edited by: Gabrielle and Lark
The holiday season was finally over, and things could get back to normal; whatever normal was. Normal for most people involved the drudgery of their jobs and thinking how long it was before their next three-day weekend. Normal for the Major Crime Division of the Cascade Police Department was another thing altogether.
"Ellison, Sandburg. My office, gentlemen." The two men thus summoned looked at each other, Captain Banks wasn't usually quite so... well, polite. He didn't even bark out the invitation, simply called out in a normal, slightly-louder-than-conversational tone of voice.
"Uh-oh," Blair murmured almost silently.
"Yeah," Jim replied, standing up. "Well, let's go see what's hit the fan." The two men walked across the bullpen to their superior's office; Jim tapped once on the door and they entered, closing the door behind them.
Without waiting for them to sit down, Simon launched directly into the assignment.
"Looks like a murder-suicide. Wendell Bridger. Member of..."
"I know who he is, Sir," Jim interrupted, "I've met him, before. What happened?"
Simon scowled at the interruption, but continued with the explanation anyway. "His daughter found him this morning. The uniforms are there now, securing the scene and waiting for you." He held out a slip of paper with an address on it "Go forth and investigate, gentlemen," he said, dismissively; waving them out of the room and returning his attention to the reports he was reviewing and his coffee, which was getting cold.
Jim, as usual, drove. As they exited the station garage, Blair asked, "So, who is Wendell Bridger, and how do you know him?"
"He was a sometimes business associate of my father's. He's older than my dad, and his current wife is younger than you are. Rumor has it that his kids hated her." Jim kept his attention on his driving, weaving adroitly in and out of traffic as opportunity allowed.
"So, you think it might be a double murder, instead of a murder-suicide?" Blair asked, sorting possible scenarios in his mind.
"Won't know until we get there, Chief." They made the rest of the trip in relative silence; Blair preparing himself for the dead bodies, Jim thinking of the man he'd known growing up.
Pulling up in front of the house, they noticed the four squad cars. Three of the officers were keeping curious neighbors back from the house, while another stood guard at the door. Nodding at the officers as they passed them, they made their way to the house.
"Hey, Roberts. How's it goin'?" Jim asked the blond man about his own age who stood guarding the door.
"Pretty good, Jim. It's a mess in there, though," he warned. Blair took a deep breath and swallowed hard, steeling himself to follow his partner inside.
"Thanks, Doug. Who else is here?"
"Well, Thompson, of course, and a new rookie, Queens."
"Oh, I know him," Blair blurted out. "We were in the academy together. Good guy." Jim nodded and led the way into the house.
Doug Roberts muttered something as they passed that made Jim smile.
"What?" Blair whispered.
"He said that he was a great guy, he managed to get outside before contaminating the crime scene. That's something that Roberts didn't manage to do on his first homicide, as I recall," Jim replied
With a hard swallow, Blair said a very quiet little, "Oh," and fell silent, concentrating on not embarrassing himself or his partner.
Entering the house, they were directed by another uniformed officer to the upstairs bedroom. Just outside the door, Sergeant Thompson was talking softly to a very pale young man, obviously the rookie, Queens. Looking up, the bantam cock of a sergeant spotted the detectives and gave the rookie a gentle shove toward the door with the admonishment to keep an eye out for the coroner's men.
"Hey, Ellison. How they hangin'?" he asked, his ever-present, unlit cigar being mauled as he spoke.
"Same as always," Jim replied. "What do you have?"
Jim glanced over the shorter man's head into the bedroom, grimacing at the amount of blood and carefully blocking Blair's initial view of the scene.
"Looks like a regular murder/suicide, is all. Woman shot through the heart, man shot in the head. Powder burns, gun by his hand... the usual." He looked at Blair, "Who's this?"
"My partner, Blair Sandburg. I guess you two haven't met before?" Jim seemed a little surprised.
"Don't think so. Heard about him, though." He turned to Blair; "You're the hippie who was in the middle of all that science fiction crap a few months back, right?" Thompson's tone of voice wasn't accusatory or anything like that, merely curious.
With an uncertain glance at Jim's smiling face, he replied, "Uh, yeah. That was me," he smiled nervously.
"Ain't it a crock what the media gets into and throws out to feed the public?" He glanced up at Jim, then shook his head and chuckled dryly, "Ellison as Superman? Nobody who knows him would ever believe it. Heard you had to toss out your term paper over it, though. Sorry to hear that. That slimeball of a publisher oughta pay you the money he offered just to keep you from suin' his ass."
Sergeant Thompson finally took the well-chewed cigar from his mouth and spat shreds of tobacco into his hand before examining the remains of his stogie and sticking it back between his teeth. "Anyway, kid, don't let this rock-pile worry you none. He's a good cop, in spite of his lousy attitude," and with that, Thompson slapped Blair on the shoulder and headed for the door. "I'll let you two do your little detective thing. See you later, Superman. Take care, kid," then he was gone.
Blair shook his head. "What was that?" he asked, a little shell-shocked.
"That, was Sergeant Wiley Thompson. I think he was a cop before there was dirt. He's been a patrol sergeant just about forever. He used to work the night shift, but I guess they finally forced him to rotate to days for a while," Jim explained. "He's a good man to work for. Just not very ambitious."
Blair looked back in the direction Thompson had disappeared, "Yeah. He's really something, all right," he agreed. "Well, I suppose we'd better do what the man said, huh? Our 'little detective thing'?"
"Yeah. I guess so. You ready, Chief?"
"As ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."
The scene itself wasn't nearly as bad as Blair had pictured it. Mrs. Bridger lay in their bed, sprawled across on top of the covers, just a bit of blood seeping out from under her body. There was a small, dark hole in her negligee, with just a trace of blood at the entrance wound. The other uniformed officers had the housekeeper and the daughter who had found the bodies in another room, quietly waiting to be interviewed. The coroner had been called, and the attendants had arrived and were waiting for the go-ahead to collect the bodies. Jim paused in the doorway, Blair peering cautiously around him at the scene.
Laying one hand on Jim's back, Blair softly spoke. "What do you see, Jim?"
"Let's do a sketch, first. Have the photographers been here yet?" He called loudly to the other uniformed officers.
"No, sir. We're still waiting for them."
"Thanks. We'll wait for them, too." Jim remained in the doorway and, with Blair's grounding influence, did a sensory scan on the room. He murmured his findings. "Single shot to the heart for the woman... you don't want to look at the man, Blair," he added, able to see from the doorway that the man's face was badly deformed from the bullet he'd taken to the head. The gun lay by his limp right hand.
"The gun's on the floor, not in his hand," he added.
"Is that unusual?" Blair asked.
"Not necessarily. But a lot of times, at the moment of death, their hands will spasm; you know the term 'death grip'?"
"Uh, yeah, but I thought that referred to hanging on for dear life."
"No. It means a death spasm that will make it nearly impossible to remove an item from the deceased's hand without breaking fingers. Happens a lot with handgun suicides. Considering the direction of the bullet, I'm a little surprised, is all."
"Maybe a clue to it being murder instead of suicide?"
Just then, the photographers arrived and Jim entered the room with them, indicating how he wanted the pictures taken, pointing out angles and items he particularly wanted documented. Blair clenched his jaw and holding on to his natural revulsion at the scene, swallowed hard once and took a look. Mr. Bridger lay supine, stretched out on the floor, his hands out somewhat from his body, perhaps from falling down; although, Blair thought he should have maybe crumpled down, instead of laying quite so spread out. He could see a small hole under the man's chin, with his features somewhat distorted by the gasses from the muzzle of the gun; and, of course, the back of his head was pretty much missing. Some of the grey matter had splattered across the bed and the dead woman. Blair found himself alternately repelled and fascinated by the scene.
Once the photographers were finished, Blair pulled out the small, spiral-bound notebook he'd taken to carrying, where he wrote down any notes or questions he might have. He carefully began his sketch of the crime scene. Jim did the same. Later, they would compare notes, but for now, each man wrote down his impressions; without picking up on the other's possible bias. Once the crime scene sketches had been completed, they started gathering evidence.
"See the powder burns and residue on his chin?" Jim asked.
Blair nodded. "That means that the muzzle was either touching or really close when the gun went off, right?"
"Uh huh. Hmmmm." Jim's brows furrowed and he squinted his eyes just a bit to take a closer look. "Interesting angle of trajectory. It's a lot lower than I would have expected."
"What's so unusual about it?" Blair asked.
"Well," Jim pulled out his own weapon and held it under his jaw, "To shoot yourself at that angle, you'd be holding the gun like this," he demonstrated, "and firing with your thumb. The normal way, is to hold it like this," again demonstrating, holding his gun normally, lifting his hands and the gun turned upside down, "See the difference in the angles? It's just a little strange."
"So, maybe murder made to look like suicide?"
"Maybe." Jim carefully touched the skin of one of the bodies, "Dead about four hours, I'd guess."
Blair just nodded his acceptance of this guess, knowing that Jim's sense of touch was nearly as accurate as a thermometer when it came to judging temperatures. They finished their preliminary investigation and went out to question the housekeeper and the daughter who had found the deceased.
"So, Mrs. Crandall, you're saying that you didn't find it unusual that they were still apparently asleep at ten-thirty in the morning?" Jim asked.
"Well, it was a little unusual, but not completely unknown. Generally, Mr. Bridger would come down about nine and have breakfast. Mrs. Bridger seldom came down before noon, so I wasn't too concerned about it." The woman had been in Mr. Bridger's employ for more than thirty years, and Jim accepted her report easily.
"Thank you. Will you be staying on here, Mrs. Crandall?"
"Yes, sir. Until everything's settled, I suppose."
"That's fine. If we think of any more questions, we'll contact you." Rising, the two detectives left the housekeeper and entered the sitting room next door. There, the deceased's daughter awaited their questions.
"Ms. Bridger, you arrived at what time?" Jim asked the younger woman. She was obviously (despite cosmetic surgery and the finest makeup money could buy) older than her stepmother.
"I got here at ten-fifteen. I simply went upstairs to talk to my father and, well, you saw how I found them." Despite her downcast eyes, there was no sign of emotion from the supposedly grieving daughter.
"What about other members of the family?" Blair asked, giving his partner time to use his senses to check the woman's veracity.
"My brother is in Canada, and my sister is off gallivanting around who knows where."
"Can you think of anyone who might want your father dead?" Jim asked, his tone carefully neutral.
"Well, honestly, it could be any of his business associates. After all, he's not the most popular man in town."
"Anything specific that you can think of? Any sign of depression? Excess stress? Anything odd or unusual in his recent behavior?" Jim asked.
