Production No. CVT507

written by:
Carolyn

edited by:
Melanie and Kimberly

MEET THE CAST

Central Precinct, 6:37 PM

"Free at last," Blair sighed as he made his way down in the elevator from Major Crime to the parking garage.

Settling himself behind the wheel of his Volvo, he started it up and headed out into the after- work traffic. As he drove, his mind wandered over the case he and Jim had been working on. Four students from nearby colleges had been found dead over the past week, apparently of drug overdoses. The coroners' reports had indicated that the drug had similarities to both cocaine and PCP, but was stronger and more pure than most 'designer' drugs. From the interrogation of friends and family of the deceased, it seemed that two of the students had been first time users, the others only engaging in casual drug use.

Unfortunately, Major Crime was nowhere near a breakthrough on the operation. Narcotics had handed over the case when the death toll had risen to four. Both departments had put their collective heads together, but had come up with little to go on. The lack of long-term drug habits for the deceased students made leads by association difficult. All four had been outgoing enough to have casual contact with hundreds of other students, none of whom knew anything about where they had gotten the drugs, or were keeping silent about what they knew.

Blair had spent the day going over the students' school records and transcripts of the interviews of their close friends and family. Nothing had jumped out at him. After ten straight hours, he had given up and packed the case files into his backpack, determined to start over in the more comfortable setting of the loft and hopefully find something that the glaring overhead lights and busy din of the office had prevented him from seeing.

Several blocks from home, his racing mind geared more towards the loft than the station, he remembered his plan to stop for groceries on the way home. Turning left instead of right at the next intersection, he drove to the nearest Safeway and began trekking up and down the aisles.

He was hefting a twelve-pack of his favorite microbrew into his cart when a familiar voice caught his attention. Farther down the aisle near the low-priced beer, a group of kids were pooling their cash and haggling over which brand to buy. Blair doubted that a single one of them was 21, but trusted the cashier to card them and refuse their purchase.

Standing slightly apart from the others, though, was Daryl Banks. He rolled his cart towards the group, smiling at the captain's son.

"Hey Daryl, how's things?"

After a guilty jump, the young man's eyes narrowed and a definite sneer twisted his mouth. He jutted out his chin and defiantly glared at Blair.

"No business of yours, man."

Startled, Blair raised his hands, palms out.

"Hey, take it easy. Sorry I asked." Puzzled, he moved his cart past the pack of glaring youths and turned down the next aisle. Before he was out of earshot he heard Daryl muttering about him being one of his mom's weird friends.

Blair decided that Daryl was probably joining a fraternity and that it was 'be an ass to anyone you meet' day when the young man himself strode around the corner and hurried over towards him. Blair greeted him neutrally.

"Blair, I'm so sorry," Daryl said sincerely.

"What's with the attitude?"

"I can't talk about it here. I told them you might give me some money, though. That's why I'm over here."

Blair handed over a ten to the nervous young man, who turned to watch as the group of boys passed the end of the aisle.

"We're going for some chips. Hurry it up, Banks," the tallest of the bunch growled. Correcting his earlier assessment, Blair decided that one was at least 21, if not older. Blair could feel the lecture on 'the negative influence of fraternities which hazed their neophytes prior to membership' on the tip of his tongue and barely held it in check as the young man began speaking.

"Where the heck is my Dad? I left a whole bunch of messages this afternoon, but I haven't heard back from him."

"He's on surveillance right now with Jim. Believe it or not, he asked for it specially. It's all he's cleared for out of the office until his leg heals fully."

"How come he hasn't returned my calls?"

"Well, that reason has a name, Booker Billings. He's filling in for Rhonda while she's on vacation. Someone majorly screwed up on the vacation scheduling, so half the administrative personnel are gone, too. Rhonda's sister is getting married, though, so Simon couldn't ask her to change her week off. He's stuck with Booker until she gets back next week. To make matters worse, somehow the guy got your Dad's cell phone account cancelled and hasn't managed to requisition a new one for three days."

"Booker? Why does that name sound familiar?"

