Heartfelt thanks to Vicki & Brenda for pointing out all my lapses in logic. Thanks to you this might actually make some kind of sense!
Thanks also to Shy for all her help and effort getting this posted.
And, as always, thanks to Stargazer, cyber goddess and beta reader extraordinaire! (Sucking up really pays off in the end!)
Disclaimer: Not mine. Asking for them for Christmas. etc. etc. Nobody dies! Well... at least nobody important. Okay! So I can't make it through a day without killing some hapless piece of fictional crud. It makes me happy.
by Sue Pokorny
Detective Jim Ellison pulled the door shut and leaned on the steering wheel of the blue and white pickup. He didn't say a word, nor did he acknowledge the older man in the passenger seat.
"I take it your contact didn't have the information you wanted?"
Jim raised his head slowly and looked across the cab at Captain Joel Taggart. Taggart had recently joined the Major Crimes Division as a detective so he was, in essence, the junior officer despite his rank. The former Bomb Squad Captain read the answer to his question in Ellison's disappointed expression and sighed deeply.
"Okay, then. Now what?"
Jim shook his head and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes.
"I don't know, Joel. These drugs are hitting the streets faster than we can handle the fallout. And we still have no leads as to where these new drugs are coming from." The frustration in his voice was evident. "There has got to be someone out there who knows something. These pills aren't just falling from the sky."
Joel nodded his agreement. The little blue capsules, known on the street as "Dreamscape", were quickly becoming a favorite with the younger crowd. There had been reports from at least six different high schools - too many for Vice to handle on its own. The problem had escalated when three kids were found apparently OD'd on the drug, prompting the mayor to enlist the help of the Major Crimes Department in an effort to root out the source of this deadly new threat. The pills, which had properties similar to PCP or Angel Dust, were cheap, addictive, and obviously easy to get, yet the police had been completely stymied. Nobody was willing to talk. They had checked every possible source they could think of and still they had no leads as to whom was distributing the pills. Jim slammed his hand into the steering wheel, accompanied by a grunt of anger.
"Take it easy, Jim," Joel coaxed. "We'll find something. It's just a matter of time."
"Yeah well, in the meantime kids are going to keep dying," Jim responded sharply. He immediately regretted the tone. "I'm sorry Joel, it's just so damn frustrating."
"I hear you, man."
Any further comments were cut off as the police radio came to life.
"All units, we have a report of a 911 call at Rainier University, Hargrove Hall. Victim believed to be male, possible suicide, possibly drug-related. Units 24 and 30, please respond."
Jim started the truck and pulled away from the curb before the call had ended. Joel didn't comment, but hung on for dear life as the pickup sped through the traffic with the siren blaring. Ellison's motives were clear. Sandburg. Whenever a call came through regarding the University, the young police observer was the first thing on Ellison's mind. Since Sandburg was a Teaching Fellow at the University, and his office was in Hargrove Hall, Joel understood Ellison's haste. He wanted to make sure the grad student was alright, and he wanted to make sure in person. Sandburg had become something like a kid brother to Ellison - hell to most of the members of the Major Crimes unit - but especially to Ellison with whom he was "unofficially" partnered. Some people questioned why an Observer would be partnered with a veteran detective like Ellison, but one look at the chemistry between the two completely opposite men was usually enough to silence even the toughest critic. There were still some uniforms who regarded Sandburg as an interloper, someone who didn't deserve the respect and admiration he received from the department. But the kid had long since proven himself as intelligent and resourceful to the members of Major Crimes and was regarded as an equal.
Joel's dark complexion paled a bit as Ellison took a wide turn, nearly colliding with an oncoming cab. The Detective swore under his breath and pulled the wheel to the right as he deftly avoided the obstacle without even slowing down. Joel focused his eyes ahead, thankful that the University lay in view, just a few blocks ahead.
Simon Banks turned his head as the blue and white pickup screeched to a halt just behind the group of patrol units that were blocking the drive of the university parking lot. Dismissing the officer he was talking to, he took a deep breath and prepared himself for the unpleasant task ahead. He had been close by when the call had come through dispatch and had immediately changed course. He knew that at least one of his detectives would respond to the call of a death at Rainier University and he wanted to be there to take control if necessary. He watched calmly as Detective James Ellison jumped from the pickup, ducked under the police tape and hurried over to the him.
"What happened, Simon?"
"Calm down, Jim. It's not Sandburg."
Ellison took a deep breath as some of the tension started to melt away. At that moment, Taggart joined them.
"What's up, Simon?" One look at the relief on Ellison's face had told him that Sandburg was not the victim.
"Apparent suicide," Banks began. "Witnesses say he was pretty distressed about something and decided to take a dive off the roof." He looked at Ellison as the detective shaded his eyes to gaze up at the roof . "Jim..."
Ellison's blood ran cold at the tone of the Captain's voice.
Banks took a deep breath before continuing. "Sandburg was up there with him. He tried to talk him down, but..." he let his voice trail off as the detective's face reflected the anguish he himself had felt when he arrived on the scene and learned of the observer's involvement.
"Where is he?" Jim asked softly. He tried to use his Sentinel hearing to find his partner in the chaos, but was not able to filter out the many sounds surrounding him.
Banks nodded his head toward a patrol unit and Jim noticed the small figure hunched in the back seat. The Sentinel let his hearing piggyback on his sight and was able to discern the somewhat rapid heartbeat and slightly shallow breathing of his partner. He focused his attention momentarily on the two plain clothes detectives leaning against the car, talking to Sandburg. Messner and Haas, his memory supplied the names. Sam Messner was in his mid thirties, well dressed, with light brown hair that was receding on the top. His partner, Dan Haas, was shorter and rounder. He had a shock of thick, dark hair, and wore an ill-fitting plaid suit coat. It was the sight of Haas pulling out a set of handcuffs, and the gravelly sound of his voice reciting the Miranda, that kicked Jim's protective instincts toward his partner into full gear.
"Damn," Jim swore softly. Without another word to the Captain, he made his way over to the unit. Cutting off Haas in mid-sentence, Jim pushed him aside and kneeled down beside the already open rear door.
"Hey, Chief," he said, leaning forward. He tried to get a glimpse of his partner's face but it was hidden behind the long brown curls which hung down from his bowed head. "How are you doing?"
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Ellison?" Haas grabbed Ellison's arm in an attempt to move him away from the car. Jim deftly slipped from the man's grip and stood to face him, his blue eyes blazing. "This ain't your case," Haas growled, not backing down.
"Maybe not, Haas," Ellison agreed, his voice dripping with barely controlled anger. "But this is my partner and you will back off!"
Before Haas could utter another word, his well-dressed partner stepped in front of him and pushed him away from the angry Sentinel. "Back off, Haas," the younger man said.
Jim dismissed the two homicide detectives, trusting Messner to control his partner, and turned his attention back to Sandburg. Blair hadn't responded, so Jim placed his hand on the grad student's knee. "Sandburg? You with me here?"
Slowly, the young man lifted his head enough to look at his partner with shell-shocked eyes. "Jim?" he asked softly. "I tried to save him. I tried.." his voice was low and flat. He held his hands in front of him and stared at them, not moving. "I couldn't hold on to him."
Jim's heart broke at the obvious pain in that soft voice.
"It's okay, Blair," he said soothingly. "You did everything you could."
Blair nodded slightly, but continued to stare at his hands. "He was my friend."
Jim covered Blair's hands with his own, surprised at how cold they were. Quickly, Jim turned around and asked Messner for a blanket. He wrapped it around his partner then resumed his position beside the door.
"Is that better?" he asked.
Blair's nod was almost imperceptible.
"Oh for chrissakes, Ellison," Haas pushed his partner aside and approached the detective. "I am not going to allow you to meddle in this case. We're conducting a homicide investigation in case you didn't notice..."
Ellison rose to his full height and looked down his nose at the shorter man. He was pleased to see a flash of fear creep across Haas' face When he spoke, his voice was dangerously low. "I've only been here five minutes, detective, and I've already ascertained that, according to the witnesses, your victim was an apparent suicide. That pretty much takes care of your homicide investigation now, doesn't it?"
"Like hell it does," Haas began, his face growing red from anger. "We're taking your little hippy boyfriend downtown for questioning."
"Do you always mirandize your witnesses, Haas?" Ellison shot back, the instinctive need to protect his guide fueling his anger. "Or just the ones who don't fit your criteria?"
"He was on the roof," Haas argued. "So until we are sure it was a suicide, I'm taking him in." Haas attempted to push the larger man away, but was brought up short from behind.