Shelley Bridger laughed, "He was so infatuated with that bimbo he married that all his recent behavior was strange."
"You don't seem too upset that your father's dead, Ms. Bridger," Blair pointed out.
"I'm not. My father and I disagreed on his marriage. I thought he was being an old fool," she positively sneered when she said it.
"And now he's a dead fool," Blair said softly, his words finally eliciting a bit of surprise from the dead man's daughter.
"Who stands to inherit?" Jim asked, turning the discussion away from the unprofitable line of observation.
"Myself, my brother, and my sister."
"No business partners?" Jim asked.
"Thank you, Ms. Bridger. If we come up with any more questions, we will contact you."
"Feel free. May I go, now?" She asked, rising.
"Sure. Go ahead. Thank you for your time," Jim thoughtfully watched her as she left.
"Brrrrr," Blair mock-shivered. "Talk about a cold fish..."
"Yeah, she was pretty cool. Didn't seem to wonder whether they were murdered or if her father killed himself."
"You mean like, she already knew?"
Finished with their initial investigation, and allowing the Coroner's people to remove the bodies, the two sealed the crime scene. After warning the housekeeper that anyone tampering with the evidence of the room would be subject to arrest, they headed back to the station to begin their initial report.
They were back in the truck when they received a call over the radio of a silent alarm, robbery in progress. Jim, with his unerring skill and seeming lack of concern for other motorists, pulled a tire-screeching, frightened-motorists-honking U-turn and, flicking on his lights and siren, floored the gas pedal and headed for the broadcast address. Blair, as soon as he could get his nails out of whatever he'd been able to sink them into to hold him in place during his partner's terrifying maneuver; picked up the microphone and called in that they were on their way. Their ETA less than five minutes... providing Jim didn't get them killed first.
"I heard that, junior." Jim growled as he screeched around a corner, his right arm going out across his partner's chest to keep him in place.
"Jim, it won't do us any good if you get us killed on our way there, you know," Blair said, through gritted teeth.
Glancing over at his partner, Jim sighed and slowed down from his previous eighty miles per hour to a mere seventy-five. "There. Is that better?"
"Yes. Now, before we announce ourselves by crashing through the front of the building... slow down!" Blair shouted.
Jim did just that, driving the final three blocks to their destination at a sedate fifty miles per hour, turning off the siren for the last block and slowing down to park across from the building where the silent alarm had been set off.
There were two patrol cars already there, the officers waiting for the detective or their sergeant, whoever got there first, to tell them what to do. A well-dressed man had come out of the building and apologized, saying that a clerk had accidentally set off the silent alarm. The uniformed officers relaxed and holstered their guns, joking with the man, who then turned back into the jewelry store. Jim squinted, letting his enhanced vision take over, scoping out the place. He was about to turn away when he saw what looked suspiciously like a smear of blood on the front of one of the counters.
Crossing the street, barely noticing the traffic that had to halt to keep from hitting him, Jim joined the patrolmen and the supposed jeweler, Blair right behind him. Surreptitiously sniffing, he caught the smell of cordite and blood, and he knew. Drawing his weapon, he said, very firmly, "I think we need to check this out just a little more, sir."
The man paled and raised his hands, shaking his head. "What gave me away?" he asked.
"I can smell the cordite on you," Jim told him, motioning for one of the uniforms to cuff the man. Leading the way inside the jewelry store, they found the owner and a clerk, bleeding on the floor, both unconscious, and near death. Blair told the uniformed officers to call for an ambulance while he and Jim pulled on the latex gloves they carried in their pockets and began first aid on the two victims.
There was so much blood; yet both victims were still alive. Applying pressure to their gunshot wounds, Jim and Blair told the unconscious pair that they were police and that help was on the way. While one pair of uniformed officers read the suspect his rights, the second pair assisted the detectives in trying to keep the two victims alive long enough to get them to medical care. When the paramedics arrived, Blair had gotten the bleeding stopped on the younger man, but Jim's victim was still oozing blood around the wound despite the pressure being applied.
As soon as the paramedics took stock of the situation, both detectives gladly gave up their posts and stood by, watching them work and hoping that they had been in time to save them. They borrowed some cleaning supplies and wiped the blood from their hands. Within minutes, the EMTs had IVs in place and were preparing to transport the two victims to the nearest hospital. Once they'd been removed, Jim looked up at the now sickly looking prisoner.
"You'd better hope they both survive. We still hang people in this state." He growled. Then, he motioned the uniformed officers to take him away. Looking around the store, he found where the man had broken open the safe and had been in the process of removing a large number of diamonds when he had seen the police arrive.
"So, what do you want to do next, Jim?" Blair asked.
"Now, we secure the scene, see if there's any next of kin, and..." The shop door opened, a little bell tinkling as warning. The two men looked up and saw a middle-aged woman, who was looking worriedly around.
"Jules?" She called out, eyeing the strangers, suspiciously. "Where's Jules?" She asked, her voice rising in panic, "Who are you, what have you done to Jules? Jules!"
Both men pulled out their ID's to show her, "We're police officers, Ma'am. I'm Detective Ellison, and this is my partner, Detective Blair Sandburg. We responded to a silent alarm. We found two men, one about sixty-five years of age, and another about twenty. They'd been shot. We provided first aid and the ambulance left a few minutes ago with both of them. Who are you, Ma'am?" His voice was soft as he attempted to soothe the agitated woman.
"My name is Teresa. Teresa Shoenfeld. My husband, Jules, owns this shop. Our son helps out after school, he's in college." She looked ready to collapse. Blair went to her and gently guided her past the puddles of blood on the floor to the chair behind the counter. She looked around, tears trickling down her face. "Who would do such a thing?"
"We have the man who shot them in custody, Ms. Shoenfeld." Jim said in his gentlest tone. "Would you like me to take you to the hospital?"
She looked up at him. "That would be nice. But I need to close up the shop, first."
"Yes, ma'am. We'll help you, if you like," Blair volunteered.
As they helped her prepare the shop for closing, they asked questions about the stock, whether anything was missing or not. She wasn't positive, but she thought everything was there. Once the premises were secure (Jim had taken it upon himself to clean up the bloodstains), Jim drove Mrs. Shoenfeld to the hospital, while Blair followed in her car. They also contacted other members of the family for her, who agreed to meet them at the hospital. When they arrived, both men were in surgery to repair their wounds. Mrs. Shoenfeld had forms to fill out and, as Jim and Blair sat with her, her daughter and another family member arrived to take care of her. Giving them his card, Jim promised that the man who had done this was in custody and that they were on their way to fill out the report.
By the time they left the hospital, it was nearly two p.m. There was no mistaking Jim's stomach complaining about the late hour. Blair, taking pity on his friend, suggested, "OK. Today only, how about Wonder Burger for lunch?"
Jim's grim, clenched-jawed expression immediately lightened. "My treat," he offered, smoothly changing lanes so he could pull into the drive through lane at the Wonder Burger down the block. "What do you want?"
"The baked chicken sandwich, please, and an orange juice," Blair requested.
When the clerk asked for their order, Jim requested Blair's choices and added his own for a Mega-Wonder with large fries and a cola. Blair didn't even comment about the cholesterol, for a change. As they headed back to the station to eat and start on their reports, Jim cast a concerned glance at his partner.
"What's wrong, Chief?"
Blair brought himself out of his contemplative state and murmured, "Hmmm? What? Oh, nothing, really. I was just thinking, is all."
"That sounds dangerous," Jim quipped. "Which case is bothering you?"
"Both of them, actually. The robber, mostly, I guess. He walked in and shot those people, leaving them to bleed to death without a care. Then he had the audacity to walk out and tell the uniforms that he 'accidentally' set off the silent alarm. Man, that takes a lot of chutzpah."
"Yeah. It does," Jim agreed.
"If it weren't for you, they'd have both died, you know," Blair added, looking at his friend.
"Just doing my job, Chief. That's all."
"What tipped you off?" Blair pressed.
"I looked inside and saw the blood smears on the counter. Then I smelled the blood and the cordite on him." He shrugged, "It worked out, this time."
"Yeah, well, there are three people who are very grateful that you were there, or they would be if they knew the truth..." Blair trailed off, there was no use in beating that particular dead horse any more. Jim just gave him a concerned look and kept his peace, knowing that all he would do was make it worse if he said anything.
Back at the station, they took their lunch to the break room and sat down to eat. Since it was so late, they managed to consume their meals uninterrupted. Afterwards, they headed back to their desks and started on the paperwork, Jim working on the robbery, while Blair wrote up their notes on the possible murder/suicide.
Working diligently, they managed to complete their preliminary reports by five p.m. Then they made various calls to request information, checking with Dan Wolf on the autopsies on the Bridgers and the hospital to see how the Shoenfelds were doing. Both of the robbery victims had survived surgery and were in guarded condition, while Dan said that his preliminary report would be on Jim's desk in the morning, with a more detailed report within three days. Thanking the Medical Examiner/Coroner, Jim hung up the phone and could tell by the expression on his partner's face that the news was good from the hospital, as well.
"You two taking up lodging here?" Simon asked, pausing between their desks as he pulled on his overcoat "Go on, get out of here. It's almost six. Go home. It'll still be waiting for you in the morning."
"Sure it will," Blair agreed, "But with how many more cases on top of them?"
"Doesn't matter. Take your partner home and feed him. You know how cranky he gets when he doesn't eat regularly." Simon's tone was only half joking, knowing that the words were completely accurate.
"You don't have to tell me twice, Simon," Jim said, rising and reaching for his coat. "Let's go, Chief. We've done as much as we can today." With that the men said their good-nights and headed for home.
"Jim..." Blair began.
"No. Not tonight. No talking shop at home, please. Just this once, OK? This is recharging the batteries time. Leave it at the office, Sandburg," Jim growled.
"But I was just..."
"It'll keep until tomorrow. If you're worried about forgetting it, write it down..." Jim looked up from the Jags game he was watching, "Unless you think that somebody's going to be hurt if it waits?" He waited, watching as Blair's face contorted with his arguments and then fell.
"No. Nothing like that," he admitted, with disappointment in his voice.
Jim sighed. "Please, Blair, can't it wait until tomorrow?"
"Yeah. I guess so," Blair admitted. "But you know me. How much I like to do everything 'now'." He grinned at his friend. "It will definitely wait... Oh, man. Did you see that? That ref has to be blind to miss that. That was a blatant foul, man..." and their full attention turned to the basketball game.
