Production No. BPP-602

written by:
C.L. Combs

edited by: Claire, Mary Ellen M, Kelly Meding


A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity
Proverbs 17:17

Monday afternoon

The beehive of activity that was the Major Crime bullpen swirled around Detective Jim Ellison. With a concentration born from experience and necessity, the senior detective was able to filter out and ignore most of it as he worked on his report. Yet underneath, the sentinel was still aware of his surroundings, of who was there and alert to possible trouble. It was that instinct that urged Jim to raise his head in time to see his brother Steven enter the large room.

Jim frowned as he glanced at his calendar. He didn't think they had lunch scheduled, and Steven was way too busy a businessman to just drop in at the station. Leaning back in his chair, he studied his brother as he approached. Steven looked tired and stressed, faint lines new to his face sprouting around his eyes.

Worried, Jim stood up and greeted, "Hi Steven. You okay?"

A faint smile graced his brother's face. He should have known his older brother would guess that something was up. "I'm sorry to bother you, Jim, but can we talk a minute?"

"Sure," Jim replied, even more concerned. He pointed to the chair next to his desk.

Glancing around at the activity, Steven quietly requested, "Is there somewhere a little more private?" Jim's frown deepened, pushing Steven's insecurity button. "Or I could come back some other time."

"No," Jim shook his head, sensing that whatever Steven needed to talk about was important. "I think one of the conference rooms is free."

A few minutes later, the two brothers were seated at a table, a mug of coffee tucked into Steven's hand. "Okay, spill it," Jim ordered gently.

Taking a deep breath, Steven paused, then sighed. "It's probably nothing."

"If it's got you this worked up, I doubt it's nothing." Both Ellison boys were raised to be strong and independent. Jim knew that it was a huge step for Steven to even come to him.

Taking another moment to gather his thoughts, Steven finally began. "About three months ago, I started getting these little, well, notes. Sometimes with gifts, and other times not." Jim raised an eyebrow. Steven shrugged. "The first was a red rose with a note saying 'You caught my heart'. It was so out of the blue, I even checked with the front desk to make sure it was suppose to go to me. Another time it was a mug with a packet of my favorite coffee, the note saying I was working too much overtime."

"Doesn't sound like much of a problem," Jim replied cautiously. "Why haven't you mentioned these notes before?"

Steven shot his brother an uncomfortable look. "Because I didn't know who they were from and usually forgot about it until the next one showed up a week or so later. I mean, at first I thought it was someone's idea of a joke, so I didn't want to give it credence by reacting to it. Then when they continued coming, I thought maybe someone in the office was just being nice. There didn't seem to be any steady pattern in the beginning. After about the fourth one, I began asking around, trying to keep an eye out, but I couldn't figure out who was doing it. If I still had Mrs. Clark, I'd have sent her digging, but since she's retired, I haven't had a secretary long enough to even meet everyone yet."

Jim gave his brother a smirk, trying to lighten the heavy mood. "Oh yeah, what number are you on now? Five or six?"

"Seven." Steven faintly returned the smirk. He had entertained Jim and Blair for several hours last month with his outrageous secretary stories. "Actually, I think this new one has potential, especially after I convinced her to leave the nose ring at home."

Jim chuckled as he tried to picture his brother handling that discussion. "So I guess we can leave out your secretaries."

Steven nodded. "Actually, it was the new one, Ms. Lancin, who suggested I might want to contact the police about this."

"So what made you decide this isn't just someone being nice?"

Running a hand through his hair, Steven reached into this briefcase. "They've been appearing more regularly and becoming increasingly more personal. More, ah, comments about my appearance and how much I work. And this last one..." A faint splash of color danced across the younger man's cheeks as he pulled it out.

Jim took the letter printed on a rose pink sheet of paper.

Jim glanced at his brother. "Again?"

Totally baffled, Steven lifted his hands and shrugged. "I haven't had a date since Debbie five months ago."

Jim nodded sympathetically. The breakup of the sixteen-month relationship had been hard on his brother. "When did you go to Sprouts?" It was an herbal and health store his partner, Blair Sandburg, often went to.

"Last night. I wrenched my shoulder at the gym last week and Motrin just doesn't seem to be working. A friend suggested a liniment they make there." Steven looked his brother in the eye. "I've never been in the store before. Heck, Paul had to give me directions."

"When did you get this note?"

"This morning."

