FAMILY TIES
Production No. CVT505

written by:
Kelly Meding

edited by:
Eagle Eye, Bonnie


Downtown Cascade, midday

His lungs fought in vain to fill themselves, the pounding in his chest a constant reminder of his fear. Although the only footsteps he heard against the pavement were his own, the teenager was positive he was being followed. A bead of sweat trickled down his slick forehead, leaving a pale track over dirty skin, and dripped into one eye. Angrily, he wiped it away with skinned hands, bits of dirt and blood clinging to his face.

They'll kill me! He'll let them kill me!

The alley came to an abrupt end, opening onto a semi-busy street. He leaned against a brick wall, indecision fueling his hesitation. Imaginary footsteps from behind forced the boy to exit the alley, but fatigue prevented him from running further.

Need to hide. Need to rest. Need

He spotted the perfect place. A hastily folded tent tarpaulin was peeking out of the back of an old Ford pick-up. He glanced around--no one seemed to notice the panting teenager with the bloody hands and torn jeans. Working to catch his breath, he limped over to the truck and climbed inside, pulling the tarp down over him.


The door of Shiani's Tandoori Restaurant swung open, letting two men exit onto the busy sidewalk.

"The place has pretty decent food," the taller man commented as the pair walked down the block. "Of course, after I helped Megan shoot up the place, I didn't think the manager would ever let us back in."

"Yeah," his curly-haired partner said. "The waitresses weren't too bad, either, huh Jim? Guess this thing was a waste on me."

As he spoke, Blair Sandburg pulled an iron medallion from his breast pocket and weighed it in his hand. The object was the size of a silver dollar, twice the thickness and a deep bronze color. The symbols and writing had long ago worn off its smooth surface.

"Sandburg, what in hell is that?" Jim Ellison asked, snatching up the circular object. He was immediately amazed at the weight of the small thing.

"It's an ancient love coin. Legend is it's supposed to make you irresistible to women. An old friend from Rainier gave it to me last week. Thought my love life could use a little work."

Jim smirked. "You did or he did?"

"I think we both did. Not that it's been doing me much good, but you! Man, I thought I'd have to eventually pry you and that waitress apart."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Chief," Jim said blankly.

Blair snorted. "Come on, Jim. You couldn't take your eyes off her. And she was flirting with you so hard a blind man could see it. And you, with your senses, I'd hope..." His cerulean eyes lit up. "That's it!"

Jim realized his partner had stopped walking and turned to face him. "What's it?"

"Your senses," Blair hissed, trotting up to his stationary friend. "It was the pheromones again. She may have been unconsciously aware of it, but you, you were on full sensory alert. It's just like with Laura, only not so intense. Was there a scent this time? Did you--?"

"Hey, Darwin, slow down. What are you talking about?"

"Jim, I wrote that whole chapter on pheramonal effects in my dissertation."

Jim's blank stare turned to one of slight embarrassment. He abruptly continued walking towards his truck.

"Jim?" Sandburg called. "What, don't you remember that part?" When Jim didn't stop, Blair hurried to catch up, realization dawning on him. "Have you read my diss yet?" Blair asked bluntly.

Jim paused by the bed of his truck and shook his head, avoiding his partner's gaze.

"What? What's this?" Blair asked, imitating Jim's head-shake. "Is that a no?"

"Yes, Blair, that's a no. I haven't gotten around to reading it, yet."

Sandburg blanched. "It's been sitting in your room for months, Jim."

"I know and I will read it. I just..." Jim trailed off, his eyes transfixed on the tailgate of the truck.

"What is it?" Blair asked, alerted by his friend's sudden concentration. He knew that look far too well.

"There's a bloody fingerprint on my truck. It's fresh." Jim cocked his head in his standard listening stance. A heartbeat filled his sensitive ears, emanating from the bed of the truck. He caught Blair's eye and pointed to the tarp.

The pair separated, Jim moving to the left side of the Ford, Blair to the right. Jim un-holstered his pistol and aimed it at the tarpaulin. Carefully grasping the end, Blair gave the tarp a firm yank. The blue fabric fell back, uncovering a teenager, clothes torn and dirty, blonde hair matted and disheveled, his brown eyes wide with fright. He shrank away from the men, shielding himself with bloody hands, trying to disappear within the folds of the tent.

"Please don't kill me!" the boy screamed.

Jim lowered his gun and raised a hand in peace. "I'm not going to kill you. What are you doing in my truck?"

The boy visibly relaxed, his eyes darting around as if seeking an escape. "I was hiding."

"No kidding."

"What's your name?" Blair asked in stereo with Jim's, "From whom?"

"Name's David," the boy said, climbing out of the truck. "Look, I'm really sorry--"

"Who're you hiding from, David?" Jim asked again.

David backed away from the two men. "Look, it's nice that you're concerned and all--"

Jim pulled out his badge and motioned for Blair to do the same. "My name is Detective Ellison. This is my partner, Detective Sandburg. If you're in some kind of trouble, we can help."

David paused, torn between fleeing and talking. He glanced down the street. Jim heard David's heart rate spike and followed his gaze, but saw nothing out of the ordinary: afternoon shoppers, a tubesteak stand, stray dogs fighting over a scrap. Finally, David looked each detective in the eye before speaking.

"I'm being followed."

Jim raised an eyebrow. "Uh huh. Who's following you?"

"I...uh, I'm not--I mean..." David faltered.

"Are you on anything, David?"

"Jim!" Blair stepped in front of his partner, frowning up at him.

"I'm not on drugs," David shot back, upset at the implication.

Blair slowly advanced on David, trying to appear friendly. "No one's implying-"

"He is!" David pointed at Jim, who remained silent.

"Well, I'm not," Blair said. "Trust me. I want to help, so why don't you tell me who's after you?"

Again, David glanced up and down the street like an animal that knows it's being watched. "Not here," he insisted.

"We could take him to the station," Jim offered. "Get a formal statement."

"Just can't stay away from work, can you?" Blair teased.

"A cop shop?" David asked, eyes widening in terror.

Blair blinked, then grinned. "Can you think of a safer place if you're being followed?"

After a moment's hesitation, David nodded. "Okay."


Cascade Police Department, same afternoon

The Major Crime bullpen was buzzing with activity--and phone chimes. Telephones were ringing off the hook and it was all the officers and detectives could do to answer them. Henri Brown alternated between Ellison's desk and his own, trying to direct as many calls as possible. He snatched up Ellison's phone as it rang, dropping into the absent detective's chair with a sigh.

"Major Crime...No, ma'am...No we are not Chase Realtors, this is the Cascade Police Department. Hello?"

Brown shook his head as he hung up the receiver. At least half the calls ended with the caller hanging up on him when they realized who they had reached. The other half waited patiently as the situation was explained and they were transferred to the correct number.

Two more phone lines sprang to life.

"Major Crime...Hey, Jim...Phone troubles. I'll fill you in later." Henri listened intently as Jim Ellison gave him a message for Captain Banks. "All right, later."

He switched over to line two. "Major Crime...Hold on a minute."

Henri scanned the bullpen, locating his victim by Rhonda's desk, sorting through a stack of case files. "Rafe! Phone call!"

Handing the receiver off to Rafe, Brown lunged for his own now-ringing phone. In his haste, he tripped over Ellison's wastebasket and landed flat on his stomach.

"Very graceful," a soft, accented voice said. Megan Connor grinned down at him and snatched up the squawking phone. "Detective Brown's desk." She frowned. "Who? This is the Cascade Police-hello? Hello? Bugger hung up," she reported to Brown, who was climbing to his feet.