"You know, 'Booker Billings from Booking'. He insists on answering the phone like that when he's on duty. I crack up every time I hear it. Just once I wish someone would just say 'Book him, Booker.' It would make the guy's day! He's great at his own job, but can't seem to get Rhonda's down pat. Messages in particular. Simon's missed messages from the Mayor and Commissioner, too, so you're in good company."

"Great, just great," Daryl sighed.

"Besides, Booker usually works the night shift, so he's always yawning and begging coffee off us. Your Dad is about ready to fly to California, forcibly remove Rhonda from the wedding party and bring her back to her desk."

"Aww, man, he wouldn't go that far." His face became thoughtful. "I'd watch yourself, though. He might have you riding her desk before the end of the week."

"He already tried that. Jim talked him out of it. At least I think they talked. Your Dad suggested it, and they went into his office to 'talk' about it and both came out about five minutes later. Simon was all red-faced and Jim was grinning smugly. He won't tell me what favor he cashed in, but it worked. So your Dad is stuck with Booker."

"I can't believe his parents actually called him that."

"I know what you mean. I suggested we call him BB to make it easier, but Jim says it sounds too much like an endearment, and refuses." Both Blair and Daryl laughed at that, earning an ugly stare from the big kid, who had come around the corner into their aisle again with several bags of snacks and his cohorts in tow.

Blair glanced uneasily at the scowling youth, who was thankfully far enough down the aisle to avoid hearing what they said

"Well, Rhonda's either going to have her remaining vacation days rescinded or get a big fat raise when she gets back," Blair continued softly. "We'll have to wait and see. The bottom line is, your Dad practically threatened Jim to let him in on the stakeout and bumped me off to do it."

"That's too bad," Daryl said absently.

Misunderstanding, Blair continued. "No skin off my back. I get regular sleep hours and a nice quiet loft at night."

"So Dad and Jim are gonna be gone all night?"

"Yeah, looks like."

"Oh." Daryl knit his brows in thought. "Are you going out tonight?"

"Probably not." Blair grinned and sighed in pleasure. "I get the loft all to myself for the Jags game tonight without a roommate who insists on checking CNN at every commercial break." Blair raised his eyebrows and grinned.

"Banks! You coming?" the tall kid barked.

Blair noted how Daryl stiffened and blushed as he turned to face his friends.

Friends? I don't think so. I'm getting a real bad vibe, here.

"Yeah, one more second," he called out, then looked solemnly at Blair. "So you'll be home tonight?" The hopefulness in that glance was not lost on the former grad student.

"Yes, I will," he said firmly. You bet your ass I will, and whatever is going on, we'll take care of it. "We'll talk then, okay?" He looked firmly into the younger Banks' eyes. His meaning was not lost on the young man.

"Listen Blair, I can't explain now, but I don't want them to know you're a cop, or my Dad either."

Every alarm bell the detective possessed began ringing at the same moment but he nodded nonetheless. He'd get the answers he wanted tonight. His back to the boys, Daryl released his held breath and smiled. Dropping the smile and assuming a more disinterested countenance, he strutted back to stand in the group of boys.

"Later, man," he called and waved absently over his shoulder.

"Definitely," Blair whispered and then walked away to finish his shopping, his concern for Daryl growing with every minute.


The Loft, 8:41 PM

Blair was pacing the living room when the expected knock finally sounded on the door.

Arriving home after shopping, he spent some time going over the files he had brought home with him from the office. After a while, he moved into the kitchen for some food, but his concern for the captain's son left him with no desire to prepare anything elaborate. Spying a chunk of sharp cheddar cheese and a plate of leftover grilled jalapenos, he grabbed them, a knife, and a box of crackers and carried them to where the files still lay on the coffee table.

By 8:00 p.m., his hunger was appeased and the files would no longer hold his interest, concern for Daryl Banks overriding all else. Even the Jags game failed as a distraction. In the middle of the second quarter, he shut off the TV in frustration. He stood up, stretched, and began pacing. Finally, he heard the knock and quickly ushered a very agitated Daryl inside.

After settling the captain's son on the couch, he urged Daryl to tell him what had him so jumpy.


Jim's Truck, 8:55 PM

"...so then she dropped the towel and held out her wrists for the handcuffs. I thought Stiller was going to have an aneurysm, his face was so red."

