Production No. CVT512
edited by: Deborah and Zerena
MEET THE CAST
Somewhere in Downtown Cascade, Washington
Pedestrians on the crosswalk scattered as the black Pontiac Firebird slid sideways into the intersection, then continued forward onto the cross street. The driver glanced back briefly, then stomped down onto the gas pedal. Smoke poured from the tires as it accelerated rapidly down the road.
Following close behind, but not pulling the fancy movement to round the corner, was a blue and white '69 Ford truck. The driver barely moved with the turn, the steering wheel providing an anchor for him to hold. The passenger was not so lucky. The smaller man tried to keep from sliding across the seat into the driver by using both hands to cling to his door. It wasn't easy since one hand held onto a radio mic. His seatbelt cut cruelly into his hips.
"Jesus, Jim! Try keeping two tires on the road, will you?" Blair Sandburg complained to the driver and his partner, Jim Ellison. "I'd like to live long enough to get some breakfast, man."
Ellison glanced briefly at his partner but quickly turned back to the front. "Sorry, Chief. We're on Monroe heading south. Wait!" He wrenched the steering wheel sharply to follow the Firebird as it took another turn. Hearing a grunt followed by a soft "ow," he looked over again and saw Sandburg pushing away from the door, rubbing his right arm. "We're now... east on 13th Avenue."
Keying the mic, Blair repeated the directions. "Dispatch, we are now in pursuit of the black Firebird heading east on 13th Avenue." Dropping the mic onto his lap, he quickly grabbed onto the dash as the truck swerved to miss a car that had stopped half way into an intersection. "You shouldn't be riding his ass this way, Jim."
"I've got him where I want him, Chief. He's not going to disappear like he did the last time."
"But what if he--" Blair never got to finish the sentence. The driver of the Firebird suddenly slammed on his brakes. To avoid ramming the back end with his truck, Ellison had to jerk the steering wheel to the right while stomping down on his own brakes. The Ford slid off the road, barely missing the back bumper of the Firebird, and down into a drainage ditch. It ended up in a sharp, tilting angle towards the passenger side. Accomplishing what he wanted, the Firebird driver spun his car around and took off back up the road.
Watching the vehicle disappear in his rearview mirror, Ellison smacked his hand onto the steering wheel and looked sharply over at his partner. His expression silently asked Sandburg to complete his sentence.
"I was going to say 'what if he decided to stop suddenly,' but I guess we don't need to go there. Do we?" Blair absently rubbed his newly bruised right arm.
"Don't even start, Chief. Give me the mic."
Rolling his eyes, Blair complied with the request.
The elevator doors opened onto the floor housing the Major Crime unit of the Cascade Police Department. The two men stepped out continuing their heated discussion, unconsciously maneuvering around the officers waiting for the car.
"All I'm saying is that you really should pull back on your aggressive tendencies when it comes to driving. Luckily there wasn't enough damage to the truck this time to report to your insurance company," Sandburg said in what he hoped was a soothing tone to his partner. Ellison hadn't appreciated the ribbing from the officers who had finally stopped their quarry in the Firebird.
"Wanna put a sock in it, Chief? The way I drive is no different than what they taught you at the academy. I seem to remember that you didn't do much better keeping control of your vehicle when the tire blew." Ellison pulled off his jacket as he approached the desks that belonged to him and his partner and hung it on the nearby coat rack. Despite the peeved way he was feeling, he did wait until Sandburg had also removed his coat, took it and hung it beside his own.
"But I was driving it in a controlled manner and kept it right side up. You've got to give me something for that."
"Okay, you get points for neatness." Ellison smiled smugly at the smaller man, then turned his attention to the pile of work sitting in his 'IN' box.
"Smartass," Blair mumbled, knowing that Jim would be able hear him with his sentinel abilities. Moving around to his own desk, he noticed a familiar detective walking into the bullpen. "Hey, Brown. You still have that car accessories catalog?"
"Yeah. Here ya go, Hairboy," Detective Henri Brown answered as he reached his own desk. Grabbing the magazine, he tossed it across the short space to where Blair stood. "Finally going to start improving that 'classic' you drive?"
"Nah, I'm thinking of getting a set of those special seatbelts that race car drivers use. You know, the straps come up over the shoulders and hook into the waist belt. I need something to keep me from getting banged around the truck during Jim's controlled car chases. Might prevent a bruise or two." Blair grinned mischievously at his partner and was barely able to avoid the hand that came swiping at his head.
