Production No. CVT521

written by:
Virginia Foster

edited by:
Jo Ann and Shelley


Early Tuesday Morning
The Loft

"Come on, Chief!" Jim Ellison called out, his impatience evident in his voice. "If we have to attend the training session, we might as well be on time."

The voice of his partner, Blair Sandburg, drifted out from Blair's bedroom. "All right, all right. I'm coming. If you're in such a hurry, why don't you go on ahead. I'll drive my car and meet you there."

"And give you a chance to obfuscate your way out of attending? No thank you. Not only would I have Simon on my case, but if you remember, the Commissioner asked that we attend." Jim leaned against the door, arms folded across his chest, as he waited for his younger partner to exit the small room.

"Would I do that to you?" Blair grinned as he walked through the bedroom door, his backpack slung over his right shoulder, as he finished buttoning the blue flannel shirt he wore.

"Do you really want me to answer that?" Jim asked as he turned to open the door, ushering the young man out the door in front of him. "Besides, we're partners. That means that when one of us suffers, we both have to suffer."

Blair sighed his defeat as he walked down the stairs with Jim. "I'm going to remember that, you know. And I'll use it when it's most inconvenient for you."

Jim just shook his head as though daring his partner to carry out his threat. The two men left the building, got into Jim's blue and white Ford truck, and drove away, still grumbling about the training class they had to attend.

What they failed to see was a figure dressed in gray, crouched low on the roof of the building across the road and down the block from 852 Prospect Street.

"So, Ellison. Since my surveillance began, you and your Guide have always been together. The two of you work together, vacation together, and live together. The only things you don't do together are sleep, shower, and date. You are always there for each other. Together you have become Cascade's best detective team."

As the truck disappeared around the corner, the man in the gray jumpsuit stood up gingerly, packing the equipment used to listen to the Sentinel and Guide. "But," the man continue to muse to himself, "how would the great Sentinel and his Guide do if they were separated? Can Ellison, who used to be a loner, function as well these days without Sandburg?"

With that thought, the man slowly made his way down the stairs to the street and into a black van parked in the shadows. Stopping only long enough to swallow two pills with a swig from a bottle of water, the man drove away.

Tuesday Mid-Morning
Major Crimes Bullpen, Cascade Police Department

The two detectives barely had time to sit down at their desks when they heard Captain Banks from the doorway to his office. "Ellison! Sandburg! My office please."

Blair grinned at his partner, "Uh-oh. I think we're getting called to the principle's office."

"Not me, Chief. I didn't do anything."

"Oh, really? What do you call trying to correct the instructor on the proper way to disarm a person during a riot?"

"I call it being helpful." Jim tried to paste an innocent look on his face.

"Jim, you nearly dislocated the man's shoulder." Blair pointed out.

"He deserved it. Especially after the crack he made and picking you to 'help' with his demonstrations."

Blair winced slightly as he rotated his arm back, stretching the shoulder muscle. "Okay, I won't argue with you there. Hi Simon!" He greeted their captain as they entered his office and took their usual spot, leaning against the large conference table that took up a third of the office.

"Good morning, gentlemen." Simon sat back in his chair as he watched them get settled. "I trust the department training seminar on crowd and riot control went well?"

"Just fine, sir. Very helpful," Jim answered, shooting Blair a look that warned the young man to stay silent. But Blair couldn't hide the grin that threatened to give them away.

Banks sighed. "Jim? Do I want to know why your partner has a cat that ate the canary look on his face?"

"No, sir."

"Good. I didn't think so. By the way, I just got a call that Lt. Williams was released from the emergency room and will be fine."

"Thank you, sir." Jim had the grace to look embarrassed as Blair snickered behind him. Simon simply shook his head, knowing he'd get the full story later. "In which case, I assume this means that school is out and you can get back to work now."

"Yes, sir."

Getting up from the chair, Simon picked up several files and handed them to Jim, who promptly turned and handed them to his younger partner. Blair grimaced then started to look through the thick stack of papers.

As Blair scanned the pages, Simon walked back to his chair and his cup of coffee. "Randall Kraynor is scheduled to testify next week in a trial against his former employer."

"The Stolz trial?" Jim asked, looking over Blair's shoulder at the picture in the file.

"That's the one. Kraynor was one of Stolz's junior executives. We suspect that before that, he worked for one or more of Stolz's competitors, not that he's willing to comment on other employers." Simon told them. "The District Attorney feels lucky that he's even talking about Stolz."