The news was full of the murder-suicide, even though the determination had not yet been made. Blair stared in shock at the television, "Where do they get off calling it a murder-suicide before the investigation's even really begun? Where do they get this stuff?"
"Oh, come on, Sandburg. You know that when a prominent person dies the media needs the information 'now' and doesn't worry much about accuracy," Jim admonished, "Besides, from the cursory glance, it did look that way. We just have a few questions that we want answered, is all."
"Yeah, quite a few."
"Don't sweat it, Chief. We'll get it figured out. Anyway, I'm going to turn in. I'll see you in the morning." With that, Jim rose and checked the locks before heading up the stairs to his room.
"Good night, Jim. I guess I'll turn in, too." Blair turned off the television, then stood up, turned out the lights and made his way to his own room.
Morning found them back at their desks, trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle that was the deaths of the Bridgers. The preliminary autopsy report was waiting on Jim's desk. It was no surprise that the cause of death had been the bullet wound to the heart of Mrs. Bridger, and the bullet wound to the head for Mr. Bridger. However, the paraffin test had indicated that Mr. Bridger had not been holding the gun at any time it was fired, as the blow-back indicated that he had been holding his hands out in front of him, as though to ward off a blow. Although there was also some gunpowder residue on his right hand that could be commensurate with having fired a gun, Dan speculated that it had occurred post-mortem.
"So, we have a double murder, rather than a murder-suicide?" Blair asked.
"Yeah, but we still have to prove it. The blowback isn't enough. We need the rest of the equation."
"Motive, means, and opportunity," Blair recited from his training courses.
"Yep," Jim agreed. Casting an amused glance at his partner, "You got anyone particular in mind for this one?" he asked, even though he thought he already knew the answer.
"The daughter," Blair said, positively.
"Could be, partner, could be."
At that moment, Jim's phone rang. Scooping it up, he spoke into the receiver, "Ellison." He listened for a few moments, reaching for a pen and a notepad to write on. "OK, got it. We'll be down in a little while... Thanks." Finishing his note, he turned to his partner, "That was the hospital, they say we can question the Shoenfelds, now."
The two men rose, grabbed their jackets and headed out, letting Rhonda know where they would be and that their cell phones would be off once they reached the hospital.
The younger Mr. Shoenfeld was awake and anxious to learn about his father's condition. His memories of the previous day's events were quite lucid. "I was working the counter, polishing the glass, when the door opened and a man came in," He began.
"What did this man look like?" Blair interrupted.
"He was probably about fifty, between six foot and six-foot-two. Medium build, getting a little paunchy. Graying hair, brown eyes... uh... oh, he had a foreign accent!"
Jim and Blair exchanged pleased looks; the description matched their suspect exactly. "Any distinguishing marks, tattoos, scars?" Blair asked.
"Well, he smiled the entire time, even after he shot me and turned to shoot my dad," He looked concerned, "They won't tell me how he's doing. Could you find out for me?"
"He's doing well enough that they're going to let us talk to him," Jim reassured the young man. "I don't know any more than that, though."
"Well, at least he's still alive," the young man replied.
"So the man came into the shop while you were cleaning the glass counters. What happened then?" Jim gently encouraged.
"He looked around for a few seconds, long enough for me to finish up the case I was working on and call my dad out from the back. He came out and the man smiled at us and said he was looking for something special in diamonds. Dad said he had an excellent selection of stones and did custom work all the time. Dad turned to pull a tray from the little vault and the man pulled a gun. I yelled, and he shot me. I tried to stay up, but I fell against the counter. Dad turned around, and he shot him, too. I managed to hit the silent alarm as I slid down the side of the case. I couldn't tell if Dad was dead or alive, but I heard the guy humming as he came around the counter and started pulling out all the loose stones from the safe. Then I passed out. The next thing I remember is waking up here." He heaved a careful sigh, his speech wearing him out.
"Thank you, Mr. Shoenfeld. You've been a great deal of help. Do you think you could recognize the man if you saw him again?" Jim asked gently.
"In a second." There was defiant determination in the young man's voice, which reflected from his expression, as well. "I'll never forget that bastard. I bet I could pick him out just by his voice," He declared.
"Thank you. I'll see about bringing back some pictures for you to pick him out from, if you don't mind," Jim assured him, scribbling down some notes. "I can see you're getting tired, so we'll go ahead and leave you now. We'll try to stop by after we see your father and let you know how he's doing," Jim promised.
"Thank you. I'd appreciate it."
With that the two police officers turned and left the room. Waiting until they were outside and the door had closed, Blair then asked, "His description was dead on, Jim. Do you think we have enough?"
"Yeah. Now if he can pick him out of a photo lineup, we'll be home free," Jim agreed, "Let's go see his father. If his statement agrees, we can get this one sewn up and off to the DA." Smiling, the two men headed for the second victim of the previous day's robbery.
The elder Mr. Shoenfeld was in much worse condition than his son, but looked to make a full recovery, given time. The older man's description matched his son's, but he put the man's age somewhat younger. Both were reasonably close enough to be considered a match. When they finished, they stopped back by the younger victim's room to inform him how his father was doing. Then, they returned to the station to fill out more of their reports and to gather enough pictures to have a photo lineup that would preclude anything the defense might try to throw at them.
"I don't get it, Jim. I mean, we practically caught the guy red handed, but we still need the victims' identification of the perp. It's nuts, man," Blair complained as they drove back to the station.
"It's how we make a case stick, though, Chief. No one else actually saw him shoot the victims. Sure, we found him on the scene and subsequent tests indicated that he had, indeed, fired a gun, but proving that it was the gun that fired the shots is a little harder. He was wearing gloves, don't forget, so there wouldn't have been any fingerprints at the scene."
"Yeah, I know. And fingerprints aren't usually much help, since most of them are smeared and illegible. I know. I think I remember most of what they taught at the academy. It just seems so, so..."
"Frustrating?" Jim finished for him, "Yeah, it is. But the courts have made it damned hard for us to prove that someone committed a crime, unless we literally catch him in the act, and even then, they don't always convict. Try to think of it as finding all the pieces to a puzzle. We put most of it together, then the DA tries to show it to the jury and convince them that all the pieces are there. It's pretty convoluted, but that's what we have to contend with. If we're really lucky, the perp will plead guilty, since both victims can ID him. That's a plus, that they survived."
"Yeah. Just a few minutes later and we'd have lost one or both of them. Scary, man," Blair shuddered at the thought of how close it had been.
"Yeah. You never know, though. We just got lucky, this time," Jim agreed.
"Yeah. Lucky," Blair's tone of voice showed his skepticism. "When are you going to realize that your abilities aren't simply 'luck'?"
Jim sighed, "Sandburg, it was lucky that we were close by, that we decided to take the call, that I looked beyond the guy in the suit who told the uniforms that he accidentally hit the silent alarm. It was luck that there was a blood smear on the counter, and it was luck that I pushed it. I used my senses to check things out, but if we hadn't been there and if..."
"If you weren't paranoid to not believe everything you're told... Yeah, you're right. It was partly luck, but a lot of it goes to your Sentinel senses, man."
"I agree, Chief. I've pretty much come to accept them. In fact, I use them a lot. Automatically." Jim waited for the explosion he expected. He'd never admitted that he had such control of his senses or that he used them automatically, before.
Blair stared at his partner, his eyes narrowing, "You've never mentioned that you automatically used your senses, before, Jim. How long has this been going on?" There was an edge to his voice that caused Jim to wince, just a bit.
"Well, at first, it was only once in a while, when I needed to see something far away, for example. It would just happen. Over the past year or so, it just seems to have gotten a little easier, and it happens more often..." he looked away, a faint flush creeping up his face, "And lately, it happens a lot."
"How recent is 'lately', Jim?" Blair asked, a combination of annoyance and excitement in his tone.
"Um..eversinceyou'vebeenmyofficialpartner," he mumbled quickly.
"What?" Blair asked, shocked.
"Ever since you've been my official partner. It just happens. It works." Jim's blush deepened and he had to force himself to meet his friend's eyes.
"Like it was meant to be," Blair softly declared, a touch of awe in his voice. "Oh, man. This is like, so cool!" And suddenly, the bounce that had been mostly absent in the past year was back. "This is great, man." Blair gently punched Jim's arm. "Why didn't you tell me?" His eyes sparkled as he hadn't seen in some time, and Jim couldn't help smiling.
"I wasn't sure how you'd take it."
"How I'd take it? Oh, man. Don't you get it yet? It doesn't matter about the diss. Not really. I've told you that, more than once, man. This is great! I mean, you're finally getting it all together, Jim."
"But I wouldn't have, not without you, Chief," Jim's soft, self-deprecating tone stopped Blair's enthusiasm for a moment.
"We're partners, right, Jim?"
Jim looked over at his best friend. "Always," was his simple, heartfelt reply.
Blair's response was cut off by the radio blaring to life to announce a major accident just a couple of blocks away from their current location. As Blair picked up the microphone and responded to Dispatch that they were on their way to assist, Jim changed lanes to make the turn to get them on scene.
Approaching the intersection, Jim abruptly slammed on his brakes and pulled to the side of the road. Blair looked askance at him as he peeled himself back from the dashboard. "What was that for?" he asked.
"Gasoline. A lot of it. Let dispatch know that we need a HAZMAT team and the fire department."
"I'm on it," Blair replied, picking up the microphone and calling Dispatch. When finished, he climbed out of the truck to join his partner as he cautiously approached the intersection.
From first appearance, the scene didn't really look all that bad. A semi, hauling fuel, had been making a left-hand turn when it was hit broadside by a city bus. The impact had ruptured one of the tanks and fuel had spilled, covering the intersection and draining down the storm drain. The passengers on the bus had escaped through the rear doors, since the front door was embedded in the side of the tanker. They retreated to the sidewalk, the injured being assisted by their uninjured companions. The bus driver had been pulled out and was laying on the sidewalk, with one woman passenger performing CPR on him. Their biggest concern, at the moment, was to ensure that no sparks accidentally ignited the spilled fuel. Fortunately, the traffic had halted immediately, and no one was trying to get through the intersection by maneuvering around the crashed vehicles. As they crossed to the passengers, several patrol cars pulled up and prepared to direct traffic, first by closing off the next nearest intersections, then by directing the vehicles near the accident to turn around and go back and work their way around the snarl-up. As the uninvolved motorists were cleared from the area, it allowed the rest of the emergency vehicles to gain access to the accident. In the meantime, Jim and Blair made their way through the spilled fuel and moved to assist the injured.