"Who's a smartass now?" Ellison said with a mock growl. The telephone ringing on his desk forestalled any reply from Sandburg. "Ellison... Yes, he's right here... ~sigh~ Okay, we'll be up there in about 5 minutes."
"Something wrong, Jim?" Blair asked, the smile fading from his face.
"Our master calls, Chief," Ellison returned cryptically. At the blank stare he received from his friend, Jim grabbed Blair's arm and started to pull him towards the elevator. "We have been requested to present ourselves at Commissioner Matthews' office."
"No, man. Not one of his special details again. There's nothing going on with it being the dead of winter." Blair dragged his heels slightly as he was led out of Major Crime.
"I'm sure he's not asking us up for tea. Come on. Let's go find out what little thing Commissioner Matthews wants from us this time." With a gentle jerk, Jim pulled Blair onto the elevator.
The receptionist sitting outside the massive wooden door of the Office of the Commissioner of Police glanced up at the two detectives who stood in front of her desk. "He's expecting you. Knock twice, then enter." With that, she turned back to her computer screen and resumed typing as if she'd never been disturbed.
Looking down at his partner, Ellison shrugged his shoulders at the quizzical expression Sandburg gave him and turned to the doors. Giving the prescribed raps, he opened the door and entered with Blair following close behind.
"Ah, Detectives Ellison and Sandburg. Come in, gentlemen." Commissioner Matthews sat behind his oversized desk watching the men approach. Ellison walked in with a purpose in his step and Sandburg followed slightly behind, his head swiveling around the room as if checking it out. He froze momentarily, seeing a young girl sitting on the leather divan, then quickly moved up beside his partner
"You wanted to see us, sir?" Ellison asked.
"Please, be seated. I understand you had an exciting morning." Matthews sat back in his chair with a knowing smile.
"How did you--" Blair started to say, then inhaled sharply. With a jerk, he removed his foot from underneath Jim's and gave the taller man a dirty look.
The corners of Matthews' mouth curved up slightly at the action. "I try to keep track of all the situations my police force is involved with, Detective Sandburg. It just seems more times than not that you two are involved with most of them." Blair gave a shy grin and ducked his head. Jim just grimaced slightly.
"But that is a story for another time." Matthews rose from his chair and walked around the desk toward the young girl sitting on the couch. "I need a little favor, gentlemen. You are not obligated in any way but I'd really appreciate your help. This is my niece, Krystal. My sister and her husband are on their second honeymoon in Europe and Krystal is staying with me. Krystal, these are Detectives Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg." Matthews placed a hand on the young girl's shoulder.
Krystal Cameron was a petite girl with shoulder length, blond hair and blue eyes. She was considered a 'hottie' among her peer group, but the petulant pout on her face took away from her looks. She shrugged her uncle's hand off her shoulder and slouched down further on the couch. "This is not necessary, Uncle. I'm old enough to take care of myself."
"Krystal!" Matthews scolded. ~Ahem~ "You know the City Council has been involved in some pretty strong debates concerning some fairly controversial issues."
"Yes, sir. The issue concerning the valley land development is one of the hottest, if I recall correctly," Ellison commented. He was beginning to get a feeling about the favor the Commissioner was going to ask of them. "Isn't there a stalemate of some of the issues?"
"Haven't there been threats issued against some of the Council members?" Blair asked, interrupting any answer to Jim's question.
"Yes, but intimidation is a standard tactic of most anti-progress groups. Some of the eco- fanatics have been talking about demonstrating and having a sit-in to prevent the Council from actually meeting. You'd think they would have better things to do with their time."
Blair shuffled nervously at Matthews' reference to ecology protestors. He had several friends who were still members of those groups and remembered joining in with them on one or two protests in the past. Before he could speak up to defend his friends, Ellison cut him off.
"I take it you've received a threat or two, sir."
"On other things, but that comes with the territory, Detective. I've enough security that I'm not worried about myself." Matthews glanced momentarily down at his niece, then again gestured at Ellison and Sandburg to sit in the nearby chairs. He moved to sit beside his niece. "The type of security I receive is only for my immediate family and they're out of town. Since Krystal is the only family I have in town at this time, I'm concerned she might be a target for someone wanting to influence my vote or anything else that I'm involved with."