Jim welcomed the loud bark of Captain Banks. The tall black man glared at Haas until the homicide detective backed down, then turned his attention to the still angry Sentinel. "How's Sandburg?" he asked, knowing Ellison's concern for his partner would overshadow his current anger at Haas.
"He's in shock, sir," Jim answered, abruptly disregarding Haas and returning his attention to his partner. The stillness of the normally hyper young grad student was unnerving. "If it's alright, I'd like to take him home. I'll bring him in tomorrow to give his statement."
Banks looked at Messner who nodded his approval before Haas could voice his argument. Messner took his still irate partner by the arm and lead him back toward their sedan, away from the officers from Major Crimes.
"Sure, Jim," Banks said stepping back. "Maybe you should take him to the hospital first. Let the doctors check him out."
Both men turned to look at the object of their concern as Blair lifted his head slightly. "I'm okay," he whispered in a trembling voice. "I just want to go home." He pulled the blanket tighter around himself and sank a little lower in the seat.
"He'll be okay," Jim assured the captain. "He just needs to be somewhere he can process all this."
Banks nodded and Jim stood, reaching into the car to help the dazed young man stand. He kept his arm firmly around his partner's shoulders as he led him to the pickup and secured him in the passenger's seat.
"I'll catch a ride back to the station with Simon," Joel said as he approached the pickup.
"Thanks, Joel." Jim wasn't able to keep the worry out of his voice. Blair had seen a lot of death in his three and a half years as Jim's partner - he'd even experienced it up close and personal. But the detective knew that each time Blair was faced with something like this, it tore a little more from his soul. The last thing that Jim ever wanted was for his job to be responsible for corrupting Blair's natural innocence and zest for life. But this was even worse. This had happened in Blair's own safe, academic world. Jim hated to think what something like this could do to his friend. And he hated himself for not knowing how to protect him from it. At least he could protect him from jerks like Don Haas.
He had tangled with Haas a few times before. The old detective liked to play pretty loose with the rules, especially when it came to getting information from possible witnesses. Internal Affairs had investigated him at least three times that Jim knew about, but had never been able to make anything stick. Messner, on the other hand, was a pretty good cop, from everything Jim had heard about him. He was a straight forward guy who didn't take any guff from anyone, including Haas. Jim was grateful that Messner had interceded. He didn't want to think about what could have happened if Haas had kept pushing.
He turned back towards the scene, locating Haas and Messner standing near their car. Haas was glaring at Ellison, who calmly stared back. Focusing his hearing on the pair, his eyes grew colder as his anger resurfaced.
"...don't want to mess with Ellison," Messner was trying to reason with his partner.
"Ellison don't scare me," Haas replied. "He's protecting that fag of a partner of his. What if the kid knows something?"
"Let's not jump to conclusions, Donny." Messner glanced back, startled to see Ellison watching them. He turned his back to his partner. "Let's go."
Jim watched them drive away before he moved around the truck and climbed in. He glanced at his partner, noting that the young man had not moved at all. It's going to be okay, kid. We'll get through this.
Taking another deep breath, he started the pickup and pulled away from the scene.
Jim opened the door before Banks had the opportunity to knock, causing the Captain to scowl at his detective.
"I hate it when you do that," he growled.
"Sorry," Jim answered automatically. He stepped back to allow the taller man to enter before closing the door behind him.
"How's the kid?"
Jim shrugged and stepped into the kitchen. "How should he be? He watched a friend jump to his death."
Banks nodded and accepted the coffee mug that Jim held out. "Did he tell you what happened?"
"A little," Jim said. Both men took seats at the table, keeping their voices low. "Do you know the name of the victim?"
Banks nodded and leaned his elbows on the table. "Martin Westcoff. He was a grad student with a degree in Chemistry. His girlfriend identified him last night."
Jim sipped his coffee as he listened. He had remembered the name when Blair had given it to him the night before.
"According to the other witnesses," the Captain continued," Westcoff was pretty upset about something, although nobody is sure what it was. Did Sandburg say anything that would give us any clue as to why this kid would take his own life?"
Jim shook his head and stared into the coffee cup. "No. He didn't really say much. Just that he tried to talk him down, but Marty wasn't listening." He took another sip of his coffee before continuing. "He also said that he tried to grab him as he fell, that he caught his arm but he couldn't hold him."
Banks shook his head slowly. His heart went out to Sandburg, knowing how hard the anthropologist must be taking all this. "There was no way Sandburg could've held him, Jim. Westcoff must have outweighed him by a good 50 lbs."
"I know, sir," Jim sighed. "But Blair..."
"Is blaming himself," Simon finished for him
They sat in silence for a while, each lost in his own thoughts. Finally Simon stood up and pulled his coat from the back of the chair. "I'm heading into the station. Bring Sandburg in as soon as he's ready."
Jim nodded and accompanied the Captain to the door, promising to be in as soon as possible.
After Simon left, Jim quietly moved to the french doors and slowly opened one to peek into the small bedroom behind them. When they had returned home last evening, Blair had not really wanted to talk much about what had happened, but he had not wanted to be alone either. They had sat out in the living room, watching T.V. until well after midnight. After that, Blair had said good night and retreated to his room. Jim had kept his hearing tuned to his guide the rest of the night. His heart had ached as he listened to the soft sobs coming from the small room, but he had not interfered, knowing that Blair needed this time alone to come to terms with his grief. Sandburg had finally fallen asleep around 4:00 that morning. As he listened now, Jim was relieved to hear the even breathing and steady heartbeat which indicated that his friend was still deep in slumber. He carefully pulled the door closed and poured himself another cup of coffee, content to wait for his partner to wake.
Simon Banks was relieved to see Ellison walk into the bullpen with Sandburg in tow. The kid still looked a bit shaky, but he was here which meant that he was ready to give his statement. There had been quite a few witnesses who saw Westcoff fall from the building. They had reported that Blair had dived towards the edge in an attempt to stop him. That in itself made the captain marvel at the anthropologist's remarkable courage in light of his fear of heights. But Blair had attempted to hang on to and pull up a man who was at least half a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than himself. He could have very easily been pulled over with his friend. Banks thanked God that it didn't happen.
Don Haas had insisted that he and Messner be present when Sandburg gave his statement. The statements from the other witnesses left very little doubt that Martin Westcoff's death was a suicide. The anthropologist's statement would have little bearing on the outcome of the case. They only hoped that Blair could shed a little light onto why a promising chemist would suddenly and violently take his own life. Haas had also requested that Ellison not be allowed to sit in on the proceedings. This was a request that Banks had no intention of granting.
Simon opened the door and stepped back, allowing the pair to enter. Ellison tensed as soon as he saw the two homicide detectives leaning against the conference table in the rear of the room, but one look at the captain's stern face, curbed any comments he might have made. He placed his hand protectively on his partner's shoulder and lead Blair over to the two chairs in front of Simon's desk. The anthropologist gave no sign of noticing the other men's presence. As soon as the Captain sat back down in his own chair, he took a closer look at the young observer. Sandburg's hair, usually tied back when he came into the station, hung now in loose curls which hid a good portion of his face. His shoulders were slightly slumped and he sat very still, staring intently at his hands, which were folded on his lap.
A quick glance at Ellison registered the detective's concern.
"How are you doing, Blair?"
Sandburg slowly raised his head and attempted a small smile. "Blair?" he questioned softly. "I must look pretty bad for you to using my name, Simon."
"Okay, Sandburg," Simon said, adding extra emphasis on the name. "Is that better?"
"Yeah," Blair's tired smile was genuine this time. "Thanks, sir."
Simon shook his head, but couldn't help but return the smile.
"Can we get on with this?"
Banks threw a reproachful look at Haas for the interruption before returning his attention to Sandburg. "Are you ready to give your statement?"
Blair took a deep breath and nodded. "I guess so."
Simon pulled the tape recorder out of his desk drawer and pushed the record button. "Anytime you're ready."
Blair cleared his throat and forced himself to sit up straight in the chair. He kept his eyes carefully trained on his hands which remained uncharacteristically motionless on his lap.
"I was in my office, finishing up some papers when I heard some voices in the hall. They were yelling about someone up on the roof. I guess my curiosity got the better of me because I walked outside and joined the group that had formed on the lawn. When I looked up I could see Marty on the ledge of the building." He closed his eyes and continued. "I yelled for someone to call 911 then I ran up the stairs to the roof. Marty was so upset..." His voice betrayed him and he fought to keep his breathing even.
