to his patio, and beyond that, his dock. And tied to his dock, his speedboat.
As Ellison read him his rights, he let his face show only shock and surprise even as his fingers closed around the small bronze bust of Albert Einstein that rested on the corner of his desk. With lightening speed, he threw it hard, fast, and with amazing accuracy.
From the corner of his eye, Sandburg saw the object take flight and yelled, "JIM! LOOK OUT!" just as Jamison whirled and pushed his way out onto the patio.
Ellison ducked, and the statue crashed into the wall behind him. He started to thrust the evidence into Sandburg's hands and was surprised when the younger man said, "Call for back-up, Ellison." With a quick, downward glance at Jim's cane, Sandburg took off in pursuit of Jamison.
He burst through the doors, spotted Jamison heading for the dock, and dashed toward the man at an angle, hoping to cut him off.
Jamison was in good shape for a man his age, but no match for Blair. As the man thudded down the wooden dock, Blair raced across the lawn, and just as Jamison was about to jump aboard, Sandburg tackled him and both tumbled into the water.
Jim reached the dock just as Blair was dragging a flailing Jamison to safety. Sirens could be heard in the distance. With Jim's awkward assistance, Jamison was rolled onto the deck.
As police stormed the property, a soggy Sandburg hauled himself from the water in time to see Jim cuff the man and finish reading his rights.
Brown was first down to the dock and immediately handed Jamison off to a uniform, then smiling, said, "Gee, Hairboy, you're all wet."
Making a show of wringing out his shirt, Blair responded, "Well, H, water will do that to a man, you know?" He turned to Jim. "Man, you call a mean back-up, Jim. Thanks."
Jim couldn't resist. "You're welcome." He raised both hands in a warding gesture. "Just don't-touch me."
Jamison sat in an interrogation room, a well-dressed man beside him.
As Jim limped in, followed by Taggart, the man stood.
"I don't know what you're pulling here, but you have nothing on which to hold my client. Mr. Jamison is an upstanding..."
"Thief. And you would be?" Joel finished.
"John Carstairs, Mr. Jamison's attorney. And I must insist you allow my client to leave."
"Mr. Carstairs-sit down. We have enough on your client to put him away for quite some time. It's over and the best thing you can do is advise your client to come clean and answer our questions."
Jim pulled out a chair and sank down next to Jamison. "We have the film, a gym bag filled with interesting devices that we found in the trunk of your car and the prints on the film tube will undoubtedly be yours."
"In addition," Jim went on, "we have a drawing of the man you met at Colette's and will have an identification any moment. Things could go easier on you, however, if you save us the time and effort and turn him over to us, along with your inside source at the University."
Jamison never blinked. In a cold, unemotional voice, he said, "Go to hell, Detective."
Four men sat in Simon's office, mulling over their options. Banks, eager to get out of the house, had rolled in about an hour after Jim and Taggart had attempted their interrogation of Jamison. He sat in his wheelchair, his coffee cup on the conference table in front of him. Joel sat beside him, Jim and Blair opposite.
For Ellison and Sandburg, there was no doubt Edwards was the insider in Jamison's theft, but proving it was a whole different ballgame.
A dry and changed Sandburg took a sip of his now lukewarm coffee, then mused out loud, "You know, ever since the Brad Ventriss case, I've wondered about her, about Edwards." He put his cup down and sat forward. "I walked into that office and the war was over, I never had a chance. Now, I'm thinking-she was..."
"Bought and paid for, Chief?"
Sandburg smiled wryly and nodded slowly. "Well, yeah. It would fit. My absenteeism was logged, noted and accepted until that day. I just chalked them up to research. There'd never been any complaints or even a suggestion of censure-until that day."
Simon fingered his cup and twisted it around absently. "I always felt you had a-suit, Sandburg. Not to mention-later."
Blair's eyes widened in surprise. He leaned over and pinched Simon, who yelped and rubbing his arm, gritted out, "Watch it, kid!"
"Sorry, Sir. Just checking. Needed to make sure the pod people hadn't taken over your body while you were in the hospital."
"You're a laugh a minute, Sandburg."
Something passed between the two men, something that eased an ache inside Blair. Simon wasn't known for his apologies, but Blair was pretty sure he'd just heard one.
"Not to interrupt this tender moment, Sir, but we still have to prove Chancellor Edwards is our accessory."
"You really worried, Jim?" Simon asked.
"In a word? Yes. If we can't identify..." Jim paused as Blair stood abruptly.
"Uh, Jim? The inside of the gloves? From the gym bag?"
The three policemen looked at each other, then at their anthropologist.
Joel spoke first. "Gee, he's good." Then he picked up the phone, dialed Forensics and when they answered, gave Jeff Cowell the new instructions. Hanging up, he asked, "Sandburg, care to go over with me to check the results?"