"Jim, check out the bus driver, see what you can sense," Blair whispered to his partner, who merely nodded and crouched down next to the woman performing CPR. Listening carefully, he realized that the man was having a heart attack and that what he really needed was the paramedics with a defibrillator, which could, conceivably cause just enough of a spark to ignite the fumes from the surrounding fuel spill. As the woman tired, Jim took over performing CPR, telling his partner to check on the rest of the injured and if no one was in immediate need, to go wait for the paramedics and let them know that they had a heart attack victim who would need to be moved before they would be able to safely work on him.
When the paramedics finally arrived, nearly thirty minutes after the accident, Blair was waiting for them and directed them to bring the gurney to move the bus driver to a safer location to work on... like the ambulance. Considering the severity of the danger, they readily agreed. The paramedics inserted a breathing tube and took over the job of forcing air into the man's lungs, while Jim continued compressions, even as they moved him to the gurney and transported him out of the danger area. Meanwhile, Blair helped guide the rest of the bus' passengers away from the spilled fuel.
As Jim and Blair helped with the victims, the fire department arrived and began spraying fire retardant on the spilled fuel and the HAZMAT crew began the onerous task of cleaning up the mess. Fortunately, there was a system in place that could seal off sections of the storm drain system, permitting the city to control the flow of the system, just in case of an incident such as this.
"Hey, Ellison!" a gravelly, yet almost shrill voice called out as Jim finally gave up his position performing CPR. Looking toward the voice, he spotted a uniformed sergeant and raised a hand in greeting.
"Who's that, Jim?" Blair asked curiously.
"Tanner, Traffic Investigations," Jim replied as they waited for the man to get to them.
"What brings you into my bailiwick, Jim?" the rather raspy-voiced man asked, looking up at Jim, not even deigning to notice Blair's presence.
"We were in the neighborhood, Tanner. Have you met my partner? Blair Sandburg. Blair, this is Sergeant Alfred Tanner; he's the head of Traffic Investigations and the stuckee of the day, it would appear." He smiled; watching closely as the irascible older man finally took notice of Blair.
Blair stared, the sergeant was probably even shorter than he was, mid-fifties, with dark curly hair that was going gray and a lined face that probably smiled as much as it scowled. It was rather neutral at the moment as he looked him up and down.
"Partner? You got another partner? I thought you worked alone?" The sergeant's face showed no emotion as he turned to ignore Blair and refocused on Jim.
"Nah. Sandburg's a great partner. He's one of the best," Jim insisted. Tanner had the grace to look surprised and give Blair a second look.
"Really? So, Sandburg; what's your take on the accident, hmmm?" Tanner pulled a partially smoked stogie from his shirt pocket and stuck it in his mouth, his body language and expression challenging the younger man.
With an uncertain glance at his partner, he took a deep breath and answered the question. "Well, it looks like the truck was making a left-hand turn when the bus broadsided him. From what I could observe and from what the passengers were saying, the bus driver may have suffered a heart attack and lost control. There are no skid marks, so he never hit the brakes. The bus probably wasn't going very fast, though, since the tanker wasn't moved sideways," Blair began.
"How do you know that?" Tanner interrupted him.
"There would be marks from the tires if they were pushed sideways, also, the second trailer wouldn't have still been in the position it was, in the middle of a turn, the juncture of the trailers would have been more jack-knifed," Blair explained.
Tanner took the cigar from his mouth and spit a shred of tobacco out. Glancing briefly at Blair, he smirked at Jim. "The kid's pretty good. Where'd you find him?" He tried to be nonchalant, but Jim wasn't buying it.
"He's my partner, Tanner. You can't have him."
"Oh, come on, Jim; you can't tell me you actually want a partner? I remember you from your days in Vice. You're the loner-est of loners, pal. Besides, why would you want to be stuck with a baby rookie?" There was a sneer in his voice.
Jim just grinned. Seeing Blair's worried look, he winked at him. "Alfred, Blair and I are partners. We like each other. We work well together. He's the best cop I've ever known, and I can trust him to back me up. He's quick and smart and makes me laugh. I'm not about to give him up. Certainly not to you."
Tanner sighed. "Figures. Finally some rookie comes out of the academy with a few smarts and they give him to an old lone wolf like you. I can't win."
Jim laughed, "Sorry, Alf. Like I said, I'm keeping him." Seeing Blair's still confused expression, he continued, "So, his take on the accident matches what you think happened?"
"Yeah. Dead on." He shook his head, "Damned shame, too. I really could use a few good people. Most of them wouldn't have gotten the lack of speed on the bus thing. Good call, kid." Taking his now well-chewed cigar out of his mouth, he put it back in his shirt pocket. Turning away, he added, "If you ever change your mind, let me know, kid. I'll see you around, Jim."
"See you, Alf," Jim replied, to which the retreating figure casually waved a hand back at them.
"Jim? What was that all about?" Blair asked as they turned to make their way back to Jim's truck to continue their way back to the station.
"I worked with him in Vice for a while. He's a good cop. Competent. Lousy bedside manner, but he gets the job done. That was quite a compliment he paid you, by the way."
"Really? How could you tell?"
"He didn't call you 'Shit-for-Brains'." With a gentle shove, Jim piloted his partner back to the truck, just smiling when the younger man spluttered, trying to decide on a comeback.
"Gee, what a compliment," he finally managed.
"It is, from him. Come on, it's handled, here. Let's get back to the station and try and catch up on the rest of the workload, OK?"
"Fine by me."
When they returned to the station, they headed directly for Simon's office, only to be waylaid by their colleagues.
"Oh, man, what'd you two do, bathe in unleaded?" Henry Brown asked, holding his nose. Jim and Blair stopped and exchanged glances.
"Oh, come on, H. It's not that bad," Blair replied.
"You just can't smell yourselves, guys." Megan Connor added, as she waved a hand in front of her face. "If it's just on your shoes, why don't you try washing them off?"
Exchanging looks, Jim and Blair turned around and headed back out the door. Taking the elevator down to the basement, they headed for their lockers, where they pulled out their running shoes and fresh socks. Laughing over their friends' reactions, they changed their footwear and put their gasoline-tainted shoes and socks in plastic grocery bags, before putting them away and heading back up to Major Crime.
"Much better," Megan murmured, with a smirk, when they returned.
Shrugging, the pair made their way back toward the captain's office. Knocking, they opened the door when bid to enter. Simon Banks looked up from the paperwork spread across his desk. Seeing who his visitors were, he settled back in his chair and waited for them to settle themselves in the visitor's chairs.
"So, is this about the Bridgers or the Shoenfeld robbery?" he asked.
"We need to put together a photo lineup for the Shoenfelds, but they both gave the same description and indicated that they would recognize him if they ever saw him again. The son even remembered that he had a foreign accent," Jim informed their captain.
"Good," Simon approved, nodding. "What about the Bridger thing?"
Casting a quick glance at his partner, Blair explained their concept, "We think it was a double murder. The blow-back residue and patterns don't match what would be normal if he had shot her and then himself."
Jim joined in, "The blow back appears to indicate that his hands were up in a defensive position, as though trying to ward off a blow or perhaps trying to push someone away. Also, the angle of trajectory indicates that for it to have been self inflicted, he would have had to fire the gun with his thumb, plus the way the body landed is a little odd."
Simon nodded, "Dan Wolf called me, he feels the same way. The trajectory angle is all wrong for a self-inflicted wound; and you're right about how the body landed. What do you want to do now?"
"Well," Blair began, with a quick, uncertain look at his partner, "I have a feeling that we need to go back to the Bridger's house. I think that someone tried to make it look like suicide and that we'll find a third bullet in a wall, somewhere. Remember Dan's initial report? It indicated that he may have fired the gun, but that he thought it might have been after he was dead? If we find the bullet, it will go a ways toward proving it, don't you think?"
Simon looked at his men, "Who do you like for a suspect?" he asked.
"Well, there's the daughter, but the housekeeper could be just as possible," Jim admitted. "The daughter disliked the step-mother, and showed no remorse over her father's death. The brother and sister are out of town... we haven't been able to contact them, yet. The housekeeper has been with the family for thirty years, but there's no real reason to suspect her," Jim rambled through the possibilities.
"You know," Blair mused, drawing the attention of the other two men, "What if the housekeeper was in love with her employer?" he lifted his gaze to his companions. Seeing their expressions, he asked, "What?"
"Good call, Chief," Jim said. "She certainly had the best means and opportunity."
Simon nodded his concurrence. "Well, gentlemen, it sounds like you have your work cut out for you. Do you think you'll need any backup?"
"No. There's no reason for her to think that we may suspect her, Sir. I think we'll head out to the Bridger house and take another look at the scene," Jim said, standing, with Blair quickly rising to follow his partner.
"Well, be careful. Keep me informed."
"Yes, Sir," Jim replied, opening and holding the door for his partner to precede him.
Arriving at the Bridger house, the detectives took in their surroundings as they sauntered up the walk to the front door. "These houses are pretty close together; I wonder if any of the neighbors heard anything?" Blair mused aloud.
Jim grinned, "We can go around and ask," his brow furrowed, "Did Dan say anything about what the time of death was?"
"Uh... I think the report said something about between five and seven o'clock," Blair replied.
"OK. Let's get going with this." Jim stepped up and pressed the button for the doorbell. It took a few minutes, and he almost pressed it again, when he heard footsteps approaching. Mrs. Crandall opened the door and seemed unsurprised to see them.
"You're back," she said, with no inflection in her voice, opening the door wider to admit them.
"Yes. We need to look over the scene again since a few more questions have come up," Jim explained.
"Of course," she agreed, leading the way upstairs to the master bedroom, "Will you be needing me?"
"Not at the moment, no. If we do need anything, we'll call you."
"All right. I'll be down in my room, cleaning," she replied, then turned to go back down the stairs.
When she was gone, Blair softly murmured, "She's been crying."
"Means nothing, Chief. She worked for the man for thirty years. I'd be more surprised if she wasn't showing some kind of emotion."
Stepping into the middle of the room, Blair took his place behind his partner. Placing a grounding hand in the middle of Jim's back, he began the litany that would help focus his friend's senses for their search.
"OK, Jim. Let's start with your eyes. Relax and let your eyes focus on finding the hole. It might be in the wall, or the ceiling, or the floor. Maybe it's in a piece of furniture. Just let your gaze roam around and try and find it." Blair's voice was soft and low, as it always was when he guided his partner through the use of his senses.
Jim shook his head. "I don't see anything, Sandburg. What's next?" Jim turned to ask.