Simon Banks' laughter echoed through the interior of the vehicle in which he and Jim had been sitting for the past six hours. It startled the Sentinel, who had tuned in to his captain's words often enough to nod now and then, keeping up the pretense that he was engrossed in this often- told tale. He barked out a short laugh, but his hesitation was noticed by his companion.

"Come on, Ellison, you're not zoning on me, are you?" he asked with a chuckle. His words were only half joking, though. This Sentinel business was a huge advantage at times, but the worry that his best detective would go catatonic at an inopportune time always lingered in the back of his mind.

The guilty flush which spread over Jim's face answered Simon's question for him.

"I can't be that boring, can I?" he asked with a wry grin.

"Well, to be honest, sir, I've heard all your stories." Jim immediately regretted his words when he saw the hurt expression on his friend's face.

"Look, Simon, I'm sorry..." he began.

"No, Jim, you're right." The tall black man exhaled deeply. "Thing is, I've heard all my stories before, and I'm bored too. I never thought I would say this, but I kind of miss Sandburg."

"You know, in all the time I've spent with him, I don't think he's ever told the same story twice."

"You're kidding me, right?" Simon's eyebrows were raised in disbelief.

"Nope. I can't figure out how someone his age could have fit in so much travel and adventure, while still spending enough time in school to have almost gotten a doctorate. I have a theory, though."

"What is it?"

"I'm pretty certain that he's given up sleep."

Both men's laughter was genuine this time.

"No way, Jim, everybody's got to sleep sometime."

"Oh, I agree with you, but I've only actually seen him asleep six or seven times since he moved in with me. Ahh, but one time I remember very clearly," he added, chuckling at the memory. "Do you remember when you sicced those 'True Crime' reporters on my tail?"

"How could I forget? You remind me every time we have an argument."

Jim snorted at that but continued speaking, realizing that the tension between the men had been broken, and that they were truly enjoying themselves now, despite the monotony of the surveillance. Sandburg's magic was at work, even in his absence. Jim couldn't remember a time when the younger man had failed to amuse him with his tales of both fact and wonder. Jim had no idea where fact ended and the embellishments began, but the result was a definite lack of boredom.

"You want to talk about red faced? You should have seen Sandburg, standing there in his boxers while I'm holding a gun on those reporters. The poor kid was not one minute out of his bed, probably not even awake yet, and there's a camera in his face. I almost felt sorry for him..."


The Loft, 9:23 PM

"You're kidding me, right?" Blair asked incredulously.

"No way, man, I would not kid about something like this."

"No, no, I believe you about what you saw. What I'd like to know is why you didn't talk to your Dad sooner. Dammit, Daryl, you're mixed up in something way out of your league."

"Look, Blair, if I thought you were going to give me a speech I would've waited to talk to my Dad," Daryl shot right back. "He's gonna kill me as it is, but I really thought I could help him out, prove to him that I'm not the little kid whose diapers he changed. Yeah, I know it was dangerous," he said quickly, holding up his hands to stall any further protest from Blair, "but if I thought it was all that bad, I wouldn't have done anything. I was just trying to help, man."

Blair felt his anger dissipating. Daryl's earnest attempts to help, his begging understanding from the older, more experienced man reminded him too much of the time he had tried to assist his then-new partner in solving the case of the yellow-scarf murders. He had gone to Club Doom without Jim's consent and had managed to catch a break for them. They were unlucky in that their murderer was one step ahead of them until the end, but he could still feel the buzz of excitement he'd experienced as he had shared his findings with Simon and Jim. How could he fault Daryl for trying to help?

The young man in question was attending the University of Washington in Cascade while living at home with his Mom. He had considered other schools, farther away, but most of his friends had stayed local, and where better to study criminal justice than in the city where your father is a police captain? He had begun his freshman curriculum by taking several prerequisite classes, one of which included a Chemistry class where he had met the boys from the supermarket. Daryl's attempt to work on a lab project after hours had landed him in the middle of some dubious chemistry being performed by the other students. Instead of panicking, he had feigned disinterest and befriended the group over the course of several weeks while trying to learn more about the clearly illegal activities in which they were involved. All the while, he was careful to make sure none of the boys knew who his father was. The leader of the group, Kevin Douglas, who had snarled at Blair in the supermarket, had been acting very jumpy for the past few days. Daryl believed that something was about to go down, and had finally decided to alert his father. Booker Billings' incompetence had thwarted Daryl's efforts at a face to face meeting.