"Easy, Chief," Jim placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder and spoke to him in a low voice. "Just relax and tell us what you remember."
"Oh, for Pete's sake..."
Jim silenced the homicide detective with an icy glare.
Blair took another moment to get himself under control before continuing. "I asked him why he was doing this. What was so bad that he thought he had no other choice. All he kept saying was that it was his fault. He never meant for it to happen."
"For what to happen?" Banks broke in.
Blair shrugged and opened his eyes. "I don't know," he answered staring out the window. "I asked him but he just kept repeating that over and over. Then he looked at me and said he was sorry and just leaned back. " The anthropologist's eyes lost their focus as the harsh memories flooded his mind. "I jumped forward and grabbed his arm, but he was too heavy. He pulled me down onto the ledge and I must've lost my grip when I fell. Then he was gone." Those last words were no more than a whisper.
Blair physically shook himself and refocused his eyes on the captain. "That's about it, sir."
Banks nodded and turned off the recorder. "Thank you, Sandburg. I know that must have been difficult for you."
Blair just lowered his head and returned his gaze to his hands.
Simon popped the tape out of the recorder and stood. "I'll have Rhonda type this up for your signature," he said, crossing to the door. He held the door, waiting for the two homicide detectives to exit the room ahead of him. He caught Ellison's eye and motioned for the detective to follow him out of the office.
"I have to take care of something," Jim said to Blair. "Will you be okay in here for a few minutes?"
"I'm okay, Jim." Blair didn't bother to look up knowing the Sentinel could sense the lie.
Jim sighed and squeezed his partner's shoulder before following Banks out the door.
"What is it, sir?" he asked as he caught up with the captain near his own desk. He was relieved to see that Haas and Messner hadn't bothered to stick around. He didn't want to have to go another round with Haas right now.
Simon picked up a file and handed it to the detective. "Forensics and toxicology reports on the victim," he explained as Jim opened the file and scanned the reports.
"Simon," Ellison said quietly. "This says that Westcoff had traces of the same synthetic drugs we found in those other kids." He looked quickly from the report to his partner who still sat in the captain's office. "He was taking that Dreamscape crap?"
Simon nodded. "There's more, Jim. Forensics found trace amounts of the drugs on his skin and in the tissues of his lungs. It's a possibility that he could have been involved in the production of the drug. It's the only explanation for the amount they found on him."
"And he was a chemistry major," Jim concluded. He replaced the reports in the folder and dropped it onto his desk. Leaning back against the desk, he rubbed his hands over his face, feeling the exhaustion beginning to catch up with him. "This is going to kill Blair," he said absently.
"The reports don't lie," Banks reminded him. "Forensics is over at the University right now, sifting through Westcott's lab. As soon as they finish, I'll let you know what they found. " He looked back through his office window . Sandburg was now standing, his arms hugged tightly around his body, staring out the large picture window. "As soon as Sandburg signs his statement, why don't you take him home." Banks took another look at Ellison who looked as tired as his partner. "And get some sleep yourself. That's an order." He smiled to lesson the impact of the statement.
"Yes, sir," Jim replied. He wearily stood and made his way back to his partner.
When Jim had explained to Blair what the reports indicated, he had been ready for some kind of outburst from his partner. But none had come. Blair had continued to stare out the window of the Captain's office while Jim related the particulars of the coroner's preliminary report. Jim wasn't even sure the anthropologist was listening until the young man closed his eyes and quietly asked the detective to stop.
When Rhonda, the Captain's assistant had poked her head in the door and informed them Blair's statement was ready to be signed, the anthropologist had quickly taken the paper from her and signed without bothering to read it.
"I'll wait for you in the truck, Jim," he had said, leaving the statement on the desk and walking brusquely out the door.
Jim had apologized for his partner's uncharacteristic rudeness, but Rhonda had waved him off, telling him that she understood.
He had caught up with Blair in the parking garage and they had driven back to the loft without another word between them. Blair had gone straight to his room and closed the doors which firmly stated I want to be alone.
Jim had waited for close to an hour before knocking softly on the door.
"Sandburg?" he called, his hand resting on the handle of the door. "Are you awake?"
"You know I'm awake, Jim. Come on in."
Jim opened the door and stepped into the small bedroom. Blair lay on the bed, his right arm thrown across his eyes, his left resting on his stomach.
"I was going to order a pizza," Jim offered. "Are you hungry?"
Blair moved both hands up to his face and rubbed his tired eyes. He took a deep breath and pushed himself up to sit on the edge of the bed. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
Jim crossed the room and sat beside his partner, waiting quietly for the anthropologist to speak.
"I'm not really hungry." Blair lowered his hands but kept his head bowed. "I'm just kind of tired."
Jim nodded. "Yeah. Maybe you'll be hungry a little later."
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a few moments.
"Blair..." Jim began, wanting to offer some sort of comfort to the obviously distressed young man.
"Don't, Jim." Blair raised his hands and began to rub his temples. "I know you mean well, but I'm just not a very good person to be around right now. I'm sorry."
"You've got nothing to be sorry for, Chief. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
Blair gave a hollow laugh. "Okay? Sure, Jim, I'm just great. You tell me that a good friend of mine, who just happened to commit suicide right before my eyes, was using his education to become a drug dealer. That he was dealing some kind of new designer crap to kids who are OD'ing on the stuff and ending up in the morgue, and you want to know if I'm okay?"
"Look, Blair, all I meant was..."
Blair stood up and paced a few feet away from the bed. He held his hand out to stop the detective's response. "I know what you meant, man, and I appreciate it. I really do, but I am just so..." Blair squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his jaw. "I'm just so pissed off right now that I don't think anything you could say could make any difference." He ran his hands through his hair, clasping them together behind his neck. "Damn him! Why did he have to get involved in something so stupid?!"
"Come on, Chief," Jim tried to calm his friend. "We're just working on supposition right now. We won't know anything concrete until forensics gets done at the University."
"Oh, come on, Jim," Blair looked at him in exasperation. "Marty was a chemistry major. If anyone would know how to cook up this Dreamscape shit, he would. Besides, I know he was high on something up there on the roof. He was completely disoriented, man. Completely out of it. He just kept saying it was all his fault. What else could he have meant? It all adds up. I just want to know why? Why the hell would somebody with as much going for him as Marty get sucked up into something like that?"
Jim shrugged. "There could be a number of reasons, Chief. Money, blackmail, kicks... who knows?"
Blair slumped back onto the bed, his tirade using up the last of his energy. "I hate him for being involved in this," the grad student said quietly. "And I hate him for taking the easy way out. What kind of friend does that make me?"
"A human one," Jim responded. He patted Blair on the leg and stood. "Get some sleep. I'll keep the pizza warm for you."
"Thanks, Jim," Blair mumbled, curling up on the bed.
Jim pulled the comforter from the floor and laid it carefully over his friend. "Anytime, partner."
Jim entered the bullpen and immediately made his way to Banks' office. He knocked on the door and opened it without waiting for an answer. Simon looked up, surprised to see Ellison alone.
"Where's your shadow?" he asked. He leaned back in his chair and grabbed the coffee pot on the credenza, holding it up in a silent offer to the detective. Jim shook his head and waved the captain off before taking a seat on the other side of the desk.
"He had a class to teach this morning." At Banks' concerned look, he shrugged and continued. "He said he was okay, Simon. I couldn't order him to skip class. He's a big boy."
Simon sighed and nodded in agreement. He picked up a pile of files and handed them to the detective. "Forensics hit paydirt at the university," he began. "They found traces of nearly every chemical used in Dreamscape. They also found some of the components in volume inside a locked cabinet in the lab." His voice took on a slightly apologetic tone. "It looks like this Martin Westcoff was deeply involved in the production of this drug, Jim." He paused a moment before asking his next question. "Just how well did Sandburg know this Westcoff, anyway?"
Jim looked up sharply. "They were friends, Captain," he said, his jaw tight.
Simon took a deep breath, knowing he was on dangerous ground. "How good of 'friends' are we talking here, Jim?"
Jim's eyes narrowed and he sat forward slightly in his chair, ignoring the files he held in his hand. "Just what exactly are you getting at, sir?"
"Relax, Jim. I'm not 'getting at' anything. There have been some questions raised about Sandburg's involvement with the deceased and, seeing as how Westcoff has now become a focus of a intra-departmental investigation, and since Sandburg is an official observer with the department, naturally there is some concern over the possibility of..."
