Jim sighed with tiredness as he signed his name and shut the folder. The paperwork was done and the 'Jack O'Lantern killer', as the soundbite-obsessed media had dubbed him, was in a cell, and this weary detective could go home at last.
For once, the bullpen was bare of Halloween decorations. Jim wasn't surprised. As the sicko had got his kicks carving a Jack O'Lantern face into the stomachs of his victims, hence his name, the detectives in Major Crime were not overly keen on certain Halloween images at the moment, although the rest of Cascade seemed to be embracing the holiday with their usual fervour. Now that the media were celebrating that the Jack O'Lantern killer was off the streets, anyway.
Sighing again, Jim pinched the bridge of his nose, hoping to ward off the headache that was threatening. That damned Jack O'Lantern face was everywhere and, irrationally, Jim felt it was taunting him. They'd taken too long on the case, taken too long to decipher the few clues they had. Taken too long to save some of the victims who had died in agony with a Halloween obsessed fanatic standing over them.
Blinking himself out of his depressing reverie, Jim looked up into his boss' face.
"C'mon, I'll give you a lift home."
"My truck's downstairs."
"And if the way you look is any indication, you'll crash it before you get out of the garage." Simon shook his head. "I can't sign off on any more vehicles for you."
"I'm not going to crash the truck," Jim protested, ignoring the insult to his driving.
"No, you're not, because I'm going to drive you. Anyway," Simon pointed out, "do you really want that truck of yours on the street when the Trick or Treaters are out?"
Jim smiled. "I guess not. Thanks, Simon."
"Well, let's get a move on. The Trick or Treaters start early now, and I'm sure that Sandburg will have a thousand and one kids knocking on your door tonight. He'll need protection when he runs out of candy."
"Not Sandburg." Jim shrugged his jacket into place, allowing himself to be diverted from thinking about the case, that damned case. "I swear he's been stockpiling candy since the beginning of the month."
Simon grinned. "And how much does he have left after you finished eating it?"
Grinning in reply, Jim followed him to the elevator, denying any midnight raids every step of the way.
Blair forced a smile onto his face as his roommate arrived home. "Hey, how was the paperwork?"
"Not too bad." The brief glimpse Blair got of Jim's face before he turned to hang his jacket up gave lie to that.
"I could've stayed and helped out, you know. I wouldn't have minded."
Jim turned back at last, the tiredness evident. "No, it was good. It's done. I'm gonna grab a shower, okay?"
"Sure. Dinner'll be done in about twenty minutes."
As Jim disappeared up the stairs, Blair sighed. He knew why Jim hadn't wanted him working on the paperwork - the details of the victims' last minutes were enough to turn his stomach, while the crime scenes had made more than one seasoned cop turn a delicate shade of green. And this case had been hard on all of Major Crime. He didn't think he'd seen a case that had taken so much out of them and now, they were all faced with seeing the killer's favourite image for at least another night. Well, not here.
Looking around the loft, Blair checked, yet again, to make sure that not one Jack O'Lantern face was in sight. He'd had a candy holder that featured the face, but he'd persuaded the woman downstairs to swap it for her candy holder with a rather jaunty witch on the front. At least here, as long as Jim didn't open the door to any Trick or Treaters, there'd be no reminder of the long, hard days spent searching crime scenes, trying to find anything that would help them nail this guy and put him away for good.
It wasn't until the flood of Trick or Treaters had turned into a trickle of stragglers that Jim realised he hadn't answered the door once, although Sandburg had been up and down like a Jack-in-the-box. At his guide's suggestion, he'd turned his dials down to just below normal, and the few beers he'd had while they watched old 'Addams Family' episodes had created a mellow feeling. Surprised, Jim realised that he felt relaxed for the first time in days.
As Blair jumped up again and opened the door, Jim turned on the couch, and smiled as he saw the little girl and her mother, a Jack O'Lantern candy holder clutched tightly in the little girl's arms.
"Whoa! Looks like you've been robbing the candy store!" Blair exclaimed.
"Nu uh, I got all this from Trick or Treating!" the girl replied, giving a gap-toothed smile.
"Well, here's some more for you. Don't go eating it all at once."
Her grin widened. "I won't! Thanks, Mr. Sandburg!" She peered around Blair's legs. "Happy Halloween, Mr. Ellison."
Jim smiled in return. "Happy Halloween, Elizabeth."
The door shut and Blair turned, sympathy in his eyes. "You know, it's just a symbol."
"I know." Jim shrugged slightly. It was just a symbol, and a reminder. But the case was over now, and kids like Elizabeth wouldn't lose their parents to the Jack O'Lantern killer. "So, Sandburg...how much candy do you have left?"
Blair grinned, taking a small sidestep to hide the witch candy holder from view. "Not much, man, I think the kids got it all."
"Oh, that's a pity." Jim got up and headed for the refrigerator where Blair had stashed his imported, expensive chocolate. "Guess I'll have to make do with some of this." Jim turned, the bar clutched tightly in one hand, a huge grin on his face.
"Hey, no, man! That's not fair!"
As Sandburg dived forward, Jim ducked around the other side of the kitchen island and took a second to peek into the candy holder left sitting there.
"Ooh, lookee what I found!" Dropping his chocolate bar inside, Jim scooped up the candy holder and made a dash for the front door.
"I swear, Ellison -"
Jim yanked the front door open, and grinned at his irate roommate, "Trick or treat, Chief!" then slammed the door shut and fled. By the time Sandburg caught up with him, that chocolate would be history.
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