Taking a deep breath, Blair turned his body on the couch to face his friend.

"I'm not mad at you, Daryl. To tell you the truth, I know just how you feel," he said with a chuckle. "I'm glad you told me what was up, but I really think we ought to call your Dad and Jim and tell them what you told me."

"I'm down with that, man," Daryl said with a nervous laugh. For a moment, all of Blair's anxiety returned full-force. Despite his efforts to remain brave in front of the new detective, Daryl was scared to death of the new 'friends' he had made. He had been held captive twice by terrorists, been abducted by drug runners in Peru, and dealt bravely with his father's numerous life-threatening injuries, but he was only eighteen years old. His life should be filled with classes and girlfriends and nights out with his real friends, not subterfuge with the criminal element on campus. Blair reached over and gripped Daryl's shoulder tightly and grinned broadly.

"We'll take care of it, Daryl. You can count on that."

A bright, easier smile graced the younger man's face as he let out a gusty sigh.

"Thanks, Blair. I knew I could count on you."

"Detective Sandburg, at your service." Blair winked as he saluted Daryl then strode for the phone. The sooner Jim and Simon were here, the sooner all of Daryl's fears could be laid to rest.


Apartment on Vesey Street, 9:30 PM

At the same time, in an apartment across town, three young men were gathered around a dirty kitchen table strewn with books, empty beer cans, old pizza boxes and loose papers. One boy was slumped down on the table top, oblivious to the tension passing between his companions. The oldest boy lit a cigarette and fixed the attentive young man across the table from him with a steely gaze as he took a long drag.

"You're sure you took care of it?"

"I told you ten times already, Kevin, it's done."

"And he doesn't know that we know all about him?"

"No way, man, we've all been playing it cool."

"You better not be lying to me. You know what happened to the last person who lied to me, don't you?"

"Chill out, man. Banks is history. He'll never know what hit him. We did him just like we did Roger. Don't you trust me?"

"I don't trust anyone."

"Hey..."

"Shut up and let me think. The boss is counting on us to hold up our end of this operation, and I can't think with you jabbering at me. As long as Banks and his pig daddy are out of the picture, we might be able to pull this off, so he'd better be out of the picture."

"I told you..."

"Yeah, I know. Get me another beer, will you?" As the other boy moved to comply, he took another long drag on his cigarette, blowing the smoke smoothly into the dim light above the table.

"Nighty-night, Banks," he murmured to himself as a slow grin spread across his face.


The Loft, 9:40 PM

"So exactly what look are you going for there, Blair?"

"What do you mean?"

The mood in the loft had been elevated by the imminent arrival of the two seasoned detectives. After a cursory explanation from his partner, Jim had agreed to inform the captain of what was happening and call for relief. As soon as the next shift arrived, they would head straight for the loft.

Blair and Daryl were considerably more relaxed now as they watched the after-game commentary for the Jags' win over the 76'ers.

"Your hair, man. It's looking pretty shiny lately."

Blair ran a self-conscious hand through his curls, which were at a difficult stage of growing back. Despite his efforts, his hair tended to stick out at odd angles until he had resorted to hair gel to keep it in a semblance of order.

"It's growing back more slowly this time," he replied, a bit petulantly.

"Yeah, well, if this detective thing doesn't pan out, you could join the circus. Wouldn't even need a wig."

"Ha, ha, ha," Blair replied evenly. "You must be taking lessons from your father. You've clearly been spending too much time with him if you've picked up the 'tease Sandburg' vibe from him."

"Ain't that the truth. He only had me to pick on while you were away at the academy. Payback's a bitch, man."

Blair groaned and rose to his feet.

"You want something to drink, funny man?"

"No thanks, man, I've got my own." Daryl reached into his backpack and pulled out a bottle of fruit juice. Blair pulled it from his hands and nodded as he read the label on the container of Odwalla 'Serious Energy'. The juices were widely available on most Pacific Northwest college campuses, as they had been at Rainier. The former grad student felt a pang of momentary regret as he recalled the many nights he had dashed to the student cafeteria before closing to snag a bottle or two of the healthy drinks before beginning long nights of study or grading. He quashed the memories and smiled at his younger friend as he authoritatively read the label aloud.