Blair, with a quick glance at Jim, nodded. The two men left, Joel dropping a fatherly arm across Sandburg's shoulders.
"More coffee, Simon?"
"No thanks, I'm floating as it is."
Jim poured himself another cup and mused out loud. "Think our guy was clumsy enough?"
"Possible, Jim, possible." As Ellison took his seat, Simon wheeled his chair out so that he could face his detective. "I've some possible good news, Jim."
One eyebrow rose as Ellison took a sip.
"Since we have such a long wait until the next possible class for Sandburg, I've had a couple of conversations with the Commissioner and well, we might be able to offer Sandburg a kind of - consultant's fee." At Jim's surprised expression, he hastily added, "It's not unheard of, Ellison. And let's face it, as you yourself said, he's been a cop in all but title for three years. He deserves it. He'll have to document his time and we can set up a contract, but other than that, it can be a done deal."
"Simon, you can't begin to know how worried he's been about his finances.
He's tried to hide it, but damn, this is like an answer to a prayer.
I don't pretend to know how you swung it, but I owe you big time."
"Jim, trust me, you don't want to know. However, be aware, your Captain isn't above the fine art of blackmail."
Even the best were fallible. Like Carl Madison; aka, Cliff Martins; aka, Carlos Marquez. He'd been too cocky and thus careless. One nice, round thumb print on the inside rim of the right latex glove.
Their reports written, Jamison behind bars and Madison a few short hours from joining the CEO, left Jim and Blair heading wearily home.
As they sat in front of the balcony window, nursing beers, Jim said quietly, "You did a good job today, Chief."
"Thanks, Jim. But I guess it's not really over yet, uh?"
"No, but once Madison is in custody, we should be able to unravel this mess."
"Do you think Edwards is going down?"
"Honestly?" At Blair's nod, he continued, "Yeah, yeah I do. And I suspect once we open this can of worms, we're going to discover a great deal more about Chancellor Edwards."
Blair turned his attention back to the view. "I should feel-vindicated, somehow, but I don't. I just feel-sad."
"Please tell me you're not wasting any emotion on Edwards?"
"No, Jim. The sadness is for Rainier. For Rainier," he finished softly.
Ellison turned slightly, easing his leg over and fixing his gaze on his partner, his friend. Voice little more than a whisper, he asked, "Regrets, Chief?"
Blair brought his beer up and after taking a swig, answered, "No, Jim.
"I hate-things-unfinished, you know?"
"But your dissertation was finished. Do you mean you wish you could still publish?"
"God, no. Somehow, in spite of what I said that day about figuring how to hide your identity, I really, subconsciously knew I could never publish. No, my only-regret, if you want to call it that, is in not finishing my doctorate. It feels like-failure to me."
Both men brought their beers up and swallowed, then gazed back out over their city, each deep in his own thoughts.
Jim moved slowly through the loft, checking locks and turning off the small light beside the couch. He moved into the kitchen, picked up the empty beer bottles and opened the cupboard beneath the sink. As he tossed them into the recycle bin, something caught his eye.
He reached in and picked up a discarded newspaper. He straightened, eyes fixed on the folded paper.
The classifieds. Apartments for rent. Seven, neat, red circles. He flipped the paper over and found more circles on another page-the employment section.
Jim dropped the paper back into the bin, closed the cupboard, and walked to the French doors. He carefully opened one just enough to reveal the sleeping man inside.
Sandburg was on his side, covers tangled around his limbs, one bare leg visible to sentinel eyes. He followed the pale limb up to a faded blue tank top, one muscled arm, the shoulders and finally, the loose hair. He couldn't see Blair's face, just the barest profile.
Jim silently closed the door, then walked into the kitchen and turned off the light above the sink. He stood a moment, then walked into the living room, over to the stereo cabinet, slid a cupboard open, and from the back, retrieved a cassette.
At the television, he slid the cassette into the VCR, backed to the couch, sat down and picked up the remote. He hit power, then play.
The tape was second generation, black and white and slightly grainy.
Blair, standing behind a podium at Rainier University, standing before his peers, his mother, and the press.
Jim listened to Sandburg's words, watched the face, the expressive face even in a moment of supreme calm. Supreme devastation.
As Blair faltered at Jim's name, Ellison put the tape on pause. For several minutes, he just stared. Then he rewound, played, paused, rewound, played...
...and one final pause.
The handsome face frozen in time, an expression suddenly so easily readable by a Sentinel.
"I love you too, Chief," the Sentinel whispered into the darkness.
Behind him stood a sleepy, yawning Sandburg, fingers moving through messy, fly-away hair.
### The End ###