"Possibility of what?" Jim was now standing, his face flushed with anger. "Possibility that maybe Sandburg somehow knew that his friend was involved and covered for him? Maybe Blair knew about it all along, Simon, hell maybe he was even helping distribute the pills. He had the inside track, right? He had access to the university as well as a direct line into the investigation. It was a perfect setup for him. Am I right, Captain? Is that what you think?"
Banks had lowered his head, taking the detective's verbal assault without so much as a flinch. "No, Jim," he said sternly. He forced himself to meet Ellison's ice blue ice and steeled himself against the anger and accusations he saw there. "That is not what I think. I know Sandburg better than that. I know he had nothing to do with any of this." He waited while Ellison's anger abated slightly and the detective resumed his seat. "I was just letting you know that questions as to Sandburg's involvement have been raised."
Banks could no longer meet the detective's cool gaze.
"That's not important. What is important is clearing up any suspicions concerning Sandburg and his involvement with Westcoff."
"They were friends," Jim repeated, his voice low and cold. "That was all."
Before Simon could respond, the phone rang and he hastened to answer it. "Banks," he shouted gruffly into the handset. His face softened immediately and he held the receiver out to Jim.
"It's Sandburg," Banks said simply.
Ellison stood and took the receiver, the anger in his eyes quickly melting. "Yeah, Chief. What is it?"
Jim listened for a moment before the expression on his face changed abruptly to one of concern. "Are you alright?" Another pause, and his face registered relief. "Okay. Stay put," he ordered motioning Banks toward the door. "We'll be there in fifteen minutes. Lock the door and don't let anyone in."
He replaced the receiver and followed the Captain out the door, leading quickly to the elevator. "Sandburg's office was broken into sometime last night," he explained as they waited for the elevator.
"Was anything taken?"
Jim shrugged as they entered the lift and pushed the button for the parking garage. "He didn't know. Said it didn't look like anything was missing, everything was messed up."
"The kid okay?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded, no sign of his earlier anger appeared in his voice. "Sounded a little shaky, but okay."
Banks placed a hand on Jim's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "I'll call in forensics after we check it out. Maybe it was just some student pissed off over a grade."
"Yeah," Jim said, not really believing the scenario any more than Banks. "Maybe."
When they arrived at Blair's office, Jim and Simon both let out low whistles at the destruction they beheld. There was not a piece of furniture left unturned. Papers were strewn about the floor, bookcases overturned, spilling their contents into cluttered piles around the small office. Blair opened the door for them, then resumed his seat on the floor against the far wall. He raised his knees up and placed his elbows against them, jamming his fists into his eye sockets in an effort to block out the scene before him.
"Any idea who could've done this, Sandburg?" Simon asked as he carefully made his way to the desk.
"Oh, sure, Simon," replied Blair sarcastically. "Let me get you a list."
Simon shot a glare at the anthropologist but held back his retort.
Jim, who had been carefully applying his Sentinel senses, stopped suddenly and tilted his head. Blair noticed it immediately and moved to stand beside him. "What?" he asked quietly. He had seen Jim sniff lightly, then inhale a bit deeper, lines of concentration etched into his forehead. He looked suddenly at his partner, his eyes going wide as he recognized the scent.
"There's Dreamscape here," he said, his eyes not moving from Blair's.
Simon's head snapped up. "What? Are you sure?"
Jim nodded. He searched his partner's expressive eyes and saw only shock and confusion in the blue depths. Satisfied by Sandburg's reaction, he turned to face the Captain, unconsciously standing protectively in front of the anthropologist. "I can smell it, sir," he said, his voice business like. "It's not on Blair, but it is somewhere in this room."
Banks looked from the detective to the observer, realizing that Ellison was convinced that his partner had no knowledge of the drugs.
"Sandburg?" he questioned. He doubted the young man had anything to do with the drug, but duty forced him to act.
Blair was shaking his head. "I swear, Simon, I had no idea there were drugs here."
"He's being set up, sir."
"I know that, Jim," Banks replied with a sigh. "But, in light of the accusations being tossed around..."
"What accusations?" Blair moved around his partner until he was directly between the two policemen. He turned his head, looking from one man to the other, his nervousness quickly turning into anger. He turned and faced his partner. "What the hell is going on?"
Jim flashed an annoyed look at the Captain before answering. "There were some questions brought up as to your relationship with Marty and what you knew about the situation."
Blair's eyes narrowed as he tried to understand exactly what his partner was saying. "You mean someone thinks I knew about what Marty was doing? That I had something to do with it?" His face registered his shock. "Who would think that?"
"I'm guessing Don Haas," Jim said looking for confirmation from the captain. Banks expression told him his guess was correct. "Look, Chief, " he continued turning his attention back to his partner. "We know that you're not involved. There are just a few people who are trying to make trouble without having all the facts. It's just a matter of answering a few questions..."
"Maybe more than a few."
Both men turned at the sound of the Captain's voice. Banks was carefully holding a small plastic bag which contained at least 50 little blue pills. He pulled an evidence bag from his coat pocket and placed the bag of pills inside. He looked back at the anthropologist.
"I swear, Simon," Blair repeated. "Those are not mine."
Simon stared at the younger man, obviously weighing the sincerity of his statement against the physical evidence in front of him. Finally he sighed. "I believe you, Sandburg."
Both Blair and Jim physically relaxed.
"But I'm still going to have to take you in."
"What! Simon, you can't be serious! You know I had nothing to do with this!"
"What I know and what I can prove at the moment, Sandburg, are two completely different things." Simon pulled his cell phone from his pocket and placed a call to the station. He requested a forensics team and a couple black and white units before returning his attention to the other two men. Blair just stared at him in astonishment, his disbelief written on his face. Ellison on the other hand, showed no emotion. That in itself sent up warning signals in Banks' mind.
Placing a hand on his partner's shoulder, Jim whispered something softly before crossing the small room to confer with the captain. He draped an arm around the bigger man's shoulder and pulled him around so that both their backs were to the anthropologist.
"Let me take him in, sir," he asked, whispering so that Sandburg could not overhear their conversation. "You know how they can be down in booking. Some of those guys still resent the fact that Sandburg's my partner. I want to make sure he's treated okay. "
Banks considered the detective's request and, knowing how protective Jim was of his partner, agreed. "I'm sorry, Jim," he said.
"I know, sir."
"Sandburg..." Simon stopped cold, realizing that the young observer was no longer in the room. He rushed to the door and looked into the empty hallway. He ran toward the door and down the steps of Hargrove Hall just in time to see Jim's truck speed out of the parking lot.
"Damn!" he swore softly. He turned to find Ellison behind him on the steps. The detective looked innocently at the Captain.
"Damnit, Jim! How did he get the keys to your truck?"
Jim shrugged. "He has his own set, sir. Just in case."
Simon glared angrily at his detective noting the complete lack of emotion in the ice blue eyes. "I'm eventually going to have to put an APB out on him." Simon waited for some type of reaction, but got none.
"I understand, sir."
Simon shook his head. "I hope you know what you're doing, Jim."
"Me, too, Simon," the detective, his eyes gazing out in the direction his partner had fled. "Me, too."
"Ellison! Just what the hell is going on!" Jim was forced to turn down his hearing as soon as he stepped off the elevator onto the seventh floor as Haas voice reverberated in his head. The homicide detective shook off his partner's hand and approached the Sentinel as he entered the bullpen. The other detectives of Major Crimes tensed as they anticipated the standoff between Haas and Ellison.
Jim walked past Haas, giving the older man nothing more than a brief glance. He headed straight for the captain's office, not waiting for the inevitable invitation. Banks, who had followed his detective off the elevator, focused his wrath on the homicide detective. He stepped in front of him and glared down at the much shorter man. "My office," he barked. "Now." He glanced quickly at Messner, including him in the order before marching past both of them and through the open doorway of his office.
Jim remained standing, his posture stiff, his attention directly in front of him as the two homicide detectives entered the small room. Messner closed the door and leaned against it, staying carefully on the perimeter. He pulled a stick of gum out of his pocket and stuffed it into his mouth, watching the drama unfold before him.
"Banks, I want to know just what the hell he thinks he's pulling here!" Haas shouted indignantly.
Banks pasted on his patented 'I'm the Captain, you're the grunt' look and pointed to the chair in front of his desk. "Sit!" he commanded sternly.
Surprisingly, Haas obeyed.
Simon planted his own butt down in his chair and placed both elbows on the desk, clasping his hands together. He looked sharply from Haas to Ellison, who remained at parade rest, his eyes straight ahead, his face expressionless.