"And you want us to 'watch over' her?" Ellison's voice held a resigned tone.
"Only for this weekend. I know you are scheduled to be on duty anyway and I was wondering if you'd spend it escorting Krystal to the conference being held at the Crown Point Plaza Hotel."
"The Science Fiction convention? Wow! Do you mean it?" Blair bubbled with enthusiasm. When he saw the confused look on Jim's face, he practically bounced in his chair. "The convention is normally held in Seattle, Jim. It's a really huge event that brings together aficionados of science fiction and fantasy, Anime, gamers. You name it and they are there. The fact that Cascade was able to get the convention here is phenomenal."
Matthews smiled slightly, then quickly hid his pleasure. He knew half the battle was won and Sandburg would take care of the other half: Ellison. The next few minutes had to be played very carefully. "I didn't know you were a follower of science fiction, detective. Then you can understand better why Krystal feels she absolutely has to attend the dress up party on Sunday night."
"It's a costume contest, not a dress-up party. I've been working on my costume for months and I'm sure to win first place," Krystal spoke up in self-defense. "This can be the first step in my career as a special effects artist."
"How can dressing up in some weird outfit help a career?" Matthews asked.
"Excuse me, sir," Blair quickly jumped in to stop the argument he could feel was going to erupt. "For some of the larger conventions, it isn't unusual for scouts of some of special effects firms to be in attendance. They are always on the lookout for budding talent, even to the point of providing scholarships to further training."
"Sandburg," Ellison cautioned quietly. It didn't help a rookie detective's career to dispute the Commissioner of Police, especially to his face and in front of an audience who happened to be related to him.
Matthews had heard Ellison, but pretended that he didn't. "I see. So then it wouldn't be a waste of time or frivolous for her to attend?"
"Absolutely not, sir. If Krystal is looking for a career in design, then the convention would be an excellent event for her to attend. They also have art shows and panel discussions on many different topics including special effects creations."
"Excellent! I knew that you two would be the perfect escorts for Krystal this weekend. Besides ensuring her safety from anyone trying to get at me, you'll be able to understand what she wants to see or do. Thank you so much." Matthews gave the two detectives a broad smile, then turned to his niece. "Now that we have that settled, are you ready to go to lunch, dear?"
Sandburg was stunned. Without even knowing what he was doing, he had just volunteered the two of them to spend the weekend watching the police commissioner's niece. Blair threw an apologetic look to his partner, knowing the older man would not be happy about the detail. Jim just shook his head and turned his attention back to the Commissioner walking over to his desk.
"I've already picked up your passes and, since your transportation will be out of service for a while, I've authorized your usage of a vehicle from the motor pool. You will be careful with it, won't you, Detective Ellison?" Matthews held the badges toward Blair and the letter of authorization to Jim, his neutral expression betrayed by the laughing twinkle in his eyes.
"Uh, yes, sir." Jim stood, leaned forward and took the letter, chagrin flooding across his face. Blair just took the passes and placed them in his pocket.
"The convention starts at 9 a.m. If you could be at my place at 8:15 a.m., I'm sure you'll make it to the hotel on time. Thank you so much, detectives. I won't forget this." With that, Matthews' attention was once again on the work at his desk. Seeing that they were dismissed, Ellison turned toward the office door opened it and left. Blair stood and looked at the Commissioner, then over to his niece. The young girl sat sullenly on the couch, a hostile expression displayed openly on her face. He gave her a half-hearted wave then followed after Jim, closing the door softly behind him.
Blair met up with his partner at the elevators. The taller man stood ramrod straight in front of the doors. "Jim? I'm sorry, man. I mean, I didn't think he'd think--"
"Not now, Chief," Jim growled. "Talk to me after I get my coffee and something indecently fattening and bad for me."
Blair gave his friend a pat on the arm. "I'm with you on that, man."
When the elevator arrived, the two men entered and the doors closed. The silence reigned all the way back to the Major Crime Unit.
Crown Plaza Point Hotel, Saturday Morning
A bronze Taurus sedan pulled into the hotel parking lot and cruised slowly up the main drive in search of a parking space. Surprisingly, there was one open slot not too far from the front entrance. The car quickly swung into the spot.
"You've got to be doing something right today, Jim. This is the third time that you've been able to park close to an entrance. Wanna buy a lotto ticket tonight?" Blair asked as he opened his door and got out of the car. He had been seated in the back of the vehicle, allowing Krystal to take the front passenger seat.
