Otherwise: it's only been looked at by one other person. It's another in those long lines of TSbyBS epilogues(?). I know, I know, I promised to get over that episode. I did, kind of. I totally ignored it for that Ashes story.
Anyway, be warned, lots of spoilers for other episodes as well as a not too happy continuation of TSbyBS. Blair doesn't specifically appear in this and I might come up with a sequel and happy ending.
Without further ado:
The Weekly Press Conference
Jim Ellison leaned wearily against the wall behind the public information department bodies lined up at the podium. He was on somebody's shit list and had been assigned to attend the weekly press conference with the local press.
The Monday morning ritual was supposed to be a chance for the press to ask for written confirmation about the weekend's crimes and for the police department to flood (excuse me, provide) the press with releases about low profile cases successfully closed--either with an arrest or conviction.
It was generally considered a bore--a punishment for both reporters and officers relegated to attend. For officers, it was supposed to be a controlled environment in which to answer questions about cases. In reality, it was a much-hated chore in which they had to come up with respectable-sounding quotes to inane questions. In general, the officers didn't really hold the inane questions against the reporters. The cases were generally boring and finding a new and interesting way to say, "Did you catch the suspect?" and "We caught the alleged perpetrator," was hard for both cop and reporter. For reporters, the press conference was either an early step in their career--just up from obits (let's face it, we're not talking the New York Times, here)-- or the last stop before retirement (voluntary or not).
Maybe that's why Jim, already tired from a hastily re-arranged schedule when Sandburg's home health nurse hadn't shown yesterday, let the control on his hearing slip.
Or maybe it was the way the old reporter hissed Sandburg's name.
"What is it with that Sandburg guy?" the old man in the back of the room whispered to his neighbor, a cameraman from a local station, as he looked over the press release handed out by the PD press agent.
"He gets a 90-day ride-along pass that lasts for four years. After declaring himself a fraud, he gets offered a place in the most elite squad on the force. Then, after washing out of the academy and trying to off himself and his mom in a wreck, the police claim he was the victim of some poor schmoo? I'm worried about the quality of our protection if this--what did he call himself? a witch-doctor?--can snow these supposedly intelligent officers of the law and protectors of our safety...."
The young cameraman briefly ignored the conversations between rookie reporters closer to the front of the large room to glance at his fellow press corps member and started to smile. He'd just started with the station when the flak about Cascade's superhero cop had broken in the spring and missed the juicy assignments following the story. He was about to comment on it being old news without a coherent subject to interview when he caught sight of blue eyes lasering a hole through the sparse gathering in the large room. Sensing the making of his own career, the cameraman nudged his reporter companion, another newbie at the station, and silently focused his lens and recorded the steady approach of the tall Cascade detective from 60 feet away.
"I mean," the old reporter continued in a whisper, oblivious to the approaching iceberg, "did you get a look at him? What kind of cop would he have made, anyway? He..."
"He was the best cop I've ever known," a cold voice finished for him. The old man looked up into the ice blue eyes of the resident 'Supercop' and almost peed in his pants.
Ellison glared at this weasel, this insignificant piece of shit that represented all that had gone wrong in his friend's life. He glared at the man as he thought of the way his bright, exuberant friend now sat practically motionless day after day, moving when moved, eating when fed, on a fixed schedule of bathroom breaks and monotonous exercises as his overwhelmed pschye fought to come to terms with his shattered life. He thought of the moments after the wreck when he had worked with the rescue squad to free Sandburg from the twisted skeleton of the Volvo. He remembered the thoughtless remark that had filtered through the crowd and, no doubt, into his awakening partner's consciousness.
"Do you think he planned to kill her for that diss screw-up and off himself while he was at it?"
Blair's eyes had widened in his bloodied head, and he had forced his eyes to his right, seeing the sheet-covered corpse where his mother had sat moments before.
One sharp intake of breath was his only reaction.
One sharp intake of breath was the last piece of his friend that Jim had really seen. The automon that replaced him, that resided in the lower bedroom now, was that bright light's prison. What was the saying about putting a lamp under a bushel basket? Well Blair Sandburg's bright light was in a deep, deep well, and Jim Ellison was ready to share the guilt.
"When you were ruining his life," Ellison whispered, "did you know who he was? Did you try to find out? Did you bother to mention he was the same man who held the Switchman at bay so I could find the bomb and get it off the bus? Did you bother to mention that he saved at least 15 cops when Garrett Kincaid took over this precinct? Did you bother to mention he got the bomb out of the Wilkenson building's elevator before it blew and killed six people? Did you know he stayed behind on a bombed oil rig to defuse a bomb so the trapped workers could live? Did you know he started college when he was 16, despite a childhood moving all over the country? Did you know he liked tribal drum music? Did you know he was kidnapped and nearly killed three times in twenty-four hours by drug dealers?
"Did you know he did all of that without being paid?
"Did you even bother to see if he was the kind of man who would lie? Who would defraud people?
"Did you ever wonder what might make a person do that?"
The old man was beyond speech so the cameraman, caught in the spell of those eyes, answered for everyone in the room.
"No," the young man whispered. Inaudibly, he thought. Tired blue eyes brimming with tears looked directly into the camera, through the lens and into the cameraman's wide eye.
"Because he thought that's what I wanted. Because for the first time, he didn't look past my bluster and my fear and my mouth. Because he wanted to fix my life. But he'd already fixed it. He fixed it four and half years ago when he taught me about Sentinels, about dials, about friendship.
"And I thought I learned. I thought I knew. But he wouldn't let me fix it back." The blue eyes turned pleading. "I wanted to. I really did. I tried, but he wouldn't let me." Anger flared again and he looked back at his first victim.
"And you wouldn't let it go. You hounded him, and he left the academy. And he still wouldn't let me fix it. And then somebody really shattered his world."
Ellison grabbed the press release from trembling hands. "Read it. He didn't kill his mother. He didn't try to kill himself. Lee Brackett--someone Sandburg helped stop from releasing a deadly virus in Cascade, got out of prison--got pardoned by someone. And he finished what was left of Sandburg's world. Brackett is the one who tampered with Sandburg's car. Brackett is the one who made that car go off the road. Brackett is the one who killed Naomi Sandburg.
"So you print that! You print that as big as the headlines you printed that said he was a fraud. And then you print that he wasn't. You print that he made the biggest find in anthropology in this century ...in this millennium.
"And then, you leave us the hell alone." Ellison turned and left the room.
At the front of the room, Captain Simon Banks dropped his head in his hands.
As the door slammed behind Ellison, the chaos began.
"What the hell was that?"
"How the hell did he hear me?"
"My God, it was true."
Dropping his gun and his badge at the front desk as he left the building, Ellison pulled out his cell phone and made one phone call.
"Megan?" he asked when the line was answered. "We're ready to take you up on your offer. We'll be in Sydney as soon as we can get a flight."
Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Madraf.