Blair whistled softly, "Looking at this list, he's being ambitious and likes to live dangerously. Before working for Stolz, he was linked to some of the major drug dealers in Washington."

Simon nodded, "Ambitious and greedy. He's admitted to skimming money from the books at all of the businesses. Plus he's suspected of selling information between employers."

"So what happened?" Jim asked. "His current and former employers start comparing notes?"

"Not exactly. As long as our boy was dealing with accounts and numbers he was happy, not really caring where the money came from. Then one night while working late, he accidentally walked in on his boss knifing a courier who had lost part of a shipment. Murder was more than Kraynor wanted to deal with so he split, bringing copies of the books with him. That's when he decided to get out and came to the police."

"What kind of deal is he getting?" Blair wondered out loud. "The DA's office has to be pleased to have him come forward. Stolz's operation has been on the hit list for a long time from what I've heard."

"Oh it's a rather sweet deal from his point of view. In exchange for his testimony against Stolz and any other of his former employers he'll be protected from those same former employers who would very much like to see him dead." Simon answered. "The DA is hoping to take down several major drug dealers with Kraynor's testimony."

"And we've got the protection detail?" Jim asked with concern. He knew from previous experience that protection details didn't always go as planned, no matter how simple or well planned they were.

Simon smiled, "I know what you're thinking, so you'll be happy when I tell you that honor went to Brown and Rafe. They're with the witness at his home since he refused to move into a safe house. What I want the two of you to do is to start checking into that list of employers and see who is most likely to be at the top of the 'get rid of Kraynor' list. Maybe you can also get him to talk about his former employers a bit more."

Blair looked up from the stack of papers he held. "Judging from this list, it may be easier to list the people who wouldn't want him dead. It'd be a shorter list."

Any response to his comment was stalled as Simon's phone rang. Frowning at the interruption, the captain picked up the receiver. "Banks."

Jim looked at Blair and nodded at the door. His partner nodded his silent agreement and they both moved towards the door. Just as they had the door open and were almost out, the voice of their captain stopped them. "Wait a minute!"

"So close." Only Jim could hear Blair's softly whispered words.

The detectives turned back and resumed their spots at the conference table. As Simon broke the connection and set the phone down, he stood up to face them.

"That was Brown. Get over to Kraynor's house now. Someone decided to try to take Kraynor out this morning. Shots have been fired, one uniformed officer is injured, and Kraynor is missing." Simon picked up the phone again, "I'll call for more back up and forensics to meet you there."

"We're on our way, Captain," Jim said as he and Blair headed out the door.

Tuesday Late-Morning
Kraynor's House, Northern Cascade

Jim's blue and white truck pulled up to Kraynor's two-story brick house just as an ambulance pulled away. "Wow, being a junior executive must pay well." Blair said, looking around the expensive neighborhood.

His partner glanced around. "It does when the junior executive is in charge of the accounts and skimming money from his employers."

The two men got out of the truck and quickly spotted their co-workers, Detectives Brown and Rafe who were talking with a member of the forensics team.

"Hey guys. What have you got?" Jim asked just as Blair called out his own greeting.

"Who was in the ambulance that just left? Simon mentioned something about an officer being down, but he didn't say how serious." Blair added.

"Actually, no one was in the ambulance." Henri Brown answered. "Martin Johnson's arm was grazed in the initial shooting. The paramedics said it didn't require stitches. They patched him here when he declined a trip to the hospital."

The group stood in the doorway at the front of the large house as Jim inspected the damage caused by gunfire to the heavy wooden door. "So what did happen?" he asked again.

Rafe spoke up as he led them through the house to the living room. "It's been quiet here for the past couple of days. No one, other than someone from the police or the DA's office has been in or out and Kraynor hasn't even mentioned wanting to go anywhere. He's mainly been there on the computer for hours at a time." Rafe pointed to the living room where an expensive looking computer was setup.

"This morning started out normal enough. We arrived to relieve the guys that pulled the night shift just as Kraynor was getting up. He had an appointment at the DA's office to go over more testimony and details. He was in the bedroom getting dressed."

Brown picked up the story. "As we were checking over the house, there was a knock at the front door. Johnson answered, thinking it was the driver from downtown, only when he opened the door the shooting started. He saw a car out front and there were shooters at both the front and back of the house. While the uniforms returned fire, we went to get Kraynor out of the house. When we couldn't find him, we realized that in the initial confusion, he had slipped away."

"So, you don't know if he got away on his own or if he was taken?" Jim asked, piecing the events together in his mind to see how everything had happened.