Like the gentleman he was raised to be, Blair quickly grabbed the handle and opened the front door to allow Krystal to step out. The young girl didn't acknowledge the action with anything more than a flip of her head to toss her hair back. She was dressed Goth style, her dark, somber clothes mirroring her attitude. Without waiting for the two men, she started walking to the hotel entrance.
Blair looked over at Jim with a raised eyebrow as he closed the door. The older man just shrugged his shoulders, closing his own door. "Geez, Sandburg. Look at all these people. What's with the weird costumes? Don't they have lives?" Ellison sneered.
"Jim, some of the people who are involved in and attend Sci Fi conventions are CEOs, business owners, college professors and even politicians. Science fiction aficionados are a whole society within themselves. I knew one guy who did his Master's thesis on the dynamics of the show Star Trek and its influence on society."
"Come on, Chief. You're pulling my leg this time, aren't you?"
"I swear, man. His correlation of the advancements made in the medical field to the ideas brought up in the show is enough to make you rethink the usefulness of television." Blair's hands waved in wild abandon, nearly hitting a blue-skinned woman in a shimmering gown. He looked appreciatively at the sheerness of the outfit until his attention was brought back to his surroundings by Jim tapping him on the head.
"We're on duty, Casanova. Keep your attention on our charge." Giving his partner a wry grin, Ellison headed for the front doors of the hotel. Sandburg gave one last look towards the costumed woman, then trotted after his friend.
A dented and rust-encrusted van sat at the far edge of the hotel parking lot. The side windows were covered with a reflective film, allowing the man inside to watch the activity around him without being seen. He wore a headset attached to a sophisticated listening device which was trained on the front of the hotel.
"We're on duty, Casanova. Keep your attention on our charge." He heard the object of his attention say.
"And I'll keep my attention on you, Ellison." Removing the headset, the man shut down the equipment, slung a leather satchel over his shoulder and crawled out of the van.
"Where is she?" Ellison started scanning the crowd of people moving in and out of the doors of the hotel. He'd followed after Krystal through the portals, but lost her when his attention was diverted by Sandburg's collision with another group of strangely but scantily-dressed women.
Standing up on his toes, Blair also searched through the milling people. When Jim pushed forcefully through the crowd around the entrance, he quickly followed.
"She already has a pass, so she wouldn't have gone to registration," Blair stated the obvious, which earned him a side long glare from his partner. "See if you can pick up her voice." Without trying to look obvious, Blair casually placed a hand on Jim's back to anchor his sentinel.
Understanding Blair's statement, Jim stopped in the center of the lobby and tilted his head slightly. Filtering out the male voices, he concentrated on female ones, remembering the whining tone Krystal had used in the Commissioner's office. Jim froze when he heard the young girl's voice.
"...don't know why he thinks I have to have a couple of watchdogs. The only thing halfway promising about the whole thing is that the shorter one is cute and understands what I'm doing. Shit! There they are. Show me where you saw Brand."
Ellison came back to his surroundings. "Found her, Chief. She's somewhere over there." He pointed across the room and started walking in that direction, impatiently shifting around the people in his way. Sandburg followed in his partner's wake, politely apologizing to those his partner jostled.
Reaching the area where he knew Krystal had been, Jim wasn't surprised that the girl wasn't there, but he was a little ticked. He silently cursed the Commissioner for sticking him with this duty as he searched the area for his charge. His frustration grew when he couldn't hear or see her.
"Relax, Jim," Blair soothed, seeing his friend's actions. He stepped closer and dropped his voice to prevent others from hearing him. "Switch to smell. Remember the scent you got from her in the car."
"How could I forget?" Jim wrinkled his nose at the memory. He'd sneezed violently, several times, when the girl had entered the car. When he asked if she'd bathed in perfume, Krystal lectured him about the expense and exclusivity of the brand she was wearing and she didn't expect a policeman to appreciate fine quality things. After that, Ellison didn't speak to her again.
Doing as Blair suggested, Jim took a careful sniff of the air and immediately caught the scent of Krystal's perfume. He coughed slightly at the intensity of the scent. With a terse 'come on' to his partner, Ellison started walking down a corridor toward a room that had two people with strange clothing sitting in front of it.