"Been getting a lot of that lately," Henri quipped, dusting himself off.

"What's going on around here?" Connor indicated the bustling room with a wide sweep of her arm.

"Last night, some disgruntled telephone worker thought it would be amusing to break into the main office of Cascade Bell and rewire the entire mid-town area. Every call made to a number listed from Chestnut to Third and Henning to Archer is coming in here."

"That's at least twelve square blocks!"

"Yup. We've got our people transferring all sorts of calls manually. Unfortunately, CB says it'll be at least two more hours before this mess is straightened out."

"Peachy."

"Look, Connor, can you watch these phones for me? I need to give the captain a message."

"No worries," Connor replied with a grin.

As Henri ambled towards Simon's office, Rafe slammed the phone receiver back into place, swearing under his breath. His handsome face was pale, his mouth twisted down in fury. Henri couldn't remember ever seeing his friend look so upset.

"Rafe, something wrong?"

Brown's concern was greeted by a furious glare and a view of Rafe's posterior as the detective stalked out of the bullpen. Brown shrugged, knocked once on Simon's door and stuck his head in, catching the tail end of a telephone conversation.

"No, this is not Rocky's Gym. If you'll hold on, I'll have you transferred." Simon punched a button on his phone and replaced the receiver with a loud ~clank~. He eyed Henri suspiciously. "Give me good news."

"Phone company said two more hours," Henri said cheerfully.

Simon groaned. "I hope they give the clown that did this the electric chair." When Brown didn't leave, he asked, "Something else?"

Brown shifted uncomfortably. "Ellison and Sandburg are coming in."

"What? What in hell for? Today's their first day off in weeks and I ordered them to stay away from here."

"Jim said they found a kid hiding in the bed of his truck. He was all freaked out, said someone was after him, but wouldn't talk about it on the street."

"Of course not," Simon muttered. "Okay, thanks, Brown."

The detective nodded and plunged back into the chaos that was the bullpen.


"Why didn't you tell us this before?" Jim asked, his temper rising.

David cowered under the tall detective's glare. The chair he was sitting in became extremely uncomfortable and he fidgeted, tapping his fingertips on the edge of Ellison's desk. Sandburg was perched on the corner of the desk, smiling reassuringly at David.

"I was afraid," the teen admitted.

"Is that supposed to be an acceptable answer?" Jim countered.

"No, but it's the only one I got."

Jim zeroed in on the boy's heartbeat. ~tha-dump~ ~tha-dump~ ~tha-dump~

"Did you see anyone's face?" Blair asked.

"No. It was too far away."

~tha-tha-dump~ ~tha-tha-dump~ ~tha-tha-dump~

Jim leaned forward and placed his elbows on the desk, steepling his fingers. "But close enough to see someone shoot someone else."

"Yup."

"Close enough for them to see you."

"I'm not sure if they did or not."

"Really?" Jim said in mock confusion. "Because back on the street, you seemed very sure you were being followed."

"I was scared. I didn't know if they were behind me or not, I just wanted out of there." When there was no response, David got angry. "Look, I saw a guy murdered. Are you gonna believe me or what?"

Jim glanced at Blair and nodded, then turned his attention back to David. "We'll check out the address you gave us. I want you to stay here until we get back."

David nodded.

Jim and Blair stood and filed towards Simon's office, neither man looking forward to the inevitable ramblings on the fact that today was their day off. The captain opened the door before his detectives could knock and ushered them inside. Simon stood at attention in front of his desk, waiting for the pair to settle into the two chairs facing him.

"I thought I told you to take the day off?" Simon demanded, glaring at both men.

"Well, sir," Blair explained. "We didn't exactly plan on finding a murder witness hiding in the truck."

"Murder witness?"

"David Dawson," Jim piped in. "Age seventeen. Says he was walking down the alley between Sphinx and Maple and saw two men shoot another man. He ran, was afraid he was being chased and hid in the truck. Sandburg and I are going to check out that alley now."

"What about the kid? Have you called his parents?"

"Won't give up his phone number. I need to call Social Services and have him checked out, see if he lives in the city or is a runaway."

"All right," Simon said. "We'll have someone get on that once the phone lines are clearer and I'll have someone watch him until his parents are called. You two get to that alley."


Jim's Truck, Downtown

The pattern repeated itself for the umpteenth time in the short drive: Blair staring intently at Jim. Jim looking at Blair. Blair glancing away. The pattern was running close to ten minutes and was annoying as hell for the Sentinel. Determined to find out what was bugging him, Jim asked, "What's wrong?"

Blair shifted in the passenger seat, throwing Jim an agitated glance. "Short memory span today, Jim?"

"Huh?"

"You never answered my question before."

Jim angled the wheel sharply, avoiding a fender-bender with a white Cadillac that had come to a sudden stop. "Jackass," he muttered.

"Excuse me?"

"Not you, Chief. And what question? You must ask a thousand a day."

Blair released a long-suffering sigh. "Why haven't you read my diss?" The older man's jaw clenched, a likely sign that he wasn't going to respond.

"Jim?"

"What was that address again, Chief?" Jim asked, his eyes never wavering from the road.

Blair reported their destination, knowing full well Jim hadn't forgotten it. "You're changing the subject, Jim."

"There it is," Ellison announced, parallel parking near an alley three blocks from where they had found David.

Knowing the discussion was over, but far from forgotten, Blair climbed out of the truck and followed his partner into the alley. They walked past rows of metal trash cans, rotting cardboard boxes, overflowing dumpsters and other unpleasant, unnamable things.

"I'm not seeing a body," Blair said.

"Me either," Jim responded. He stood still, opening his sense of smell. He filtered through rotting vegetables, automotive grease, rat waste and various nasty things. The coppery odor of blood filled his sensitive nostrils--not a lot, but enough to catch his attention. He followed the scent to the side of a rusty dumpster. Kneeling down, Jim could see small splatters of blood on the dark pavement.

"What did you find?" Blair asked, squatting next to Jim.

"Blood. It's pretty fresh, too." Jim scanned the pavement circling his position. Scuff marks and what looked like shoe rubber was scattered nearby. "Some signs of a struggle, too."

"So David was telling the truth."

"Looks like it."

Blair pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open. "I'll call for a Forensics team."

"Good luck getting through," Jim said under his breath.

"Hello?" Blair said into the phone. "This is Blair Sandburg. I need Forensics...Yes, I'll hold." To Jim, he said, "The secretary in Robbery sounds really cute."

Jim rolled his eyes and continued examining the alley.

A gruff voice pulled Blair's attention back to the phone. "Hello...Simon? It's Blair. We need a Forensics team at that address David gave...he what? Damn...All right, thanks."

Blair turned to Jim and frowned. "David's gone."


Back in the truck

"Why would he run?"

Jim sighed at his partner's question, one he'd been asking himself for the last several minutes. "I don't know, Chief, but I have the distinct impression that the kid knows more than he's saying."

"I don't doubt that," Blair muttered, gazing intently out the window. WHAM! Jim slammed on the brakes and Blair lurched forward, one hand grabbing the dashboard, the other grasping the bracing arm Jim threw across his chest. "Jim, what--?" Blair cut himself off when he saw what had his partner's attention.

A familiar face was peering at them through the windshield, still braced as if expecting to be flattened by the truck. Jim's gaze held David's for several moments, until the teen broke the spell and fled. He dodged an oncoming car and sprinted down a side street.