"Now, gentlemen," he began. He kept his voice low and controlled. "I will not allow any more outbursts in my squad room. Is that clear?" Ellison moved his head in an almost imperceptible nod. It wasn't much, but at this point, Banks was resigned to taking whatever cooperation he could get. The captain directed his attention to Haas, who, much to his delight, squirmed under the scrutiny. "Do I make myself clear?" he asked again, a bit more forcefully.
Haas glared at an unresponsive Ellison before turning back to the Captain and nodding reluctantly.
"Good," Banks said. He placed his clasped hands on the desk top and leaned forward. "The behavior of the members of this department reflects directly on yours truly and I would not like anything to tarnish my pristine reputation. Therefore, I expect my detectives to act in a professional manner at all times."
Haas merely grunted. "Does that include aiding and abetting murder suspects just because they happen to be 'involved' in a relationship with them?"
Simon noticed the sudden working of Ellison's jaw, but the Sentinel did not respond to the implied accusation. "Just what are you trying to say, Detective?" If Haas wanted to hang himself, Simon had no problem handing him the rope.
Haas eyed Ellison warily. The tall detective had not reacted to anything since he had stepped off the elevator, a fact which obviously was beginning to worry the older man. He glanced at Messner, heeding his partner's warning look and chose his next words with care. "Just that maybe Detective Ellison is too close to this case to be impartial. Maybe it would be better for all involved if he stepped down..."
"This is my case." Ellison's voice was very cold and very low. He moved his head a fraction and pierced Haas with an icy stare.
"Captain," Haas pleaded, not able to meet Ellison's gaze. "I sympathize with Detective Ellison's position, but the fact is that he let a suspect escape and..."
This time it was Banks who interrupted. "Sandburg was not under arrest. Therefore there was no escape, allowed or otherwise." He glanced pointedly at Jim, not missing the look of appreciation in the Sentinel's eyes. "We plan to put out an APB out on the vehicle Mr. Sandburg was last seen driving. I'm sure Detective Ellison will do everything he can to find Mr. Sandburg and bring him in for questioning. Won't you, Detective?"
"Yes, sir," Jim said stiffly.
Simon caught himself before he sighed out loud. He refocused his attention on Haas. "I assume you have other work to occupy yourselves with in the meantime?"
The homicide detectives recognized the dismissal and quietly left the room, closing the door behind them.
Jim relaxed as soon as they were out of range and slumped into the chair Haas had recently occupied. "Thank you, sir."
"Don't thank me, yet, Jim," Simon said sitting back and rubbing his tired eyes. "We still have to figure out how Sandburg got himself into this mess."
"I don't think Sandburg had a whole lot to do with it, Simon," Jim reminded him.
Simon nodded. It was painfully obvious to the two policemen that someone wanted Sandburg out of the way, but why?
"You do know where he is, right?"
Jim shrugged and Banks decided to let the question slide for the time being.
"I assume it was Haas making the accusations against Blair?"
"Simon, I don't trust him. Haas has some kind of ulterior motive, here. I've got a feeling that there's more to this than we're seeing."
"I don't like him either, Jim, but we can't just accuse an officer of being dirty without some kind of evidence."
"I know, Simon. It's just a feeling. I overheard him and Messner at the university saying that they thought that Blair knew something."
Simon leaned back in his chair. He had learned over the years to take the Sentinel's "feelings" seriously. "Something about what?"
"I don't know, sir." Jim had to admit. "At the time, I assumed they meant Westcott's suicide, but now I'm not too sure."
Simon chewed on the end of his glasses as he considered the information.
"If they are involved in this drug ring, maybe Sandburg's connection to the Westcott kid threw a kink into their plan. They might be scrambling to divert suspicion and distract you for the time being?" he offered. "What about Messner? Do you think he might be involved?"
Jim pursed his lips and shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe we should keep a closer eye on them. See if I can shake anything loose."
Before the captain could respond, the shrill ring of Jim's cell phone filled the room.
"Ellison," the detective stated, his eyes momentarily betraying his relief. "I'll be there in twenty." He flipped the phone shut and looked carefully at Banks. "I have to go, sir." He stood and moved to the door without another word.
"I'll have Brown and Rafe see what they can dig up on our favorite homicide detectives," Simon promised. "Where can I get a hold of you?"
"Just use my cell number for now, sir. The fewer people who know where Sandburg is, the safer he'll be."
"Okay, Jim," Simon reluctantly agreed. "But be careful."
"Thank you, sir."
Jim pulled up to the small bungalow style house, leaving the department sedan in the driveway. He scanned the surrounding suburban neighborhood with his Sentinel senses before walking to the front door of the small house, unlocking it and letting himself in. It took only a second to pick up the familiar, but slightly accelerated heartbeat coming from the small kitchen in the rear of the house.
He was glad that Steven had asked him to check out the property. A friend of the younger Ellison brother was interested in purchasing it so he had sent the keys a few days ago asking Jim to check out the house to make sure it was sound. He and Blair had gone over the small bungalow and found it to be in good repair. He had meant to return the keys to Steven's friend yesterday, but it had slipped his mind.
When Simon had talked about taking Blair into the station, Jim had quickly decided that that would have been a bad idea. Simon had argued that Blair would be safer at the station, protected by hundreds of police officers, but Jim had had his own idea of how to best protect his partner. If Ellison's suspicions were correct, it was the police that Blair needed protection from. Nobody knew about this house except for Steven and he wasn't even in the country. Blair would be safe here until Jim could get this figured out.
Moving quietly through the living room, he paused at the doorway, his eyes focusing on the young man seated at the table. Blair was leaning against the wall, his chair tipped precariously back on two legs. His eyes were closed and he was softly whispering a familiar mantra. "This sucks, this really sucks..."
Jim folded his arms and leaned against the doorframe.
"So this is how the fugitive half lives."
The sound of the detective's voice startled the grad student who suddenly jumped, causing him to loose his balance and fall forward.
"Geez, Jim," he said, trying to catch his breath. "Give a guy a heart attack why don't you?"
Shaking his head ruefully, Jim walked over to his partner, who was now leaning on the table, his head in his hands.
"Sorry," he said, the grin still playing on his lips.
Sandburg merely gave him a pained look.
"Where's the truck?"
Blair took a deep breath and sat up. "In a parking lot a couple of blocks away. I didn't think it would be very smart to just leave it in the driveway."
Jim nodded. "I always knew you had a criminal mind," he said approvingly.
"Now what?" Sandburg looked at him with hope. "Am I officially a fugitive or do I have time before I start looking at travel brochures?"
Jim sat down at the table opposite the grad student. "Simon is going to stall, but Haas is pretty worked up about you disappearing. Right now you're just wanted for questioning."
"About my relationship with Marty, or the drugs Simon found in my office?"
"Both, actually. Do you remember seeing anyone near your office this morning?"
Blair's eyes lost their focus for a moment as he tried to picture the hallway in Hargrove Hall. "There were a few students down the hall, but other than that..." He shook his head to let his partner know that he had seen nothing out of the ordinary.
"We talked to a couple of those students. They saw you arrive and we received your call minutes later. You were with me last night, so that gives you an alibi. There was no way you could have tossed your own office and, since forensics didn't find any prints on the drugs, it's pretty obvious that they were planted there."
Jim shrugged. "My money is on Haas."
"Haas?" Blair was surprised. "What makes you think Haas is involved?"
"Just a hunch," Jim answered. "He's pushing way too hard to prove that you were involved in Marty's death. This isn't the first time he's been suspected of being dirty. I.A. has just never been able to make anything stick."
"So, how do we prove Haas was involved with Marty?" Blair asked as he pushed himself up from the table. He grabbed for his jacket, but was thwarted when Ellison beat him to it.
"We don't," the detective said. He pushed the grad student back into the chair and pointed a finger at him. "You are a fugitive, remember?"
Blair slumped in the chair and pouted. "Well, I'm a bored fugitive. And a bored fugitive is a dangerous fugitive."
Jim patted his partner's shoulder before turning and heading back to the doorway. "Don't worry, Rambo," he assured the younger man. "I've got your backpack in the car. I'll stop at the loft and get you some clean clothes and be by with some food in a couple of hours. " He looked pointedly at his partner. "Stay inside," he ordered. He was fully aware of how much his strong willed partner followed his orders.
Jim rolled his eyes and headed back out to the car.
Jim could feel the tension the minute he stepped off the elevator. His curiosity was piqued when Joel Taggart grabbed him by the arm and steered him towards the stairwell.
