Thursday, late afternoon
Ellison stormed into the bullpen tossing his coat onto his desk before collapsing into his chair. Eight and a half-hours of sitting in a courtroom did not a happy Sentinel make. Sitting there without his partner made it even worse, but this was the last case he had worked while Sandburg was at the academy. Now that the perp had copped a plea and wouldn't go to trial, Jim wouldn't have to sit through any more of these court dates without his partner.
Wondering where said partner was, Ellison reached out with his senses, trying to locate the young man. When that proved unsuccessful, he turned his attention to the stack of paperwork he had left on his desk for Sandburg to finish. The stack was barely touched, and the Sentinel felt his annoyance rise a notch. Before he could again attempt to locate his missing partner, a shadow fell across his desk and he looked up into the amused face of Henri Brown.
"Hey, Ellison, I wanted to be the first to congratulate you. You must be so proud of him; I mean first solo arrest and all." A carefully schooled face looked down at the seated detective. He continued to rant, laying it on as thick as he dared. "Damn, a bank robber at that -- our boy don't start out small, nope, not our Blair." Brown leaned back against the desk and waited for the reaction. It wasn't a long wait.
"WHAT!!!" Ellison shot to his feet and was in Brown's face before his chair hit the floor. "Brown, what the hell are you talking about? Sandburg's a rookie. He spent the day here, doing paperwork!"
Rafe chose that moment to join them, patting Ellison on the back and pointedly glancing at the large stack of paperwork on the desk. "Well, you know what they say -- the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. Of course he's going to not wait for back up; he learned from the expert here."
Twice Jim opened his mouth, but no sound came out. In desperation he turned to Taggart who was at his desk, watching the exchange. Taggart didn't let Ellison's tormentors down. "You've got to look at it from his side, Jim. Today's payday for a lot of people, so that bank was pretty full. He probably didn't feel like he had a choice, after all he IS a cop now." Taggart turned his attention back to Brown. "Is there any word about Donaldson? I heard he went down. Man, he's got less than a year to go before retirement."
Brown cast a worried glance around the room. "I haven't heard, but his wife promised to call as soon as the doctor knew something."
The medic in Ellison recognized the symptoms of hyperventilation, but before he could force himself to calm down a familiar figure bounced through the doors of Major Crime.
"Sandburg!" Ellison pushed past the group crowded around his desk. "Blair, are you all right?" Not bothering to wait for an answer, he began to pat down the smaller man, looking for any sign of injury.
"What? WHAT?" Blair tried to make eye contact with his friend, but found it impossible while the near frantic Sentinel spun him from side to side as the exam continued. On his third complete turn, Sandburg saw the captain come through the door. "Simon, help!" Any further requests for assistance were muffled as strong hands grasped the young man's face.
"Are you hurt anywhere? What were you thinking of? Where in the hell was your back-up?" The flush of anger was evident on the detective's face, but his partner saw the fear in the ice blue eyes.
"Jim, man, I'm fine. What do you think..." The pieces fell into place and he turned on Ellison's tormentors. "Tell me you guys didn't do what I think you did?" The shuffling feet and guilt-ridden faces gave him his answer and Blair turned back to his partner. "Jim..."
"What if he'd had a gun? Are you really ready for that?"
"It was pink."
Seeing the incredulous look on his partner's face, Sandburg could not stop the grin that was creeping onto his own. "Yeah, man, I saw the gun. It was pink and it was plastic. I've been wet before, so I wasn't too worried about it. Of course, some of the bank tellers with their silk blouses might have disagreed."
Finally even the Sentinel began to smile. "Are you telling me that someone tried to hold up a bank with a water pistol? What about Donaldson?"
"Donaldson?" A second glance at his fellow officers reminded them of their most strict grade school teacher. "What did you three say?"
After three years, Brown and Rafe realized that they had been afraid of the wrong half of the partnership and quietly moved behind Taggart as he answered the bristling young man. "I think we sort of mentioned that he had been injured, but since we didn't know all of the details..."
"You let Jim assume the worst. Gee, thanks guys." Leaving them to ponder what he had said, Sandburg turned to the captain. "Simon, it's late and I'm taking Jim home. My report on the bank robbery is on your desk." He glanced back over at the culprits who were now looking quite chagrined.
Banks understood the silent question. "You go fill in your partner, I'll deal with the three stooges." At one glare from their captain, they scattered to their desks, and the paperwork they suddenly found so interesting.
Breathing easier, Ellison grabbed his jacket and followed Sandburg to the elevator. While they waited for the doors to open, he repeated his question. "What happened to Donaldson?"
The doors opened and Sandburg stepped in, followed by his partner. "He tore a ligament in his knee when he slipped in the whipping cream."
Banks listened for the explosion he was expecting. It didn't take long.
"He slipped in the WHAT?" The closing of the heavy steel doors muted whatever response came from the young man and allowed the captain to smile. Without a word, he turned and walked into his office to read the official account of what happened earlier that day.
"Come on Sandburg, start talking."
"Nope, not until after we eat." The argument had obviously been going on for some time when the two men entered the loft. Ellison set the cartons of Chinese food down on the table and turned back towards his partner.
"You said after we got home, Chief. We're home, so tell me what happened."
Blair walked into the kitchen to retrieve the plates and silverware needed for dinner. As he passed the refrigerator, he snagged a couple of beers. "I said after we had dinner I'd tell you all about it. Whining is so not attractive on you, Jim."
"I'm not whining, I'm commenting." At a raised eyebrow from his Guide, he rephrased that. "All right, I'm complaining. I can eat and listen at the same time, Sandburg."
With a grin, Sandburg handed over one of the bottles. "No, you can't."
Ellison almost choked on his first swallow of beer. "Are we back to cave-man references, Darwin?"
The younger man laughed and stepped back out of swatting distance. "All right, let me clarify that statement." Pointing at his own chest, he continued, "I can't talk about this and eat at the same time. I'll choke from laughing; therefore, we will not be talking about this until I am done eating, so you might as well enjoy your dinner, cause I sure am going to."
"We could reheat it." One glance at Sandburg changed his mind. "No, I guess not," he muttered as he began to dish out the Broccoli and Beef.