Jim didn't like what that insinuated. "She had to have been following you."

"I didn't see anyone. But then..." Steven sighed.

"You weren't expecting anyone to be following you," Jim finished reassuringly. "Have you received all these notes at work?"

"All except the fruit basket last week. That was delivered to my apartment."

Jim's expression was grim. "Has there been any other type of contact, like a phone call or visit?"

"Just the notes, as far as I can tell. I've had a few hang-ups at home, but I figure they're just wrong numbers. Since I don't know who it is, I can't really say if she's been in my office, although I think she has."

"Why's that?"

"She just seems to know too much. She knows how long I work, what coffee I like, where the one flower she sent me was placed, and even that I hurt my shoulder. How could she know all that?"

"Some people can be pretty ingenious when they want to find out something," Jim muttered worriedly. "Have you told anyone else about these?"

"Ms. Lancin, since everything for me comes through her desk and she questioned me about it. My housekeeper, Mrs. Tillis, since she picked up the basket for me last week. And I asked building security to keep an eye out, but it was more like some big joke to them."

Hearing the embarrassment and dejection in his brother's voice, Jim reached over and squeezed his shoulder. Peering into the pale blue eyes so much like his own, he assured him, "I don't think this is a joke. In fact, I don't like this at all."

Steven still didn't look too convinced. "If whoever this is likes me that much, why doesn't she just introduce herself?"

"This isn't about real love; this is about delusions and stalking."

"Damn." Steven buried his head in his hands when Jim named his fear. "I was afraid of that. I just don't understand it. Why me? It's not like I'm famous or a model or something."

Jim could only shake his head. "I'm not sure why she's fixated on you. That's Sandburg's area of expertise; maybe he can tell you. But she has, so all we can do now is find out who she is and see if we can resolve the situation." Jim tilted his head as he continued to study his brother. "Would you like me to investigate?"

Steven raised his head and nodded. "I don't think she's going away anytime soon and it's just getting too weird."

Just as long as it doesn't turn violent. Jim pushed away thoughts of Rebecca Schaeffer, the young actress killed in her home by a stalker. He didn't want to scare his brother needlessly. "Do you mind if I bring Sandburg into this? This is more his kind of thing than mine."

Steven paused, thinking. "Okay."

Jim felt himself relax slightly. While Steven had been much more understanding about the incident over Blair's dissertation than their father, Jim wasn't sure if his brother totally trusted his partner yet. "Okay, I want you to make up a list of everyone and anyone you've contacted in the last three months. New companies, co-workers, neighbors, clients, stores where you shop, anything you can think of. Especially anything new around the time this started." Expecting his busy brother to complain, Jim was surprised when Steven immediately agreed. Damn, he's more scared about this than he's letting on.

Then Steven glanced at his watch. "Damn, I've got a meeting in twenty minutes."

"Why don't Sandburg and I drop by your office around 6?" Jim suggested. "We'll go out to dinner and discuss our plan of attack."

The first real smile since he had arrived stretched across Steven's face. "That would be great. Thanks, Jim."

"Anytime, Steven," Jim returned the grin, then grew serious again. "Just keep an eye out for any car following you or anyone showing a lot of interest."

"I will," Steven promised as he grabbed his briefcase. Jim watched as he wove through the crowded bullpen, looking every inch of the confident businessman that he was.

Yet there in the conference room, Jim had seen his little brother. The little brother who had once looked up to him and would run to him when scared or unsure. Steven hadn't shown Jim his vulnerable side in a very, very long time. It worried the older man to see it now.

Monday evening, the Burbank complex

"...had to have followed him, Chief. There is no other explanation." Jim parked his truck a block from the large business complex that housed Steven's company along with several other firms.

Blair nodded thoughtfully, noting the worried tone in his friend's voice. "Possibly. Although, did Steven pay by cash or credit card?"

Jim glanced at him. "You think this woman may have accessed his financial records?"

"What better way to track someone if you're interested in them?" Blair shrugged. "It just depends on how invested this person is in Steven at this point."

Jim muttered darkly as he climbed out of the truck. Blair slowly followed, studying their surroundings. He had never been to the complex before. Four dark glass towers rose twenty floors towards the sky, all connected by a common first two floors. It looked sleek, clean, modern, and a bit intimidating to Blair. It also somehow reminded the young detective of Steven Ellison.