"What the hell is going on, Joel?" Ellison asked, trying to pull his arm away from the former bomb squad captain.
Joel just glanced worriedly over his shoulder and pushed Ellison towards the stairwell door. Once on the other side, he relinquished his grip on the detective's arm and raised his head to meet the ice blue eyes.
"I'm sure you have a good explanation for that," Ellison stated. He raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms in front of him, waiting for an answer.
"Simon wanted me to warn you," Joel said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Warn me?" Jim asked. "Warn me about what?"
"Not what. Who."
Jim shook his head and ran one hand over his short, cropped hair. "Joel, I'm not in the mood to play twenty questions. Warn me about who?"
Joel took a deep breath and explained. "Haas has been on a rampage ever since you left this morning. He's convinced you're hiding Sandburg and he's threatening to have you held for obstructing unless you bring him in."
Jim sighed. "Damn," he said, his hand rubbing the back of his neck. "I can't bring Sandburg in. Not until I know who's behind this set up."
"There's more, Jim."
Ellison did not like the tone of the captain's voice. "Spill it, Joel."
"Haas and Messner managed to get a search warrant for the loft..."
"The judge granted it based solely on the evidence found at Sandburg's office, and they had a team there before the paperwork was even on Simon's desk," Joel explained quickly. He held a hand on Jim's forearm to stop the man from reaching for the door handle. "Jim, they found more of those pills."
"That's ridiculous!" Jim exploded. "Sandburg doesn't touch drugs! Hell, he won't even take aspirin unless I force them down his throat. Besides if there were any drugs in my loft, I'd know it!" Joel wasn't aware of Jim's Sentinel senses, but he had seen Ellison in action on more than one occasion, and he had seen him do some amazing things. Joel had no doubts that Ellison would know if anything was amiss in his own home.
"I believe you, man," Joel stated. "I know the kid would never be involved in anything like this. Besides, the evidence against Sandburg is paper thin. No prints, drugs out in the open... it's an obvious setup. Anybody with eyes can see that."
Jim patted Joel's shoulder, thankful to the man for his loyalty. "Where's Haas now?"
"In Simon's office," Joel replied. "Simon's trying to diffuse the situation, but Haas isn't backing off."
Jim nodded and took a deep breath, trying to find that damn center his young partner was always talking about. "I can't let Simon take all the heat," he decided. He looked back at the shorter man and gave him a grim smile. "Let's go see if we can't find out what Haas is up to." He clapped Taggart on the shoulder and walked briskly through the door.
Blair paced nervously around the small kitchen, his eyes darting for maybe the hundredth time to his watch. It had been nearly four hours since the Sentinel had left, promising to return with supplies, and Blair had started to become worried.
"Stop it, Sandburg," he mumbled to himself. He halted his movement and took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. "Jim's fine. He just got held up at the station. He'll probably be here any minute to let me know that his whole nightmare is over and the coast is clear. "
He didn't convince himself.
He ran a hand over his tired face, rubbing absently at his forehead in an attempt to relieve the ache that had begun to accompany the tense worry. He knew something was wrong. There was no way Jim would leave him hanging for so long a time without some kind of word. Maybe the detective was just being cautious. Or maybe whoever was trying to frame Blair was now after the Sentinel.
Blair shook his head and tried to clear his thoughts. There was no use letting his imagination get away from him, he told himself, but the slight feeling of apprehension continued to increase. Walking quickly over to his backpack, Blair pulled out his cell phone and pushed the speed dial for Jim's cell.
The apprehension continued to grow. He pushed another button on the cell phone and waited impatiently, breathing a sigh of relief when the line was picked up on the other end.
Blair paused a moment as he placed the unexpected voice.
"Rafe?" he asked cautiously. He had dialed Jim's direct line and was more than a little surprised to hear the youngest detective of the squad.
"Yes, ma'am," Rafe responded in an overly friendly voice. "Detective Ellison isn't available right now. Can I take a message for him?"
Blair's agile mind quickly caught on to the detectives subterfuge. "I take it somebody's listening?" he asked.
"Yes, ma'am. That's correct."
Blair closed his eyes and forced himself to remain calm.
"What's going on, Rafe?" he asked, his voice betraying his fear. "Is Jim okay?"
"Technically, yes," Rafe responded, his voice still oozing false charm. "I'm sure he would like to speak with you, but he wouldn't want you to go to any trouble."
The double meaning of Rafe's words were not lost on the observer. "Jim's in trouble? With who? Simon? Haas? This is because of me, right?"
"Don't worry, ma'am. I'm sure everything is under control." Blair could detect the hesitancy of Rafe's statement.
"Damn," Blair said under his breath. His mind frantically searched for a solution to their current dilemma. Sure, Jim wanted him out of sight until he could determine just who was behind the drugs planted in the anthropologist's office, but he couldn't allow Jim to risk his career. The detective had already placed himself on the line professionally when he had handed Blair the keys to the truck back in his office at the university. Sandburg knew that Simon would do everything in his power to protect the Sentinel and his professional reputation. But for how long?
"Ma'am?" The concern in Rafe's voice brought Blair back to the present. "Ma'am, are you alright?"
"Yeah," Blair answered quickly. He came to a decision. He knew he would probably catch hell from Jim, but , at the moment, he couldn't see any other alternative. "Tell Jim I'm turning myself in. I'll meet him in the alley, outside the stairwell in twenty minutes."
He disconnected the phone before Rafe could reply. Leaning on the table, he closed his eyes and took another deep, cleansing breath. Jim had ordered him to stay put and here he was, contemplating walking right into the police station. For all he knew there could be a warrant out for his arrest. But he couldn't allow Jim to risk his career. Whatever Marty had been involved with had nothing to do with him.
He tensed for a moment as the memory of Marty's anguished words haunted him. I never meant for this to happen. I'm sorry.
He shook himself, forcing the sad image of Marty's face from his mind. Whatever the chemist had gotten involved in, Blair was sure that he had never intended to hurt anyone. He had known Marty well enough to know that. He would prove it, too. He wasn't exactly sure how, but he would. He owed Marty that much.
He dialed information and requested the number of Century Cabs.
Rafe looked up from his desk as the door to Captain Banks' office flew open and Detective Haas stormed out. The round detective's face was a dangerous shade of red as he turned and pointed a finger back towards the room.
"That hippie partner of yours is dirty, Ellison, and I intend to prove it."
"You're not going anywhere near Sandburg," Ellison replied. Rafe's blood ran cold at the icy fierceness in the detective's voice.
"We'll see about that!" Haas retorted before turning and stomping out of the bullpen. Rafe looked back to the office to see Ellison standing just outside the doorway. The detective's face was an unreadable mask, but the cold fire in his eyes spoke volumes. Rafe rose and walked over to the older detective, relieved to see the fire somewhat dimmed as Ellison acknowledged his presence.
"Um, Jim, I need to talk to you," Rafe said, keeping his voice low.
Jim looked back into the room, noting that Simon was still speaking quietly with Haas' partner. Messner had not contributed to Haas' tirade, merely sat back and let his partner take center stage. Jim had caught him smiling coldly on more than one occasion, causing the Sentinel to wonder what really lurked behind those expensive suits and carefully manicured nails. Something about the man had Jim on edge. Messner seemed content to let Haas run the show, but Jim couldn't help but wonder who was really in charge. Leaving the captain to deal with Messner, Jim followed Rafe back to his desk. He rubbed a hand across his face and folded his arms impatiently in front of him.
"What is it, Rafe?" he asked. He glanced at the clock on the wall, cringing at the time. He had promised Blair he would be back. He could only imagine what scenarios his young friend's active imagination had been cooking up in the last four hours.
"Sandburg called while you were in the Captain's office," Rafe informed him.
Jim sighed in exasperation and shook his head. Damn. Most of the calls to the station were automatically taped. Rafe seemed to understand Ellison's agitation.
"Don't worry," he assured the larger man. "He called in on your private line."
Jim breathed in relief. While most of the main lines were tapped, the detectives' private lines remained just that - private."
"Jim," Rafe continued, his voice taking on a slightly worried quality "He said he was going to turn himself in..."
"He what!?" Jim's voice echoed loud in the squad room catching the attention of Banks and Messner who both came to stand beside the detective.
"He thought you were in trouble," the young detective explained. "He said he'd meet you in the alley outside the side stairwell." Rafe finished the explanation quickly, warily eyeing the homicide detective standing next to Captain Banks.
