edited by: Claire and Toni Rae
"It's for Charity."
"So what?" "Who cares?" "Why us?"
Those were the reactions. Not that it worked; not that it mattered. When the word came down from above that every department within the city's employ would provide some sort of 'talent' for the annual 'Cascade for Charity Night' program, there wasn't much to be said. This year, it was Major Crime that got stuck with the assignment for the Police Department.
The previous years had had everything from comedy skits to recitations to magic acts. All of them awful. So far, in the ten years of the Charity Night, the PD had come in at the bottom of everyone's list for 'if they never come back it will be too soon'. It seemed that cops had no talent for anything more than arresting bad guys, not that that was a bad thing. But still, you'd think that at least one cop could have a little talent for something else.
"OK, so, we're the stuckees," Joel Taggart said at the meeting of Major Crime to discuss their possible options. "Any ideas?"
His question was met with silence, as no one was willing to look at anyone else. They'd all heard about the previous 'acts' put on by the PD and knew that it would be hard to do any worse than the others, but still...
"Well, I know that Blair can sing," Jim mentioned rather tentatively.
"So can Joel. He's got a great baritone," Blair countered.
"Okay, so we have a couple of guys who can sing," Simon muttered. "I used to play the clarinet, but that was years ago."
Joel perked up, "Henri, don't you play bass?"
"Yeah, so?" Brown wasn't sure he liked the direction this seemed to be heading.
"Well, Blair plays guitar, I can play the piano, Simon the clarinet..." he trailed off, waiting for any other volunteers.
"I can play the saxophone," Rafe volunteered, a bit uncertainly.
"How about you, Megan?"
"Well, I can carry a tune, but that's about all, I'm afraid."
Everyone turned to a very silent Jim Ellison. Seeing that he was now the focus of everyone's attention, he sighed and admitted, "I used to play drums."
"WHAT?!?" Blair's voice rose more than an octave with the startled question. "Why didn't I know that?"
"You never asked?" Jim was looking into the distance, trying to ignore the excitement building around him.
"Jim..." Blair's tone of voice made his partner flinch.
"Look, it's never come up. I can play the drums. Used to have a pretty good set, too." Seeing the question on everyone's faces, he sighed. "Let's just say that it was something I took up just to annoy my dad, okay?"
Since his friends were well aware of his less than stellar childhood, they backed off on their questions. Instead, they began to get excited over the prospect of their stint as the Cascade PD's martyrs for charity, as it had come to be known.
"But, what kind of music will we play?" Megan asked, causing everyone else to pause in their excited chatter.
"That depends on what we can play, doesn't it?" Simon asked. "I mean, it's been twenty years since I last played the clarinet, and that was mostly classical and jazz..."
"I played jazz," Rafe said.
"I play blues and rock," Brown added.
"I play folk and rock," Blair said.
"I did mostly gospel and ragtime," Joel admitted. They all turned to Jim, wondering what his specialty had been.
"The advantage of drums is that it's fairly easy to switch from one form to another. I played a lot of rock, but I did some jazz, too. But I kind of like H's idea of blues. The instruments we have kind of lend themselves to blues and jazz, and if Megan can manage some of the singing... we might actually have a chance to not bomb out."
"Where will we practice?" Megan asked.
"I think we can probably borrow the rec-room at my church," Joel offered. "Let me call the pastor and ask. The next question is, do we all have instruments?"
Fortunately, it appeared that Blair had a guitar and Henri, an electric bass, Joel had access to a piano, both at home and the spinet at the church, and both Rafe and Simon knew where their old instruments were stored. It came back down to everyone staring at Jim, once again.
He sighed. "I'll have to call my dad and see if they're still around anywhere. Although, even if they are, they'll probably need new heads, but let me call him and see if they're even still around."
"Why don't you call him right now, Jim?" Joel suggested. "And I'll call my church and get permission to use the rec-room. Then, maybe we can find us some music?"
Jim nodded and stood to go back to his desk to make the call. The rest of the group stood as well, heading back to their desks, just a bit excited about the idea of maybe being able to pull off a coup for the department (not to mention for themselves).
"Thanks, Dad. I'll be over in a day or two to pick them up." Jim looked up at the pleased group of his colleagues and sighed as he hung up the phone. "As you no doubt heard, my dad still has the drums. I'll go check them out and if they're still any good, then I'll haul them over to wherever we find to practice."
His friends were all grinning and getting more excited over the prospect, wondering whether they had enough time to get everything set so that they could do well. Knowing the history of the event, the idea that they could possibly do well when the other divisions in the department had all failed so miserably was energizing to the group... now, if only the bad guys would be kind enough to cooperate.
Jim was surprised to find his drums exactly as he'd left them. Still set up in one corner of the basement. They had even been kept dusted. Slipping his somewhat larger-than-when-he-left-home bulk behind the drums, he sat down on the stool that was still there and picked up a pair of sticks that lay across one of the drums. Tentatively, he fiddled with the sticks, until he held them in a comfortable grip. Still tentative, he began to softly tap on the drums, finding a rhythm that he liked, then played a bit faster. Within a few minutes, he was playing with more confidence, but still not nearly up to speed. When he finally tired, he set the sticks back on the drum and shook his head. He looked up to see his partner, grinning on the bottom step. He flushed in embarrassment.
"Hey, sounded pretty good to me. Especially since it's been how long since the last time you played?" Blair said, his tone warm and calm.
"More than twenty years, Chief." He tenderly ran one hand over the old drums, "They don't seem to be in too bad a shape. Do you honestly think that we can put anything worthwhile together in less than a month?"
Blair came down the last step and, glancing around what to him was obviously a shrine of sorts maintained by William Ellison for his long-missing son who sat oblivious to it, came over and stood in front of his friend.
"Yeah. I think maybe we can. You've already demonstrated that you remember the basics. Some practice and you'll get back up to speed pretty fast. Now, Simon and his clarinet, that may be a different story. He hasn't played since high school, either, and he's older than you. Rafe, I have no idea. H... well, he plays weekends at a little jazz club downtown." At Jim's surprised expression, he explained, "Hey, it's a college hang-out, man. I've seen him down there off and on for years. He just never sees the audience, you know?" At Jim's nod, he continued. "Joel, no doubt keeps up with his piano. You've seen that old upright he has in the parlor? Well, you can tell it's been well used. Probably has always done it to keep his fingers limber for working on explosives. As for Megan's voice... that's another unknown. We'll just have to wait and see. It's worth a chance, though. Don't you think?" The last was to elicit a response, wondering if Jim were confident in his ability to get back up to speed so quickly.
"Maybe. Like you said, though, we'll have to wait and see."
William seemed depressed as he watched his son and friend load the drums into Jim's truck. Blair, recognizing the older Ellison's grief over the loss of one more piece of his estranged son, turned back to him.
"Would you mind if we brought them back after the Charity show? I don't think we have room for them at the loft unless we do some major rearranging."
William smiled and relaxed a bit, "That would be fine." He caught Jim's eye as he turned from putting the tailgate up on his truck.
"Thanks, Dad. I'll see you in a few weeks, when we bring them back."
"Not a problem, Jimmy. You know you're welcome here any time?" His tone indicated that it was a question, hoping that his son knew that he wanted him to visit any time and that such visits were more than welcome.
Jim relaxed and smiled, understanding. "Yeah, Dad. I know." Turning to Blair, he asked, "You ready, Chief?"
"Yeah. I'll see you later, Mr. Ellison." He waved as he opened the passenger side door and climbed in.