With a start, Blair pushed away his own insecurities. While he always felt like the poor, dorky cousin when it came to Jim's brother, Steven himself had never acted that way towards him. Blair also felt guilty about the way the media had swarmed Steven when his dissertation about Jim's abilities surfaced. But this wasn't about Blair Sandburg. This was about his partner's brother, who was being stalked by an unknown predator. Perhaps Blair could make up for the previous incident if he could help Steven now.

The guard in the large lobby pointed them to the third bank of elevators. Noting Jim's glare, Blair whispered, "We don't know who Steven talked to. Let's get the facts before you start busting heads."

Jim shrugged as they got into the elevator. Blair covertly studied his partner. He was definitely in protective sentinel mode. Even worse than that, he was also in protective big brother mode. While Blair had been the recipient of that mode on more than one occasion, he rarely saw Jim in it for someone else.

Jim quickly exited the elevator when the door opened onto the tenth floor. Blair followed him around the main desk of Griffin Enterprises and two quick left turns. Then Blair nearly plowed into Jim's back when he suddenly paused mid-step. Quickly stepping to the side, Blair spotted the cause. Steven had apparently gotten another new secretary.

The slim young woman was dressed in a black blouse in the Goth style. Her hair was dark brown except for several dyed white locks. Dark purple lipstick stood out on her pale face, with her extremely long black nails completing the picture. At the moment, she was intently tapping away at her computer keyboard. She was definitely different from the last one whom Jim had described as a middle-aged blonde who wore a size 3X and liked pink. Upon further study, Blair noted that she really was quite pretty, in spite of her dark outfit. Looking up, she politely asked, "May I help you?"

Luckily, Jim had managed to compose himself before their eyes met. "Ms Lancin?"

Suspiciously, she replied, "Yes?"

"Is Steven in?"

Taking another look at the tall man, she asked, "Are you the policemen Mr. Ellison talked with earlier?"

"That's right," Blair replied, trying not to chuckle. He always told Jim that his looks screamed, 'cop'. "I'm Detective Blair Sandburg."

"And I'm Detective Jim Ellison," Jim added. "I'm Steven's brother."

The young woman's eyes widened. "Really? Well, Mr. Ellison is in his office right now finishing up a report. I can buzz him if you like."

Before Jim could reply, Steven stepped out of his office. "Ah, you're here." He turned to the young woman. "Ms. Lancin, I just sent the final report to you via email. Could you get that out in tomorrow morning's mail?"

"Not a problem, Mr. Ellison," the young woman replied solemnly.

"Then I'm leaving for the day," Steven replied with a weary smile. "Let me grab my briefcase and we can head out."

While Jim hated to bring up the subject so soon with Steven looking so exhausted, he had to ask. "Do you have any of the other letters? I thought we could take them with us and look them over during dinner."

Steven tensed slightly, but enough that his sentinel brother could spot it. "I only have that last one. I tossed the others."

"I saved the ones from the last two weeks," Ms. Lancin jumped in. She hopped out of her chair and walked over to the cabinet. Her fingers dancing over the tops of the hanging files, she missed Steven's surprised look. "I also accidentally found another folder one of the others kept with a couple of notes."

Trying not to smile at his brother's expense, Jim tapped Steven's shoulder. "Let's get your briefcase, Sandburg can grab the files, then we'll head out."

Catching Jim's eye as the older man steered Steven into his office, Blair walked over to give the young woman a friendly smile. "This is great that you kept them, Miss Lancin."

The woman gave him a pained look. "You can call me Lily. I'm not use to being called 'Miss'."

Blair chuckled. "I know what you mean. I'm still getting use to 'detective'. Anyway, we appreciate your efforts, Lily. We'll need everything we can get to help Steven out."

Lily gave him a worried look as she handed over the folders. "I hope you can do something. Mr. Ellison's been really fair and honest with me so far, and I don't want to see him hurt."

Blair, about to open one of the files, looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"

Lily waved a hand over the files. "Those are some weird letters. They remind me a little of the ones a friend used to get from her ex-boyfriend who was stalking her. He's a real scary dude who just wouldn't let her go and even tried to kill her mother. But the worst part was how he had her looking over her shoulder all the time and afraid to leave the house so she wouldn't run into him. I was so glad when they tossed his butt in jail, but my friend's really worried about what's going to happen in another sixteen months when they let the creep out. But anyway, I'd hate to have something like that happen to Mr. Ellison. Why, he even said I could leave early Wednesday so I could go to the Morrissy concert. There aren't too many bosses who would be that understanding when I've only been here two weeks."