Damn! Jim made an effort to clamp down on his anger knowing that losing his temper was not going to get him anywhere with his irritatingly stubborn partner. He had specifically told Blair that he would handle it. And now the kid was going to turn himself in? Why? Because he was protecting Jim, that's why. Whatever the young man lacked in self-preservation, he certainly made up for in loyalty. Jim just wished he would get his priorities straightened out.
"Go," Banks said, picking the gist of the conversation up quickly. "I'll call the desk downstairs and tell them to keep an eye out."
Jim nodded tersely and, with Rafe and Messner hot on his heels, left the room at a dead run.
Blair paid the cab driver and exited the cab in front of the station. He had rehearsed his speech in his head on the drive and hoped that he could convince Jim that this was the right thing to do. Keeping his head bowed to avoid any chance of being recognized, he stepped up onto the curb, intending to move around the building where the side stairwell opened up into the alley. When he sensed something blocking his path, he lifted his head and came face to face with Detective Don Haas.
"Well, well," Haas said, his face consumed by a snide smile. "Look what the cat dragged in."
Blair looked around franticly, but the sidewalk in front of the large brick building was unusually deserted. "I understand you wanted to talk to me," Blair said, hoping his voice did not betray his nervousness. "I'm just going to find Jim and then I'll tell you whatever you want to know." He moved to walk around the bulkier man and was stopped cold as something poked into his ribs.
"You'll go where I tell you to go, punk." Haas shoved the gun a bit harder into the young man's side, pleased to hear a grunt of pain. "You're gonna help me teach the high and mighty Detective Ellison a lesson he won't forget. Now turn around slowly and walk to the blue sedan."
Blair quickly spotted the vehicle parked against the curb about a half a block down. "Look, I told you I'd cooperate," Blair stalled. "Let's just go inside and talk this out like reasonable adults." Another grunt of pain emerged from his throat as the gun was once again forced into his side. "Or we could walk to the car," he amended.
"Move it," Haas whispered. He grabbed Blair's arm roughly and pushed him down the street.
"Jim," Blair whispered, hoping the Sentinel was near enough to hear his plea. "I could really use your help here, man."
Jim heard his partner's quiet plea as soon as he opened the outside door from the stairwell. He took a step into the alley, opening his sense of hearing and filtering past the sounds of the city until he found the familiar heartbeat. It was beating much too quickly.
"This way," he yelled. He took off down the alley toward the front of the building, not waiting to see if the others followed. He could hear Sandburg's voice as his friend continued to speak. "Come on, Haas. You're a cop. What the hell is going on? I told you I'm turning myself in..."
His voice was cut off abruptly by the sound of something solid hitting something even more solid and Jim seethed as his mind filled in the picture of Blair's body coming into sudden contact with a wall or vehicle.
"Just shut up and get your butt into the car."
That was Haas' voice. Jim pushed himself harder.
He rounded the corner of the building in time to see a Haas force his partner into the driver's side of a dark blue sedan, then climb in the rear door. The car engine started up, blaring in the Sentinel's ears like a rocket. Holding his hands to his ears he squeezed his eyes shut as he fought to turn the dial down to a more acceptable level. It was only a few heartbeats later that he was able to regain control and open his eyes. By that time, his guide was gone.
Rafe and Messner ran up behind Ellison, both men out of breath from their mad dash up the alley.
"Jim?" Rafe asked. "What is it?"
Jim became aware of the two men and swung around violently. He grabbed Messner by the front of his suit coat and pushed him roughly back into the wall. "Haas has Sandburg," he growled. "Where is he taking him?"
Messner's fear was apparent on his face and he looked to the younger detective for help. Rafe simply stood back and focused his attention on the street, protecting Ellison's back. He had seen the former Special Forces Ranger intimidate many a criminal in the past, but Messner was a fellow officer. Rafe didn't think Ellison would actually hurt Messner, but he wasn't about to put any money on it either.
"I'm only going to ask this one more time," Ellison pushed harder against the man's chest eliciting a sharp cry of pain from the homicide detective. "Where is Haas taking my partner?"
"I... don't know!" Messner said in between gasps for breath. That was not the answer Ellison wanted to hear. With a low growl, Ellison pushed his captive back into the alley, pushing his forearm against the man's throat. He moved in close to the homicide detective, keeping his voice dangerously low. "Where. Is. My. Partner."
"Okay! Okay!" Messner choked. He held up his hands in surrender when it became clear that Rafe was not going to attempt to stop Ellison. Rafe, who had moved back as well, taking up his defensive position at the mouth of the alley, breathed a sigh of relief as Ellison released his hold on the smaller man.
"Talk." Ellison ordered.
Messner slumped forward as the larger man's weight was removed from his throat. He clutched at his neck with one hand, leaning the other on his knees for support. "There's a warehouse," he said, his voice hoarse. He coughed a few times before continuing. "Commerce Street."
Ellison grabbed the man by the jacket and turned his attention towards Rafe. "Get some backup and meet me there," he instructed.
Rafe watched silently as Ellison pushed Messner out of the alley and around the corner toward the parking garage. He momentarily entertained the thought of following the obviously enraged detective, but assured himself that Ellison was pissed, but in control. He dashed back down the alley into the still open door of the stairwell.
Blair pulled at the cuffs which were fastened securely around his wrists. Haas had directed him to a warehouse in a very old, run down section of town. Most of the structures in the area had been abandoned long ago, including, from the looks of it, the one he now occupied. Pulling again at the cuffs which held him to the rusty railing between the main floor and what was once obviously an open office area, he grunted in pain as the cold metal continued to resist his efforts, leaving yet another reddened area on his already bruised wrists.
"You're like an animal caught in a trap, aren't ya punk?"
Blair tried to ignore the snide voice of Dan Haas. He couldn't even stomach to look at the corrupt cop. Four years with Jim and the officers of Major Crimes had instilled in him a deep respect for the men in blue - at least most of them. He hated the fact that one of these men he had learned to respect above all others could turn on everything the department stood for. His corruption reflected on every good, honest cop in the department. And in the eyes of one certain police observer, that made him one of the lowest forms of life on the planet.
"I'm talking to you, punk!" Haas said, his anger at being ignored manifesting itself in his actions. He moved quickly across the open floor and cuffed the younger man cruelly upside his head with the butt of his gun. "Can you hear me now, kid?"
Blair shook his head, trying to clear the thousands points of light that had exploded behind his eyes. He blinked a few times, forcing his vision to focus before turning an icy glare on Haas.
"Yeah, I heard you," he said in a controlled voice. "I'm just not interested in anything you have to say."
He was rewarded with another, much harder, blow to his head. He vaguely recalled Jim saying something about keeping his mouth shut in a bad situation, but couldn't quite bring the memory into focus before the darkness invaded.
Jim Ellison brought the car to a stop outside the warehouse. He threw a warning look towards Messner before he turned his attention to the warehouse and carefully opened up his hearing.
He winced slightly at Blair's antagonizing remark, then felt the rage blossom in his gut as he heard what sounded like a blunt object making contact with his partner's head. Damnit, Sandburg, when are you gonna learn?
Motioning for Messner to get out of the car, Jim pushed him towards the partially open door of the warehouse. He checked the surrounding area with his senses, assured that no one else was in the warehouse besides Haas and his now unconscious guide. Fighting the need to rush into the warehouse, he focused his hearing on the grad student, assuring himself that Sandburg's heartbeat and respiration were normal. Pulling his gun, he held it up and ready, then quietly motioned for Messner to precede him through the door.
Once inside, Jim lowered his gun, aiming it at the man who stood over his partner. Blair was slumped forward against a metal railing on a raised platform that ran the entire side of the warehouse. Haas' hand grasped the younger man's long hair and jerked his head back to an awkward angle.
"Get away from him, Haas!" Ellison yelled. He took a few steps forward, his fury at the treatment of his guide overshadowing his need for caution. Too late, he realized his mistake as Messner threw his shoulder into the Sentinel's side, knocking him down onto the hard concrete floor. The jolt forced his gun from his hand and Messner managed to retrieve it.
"Sorry, Ellison," Messner said, brushing the wrinkles from his suit. He leveled the gun at Ellison and spoke in a cold voice. "Get up. Slowly."
Jim complied. Messner motioned with the gun and Jim moved in the direction indicated. As he approached Haas, he could see the older man grinning in triumph.
"Nice of you to join us, Ellison," Haas said. He jerked back on Sandburg's hair which was still tangled in his hand. "Your little friend was getting lonely." He took a step back and backhanded the unconscious young man across the face.
