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."
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.
"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."
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."
"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.