"Excuse me, sir." The male of the pair stood up and held out his hand, palm facing forward. "I'm sorry, but you'll need a pass to enter this and any of the other convention rooms." The young man was polite, but firm in the duty he'd been given. His female companion sat quietly in a chair, fingering a radio she held.
"Oh, right," Blair voiced absently and dug into the pockets of his coat. He extracted two plastic-coated cards with cords attached. They each had the words 'Platinum Pass' printed boldly across the top and were numbered sequentially, 2 and 3. Waving both towards the door guards, Blair then handed one to Jim and hung the other one around his own neck.
The young man stepped quickly aside and started to say 'thank you, go on,' but saw that he was speaking to thin air. The two men were already through the door. He turned to his companion. "Man! I thought only VIPs got the low numbered badges. Who do they know?"
His companion only shrugged her shoulders and turned her attention back to the crowd. The men weren't actors or anyone important, so who cared.
Rounding a display rack holding bumper stickers, Ellison spotted his quarry. Krystal was facing his direction, standing at a table with display cases full of jewelry. She was with a taller young man wearing his dark hair in a spiky Mohawk and clothed baggy, black jeans and a black t- shirt. The words 'Trust No one' were emblazoned on the front of the shirt. He had an arm thrown casually across Krystal's shoulders, his hand rubbing her arm. He slowly removed it when he looked up and saw Ellison towering over him with arms crossed and eyes glaring.
Krystal looked up and frowned. "What you do want?" Defiantly, she placed an arm around her companion's waist and leaned into him.
"One rule, stay within my sight and you can roam wherever you want. Pull a disappearing act again, and I'll handcuff you to Sandburg until we leave. Make your choice." Ellison's voice easily cut across the noise in the room.
Krystal looked at him indignantly and opened her mouth to retort, but stopped when she saw Blair reach behind his back and pull out a pair of handcuffs. Unobtrusively, he swung them in front of his stomach from his right index finger.
"Make your choice quickly," Ellison ordered.
With an air of defeat about her, Krystal slumped to lean on one hip. "Oh, all right," she pouted. "I'm just going to wander around here until the Anime show starts. Is that okay with you?" There was a challenge in the girl's voice.
With a stiff nod, Ellison unfolded his arms and turned his back on the pair. Grabbing Sandburg by the arm, he pulled him over to the doorway and swung the younger man around until his back was against the wall, facing the room. "Thanks for catching on so quick, Chief. Looks like she bought our bluff."
"Who was bluffing? I was going to handcuff her to you and let her 'enjoy' your presence for the rest of the morning as you gave her the rest of your rules." Blair gave his friend a cheeky grin. "I figured she'd be crying 'uncle' after you gave her the first 100."
Jim rolled his eyes upwards and gave his friend a long-suffering sigh. "Stay here and keep and eye on them. I've got a headache and need to find something to drink." Jim turned to walk out of the room, but hesitated when he felt a hand on his arm.
"Bring me something, okay Jim? I'm going to need some caffeine to keep me alert," Blair said, watching Jim stride away. He saw his partner raise a hand indicating that he'd heard, then turned back to watch the young couple.
Ellison walked angrily out of the room, barely being civil as he cut through the crowd of people traveling through the halls. He barely missed stumbling over the group of young boys and girls who were crowding around another boy spreading trading cards on the ground.
Frustration mounting, Jim finally reached the lobby area. A tantalizing aroma of fresh brewed coffee drew his attention to a brightly decorated coffee cart sitting near the closed lobby bar. Reaching into his back pocket to draw out his wallet, Jim approached the busy server and waited until he was noticed.
Jim quickly turned around at the sound of his name and looked for the speaker. No one nearby looked like they wanted his attention, so he scanned around the lobby. Again, there wasn't anyone looking toward him. Shaking his head, Jim turned back to the woman behind the cart, handed her some bills and ordered a coffee for himself and a cappuccino for Blair.
After pocketing his change, Jim doctored his drink with milk and started back through the building to where he left his partner. He didn't notice the silent figure watching him slide further behind the plants hiding him.
When Ellison disappeared down the hallway, the figure stepped out from behind his cover and walked into the men's bathroom. Surprisingly, it was empty. Stepping into the handicap stall, he set his backpack onto the floor, opened it and pulled out a make-up kit and clothing. Hanging a mirror from the kit onto a sidewall, the man began to carefully apply a red tint to his face.