"'Serious Energy's' unique energy source comes from a combination of reishi and cordyceps mycelium two members of the mushroom family well known in Asia for their ability to provide sustained energy throughout the day. Also featuring ginseng, green tea and gotu kola, Serious Energy adds punch to the palate in an infusion of apple, orange, ginger, passionfruit, and lime juices.' Man, Daryl, I probably drank five of these a day my last year at school. Your Dad can't have had that much negative influence over you if you're drinking this stuff."

"Oh, come on, he's not that bad."

"Daryl, have you ever seen what he eats? He's almost as bad as Jim. Just yesterday his entire lunch consisted of a bag a Fritos and a can of Coke. I can't even remember the last time he had a salad instead of a basket of fries at Wonder Burger. You know, with all the hours he puts in and at his age, it would really do him good to start thinking differently about what he puts into his body..."

The younger man rolled his eyes at Blair's oft-repeated recitation of the benefits of eating healthy. Daryl knew it was mostly for show. He had seen the young detective match his Dad fry for fry at times, and the vending machine at the station had provided many a meal during long days of work. An algae shake every morning didn't count as being a health nut in his book. He grinned and decided to both silence Blair's lecture and prove his affinity for healthy things, reaching over to grab a grilled pepper from the plate still lying on the coffee table. He popped it whole into his mouth and chewed pronouncedly, a 'look, look, I'm eating something green' expression adorning his face.

Blair did, indeed, stop his lecture mid-word as a wide grin broke across his face. Wordlessly, he shook the juice bottle vigorously and waited patiently, the beverage extended towards Daryl, waiting for his taste buds to react. His grin turned to loud laughter as the expected reaction took place. The smug look on Daryl's face turned abruptly into one of panic as the fiery kick of the jalapeno seeds assaulted his mouth, bringing tears to his eyes. His forehead broke out in a sweat and he began coughing harshly. He grabbed fiercely at the offered bottle of juice. Daryl chugged nearly half the contents, then theatrically wiped his sleeve across his mouth, sending a watery glare towards his still-laughing friend.

"God! What was that?"

"A jalapeno pepper, with the seeds. You're supposed to clean them out before eating them."

"Now you tell me," he replied weakly, coughing a few more times to clear his burning throat.

"Try eating some crackers. They'll cut the burning better than the juice."

"Cool," Daryl replied. Before his hand reached the cutting board, though, he paused and shook his head, as though trying to clear his vision.

"Man, those sure pack a punch. I'm starting to feel dizzy, here."

"Hey, hey, sit back. Here," Blair murmured, handing Daryl several crackers and pushing him to lean back against the couch.

"Back off!" the young man shouted suddenly, his hands batting away Blair's assistance. "Just... leave me alone." Hands up in a placating gesture, Blair moved over to sit on the other couch. Must be embarrassed, Blair thought. He grabbed the remote control and flipped stations until he found a rerun of "Homicide: Life On The Streets" being shown on Court TV. Hoping the excellent show would grab Daryl's attention like it always seemed to grab his own, he dropped the remote onto the empty cushion next to him and turned his attention to the screen. He was worried about his young friend, but determined to give him a chance to get over the embarrassment of his reaction to the pepper. After watching Pembleton work his magic in 'The Box', for a full ten minutes, he glanced over to see how his companion was faring as a commercial filled the screen.

Daryl was sweating more noticeably now, and still panting for breath. Blair watched him stuff several more crackers into his mouth, washing them down with the remainder of the Odwalla. After depositing the bottle onto the table, he lay back and covered his eyes with both hands.

"Are you okay?" Blair asked softly. In reply, Daryl stood shakily and pointed his finger in the older man's direction.

"I told you to quit bugging me, man, and I mean it. Quit. Bugging. Me." He swung around and faced the couch, both hands now wrapped around his middle. A slight groan broke past his tightly clenched jaw.