"Yeah, Dad?" Jim turned back from climbing into his truck.
"Would it be all right if I went to the Charity Show?"
Jim grimaced, thinking of how much could go wrong, but he spotted Blair's insistent nod and capitulated. "Well, if you don't mind watching us make idiots of ourselves on stage. It is for a good cause, after all. Sure. Tell Sally, too?"
"I will. Maybe we'll both go." There was a bit of hopefulness in the elder Ellison's voice as he watched his son get in his truck and back down the driveway, waving at him as he shifted into drive and headed out. He stood with one arm raised in farewell, watching until the truck turned the corner three blocks down and passed from sight.
The recreation room at the church Joel attended was, fortunately, on the ground floor, which meant that there wasn't any struggling to get the drums down any stairs, unlike there had been getting them up from the basement at the Ellison house. Joel was waiting for them when they arrived, the rest of the group appeared shortly, with instruments in tow.
"Good thing the Community Center has a piano available, huh, Joel?" Blair panted as he lugged his amplifier in.
"Yeah. I'd sure hate to have to move a piano. Once you move them, you have to have them retuned and that's a real hassle."
"I'm going to have enough trouble getting these tuned," Jim agreed. "Hopefully, they won't be too bad. I was surprised at how good the heads are after all these years."
"Jim," Blair was using his 'patient' voice, "I realize that you didn't notice, but your dad has kept your drums up, maintaining them like a shrine. Think about it."
Jim paused in setting up his drums and looked closely at them. Lifting his face up to see his friends looking at him, he shook his head in surprise. "You're right. They've been polished recently." He looked more closely at the instruments. "I'll have to remember to thank him," he murmured. He looked up, just before the door opened to reveal the rest of the folks from Major Crime who, except for Megan, were all carrying their instruments. Blair quickly hurried over to where he'd left his guitar and amplifier. Brown had brought his amps as well, and they quickly got their heads together over them to see how they could merge the two systems.
Once everyone was more-or-less set up, Joel pulled out a stack of music. "I dug these out of storage. It's mostly jazz and blues, with some Big Band and show tunes thrown in. I figured we could go through them and see if anyone knows any of them and then narrow it down from there."
Joel had originally been tagged with the task of putting this whole thing together. After all, it wasn't seemly for the captain in charge to lead the band, so to speak. Made it look more like the members had been coerced, rather than volunteering... of course, there wasn't any volunteering, not really. The word had come down from above and they were all perfectly aware of the facts, but with Joel nominally in charge, it didn't give the appearance that anyone was forced to participate. Fortunately, Joel had enough of a musical background to be able to lead them in this endeavor.
"How long will we have to play?" Rafe asked, taking a handful of music sheets to look through, as the others did the same.
"We're scheduled for a twenty minute set. That would be anywhere from six to eight pieces, plus maybe a couple more in case they want an encore." Joel ignored Simon's snort of disbelief as he pulled up a folding chair and sat down to look through the music as well.
Once everyone had gone through his or her pile, they swapped and, in that way, worked their way through the entire stack. Each person had a few pieces picked out that they recognized and liked. Placing the stack of discards on top of the piano, Joel returned and they settled in to discuss their choices.
"OK, so, why don't we list what we've picked out and then vote on which ones we want to work on?" Joel asked.
"Joel? Can we use that rolling white board? Then we could list them on that, discuss them and then just erase the ones we decide we don't want to do." Blair, ever the teacher, acted on his suggestion by standing up and going over to drag the object in question over. "I'll even volunteer to write down the titles, okay?"
"Good idea, Sandburg," Simon agreed, standing and helping him position the board so that everyone could see it without having to twist too far.
The next several minutes were spent with the participants calling out titles and Blair neatly printing them on the board. The list ran the gamut from Count Basie to Ella Fitzgerald and from Glenn Miller to the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
"I think you could probably take off the Brubeck piece," Rafe suggested. "I don't think I can do all that solo work in front of an audience."
"But it's a great piece, man," Blair urged. "We could do it like they did at Newport, with each instrument taking a turn at the solo. I've got the CD somewhere. It's really awesome."
"I still don't know..." Rafe's hesitance was felt by everyone.
"Before we go any further, does everyone read music?" Joel asked. There was a moment of silence before everyone tentatively nodded, except for Megan.
"Uh, I don't. I've tried to learn, but it's just spots on a page and doesn't mean anything," she admitted.
"That's okay, you can learn the songs by rote," Henri said. At her puzzled look, he elaborated, "You memorize the words and music. Joel will play your part on the piano and you just have to sing along until you've got it memorized. Usually it takes less time to learn the music than it does the words, but that's normal."
"Oh, sure, like learning the songs on the radio," Megan agreed.
"So, what do you have that's simple that we can all try out?" Henri asked. "Keep it simple. We don't need to be struggling with music along with everything else."
"Well..." Joel looked first at the board, then turned back to the stack of discarded music. "How about this?" He held out the music for 'A Tisket, A Tasket'. "It's relatively simple and might be a good one to practice on."
With the agreement of the others, Joel headed for the office to make them enough copies so that everyone could have one. He used the original on the piano.
Simon, nervously fingered his clarinet as he sucked on his reed to moisten it before putting it in the mouthpiece, read through the music, grateful that the sheet music had the various instruments scored separately. Reading the music, a bit tentatively after so many years away from it, he started humming his part, just under his breath. Fortunately, he knew the song, which was a definite help.
"Why doesn't everyone warm up a bit, see how much you remember if you haven't played in a while. Maybe do some scales?" Joel suggested, settling down at the piano and running a few scales to warm up.
"Good idea." Brown agreed, adding the accompaniment with bass riffs to underlie the piano notes. Blair, seeing the key Joel was in quickly joined, playing one third above. Rafe quickly joined in, playing a third lower, and Jim simply started keeping time with the drums, getting into the rhythm and moving the tempo around, speeding up and slowing down as they shifted keys. Simon was the last to join in, playing a third above Blair's guitar, the sweet notes of the clarinet taking everyone by surprise, the others stopped to listen. Simon was concentrating so hard on trying to remember how to play, that he didn't notice that the others had stopped. When he did, he immediately stopped as well, looking worriedly at his colleagues.
"What? Am I that bad?"
"No, Simon. For someone who hasn't practiced in over twenty years, you sound real good," Joel grinned. Looking at the others, "In fact, this may not be a bad gig, after all."
"Gig, Joel?" Brown asked, one eyebrow raising, "That doesn't sound like the sort of word you'd know, man."
Joel chuckled, "Oh, I've played a gig or four, although it's been a lot of years. I still remember the vernacular. So, what say we try the song?"
The first run-through was more than rough. They had a problem with the timing, as Jim was a bit tentative about it himself, following instead of leading by setting the beat. They quit by mutual agreement less than halfway through.
"Jim? We're really going to need you, man. You need to set the beat for us. Without you, we don't have any control," Joel said gently. "It's not like we have a conductor to keep us all on track. We need you to set the tempo and keep it steady, all right?"
"Sorry, Joel. Let me give it another try." The others nodded and let Jim practice for a couple of minutes, finding the proper tempo and style to fit the song, then he stopped and looked up at the beaming faces of his friends. "Better?"
"Much." Several voices chorused back at him. Relaxing more, he cast a questioning gaze at the others, who all nodded in agreement. He started again, and after a few beats to set it up, the others joined in.
They played it through three or four times before they were satisfied with it, then they asked Megan to sing along. She knew the song, but was terribly shy about having to perform in front of an audience, even if it was only the guys she worked with.