"You got tickets?" Blair asked, eyes shining. "Cool. That should be a great show."

"I know, my friends and I have been looking forward to it for weeks. Which is why it was so nice of Mr. Ellison to let me go." She leaned a little closer to Blair. "I kinda worry about him since it sounds like she's following him. What if this weird chick has a gun?"

Blair nodded, knowing her concern was all too real. "We're going to try our best to stop it, and these could help a lot." He gave her a reassuring smile. "Though there is something else you can do." He handed her one of his cards. "Give me a call if you hear or see anything you think is suspicious. I'd appreciate it, and I know Jim would, too. He's really worried about his brother."

Lily looked worried herself. "I'll do anything I can to help."

Jim stepped out of the office with Steven. "Ready, Chief?"

"Yep. Let's go."

Twenty minutes later, Lucille's

Once they were tucked away in a corner table at Lucille's, Jim carefully extended his hearing. The high dividers with the mix of real and imitation plants gave a sense of privacy, but the sentinel wanted to make certain. First, he tuned out Blair's eager descriptions of the unique Cajun/American cuisine and related subculture. Then he concentrated on the tables around them. The family with three teenagers on the right was discussing football and an upcoming band competition. The couple behind him was in their own world, while the four ladies behind Blair and Steven were busy discussing writing techniques. Before Jim could scan any farther, a sudden crash sent a spike of pain through his head.

Blair broke off in mid sentence when Jim's hands went to his ears. "Damn," he whispered, realizing what had happened. As a puzzled Steven watched, Blair gently rubbed his partner's shoulder. "Easy, Jim. I know it's hard, but find the dial. Take a deep breath. That's it. Visualize..."

Realization hit Steven full in the face. The noisy collision between a busboy and a child must have hurt his brother's sensitive ears. After the media blitz and Blair's so-called public confession, Jim had admitted to him that he really was the sentinel Blair's dissertation had declared. At the time, Steven had been surprised that he really wasn't surprised. Deep down, he knew his older brother was gifted, just not the specifics of his gifts. He'd even teased Jim that now that he knew his 'trade secret', he might have to hire him to check on buildings being remodeled. While Jim had said the senses could be damn annoying, he still had been envious. But now, seeing the pain on his brother's normally stoic face, Steven realized that Jim had been downplaying the disadvantages, as usual.

Watching Blair softly soothe his brother, a sharp jab of jealousy pierced his heart. He was so envious of the younger man's easy relationship with Jim. A selfish part of him felt that he should be the one helping his brother. Yet Steven was honest enough to admit that it was his own fault that he'd lost that place by Jim's side. He should be glad Blair knew how to help his brother and leave it at that. Shoving the jealousy away, he focused on Jim.

Jim blinked to find two pairs of worried eyes riveted on him. He closed his own eyes again to rub his temples. "I hate it when that happens."

"Are you okay now?" Steven asked quietly, wondering just how often 'that' happened.

"A bit of a headache, but I'll survive." Jim forced his head up. "Where are those letters?" Blair rolled his eyes and pushed the folder towards his partner.

Knowing a misdirection tactic when he saw it, Steven sighed and played along. "I also have that list you asked for earlier." He bent over to pick up his briefcase as the waitress arrived.

Once they had given their drink orders to the waitress, Jim quickly began scanning the letters. He didn't like what he read. The tone of the letters was intimate and flirty, implying a relationship that wasn't there. Thankfully, there was nothing threatening within them, but he could see why his reserved brother was so uncomfortable. Taking a deep breath, Jim noted the faint scent of a light musk fragrance lingering on the letters.

"You've been getting these for about three months?" Blair asked, reading each one as Jim finished and passed it to him.

Steven nodded. "There weren't very many at first. At least a week would go by before I'd get another one. Since I'm so busy, I really didn't think much about them."

"In this one folder, the dates are about a week apart," Blair commented as he compared the earlier two with the two Jim had just passed him.

Checking the dates on the small stack in front of him, Jim commented, "Yet these in Ms. Lancin's folder seem to be coming about one per day."

"They are now," Steven confirmed. "That's why when she suggested I talk to the police, I thought maybe I should."