"Hold on," Jim warned, hitting the gas and cutting through traffic to follow the boy.

The street he turned onto was little more than a glorified alley, narrow and littered with garbage cans. Buildings and warehouses loomed upward against the afternoon sky, throwing shadows here and there. Glancing over his shoulder, David saw the truck following him and darted to the left, disappearing from view. The Ford squealed to a stop where David had vanished and the detectives climbed out. To their left, a ground-floor window had been forced open. Jim listened, locating a pounding heartbeat within the building, moving steadily away.

"He's inside," Jim said, peering into the warehouse. He pulled his large frame through the window headfirst, rolled once and landed upright. Blair entered in a similar fashion, his shorter body allowing for a less graceful landing. He picked himself up and peered around the cavernous building.

The sharp scent of new carpet greeted both men. Stacked to the three-story ceiling were shelves of carpet rolls of all colors and patterns, widths and thicknesses. Walkways branched to the left and right, cutting through the rows of floor covering. Jim focused in on the renegade heartbeat again.

"This way."

Jim trotted to the left, his partner's familiar footsteps hot on his heels. They made a right, then another left, losing themselves in the maze of carpeting. A few emergency lights set the gloomy atmosphere, but Jim could see clearly. Up ahead, David stepped into his line of sight. Forgetting the boy probably couldn't see him, he called, "David!"

David jumped and took off running. Jim followed, his agitation with the boy growing with each step.

"David!" Blair yelled. "We're not going to hurt you!"

The partners chased David through a scarred wooden door and into another, smaller room. The ceiling was a story shorter, the shelves piled with plastic barrels and jugs of a yellowish liquid.

Jim sniffed. "Carpet glue."

"Where'd he go?" Blair asked, squinting into the dark room.

Jim peered around, opening up his senses. He picked up on a scraping sound, something akin to plastic on plastic. That was followed by a scuffling noise. Jim looked up in time to see two of the plastic jugs slide off a top shelf just above his head.

"Duck!" Jim shouted, shoving Blair out of the way.

He fell on top of the smaller man, the jugs slamming onto the concrete just inches from their feet. The containers broke on impact. Glue splattered in all directions, covering both men with a sticky, yellow coating. David shimmied down to the ground and took off again, disappearing into the darkness. Jim struggled to sit up, fighting against the adhesive holding him down. It didn't work. Sentinel and Guide were stuck together--literally.

Blair tried to move his left arm and found it attached to Jim's shirtfront. "Can you move?" he asked.

Jim shifted, trying to take some of his weight off his partner. "Barely."

"Think you can reach my phone?"

"Jacket pocket?"

When Blair nodded, Jim inched his hand along his friend's chest, then abdomen, fighting against the glue to reach the cell phone. Blair giggled when Jim's fingers trailed across his ribs.

"Cut it out, man," Blair said. "That tickles!"

"Will you grow up?" Jim responded with an exasperated sigh, resuming his mission to liberate the phone. His fingers searched the fabric of Blair's coat, finally grasping the needed technology.

"Got it!" Jim announced. He began the task of bringing the phone close enough to his face to speak into it.

"Hey, Jim?"

"Yeah?"

Blair glanced down at their immodest position and turned his head to look his Sentinel in the eye. "This is really embarrassing."


Somewhere in Cascade

David paused after dropping his last nickel into the pay phone, shivering against the light rain falling from the evening sky. Should he call? What if L.T. didn't want to see him? God knew he would have every right to be pissed at David. What if he wanted him to stay out of his life? All valid questions, but David had no choice. It wasn't like he could call his parents--that was a joke. L.T. had to listen to him. Sure, David had left once upon a time, but that was his father's fault. David had never wanted to hurt L.T. like that.

With trembling fingers, David punched in the phone number he'd found in a mangled directory. The phone tittered once, twice, three times. David was about to prepare to face an answering machine when the line was picked up.

"Hello?" a familiar voice asked, edged with annoyance.

David remained silent, his mind suddenly blank. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. This was quickly becoming a bad idea.

"Hello?" the voice repeated. "Who is...David?"

David's breath caught in his throat. Did he know?

"David, is that you? Where are you?"

With tears stinging his eyes, David slammed the phone down. He must have been crazy, trying to get L.T. involved in his problems. The older man had his own life now. He didn't need David to barge in and throw him an orchard full of lemons. Sometimes, you just couldn't make decent lemonade. With that thought foremost in his mind, David spun on his heel and ran, with no destination, no plan for survival.


Spellman's Lot, four hours later

A cacophony of flashing lights and loud voices assaulted the Sentinel's ears as he emerged from the truck, freshly scrubbed and dried. He waited until his Guide, also recently cleaned, joined him before crossing the police barrier and searching out the captain. The tall black man was pacing between two abandoned cars, crossing each length in five long strides. The unused parking lot was bustling with forensics people, patrolmen, one detective and an Inspector.

Megan was examining a corpse with Dan Wolf, her brown curls plastered down by the drizzling rain. Joel Taggart was conversing with Officer Owens. Everyone became very silent as Jim and Blair approached, watching them with amused half-smiles on their faces.

"You know," Blair whispered to his partner. "Gossip tends to travel faster in enclosed sub- cultures such as police departments--"

Jim cut him off. "What do we have, Simon?" he asked, approaching their captain.

Simon turned to face his detectives, taking in their fresh faces and changed clothing. He seemed unable to hold back a smile as he said, "A John Doe. He was found by a couple looking for a private place to, uh, talk."

The trio moved to squat next to Connor and Wolf.

"Cause of death is a single slug to the heart," Dan explained. "There's some bruising on his face and chest which suggests he was hit several times before he was killed."

"There was no identification on him, which would point to a mugging gone sour," Megan added. "But there is evidence to suggest that the body was killed somewhere else and moved here."

"Could this be the guy David saw killed?" Blair mused.

"Possible," Jim responded. "But it could also just be a coincidence."

"Pretty damn big coincidence." To Simon, Blair asked, "Anything new on David, sir?"

"He doesn't live in Cascade, whoever he is," Simon said. "I've got some people combing Missing Persons. We'll have to see what they come up with. The fact that your murder witness refuses police protection is starting to bug me, though."

"It's a rather sticky situation, it seems," Megan commented, a wide grin splitting her pretty features.

Dan and Simon bit back laughter. Joel wandered over to join the quintet.

Jim sighed. "All right, you guys, so you heard about the glue. Come on, make your jokes now and get them over with."

"You two really were glued together?" Taggart asked incredulously. "I thought it was some kind of joke."

"I heard the rescue team had to cut some of their clothes off to un-stick them," Megan said, giggling.

Blair's face took on the shade of a ripe tomato. Megan stared at him with laughing eyes.

"You mean it's true?" she asked.

"I would have paid to see that one," Joel teased.

Jim walked away from the laughing group, heading towards the perimeter of the parking lot. His expression was neutral, but his gaze was fixed on something in the distance.

"Jim, we're just joking!" Simon called after him.

Blair watched the Sentinel, recognizing the posture: Jim had found something. He trotted over to join his friend at an abandoned car at the far end of the lot, partly hidden by some overgrown shrubs.

"Jim? Did you find something?" Blair lightly touched the other man's elbow.

As a response, Jim used his sleeve to open the driver's side door. He wrinkled his nose.

"I smell blood," Jim said.

"What did you find?" Simon asked, jogging up to the pair.

Blair peered into the backseat, illuminated by the interior light. "There's blood in the back."