"Hey, if I can haul this thing out of the attic after twenty plus years and do this, you certainly should be able to sing a little for us," Simon cajoled, "Besides, you're going to need to practice with us every single time, too. Even if we do a few numbers where you don't have to sing. Got that?"
"Yes, Sir," she smiled tentatively and, knowing that they wouldn't be terribly critical, she took a deep breath and nodded for them to begin.
Who could have suspected that her throaty alto would be so mesmerizing? Or that her range was close to three octaves? Since it was a jazz piece, after the first chorus, she improvised, using her voice like any good jazz musician, playing with the notes, doing vocal riffs that left the others staring at each other in shock. The idea of going on stage with their act was suddenly looking like a first step into a new and wonderful world.
Not that the practice was without its problems. There were any number of sour notes, but practice would take care of that. The question was whether or not a month was enough time to prepare. They worked through the list of music they had chosen, deciding to add their practice piece, 'A Tisket, A Tasket' to the repertoire, simply because they sounded so good on it. Blair's insistence on 'Take Five' added it to the list, but only as an encore piece, was one that had Rafe sweating at the amount of practice he'd need to be able to pull it off.
After three hours, Megan was losing her voice, and Joel called a halt. They were all tired, and Simon was starting to form a blister on his lip. Packing up, Joel was happy to inform them that if they wanted to, they could leave their instruments at the church. They would be locked up and kept safe. Jim agreed, not wanting to have to haul his drums back and forth, particularly if it should happen to rain. Brown and Blair opted to leave their amplifiers at the church, but wanted their instruments with them to practice. Simon and Rafe knew darned well that they needed to keep their instruments with them to practice at every opportunity. Jim simply took several pair of sticks with him, in case he wanted to practice. He was certain that he would have no problem finding something to practice on, teasing his partner that the younger man's head would work just as well as anything else to practice on.
"Oh? And why would that be?" Blair's voice held a slight edge to it.
"Because, it's so nice and hollow, that I'll bet it makes a wonderful sound," Jim ducked, as Blair threw the white-board marker at him, laughing gleefully.
"Well, I guess it would have to sound better than that concrete you've got between the ears, man," Blair teased back, dodging around the others.
"Concrete?" Jim growled, "I'll show you concrete," and he sidestepped his captain and caught hold of his partner's jacket, hauling him in and tickling him.
"Guys?" Joel said in an amused tone of voice, "If you want to roughhouse, take it outside, please?"
"Yes, Joel." Jim and Blair chorused contritely, remembering belatedly that this was a church.
Simon rolled his eyes and shook his head at the pair. His stern disapproval invalidated by the grin that refused to stay hidden. "I think we've done enough for one day, people. Since it's Friday, maybe we can meet again for some practice tomorrow? I'm sure we won't be able to do anything on Sunday, this is a church, after all; but if we meet every evening after work and on Saturdays for an hour or two, I think we may just be able to pull this thing off. What do the rest of you think?"
He was met with a chorus of agreement and they parted company with the promise of continuing their practice and meeting the following afternoon at one-thirty.
When they got home, Blair suggested that while he fixed dinner, Jim should practice a bit more. With a sigh and a shake of his head, Jim pulled his sticks from the pocket of his coat and looked around the loft, trying to decide what to practice on. Pulling out a chair from the dining table, he sat down and began a tentative tattoo on the table. After a few moments, he grimaced in disgust and stopped. Looking around some more, he noticed that his roommate was putting together the ingredients for spaghetti, using sauce frozen and left over from some previous meal. Smiling, he sauntered over to where Blair was stirring the nearly melted sauce and when he moved out of the way, with a puzzled glance at him, Jim began a gentle rhythm on the lids of the pots on the stove. Surprisingly, the sound wasn't unpleasant at all. Within a few minutes, Jim had moved on over to the hanging pot rack and was playing over his head on the dangling pots and pans.
Blair grinned and shuffled a few dance steps in as he crossed back and forth across the kitchen; chopping the vegetables for their salad in time with Jim's drumming, preparing the garlic bread and checking on the pots on the stove, all the time, his body rocking in time to the beat.
"Ten minutes, Jim," Blair said as he put the pasta into the boiling water.
"Is that a hint to quit, Chief?"
"Nope. But you're going to look awful funny using your drumsticks for chopsticks when eating spaghetti..."
"Oh. That was supposed to be a hint to set the table, then?"
"See? That's why you're a detective... you have such wonderful deductive reasoning," Blair teased.
"Yeah, sure, Shecky. The bread's burning." Blair scrambled for the oven, jerking the door open and rescuing the garlic bread just in time.
"You were getting pretty comfortable there, Jim. I noticed that you were really loosening up and just going with it. Do you think we can be ready in the time we have?"
"Not much choice, Sandburg. We have four weeks until the event; we're going to need every minute of practice between now and then, just to not embarrass ourselves. Of course, if Simon or Rafe end up blistering their lips... we'll be SOL."
"Yeah, I noticed that Simon's lip was bothering him. Hmmmm. Let me do a little research and see if I can find anything that might help."
"Just make sure it doesn't use anything illegal... or act like anything illegal, okay, Chief?"
"Right, Jim. I got it."
They sat down to dinner and afterwards, once the dishes were done, they settled down to watch a little television before heading for bed.
Simon got home with his take-out Chinese dinner and immediately pulled an ice cube from the freezer and applied it to his bruised and swollen lip. He didn't remember it hurting like this back in high school... of course, he also didn't remember it being that hard to play the clarinet, either. Shaking his head, he sprawled on the couch, sucking on the ice and waiting for the cold to numb his sore lip. He seriously wondered if there was any way he was going to be able to continue... not that he had any choice in the matter. He sighed as he swallowed the last of the water from the melted ice cube. Rising, he headed for the kitchen to reheat and then eat his dinner. Another problem was that his arms were so tired from holding the clarinet up for so long. Man, he was out of shape. Just one more worry to add to his list... darn it.
Brown and Rafe had gone to the practice session together and went out for dinner afterwards. Brown teased his partner about his sax, but backed off when he realized just how insecure his friend was about his ability. He immediately switched gears from teasing to encouraging. By the time Rafe dropped his partner off at home, he was feeling good about the possibilities and his ability to perform.
Megan found herself singing all the way home, chuckling at her sudden interest in the old jazz tune they had worked on, finding that she had enjoyed the experience and was looking forward to the practice session the next day... now, to go home and get some hot tea with lemon for her throat...
Joel stayed behind to lock up the recreation room at his church. He looked up as the pastor entered. "Well? What did you think?"
"They were pretty rough, but there's some real talent there; the two guitarists were right on, and the drummer has a good background, just needs to build a bit of confidence. The Sax-man is pretty tentative, and your clarinetist was a real surprise. Providing he doesn't overdo it and blister his lip, he should be real good."
"What about Megan?"
"Think she'd like to join the choir?"
Joel laughed, "You'll have to ask her that for yourself. So, you think we might be able to pull this all together?"
"You have four weeks?"
"Yeah, that's it. Four weeks, and we need to be able to do a twenty-minute set."
"Well, I think you just might be able to pull it off... providing no one gets hurt in the meantime..."
"Don't remind me. A couple of our guys I swear have targets painted on them."
"I'll pray protection over all of you, how's that sound?"
"Like a plan," Joel grinned as he finished locking up the last of the amplification equipment in a cabinet. "Will Jim's drums be all right here?"
