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?