"Yeah, the letter writer's definitely escalated." Blair tapped the notes in front of him as he thought. "Not only in frequency, but in content. More intimate, more knowledgeable of you and your life."

"I just don't get it." Blair looked up to see Steven shift in his chair, the slight blush on his cheeks indicating his unease. "Why me?"

"Well, if this is an erotomanic, which is likely since you don't know who it is, they usually fixate on someone they see as an authority figure or of a higher class than themselves." Blair indicated Steve's smart shirt and tie with a hand. "You dress nicely, are a rising business man of a successful company, and come from a good, upper class family. You would be considered a tempting target."

"What's an 'erotomanic'?" Steven asked, curious in spite of himself.

"It's a type of delusional disorder, where a person is deluded into thinking he or she is loved by another person. It's only been recognized recently as a separate disorder, because it's usually considered secondary to another mental disorder like schizophrenia."

"So this person falsely thinks I love her?" Steven asked, praying the person after him wasn't schizophrenic as well. "But if she thinks I love her, why not contact me?"

Blair paused a moment, trying to think of a way to best explain it. "It's like when you're a young teenager. Most go through a period where they fixate on someone, like a TV star, a musician of a popular band, a favorite teacher, or even a police detective who helps them out." Blair shot Jim a smirk, remembering Stacy Newman, a young woman who had awakened after an eight year coma to discover she had totally missed her teen years. She had fallen for Jim while they were helping her.

"Like a crush," Steven prodded.

"Exactly. A teen will envision a relationship with someone that's safe because they're unattainable. Only erotomanics are stuck in that stage, lacking the social skills to make real friendships or intimate relationships. So they build fantasy relationships with some person from afar." Blair stopped talking when he noticed the waitress approaching with the drinks.

Once they had given their orders, Jim returned to the topic. "This is more than a high school crush, Chief. This person honestly thinks Steven knows them and loves them."

"That's why it's a delusional disorder," Blair patiently explained. "Reality has nothing to do with it. It wouldn't matter if Steven was happily married with three kids. This person would still build her delusions thinking they are 'soul mates' and that he loves only her. Since he is someone 'important' in her mind, his love makes her a worthwhile person."

"But how does she find out all this stuff about me?" Steven waved his hand then winced. "Like my shoulder and going to Sprouts?" Jim frowned, realizing his brother's shoulder was still bothering him.

"Erotomanics tend to be above average in intelligence, so they can get very creative in finding ways to gleam as much information about you as possible and thus be closer to you. The more information they know about their love object, the more intimate they feel towards them. That's why actors and actresses tend to be targets; there are tons of details about their personal lives made public by magazines and TV shows like Entertainment Tonight. The stalker feels that they 'know' that person, because they know so much about them. Plus, that's why they become stalkers. Every time they see you it makes them feel more a part of your life. Whether you know they're there or not, it feeds their delusions to think that you do know they're there and love them."

"So what if I just confront this person and tell them to bug off?" Steven asked, searching for a way to deal with the situation.

Blair shrugged. "Probably won't do any good. You'll be paying attention to her, giving her a response that in her deluded state, she will twist into something that means you love her. For instance, telling her to 'go to hell' would become 'my life is hell without you'. The delusion thrives on contact with the love object."

"So what do I do?" Steven asked forlornly, highly uncomfortable being described as a 'love object'.

"Usually, there are only four ways to stop a stalker. One is to scare them off, which only works if the person isn't that invested in you." Blair could see by the gleam in his partner's eyes that Jim liked that option. "Two is to totally disappear. You'd have to move somewhere far way, cutting off every tie you have with your old life and obtain a totally new identity."

Steven stared at him in horror. "No way."

"Agree," Blair nodded. "Not only is it incredibly rough on the victim, but it can be almost impossible to do. There is almost always some link that a person misses and the stalker will find. Option three is incarceration."

"That's probably the most reasonable," Jim agreed firmly. "It's now illegal to stalk someone in this state, so with evidence we can put them away."

"While praying they fixate on some other poor person," Blair muttered.

"So what do I do to build my case?" Steven asked.

"We start by having you obtain a restraining order," Jim replied. "It will establish that you don't want contact."

"On who?" Blair countered. "We need a name to get a restraining order."

The three men stared at each other a moment, broken when the waitress arrived with their food. Once she was gone, Steve quietly asked, "What's the fourth option?"