"Touch him again and you're a dead man," Ellison growled.
Haas merely laughed and moved a step closer to the big detective. "I'll do anything I want to him, Ellison," he said in a chilling tone. "And there's not a damn thing you can do about it." He moved closer to Blair, laying his hand on the grad student's bowed head. "Anything I want," he sneered.
Jim tensed. He had meant what he said. Haas was not going to touch his guide again.
"Easy, big guy," Messner warned. Jim felt the cold metal of the gun at the back of his neck and froze, his eyes still glaring at Haas. Messner's use of Blair's nick name for him sent a chill down Jim's spine. Satisfied that his captive was going to obey for the time being, Messner finally looked at the young police observer, wincing at the darkening bruises forming on his otherwise peaceful face. His face screwed up, registering his dislike of his partner's activities. "Now why the hell did you have to hurt the kid, Don?" He looked at his partner, his expression a mix of remorse and disgust. "I'm really tired of all your stupid prejudices. You really do make me sick."
Haas' look of surprise at his partner's words was replaced with one of shock as the sound of the gunshot echoed loudly in the large room. Jim fell to his knees as the gunshot exploded close to his sensitive ear, cupping his hands to the side of his head in an effort to block out the overwhelming stimuli. He struggled to turn down his hearing, managing to obtain a rudimentary control over the imaginary dial. He glanced at his guide to find him still slumped, unconscious next to the rail. Haas had fallen backwards and was now sprawled out on the ground a few feet from Sandburg, a spreading crimson stain on his chest. Jim didn't need enhanced senses to tell the man was dead.
He looked back at Messner, who simply shrugged. "He's been a pain in the ass for years," the well dressed detective said as he eyed his former partner. "He brought way too much heat down on us. It was getting so a guy couldn't run a drug operation anymore." He sighed without much feeling and turned his attention back to Jim.
"This really is all his fault," he explained. "Haas is the one who wanted to set up your partner to take the fall for the drug operation. You see my partner had this irritating habit of judging people by their appearance. He figured since Sandburg knew Marty, who had actually developed the formula for this Dreamscape shit, we could shift the focus of the investigation to him and we could clean up before anyone got suspicious. I guess he figured with Sandburg's long hair and earrings, no one would think twice about him being involved." He looked pointedly at Ellison. "But you didn't buy that for a second, did you?"
"Sandburg hates drugs. It's the last thing he would ever be involved with."
Messner nodded. "So Haas made a slight miscalculation. One of many, I might add. You have to admit, though, it was pretty convenient that Sandburg was the only one up on that roof with Marty when he died. Haas wanted to stick the kid with a murder rap, too. You know, drug deal goes bad. Partners have a bit of a falling out. That sort of thing." He shrugged as if dismissing the thought. "What's done is done."
Jim sat back on the cold floor, inching a bit closer to his partner. His hearing was back on line and he could just make out the sounds of sirens off in the distance.
"What now?" he asked, stalling for time. He forced himself to remain still, not wanting to rush the man with the gun so close to his defenseless partner.
"Well," said Messner looking at the gun in his hand. "Since you just killed Haas, right after Haas shot your partner, of course, I'll have to kill you in self defense." He smiled apologetically at Ellison.
"Nobody will believe that," Jim informed him, moving a little closer to Sandburg.
"Sorry," Messner replied. "But I am just a little pressed for time." He knew that Ellison's backup would be only minutes behind.
Messner watched as the big detective moved to check on his unconscious partner. Messner had been a cop long enough to know how important a partner could be. Unfortunately, he knew what a pain they could sometimes be, too. He sighed, sincerely sorry that he had been forced to clean up Haas' mess.
Many things happened at once. Messner levelled the gun at the pair just as Jim shifted past his partner, scooping up Haas' gun which was hidden halfway beneath Blair's leg. Turning his body in an attempt to shield Blair from Messner, he brought the gun up and instinctively pulled the trigger. Both weapons discharged almost simultaneously.
Messner stared at Ellison for a moment before his body crumpled to the floor. Ellison moved quickly, shoving the gun away from the fallen detective, placing a hand on his neck to confirm that he was still alive. His shot had taken Messner high in the chest, but the man's pulse was good and he was breathing.
The sounds of the sirens were cut off, replaced by screeching tires just outside the warehouse. Jim recognized Simon's voice as the backup arrived and, trusting the captain to take care of Messner, turned his attention back to his partner. He quickly checked the young man, groaning when he found blood seeping from his upper arm.
"Damn, Sandburg," he muttered as he fumbled with the lock on the cuffs, "I swear you have a magnet embedded in you somewhere."
Blair elicited a low moan as the cuffs sprang open and his wounded arm succumbed to the law of gravity.
"Hang on, buddy," Jim said automatically. "Help's on the way."
"Is he okay?" Simon leaned down next to the pair, his eyes showing his concern for the young police observer.
"He took a bullet in the arm," Jim said. He took the small handkerchief the captain offered and held it to the wound. "Haas knocked him around some, but I think he's okay."
Simon patted the detective on the back. "Ambulance is right outside, Jim." He shrugged at the look of surprise on Ellison's face. "Sandburg was involved," he explained. "I figured an ambulance would be needed."
Jim's reply was cut off as the paramedics approached and proceeded to work on his partner.
"Good news, gentlemen," Simon smiled as he hung up the phone. "The D.A. says that Messner will be brought to trial for murder as well as the drug trafficking charges. Looks like we have an airtight case and, more importantly, they confiscated almost 50 kilos of pure Dreamscape in that warehouse before it hit the streets. You did good."
Jim accepted the praise with a nod and slight smile. Looking at his partner, he could see the frown working on his expressive face.
"Sandburg?" Simon asked. He had noticed the anthropologist's less than enthusiastic response also.
"What?" Blair asked, startled. He jumped a bit when he realized he was the center of attention. "Sorry, Simon. I guess I was just lost in thought."
"A scary proposition," Simon muttered. "Not that I'm really all that interested in what could be running around in that mind of yours, Sandburg, but if you have a question, ask."
Blair squirmed a little, adjusting the sling on his wounded arm before speaking. "I guess it's just that I still can't believe that Marty was responsible for all this. I thought I knew him better than that."
Jim and Simon exchanged glances. Jim had explained about Blair's disappointment in his academic friend while they had waited at the hospital. They had done a little more digging in Martin Westcott's background in anticipation of the anthropologist's question.
"I might be able to shed some light on that," Simon said, grabbing another file from beneath the stack on his desk. "Seems that your friend Marty was arrested when he was seventeen on a felony drug charge."
Sandburg rubbed his forehead with his good hand. "Great," he mumbled dejectedly.
Simon glanced at the grad student and continued. "The arresting officer was Sam Messner." That got a curious look from both partners. "We've also gone over Westcott's lab notes. He did invent the formula used in Dreamscape, but it was initially intended to be a new type of sedative for psychiatric patients, specifically those suffering from schizophrenia. Messner must have been keeping tabs on him and decided that Westcott's formula would be a good opportunity to make some extra cash."
Blair took a few moments to absorb the information, his face taking on a guarded expression of hope.
"Do you think that Messner was somehow blackmailing Marty into helping him?"
Simon nodded. "You tell me. Even though the felony was bargained down to a misdemeanor juvenile offense, what would the University have done if word of that arrest had been made public?"
"They probably would have made Marty's life pretty difficult, considering his major," Blair answered.
Simon agreed. "I know that doesn't clear your friend..."
"But it does make his actions a little more understandable," Blair finished for him. He smiled, a sense of relief washing through him "Thanks, Simon." His brow furrowed for a moment before he continued. "I still hate the fact that cops were behind this." He turned to face his partner. "Call me naive, but I still like to think that cops are the good guys."
Jim and Simon both smiled at the comment. "We still are, Chief." Jim answered. "We just have to thin the herd once in a while."
"Thin the herd, Jim? You've been watching too many westerns again, haven't you?"
Jim returned his partner's playful grin. "And you've been watching too many cop shows again."
"Give me a break, here, Jim," Sandburg replied, a familiar twinkle in his blue eyes. "Since I met you, my life has been nothing but one big cop show."
"Well then, Starsky," Jim said standing and patting his friend on the shoulder. "What do you say we go find a crime or two to solve."
"Right behind you, Hutch!" Blair stood and followed his partner.
Okay. That's it. I'm tired now. ZZZZZZZZzzzzZZZZzzzzz
Email Sue at Spok507@aol.com