Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

How many does it take…

by Shedoc

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It's funny what scares people. For some it's spiders, others it's small places. I knew a cop who was afraid of snails.

For me - after the events of recent months - it's two words. 'Published dissertation'.

I glared at the woman sitting opposite me. She wore a smartly cut linen skirt suit and a pastel blouse. A soft leather briefcase rested against her well-shaped leg. Her hair framed neatly against her face. She had a slightly expectant expression on her face but my head was buzzing with a million questions. I picked one almost at random and fired it at her.

"Why have you contacted me? Why not contact Mr. Sandburg at home?"

Ok, so that was two questions. Sue me.

"Mr. Sandburg still rooms with Mr. Ellison," her voice implied that this was reasonable and obvious, "We didn't want to create conflict at his home."

So it was OK to create conflict in his workplace? I pushed the question aside and hit her with my best 'you'd better explain this to me' scowl. She seemed to get the general idea - smart lady.

"I'm sorry," she smiled at me, "I'm sure you're wondering why I'm trying to persuade Mr. Sandburg to publish."

"He admitted to fraud," the sentence hurt to say. Hell, the idea made me cringe.

"Anyone in the Academic community outside Rainier knows that admission to be a fabrication," she dismissed it with a wave of her well manicured hand, "Mr. Sandburg would have been denounced officially by the University Dean. Obviously we can't ask him to defend the Sentinel dissertation - but the other four are…"

"Other four?" I blurted, interrupting her. A question that sounded like a bad joke flitted across my mind: how many dissertations does it take to get a doctorate? She frowned at me and shifted in her chair impatiently.

"Captain Banks are you aware of Mr. Sandburg's IQ? Or his true capabilities?" her voice was sharp and I felt a flash of anger - no one takes that tone with me!

"His last IQ test had him in the mid 190s. He never writes one paper at a time - too many ideas flow through his head. Standard procedure is for him to write one major dissertation and as many as four others," her voice softened as she noticed my anger and she nodded her head in a kind of apology, though she didn't say anything.

"So he's smart," I grumbled, only partly appeased, "We all knew that." I gestured at the bullpen outside my office and noticed that most of my detectives were keeping one eye peeled on my window and the other on the door. Thank God Ellison and Taggert were out questioning witnesses today. She sighed at me like I was being deliberately dense. I scowled back at her again and she sat a little straighter. I didn't want to mess this up for Sandburg, but if she continued patronizing me I would throw her out.

"Rainier has made a real mess of things," she mumbled mostly to herself, "We should never have allowed his continued attendance."

This also got my back up. Where did she come off acting all proprietary towards the kid? He was ours!

"You see, Captain, Mr. Sandburg never gave his dissertation to the committee. That means he can complete his doctorate," she told me, "Obviously the Sentinel dissertation is out - he won't be able to publish that for at least twenty years, but the others are all viable and frankly Mr. Sandburg is too important to the field to waste. As the four minors are all law enforcement centered we'll publish them as a collection; once he's defended them to committee of course."

I was having a hard time concealing my feelings. Sandburg deserved a second shot at his dream. I wanted to be sure he'd get it. After all he'd done for my friend Ellison, my department and for me I wanted this for him so badly I could taste it.

"Mr. Sandburg is at the Academy. How soon do we have to move on this?" I asked and then held my breath.

"It can wait until he's graduated. If you can give me that date, I'll know when to contact him."

I supplied the date absently while I considered how to break the news of all this to Ellison.

The Sentinel would be over-joyed.

To be continued in part 4

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Shedoc.