"Well..." Blair's gaze moved to the blood-soaked bed. Swallowing hard, he suggested, "Maybe we have to do this the hard way. Let's check the bed. You probably couldn't see anything through the mess," so saying, he moved toward the bed and gingerly pulled at the dried, blood-soaked bedding, stripping the bed, where the second hole in the side of the mattress immediately became apparent.
"Like you thought, Chief," Jim said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "Good call."
"Yeah. Now, how do we prove who did it? It's probably too late to run a paraffin test, do you think?"
"Not necessarily. It's usually good for two or three days. Why don't we ask Mrs. Crandall to come downtown and submit to the test?"
"OK by me. Do you want to test the daughter, too?"
"Not just yet. I've got a feeling that we won't have to press very much on this one," Jim replied.
"OK, I'll call for a unit."
They found her in the dining room. Mrs. Crandall, when confronted with their request seemed to sort of sag. "You won't have to do that. I'll confess," she softly spoke. Jim and Blair exchanged a concerned glance, there was something wrong here.
"Who are you trying to protect, Mrs. Crandall?" Blair asked, suddenly knowing that the woman hadn't killed her employer.
"What?" she lifted her eyes and looked frantically from one detective to the other.
Jim, catching the same signals that Blair had, gently took the woman's hand and repeated his partner's words, "Who are you trying to protect?" His tone was gentle, but insistent
Mrs. Crandall crumpled. Jim caught her as she collapsed and Blair quickly grabbed a chair and pulled it over for her to sit down. Before they had a chance to question her further, the doorbell rang. Blair, casting a quick look at his partner, left to answer the door.
"Oh, hi. Roberts, isn't it?" He looked up at the slender blond.
"Yeah. Sandburg, right? You guys called for transport?
"Come on in. I think we may have just solved this one." Turning, he led the way back to the kitchen, where Jim and Mrs. Crandall were waiting for them.
With the uniformed officer as an extra witness, they gently questioned Mrs. Crandall. Pulling up a chair, Jim sat facing her, Blair standing at his shoulder and Roberts standing quietly by the door.
"Mrs. Crandall, why don't you tell us what happened?"
Heaving a big sigh, she looked up at the police officers. "Twenty years ago, I had Wendell's son. Since he was married at the time, he paid me extra to keep quiet about it. When Joey found out, he wanted money from his father. He... he started blackmailing him. All the time he was growing up, Wendell made sure that Joey didn't want for anything. Good schools, nice clothes, everything but his father's name. He never seemed to miss it, until he was in college. The past few years, he just seemed to get in with the wrong crowd and I couldn't seem to get him straightened out. He just... changed so much. When he found out that Wendell was his father, he got angry and started to make threats to him. Last week, Wendell told me that Monica was pregnant. He was going to cut Joey off and change his will, leaving everything to Monica and her baby... Joey was mad. He... he talked to Shelley and..." she broke down in tears.
"Did Ms. Bridger's brother or sister know anything about it?" Jim pressed, gently.
"I-I don't know." They were so caught up with Mrs. Crandall's confession that none of them noticed the entrance of Joey and Shelley. Joey grabbed Officer Roberts by the neck, pulling him back, his gun square against the uniformed man's spine.
"One wrong move and I'll blow him in two!" Joey yelled. Shelley glared at her accomplice.
"You watch too much TV, bro," she growled, leveling her own gun at the startled detectives.
Blair was standing behind his partner, mostly covered from the two murderers' view. He cautiously reached across his body with his right hand to pull his revolver. Jim stood, covering his partner even more.
"You might as well give it up. We've already made our report. Our captain knows where we are, and if we don't show up or call soon, they'll come looking for us." Jim's voice was remarkably calm and confident.
"Shut up!" Joey yelled, nearly hysterical. "You just keep quiet." He turned to his half-sister, obviously the brains of the outfit, "So, smarty, now what? They know he didn't kill himself. I told you they'd figure it out, but you said..."
"Oh, shut up, Joey. You are such a wimp. Grow up. I've got enough from 'Daddy's' vault to get us out of the country and set up very nicely. Although, come to think of it, why should I share anything with you?" and with that, she turned her gun on her brother and shot him in the head.
Doug Roberts had been praying for a miracle, and he got one. As Joey's grip released him, he spun around and pulled his gun, aiming it at Shelley. At the same time, Blair, who had already pulled his own gun, pushed his partner out of his way and shouted, "Freeze!"
Shelley turned to look at the rookie, her face crinkling up in amusement as she turned her gun toward him, Doug Roberts didn't hesitate, firing his gun nearly point-blank, striking her in the elbow of the arm holding the gun. She screamed and dropped her gun, looking down in horror at what was left of her arm. The forty-five-caliber slug had shattered her elbow, and only the shredded muscles of her biceps and triceps were holding her lower arm to her upper arm.
Jim moved quickly past his partner, who was standing and staring at the damage to Shelley Bridger's arm. Jim kicked her gun toward his partner and moved in, pulling his belt from his pants and making a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from her shattered arm. Pulling it tightly, he glanced around. Blair, obviously in shock from what happened, was pale and breathing hard. Roberts, splattered with the brains and blood of Joey Crandall, was just as horrified... obviously he'd never had to shoot anyone before. Mrs. Crandall was sobbing and cradling her son's body.
"Blair," Jim called softly and was rewarded with his partner's eyes meeting his own. "Call for paramedics and an ambulance, then call Simon and tell him what happened."
Blair nodded, blinking and turning his attention to the still horrified Officer Roberts. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he quickly made the calls, then, with a momentary glance at the bereaved Mrs. Crandall, he turned his attention to Officer Roberts.
"Doug?" his voice was soft and low pitched, the same voice he used to soothe his agitated Sentinel. "Doug, put your gun away, now. It's over, man. You did good, OK? You saved us. Now it's time to put the gun away."
The taller man turned his gaze from the blood dripping from the woman's ruined arm and slowly blinked as he focused on the smaller man. Taking a deep, albeit shaky, breath; he holstered his gun. His face was paler than his blond hair and he stood shaking his head.
Blair gently took him by the arm and drew him in, then pushed him down on a chair. "I'll be just a minute, try taking slow, deep breaths, OK? I'll be right back," he said gently. Turning away, he gathered the guns that Shelley Bridger and Joey Crandall had used. Setting them out of the way on the table, he glanced quickly at his partner, who was doing his thing, keeping their perp alive, then turned back to his concern, Officer Roberts.
"It's OK, man. You didn't have any choice," Blair murmured soothingly.
Doug shook his head. "I've been a cop for twelve years, and that's the first time I ever had to pull my gun, and the first time I ever fired it except on the firing range. And at that, I missed my target. I was two friggin' feet away from her and I missed!" He shook his head in shock.
"What do you mean, you missed?" Blair asked, confused. Doug raised his haunted blue-gray eyes to meet his darker blue.
"I was aiming for her chest and I missed. From two friggin' feet away, I missed."
"You stopped her, that's what matters, man," Blair said, consolingly. "You saved all our lives, today. Thanks, man."
Doug Roberts just sat there and shook his head in shock that he had missed a shot from only two feet away.
Simon approached the Bridger house, ducking under the yellow 'caution-police line-do not cross' tape, nodding to the uniformed officers, some of whom were working crowd control, others who were simply standing around and talking. He glanced toward the coroner's wagon, where they had just placed the body bag containing one of their suspects. He stopped just inside the front door, where Sergeant Thompson was talking to one of his men Seeing Simon, he slapped the younger officer on the shoulder and turned to the much taller captain.
"Hey, Simon. What brings you down here?"
"I got the word that IA's on their way and wanted to get here first." He looked towards the dining room, where it was obvious that most of the action was taking place. "So, what happened?"
"Your two men were talkin' to the housekeeper, she was confessin' when her son, who turns out to be old Bridger's bastard, by the way," he shifted his stogie to the other side of his mouth, "Doug Roberts was here to take her in for 'em. Joey and Shelley Bridger come in and get the drop on 'em. Grabbed Doug in a choke hold and shoved a gun in his back. Then, Shelley gets greedy and shoots Joey in the head. Your man Sandburg had his gun out and told her to freeze, she turned toward him and Roberts shot her." He squinted up at the captain, "Dougie's pretty upset. He's never had to pull his gun before. He's pretty shook up."
"What about Sandburg and Ellison?" Simon managed to hide his surprise that Jim hadn't been in the thick of things.
"Well, Ellison was sittin' down, talking to the housekeeper. Sandburg was behind him. When Joey and Shelley came in, Jim stood up and covered for Sandburg, givin' him a chance to pull his gun. When Shelley shot Joey, his mom ran to him, Sandburg shoved Jim out of the way, and drew Shelley's attention. Roberts realized she was gonna shoot your boys and did what he had to." He gazed off into the distance, waiting for Simon's reaction.
"Roberts didn't kill Ms. Bridger?"
"Nah. He says he missed and shot her in the elbow," he paused, glancing up at his old friend. "Simon, he shattered her elbow, she'll probably lose her arm, if not, she'll never be able to bend it again, unless they can make her a new one, like they do hips and such. On top of that, she's goin' to go down for killin' her father and Joey. I don't think they're gonna bother tryin' for an insanity plea. It was all just greed, pure an' simple."
"Thanks, Wiley, I'd better go talk to my men. They get Ms. Bridger to the hospital?"
"Yeah, ambulance left twenty minutes ago. Too soon to hear anything, ya know?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Wiley."
"You're welcome, Simon."
Doug Roberts was still sitting at the kitchen table. Blair was sitting with him, while Jim had carefully cleaned the gore from the patrolman's back. Catching his captain's eye, he nodded slightly and stepped back, making room for his superior.
"How are you holding up, Roberts?" Simon asked, gently.
The still pale patrolman looked up, "I'm OK, Sir. No real damage."
Simon nodded. Looking at his newest detective, he asked, "You OK, Sandburg?"
"I'm fine, Sir. Just a little surprised, is all." He shook his head in confused wonder, "She killed her father for money, Simon. I just don't understand."
"It's not the first time," Simon warned, "And it certainly won't be the last." Turning to Jim, he continued, "So, what was with the housekeeper?"
"She was just trying to cover for her son. When she realized that we'd figured it out, she started to tell us everything. I'm sorry, Sir. I got distracted and stopped paying attention. That's why Bridger and Crandall got the drop on us," he shook his head. "I should have suspected..."
"Don't second guess yourself, detective," Captain Banks growled, "You're not, despite all claims to the contrary, Superman. I don't expect you to be. The important thing, is that none of you were injured and the case is solved," he glanced at the still badly shaken Roberts, "IA's already on their way. Give them your statements and that should be the end of it. I'm sure that Thompson will take care of Roberts."