Simon Banks tossed the folder onto his desk as he stood to refill his coffee cup. Only Sandburg could walk into the middle of that. Rubbing the smirk off his face, he opened his door and ushered in the detectives waiting for him in the bullpen.
"Well, gentlemen, what do you have to say for yourselves?"
After several long minutes of throat clearing and shoe studying, Joel Taggart broke the silence. "Simon, all the uniforms, and half of the robbery division were talking about what happened. We didn't plan any of this, but when we realized that Jim hadn't heard about what had happened..."
Brown stepped in to take the brunt of it. "It was just too good to pass up. We're really sorry, sir."
"We didn't think it through." Rafe finally added his own comments as the three men waited for their captain's wrath.
"Didn't think it through?" Using every bit of his 6'4" height, Simon Banks towered over the three figures seated in front of him. "You're damn right, you didn't think it through. Do you know the biggest miscalculation that you made?"
Totally confused, the perpetrators glanced among themselves. Brown finally spoke up. "Umm, that would be...well, sir..."
Exasperated, Banks broke into the stuttered tirade. "You didn't let me in on it. How often does someone pull one over on Ellison? And you left me in the dark. Bad move, gentlemen. Now get out of here and go home." Not until after he had the Major Crime unit all to himself did Simon Banks give into the laughter he had been choking back since he first picked up Sandburg's report.
"Man, that was really good food, I'm glad we tried that new place tonight. Is there any more...?"
"No!" Ellison's answer was brief and to the point. "You've had three helpings of Kung Pao Chicken, two of Broccoli Beef, and two of Sweet and Sour Pork. You never eat Sweet and Sour Pork. If you eat any more you'll explode, so put down the chopsticks and start talking."
"Talking? Sure, I can do talking. Did you hear that the Jags are thinking about trading Jefferies for another power forward?"
"The bust, Chief. What happened on the bust?" Frustrated and at the end of his rope, Jim punctuated each word with a sharp shake of his chopsticks. He froze as a stray rice kernel landed on the tip of Sandburg's nose.
Blair never blinked, and never broke eye contact, as he flipped the offending kernel off his nose with a flick of his index finger. Finally, Jim started laughing; Blair joined him a few seconds later.
"Okay, buddy, tell me why you're trying to avoid this whole conversation. I get the feeling that if the mirth brothers hadn't spilled the beans, you never would have told me about today."
"You got that right."
Sandburg sighed and motioned towards the couch. With a nod, Ellison stood up and followed him. After they were settled, the younger man began to speak. "Jim, do you remember your first arrest? Not the ones you helped on, but your first solo take-down of a perp?"
"Sure." Sitting back, Ellison let the memories flow as he told the story. "Yeah, we were after this car theft ring, when the call came in about a theft in progress. It was the first day my training officer let me drive. Before it really sinks in, I'm in the middle of my first hot pursuit. The suspect rammed our car and put us both in the ditch. He took off running...I must have chased him a half a mile, but I caught him."
"You really remember it, don't you?"
"Yeah, I remember it, so?" The Sentinel was not sure where this was going.
"You remember your first arrest, kinda like your first love. In fact, the impression of it helps to mold what your fellow officers think of you for a long time, maybe your entire career."
"I don't think I'd go that far, Chief."
"Oh?" Sandburg stood up and began to pace. "You wrecked your first car in the line of duty. You didn't let anything get in the way of getting your arrest. After all these years, that still sounds like the Jim Ellison I know. Hell, the department garage has a separate 'Jim Ellison' budget. What did I do? I took out the 'Whipped Cream Bandit'. Half of the cops in the department already thought of me as some kind of joke and my first arrest is of the dumbest crook to ever hit Cascade. Heck, Donaldson slipped in the whipping cream because he was laughing so hard. Do you think this is going to make them take me any more seriously?"
"Oh, come on. It wasn't that bad."
"Jim, if the back-up hadn't been pulling into the parking lot, I'd have let the guy go with a warning that I'd tell Santa on him if he wasn't good from now on."
Choking on his beer, Ellison set the bottle down and turned to face his partner. "You're joking, right?" The look on Sandburg's face and the raised eyebrow told him that his Guide wasn't entirely jesting.
"Okay Sandburg, sit down and tell me the whole story."
With a sigh, the rookie detective plopped down on the sofa and began to fill in the details of his first arrest. "We're suppose to go to the Jag's game tomorrow straight from work, and I didn't want to get caught short of cash, so I decided to go to the bank on my lunch hour today, and..."
Earlier that day
"Hey Hairboy, since you're going out, you mind picking me up a sandwich at Vinnie's Deli? Pastrami on rye with a pickle." Brown's voice carried over the normal din of the bullpen.
Blair turned around just as he was reaching for the door. "I thought your wife packed you a lunch today, H."
Brown fingered the brown bag sitting on the corner of his desk. "Yeah, a nice, non- fat lunch. She's been getting recipes from Joel and his wife. I'm starving and I'm begging, Sandburg."
"Give it up, Henri." Rafe could be heard, but not seen as he chased the papers that the other man had knocked off his desk. After a moment he appeared out from under the desk, brushing the dust off his pant legs. "Your lady has been very vocal about what she will do to us if we are caught getting you food. You're on your own, my friend."
"Forget it, Brown. Besides," Blair paused and pulled a list out of his jacket pocket, "I've already got my quota of lunch orders for the day. Like the man said, you're on your own." Catching the faint ding of the elevator, Sandburg scooted out of Major Crime and into the elevator before the door closed.
As he walked to his car Sandburg shoved the list back into his pocket. Might as well do my errands first. Simon can't yell at me for being late if I'm stuck in line getting his cigars.
The line wasn't too long when Sandburg walked into the bank. With a nod to his favorite clerk, he stepped over to the counter and began filling out the necessary forms to make his withdrawal. The main door opened again, and an entering figure caught the new detective's attention.
Sandburg blinked and rubbed his eyes. The image in front of him remained. Tall, blond and blue eyed, he seemed to be a male in his early 30's. A layer of what appeared to be whipped cream covered any distinguishing features on his face. A note was grasped in his left hand and what appeared to be the butt end of a water pistol could be seen in his right coat pocket. Biting back his laughter, Sandburg slipped into the line in back of his robbery suspect. When the teller closest to them looked up and noticed the strange sight in the lobby, he winked his reassurance to her.