Blair's eyes dropped to the plate in front of him. "Death of the stalker."

"Then we'll have to try incarceration first," Jim observed grimly. "Which means we have to find out her name."

Twenty minutes later, Jim glanced up from Steven's list to see his brother idly picking at his fish. "Steve, you okay?"

Steven dropped the fork and sighed. "I keep wondering if I'm being watched, WHEN I'm being watched. How much she's been digging up on my personal life. I feel like I need to jump up and look over my shoulder real fast to see if anyone's there."

Jim reached over and gently squeezed his brother's shoulder. "We'll catch her. It'll just take a little time."

Deciding Steven needed a distraction, Blair pulled a name off Steven's list, "Who's Dory Jamison?"

"One of the new vice presidents," Steven replied, rolling his eyes. "She and the main VP I work under, Jake Wilson, have fought with each other since day one."

"She show any interest in you?" Blair inquired.

Steven snorted. "Only as a means to get back at Jake. They each try to score off the other, and I'm in the crossfire."

Jim appraised his brother a moment, again noticing the fatigue. "How bad is it?"

Steven shrugged. "Nothing Jake and I can't handle so far. I've just had to stay on my toes more than normal."

Jim studied him a moment more, knowing Steven was telling the truth but that it was still taking a toll on him. Oh well, one problem at a time. "What's this 'Charity auction' thing?"

"One of Jamison's ideas," Steven sighed. "Apparently, the president of Children's Hospital is good friends with the director of The Community Lights Foundation, so she talked him into letting her do a bachelor's auction to benefit the hospital. Some sort of political thing. Anyway, Jamison figured that it would be good publicity for our company to be involved, so the next thing I knew, I had 'volunteered'."

Jim's eyes narrowed. "Volunteered to do what?" Steven's face turned beet red.

A snicker escaped before Blair could stop it. "You're one of the bachelors?"

When Steven didn't reply, Jim's eyes widened. "You're kidding?"

Steven shook his head. "Jamison thinks it's a riot. Jake just kinda shrugs while telling me to at least get a decent bid, so that the company doesn't look bad." He glanced at Jim. "It's for Children's Hospital. I just couldn't back out."

Jim nodded. He knew that Children's Hospital was the one charity Steven really cared about. "So when is this auction?"

"Next week. I had to fill out a bunch of forms about three months ago so they could do a background check on me." Steven smiled. "Guess they wanted to make sure I wasn't an abuser or pervert on the side."

"Too bad they can't do the same for the ones bidding on you," Jim replied thoughtfully. "So that means you filled out the paperwork at the same time the letters arrived?"

"It was around that time."

Jim glanced at Blair. "That sounds like a good avenue to pursue, along with Jamison."

"Wait a minute," Steven interjected, sitting up straight. "You can't go to my bosses with this."

"Why not?" Jim asked.

"Jim," Blair rolled his eyes. "We don't want to get Steven fired."

"Then we'll have to be subtle." Steven and Blair looked at each other, then at Jim. Jim lifted his eyebrows. "What? I can be subtle."

Blair looked at Steven. "I'll do the digging into Jamison for you."

For the first time, Steven felt truly comfortable with Jim's partner. "Thanks, Blair."

With a shake of his head, Jim turned to the next item. "Okay, another question. Do you have Caller ID?"

Steven looked puzzled. "No. Why?"

"I want to find out if those hang-ups are wrong numbers or the letter writer checking on you."

Steven took a deep breath. "I guess I just call the phone company?" His mind whirling, he tried to figure out when he'd have time to call.

"Have Lily do it for you," Blair suggested, reading the strain on Steven's face. "It sounds like she really wants to help."

"Lily?" Jim asked.

"Ms. Lancin," Steven answered.

Jim chuckled. He knew his partner could charm her. "By the way, bro, where did you pick her up at? The University? Looks like a couple of the gals Sandburg's dated." Blair gave Jim a playful glare.

"The employment agency sent her over." Steven shook his head. "I think I'm on their reject list, since I've gone through so many. So I get the odder ones."

"Yeah, but she seems on the ball," Blair replied.

Steven smiled. "Yeah. She's the first one who's been able to figure out how to work the fax machine."

"Just do me a favor and don't ask her out, Chief." Jim gave Blair a pointed look. "She's bound to turn into a weirdo if you do."

