Production No. BPP-607
edited by: Toni Rae and Urban Angel
MEET THE CAST
"Damn." Blair Sandburg slammed the file down on his desk in frustration.
Joel winced in sympathy as he saw the pained look on the younger man's face. "Maybe the Mayor's right. Maybe the bombings were just an elaborate ruse and the only real target was the fundraiser."
A shudder ran through the Bullpen as the members of Major Crime remembered that night. Their musical act had almost brought down the house only moments before their quick action had prevented an unknown bomber from literally bringing the house down.
"Yeah, man, time to join the real world. No cop solves every case he gets. It's time to let this one go." Brown knew how hard it was to admit failure on a case, even harder after the long run of successful solves the young detective had on his record. The constant complaints of City Councilman Russell Greensworth hadn't helped. He was using the inability of Cascade PD to solve this case as a re-election platform.
Out in the hallway Jim Ellison listened in, his partner's disappointment echoing loudly to his sentinel ears. H. was right, the first time you added your own case to the dead file was a bitter pill to swallow. There was no choice though; every lead had dried up. The damage remained, however. Four minority-owned businesses destroyed by fire; fires that had followed attempted bombings. Only the fifth attack had been different, as the accelerant used in the fires, HTA, had been placed with the bombs. The Mayor and Chief Warren were convinced that there was no mad bomber out to destroy the minority community, that the earlier attacks had been attempts to throw the police off the trail. Terrorists were the most likely culprits, but even leads on them had run out.
Jim took a deep breath and entered the Bullpen, a smile pasted on his face. "Hey Chief, you about ready for lunch?" His nose detected the familiar scent of cigar smoke coming from the elevator and he hoped to get his partner into the stairwell before Simon arrived.
Even as he said the words, the ding of the elevator could be heard. Sighing, Ellison moved out of the way as Banks stormed into the room.
"Yes, Sir." Blair sighed as he tried to find a way to convince Banks to let them stay on the case a little longer.
"Have you sent the bombing files down to records yet?" Banks paused as the younger man shook his head, disappointment written on his face. "Good." Waiting for Sandburg to react, he shoved his cigar back into his mouth.
"Simon, I'd really like to give this case a few more days. There could be a ton of reasons why our guy hasn't hit another target yet... wait a minute, did you say 'good'?"
Banks pulled the cigar out of his mouth as he leaned towards Taggart. "The boy catches on pretty good, doesn't he?"
The twinkle in his eye belied the seriousness of Taggart's tone. "Well Simon, he is a detective after all."
"Sir?" Even Jim wasn't sure where Banks was going with this. "I thought the word had come from upstairs that we were wasting our time looking for a terrorist who was probably already out of the country?"
The captain handed Sandburg a thick file and a search warrant. "Does the name Samuel Larson ring any bells?"
Blair thought for a moment before shaking his head and turning to his partner. "Not to me. What about you, Jim?"
"Talk about your 'blast from the past'. That's a name I haven't heard for a while. Isn't he still in prison?"
"Who is he?" Blair looked back and forth between the two men, waiting for one of them to fill in the blanks. Eventually Jim took pity on him.
"It happened about six months before we met. Samuel Larson was a top explosives expert in the Army until he was discharged - the rumor being that he was mentally unstable. He was convinced that he was kicked out to make room for the minorities that were coming up in rank - or at least that was the bull he was spouting. We thought he was going to be our link to Kincaid and the Sunshine Patriots, but before we could make the connection work he was arrested on federal weapons charges. He should have another five years on his sentence, at least."
"Apparently the parole board had other ideas." Simon perched on the corner of Sandburg's desk. "He fits the profile either way you want to look at it. He has a history of working with terrorist organizations and he's enough of a nut-case to pull something like this on his own."
Jim crossed his arms and stared off into space. "A nut-case with a vendetta against the minority community, especially the Vietnamese since he served over there." Jim turned his focus back to the room. "How long ago was he paroled?"
"Less than a month before the first bombing." Banks pointed with his cigar at the folded paper in Blair's hand. "Sandburg has the address his parole officer had on him. The last time he checked in was two days before the second attack."
Blair studied the files, taking a good look at the mug shot. "That's quite a coincidence."
"I don't believe in coincidence. Find him and bring him in." Banks bit down on his cigar and stormed into his office, effectively ending the conversation.
"Come on, junior, let's go." Jim reached over and grabbed both his and Sandburg's coats off of his desk. "Lunch is going to have to wait unless we hit a drive-thru on the way."
"How about that place on Western that just opened up? I think there's even a two-for-one coupon out in the truck."
Ellison growled as they walked towards the door. "Chief, if they sell tofu instead of french fries, then they are not a drive-thru. Period. End of discussion."
"Come on man, you like tofu."
"Yeah, it's right up there with root-canal surgery."
"But you've never complained when we... I mean..." One look at his Sentinel's face and Blair was out the door, Ellison hot on his heels.
Neither man noticed the thoughtful look on Taggart's face, nor did they overhear the phone call he was making as they left.
Jim glanced over at his partner, who was barely containing his excitement. "You know, there's a chance he may not be involved in all of this." Truthfully, Jim didn't believe this for a second, but he needed the younger man to be objective.
"Don't worry. There's not a chance in hell that he's involved."
"How do you figure that?" Jim watched the shorter man, a puzzled expression on his face. "You still think this ties into the Bomb Squad itself somehow?"
"Yeah, I do. I agree with Captain Nguyen that somehow this is connected with her arrival here. We just need to figure out how."
