Production No. CVT508
Toni Rae and Jo Ann
MEET THE CAST
"Well, gentlemen. Are you ready to head to Alabama?" Banks smirked behind his cigar, imagining his two best detectives, and the trouble they could seem to find wherever they went. "National Guard notified? What about the State Police, do they have the riot team standing by?"
"Funny, Simon, real funny. Why do I even have to go? It was Sandburg's bust, all they need is his testimony." Ellison put on his best pitiful face, slouched in the chair across from Banks. "We could drop him off at the airport and go to the Jags game. You've got a couple of tickets, right?" Jim would never forget the amazed looks of the FBI agents when his rookie partner arrested Raul Newport after a botched attack in retaliation for Sandburg's earlier arrest of his brother, Paul Newport.
"Sorry, man, they asked for both of us, so both of us is what they get. Besides, I bet Simon is taking his new lady to the game." Blair was perched on the corner of the large desk and turned to watch their captain squirm.
Jim perked up at his partner's comment. "New lady, sir?" The sputtering and denials of the older man drowned out the rest of his words.
Sandburg's grin grew wider as he leaned forward to pluck a hair off Simon's shoulder. "If you want to keep it a secret that you're dating a blond, Simon, then you really should go back to the tan overcoat. Things really show up on black wool, man."
Banks swatted at the playful figure dodging him. "Very observant, Detective, now why didn't your eagle-eyed partner notice it?"
The question sobered the Guide immediately. "He's tired, Simon. That's why we need this trip."
The man in question pinched the bridge of his nose as he asked for the hundredth time, "How is a cross-country, red-eye flight and a day in a strange courtroom going to help me?"
"It will, you'll see." Sandburg flashed his winning smile at his Sentinel. "Trust me."
Ellison opened his mouth to comment, but thought better of it and closed it with a tight smile.
"Come on, Sandburg, shake a leg!" Ellison took the stairs two at a time as he came down from his bedroom, overnight bag in one hand, phone in the other. "There's a big backup on the freeway, it's going to take us an hour just to get to the airport."
"Was that Simon on the phone?" Blair's voice was slightly muffled behind his bedroom door.
Ellison leaned impatiently against the kitchen counter. "Yeah, he's about three blocks away, we're going to meet him downstairs. You ready?"
The noise brought the Sentinel's attention to the closed French doors. A moment later, they opened to reveal Sandburg staggering out with two of the biggest suitcases he had ever seen.
"How long do you plan to testify, Chief?"
"What?" Blair put on his best 'surprised' face. "What are you talking about, Jim?" Mentally he counted to three, as if he were thinking, then smiled. "Oh, you mean the extra suitcase. I'm taking some reference books to a friend at the University of Alabama. We get to take two pieces of luggage on the plane, so I didn't see the point of shipping them."
"Okay, but you're the one carrying them, not me." Jim picked up his one small bag and headed for the door. "Have you seen my hiking boots?"
"Your boots?" Thinking fast, Sandburg took a deep breath and dropped one of the suitcases on his foot. "Oww!!"
"What? Are you all right?" Concerned, the Sentinel didn't question the elevated heart rate of his partner. "That's a great way to break a toe, Sandburg, but you've got to come up with something better than that if you want to get out of testifying."
"I'm fine, let's go." Blair managed to herd his partner out into the hall without ever answering the missing boots question. As Sandburg was locking the deadbolt, Jim cocked his head, listening to Simon pull up outside. The Guide recognized the pose and smiled. "Simon here?"
Jim smiled back at his friend as they entered the elevator. "I think so. He took his car in for a new muffler yesterday, but I think that's him."
"You were the only one that ever noticed the rattle. I can't believe Simon spent two hundred bucks to soothe a Sentinel's hearing."
Reaching the ground floor, Ellison was the first one out of the elevator. Halfway to the exterior door, he turned and looked over his shoulder. "But I'm worth it."
Blair was still grinning as they reached Simon's car, but he waited to say anything until Simon was in earshot. "You dye your hair blond, and I'm moving in with Simon."
There was dead silence as Banks glared at his newest detective before turning his attention to Ellison. "Do I want to know what's going on?"
"No sir, but I still want to know what happened to my boots."
"Boots?" Simon blinked in surprise. Someday I'm going to get in on the beginning of a conversation with these two.