"Yeah. No one will mess with them, here. In fact, nothing's planned for this room at all, this weekend. I'll just lock it up... you have a key?"
"Yes, I do. Thanks for letting us practice here."
"Hey, that's one of the things we're here for, Joel, to provide a service to the community, just part of the whole package."
"Preaching to the choir, Pastor," Joel grinned as they turned off the lights and locked up. "Well, I need to get home, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night, Joel."
Blair made Jim make one stop on their way to practice on Saturday. When asked about the contents of the small brown bag, Blair just smiled and indicated that it was for Simon and Rafe and nothing for him to concern himself with; which earned him a growl as Jim snatched the bag from his hands and took a look at the contents.
"Numbs the pain in the mouth area, Jim... There's also some special lip balm to help prevent any blistering. I got two of each, one for Simon, the other for Rafe, just in case."
"Good idea, Chief," Jim grudgingly agreed, handing the bag back to him. He started up the truck and headed off for the church.
Simon's lip was feeling much better, but he gratefully accepted Blair's gift, especially when Rafe got the same thing. After all, it wasn't as though he were being singled out. Of course he was feeling a bit intimidated, particularly after having heard Joel, Blair, and Henri play... obviously they kept in practice. Then finding out that Brown actually played semi-professionally... well, intimidated was just a small part of it. Even Jim sounded pretty good. He and Rafe were both in the same boat, a long time since they played and not much confidence in their ability. So, he was almost ostentatious in his acceptance of the gift and obvious as he used the special formula lip balm.
Rafe, seeing that Simon was actually using the lip balm, did so as well. He'd gone home the night before and had started work on the Brubeck piece. Oddly enough, it wasn't as hard as he'd first thought. Sure, he was going to need to increase speed, but the notes themselves weren't all that hard. Now, as they all settled down and prepared to practice, his confidence was somewhat higher than the night before.
"OK, people, let's get warmed up and run through the first one. Ready? Jim?" Joel called out.
"Got it," Jim replied. Settling on the stool behind his drums, he raised his sticks and began beating out the tempo. Everyone realized immediately that Jim had been practicing. His timing was dead-on and his body language was relaxed, yet intent. When he looked up, Joel grinned at him and joined in, followed almost immediately by the others. They did it once on their own, then again, with Megan providing the vocal. They ran through it two more times, then Joel decided that they were ready for something more difficult. Sorting through the music, he picked out an instrumental piece, deciding that Megan needed a break. He made a mental note to get with her privately and see about teaching her to breathe properly, which would help keep her from straining her vocal cords. The instrumental piece he chose was Glen Miller's 'In the Mood'. Both Simon and Rafe had a lot of work to do in this one, but the previous warm-up and practice had helped them to relax and, except for a few sections where they had problems, it went fairly well. Fortunately, Henri was a professional and needed almost no coaching and Blair just seemed to have a knack. Jim, now that he'd relaxed somewhat, was doing very well, too. When for the third time, both Simon and Rafe had trouble in the same spot, Joel stopped everybody and focused on the two struggling musicians.
"Let's do some scales, guys. Just Simon and Rafe, okay?" The others relaxed and stood up to move around, stretching out the kinks from sitting so long. Jim went over to the cooler he'd brought and handed out soft drinks and bottled water, making sure that Joel's, Rafe's, and Simon's favorites were set aside for them. A piercing squeal of a mis-used clarinet made Jim cringe in pain, but it wasn't so bad that he couldn't function. He cast a sickly, amused glance at his partner, shaking his head.
"Ouch," Blair murmured, "That even hurt my ears. I hope you had the dial turned down?"
"Yeah, but it still hurt." Jim cocked his head, closing his eyes to concentrate on the sounds coming from the two reed instruments. Turning to the still practicing men, he brought over the drinks for them.
"Joel? I think I may have an idea," Jim said softly, as he handed out the welcome drinks. "Simon? When you try to hit those high notes? Don't blow so hard. I think you may be trying too hard."
Simon took a quick sip of the cold, refreshing soft drink and nodded, trying again. To everyone's surprise, most notably Simon's, the high note came out crisp and clean, with no anguished shriek. Rafe watched and then tried it for himself, finding he too, was now able to hit the high notes.
"Just trying too hard, guys," Joel said with a smile. "Take five and we'll try it again."
Rafe winced almost imperceptibly at Joel's choice of words, but stood and stretched, gratefully sipping the bottled water as he walked around and worked the kinks out of his back and the stiffness from the rest of his body.
When they came back, they tried it again, pleased when they didn't sound half-bad. Twice more through the tune and Joel was satisfied enough to call another break and looked through their list to see what looked like another good song to work on.
For every difficult piece, Joel had decided to try to make sure that two others of less difficulty would be used. Therefore, he chose a blues piece next, that focused more on the base and guitar, in order to give the two tentative reeds some time to relax. It went quite well, with the reeds providing backup to the strings, and all agreed that it sounded quite good, considering. The next piece they tried was another vocal, but after going through it, Megan called a halt.
"This isn't going to work, mates. It needs a different kind of voice," she insisted. The others nodded their agreement.
"Blair? Why don't you sing with her?" Joel suggested, "Make it a duet?"
"Uh... sure, okay, I guess." Hesitantly, he read through the melody and picked out a good harmony to it; nodding, he gestured for them to start.
It was better, but still...
"I've got a suggestion," Rafe said softly. He'd had very little to say throughout the session, so when he spoke, everyone stopped and listened.
"What's that, Rafe?" Joel asked.
"Let Blair sing the melody and Megan sing the counterpoint."
Shrugging in acceptance, they began again. To everyone's surprise, it did sound better. They did it again and Megan, now more confident, was able to get into it and have some fun, leaving Blair to handle the melody.
"Good job, people," Joel enthused. "We've been at this for nearly two hours, so I think it's time to quit for the day. What do you say?"
"Well, we got through three new pieces, making four all together, so we're half-way there, right?" Simon asked. At Joel's nod, "Then let's quit while we're ahead. I'll see you all on Monday."
Murmurs of agreement met his words as they packed up and prepared to take off for what was left of their weekend.
Blair bebopped all the way home, doing riffs on his guitar and humming the tunes they'd been practicing until Jim finally had enough.
"Sandburg. Enough, already. I'm tired and would really appreciate a little peace and quiet, okay?"
"Oh, uh, sorry, man. I'm just kinda jazzed about how well we're doing. Did you notice that that balm really helped Simon and Rafe?"
"Yeah, I did. Good job, Chief. Now, I'd really appreciate it if you could leave the rest of the music behind for the rest of the weekend, please?"
"Sure, Jim. Not a problem." But he was still unable to sit still... Of course, Jim was used to that particular behavior from his partner and could ignore it.
Simon spent a good portion of his Sunday practicing his clarinet, running scales and playing the various pieces they'd practiced, so far. With the practice, his confidence built; and with confidence, he was rapidly regaining the skills learned so long ago.
Megan found herself singing in the shower, practicing the vocal riffs for the two songs, liking the way she sounded and cheerfully singing as she went about her normal weekend routine of cleaning her apartment and doing her laundry.
Rafe spent much of his Sunday worrying over the Brubeck piece. Shaking his head in dismay, he suddenly had a thought and went out to the mall, intending to buy a CD with the tune on it, remembering that Blair had mentioned that there was a version from Newport that had all the instruments taking turns with the solo. He was determined to find a copy, and listen to it before trying to play it again.