"Daryl, it's okay, man. Just sit back down and relax, okay?" Blair moved quickly over to his captain's son, now concerned that he was suffering an allergic reaction to the pepper. The moment his hand touched Daryl's shoulder, though, the boy exploded.

"Get your fucking hands off me, you fucking freak!" A rough shove sent Blair stumbling towards the balcony doors. Before he could catch his balance fully, the enraged youth was at his side, pulling his shoulder and turning him around to face him. A flash of metal caught his glance and he sprang back, but not before he felt a stinging pain sear across his abdomen. Confusion warred with anger as he darted away from Daryl and into the kitchen. Placing the island between them, he took a good look at the young man.

Daryl's pupils were widely dilated, his breath came in pants, and sweat covered his face. His hands were shaking as they alternately wiped the sweat from his brow and clumsily clutched at the front of his shirt, the cheese knife still in his grip. Blair was prepared to dart to either side should the young man make a move, but Daryl seemed to need the support of the kitchen island.

"Daryl, you need to put the knife down, man, and tell me what's wrong," Blair began. It was an effort to calm his racing emotions and speak evenly to the clearly distressed young man. "We need to figure out what's happening, here, but I need you to put down the knife first. You don't want to hurt me, I know that. Just take a deep breath and let the knife go. You can do it, Daryl. Just let it go."

After a few more tense minutes, the knife finally dropped from Daryl's hand and onto the floor with a clatter. He was staring at the stove top now, tears streaming down his face, his restless hands splayed across the counter.

"Daryl? Talk to me, man. What's the matter?" No response. Blair moved slowly, not wanting to provoke another attack, one arm wrapped around the bleeding gash on his abdomen. He moved to Daryl's side, waiting for another outburst, pleased that none came.

"Daryl, tell me what's wrong."

"Blair?" the teen replied weakly as he slumped down, his head lowering to rest against the cool tiles of the counter top.

"Yeah, it's me. You just hang on, I'm going to call an ambulance." Blair paused to clasp Daryl's shoulder, a gesture meant for comfort and assurance.

"No! Noooo!" The teen swung into action, swinging his hands around grabbing at Blair's shirt. The older man braced his legs as he had been taught at the academy and sought to use Daryl's momentum against him, hoping to subdue him before he could hurt either of them further. His grip was not sufficient to hold the enraged youth, though. Still holding on to each other, they overbalanced and landed hard on the floor. Blair's head smacked heavily against the hardwood floor, stunning him. Daryl quickly scrambled on top of the dazed detective and wrapped his hands around Blair's throat. The detective immediately raised his own hands and grabbed at the teen's wrists, pulling futilely against the pressure cutting off his air supply. Blair saw no recognition in Daryl's contorted features and began struggling in earnest. He bucked and twisted to no avail, then tried to wriggle a knee up between their bodies, hoping to shove his attacker off. With a growl, Daryl began shaking Blair's head in his grip, bouncing his head off the floor as the stranglehold grew tighter. With black spots forming behind his eyes and a sense of lethargy overcoming him at the lack of oxygen, Blair tried to strike out at Daryl's face, now willing to inflict any sort of damage to get him to release his hold.

Just as he was about to lose consciousness, he heard, as though from a great distance, a loud crash reverberate through the loft, then suddenly the pressure was gone. He rolled to his side, gasping in great breaths of air and moaning loudly at the intense pain it caused. One hand moved to his wounded stomach, the other up to his throat. He half expected it to have molded into the shape of Daryl's hands, like clay that was squeezed roughly, but smooth skin met his questing fingers.

He heard Jim shouting something, and suddenly there was a cell phone in his hand. Jim? Cell phone? He looked blearily over to where his partner knelt next to Daryl's now-immobile body, and focused hard to hear what Jim was saying over the roaring in his ears. Ahh, 911. Okay Jim, can do. He shoved himself up to a seated position, emitting another groan as his wounded stomach protested. He dialed carefully with shaking fingers and croaked out the address. He glanced over and saw Jim with his head down on Daryl's chest, then watched as he began CPR. Daryl's breathing and heartbeat had stopped.

With a supreme effort, Blair dragged himself over to kneel on the other side of the teen. When Jim stopped the chest compressions to move up and breathe again into Daryl's mouth for him, Blair took over the task.



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