Jim nodded. "If I'm right, it belongs to our John Doe and will match the blood stains Sandburg and I found in that alley. Unfortunately, it looks like the rest of the car's been wiped clean."

Simon called for the Forensics team to come over, while Jim and Blair continued to go over the car. Sentinel sight telescoped in on the steering wheel.

"Looks like the driver left something behind for us," Jim announced.

Blair squinted into the car. "What, a Hallmark card?"

Jim pointed to something neither Simon nor Blair could see. "We've got a partial fingerprint, gentlemen."


Major Crime, the next morning

Detectives and officers went about their work, blessedly free from the constant ringing of mis- wired telephones. Jim and Blair walked into the bullpen, amazed at the change. Jim immediately headed for his desk and began rifling through stacks of papers.

Across the room, Rafe was sitting at his desk, staring vacantly at a glass paperweight. He was stock still, not even blinking, as if the object held the secrets of the universe. If he hadn't known better, Blair could swear the man was zoned.

"Hey, Rafe," Blair greeted, walking over to him. The other man didn't respond. "Rafe!"

The beckoned detective shook his head and looked up with questioning eyes. "What?"

"Just making sure you were awake, man. Everything okay?"

"Fine," Rafe said, standing abruptly. "Excuse me." He grabbed a set of keys off his desk and headed out of the bullpen.

Blair watched Rafe's retreating form disappear into the elevator. Something was definitely wrong with him, but Blair never got the chance to entertain that thought. The door to Simon's office opened and the captain materialized in the frame.

"Ellison and Sandburg, in here!" he bellowed.

The aforementioned partners exchanged glances. They couldn't possibly have done anything yet; they'd only been there for five minutes. Of course, Simon had a habit of sounding gruff when ordering a glass of water. Not wanting to fuel the fire, the detectives crossed the bullpen and entered the office.

Several manila folders were spread out on the conference table. Simon motioned for the men to sit, doing so himself.

"We identified the body," Simon announced, shoving photocopied papers at the two men. "Name's Matt Rowe. No criminal record, but we do know he worked for a pharmaceutical company called Waterston's. They fired him six weeks ago for drug use."

"And the partial?" Jim asked.

Simon reached for a different stack of paper. "Belongs to a man named Carl Roscoe. He's got a rap sheet from Seattle a mile long and then some. He's rumored to be the muscle for a big-time loan shark there. And before you ask, the blood samples matched. Rowe was murdered in the alley near Maple and the body was dumped in that abandoned lot."

Blair scanned the papers in his hands. "So what's the connection between Rowe and Roscoe?"

"That's what I pay you two for," Simon shot back with a pleasant smile. "See what you can do with Carl Roscoe. I'll get Connor and Taggart to run backgrounds on Matt Rowe, see if they can find out anything helpful about him and his drug habit. That sounds like our best angle for now."

Jim and Blair gathered up their new materials and left the office. Jim's jaw was set, his eyes thoughtful.

"You got a plan?" Blair asked, dumping his pile onto his already cluttered desk.

"Yup," Jim replied. "Just make sure you change your shoes."

Blair looked down at his Nike's in confusion. Recognition came to him and he grinned at his partner. "Thanks for the warning this time, Jim."


Mickey's Diner, an hour later

Sneaks sauntered into the tiny restaurant almost ten minutes late. He never took his eyes off Sandburg as he approached the booth where Jim and his partner sat impatiently.

"Well, well, well," Sneaks said jauntily, sliding into the booth. "Our little hippie actually became a boy in blue. Never thought I'd see that happen. Nice haircut."

Blair fingered his curls, still in that odd growing stage. They came just below his ears, too short to tie back, but long enough to be extremely annoying.

"So who would've played me in the Sentinel movie?" Sneaks asked.

Blair groaned and dropped his head into his hands.

"Oh, come on. I'll bet they could've gotten that vampire guy on 'Buffy' to be me. He'd make a great me." Sneaks looked at Jim. "It must be really cool to be able to do that stuff."

Jim opened his mouth to respond, but Sneaks cut him off.

"Hey, man, your secret is my secret. There's no way that he," Sneaks pointed at Blair, "made all that up. But don't ask, don't tell is what I say. Lips are zipped." He made a show of closing a zipper across his lips and locking them with an imaginary key.

"Time to focus," Jim ordered, snapping his fingers.

"Course," Sneaks said, grinning slyly at both men. "Whatcha got on?"

"Hiking boots," they answered in stereo.

The snitch looked crestfallen. "No bonus?"

Jim smiled. "We'll see what we can do, depending on the information you give us."

"And who is the topic of our morning chat?"

"Ex-pharmaceutical man named Matt Rowe," Blair said.

"Rowe? Yeah, he's been askin' around."

"Asking what?" Jim queried, leaning forward on his elbows.

"He's been throwing around lotsa cash, looking for chemists with an unethical, entrepreneurial attitude."

"Where'd he get the money?" Blair asked.

"No self-respecting loan shark in Cascade would touch the guy, so he went to an outside source, Seattle maybe."

Jim and Blair exchanged looks. Roscoe worked for a Seattle loan shark. The Sentinel trained his blue eyes back on Sneaks. "What do you know about Carl Roscoe?"

Sneaks appeared genuinely puzzled. "Nada on him. Wish I could help you, pal."

Jim nodded and pulled out his wallet. "The city of Cascade thanks you," he said, handing several folded bills to Sneaks.

The snitch accepted the cash, casting forlorn looks at his feet while the detectives slid out of the booth.

Jim caught the looks. "Sorry, pal. Unless your tastes now run to hiking boots...."

"No bonus," Sneaks grumbled.

Jim and Blair smiled and approached the register with the bill.

"Cheap cops," Sneaks mumbled Sentinel-soft. "And I hope you heard that, supercop."

Jim sighed and handed the cashier a ten. Some people would never be convinced that he didn't have heightened senses. Hopefully, those that still believed would all remain on his side of the law.


Major Crime, several hours later

Sandburg found Carl Roscoe's file fascinating. The man was a textbook thug: he had outstanding warrants in Seattle and three surrounding cities; he was a suspect in two unsolved homicides in and around Seattle. The man was also suspected of laundering money through an art auction house. The Seattle PD mug shot showed a large man, thick yet not overweight, with beady eyes and a cruel mouth, twisted with hatred.

Feeling somewhat cramped at his desk, Blair stood and balanced the file on his arm, using his free hand to push in his chair. Still reading, but miraculously not crashing into anything, he began wandering around the half-empty bullpen. A loud growl from his stomach reminded Blair of his decision to decline Jim and Simon's invitation to accompany them to lunch. He was beginning to regret it.

A telephone rang to his right. Blair picked it up absently, realizing too late that it wasn't his phone. He looked up from Roscoe's file and recognized the desk he was standing next to.

"Uh, Detective Rafe's desk," Blair said into the phone. "No, he's not. Can I take a message?" He snagged a pen and scrap of paper, preparing to write. "Brother's last known address..." Rafe has a brother? Blair wondered as he wrote down a Seattle address. "I'll make sure he gets it. Bye."

Blair replaced the receiver and laid the message on Rafe's desk. He turned his attention back to Roscoe's file and began walking away. Not two feet away, he stopped dead in his tracks. Blair whirled around and bolted back to Rafe's desk, snatching up the address. He flipped back several pages in Roscoe's file and held the note up to the address printed there.

"Damn," Blair muttered. He reached for Rafe's phone and dialed Jim's cell.


"Rafe, my office!" Banks shouted from his office door.