Brown slept in late and did his normal weekend chores, ending up with a shopping trip to the mall for a few needed items, to be followed by his weekly grocery shopping.
Joel spent most of his Sunday at church, as was his wont, along with his wife, not worrying at all about the upcoming performance or their ability to succeed where so many others had failed before.
Jim and Blair spent the day quietly, catching up on their normal weekend routine of laundry and grocery shopping, ending with a quiet beer while watching the Mariners lose to the Dodgers.
Typical for a Monday, they were at first inundated with the reports that had been passed to the unit from other departments over the weekend. Brown and Rafe drew two new homicides, while Joel and Megan drew a series of muggings that looked related and showed a strong gay- bashing correlation. Jim and Blair were the lucky pair to be assigned two robberies and a burglary. After the morning staff meeting, the teams headed out to work on the various cases.
After the initial interviews of victims and witnesses, the teams found themselves back at their desks, putting together the evidence and searching for possible leads to the perpetrators of the various crimes. As lunchtime came, they each opted for sending Blair out to the local deli for sandwiches.
"Why do I always have to go?" Blair groused good-naturedly, as he collected money and orders from his colleagues.
"Because you're low man on the totem pole, Chief," his partner grinned, as he handed over his money.
"Oh. I knew that."
"Sure, you did, Sandy," Megan smiled. "D'you need help carrying everything?"
"Uh, no. Thanks. No one ordered drinks, so I can handle it." He looked at his colleagues, "OK, is that it? No more orders? Last chance, guys."
"Sandburg, aren't you going to call in the orders?" Simon asked.
"Nope. I always either have to wait anyway, or the food is soggy or cold, or warm or whatever. It's usually better to just place the order when I get there. So, any last requests?"
"Yeah, Chief, get me a slice of cheesecake, would you?" Jim's request set off a new round of ordering and adjustments of payment. Finally, Blair escaped to go and get their lunch.
At least they all had time to eat before the call came in. There was a bomb threat down at the wholesale market, promising to bring down the entire building. The entire crew dropped everything and headed out to the scene.
The fire department was the first to arrive and the bomb squad hadn't been very far behind. The new Captain, Phuc Nugyen, had only been on-board for a few weeks and had yet to meet with any of the other units. She had already sent in the team with the dogs, hoping to be able to sniff out any possible explosives. The fire department had already managed to evacuate the building, so it should have been a simple task to search for the device. Unfortunately, the perimeter had not yet been secured before the dogs were sent in.
Joel, seeing what had happened, quickly called out to the uniformed officers to block all perimeter access to make sure that no one got in or out, just in case the person responsible was still around and to protect the public in case it turned out to be the real thing. The cops scrambled to comply, Joel's booming annoyed voice sending them off in a hurry. Spotting the new Bomb Squad Captain, he approached her.
"Fooey, you forgot to cordon off the perimeter," Joel called out to the new Bomb Squad Captain. He didn't say it very loudly, but a couple of the Bomb Squad crew heard him and looked at their new captain, waiting for her to say something.
"You're right, I should have sent the uniforms out, but the time limit is such that we needed to get the dogs in as fast as possible. As it is, we only have thirty minutes until it's supposed to go off."
Joel nodded his acceptance and turned back to watch the search, while the rest of the squad started questioning the people who had been evacuated.
Fortunately, the dogs were able to do their job and find the two explosives charges. Captain Nguyen took over once the devices had been safely placed in the explosive-proof containers. Since the way they were placed made defusing them in place unnecessary, she opted to have them hauled out to the firing range and detonated there, far away from any possible damage to person or property. Detonating them in the containers also allowed them to keep the surviving components for forensic study.
"Whoever built it knew what they were doing. Very professional. Probably military trained." Captain Nguyen reported to the group from Major Crime, who had been tasked with the case. "Did anyone get the voice on tape?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact," Joel replied. "All incoming calls are routinely taped, but this one was mechanical, fed through a synthesizer to disguise it. We got nothing on it. What about the components?"
"Well, the C4 was homemade... I hate the internet, sometimes. Idiots with the anarchist's bible are a bane to my existence," Nguyen began, "they let everyone know with the click of a mouse how to build a bomb, but again, this was no amateur. The electronics were too sophisticated, for one thing. And the wiring was standard electrician's wiring, with the wires correctly used in re: standard code."
"Wait, you mean that the ground wire was black, hot was red, and negative was white?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean. Did the caller say why they were targeting the market?"
"Yeah," Captain Banks joined in. "Seems that they don't approve of so many immigrants providing so much of the produce sold here. There were some pretty harsh racial slurs in the call..." he looked pointedly at the Vietnamese woman, "particularly against those from Southeast Asia."
She shook her head, "I'm sorry that my people tend to be farmers, and good ones, at that."
"My question is, why now?" Jim Ellison murmured, "I mean, I can remember when I was a teenager that most of the farmers were already minorities at the market. Why now, all of a sudden? Is our perp new here? Or has something else set him off?" He shook his head in puzzlement. "It just seems so, so strange for it to be happening now. And why a bomb?"
The Bomb Squad Captain looked at him, "I wish I could tell you, Detective...?"
"Oh, sorry, Fooey," Joel began. "This is Jim Ellison and his partner, Blair Sandburg. Guys, this is Phuc Nugyan, our new Bomb Squad Captain." Blair smiled and wiggled his fingers in greeting. "And I think you already know Captain Banks, don't you?"
"Yes, we met at the weekly staff meeting. It's a pleasure, gentlemen," she offered her hand to each of the detectives in turn, her grip firm and dry.
"Welcome to Cascade," Blair smiled at her, unconsciously oozing charm, much to his friends' amusement.
"Captain," Jim murmured politely, as he shook her hand. "I take it from the way Joel's acting, that you two know each other from someplace before?"
She smiled, "You're good, Detective,"
"Jim, please," as he presented her with his most charming smile.
"Well, despite how it's spelled, my first name is pronounced 'Foo',"
"It's a common name in Viet Nam. I was a kid when I met Uncle Joey, he was with the unit that protected my family. We worked for them in exchange for their protection... well, my brothers and father were in the South Vietnamese Army, and since they were stationed in my village, we sort of took care of each other. Then, when the war ended, he made sure me and my family got out."
"Definitely that," Joel agreed. "Her family kept watch over us like we belonged, tended our wounded, fed us... saved our lives..." he trailed off, smiling fondly at the younger woman.
"Uncle Joey?" Simon grinned, eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Hey, she was just a little girl, what were you, ten, twelve?"
"I was twelve when you got me and my family evacuated," she glared at the others, warning them off.
"That makes you..." Blair was doing the arithmetic in his head.
"Older than you are," but there was a sense of teasing in her voice.
"Right. Got it." Blair blushed a bit, realizing that he'd been flirting shamelessly with her, rather inappropriate behavior with a superior.
"Anyway, if we can get back to our bomber?" Simon interjected, "The question now, is whether this was a one-time thing, or the beginning of a trend? I seriously hope we don't have a serial bomber on our hands."
They all exchanged worried looks. No one had any answers.
Forensics was of very little help. The only thing they knew for sure, was that the bomber was a professional, at least in electronics, and the C4 residue showed a high likelihood that they were also adept at chemistry... now, who could they find to fit the profile?
As the week progressed, caseloads increased, but so did the number of cases solved, and every evening, after dinner, the members of Major Crime continued meeting at Joel's church to practice for their upcoming martyrdom; only it was beginning to look like they just might be able to pull off a coup, of sorts.