"Yes, Sir," Jim replied.
The paperwork nightmare that resulted from an officer having to discharge his firearm was horrendous. Unfortunately, even though neither of them had fired their weapons, Blair had drawn his and they were both present when Officer Roberts had fired his weapon, therefore, each man, had to fill out his own, separate paperwork, without comparing thoughts or observances. As annoying as that was, it provided a quick resolution to the issue of the shooting. Officer Douglas Roberts had justifiably fired his firearm. It didn't help his feelings of inadequacy over his aim, but did exonerate him from disciplinary action.
"Yeah?" Jim looked up, recognizing the confused tone in his partner's voice.
"What about him?"
Blair lifted his eyes to meet those of his partner, "He said he missed. How can you miss from two feet away man?"
"It's easy. He fired in a panic, seeing her moving her gun to shoot you, he raised his gun and fired too soon, before he'd actually moved his gun to the right position. Happens all the time."
"You're joking," Blair declared, laughing self-consciously at the perceived joke.
"Nope. It really does happen all the time. There have been a lot of cases where a cop has drawn his gun in a panic and fired off his entire clip and still not hit his target, from a distance of less than ten feet. It happens a lot more than people realize. The important thing is, he still managed to stop her, despite his panic. He's a good man. He did what he had to do."
"Do you think I will ever have to do that?"
Jim stopped his typing and turned to his friend. "I hope you never have to, but I can't promise anything. You know how the job is, nothing is ever certain. We were lucky today, and you didn't have to find out. You did the right thing, telling her to freeze, Roberts did the right thing by firing first. You caused the distraction and he stopped the suspect. End of report."
"No. I was in an awkward position. I got lax and was leaning back in my chair, my gun out of reach. When they came in and grabbed Roberts, I was mentally kicking myself for not hearing them coming. They caught me totally off-guard. I'm sorry, Chief, I really blew it this time."
"Hey, like Simon said, you're not Superman. You can't be 'on' every single second of the day, Jim. Don't rake yourself over the coals on it, OK? You had an off moment and they got the drop on us. Then, Shelley's greed got the better of her and she killed her partner, who was the really crazy one. I'm just glad that his gun didn't go off when she killed him."
"Do you hear yourself, Chief? Talking so non-chalantly about someone's murder? She took him out without a single, solitary blink of her eyes. Like you or I'd swat a mosquito. Less than that, even."
"Jim, I can tell you right now, that I'm going to be having at least a few nightmares over this one. Not so much the callousness of the perps, just from the gore, you know?" He couldn't withhold the shudder from the vision of Joey's brains and blood being splattered over Doug Roberts' back and head, the horror of the entire situation turned his stomach. He was certain that once Roberts realized what it was that Jim had cleaned off of him... No. Don't go there. It would only make it worse.
"Yeah. That's why Simon's made you an appointment with the department shrink." To forestall the protest he could see his partner starting to formulate, he continued, "Me, too. I've got an appointment as well, so don't sweat it."
"Oh. OK." Put that way, he really couldn't complain. He was actually rather grateful that he hadn't been the one splattered with Joey Crandall's blood and brains. He shuddered again at the thought.
"With any luck, he'll never even realize what it was that I wiped off of him," Jim murmured, seemingly reading his partner's mind.
"I hope you're right," Blair muttered, shuddering.
The Captain's door opened at that moment and he stepped out, glancing around the nearly empty bullpen. Walking over, he came to a stop between the desks of Jim and Blair. "Sorry, guys. I know you're not finished with the paperwork on the Bridger case, but I've got another one for you. Body just washed up on the beach just north of downtown..."
"Castle Beach?" Jim asked, looking up at his captain.
"Yeah. It's inside the breakwater. So there's no telling where it came from."
With a glance at each other, the two detectives rose and reached for their jackets. "On our way, Sir," Jim said, turning toward the door and laying a guiding hand on his partner's shoulder. Shaking his head, knowing how tired the two men were, Simon returned to his office.
The body had been in the water for quite a long time. Dan Wolf had already done his cursory examination by the time Jim and Blair arrived on-scene. He rose to greet them as they approached.
"What do you have, Dan?" Jim asked.
"I think it may be that missing fisherman from last month. He's certainly been down long enough. I'm not going to make any guesstimates until I've done the autopsy, but it looks like it might have been accidental."
Jim nodded, "That would make it nice for us," he agreed. "The missing fisherman was up on the river, right? He and his friends had been drinking while they were fishing and he disappeared, right?"
Blair, careful not to look too closely at the dead man, looked up, "Yeah. I remember that report. They thought he might have slipped on a rock and gone downstream in the rapids. The DART folks searched for him, but figured he was either caught underwater in some rapids, or else that he washed out to sea. I guess he snagged somewhere and just finally worked his way downstream. With any luck, this is him and we won't have much of a report, right?" He looked hopefully up at his companions, who grinned at him.
"You got it," Jim replied.
Dan chuckled, "You're training him right, I can tell. With any luck, the autopsy will open and close this case with no work on your parts." He motioned for the attendants to come to remove the remains, "I'll get on it in the next couple of days and have the report on your desk as soon as I can. Take it easy, guys."
"Thanks, Dan," Jim called after the retreating form. Turning back to his partner, he asked, "So, you think you're ready to look around and see what we can see?"
"Uh, can we wait until they finish removing the, uh, remains?" Blair asked, hopefully. Jim smiled and nodded.
"Sure. Let's check the tide-line." He led the way down-shore to look at the debris that had washed up with the body. Blair spotted a broken piece of a fishing pole and bent down to pick it up. Jim nodded and added several more pieces of the rod as they perused the flotsam that had washed ashore along with the body. By the time they worked their way back to where the body had been, they had also found a shoe and a decrepit old fishing hat that could have belonged to the missing fisherman.
Filling out their preliminary report upon returning to the station, Jim looked up as Megan stopped by their desks. "I ran the photo lineup for the Schoenfelds. Not a moment's hesitation, they picked your perp out in a heartbeat. Here's the paperwork," she said, offering the forms to Blair, "If you're through with the rest of your reports on this, I'd be glad to turn it in to the captain for you and even run it down to the DA's, if you like."
"Slow day, Connor?" Jim asked, digging through the pile of reports on his desk and, finding the one he needed, quickly checked it over. Once he'd signed it, he handed it to her, smiling his thanks.
"Yeah, a bit. How about you guys?" She smiled at Blair as she accepted his report as well.
"Busy," Blair grimaced, frowning.
"Luck of the draw, Sandburg," Jim reminded him.
"I'll tell you that I'd be happy to have a little action. Maybe tag along with you on your next call?" Megan offered, her tone hopeful.
"We'll see," Jim replied noncommittally.
With a final smile at the two men, Megan took the reports to the captain's door, knocked, and when so bid, entered to turn in the completed forms.
The day had kept them so busy, not to mention nauseated by what they had seen, that Jim and Blair had missed lunch. By the time they finally got to head home, they were too tired to want to cook, so Blair talked his partner into stopping at a local restaurant for dinner. Despite their hunger, they ate lightly, the appearance of the food bringing back memories of the sights they had seen that day. Most of their meal ended up in take-out containers to be consumed later.
Exhausted both mentally and physically, they dragged themselves into the loft and with nothing more than cursory words to each other, headed for their respective beds.
In the morning they were once again at their desks when the Captain called them to his office. Despite their early-to-bed routine of the night before, neither man had slept particularly well. They heaved matching sighs as they dragged themselves to Simon's office. Once inside and seated, Simon looked closely at the weary pair.
"Not sleeping well?" he asked, concerned.
"We slept," Jim replied, perhaps a bit colder than he intended. Blair merely stared at their superior.
Simon scowled, "What time are your appointments?"
"Not until Monday, Sir," Jim replied for them both. Glancing at his partner, he added, "It's not too bad, Simon. We're handling it." Blair nodded his agreement.
"All right. If you need to see the shrink sooner, let me know and I'll push it." Simon glared at the two men, who smiled their acceptance of his concern, "Anyway, the DA wants to talk to you both on the Shoenfeld robbery and the Bridger murders. From your reports, they look good. What did you get on yesterday's floater?" Simon pulled a cigar from his case and was gently rolling it between his fingers and sniffing it.
"We're waiting for the results of the autopsy and whatever Dan can get from the corpse," Jim said. "From what we found in the flotsam along the tide-line, it looks like it could be that missing fisherman from last month, but we won't know for certain until we can get an ID on the body."
Simon nodded. "Well, get on over to the DA's and check back with me when you get back. What else are you working on right now?"
"We're still waiting for the FBI to get back to us on that stolen car ring and the reports from forensics on the art forgery. Other than that and the floater, we're clear," Jim announced.
Simon looked down at his blotter and the several notes he'd made to himself. Nodding, he looked back at the pair before him. "Good. Keep me apprised of whatever you get. With any luck, I won't have to assign you anything else for a few days. I realize it's only Wednesday, but you've already done more than a week's worth of work. Go see the DA and take a long lunch, afterwards. I'll see you both later." With those words of dismissal, Jim and Blair stood and left their friend and captain to his paperwork.
It was never easy, the DA's office usually insisted that the cops be at their beck and call, but when they arrived, they were invariably forced to wait interminable lengths of time before being seen. This time was no exception. They were kept cooling their heels for more than an hour before either of the Assistant District Attorneys who had requested their presence acknowledged their arrival. Naturally, both ADAs showed up at the same moment, both wanting their case to take precedence. Jim and Blair just looked at each other and sighed. Rising, each detective took one attorney by the arm and pushed/led them to their offices, explaining that they could quite easily question each of them independently, thus avoiding any question of collusion on their parts. The lawyers fell for it and eagerly ran them through their paces on the crimes they were preparing for prosecution.
Nearly three hours later, after having switched places twice, the pair of detectives finally escaped.
"Where do you want to go to for lunch, Chief?" Jim asked.
"Um, how about either that new Portuguese restaurant down on Third or the Bella Loca?" Blair offered.
"Portuguese, that's what kind of food?"
"Well, I was thinking about fish, myself," Blair suggested. "It's a little like... well, it's really a cuisine all of its own. I can't really describe it, a little Mediterranean, a little Spanish, not quite as spicy, but a flavor all its own. What do you say?"
"I say it sounds good to me, Chief. Third and what?" Jim pulled out of the parking garage and headed toward Third Street.
"Locust, Third near Locust."