Blair bit down on his knuckle to keep from laughing out loud. Body heat was melting the would-be robbers disguise before he even reached the front of the line. Knowing the time was coming when he would have to do something about the situation, he reached into his shirt and pulled out his ID, making sure it was visible and hooked it securely on his pocket.
Without warning, the dripping young man stepped out of the line and walked up to the middle-aged teller whose customer was leaving. She looked up, startled as he reached into his coat and grabbed the gun hidden there. Leaving the water pistol hidden in the confines of the threadbare woolen coat, he began to wave it around and shout.
"I'm robbing the bank, everybody stay still." The lesser observant of the bank patrons finally noticed the robbery suspect and chaos broke out in the lobby just as flashing red and blue lights became visible through the windows. Rookie Detective, junior grade, Blair Sandburg had no choice but to respond.
"Cascade Police! You're under arrest!" His training kicked in and Sandburg snapped the handcuffs on his prisoner while reading him his rights. The uniformed officers rushed through the door and stopped, stunned, at the dripping and cuffed mess they were handed.
Back at the loft
By the time Sandburg finished telling the details of his first arrest Ellison was flat on the floor, arms wrapped around his torso, laughing uncontrollably.
"Come on, Jim, It wasn't that funny." His glare lasted all of five seconds before joining in his partner's laughter. "Oh hell, it was, wasn't it?"
Jim dragged himself back up onto the sofa, wiping the tears from his cheeks. "Yeah, buddy, it was. There's one thing I don't get, though. What kind of robber gets in the teller line and waits when he's wearing a disguise, and why did he get out of the line?"
"That's two things." Without a glance Sandburg ducked to miss the incoming pillow before he tried to answer the questions.
"He told us at the scene that it wasn't polite to cut in front of someone already in line. He was a very polite robber, all things considered." Blair rubbed at his face, trying to control his emotions as he told the rest to his hysterical Sentinel. "He said that he had to cut in line because otherwise, he would have missed the bus."
"Missed the bus?" Ellison stared, not quite believing where that statement led. "Are you saying that he was using a city bus as a getaway vehicle?"
"Yep." One glance at his partner's face sent the young man into his own wave of hysterics, his partner only seconds behind.
Two tired looking detectives made their way onto the elevator that morning. The shorter one turned to his partner. "I don't think I've ever heard you laugh in your sleep before. Even with my door closed, you kept waking me up, man."
"Well it's not everyday that..."
"DON'T even say it, Jim."
Ellison turned, with the most innocent look he could manage. "Who, me?" He allowed a smirk to cross his face before adding; "You ready to 'cream' some more bad guys today, Wolfgang?"
Sandburg groaned at the first of what he knew would be many puns at his expense. "You wait, you'll get your 'just desserts' too." His voice trailed off as Ellison slipped into Sentinel mode, obviously listening to something outside the elevator.
"What do you hear? Can you tell where it's coming from?" The Guide was back to all business as he helped the Sentinel focus on what had caught his attention.
Jim tilted his head as he isolated the sound. Chuckling to himself as he identified it, he turned back to Sandburg. "It's Simon, he's howling."
"Umm, Jim..." Sandburg appeared very thoughtful and rubbed his temple briefly before speaking again. "Simon's a captain. Captains don't howl. We learned that at the academy. Sergeants and lieutenants may howl but captains don't. They were very specific about that."
Ellison leaned against the elevator wall as he listened to his partner's rant. "You through?" When Sandburg just glared at him he pushed him through the opening doors. "Come on, Shecky. Let's go see what could possibly be funnier than your big arrest yesterday."
The bullpen itself was quiet; everyone's attention focused on the door to Simon's office. They too, had never heard such a reaction from their superior. Before either of them could ask what was happening, Banks spotted them and waved them into the office.
"Sir?" Jim poked his head in the door but was unwilling to venture further in until he could better gauge the tall man's mood. When Banks shook a file at them, the two men entered the office and Ellison took the proffered file. After a quick glance, he began to laugh.
"What? WHAT?" Sandburg tried to take the file, but Ellison wouldn't release it, instead he turned back to Simon.
"Is this some kind of joke, sir?"
Banks pulled off his glasses and wiped at his face. "No, apparently not, Jim. Congratulations, Sandburg."
When another bout of laughter made it impossible for the other man to answer, Ellison stepped in. "It appears that your bank robber from yesterday is wanted in Alabama. The FBI is sending two men out here to handle his extradition. He's one of their more notorious felons."
Sandburg stared at him, astounded. "You're kidding, aren't you?" His face twitched, but he kept it under control as he continued. "This may not be a very PC question, but just how dumb do they grow them down there?"
"Well, Sandburg, you and your partner are going to find out." Banks replaced his glasses and waited for Ellison to react. One, two, three...
"Sir, why do I have to be involved in this? It was Sandburg's collar."
"And now he's your official partner. You'd better hurry if you're going to get to the airport on time to pick up the agents." The captain grinned again as he handed the flight information to the taller of the two detectives in his office. "Let's see if you can get there and back with all the doors still attached to the car."
"Sir, we can't pick up two agents in my truck, we'll have to..."
"NO, you are NOT taking my car. Forget it gentlemen. Sandburg, you'd better be driving, and take a car from the motor pool."
Sandburg stepped out of the captain's office and froze, observing the officers working in Major Crime. Every one of them was wearing a shoulder holster containing a brightly colored plastic water pistol. When Ellison saw them and began to open his mouth, the younger man indicated his disapproval to his partner and just walked out of the bullpen.
Ellison was just one step behind him as the door closed. "It was just their idea of a joke, Chief."
A wink and a raised finger silenced the Sentinel. He watched as Sandburg silently counted to five, then opened the door a fraction of an inch. "Yes, Commissioner, Captain Banks is in his office. Go right on in." Sentinel hearing was not needed to hear the sound of fifteen shoulder holsters being yanked off and shoved into desk drawers.
Sandburg leaned against the car as the two men waited outside baggage claim. "Gee, this reminds me of when we were here to pick up Megan."