On Thursday night, the wholesale market burned to the ground.
Friday morning found the fire department on the scene, searching for the accelerant that had allowed what was a mostly concrete building to burn so completely that even portions of the concrete had burnt to the point of crumbling.
Jim, with his partner and Joel in tow, joined the investigation. The two security guards had been knocked unconscious and tied up well away from the conflagration. Neither of the elderly men had seen or heard anything, not even any warning before they were attacked.
"What are you thinking, Jim?" Blair asked, seeing the look of intense concentration on his partner's face.
"The same thing I am, probably. Whoever did this has been around long enough to have picked up some tips from Matson." The newcomer was familiar to all three men.
"Debra." Jim acknowledged the fire department's chief arson investigator. "Yeah, it looks like his work, but it isn't... no sex wax."
"No, but still an High Temperature Accelerant." She turned her attention to the oldest member of the group, "Heard you got out of the bomb business, Taggart... stuck babysitting?"
"Still just as unfriendly as ever, huh, Reeves?" Joel responded blandly.
She had the good grace to flinch at his words. Slumping a bit, she sighed. "Sorry, it's been a bad month. This makes three of these. Did you get a bomb threat first?"
"Not just a threat," Captain Nugyen said, strolling up. "We found two very professional bombs here, on Monday afternoon. The person who called in the threat used a voice synthesizer to make the call. We were lucky enough to find them before they had a chance to go off. Looks like our bomber has a sideline. You said there have been two more of these this month?"
The three men watched silently as the two women sized each other up, like a pair of pit bulls debating the boundaries of their territory. For several moments, it was debatable whether they were going to fight, or be friends. The new head of the bomb squad took the initiative.
"I'm Phuc Nugyen, the new captain of the bomb squad." She extended her hand.
Debra glanced down at the offered hand and reluctantly, it seemed, took it. "Debra Reeves, Fire Department Arson Investigator. You said you found two bombs?
"That's right. Let me show you." Turning, she led the other investigator into the burned out building.
"That went well," Blair remarked, absently.
"Better than expected," Joel agreed.
Jim just stood, staring at the remains of the building, the look of intense concentration still on his face.
"What is it, Jim?" Blair asked, sliding one hand up his partner's back, using touch to reach his partner.
"Debra's right. This is just like Matson's work. Similar pattern, anyway."
"Yeah, Jim, but Matson's dead," Joel said softly, reminding them of their first meeting with Debra Reeves and how Matson had run them ragged over his arson for hire scheme.
"So, who knew his M.O.?" Jim asked quietly. The three men exchanged worried looks.
Forensics was only able to confirm their suspicions. Whoever the arsonist was, they had a great deal of familiarity with the work of Dan Matson, the Fire Captain who had gone bad, setting arson fires for profit; not to mention that he had murdered several people, most notably, Debra Reeves' father. The only thing missing, had been the use of Dr. Zog's Sex Wax.
They had lots of information, but no suspects, yet. The other two arsons, according to Ms Reeves, had been preceded with bomb threats two or three days in advance. However, neither of the other two instances had any actual explosives involved. Both incidents preceded the arrival of the new bomb squad captain, however, but not the notification of her coming. The first incident, a bomb threat followed by an arson, had been against a small, Vietnamese family-owned restaurant. The second was a Mexican-owned grocery store, and now the wholesale produce market, most of the members of which were minorities... it was starting to form a very ugly pattern.
"I still want to know, why now," Jim asked. "It doesn't seem to make any sense. All of the businesses involved have been around for at least ten years, so why now, all of a sudden?"
"Hard to say, Jim," Blair replied. "We don't really have anything to connect them, except that all three are minority owned or run. Maybe it's someone new in town? Let me check NCIC and see if they have anything on similar outbreaks anywhere else, okay?"
"Sure, Chief. See if anyone else is having this kind of problem, and if they might be related," Jim agreed.
There was no response by the end of their shift, so the two men headed home at the end of the day; Jim with a headache from trying to put together the pieces that just didn't seem to fit together.
Another week passed, with no further breaks or leads on their arson/bomb investigation, although they had caught their robber and had a pretty good idea of who their burglar was. Frustrated with the seeming dead end on the arson, Jim's temper was souring; not that he was ever what anyone would call 'sweet tempered',exactly, but now, he was not only surly, he was tense, as well. Even at practice, his colleagues noticed. His drumming was tight and dead on, but angry or lifeless, depending on how bad his headache was. Blair had tried everything he knew to help, but nothing seemed to be working. Of course, catching their bomber/arsonist was probably the only thing that might make Jim relax and enjoy things again.
Eleven days after the fire at the wholesale market, their bomber struck again, this time at the Chinese Cultural Center. Another bomb threat. This time, Captain Nugyen was first on the scene and had her people cover all the exits as the evacuation continued. When the area was secured, she sent in the dogs. Ten minutes later, one bomb exploded, killing the dog that had just found it and seriously injuring the dog's handler... an African American.
The second bomb was found and defused in time. Later, forensics would indicate that the first bomb had been wired incorrectly, causing it to short out when the vibration from the dog's bark jarred it.
"Somehow, I think that Terry was targeted. I don't know how, or why, but I just have this feeling," Phuc was talking to her 'Uncle Joey', as they watched the injured man being taken away. "Whoever this is, they know things they shouldn't be able to know."
"Fooey, you can't know for sure. I know what you think; that bomb was anti-personnel, designed to hurt people, not do damage to the building, while the other one would have done a lot of damage to the building. How could anyone have known that Terry and his dog would be the one to find that particular bomb?"
"I don't know, I just know it's true." She looked up at her adopted 'uncle', who looked her in the eye, remembering...
Finally, he nodded. "OK, I remember when you had those 'feelings' back in 'Nam. I learned to trust you then, I'm not about to disbelieve you now. So, what or who do you think is behind this?"
Glancing around to be sure no one could overhear them, she leaned closer and whispered to her friend, "I think that I'm the reason behind it all. None of this started until after it was announced that I had gotten the job as the new captain of the bomb squad... and I was hired out of LA, not a local. I'm starting to think that someone in my office may be involved." She hurried on before he could protest, "I know that there are some people who did not want me here, even before I arrived. I'm not stupid, Joey, I know that there are a lot of people who will hate me because of where I am from, and for what I've achieved. And you know it, too."
He couldn't deny her claim. He was perfectly aware, but he thought he knew all the members of the bomb squad, they'd been his people for many years. But, come to think of it, he could recall some who didn't care for minorities, not that they ever were very overt about it, still...
He heaved a depressed sigh, "Maybe. I don't like to think that any of the people who used to work for me could be involved with this, but I suppose it is possible. Give me a couple of days to think about it, OK?"
"OK, Joey. Maybe if I hadn't come..."
"Don't you dare, Fooey!" He reached out to give her a big hug, a hug that was observed by most of the bomb squad.
Having had Debra Reeves show them the timetable, they started around-the-clock surveillance of the Chinese Cultural Center that night. They also stepped up the patrols in the area, hoping to catch their bomber/arsonist in the act.
By Wednesday, with no sign of their perp, they were beginning to wonder if this might be something different... until the local Buddhist Temple burst into flames, just down the street from where officers were watching the Cultural Center.
"It was a blind, Simon. Whoever this is, they know what we're doing. That means that there's a leak, somewhere. One of our people is involved." Jim was fuming. He'd heard the distant 'fwhoomp' of the igniting accelerant, but they hadn't been in time... not as hot as it burned. They watched as the fire department did their best, but were only able to keep the fire from spreading to businesses and buildings around the Temple, which was a total loss.