Rafe paused in the entrance to Major Crime, wondering briefly if he could bolt back into the break room. The dangerous edge to the captain's voice was not a good sign, but he hadn't done anything wrong...that he knew of. Breathing deeply, he straightened his tie and marched into Banks' office.

Simon, Ellison and Sandburg were seated around the conference table, watching Rafe carefully as he entered. Banks pointed to an empty chair that Rafe immediately filled. He looked at each man, unable to read anything in their faces.

"Captain?" Rafe said quietly.

Banks nodded to Blair, who slid a scrap of paper across the table.

"You have a phone message," Sandburg reported, his voice even. "Seems a brother we didn't know you had was last known to be living with our number one suspect in a murder investigation."

Rafe's face drained of color. He clenched the paper scrap in his hands, emotions flashing like lightning across his face.

"Care to explain that, Detective?" Simon growled.

"Who's your suspect?"

Jim slid Roscoe's file across the table. Rafe stared at the mug shot, growing impossibly paler.

"Carl's still alive?" Rafe stammered.

"So you know him," Blair stated.

Rafe closed his eyes. When he opened them, they were filled with an utter sadness the other men had never seen in their co-worker's brown orbs. "His real name's Carl Dawson. He was my foster father."

The trio could not have been more shocked. No one spoke for several long minutes.

Finally, Simon turned flashing eyes on Rafe. "Your badge and gun depend on there being a very good explanation behind your association with a known knee-breaker."

"I don't know anything about him being involved in a murder or anything else illegal," Rafe said confidently. "I thought he was dead, for God's sake."

"Pretend we're six and explain it to us?"

"You want the long version or the short one?" Rafe asked, sagging deeper into his chair.

"Just the highlights."

With a sad sigh, Rafe dove into his story. "My parents died in a fire when I was ten. Neither had any living family, so my mother named her best friend and her husband as my guardians. Marie and Carl Dawson let me live with them in Tacoma, but I think Carl resented me, because Marie didn't have any children of their own. I stayed away from him and out of his life, he stayed out of mine. That's the way we both liked it.

"Carl was a factory man and loved his liquor. He liked to smack us both around when he was on a bender. I tried to fight back, but I was a skinny kid and didn't know the first thing about defense tactics. When I was almost sixteen, Marie got pregnant. Carl was ecstatic, but it didn't last long when the reality of raising a baby set in. About three months in, he came home one night, drunk as hell and meaner than a spring grizzly."

Rafe frowned as the memories began to overtake him. "Came after her with a rubber mallet and started waling on her in the kitchen. I ran in and grabbed a paring knife." Rafe laughed at the ridiculousness of the tiny weapon. "Carl laughed, said I was too much of a coward to use it. I got so pissed that I sank all four inches of it into his left arm. He stared at it for a minute, like he couldn't believe I'd actually stabbed him and left. Just left. Didn't come back until four months after David was born."

Three pairs of ears perked at the name David, but Rafe didn't notice. He was absorbed in the pain of his past.

"The day I turned eighteen," he continued, "Carl gave me five thousand dollars in cash. Told me to go and never come back, so that's what I did. I put the money away, moved in with a friend outside Spokane, got a job and worked. I kept in touch with David and Marie, sent cards on holidays and birthdays. David and I were real close. Marie died of an aneurysm six years ago, a few weeks before I entered the Academy. The last time I saw David was at the funeral. I told him to call me if he ever needed anything. About a month later, David and Carl were presumed dead."

"Presumed?" Simon cut in.

Rafe nodded. "Carl's fishing boat was found capsized in Commencement Bay, but no bodies were found. Coast Guard gave up after a few days of searching."

"Roscoe's track record begins six years ago," Sandburg said. "There's no record of the man existing prior to that time."

"Sets up his own death and starts a new life," Jim commented.

"Yesterday I got a call from Lorne Cravitz, a buddy of mine in Seattle," Rafe continued. "He said last week he pulled over a kid named David Roscoe for speeding. The boy resisted, so he arrested him. When the charges were mysteriously dropped, Lorne checked out the kid's fingerprints."

Ellison nodded knowingly. "So your friend found out he'd arrested a dead man."

"Yup. He knew about my past and called as soon as he found out it was my David. Thought he might come here and try to find me."

"Why?" Banks asked.

"When David was arrested, he looked like he was in the middle of running away. The car was headed in the direction of Cascade and there was a backpack full of clothes in the front seat. He refused to call home when he was arrested and didn't seem too happy when the charges were dropped."

"What do you know about our current case?" Jim put in.

Rafe paused momentarily at the unexpected change in topic. "Just what the rumor mill cranks out. H and I have been busy finishing up an arson homicide. Didn't some kid douse you guys with glue..." It was as if someone switched on the proverbial light bulb. "We're talking about the same kid, aren't we?"

Jim nodded sadly. "Seems your foster brother saw his father murder someone yesterday and doesn't know who to turn to. He sure as hell doesn't trust cops."

"But he trusts me, or he wouldn't have come here. We need to find him before Carl does. When it comes to that man, there's no telling if blood is thicker than water."

Blair glanced at him sharply. "You think Dawson would kill his own son to protect himself?"

"I don't know, Sandburg."

"Where would David go?" Banks asked. "Does he know anyone else in Cascade?"

Rafe shrugged. "I'm not sure--dammit!" He sat bolt upright in his chair, startling the men around him. "My apartment."

Jim cocked his head. "Does he know where that is?"

"Someone called last night, but never said a word. It could have been him, I just can't be sure."

"All right," Simon said gruffly. "The three of you get over to Rafe's apartment and see if the kid's there. And try not to scare him off again, would you?" The latter remark was aimed exclusively at Ellison and Sandburg.


Rafe's Apartment Building, later

The elevator crawled towards the sixth floor at an agonizing pace. The three detectives were silent, casting glances at odd points on the floor and ceiling, unwilling to speak. When the lift hit floor three, Rafe ended the silence.

"I'm sorry I never told anyone about my past," he said quietly. "It's not something I'm too proud of."

"It's okay, man," Blair said. "We've all got skeletons we'd rather keep safely hidden away. Sometimes they just come back to haunt us and there's nothing we can do about it."

Floor five.

Jim nodded in silent agreement.

Rafe cleared his throat. "Maybe I should get out first, make sure David's not waiting in the hallway. He sees you guys again, he's liable to bolt."

"What's he got against us, anyhow?" Blair asked jovially.

Floor six.

"I don't know, Sandburg," Rafe replied with a sly grin. "Maybe it's that weird hair of yours."

"Oh, right, blame the hair," he groused, tucking a renegade curl behind one ear.

The elevator doors slid open and Rafe slipped out. Jim kept a finger on the "open door" button, listening.

Rafe walked down the hall, stopping in front of his apartment door. He had the fleeting feeling that Jim was listening to him, but pushed the thought aside and tried the knob--unlocked. He opened it slowly and was startled when the door was yanked out of his hand.

David stood in the door frame, brandishing a snub-nosed pistol, his eyes wild with fear.

"Gonna shoot me with my own gun?" Rafe asked with a grin, amazed he was still able to speak through his shock.

The boy recognized the smiling man in front of him and immediately let the weapon fall from his fingers. "Man, L.T., am I glad to see you!"

Inside the elevator, even Blair had heard the shouted greeting. He turned a questioning face to Jim. "L.T.?" he whispered. Jim shrugged.