"Well, Chief, if one of those agents show up in a pink dingo coat we're going to leave them here, you got that?"
"Um, Jim...I don't think they have dingo in Alabama."
Much to his credit, Ellison kept a straight face. "No, but they do have a surplus of whipped cream."
"You're a real riot, Ellison." With a shake of his head, the younger man picked up the copy of the report they had brought. "There has just got to be some kind of mistake here. This guy is not a notorious criminal in anybody's book."
"Everything matched, Chief. Name, date of birth, place of birth, our Paul Newport is their Paul Newport. By the way, that was a nice piece of detective work, tracking down his ID. The sergeant in booking told me that he didn't have any identification on him, and he wasn't talking."
Not even the Sentinel heard everything his Guide had said. "What was that?"
Sandburg snorted his displeasure at having to tell the final details of his arrest of Newport. "I said that his identification was part of the evidence." At the look on his partner's face, he hastened to continue. "The note he had was written on the back of a deposit slip. That gave us his address, his landlord gave us the rest."
The only way that Ellison could keep a straight face was to not look at his partner. "The back of one of his own deposit slips?"
"Apparently he couldn't find any scrap paper." That did it, and the two men leaned against the car, helpless with laughter.
Their laughter died down as two men approached the car, each carrying an overnight case. The older one stepped up in front of Ellison and stuck out his hand.
"You Ellison? I'm Special Agent Frank Abels. This is my partner, Special Agent Norbert Trenton."
Jim quickly pulled himself together and shook the offered hand, taking a moment to appraise the two agents as his partner did the same. Abels was obviously the senior partner, with a shock of gray hair and an ample waistline to prove it. Trenton had the look of a rookie, wide-eyed and eager to prove himself, while keeping his back ramrod straight. Sandburg's whispered comment almost sent the Sentinel into another fit of laughter.
"Still got the hanger in that coat, I see."
Choking slightly, Ellison managed to open the door, while Sandburg opened the trunk for their bags.
As they pulled out of the airport parking garage, Sandburg turned and spoke to the two men in the back seat. "That was a long flight, I bet you guys are starving. What do you say we stop and grab a bite before the arraignment? How about it, Jim?"
Ellison looked at his watch before answering. "We've got four hours before the arraignment. We can go over the files just as easy while we're eating as at the station. It's fine with me."
"We really should proceed directly to your station and check in with..."
"Lunch sounds great." Abels cut in, glaring at his over-eager partner. "I'm not sure what they were serving on the plane, in fact I'm not sure even the forensics lab at Quantico could identify it."
Banks looked up from his computer just in time to see a raven-haired whirlwind, also known as Beverly Sanchez come into his office. "Hello, Beverly."
"Simon, what in the hell is this?" With a resounding ~thwack~ a folder hit his desk. Recognizing the neat handwriting of his newest detective, Banks couldn't hold back a smile.
"Oh, yes, Sandburg's first arrest. Is there a problem with the paperwork? He's usually very good with that sort of thing." This time it was Simon's turn to sit back and watch the show.
"Paperwork? PAPERWORK?" Beverly sputtered. "The paperwork is fine, but this case is ridiculous. Whipped cream and a water pistol; you can't possibly expect me to prosecute this? I'd be laughed right out of the DA's office."
Despite the fact that he really liked and respected the ADA, Simon found perverse pleasure in tormenting her. "You may not be taking this case seriously, but the FBI is. In fact, Ellison and Sandburg are at the airport right now picking up two agents. Sandburg's 'Whipped Cream Bandit' is a wanted fugitive in Alabama."
She stared at Banks, slack jawed. "You've got to be kidding. Well, if they're that short on decent criminals there, we can send them some of ours. I could probably round up a few jaywalkers and maybe a purse-snatcher to show them the seedy side of crime."
"Nope, they just want that one."
"They won't get any argument from me." With a tight smile, Beverly turned and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind her. Simon waited until she was out of the bullpen before giving in to another bout of laughter.
Taggart stuck his head in Simon's door. "Was Ms Sanchez here about Sandburg's case? She didn't look all too pleased when she left."
It took Banks a minute to determine how best to answer the question. "Let's just say that the city of Cascade won't object to extraditing our bank robber to Alabama."
Mama Rose's Italian Restaurant
"I understand Newport was your first arrest." Abels paused as he was digging into the salad that the waiter had placed in front of him. Spearing a large crouton, he waved his fork at Sandburg.
Remembering his encounter with Ellison's rice the night before, Sandburg leaned back slightly before he answered. "Umm, yeah it was. Guess it was one of those 'right place, right time' things." His discomfort in discussing the case went unobserved by the two FBI agents.
The fork was replaced by a breadstick as Abels mopped up the last of his blue cheese dressing. His attention and the airborne food were then directed towards Ellison. "You must be pretty proud of your partner. After all..." Abels broke off and waited while a plate of eggplant parmesan was placed in front of him, "...the FBI's been after Newport for over two years."
Ellison choked slightly. "Two years? You've been after him for two years?"
Trenton broke in, not hiding his annoyance. "Not just us personally, he's robbed banks all up and down the East Coast before he moved to Alabama, he's..."
"...had a lobotomy before coming to Cascade." Fed up with the attitude of the junior FBI agent, Sandburg allowed his own annoyance to show through. "Come on, the guy is a certified idiot, the only way he could have gotten away with anything is with dumb luck, and nobody has two years of that much luck."
"Just because you were able to capture Newport does not mean that the other agencies that were after him are somehow incapable of performing their jobs. You just caught a lucky break, a 'rookie's break'."
Ellison smiled as he listened to his partner verbally spar with the young agent. Without a word he passed a copy of Sandburg's arrest report to the senior FBI agent. Abels accepted it with a nod and began to read as the junior partners continued to argue.
"A 'rookie's break', are you kidding me?" Sandburg straightened at the affront. "I may be new to the badge, but I spent over three years as an observer and a consultant to the department. I know what I'm doing, and I know that my grandmother could have arrested him. Paul Newport is a bumbling fool that gives criminals a bad name."
"You can't even get his name right. The suspect's name is Raul Newport, not Paul. Of course, that's a common 'rookie' mistake."