Sandburg opened the car door and shoved his partner towards it. "Will you forget about the damn boots? We don't have time for them now, anyway. Let's go!"
As he pulled the car out into early-evening traffic, Banks managed to wink at the younger of the two men in his car without the other one noticing.
Cascade International Airport
"This is ridiculous. We're in the air for a whopping twenty-three minutes, and then we sit in Seattle for a three-hour layover. Why didn't we just drive to Seattle?"
Blair took a deep, calming breath before answering his grumpy partner. "Simon couldn't drive us all the way to Seattle and still have made it to the game, and I know how you feel about leaving your truck in long term parking, man. Besides, we can use the time to get a nice dinner."
"We could have eaten here in Cascade."
"Ellison," Simon was out of breath as he set down the smaller of Sandburg's two suitcases, "with your luck the restaurant would have been robbed and you would have missed the flight doing the arrest report. At least when the restaurant in Seattle gets robbed because you two are eating there, you'll just be another witness." Banks no longer limped, but his stamina had not returned yet.
Not giving Ellison a chance to respond, he turned to the shorter half of the partnership. "I hope your friend appreciates all these books you're lugging down there." Banks carefully kept his back to Ellison as he smiled.
"Yes sir, I think he'll be pleasantly surprised when he opens the suitcase." Since Sandburg was facing his friend, he kept his expression carefully schooled.
After checking in the bags, the three men walked to gate 43. The tallest of the three glared at the other two. "Couldn't you have gotten a gate a little closer?" To emphasize his disappointment, he shoved his unlit cigar back in his mouth.
"You really didn't have to walk us to the plane, Simon." In fact, Ellison could not remember ever being escorted to his flight by his captain and it was making him a bit nervous.
A deliberately neutral face slowly turned towards Ellison. "Jim, I have been your captain long enough to know that if I want you safely on that plane and out of town, I'm going to have to put you on it myself." Barely missing a beat, his attention turned to Sandburg. "You two planning on seeing any of the sights while you're there?"
Blair had researched the area of Alabama they would be in. "Well, the trial's in Tuscaloosa, but I thought we'd drive up to Tuscumbia, or maybe Tuskegee if we get a few hours before we have to leave."
Banks looked down at the shorter man. "Tuscaloosa... Tuscumbia... Tuskegee... what's with all the tusks? Do these people have a walrus complex?"
"Walrus complex?" Sandburg stared at Banks, stunned. He turned to his partner and asked in a loud whisper, "did Simon just crack a joke? Cause if he did, then we need to be alerting the media or something."
The announcement that flight 713 to Seattle was now boarding saved Ellison from having to answer the question. Instead, he playfully shoved Sandburg towards the gate. "We are doing something, Shecky. We're getting the hell out of Dodge."
Stopping just inside the gate, Blair asked one more question, just loud enough to be heard by Banks, "Are all his jokes that bad?"
Seattle International Airport
"You've got to admit that was a pretty good dinner, Jim."
"Yeah, it was." Ellison snagged the last two mints from the counter top basket as they headed for the door. "I just hate the idea of flying all night, then you spending the next day testifying in court."
Blair caught the mint that Ellison tossed at him. "Well, just don't start snoring in the courtroom, okay? Reminds me too much of my freshman Anthro lectures."
That stopped Jim in his tracks. "How can you joke about that?"
"I'm where I want to be, Jim. Don't ever forget that." The words were Sentinel soft, but loud as a bell to the man they were aimed at. His volume increased as the subject changed. "Our flight leaves in 45 minutes, we'd better head over there-- umm, where is our gate?"
"The northern most end of the airport." Jim waited for the response as they resumed walking.
"Aren't we at the southern most end of the airport now?"
"Great." Sandburg began walking backwards, studying his friend.
"Is that all you're gonna say to me?"
"Well then-- what?"
"Yeah, tree." Ellison's smirk gave it away, and Blair stopped just short of stepping back into the tall potted plant.
Blair only gave the tree a cursory glance before sidestepping it to catch up with his long legged partner. "You're a real laugh a minute, man."
"I won't be laughing after our two-hour layover in Dallas. Do you realize that by the time we get to Tuscaloosa we'll have been travelling over 15 hours?"
"Don't think about it like that, man. This is not the time to stop and look at the big picture."
"What if we get stuck next to a screaming kid?"
"We're not going to get stuck next to a screaming kid, Jim."