Jim was starting to take this case rather personally, as were Joel and Captain Nugyen.
Other than the fact that they first received a bomb threat, followed two or three nights later with an arson and the fact that the arsons were done by the same person, who had accelerated from bogus bomb threats to the real thing, they had nothing to go on. No notes, no claims by any organization, nothing even similar to what they had in the NCIC database. All in all, it was very frustrating.
And they still had to practice every night for the upcoming Charity Night. Another week passed with them still no closer to a solution, but fortunately, no new bomb threats or fires.
They had one more week to go until the Charity benefit. And they were still working hard at it. When they met on Saturday, they were discussing the current stalemate on the arson/bombings. They were all well aware that they were overdue for another hit.
"Okay, everyone, listen up!" Joel had to shout over the conversations of his colleagues. Once they were quiet and he had their attention, he held up the new piece of music he wanted them to try. They came to pick up their copies of the music then settled in to work. First, they went through the six pieces they'd already learned, warming up and then polishing their performances on the second go-through. All were pleased at how well they played together, but then, they had an advantage of already working well together, too. The new piece was another vocal number, a gentle blues piece that called for Megan's throaty alto, which fitted it to perfection. After they worked out the kinks, they played it once more, while, unbeknownst to them, the pastor recorded it. After they finished, they all sighed. Even from 'inside', they could tell that it should definitely be their ending piece. They all turned in surprise as the song they'd just done began to play from behind them.
As the song came to an end, they looked at each other, awed by what they had accomplished. Simon, clearing his throat, finally voiced all their thoughts.
"I think we found the one to bring down the house, people." Everyone just nodded, staring in surprise at each other, and especially at Megan, whose voice had mesmerized them upon hearing it played back.
"On that note, I think we should call it a night, folks," Joel said softly. "Nothing like going out on a high note. Great job, everyone."
Jim and Blair were silent for most of their trip home, finally, Blair broke the quiet. "Megan was really something, wasn't she, Jim?"
"Yeah, Chief, that she was. We were good, weren't we?"
"Absolutely, man. We are gonna be great!" Even the still at large arsonist/bomber wasn't going to dampen their high spirits over their accomplishment.
Rafe's hopes that the others had forgotten about the Brubeck piece vanished when they met on Monday. They had seven good pieces, four vocals, three instrumentals. And the first thing on the list on Monday, was 'Take Five'.
"Rafe, I know you've been practicing it. So, since you've worked so hard, we might as well do it," Joel informed him.
Sighing in resignation, he nodded. "Fine, but once you hear me, you might change your mind."
Jim began tapping out the tempo on his drums, quickly joined by the other members of the band. Setting up the rhythm, Rafe took a deep breath and began to play.
When they finished the piece as it was scored, they remained silent, staring in awe at their shy, retiring, saxaphonist.
"Want to try that again?" Henri asked softly.
So, they did it again, perfectly.
"I'd like to know what you were so worried about, Rafe," Megan asked, puzzled.
"I..." Rafe shook his head. He wasn't sure what had happened. He hadn't thought he'd gotten the piece down so well, but obviously, he had.
"Good job, Partner," Brown slapped his friend on the back, grinning widely.
The rest of their practice session wasn't nearly so perfect, but that was to be expected as the approaching performance jitters made themselves at home. By Friday, everyone was doing so badly, that they were afraid to even show up on Saturday night, but both Joel and Henri reassured them that the worse they did in the final rehearsals, the better they would actually perform the final night. Everyone pinned their hopes that this would hold true.
Saturday night. Chief Warren was the MC this year, something none of the members of Major Crime had been aware of. Nervously standing backstage in their tuxedos and Megan in her beautiful red sequined evening gown, they watched as the Chief announced the first act, from the folks in City Services, who did an hilarious skit about garbage collectors.
Chief Warren, dry as dust, stepped up to the podium as the laughter died down. "Now I understand why they had to change over to the big trash cans that the trucks can pick up." His dry comment caused the audience to again erupt in laughter. "Our next act is from the Fire Department..."
Another comedy act, the fire department did the classic clown act of 'saving' an enormous fat woman from a 'burning' building, complete with the 'woman' jumping out and flattening her rescuers. The audience roared.
"Remind me to ask my wife to go on a diet," the Chief deadpanned, then cast a tiny smile at his rail-thin wife, who laughed at his acerbic wit. "Our next act is...oh, my." He looked into the wings... "Well, considering my department's abilities in the last few instances of this occasion, Major Crime." The audience groaned. Loudly.
"That's us. Let's go," Joel murmured to the group They had moved their instruments out as the fire department removed their props, so, as the curtain went up, they were all in place. The audience became silent in surprise, wondering what on earth the talentless police department was up to.
Jim began with setting the beat, with the others joining in immediately. As Megan's throaty alto began with the words to 'A Tisket, A Tasket,' she mesmerized every man in the room. Her hair pulled back in a chignon and her beautiful, form fitting, red evening gown with the low, v- necked decolletage and spaghetti straps the sequins flashing in the stage lights, didn't hurt the overall impression either. As they finished their first song, the audience clapped their appreciation. The group swung into 'In the Mood', followed quickly by the rest of their repertoire, the last two pieces being Rafe with 'Take Five' and ending with Megan and 'Summertime'.
They brought down the house, exiting the stage to a standing ovation.
"Well. Thank you, gentlemen, and lady." The Chief looked down at his card, yes, he recognized the members of Major Crime; who would have thought they could actually do anything other than catch bad guys? The Chief found himself at a loss for words, he'd expected to apologize once again for his department's poor performance, only to have them outshine every other act on the card. He felt a bit sorry for the Department of Water and Power, who had to follow that act.
Shaking his head, he looked up. "Our next act is from the Department of Water and Power, and they have my sympathy."
They were drenched with nervous sweat, but elated with their performance.
"See? I told you we'd be fine," Henri crowed, his grin nearly splitting his face.
"Yeah, did you see that? We got a standing 'O'," Blair agreed, smiling broadly. The others made similar comments. All except Jim, who was looking worriedly around, backstage.
Blair, noticing, stepped close to his friend, "Jim? What's wrong?"
"C4. Joel?" He didn't look to see if the former bomb captain responded, just kept looking. "Captain? We've got to evacuate the building. Someone's rigged one of those firebombs in here. I can smell the HTA and C4." While the others scrambled to alert security, Jim, Joel, and Blair started searching.
"Piggyback your sight on the smell, Jim. Where is it?"
"All over, Chief." Jim was turning around, confused by the profusion of odors. "Wait, there's the C4." He hurried over to the stairs that led to the catwalk above the stage. Kneeling, he peered into the dark area under the stairs. "Oh, shit. We only have fifteen minutes to disarm this one, and that probably means we don't have time to find the rest of them."
"Do you really think it's our bomber? Isn't this a little out of character?" Blair asked.
Jim looked at him, "Not if Captain Nugyen is right about being what triggered him," Jim replied
Captain Nugyen, who had been in the audience, approached. "Captain Banks said you needed me?"
Jim merely pointed. The slight woman crouched down, then, with a gasp, reached into her purse and pulled out a tool kit. At the other's surprised looks, she grinned, "Never leave home without it," and set to work. "See if you can find another one. He's always used two bombs, so there should be one more."
"He's changed his M.O." Jim said softly. "He didn't make a threat, first, either. There's HTA here, too."