"Listen, Norbert, I know my suspect's name, and it's Paul. P. A. U. L. Paul."
Ellison considered breaking into the impromptu spelling bee, but then he noticed a strangling sound coming from the older man with them. Before he could react, Abels drew in a shaky breath, then began to cough.
Trenton started to pound his partner on the back. After a moment, Abels sat back and reached for his water, nodding that he was all right. A few deep breaths later he began to laugh.
"This guy's a dimwit, There's no way he can be Raul Newport."
"Well, no kidding!" Sandburg let his exasperation show as he dug into his pasta primavera.
"But the fax listed your suspect as Raul Newport, I'm sure of it." Trenton was not quite ready to give it up. "See, look for yourself." He handed the crumpled paper to Ellison, pointedly ignoring Sandburg.
Barely flexing his Sentinel sight, Ellison saw the fleck of dirt imbedded in the paper under the letter P and used his fingernail to scrape it off. Trenton's jaw dropped and the temptation was too much for the senior detective.
"Don't take it too hard, Norbert. It was an honest rookie mistake." When neither agent was looking at him, he winked at his partner.
In all honesty, they had to give Trenton credit for his tenacity. "Wait, look at this." He pulled the mug shot out of his own file and laid it next to the one already on the table from the file Abels had been choking over. "They are the same guy."
Sandburg leaned back slightly, putting his partner in the better position to be the one to pick up and study the photos. The Sentinel took advantage of the move and reached for them. The differences between the two pictures shone like a beacon to him, thanks to years of training from his Guide. He counted to twenty before showing what he had found to the others, as not to make them suspicious.
"Your man seems more mature, he carries his body differently. Look at the posture disparity. What do you think, Chief?" He slid the photos to his partner, giving him a chance to use his skills in people watching in front of the FBI agents.
Blair didn't notice the slight smirk on his best friend's face; he was too busy pulling on his glasses to analyze the differences Ellison had noticed.
"Oh, yes, there is a marked difference in body language between these two men. Your suspect is more defiant, look at his shoulders, how straight he's standing. He's making direct eye contact with the camera, most suspects look slightly off to the side."
Abels nodded, listening to every word the younger man had to say. "You hit it on the nose. He called us once, even. Told us that we weren't smart enough to catch him. The bastard was taunting us."
Ellison understood the type. "He was daring you to catch him."
"Exactly, Jim. That's my point. Now look at our suspect, at his body language. What do you see?" Sandburg turned, expectantly, towards the two agents.
As the men studied the mug shot, Ellison studied his partner. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the teacher out of the man. A smile crossed his lips as Sandburg slid effortlessly back into lecture mode.
"Notice how his shoulders are not only slumped, but rolled forward? There is no defiance in him. If anything he is ashamed, embarrassed even, at what has happened to him. Take a good look at his face, at his eyes. He is not challenging anybody; he's looking below the camera. This is not an alpha male." Sandburg paused and pointed to the photo brought by the FBI agents. "This is an alpha male."
"I'm impressed, Sandburg. Nobody mentioned that you had a background in profiling."
His partner cut Abels' compliment short. "So what, the guy's a good actor, or are you claiming he's schizophrenic? Maybe with your vast experience you can give us a psychological profile too, while you're at it."
Before Sandburg could form a suitable retort, Ellison jumped in. "Why alter his MO? If the FBI couldn't catch him after two years, why change a good thing?"
It didn't take Sandburg long to get back into the conversation. "According to his landlord, Newport has lived there for a little over six months, and has never missed a day of work. He's a..." Blair paused and glanced at his notes, "...janitor for Wonderburger."
"So this was all one big coincidence? Is that what you're saying?" Trenton seemed to take offense to the idea.
Instead of answering, Sandburg posed another question. "Do either of you have brothers?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Abels, on the other hand, saw where Sandburg was headed. "Yeah, I've got two older brothers. When I was younger, I tried to do everything they did even if..." Abels laughed and nodded, "...yep, even if I wasn't very good at it. Good call, Detective."
The younger man smiled his thanks, then suddenly appeared lost in thought.
Ellison immediately noticed the change in his friend's demeanor. "What is it, Chief?"
"Why now? Our brother hasn't been in a bit of trouble. What made him decide to follow in his brother's footsteps now?"
"Wait a minute. You're saying that your Paul Newport and our Raul Newport are brothers? But they're...you mean they're twins?"
"Glad you're finally catching up with us, Norbert." Abels glared at the younger agent.
Undaunted, Trenton continued. "Sandburg's right, why did he start a life of crime now?"
Ellison started thumbing through the thick file brought by the out of state agents. "When was your suspect last sighted?"
"Three weeks ago, in northern Oklahoma. Why?" In spite of his rudeness, Trenton did seem to know his case. "He was pulled over on a traffic stop. The local sheriff's department had suffered a computer crash the day before and they weren't back on-line with federal warrants. That was the closest he's come to capture in over two years." He picked up his napkin and wiped his mouth before pushing his plate away. "You think he's on his way here, don't you?"
Sandburg waited until the waiter removed the last of their plates before answering. "It makes sense. Why else would Paul suddenly turn to a life of crime. He's trying to impress his brother, the famous bank robber."
Ellison obviously agreed with his partner. He threw a tip down on the table as he stood. "We can use one Newport to catch the other. Let's go talk to Simon and the DA. See how they want to play this out."
With an "Our expense account is bigger", Abels snagged the check and stepped over to Ellison, leaving the two junior partners to gather up the files. While they were waiting for the papers to be sorted, he studied the other man. "I assume you have a plan?"
Already deep in strategy, the Sentinel merely nodded.
Simon Banks' Office
"What?" Several heads in the bullpen turned at the sound of Beverly Sanchez's loud, plaintive voice. "You mean we have to keep him?"
"Now Beverly, it's not that bad." Banks used his best soothing voice as the ADA paced across his office. "After we capture the brother, I'm sure you can offer a plea- bargain and never go to court. But in the meantime we need to make sure he's bailed out so that he can make contact with his brother."
"Are you sure this will draw out Raul? Are you even sure he's in Cascade?" She did not seem all that convinced.