"Honestly, no. There were no signs of a struggle in the bedroom and it all happened so fast that I'd guess that it was a planned escape. It was as though someone was waiting because just a few moments after the shooting began it stopped. We went after them and got a partial plate from the car. There's no sign of our witness anywhere in the neighborhood."

As they talked, Blair walked over to look at the computer system. "Rafe, you said Kraynor spent a lot of time at the computer?"

Rafe nodded. "From what we've seen, he did nothing but sit there reading websites and news groups. His access was monitored as far as his email." The detective answered. He waved a hand towards the computer. "All of that has been checked by forensics so if you want to search it, go ahead."

Blair sat down and switched the computer on watching as the system started. Soon, he was looking at the log in window. "Damn, it wants a password." He looked around the desk area to see if the former executive and accountant had left anything behind that might contain passwords. What he found was a list of account numbers and names.

"Jim, look at this. It must be the accounts where Kraynor stashed the money he was skimming." Blair held up the sheet of paper.

"It is, Chief." Jim confirmed. "I saw the list in the folder of information from Simon. Where did you find that?"

Blair pointed to the desk. "Right here, beside the computer monitor." He paused as he had an idea. "No. It can't be that simple. It's so simple it's ludicrous."

"What is?" His partner asked.

"Just watch." The detective said as he keyed in an account number marked by an underline. As the login screen cleared and the desktop appeared, Blair shot a triumphant look at his partner. "The idiot had his password set as an account number. He probably changed it periodically, hence the list of numbers."

Jim shook his head. "Isn't that a little obvious? Sort of like having your luggage lock set as your birthday."

"Something like that," Blair said as he started searching through the massive directories and programs.

"What are you looking for?" Jim watched as Blair's hands flew over the keyboard and mouse.

"Not sure, really." Blair murmured. He continued to search through the computer files as Jim talked with Brown and Rafe, making suggestions for narrowing the search for the missing witness. The two men thanked him and went to talk with a person from the DA's office about the morning's events. The senior detective then turned back to watch his partner at the computer.

Suddenly Blair sat up and crowed with glee. "This is interesting." He pointed out an email that was displayed on the screen. As Jim read the words, both of them smiled, realizing the important lead Blair had found.

The email from someone called Anders. When the email was read the first time, it read like someone inviting an old friend to spend the weekend at a cabin in Cascade Forest. But as the detectives read it several more times, they could see the veiled questions and responses. It looked like an offer of protection. The writer offered a place where a person could get 'away from all of his problems and relax comfortably'. According to the replies, Kraynor had eagerly accepted the offer.

"Anders was not a name on the list from Simon," Jim pointed out. "We have no way of knowing if the offer is legitimate or if it's a trick to get Kraynor away from us to kill him."

"Look at this, Jim." Blair opened another file. "It's a map that was attached to the email from Anders. Looks like a road map of some kind, but with no roads marked."

"True, but I'd guess it's a section of the Cascade Forest. That block to the edge marked with an 'R' could be the ranger station at the beginning of the hiking trails. It's a long shot, but it could be where he's headed."

"I remember that area. We went camping up there one time." Blair nodded. "I don't remember seeing any cabins, though. And this map looks like it's directions to a cabin that's several hours walk from the ranger station. Could a jeep even get there?"

"Not easily. That's a pretty dense area, although emergency vehicles could get in. But if they drove, it'd leave obvious tracks. In order to stay hidden, I'd guess that they'd park at the ranger station and hike in." Jim agreed. "Can you print that?"

"Sure. I'll print the map and any relevant emails. We can compare the map to maps of the forest area. Oh, man, I'm hungry. One of us missed breakfast this morning."

"Whose fault is that, Chief? I was on time. You were the one running late." Jim reminded him.

"Thanks, Jim. Kick a guy when he's down and hungry," Blair grumbled as he pulled the last page from the printer then started shutting down the computer system.

"Would it help if we stopped by the deli for sandwiches on the way back to the station?" Jim asked, hoping the young man would agree so they could get started on the maps.

"Sounds good to me. I'm ready."

Still discussing lunch plans, they left the house, never seeing the black van that sat in the driveway of an empty house nearby. The driver watched them leave, overhearing their lunch plans as well as the earlier discussion about the missing witness.

A slow smile pulled at the watcher's face as he thought about the over heard plans. He had been looking for an appropriate test for Ellison and Sandburg only to have them drop one at his feet. He didn't care about the missing witness; he simply wanted to see how the two men reacted in a solo situation. A plan of his own began to form in his mind.

The van pulled way, unnoticed.

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