"Then the other bomb must be with the accelerant. Go find it and at least separate them if you can. Hurry!"
Standing, Jim searched, using his nose, he tracked the scent of the HTA to a janitorial closet below the stage, near the orchestra pit, where the second bomb was silently counting down: ten minutes.
Joel, who had followed them, drenched in nervous sweat knowing that he was going to have to deal with it, knelt down to take a good look. Closing his eyes and trying to force the fear down, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Remember, it's not about you, Joel," Blair's soft voice reminded him.
"You sure?" the big man quipped, as he pulled out his own wire cutters. Looking closely at the bomb, he grunted. "True to form, this guy is good, but not very imaginative. We might see if we have any electricians in the bomb squad, guys, 'cause whoever this is, doesn't seem to be able to avoid standard electrician wiring." Two quick snips, and the counter stopped, just as Captain Nugyen arrived.
"Did you get it, Uncle Joey?"
"Yeah, simple. I wonder why he doesn't make them harder to defuse?"
"I don't know. Maybe he doesn't really want to hurt anyone? After all, he knocked out those two security guards and dragged them far enough away not to be hurt when he burned down the wholesale market," Blair suggested.
"What about the market? There were several hundred people there who could have been hurt," Jim said.
"But they weren't. The bombs were diffused in time," Joel said.
They looked at each other, consideringly.
They finally became aware of the sounds of panic up above. Rising to their feet, they looked sheepishly at each other, "Well, I guess we really brought the house down, tonight," Joel quipped.
"We might as well have," Jim agreed. "Let's make sure everyone's gotten out safely and then get the dogs in here to take another look, just in case."
The group from the Department of Water and Power had been grateful for the interruption, as they were falling flat on their faces having to follow the excellent performance by Major Crime. The audience, however, was frightened and annoyed, depending on the individual temperament involved. Seeing the small group exiting the Community Center, Chief Warren walked over to confront them.
"I do hope you have an excellent explanation for this?" he asked, his acerbic voice was low- pitched.
"Yes, sir." Captain Nugyen replied. "Detective Ellison found a bomb under the stage... well, two bombs, actually, along with enough HTA to burn this whole building to the ground."
"You..." The Chief closed his eyes and took a deep breath as the realization hit him. Everyone of importance and/or big money in the entire area as well as visitors from out of town had been in the audience. They might all have...
"Good work," he gave them a tiny smile and turned to Captain Banks, who had arrived as quickly as he could upon seeing them. "Captain Banks, I understand your people have everything under control." He placed a hand on the taller man's shoulder, turning him away from his people, "Now, about your little act tonight..."
Jim smirked at the horrified glance Simon shot them.
"What'd he say, Jim?" Blair whispered.
"Later." Jim looked around, spotting some familiar faces in the crowd. "If you'll all excuse me, I need to go tell my family that everything's under control," and with that, he walked away.
"Family?" Phuc asked.
Blair, seeing his partner join his father, Sally, and Steven, bounced on his toes a bit, smiling. "Yeah, his dad and brother came tonight. Looks promising." He turned back and smiled at her. "So, how long before we can go back inside?"
"I think it would be better if everyone went home, just in case we missed anything. After all, the explosives and accelerant are still inside. It's going to take hours to make sure we've got everything." She turned to her friend, "Thanks for your help in there, Uncle Joey."
"You're welcome," Joel softly replied. "Although, I'd hoped I'd finally gotten out of the business when you came on board."
She smiled and leaned in, kissing him on the cheek as she hugged him. "I'll try harder next time, okay?"
With a laugh, he patted her back, "I know you will, Fooey."
Someone found a portable PA system and brought it out and set it up. Chief Warren stepped up and began by apologizing to the crowd for the sudden departure from the program. Then, good politician that he was, he turned it into a speech on the quality of his police department, almost as though the panic and discovery of the explosives had been a part of the evening's entertainment. Although no one was convinced, he at least managed to placate them all. He ended with an invitation for everyone to return next year, as he was certain that the charity night would once again be a rousing success.
"What a pomp... politician." Jim mumbled to his father and brother.
"I was impressed, Jim," Steven said, placing an arm around his brother's shoulders. "I remember those drums of yours; you play even better now than you did when we were kids."
Jim snuck a glance at his father, noting the beaming expression of pride on the older Ellison's face. "Well, I had a good group to work with and a hard taskmaster to answer to," Jim replied with a gentle grin.
"Your captain?" His father asked, appalled.
"Nope. Joel Taggart. He made us all work hard, even Simon... Captain Banks." His grin widened. "So, you thought we did okay?"
"Jimmy," Sally interrupted, recognizing when the man she'd helped raise was fishing. "You and your friends were wonderful. You don't think they stood up for you because they felt sorry for you, do you?"
Jim chuckled, "No, Sally. I guess not." He looked at his 'family'. Still smiling, he wrapped his arm around his brother and father, leaned forward to kiss Sally on the cheek and said, "Thanks for coming. Sorry it ended the way it did."
His father gave him a knowing look. "I'm glad it ended the way it did and not the way it was planned by whoever it was who set those bombs."
Steven piped up, "Yeah, besides, that Water and Power act really stank. You did everyone a favor by evacuating the place." They all laughed, together, happy to be in one another's company.
"Well, I'm just glad it's over, for now. I just hope our bomber/arsonist has made a mistake and left us a clue this time. No matter what, I'm going to find this guy, one way or another." Jim glanced over to his friends. He was determined to find out who was planting these things, and why... but that could wait until tomorrow. Seeing his colleagues once again gathered as a group, he excused himself. "Well, I guess I'd better go and see what's next. It's been great seeing you, I- I'm glad you came," he cast a shy look at them all. His brother and father tightened their holds on him for a moment, then released him.
"I'm glad I came," Steven said, "You did great, bro." He patted his big brother on the shoulder and then stepped back.
William stood, looking at his eldest son, "I-I-I'm proud of you, Jimmy." Awkwardly, he stepped closer and gave his son a tentative hug, surprised by the strength with which it was returned.
"I'll be by in a few days with the drums, Dad," Jim whispered in his father's ear, suddenly unable to speak normally, the thick lump caused by the sudden, unexpected praise from his father. Words he'd waited all his life to hear. Releasing one another, they stepped back, both men blushing in embarrassment at their display. With a weak, shy smile, Jim lifted a hand in farewell and turned away to return to his colleagues.
Blair had watched it all and recognized his partner's discomfort when he returned. Smiling his encouragement, he patted the taller man on the back as he joined them.
"What's the word, Simon?" Joel asked, seeing the odd expression on the captain's face.
"Yeah, is something wrong?" Megan added.
"Well, that depends," Simon waffled.
"On?" Jim asked, dreading the reply.
"Well, the Chief said that he was really impressed by our act." The others all nodded, pleased. "He wants us to perform as a part of the Cascade Sesquicentennial in a few months..."
"Oh, no," Jim groaned.
"No way!" Rafe and Henri chorused.
"You're joking!" Megan insisted.
"You've got to be kidding," Joel grimaced.
"Hey, this could be fun!" Blair declared, quickly dodging his partner's swat to the head, laughing heartily at the dismayed expressions on his friends' faces.
The rest of the group simply exchanged horrified looks.
I can't remember who asked about the 'talents', but this is definitely for her. You must understand, however, that some of my own musical preferences are used here. After all, I'm listening to Brubeck's 'Last Set at Newport', the one with the really long version of 'Take Five'. Very conducive to writing about jazz and such. Now, if I only had some Ella...
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