"Our last contact with him put him on a direct path here. Then his brother suddenly turns to a life of crime. Your Mr. Sandburg seems to believe that he is trying to impress Raul."
"And how would it impress him unless he's here, or on his way?" Ellison interrupted the younger FBI agent.
"Let me see if I've got this straight. I file formal charges, fuss a little, then agree to bail." Beverly stared at the men seated around the conference table. "You keep him under surveillance and wait for Raul to show up, then arrest him and send him back to Alabama to stand trial there."
Abels smiled briefly. "Well there are about five states that want him, but I think Alabama gets first dibs."
"Don't suppose I could talk you into taking them both, could I?"
Sunday, early evening
"Man, I can't believe we blew the entire weekend waiting for Newport to meet up with his brother. With our luck, Raul was so embarrassed by the robbery that he left town without even saying hello." Sandburg barely paused to take a breath before starting up again. "How often do we get both a Saturday and a Sunday scheduled off, and this is how we end up spending them?"
"Cheer up, buddy, at least we get Monday off, no matter how the surveillance goes. What do you say about a day of fishing before the cold weather sets in?" Ellison understood how his partner felt. Four teams had kept Paul Newport under surveillance since he was released on bail Friday afternoon. Other than the cable installer who arrived while Abels and Trenton were on watch, no one had entered the small apartment. When he heard about it, Sandburg joked that the brother had probably paid for the cable to educate the slower man with the glut of true-crime shows available on late night cable.
"I'd say it sounds great." Sandburg reached for the thermos of coffee, but stopped as a dark blue sedan pulled up behind them. "Next shift's here. Poor Brown, he got stuck with Norbert this time."
"Serves him right. He took the last prune danish this morning." Ellison rubbed at the sides of his face. "Man, am I glad to be done here for the day. I don't think I could listen for much longer."
"Is your hearing bothering you? Why didn't you say something?"
"It's not my hearing, it's what I'm listening to." He saw the question on his partner's face and knew that he was not going to get away without an explanation. "Do you remember Dr. Demento?"
"Dr. Demento? Man, I haven't heard that name in ages. One of Naomi's old boyfriends used to listen to him when I was a kid. Is he still on the radio?"
After acknowledging Brown and Trenton, Ellison started the truck. "I don't think so, must have been a tape, but those songs..."
Blair softly began to sing as he buckled up. "They're coming to get you, they are, they are. They're coming to get you, they are..."
Laughing and enjoying each other's friendship, neither man noticed the battered 4 x 4 that was parked on the next block down, nor the familiar face that watched them pass.
Patterson's All-Night Groceries Parking Lot
"Come on Jim, do we really need donuts to go fishing? I'm fixing you a nice big breakfast before we leave, complete with bacon. Isn't that enough preservatives for one day?" The two men were walking back to the truck, each with a bag of groceries.
"You're a cop now. Donuts are a vital part of who we are."
A well-trained expression of serious concern was on the Sentinel's face as he turned to face his Guide. "Didn't they tell you about it at the academy?"
Sandburg was falling for it. He knew it and couldn't stop himself. "Tell us what?"
"The powdered sugar -- it absorbs the gun oil from your skin."
Sandburg froze in the middle of the parking lot, it had been a long time since his partner had pulled one over on him, and the older man was obviously enjoying it.
"Close your mouth Junior, before the bugs fly in."
"Funny, man, very funny. Too bad your sense of humor isn't heightened. Maybe we should start testing that one now."
Ellison set his bag in the bed of the truck, and turned back around, a retort at the ready, when he heard the sound of an accelerating engine. A black Chevrolet truck, headlights off, was careening across the lot with Sandburg directly in its path.
"Sandburg, look out!"
Sandburg saw the big truck only seconds after Ellison and was already running for cover, groceries tossed aside. He made it halfway to the row of parked vehicles before tripping on some unnoticed debris in his path.
Ellison could only look on in horror as Sandburg twisted his body to fall between the oversized tires as it rushed up on him. Within seconds it was over, and Ellison found himself leaning over his partner.
"Blair? Buddy, can you hear me?"
With a groan Sandburg rolled onto his back and tried to sit up. A firm hand on his chest kept him on the ground as sentinel senses assessed the damage.
"Jim, I'm okay."
Eventually his partner came to the same conclusion and helped him to sit up. Breathing heavily, the younger man leaned his forehead against his friend's shoulder. "Where did that come from?"
"You were obviously a target, Sandburg." Jim grasped the younger man's arms and braced himself to pull them both upright.
"Yeah, but who was it?" He accepted the boost up. "What did you see?"
"It was so fast, I'm not sure..."
Blair slipped instantly into Guide-mode. "Come on Jim, you saw it. You know the drill, play back the memory, slower this time and look inside the truck."
Ellison's eyes lost some of their focus as he replayed what had just happened.
"Damn, come on!" With no further explanation he bolted for his truck, Sandburg a step behind him.
"Jim, wait! What do you remember?" Blair grabbed the taller man's coat before he could reach the driver's side door. "Tell me!"
"It was Newport!"
"Are you sure?" He answered his own question, "Of course you are. Think Jim, how can you track him? What did your senses pick up?"
It only took the Sentinel a split second to answer. "It sounded funny. No, there was a hole in his muffler, that's what I heard."
"Can you still hear it?"
A tilting of the head, then, "Yes."
Sandburg grabbed the keys and pushed him towards the front of the blue and white Ford. "I'll drive, you listen." By the time Ellison made it to the passenger side, Sandburg had the truck fired up and into gear. As Ellison struggled to get the seat belt on, Sandburg raced out of the parking lot and onto the street.
"Umm, left. Towards Harborview Drive. What do you hang onto on this side, Sandburg?" Ellison slid forward and banged his knees on the hard metal dashboard.
"Brace your feet against the firewall, and put one hand above the windshield. Which way now? We're coming up on Harborview." The driving courses at the academy were paying off as he smoothly passed three cars while flipping on the lights and sirens.
"Right. He turned right on Harborview. He's about a mile and a half ahead of us. WATCH IT!" As the Ford took the corner in a full power slide, Ellison collided with Sandburg's elbow. "Oww!"
"Sit still, man." Sandburg barely glanced at his partner; instead, concentrating on the road as it narrowed through a construction zone. "Where is he now?"