"Like YOU have such great luck with woman?" Blair countered. Noticing that Steven was starting to relax, they continued to banter for the rest of the meal.

Hour later, Burbank Complex

As Steven's car pulled away from the curb, Jim monitored the area with his senses, alert for any motion or noise. When nothing seemed to take an interest in Steven's BMW, he sighed and climbed into his truck.

Blair glanced up from his notes. "Nothing?"

Jim shook his head. "I'm worried, Chief. I can tell he's tired between the tense situation at work and the auction stuff. This stalker is just one more thing he doesn't need."

"By the way," Blair prodded gently. "What did Steven mean about not being able to turn down Children's Hospital?"

"They saved my life when we were kids."

"What?" Blair turned to face his partner. "You never mentioned that!"

"Not much to mention." Jim shrugged, staring straight ahead. "I was pretty young at the time. I don't even remember the accident and Pop would never talk about it. Sally said it was only due to the great work at the hospital that I survived. So Steven has always contributed to it."

Seeing the darkening gloom around his friend, Blair attempted to cheer him up. "Hey man, it sounds like Steven can handle the work stuff. We just have to support him through the stalker stuff."

Unconsciously clenching his jaw, Jim stared straight ahead. "At least she hasn't made any threats yet."

"Ah, that might actually be a bad sign, Jim."

Worried blue eyes instantly turned to his partner. "What do you mean, bad sign?"

Blair sighed. "Well, of course it depends on what mental problem the stalker has. But statistically, only three to five percent of erotomanics who threaten to kill their love object actually do it. It's when an erotomanic starts saying things like he and his love object will be 'united' on such and such a date that you need to get worried. They tend to think they will be united in death."

Jim took a deep breath. "I don't like the sounds of that. This woman has already inferred that she and Steven will be 'together again'."

Blair sent a worried look to Jim. "It gets worse. Erotomanics are more likely to kill a close friend or family member of their love object because they think that person is standing in their way."

"I can handle it," Jim replied with a shrug. "I just don't want her going after my brother." With that statement, Jim started the truck. Blair sighed, worried that Jim wasn't taking the all too real threat to himself seriously.

Tuesday morning, Griffin Enterprises

Steven wearily leaned against the elevator wall and closed his eyes. He was so tired. Five hang-up calls had interrupted his sleep until after one in the morning. It had been too late to write them off as wrong numbers or telemarketers, so Steven knew Jim was right: it had to be the stalker. The realization had filled him with tension, so he had had very little sleep even after the calls stopped.

After hours of tossing, he got up early to drive to the old train station his company was remodeling. He needed to check that the supplies he had ordered had been delivered as promised. Arriving at the same time as the crew, the foreman had taken the opportunity to talk with him. The crew had found unexpected but extensive water damage upstairs. After viewing the damage and discussing the situation with the foreman and the architect, who had arrived early to take a look, Steven compiled a list of suggested solutions. Now he just had to figure out which one was both safe and affordable. He had walked out to the parking lot with the architect, who had patted him hard on the back and asked if he was feeling okay. Steven had somehow managed to shrug it off without being too grouchy, but he wasn't sure he had been convincing.

Later, as his car crawled with all the others in rush hour traffic, Steven found himself covertly studying his fellow commuters in the surrounding cars, even using his rearview mirror to examine the ones behind him. With each female occupant, he wondered, 'Is it her? Could she be following me?' He finally cranked up a talk show on the radio to distract his thoughts.

Now he had to somehow find the energy to handle a full day of work. He stretched his aching shoulder, praying he could last without falling asleep at his desk. Getting off at his floor, Steven's feet traveled to his office on autopilot.

"Hi, Mr. Ellison."

Steven gave his new office assistant a quick once over as he tried to smile. Today she was wearing a red velvet top under a black linen jacket. A huge, silver, Celtic cross on a black beaded chain hung from her neck. Too bad my stalker isn't a vampire. That cross would scare her off. At least the deep red lipstick was an improvement over the hideous purple from yesterday. "Hi, Ms. Lancin. Have I had any calls yet?"

Lily shook her head, studying him worriedly. "Just Mr. Wilson. He said he'd be down around ten."

Glancing at the small digital clock on her desk, Steven noticed it was already 9:30. He sighed, thinking of all the work he had to do and wondering what extra project Jake would dump on him. Then he remembered Blair's suggestion. "Ms. Lancin, could you do me a favor? I'd like to get Caller ID on my home phone."