Things never seemed to go easy for them. They had found the restaurant, parked and settled down at a table, when there was an altercation in the kitchen. Jim cocked his head to the side, as he did any time he extended his senses. Blair automatically reached out a hand to lightly touch his friend's arm to ground him. Jim's eyes flickered to Blair's for a moment. With a weary sigh, he stood up and headed towards the back.
"I think we'd better eat someplace else, Chief," was all he said as he pulled his gun and stepped through the doorway into the kitchen.
"Cascade Police," he said in a firm, authoritative tone of voice. The arguing people all immediately froze in place, almost comical in their shock at the appearance of the detectives.
"Now, in English, please, what's going on? Oh, and please drop the knife?" Blair turned away for a moment to hide his grin.
It was a simple case of an employee fired for stealing from his boss coming back for revenge. No one was hurt and a patrol car came and took the disgruntled former employee away to be booked. Unfortunately, it meant more reports to fill out and file.
"You know," Blair muttered through his mouthful of take-out salad, "I don't think I ever appreciated how little paperwork was involved in teaching until I actually started doing my own reports here. I mean, sure, I'd help you out by inputting your handwritten reports to the computer, but you never told me that you have to account for just about every single second of your day, man. This is ridiculous," Blair groused. "How did you ever manage all this on your own, Jim?"
Jim looked over from his own computer, pausing to take a bite of his burger. Chewing and swallowing, he shrugged, "I've always done most of my own work, Chief. You just didn't realize it, before. Sure, you'd type up my reports, but that was usually after I was finished with a case and getting it ready for the DA. I usually keep up with most of the day-to-day crap." Although Jim's typing speed would never approach the skill of his partner, Blair's help with setting up his spell-checker to automatically correct his most common typos was proving to save him a lot of time. He glanced over his latest report and, nodding in approval, sent it to print.
"So, Chief. It's Wednesday, it's after six, you about ready to call it a night?"
"Just a couple more minutes. How come you finished before me?" He frowned up at his friend, who had risen to his feet and was stretching, hands fisted together, arms over his head, leaning back, joints popping in release of stress. Blair flinched at the noises his friend's spine made.
"That's because my reports don't use as many and as big of words as you do," Jim smirked.
"Oh, the 'Dick and Jane' method," Blair nodded, "The 'I heard arguing in a foreign language. I went to see what was going on. I pulled my gun and arrested the man threatening the restaurant owner with a knife. I called a patrol car for transport. The perp was angry because he got fired for stealing from his boss.' That kind of report?"
"It's a little more than that. You know I don't write in first person." Jim grinned and, picking up his report from the printer, proceeded to read from it. "Detectives Ellison and Sandburg were sitting in a booth at the Casa Blanca Restaurant when Detective Ellison overheard angry voices. The argument appeared to be coming from the kitchen. As the detectives went to investigate, Detective Ellison observed that the voices became louder and angrier, even though the voices were not speaking English. As the detectives entered the kitchen of the establishment, Detective Ellison observed that one of the shouting men had picked up a large carving knife and was gesturing with it in a threatening manner, jabbing it at several of the other people present. Detective Ellison then drew his weapon and identified himself as a Peace Officer and a member of Cascade PD. Telling the man with the knife to drop his weapon, Detective Ellison and his partner separated the various parties. While Detective Ellison maintained control over the man who had had the knife, they questioned the participants and learned that the man with the knife had been an employee who had been fired for stealing. Further questioning revealed that the man with the knife, one Joseph Garza, was in this country illegally and that the owner of the restaurant, Tomas Pagini, was in the habit of seeking out illegal immigrants to work in his restaurant. The Department of Immigration and Naturalization was called and the information passed on to them for investigation. Joseph Garza was arrested on charges of attempted robbery and murder, as he had demanded money of his former employer." He stopped reading, seeing his partner furiously typing away at his computer. "So, what did you say?"
Blair glared up at him, "Basically the same thing you did, only in more detail."
"Uh huh. Like?"
"Um, I listed all the participants by name, identifying them as the cook, busboy, owner, and former waiter. I also went into more detail on the description of the knife, it was actually a 'chef's knife', not a carving knife, with a ten-inch blade and laser-cut serrated edge. Little things like that."
"Well, between us, the reports should cover all the angles, then," Jim grinned again, well aware that his partner turned practically every report he wrote into a novel. Between them, however, all the information was generally covered, and the important parts were covered twice.
"So, as soon as your report is done, what say we blow this joint? I realize that lunch has drifted on to become dinner, and not a very satisfying one at that. What say we stop off for some wings at Bert's Ribs?" Jim asked, knowing from the way Blair's salad was picked through that his partner hadn't really cared for it. His own burger lay unfinished on his desk, the 'magic sauce' had run onto the wrapper and congealed into a sticky, soggy mess, and the smell was starting to get to him. Turning away from his partner, he scooped the leavings from his meal into the trash, grateful that the cleaning crew would be in soon to empty the mess out before the smell got any worse.
Grinning, Blair turned quickly to his typing, "You're on. You buying?"
"Sure, why not? You want the big platter or the bucket?"
"Uh, bucket's what, forty wings? That should be more than enough, unless you're expecting company?" Blair replied.
"Nope. Just hoping to get home in time for the game. You about through there yet, Chief?"
"Yeah, just a sec." Blair hit 'save' and 'print' and started the process of shutting down his computer for the night. "You going to leave your computer on, Jim?" he asked.
"Oh. Guess I'd better not. Thanks." Jim reached down and started the shutdown procedure. Blair, picking up his report after it had printed, took Jim's from his hand and headed for Rhonda's desk to drop them off for checking, prior to signing and turning in the finished product.
Thursday morning was basically a continuation of the previous days, only instead of any new cases, they worked on tying up any loose ends from their completed cases, tightening up reports, and getting them signed off. The afternoon was spent chasing down information on their car- theft-ring and the art forgery they had been working on. The FBI still hadn't returned their calls, and the forensics people had been unable to finish their tests on the suspected art forgery. For once, they managed to leave on time.
The easy day (although the boring day doing paperwork and follow-ups was just as exhausting, if not more so, than hectic days) gave them a false sense of calm. Friday brought the capper to their week. It wasn't even six a.m. when the phone rang. Jim grabbed it on the second ring.
"Ellison," he yawned into the receiver.
"Jim, we have a situation," Simon Banks' voice informed him. "There's some maniac on the Green Street Bridge threatening to blow it up. We've got patrol cars on the scene, and the Traffic guys are on their way. I need you down there to, well, you know." There was something in Simon's voice that told Jim that his captain wasn't alone and that whoever was with him knew nothing of his abilities.
"I'll get Sandburg and be there in twenty, Sir," Jim replied throwing back the covers and sliding from his bed.
"Thanks, Jim. See you when you get here."
Jim headed downstairs, calling out loudly enough to wake his roommate, "Gotta get up, Chief, we've got a possible bomber on the Green Street Bridge." He didn't bother to stop in the kitchen to start the coffee, just headed straight to the bathroom for a quick shower. Five minutes later, he left the bathroom and passed his still sleepy partner shuffling his way to the bathroom for his own shower. Coming back downstairs fully dressed and slipping his pistol into its holster at the small of his back, he passed Blair scurrying back to his room to dress.
"Leaving in five, Chief," Jim called out. "We'll have to get coffee on the way. The drive- through Starbucks is on the way, we can get starter fluid there."
"OK," came the muffled reply, "We'd better get enough for Simon, too, though. You know how cranky he gets when someone has better coffee than he does."
Jim chuckled, checking that the answering machine was turned on and that everything else in the loft was turned off and secure. Three minutes later, Blair scurried from his room, sliding his revolver into his cross-draw holster and pushing his hair out of his face. It was almost long enough to put up in a rubber band, but not quite, yet. In the meantime, he had to make do with pushing it out of his face. As he headed for the front door, Jim handed him his coat, having already slipped his on. Twelve minutes after the call from the captain, they were out the door and on their way.
"Hey, guys," he called out, gratefully accepting a cup of coffee from the fully laden tray Blair carried. Simon quickly snagged a cup for himself and also one for Sergeant Thompson, who was in charge of the uniformed officers standing around with nothing to do.
"Gentlemen, thank you," Sergeant Thompson growled, taking a healthy gulp of the steaming liquid. "Ah, Starbucks. Nectar of the gods."
Simon, taking a comforting swig of coffee, addressed the new arrivals and reiterated for the rest what they had so far. "We got a call that there's a bomb on the bridge. The caller stated that we could go and look, but not to try and touch it or he'd blow it up. On arrival, we found that rental truck parked there. Tanner had his traffic folks close the intersections and have pushed back to give us a good perimeter." Glancing around at who was close, he eased away, Jim and Blair following him, while Joel automatically began running possible scenarios with the other cops who were standing around.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Simon continued, "I need to know if you can tell if anyone's in that truck, are there explosives on board, and anything else you can tell us about it without having to risk your life to find out."
"Yes, Sir," Jim and Blair chorused. Turning to look at the truck that was illegally parked in the middle of the bridge, some seventy feet away, Blair placed a grounding hand on his partner's back and began the litany that would lead him through the steps that would enable the Sentinel to focus his senses and determine whether or not the threat was real.
"OK, Jim. Focus your hearing. Filter out the sounds of the water below the bridge, the people talking behind us. Can you hear anything?"
"No... Wait, yes. There's a humming noise..." Without being told, he piggy-backed his vision on his hearing, but was unable to see what was causing the hum. He shook his head in frustration. "I can't see it, Chief. Whatever is humming is under the truck."
"That's OK, Jim. What about smell?" Blair didn't even notice as his hand began to lightly rub up and down his partner's spine.
Jim took a deep breath, closing his eyes and cocking his head to the side as he concentrated. Letting the breath out, he took a deeper breath. His eyes opened and his brow furrowed down in puzzlement. "All I can smell is the usual sort of thing you'd expect from a truck of that sort. It's got an oil leak, but that's about all. And that hum is more consistent with some kind of... I don't know. It reminds me of the VCR at home."
"Not something that would set off some kind of explosion?" Simon asked, hopefully.
"No. No beeping, no clicking, no smell of accelerents or explosives. Nothing. Just that hum," Jim confirmed.
"OK. Let's get a team up there and take a closer look. Wait," Simon abruptly changed his mind, "See if you can spot anyone watching. If you can find somebody watching, maybe we can get to them and find out for sure before we risk anyone on approaching this thing."
"Yes, Sir," Jim replied, turning his focus on the surrounding buildings and vehicles. With Blair still rubbing his back, he was able to scan the area and search for any possible lookouts. Suddenly, his eyes lit upon someone on the other side of the bridge, in a parked car. The woman had a cell phone to her ear and was watching them with a pair of binoculars. Piggy-backing his hearing on his vision, he was able to make out what she was saying.