Rafe stared at a ghost, choked emotion overpowering his ability to speak. He shifted to regain his balance when David launched himself at him, wrapping trembling arms around the only man he really trusted. Rafe returned the embrace, proving that the wiry teenager he held was real, then pulled the younger man back to arm's length, looking him over. David's dirty clothes, stained with blood and grime, and haggard face worried him. Protective instincts overpowered his police instincts and he pushed David into his immaculate apartment.

"Have you eaten anything?" Rafe asked, steering his charge toward the kitchen.

Halfway there, a loud cough reminded Rafe of the men he'd left in the elevator. He turned around, not quite surprised to find them in the entrance of the apartment. David saw the pair and bolted into the kitchen. The three men followed him through the swinging door and stopped short just inside.

David was backed into a corner between the refrigerator and counter, a large butcher knife clasped in his hands.

"David?" Rafe stared, unsure what to make of the boy.

"Dammit, man!" David yelled. "Why'd you bring the cops? I thought I could trust you!"

"You can, David. Listen, I'm a detective. These men are friends of mine."

David groaned. "Oh, man, this totally sucks. I never would have come here if I'd known you were a cop."

Jim took a careful step forward, not wanting to frighten the boy, but desperate for some answers. "Did you see your father murder Matt Rowe?"

David blinked, his jaw dropping to his chest. The knife slipped out of his grasp and clattered to the floor. It was as if a curtain had dropped. David's face crumpled and he fell against the wall, letting his limp body slide to the ground. The detectives rushed forward. Jim toed the butcher knife, sliding it across the tiled floor. Blair and Rafe knelt by the trembling boy. David turned tearful eyes to his foster brother, collapsing into his sturdy arms. Rafe held him close as sobs racked his thin body.

"Wh-why?" David stammered. "H-h-how could he d-do this? He's my father!"

Rafe simply held him tighter, unable to offer an explanation for the actions of the one man many children thought were infallible.

Jim cleared his throat. "I'm going to call Simon and tell him we found the boy."

At Rafe's nod, Jim left the kitchen, his partner on his heels, both willing to give the reunited men some time. While Jim dialed the captain, Blair looked around Rafe's apartment. He'd never visited the detective's home before and was amazed at its simplicity. Although Rafe was rarely seen at the precinct outside of a suit and tie, his apartment reflected nothing of the "Mr. GQ" the other detectives saw every day. An overstuffed couch and recliner sat across from a small TV/VCR combo. One print of Michealangelo's "The Creation of Adam" decorated a beige wall. Another was covered with books of all sorts, the shelves stretching floor to ceiling. A hallway branched away from the kitchen, probably towards the bedroom.

A sharp whistle turned Blair's attention back to Jim. The Sentinel was holding the cordless phone away from his face.

"What?" Blair asked.

"Simon wants us to take David into custody until Carl Ros-Dawson is found."

"Well, obviously."

Jim shook his head. "No, literally."

Blair stared at his partner blankly.

With a heavy sigh, Jim explained. "Simon knows the kid has issues with cops, so the precinct is out for now. Here is too obvious a place for Dawson to look."

"Soooooo?"

"Simon wants us to keep him at the loft."

"Is that a good idea?"

"We'll have an unmarked outside at all times. It'll be a controlled situation."

Blair shrugged. "Fine with me."

Jim turned back to the telephone. "We're heading over in a few minutes, sir...see you then." He dropped the receiver into its cradle and turned towards the kitchen door.

Rafe and David stood in the doorway, Rafe's arm draped protectively across the younger man's shoulders. David watched them with red-rimmed eyes, like a criminal waiting for a verdict.

"Simon thinks it's too dangerous to keep David here," Jim explained. "Dawson could find it too easily. He wants us to take him to the loft."

"Where's that?" David asked fearfully.

"It's an apartment across town," Sandburg said. "There'll be cops outside watching the place at all times. It'll be safe."

Rafe nodded his consent. "Sounds good to me."

The foursome left the apartment and headed down the hall. While they waited for the elevator, Sandburg leaned towards Rafe and asked, "L.T.?"

Rafe eyed him wearily. "Don't ask, Sandburg. Just don't ask."

Blair just grinned and let it go. He'd ask around later.


852 Prospect, fifteen minutes later

Simon and Jim were standing near the front door, deep in conversation. Across the apartment, Rafe and David were waiting by the bathroom. Seconds later, Blair emerged from his room under the stairs.

"Here you go," he said, handing David a stack of clothes. "These should fit."

David accepted the offerings with a grateful smile and headed for the bathroom.

"Thanks for letting him borrow some clean clothes," Rafe said when David closed the door.

"It's not a problem. Looks like he could use it."

"He's scared to death, Blair. I don't know what I can do to help him."

"Be there for him." Sandburg smiled reassuringly and moved to sit at the kitchen table, motioning for Rafe to join him. "And it looks like you're doing a great job of it so far. This can't be easy for either of you."

"Yeah," Rafe admitted sadly. "I'll admit I never liked Carl, but I just can't see him as a murderer."

"No one ever likes to think that their father could do anything wrong. God knows what I'd think if I found out...never mind."

Rafe nodded in understanding. "I know."

The sharp trill of a cell phone shifted their attention to the other men in the room. Simon pulled the beckoning object from his jacket pocket and flipped it open.

"Banks," he snapped. All eyes were on him as the captain listened to the person on the other end of the line. "All right, thanks." Simon cut the connection and turned to his detectives. "That was Taggart. The manager of the Beaver Creek Motel on route 76 called the station a few minutes ago. Said a man named Carl Roscoe checked in two days ago and his description matches. Back-up will meet us there."

Rafe and Sandburg scrambled to their feet, but Banks raised a hand. "You two stay here and watch the kid."

"Captain--?" Rafe started to protest.

"That's an order, Detectives," Simon interrupted.

Blair walked Simon and Jim to the door. "Be careful," he warned his partner.

"Lock the door," was Jim's response.


Beaver Creek Motel, fifteen minutes later

Jim pulled his truck onto the shoulder across the street from the motel, staring incredulously at the building. Various marked and unmarked cars stopped at intervals along the road. Jim opened the door and stepped out, joining Simon by his Sedan. The police captain had the same expression Jim was sure he was wearing.

The motel was a throwback from the seventies, all sharp angles and loud, yet faded colors. Half of the sign was missing and weeds had long ago retaken the parking lot. Boards covered whatever room windows were not broken and several doors hung open, swaying slightly.

Connor and Taggart approached the other men, identical frowns on their faces.

Banks glared indiscriminately. "Taggart, I thought you said--"

"The guy said he was the manager," Joel said, trying to defend himself.

Jim ignored the argument. He let his vision telescope in, focusing on room four. The door was firmly hinged and shut tight, unlike the others. His eyes traveled to a space between the tattered blue curtain. He had an angle of stripped bed and watermarked wall. A familiar odor wafted through the air. Jim took a deep breath, recognizing it with a sudden wave of dread. He opened his sense of hearing. His heart began to pound when he heard the steady countdown of a digital timer. "Plastique," he said.

Simon glanced at him sharply. "Jim?"

"Take cover!" Ellison screamed.

Too late. Room number four exploded in a great burst of fire and sound, setting off a chain reaction. One by one, the rooms exploded, throwing debris in all directions and knocking the police contingent off their collective feet. Jim was thrown to the ground; Banks landed on top of him. After what seemed like an eternity of flying debris, noise and heat, it was quiet.

Jim coughed from the smoke, closing his tearing eyes against it. He shook his head and reopened his eyes. "Captain?"