5:20 AM Friday
Sandburg slowly walked off the plane, followed by Ellison, a pained expression on the Sentinel's face.
Ellison pinched the bridge of his nose. "I thought you said we weren't going to sit next to a screaming kid, Chief."
"We didn't sit next to one screaming kid, Jim. We sat next to two screaming kids. Do we have time for a beer before our next flight?"
"We've got two and a half hours before we board again, but you can't have a beer at this time of the morning."
"It's still yesterday, man."
Jim turned to stare at his friend. "How do you figure that?"
"It was yesterday when we got on the plane, right? We haven't been to bed yet, so we haven't moved to the next day. It's still yesterday until it's today. Of course if we get two chances at sleep, it could become tomorrow before we're ready. Grad student logic, man. It works great on those all-night stakeouts too." Sandburg's grin was infectious and Ellison couldn't help but smile back.
"Don't tell Simon, but you're beginning to make sense."
"Beginning?" Sandburg was on a roll. "What do you mean, beginning? I'll have you know that I always make sense. Just because you with your plebian thoughts..."
"Ooooo, so many big words, so early in the morning. Am I suppose to run out and get a dictionary?"
"Nah, it's in the pocket of your overnight bag." Sandburg ducked in anticipation of the swat to the back of his head, and was rewarded with the sound of laughter.
"Thanks, Chief, I needed that. Come on, I'll buy you a bloody Mary."
"I don't want a bloody Mary, but thanks for offering to buy. I'll take a Belgian waffle with strawberries." Laughing, Blair ducked into the restaurant across from their gate.
Speaking to no one in particular, Ellison voiced his complaint. "He always cons me into buying. How does he do that?" Still shaking his head, a much more relaxed Ellison followed his partner into the diner. Thanks, Buddy.
Two exhausted men leaned against each other as they waited at baggage claim. Blair was the first to speak, his voice gravelly with fatigue. "Man, what are the chances that the same woman with the same two screaming kids would be on the same connecting flight. You must have some really bad karma, Jim."
A bleary blue eye peered down at him. "My karma? Why are they my punishment? They kept you awake, too."
"No, you kept me awake. Who would have guessed an ex-army, special-ops trained killer would be such a wimp when it comes to crying kids?"
"Chief, the Terminator couldn't have taken those kids." Any other comment he wanted to make was stopped by the soft voice of his Guide.
"Don't look now, but it's Frick and Frack."
Jim followed Sandburg's line of sight and found himself looking at Abels and Trenton, the two FBI agents who had come to Cascade in pursuit of Raul Newport. He forced a tight smile onto his face. "Great, now my day's really complete. Can't we just rent a car and follow them to Tuscaloosa. Spending a couple of hours cooped up in a car with them won't do much for my karma, if you get my drift."
Any rebuttal Blair wanted to make was stopped dead when the two agents moved into earshot. Instead, he directed his comments to them. "Frank, Norbert, how are you guys doing? It's been a while."
"Detective Ellison, you're looking well. I see Detective Sandburg didn't have time to visit the barber before coming down here, or perhaps you're preparing for a narcotics assignment?" As usual, Trenton's tact was non-existent.
"Hello gentlemen. Welcome to our little piece of heaven." Abels had a bit more tact, but he unwittingly asked some loaded questions. "Did you have a nice flight? Are you rested? Blair's testimony has been moved up a few hours, so we'll have to go directly to the courthouse. Hope you don't mind."
"Why should we mind?" Ellison's words were laced with sarcasm. "By the way, who do we thank for our lovely travel arrangements?" He grunted as he lifted Sandburg's heavy bags off the conveyor belt.
One look at the pile of luggage sent Trenton on a search for a cart while Abels just laughed. "Around here trials usually don't last that long. Looks like you boys have enough to stay a month; Norbert only booked your room for one night."
Ellison raised one eyebrow. "Trenton made the arrangements?"
"Don't start anything Jim." Only the Sentinel could hear his Guide's words and he bit back what he wanted to say. Blair was right; it wasn't worth the bother.
They silently followed the two agents out to the waiting sedan and loaded the bags in the trunk. As Abels started the car and Trenton returned the luggage cart, Ellison gripped his partner's arm and asked, " why does your suitcase smell like my hiking boots?"
"Would you quit harping on those boots?" Sandburg hissed before climbing into the back seat.