"They're keeping their distance, just like you thought. There must be close to fifty cops over there. How are things going at your end?"
Faintly, Jim could hear the voice on the other end, "Not so good. The intel on the vault was wrong. The timer won't let us in until eight-forty-seven. Give us a call if they figure it out; otherwise, we'll meet you back at the motel at ten."
"OK, I'm looking forward to that diamond necklace you promised me. Two hundred carats, wasn't it?" the woman asked.
"More like a hundred and fifty. You'll get it. Don't worry. Now get back to watching the cops. The last thing we need is for anyone to show up here." As the woman folded up the cell phone, Jim turned to his captain.
"This is just a diversion, Sir. From what I could make out, it sounds like they're going after the Diamond Exchange. Wasn't there an article in the paper about some huge necklace?" Jim said. "The gray Citation on the other side of the bridge. We need someone to go over there and grab the driver, a woman, mid twenties, stringy blond hair, wearing a brown sweater. Don't let her use her cell phone, or she'll warn the rest of her gang."
"Are you talking about the Tomlinson Necklace?" Blair asked. "It's at the Diamond Exchange for appraisal prior to being insured, isn't it? It's supposed to have over a hundred carats of diamonds and a fifty-carat emerald, I think. I saw that article, too." He looked up at his partner, "So, should we wait for them to grab her or should we just grab some people and head for the Diamond Exchange?"
"Take Taggart, Rafe, Brown, and Conner and get over to the Diamond Exchange. I want these guys; I'll get Tanner to take care of our little lookout, while you take care of the rest of them. I'll keep her occupied by putting on a good show here." The captain turned back towards the rest of the group of officers, appearing to discuss the problem of the possible bomb. As they joined the larger group, Jim and Blair drifted quietly back away from the rest of the officers. As they did, they either caught the eye of one of their colleagues or brushed against them and motioned for them to follow them. By the time they drifted back towards their vehicles, the rest of the Major Crime group had also shifted away from the crowd, and were discussing their plans for the assault on the Diamond Exchange.
"There's a woman in an old beater across the bridge who was talking to her partners on a cell," Jim explained. "She mentioned that she wanted her necklace, and that it has about a hundred and fifty carats of diamonds in it. That sounds like the Diamond Exchange. Simon wants us to go and check it out. We need to get away without alerting their lookout across the bridge." There were no questions, so they scrambled for their vehicles and headed at high speed for the Diamond Exchange, across town from their current location.
The Diamond Exchange was still closed when they arrived. They had moved from the Wilkinson Towers after the Galileo incident several years earlier. As they approached the doors to the high-rise in which the Exchange was located, the group of detectives held back from where Jim led the way. Blair was right with his partner, coaching him through his paces.
"OK, man. Turn up the dials. We need to know if there's anyone watching for us. Is anyone around?"
Jim paused, casting out his senses, searching... searching... "There's someone behind the reception desk. Probably unconscious." Megan headed over to check and pulling her cell phone, called for an ambulance for the injured guard she found lying unconscious.
With Megan on guard at the lobby, the rest headed for the stairs to quietly ascend to the fourth floor, where the Diamond Exchange was located. Cautiously opening the door, Jim listened before motioning the others that it was all clear and to follow him. Making their way quickly and quietly up the stairs, they paused at the door leading to the fourth floor. Jim again extended his senses as Blair stood beside him, one hand anchoring his partner while the other hesitantly reached for his gun since the others had already pulled theirs. At Jim's nod, they silently slipped through the stairwell door.
The Diamond Exchange took up the entire floor, with a large reception area where the men from Major Crime paused to look around, checking their bearings and looking for any signs of their quarry. Rafe wandered over towards the doorway that led to the rest of the offices and vault. Looking to Jim for confirmation, he tried the door and, finding it unlocked, eased it open. Checking the doors as they passed, they found them locked. Surrounding the door to the vault area, they simply waited. Jim cocked his head, listening to the voices from within. Stepping back, he whispered to his companions.
"They're nearly finished. I think that our best bet is probably just to wait for them." The others nodded their agreement and, getting into position, they all aimed their guns at the door and waited.
Then, they waited a little more.
Growing weary of holding his revolver up, Blair stepped back and looked at his partner. "Jim, How much longer?" he whispered.
"Right about...now," Jim replied as the door opened. The burglars weren't expecting anything at all like what they found waiting for them. Shocked, they simply dropped the bags of loot they were carrying and raised their hands. They hadn't been prepared for any sort of interference and were unarmed. While Jim and Joel held the burglars at bay, Blair, Brown, and Rafe holstered their guns and handcuffed them. Once they were restrained, the older detectives all looked expectantly at their favorite rookie.
"What?" Blair asked, confused by the expressions on his friends' faces.
"Blair," Joel said patiently, "aren't you going to read them their rights?"
"Oh. Sure. Sorry." Shaking his head, he reached in his hip pocket for his Miranda card. Even though he had memorized it, he still was reading the statement to any arrestees. Taking a deep breath, he began, "You have the right to remain silent..." While Blair was doing that, with his partner benignly watching, Joel pulled out his cell phone and called their captain.
As soon as Simon got the call, he signaled Sergeant Tanner to go and take care of the lookout.
Alfred Tanner made his way out of the snarlup by the Green Street Bridge and got on the freeway that would take him to the other side of the mouth of the Cascade River. Coming up to the other side of the bridge, he stopped, spoke briefly to the officers who were controlling traffic and redirecting it away from the bridge. Then, with two other officers to back him up, he approached the beat up old Citation.
"Excuse me, Miss?" he asked politely, "would you step from the car, please?" He didn't bother with his gun. With the two younger (and much larger) uniformed officers standing behind him, they were intimidating enough. The stringy-haired blond sighed and, shaking her head, got out of the car, careful to keep her hands in plain sight.
"What seems to be the problem, officer?" she tried to bluff, but wilted when he replied.
"Well, we've got a team at the Diamond Exchange, so all that's left is their lookout for the false bomb threat on the bridge over there. Since you were spotted watching us with binoculars while talking on your cell phone, we kind of figured out what was really going on. All I really need to ask you is whether or not there is really any explosives in the truck."
"No. Just some electronic stuff to make you think that there could be." The woman shook her head. "It should have worked. I never saw anyone with binocs watching me. How did you spot me?"
"I've no idea. I just know that one of the detectives spotted you with binoculars and a cell phone. How they knew that you were after the Diamond Exchange, I have absolutely no idea."
Turning to the two patrolmen, he said, "Read her her rights and get her out of here." As the patrolmen did as instructed, he pulled his two-way radio out and announced that they had the last of their suspects in custody.
"Oh, man. I am like so glad that this week is over with." Blair looked up at his partner. "I sure hope that this isn't how this whole entire year is going to go, 'cause I don't think I can handle it if it is."
"I don't think it's going to be that bad, Chief," Jim said, reassuringly. "It was too quiet through the holidays, for a change, so this is just to make up for that. At least we didn't have the usual psychos that I've come to expect through the holiday season. I can handle the busyness of the past week, just as long as we can avoid the crazies, if you know what I mean," Jim continued, hitting the print and save buttons on his computer and then stretching out the kinks in his back, his arms over his head.
"Yeah, I guess you're right about that," Blair agreed, looking up as the captain walked over and joined them.
"Good work, people," he announced to the bullpen at large. Everyone looked up at his words, smiling as they met each other's eyes. "As soon as your reports are done, the District Attorney would like to see them. Of course, the way the suspects have all been talking Brown and Rafe's ears off..." The entire group chuckled as Brown and Rafe blushed in embarrassment.
"Hey, it's not our fault that we have kind, gentle faces that inspire confidence and trust," Brown said, pompously.
"Yeah," Rafe agreed. "It's a special talent."
"Yeah, like they really had much choice, what with us catching them right in the act," Jim dryly replied.
"Well, the important thing is, you've done a good job, people," Simon repeated. "Now, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like you to all get back to work. I seem to recall that every one of you seem to still have some open cases on your desks..." One eyebrow rose as the captain looked around at his people, his expression telling them that no more lollygagging would be accepted. The roomful of detectives quickly bent back over their keyboards and began to type. Jim stood up and sauntered over to the printer to pull his report. Shuffling the papers into a neat pile, he quickly read through it as he carried it back over to the captain.
"Here's mine, Sir," he said, handing the report to his superior.
Simon glanced at the completed report, glancing skeptically at his detective. "So, how is it that your report is finished first, Jim?"
"Because, while Brown and Rafe were questioning the suspects, Megan and Joel went out for lunch, and Blair was working on the booking paperwork, I came up here and started on my report." Jim's expression was smug. "Now that that's over with, I can get back on the phone and do some follow-ups on my other open cases."
"Why don't you do that," Simon agreed. "Let me know what you find out."
"Yes, Sir," Jim replied, turning back to his desk.
"Hey, Jim," Blair whispered to his partner. "How did you explain how you spotted the lookout and where the burglary was going down?"
"I simply said that while searching the area for any suspicious characters, I noted a woman in a car on the other side of the bridge, talking on a cell as she watched us through binoculars. I just said that I was able to read her lips when she said 'two hundred carat diamond necklace'."
"And how did you explain that you were able to see this from across the river?"
"I said I used binoculars."
"Not really, Chief. Since I have two eyes, isn't that called 'binocular vision'?"
"I lied," Jim finally admitted with a smile and a shrug.
"You're really scary, man," Blair grinned and shook his head.
"I learned from the master," Jim insisted slapping his partner on the back, chuckling.
"Oh, man, I've created a monster," Blair mumbled, shaking his head again and going back to his own typing.
"I'm glad to hear you admit that it's all your fault, Sandburg," Jim added, ruffling his hand through the lengthening curls.
Spluttering indignantly, Blair pushed his hair out of his eyes and simply glared. "Man, you are so in trouble."
"Why?" Jim asked, all innocence.
"Just because, man."
"Hey, I'm just doing what you taught me, Chief," Jim smirked again.
"I know, that's what's got me worried."
Jim's laugh made the rest of the men and women in the bullpen look up. Seeing Sandburg's disgruntled expression along with Jim's boisterous laugh, they just glanced at each other, shrugged, and went back to work. Ellison and Sandburg were at it again, whatever it, might be; but they all had relaxed grins on their own faces, knowing that as long as those two were all right, everything else would be, too.
Dedicated to Debbie, who gave me the textbook, Thanks again. It's proving extremely useful.
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