"I'm fine," came the hoarse answer. "Connor? Joel?"

"Fine," Taggart responded.

A soft moan came from Jim's left. He sat up and crawled to where Megan lay sprawled on the pavement, her bleeding right arm cradled protectively across her chest. "Connor?" Jim asked.

She blinked up at him. "Bugger! I think a shard of wood tagged me."

"Can you move it?"

Megan tested the appendage without lessening the pressure to her wound. "Yes, but it hurts like hell."

Simon crouched next to Jim. "How is she?"

"I'm fine," Connor hissed. "What happened?"

"The whole damn place was rigged to blow," Banks said. "We could have all been killed."

Jim's eyes widened and he leapt to his feet, racing towards his truck.

"Ellison!" Simon screamed.

"It was a diversion!" Jim yelled back. "I've gotta get to the loft!"


852 Prospect, ten minutes ago

Blair was leaning against the balcony doors, staring through the glass at the familiar city scene. A cup of herbal tea rested in his left hand, half finished. Behind him, Rafe and David were stretched out on the couch, watching a mindless action movie on the television. David fit well inside his borrowed clothes and turned out rather handsome underneath those layers of dirt. His scraped hands and knees had been cleaned and bandaged, and he'd already wolfed down three of Jim's frozen hotdogs.

Rafe let his right hand lazily ruffle David's hair. "You want to talk about it?"

David shrugged, more interested in watching Steven Segal kick a Cuban guy's butt. "I ran away. No big deal."

"Why?"

"To find you." David looked at the older man. "I always thought you stopped caring and that's why you didn't call or write or anything for the last six years. I was looking through some old newspapers in the library and...well, let me just say it's really creepy reading your own obituary. I confronted my father and he said he did it to start fresh. He got pissed when I said I wanted to find you, said he'd kill me if I did."

"But you left anyway."

"Yeah. When I got arrested, I was scared to death he would shoot me on the spot. As soon as the charges were dropped, I made tracks again. This time, he didn't find me."

"You found him," Rafe finished.

David nodded. "I didn't know he killed people, I swear it. He never told me what he did in Seattle and I never asked. I guess I was afraid of what I'd find."

"Hey, David?" Sandburg called from the balcony doors.

"What?"

Blair grinned mischievously. "What's L.T. stand for?"

Rafe groaned in synch with the telephone ringing. Blair took a step forward to answer it.

~CRACK~

The front door slammed open, splintering the wood around the lock. Carl Dawson marched into the loft with two men flanking him. Rafe jumped to his feet, yanking David behind him. Dawson pulled a .38 fitted with a silencer and shot the phone into silence. Blair dropped his mug and reached around to pull his own weapon. Dawson turned on the curly-haired detective and shot him once in the chest. Blair flew backwards, crashing through the glass doors and landing in a heap on the balcony.

"No!" Rafe shouted. He reached for his pistol, but froze when three guns trained themselves on him.

"Drop it, son," Dawson ordered, aiming his gun directly at Rafe's head.


Streets of Cascade

Jim threw his cell phone onto the empty seat next to him. Not getting an answer at the loft was making him very nervous.

"Damn rush hour traffic," he muttered.

Even his flashing lights didn't seem to make a difference in his fight with time. Trying desperately to control his temper, Jim pressed the gas pedal a bit harder, willing the cars in front of him to part faster and let him through.


852 Prospect

Rafe handed his gun to the man on his right, never taking his eyes off Dawson.

"Well, look at you," Dawson said snidely. "Fancy suit for a cop. You on the take or something?"

His eyes blazing, Rafe returned with, "Go to hell and take a left, Carl."

Dawson laughed. "Is that any way to treat your old man?"

Rafe snorted. "Old man you may be, but mine you are not."

"Still as spirited as ever. Oh well. I'll be taking what's mine and leaving."

"I don't think so," Rafe said, taking a defensive stance in front of David.

"Looks like we've got a conflict of interests." Dawson cocked his gun. "I guess I'll just have to eliminate you, too."

"No!" David shouted, pulling away from Rafe and walking to the opposite corner of the coffee table. "I'll go with you. Just don't hurt L.T."

Dawson raised an eyebrow. "Where'd this nobility come from all of a sudden?"

"I know where it didn't come from," Rafe spat.

Dawson brought the butt of his gun crashing across the top of Rafe's head, sending the detective careening onto the floor. Rafe landed hard on his backside, pressing one hand protectively over his wound. David rushed forward, but Dawson grabbed him by the shirt collar.

"Wonderful offer," Carl sneered. "But no."

He dragged David to the front door, his .38 jammed into the boy's side. "Scream and I'll shoot you where you stand." To his henchmen, he said, "Take care of him and meet me in the usual place."

The men nodded and Rafe watched helplessly as David was led out of the apartment. The fatter of the two walked around behind Rafe and yanked him to his feet by his hair. Rafe yelped and stood unsteadily, watching the men circle him, praying desperately for a way out of this.

The skinnier man cocked his silenced weapon and pointed it at Rafe's kneecaps. "This could be fun," he said, grinning evilly.

~CLANG~

The skinny man's gun was knocked from his hand at the same instant a gunshot echoed in the room. He stumbled back in shock. Rafe didn't question it or waste the opportunity. He lunged at the fat man, knocking them both backwards onto the coffee table. It broke with a crash. Rafe landed two hard rights to the man's jaw, knocking him unconscious. Quick as lightning, he snagged the dropped gun and turned it on the skinny man. He was standing with his hands in the air, his attention towards the balcony doors. Rafe followed his gaze.

Sandburg was on his back, propped up on one elbow, his revolver trained on the skinny man. He was breathing hard, but there was no blood on his shirt. Angry scratches lined his face and hands from his tumble through the glass doors.

Keeping one eye on the criminal, Rafe walked over to Blair and helped him get unsteadily to his feet.

"You okay?" Rafe asked.

Blair touched his chest lightly and grimaced. He reached into the left breast pocket of his shirt, just above the bullet hole, and pulled out a round piece of metal. He held it up, his blue eyes widening. There was a dent on one side of the medallion and a smashed slug on the other.

"Guess this thing came in handy after all," Blair said.

Rafe nodded in amazement and stepped farther out onto the balcony. He peered over the edge in time to see a brown Cavalier peel away from the curb and turned to Blair. "Come on. Carl took David."

The two detectives had the intruders handcuffed to the kitchen pillar in record time and were out the door. Rafe made a quick call for back-up while they raced down the stairs. They hit the sidewalk at a run, their first destination the unmarked car across the street. Sandburg checked the driver, but knew he didn't have to bother with a pulse. Both officers had identical bullet holes over their hearts.

"They're dead," he shouted to Rafe.

The other detective was several cars down, examining his red Excel. "Damn. The tires are slashed," he reported.

Blair sighed, then sucked in his breath, one hand going protectively to his chest. He was going to have the bruise of the century later. Sirens made his ears perk up.

Jim's blue Ford seemed to come out of nowhere and slammed to a stop in front of the building, startling Rafe and Blair. They barreled over to the truck and yanked open the passenger door. Rafe climbed in first, giving Blair the door seat.

"What happened?" Jim asked, noting Blair's pained expression and the thin trickle of blood on the side of Rafe's face.

"Follow that brown car!" Rafe ordered, pointing down the street.

Jim hit the gas, tires squealing as they sped up. He tried the question again. "What happened?"

"Dawson showed up," Rafe explained. "He killed the guys outside, then came in and took David and tried to kill us."