"I'm trying to sit still." Damn, he always made this look easy.
Sandburg was secretly enjoying the other man's struggles in the passenger seat, but he didn't have time to gloat. "Which way, Jim?"
"I lost him." Ellison breathed a sigh of relief as he finally got himself securely wedged into place.
"Well, find him!"
It took a few seconds, as Ellison had to squash his temper down into place. "He turned off of Harborview. It was a left, he made a left turn."
"I DON'T KNOW." For a second, the Sentinel let his anger and frustration get the better of him. "It echoed weird...that's it! He turned in at those old warehouses. You remember, where that last arson fire was."
Sandburg allowed himself a small smile in the darkness of the cab. "Okay, well hang on, Jim." He killed the lights and siren and with no further warning yanked the wheel hard, crossing the old railroad tracks that traveled parallel to the road.
By the time they were on the other side of the tracks, Ellison had bumped his knee, whacked his elbow on the door, and hit his head on the interior of the roof. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Enjoying what?" His smirk told Ellison that he knew exactly what the bigger man was alluding to. Wisely, he decided to change the subject. "Over there, isn't that the truck?"
Ellison only grunted his acknowledgement as Sandburg pulled in behind the black 4 x 4 that sat abandoned next to a gutted building.
An abandoned warehouse near the harbor
"Call it in, Sandburg." Ellison was out of the truck before it came to a complete stop, running towards the warehouse.
Well-acquainted with the demand, Sandburg pulled the cell phone and his service weapon out of his backpack as he exited the Ford.
Less than a minute later, Sandburg slipped into the abandoned building and dropped down beside his partner. "Why didn't you wait for me?"
Ellison ignored the question. "Is back-up on the way?"
"ETA's about 15 minutes. There was a bus accident over on Shaw and 16th Ave. and everything's jammed up. We're on our own until then. Man, I wasn't expecting him to come after us."
"Not us, you." Ellison tried to extend his senses, but reeled back in when the smells of the old building threatened to overwhelm him. Diesel fuel, rotting wood and the smells of the waterfront made a potent combination.
"Because I busted his brother?" Sandburg turned to face Jim and shook his head. "Isn't that a little over the top?"
"You're an only child, Sandburg. I don't expect you to get it; you've never had a little brother."
"They're twins, man. That only makes them minutes apart."
It was the Sentinel's turn to shake his head. "Doesn't matter, it's the attitude, not the age. You arrested the guy while he was trying to live up to his brother's reputation."
"What, now I'm the playground tattletale? Gee, thanks, man." Sandburg leaned back against one of the broken crates that littered the floor of the abandoned building. "How do you want to play this?"
"I can't track him in here, there's too many smells, and the sound is echoing like crazy." He leaned back next to Sandburg. "The best we can do is to keep him pinned down until back-up gets here and we can sweep the building."
"Won't work, there's got to be at least four different exits in this place, and that doesn't count the holes in the walls. Squatters don't even use theses places cause they're so bad."
Ellison knew his partner was right, "All right, what do you suggest?"
Sandburg thought for a moment. "Let me think, smell and sound are out, right?"
"What about touch?"
Ellison looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "Touch?"
"Yeah, man, think about it. Nobody's been in this place in ages. We've stirred it up. Body heat, air currents, find a direction that 'feels' different."
The Sentinel was already nodding as he began his search. "There, to the left and up those stairs." He was up on his feet, and then a touch to his arm stopped him.
"Now that you have a direction, piggyback sound on it and narrow it down." Sandburg bounced ever so slightly. This is the way it should be, Sentinel and Guide, protecting the tribe together. It's all been worth it. "Can you tell where he is?"
His brow knit together, Ellison concentrated as his Guide had told him. A relaxing of his features and a slow smile told when success had been achieved. "I've got him. Upstairs, northeast corner, hiding behind a crate." Now he opened his vision, studying the best method of approach. "I'm going up these stairs. I want you to go around to the right and take that other set of steps over there. Do you see them?"
Sandburg stared into the gloom, following the direction his partner was pointing. "Umm, not really, but if you say that there are stairs over there, then I'll find them. Are you sure we should split up?"
Ellison missed the days when he could have told his friend to stay in the truck, but never more than right now. "If he sees me coming up the steps, he may try to bolt the other way. You'll have to be the one to stop him if he does. Besides, I'm not sure those stairs can take the weight of both of us on them." He grasped Blair's shoulders and turned him slightly. "Follow these cartons until you can see the old office, the stairs are on the right hand side of the doorway. Go!" He shoved slightly to start Sandburg in the right direction, then dashed for his own set of stairs.
He was halfway up the stairs when he heard Sandburg's voice, sentinel-soft. "I'm upstairs and in position. He doesn't know I'm up here, but he knows you're on your way. Stay against the wall, I think he's going to try to throw something at you."
Sandburg crept closer, watching as the suspect edged closer to the main stairs, hefting what appeared to be a large metal gear in his hand. When he raised it above his head, aiming at the man on the stairs, Sandburg had no choice. Stepping out of the shadows, he reached for the holster strapped to his belt, but never touched the cold metal housed there, as he called out, "Cascade PD, freeze!"
The suspect spun around, dropping the gear from his hand. It wobbled as it hit the wooden floor, then rolled down the stairs. Ellison braced for it to hit him, but instead the weight of the heavy object broke the top six steps, leaving him no way to reach the second floor and leaving his rookie partner alone with the wanted felon who had already made one attempt on the young man's life.
Sandburg was momentarily distracted by the sound of the stairs giving way and Newport took advantage, shoving over a stack of wooden pallets onto the young man.
Ellison could only listen in horror as Newport moved in on his trapped partner. He was too far down the stairs to help with no way to reach the top. He turned, intending to make a run for the second set of steps when the staircase he was on collapsed from the strain.
"Jim! Jim are you all right? Can you hear me?" Blair's panicked voice could be heard over the echo of the falling debris. Ellison could only groan as he struggled to stay conscious. Blair, run. Get out of here.
Raul Newport couldn't believe his luck. The cop that had arrested his brother lay on the floor in front of him, pinned down and trapped. His big partner was on the ground floor, hurt and also helpless. For a moment he didn't know which one to deal with first. When a groan and movement from down below caught his attention he knew where to start and moved towards the remaining set of stairs.