Eyes and voice growing hard, the young woman inquired, "That weirdo calling you at home now?"

Steven shrugged. "I've been getting a lot of hang-ups and Jim thinks it might be her."

She grabbed the telephone book. "I'm on it."

Steven stepped around her desk to walk to his office when the building delivery man arrived. The uneasy feeling that had plagued him all day grew. Turning around, he watched as Lily signed the clipboard and was handed a mailing box the size of a video. "Is it for me?"

Lily gave him a fretful look. "Yes. And it's the weirdo's handwriting." She picked up a small business card that had been carefully placed next to the phone. "Do you want me to call Detective Sandburg, Mr. Ellison?"

Steven ran a hand over his hair, hating to have to call for help but knowing he was out of his league. "Yes."

Twenty minutes later

Jim stormed up to Lily's desk, Blair barely keeping up. The sentinel was becoming very annoyed with the person bothering his brother. However, his beef wasn't with the young woman at the desk. "Good Morning, Ms. Lancin."

"Hello, Detective Ellison," Lily replied, subdued.

Blair, reading the signs, asked, "How's Steven?"

"He looks really tired. But then, he said he had some hang-up phone calls last night."

Flames briefly sparked in Jim's eyes before he controlled his anger. "Have either of you opened the package?"

"No." Steven stepped out of his office in time to hear Jim's question. "I thought there might be some fingerprints or something you could use."

"Good thinking," Jim praised his brother, noting for himself the fatigue on the younger man's face. "Any progress on that Caller ID?"

"It's all set up," Lily piped up. "I'll pick up the box at lunch." Steven gave her a grateful smile.

"We HAVE to be ready before Gafkin arrives! You should have your people organized well enough to handle this!"

"Don't worry about MY people. Worry about your own!"

Steven groaned. Noticing Jim's eye on him, Steven whispered sentinel soft, "Jamison and Wilson. Gafkin is the company head." When Jim's eyes grew speculative, Steven sent a pleading look to behave.

The first person around the corner was a man about Jim's size and age. His blond hair was slicked back, and the blue eyes held a determined, self-assured look. Jostling for space in the narrow hall next to him was an impeccably dressed woman of about the same age. Her dark head was held at an arrogant angle while her dark eyes were cold and just as determined. Stopping at the desk, she looked down her nose at Lily. "Another odd one, Ellison?"

Steven barely kept from glaring. Blair suddenly realized that jaw clenching must run in the Ellison genes. "This is my new secretary..."

However, Jamison had already dismissed the girl from her attention and turned to examined Blair and Jim from head to toe. For a moment, Blair felt like he was a dish of Jell-O on a dessert tray. "Who are you?"

Before Steven could speak, Jim offered his hand, meeting her challenging eyes with a bland, arrogant stare of his own. "Jim Ellison, Steven's brother."

Jake sent a puzzled glance at Steven as the woman purred, "I see good looks run in the family." With Jamison's attention held by Jim, Lily covertly passed the package to Blair. "May I ask why you're here?"

"Just needed to talk to Steven about a family matter, Ms...?"Jim returned politely, but not backing down.

"Ms. Dory Jamison. I'm one of the Vice Presidents of this company." She continued to study the large man in front of her. "In fact, I need to speak with your brother. We have an urgent meeting coming up."

Catching the brief, startled look that crossed Steven's face, Jim realized that this was the first time the younger Ellison had heard of it. Jim tipped his head slightly in deference, though his eyes plainly stated it was by his good will alone that he was allowing her near Steven at all. "That's fine. My partner and I were just leaving. Come on, Chief." Blair quickly followed Jim's lead.

Watching the two men walk down the hall, Jamison asked, "Partner?" with a slight sneer.

"Steven's brother is a police detective," Jake replied, again shooting Steven a puzzled look.

"That's right," Steven replied, struggling to keep the sharpness out of his voice. He hadn't liked the way she looked at Jim, nor the haughty sneers she'd given Blair and Lily. While normally he could ignore Jamison's rudeness, a part of him felt that family should be exempt. "He and his partner, Blair Sandburg, are two of the best detectives in the city."

"Hmm," Dory murmured. Then she shook her head in dismissal, turning to glare at Steven. "We need to talk."

Steven elegantly indicated his office with a hand. "After you." He caught Lily's sympathetic eyes before turning to follow.

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