Sandburg grabbed the radio mike, still wheezing a bit as he spoke. "This is David 152. Suspect is heading east on Atlantic Street, in a brown, late model Cavalier. Requesting back-up."

The radio squawked to life. "Roger, David 152. Back-up has been notified."

"Are you okay, Chief?" Jim asked, concern for his partner reflected in his eyes.

"Yeah. He got me in the pendant."

Jim was about to ask about that when the Cavalier took a sharp turn to the right. He followed, carefully negotiating the curve so as not to jar his injured passengers too much. They were less than fifty feet behind the brown car and gaining fast. The Cavalier turned again, onto a street that was much narrower and marred with pot holes.

The truck hit a deep hole, sending Blair crashing against the door. "Take it easy, Jim," he complained.

Jim grunted in reply and swerved sharply to avoid another one. Up ahead, the Cavalier hit a rut, blowing out the rear left tire. The vehicle fishtailed across the road, swerved into an alley and out of sight. The Ford caught up and turned into the alley. Jim slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding crashing into the abandoned car. The three men piled out of the truck.

Dawson was several yards away, backed against a bricked building, his .38 at David's throat. The policemen drew their weapons and advanced slowly.

"Put it down, Dawson!" Jim ordered.

The burly man simply tightened his hold on David's throat. "You put it down or I kill him right here."

"You'd shoot your only son to save your own ass?" Blair asked incredulously.

"Why aren't you dead?" Dawson retorted. "Now lower your weapons!"

To emphasize his point, Dawson cocked his .38. Jim nodded and the detectives slowly placed their weapons on the pavement.

Gasping for air, David's left hand traveled inconspicuously down his leg and into the back pocket of his borrowed jeans. Sandburg realized immediately what the boy was doing. He must have left it in the pants the last time he washed them.

David withdrew his hand, his fingers wrapped securely around Blair's Swiss Army knife. He opened it expertly and stabbed Dawson in the left thigh, sinking it in to the handle. Dawson cried out, loosening his hold on his son. David twisted out of his father's arms, grabbing the .38 from the surprised man. Unable to stand, Dawson tumbled to the ground. David trained the gun on his father, fury and anguish equal partners in his youthful face.

"David?" Rafe's voice was calm, but the boy didn't look up. "Give me the gun, David."

Jim and Blair watched from a distance as Rafe slowly approached and pried the gun from David's fingers, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. David seemed to wilt under the touch and let Rafe lead him away from the fallen man. Sirens could be heard in the distance.

From the corner of his eye, Blair caught a movement from Dawson. From his pant leg, the man produced a small Derringer pistol. "Look out!" Sandburg shouted.

Rafe spun automatically and pumped two rounds into Dawson's chest, jerking back as he felt the heat of the man's single shot whiz by his head. Dawson slumped to the ground, dead. David released a strangled cry and lunged for his father's body. Rafe held him back, pulling his brother into a tight embrace, neither man able to hold back their tears.

Sentinel and Guide looked on sadly, wishing that they could take some of the pain away from their friend.


Major Crime, the next day

"Looks like you'll have good luck for the rest of your life," Jim joked from his position on the edge of Sandburg's desk.

Blair grinned at the reference to the medallion's imprint and surrounding bruise that had taken up residence on his chest. "I hope so. I could use it."

"Especially around the ladies," Henri commented as he passed the pair.

"Thanks, H, real sensitive," Blair complained.

Jim grinned at the jibe, then sobered a bit. "I'm just glad the force of the bullet didn't crack your sternum."

"Ditto."

Sandburg glanced back down at the report he was writing. "So Matt Rowe was trying to set up another pipeline here in Cascade, borrowed the money he needed from Carl Dawson, aka Carl Roscoe, who actually was the loan shark in question. The whole kneebreaker persona was for appearances, right?"

"Yup," Jim said, nodding.

"And when Rowe didn't produce the cash, Dawson had him killed."

"That's it in a nutshell. The bullet that killed Rowe matched the one that got your medal."

At that moment, Rafe walked into the bullpen, with David in tow, a grocery bag clutched in one hand. Rafe's gaze landed on Sandburg and Ellison and he led the way over.

"How're you doing?" he asked Blair.

"Fine. Hurts to laugh, though."

"I'll bet. David wanted to give these back." Rafe pointed to the bag in his brother's hand.

David handed the bag over to Sandburg. "Thanks for the threads, man. I washed them for you."

"You're welcome. Have you decided what you're doing next?"

The boy looked at Rafe for support.

"He's going to stay with me," the detective said. "I'll petition the state for guardianship, but it probably won't matter much since David will be eighteen in five days."

"I'm going to enroll in Rainier next term, too," David said proudly. "Maybe after that I'll go to the Academy, too."

"Those are great goals," Blair praised.

Rafe cleared his throat. "Strangely enough, we've got Carl to thank for that." At his friends' blank looks, he added, "I put that five thousand he gave me into a bank account. Haven't touched it and it's been drawing interest all this time. I figure it'll cover the cost of David's college fund. Anyway, we've got to go over some of the reports with the captain, so we'll see you guys later."

Various farewells went around, then Rafe steered David in the direction of Simon's office. After they had gone, Blair turned to his partner.

"So what do Rafe's initials stand for?"

"I never asked."

"You're no help." Blair stifled a yawn, then shook his head sadly. Jim looked down at his friend.

"Chief? What's up?"

"I was just thinking. I know, I know," Blair said quickly, raising his hands to ward off Jim's inevitable sarcasm. "Dangerous territory. But seriously, the past few days have really made me wonder about things."

"Like what?"

"Fathers and sons. I mean, I know you're working on it, but you and Steven didn't exactly have the best relationship with your dad growing up. And look at David and his father."

Jim nodded in understanding. "You're wondering if you're better off never knowing who your father is."

Blair hung his head.

Jim tugged lightly on a chestnut curl. "Blair, look at me."

He did, his cerulean eyes boring into Jim's.

"Don't judge your relationships by other people's. Look at Simon and Daryl. They fight every now and then, but there are no homicidal tendencies to speak of. You're not your father and you're not Naomi. You're you, plain and simple. And You is a pretty great guy."

Blair smiled gratefully. "Thanks, man. This whole identity thing usually doesn't bug me that much. I mean, you and Naomi are my family. What more do I need, right?"

Jim smiled back, but something bugged him, deep in the back of his mind. And he knew exactly what to do about it.


852 Prospect, the next morning

Blair emerged from his room, still rubbing sleep from his eyes. He was surprised that Jim wasn't up yet, considering his own alarm had gone off late. Glancing up, he noticed that Jim's bedside lamp was on as it had been when he'd gone to bed last night. Pillows were propped against the railing behind the bed and Blair could swear he saw the top of a head. There was no movement from above to indicate his roommate was awake, so Blair trotted up the steps to Jim's bedroom.

At the top of the stairs, he paused, taking in the sight before him. Jim was sitting against the pillows, sound asleep, his head lolling to one side. On his lap, still open to the last page, was Blair's dissertation. Sandburg crept over to the bed and carefully picked up the bound copy. Some of the pages were wrinkled, as if turned to again and again. He grinned. Jim must have been up all night.

Blair closed the book and placed it gently on the nightstand. As he reached out to pull a blanket over his friend, he became aware of someone watching him. Blair looked over and into Jim's open eyes. Their crystal blue depths were filled with gratitude.

"Thank you," Jim whispered to his Guide.

Beaming at his Sentinel, Blair replied, "You're welcome, partner."

END