"No!" Blair saw the look on Newport's face as he looked down at the injured Sentinel. "You leave him alone. I'm the one that caught your brother, just leave Jim out of this."
He paused, seemingly to consider Sandburg's words, then moved past Sandburg and towards the stairs.
Sandburg struggled in vain to free himself. Desperate, he looked around for something to use to defend his partner. A crate had fallen and broken open in the chaos and he spied a rotting cardboard box marked 'bearings' inside it. Reaching as far as he could, Blair snagged the box with his fingertip and pulled it closer. The box broke open easily, and he grabbed a handful of the small metal balls and heaved them towards the fleeing suspect.
Later, Sandburg would refer to this as a cartoon moment. Newport seemed to be running in place as the ball bearings made standing impossible. Seconds later, there was a strangled "nooooo" as the wanted felon tumbled down the stairs, his fall cushioned somewhat by the pile of filthy rags that had been discarded near the bottom of the steps.
"Sandburg?" The sound of a falling body had roused the dazed Sentinel. Only when he heard the muffled curses did he realize that his partner had not fallen. Ellison drew his gun as he crawled to his feet and slowly limped in the direction of the stairs. He stood over the suspect and called out again, "Chief, you okay?"
After several loud thumps, he received his answer. "Yeah, Jim, I'm all right." Ellison did not let his gaze leave the suspect, but he was aware when his partner shuffled down the steps.
"Cuff him, Chief." Ellison could not keep the pride out of his voice. "Congratulations Sandburg, you got him." After the cuffs were in place, Ellison finally relaxed and leaned back against the wall.
"What about you, Jim? Are you all right?" Blair could not keep the slight tremble of fear out of his voice. From where he had been, Sandburg could not see where Ellison had landed, and had feared the worst.
"I'm okay, buddy. Just bruised a bit." Before he could say anything else, a movement on the stairs caught his attention.
One final ball bearing made its way down the rickety wooden steps to rest against the tall detective's foot. He reached down and picked it up.
"You took him out with a marble? The FBI has been after him for two years, and you catch him with marbles?"
"Actually, they're ball bearings Jim."
Ellison shook his head. There were some things you just don't want to know. "Never mind."
The outside door flew open as half of Cascade's finest flew in, guns drawn, followed by two FBI agents. Their yells of warning died as they realized that the situation was under control. The uniformed officers pulled Newport outside to a waiting squad car as his rights were read.
The Major Crimes Unit stood surrounding the two men, wanting to know what had happened. Chaos ensued, as they all demanded to know what had happened.
"Sandburg, what in the..."
"Jim, are you..."
"What in the hell..."
"You got him..."
"Sandy, how on earth..."
"QUIET. Just everybody be quiet!" Sandburg found himself confronted by two very irate FBI agents. "How in the hell did you do that? We've been after him for two years, two damn years! What do you have that we don't have? Just tell me that!" Abels leaned closer to Sandburg with every word.
The rest of the group fell deathly quiet, waiting for Ellison's reaction to the verbal assault on his partner. It wasn't a long wait. Ellison stepped between them and pulled Sandburg back ever so slightly, so that he could be face to face with Abels when he spoke. His voice was soft, and the rest of the group had to lean forward to hear him.
"You want to know what he had that you don't? Well, I'll tell you." Ellison dropped the cold metal sphere into the agent's hand. "The right ammo." With a smile that couldn't quite be defined, he snagged his partner's elbow and headed him out the door, much to the chagrin of the two agents.
Simon Banks' Office
The next morning
The coffee was hot and the laughter was infectious as the three men sat around the desk and discussed the previous night's arrest. A sharp rap on the door preceded the entrance of the two FBI agents.
"Captain Banks." The greeting was short, but courteous. After an acknowledging nod from the police captain, Abels continued, "Raul Newport's arraignment is scheduled for 10:00 this morning, then we will be leaving directly for the airport. We just wanted to thank you for all your work on this case, all of you."
Anything else he wanted to say was cut short by his partner. Trenton was obviously agitated. "Why couldn't you let us be the arresting officers? What good did it do you to arrest him, if you're not fighting to keep him here?"
"Because you didn't catch him." Ellison stood up and leaned against the desk, crossing his arms. "My partner did. My rookie partner captured the man you people spent two years chasing. There is no way I am ever going to let you forget that."
"He didn't even draw his weapon!" Trenton was not easily dissuaded.
"He didn't have to. He used his brains; maybe that's why the FBI couldn't catch him."
Simon choked slightly on his coffee, but before he could interfere with the turf war that was beginning to form in his office, Sandburg deflected the situation.
"I have a question, guys. We know that he went after me because I was the one that arrested his brother, but how did he know about me? We had Paul under surveillance and his phone tapped, when did they talk?"
Trenton looked away uncomfortably. When he didn't answer, Simon filled in the missing pieces. "Do you remember the report that there was a guy there installing cable?"
"Yes..." Sandburg was already beginning to see where this was leading.
"Cable's not available in that neighborhood. Apparently the owner of the stolen 4 x 4 is a cable repair guy. The uniform was in the truck."
Ellison could not believe what he was hearing. "You're telling us that that the cable installer that went into his apartment was actually..."
"Yeah, well..." Abels seemed at a loss for words.
"You could have lost him too." Norbert Trenton was not about to admit that the mistakes were theirs alone.
Sandburg was getting angry at the innuendoes. "But we didn't."
"You were up on the second floor, your partner was barely conscious. It was dumb luck that he didn't get past you."
"He wouldn't have gotten very far." Sandburg suddenly had the cat that ate the canary look about him.
"And how would you know that?" Trenton was still not willing to give up.
Without a word, the former observer who was now a cop, reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a coil wire from the stolen 4x4 and dropped it onto Simon's desk.
When the faces of four surprised men looked at him he finally responded. "After all the times of calling for back-up, I've gotten pretty fast at it. Thought I'd get a little extra insurance while my call was going through."
One look at the faces of the two FBI agents did it. For the second time in less than a week the men and women of Major Crimes heard their captain howl.