Jim still didn't understand Blair's enthusiasm. "If you think this is a total waste of time..."
"Hey, it kept the case active, didn't it? Besides, Larson is bad news no matter what. Anyone who is crazy enough to get mixed up with Kincaid needs to be off the street. Hopefully, by the time we get him put away, we'll have enough evidence to convince the Chief to keep the case open." Blair sat back with a smug expression on his face.
"Don't expect me to drag my feet on Larson just to give you more time, buddy."
Blair just grinned. "Nah, I'll just make you do all the paperwork by yourself. That'll give me plenty of time to track down our dirty cop."
"Laugh it up, Shecky. Just for that, we will be going to Wonderburger - after we check out Larson's place."
The Golden Orchid Restaurant
"Uncle Joey!" Out of uniform and away from the station, Phuc Nguyen looked too young to be the captain of a police unit. She gave the older man a brief hug before they followed the hostess to a quiet table in the back.
Joel smiled fondly, still seeing the gangly child that had so shyly watched him all those years ago in Vietnam. "I'm sorry for dragging you out on your day off Fooey, but I didn't think this could wait." He paused as the hostess seated them, nodding as she handed out the menus. As soon as she was out of earshot he continued. "It's about the bombings - they've got a suspect."
"That's great, I hadn't heard." Nguyen seemed relieved that the entire case could soon be put behind them. "How soon before we have an arrest?"
"If all goes well, Ellison and Sandburg should have him in custody this afternoon." Taggart toyed with the corner of his menu, unsure of how to voice his concerns.
Nguyen homed in on his discomfort immediately. "What's wrong?"
Joel sighed and pushed the battered paper away. "It just doesn't feel right, Fooey. When we were in 'Nam, did you ever hear of a guy named Larson?"
A pause before the shiny black tresses shook. "No, the name isn't familiar, but I only knew the men who were in our village. Is he your suspect?"
"Well, the big boys upstairs seem to think so."
"But you're not convinced."
Joel leaned across the table; his words tight and clipped. "Not by a long shot. I knew every explosives expert we had in country, Fooey. Every one of them - if not personally, at least by name and reputation. I'd never heard of this guy before he started blowing up stuff for Kincaid."
"Maybe he was in a different region, or he was there at a different time..."
"No." Joel shook his head in response. "I interviewed him when he was arrested before. That guy wasn't there - ever. I don't care what his file says; I'd be willing to bet a week's pay that he'd never set foot in Vietnam. So why his hatred of Asians?"
"Since when have bigots been logical?" Phuc reached forward and grasped Joel's hand. "I've read the files on Kincaid. It's required reading now for new hires. The man's insanity is only bypassed by his ego. If one of his followers is behind this, then you've got to expect the same type of behavior from him."
Joel squeezed her hand in return before releasing it and leaning back in his chair. "You don't seem surprised that suspicion has moved away from someone in your team."
"I've gotten to know my people." Nguyen took a sip of her water before continuing. "There may have been a few bruised egos that an outsider was brought in to run the unit, but nothing to suggest the kind of violence we've experienced."
"I still want to run some checks to be sure."
"No!" Nguyen slammed her glass down hard enough to slosh water on the linen tablecloth. "Not one man on my team has done anything to cause suspicion. You have no cause to drag them in front of IA!"
"Nothing formal, Fooey. Blair and I just want to make some subtle inquires. They won't even realize that we're checking on them." Taggart back-pedaled quickly. "I just need to know that you're safe; I promised your dad that I'd take keep an eye on you."
Phuc's response was stopped short by the arrival of the waiter and she used the reprieve to calm herself. Finally, the waiter retreated to the kitchen with their order and she took a deep breath before answering her adopted uncle. "You were always there when I was growing up, and I'll always be grateful for that." She paused and squeezed his hand. "I'm a grown woman now, a captain in the police department. Right or wrong, you have to let me stand on my own two feet or I'll never have the respect of the people under me."
Joel laughed in spite of himself. "Do I have to like it?"
North Side of Cascade
"Are you sure this is the address, Chief?" Ellison peered out the windshield at the small bungalow with the neat lawn and tended flowerbeds.
Sandburg pushed his glasses back up on his nose as he reread the papers Banks had given them earlier. "This is the address his parole officer had. Is he in there, can you hear him?"
Using his Guide to ground him, the Sentinel reached out with his hearing, encountering only the hum of electrical appliances. "No one is in there, but be careful. I wouldn't put it past him to have the whole place rigged."
"Why, do you think he knows that we're onto him?" Blair tried to peer into the window as he climbed out of the truck, letting the door close quietly behind him.
Ellison joined his partner on the curb. "Look at it this way. Either he's joined up with Kincaid's cronies and he's waiting for it to hit the fan, or he's not with them and waiting for them to retaliate against him."
"Retaliate? What did he do against the Patriots?" Sandburg quickly reviewed the case in his head. Nowhere in the files had there been any indication of the reason Larson had been given early release.
"Kincaid's in prison and Larson's out early. That's enough reason to get Kincaid pissed." Ellison carefully walked up the brick path, watching for tripwires or the slightest variation in the level of the steps.
Understanding the concentration required of the Sentinel, Blair remained quiet and behind the older man until he saw a delivery truck pull into a neighboring driveway. A gentle tap on the arm drew Ellison's attention outward before the truck horn blared. Jim smiled and nodded his thanks, pausing as he saw the question on his partner's face.
"In other words, Larson is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. He'd have been better off if he'd stayed in prison."
With a snort, Ellison resumed his examination of the outside of the home. "When you play with the big boys, they tend to play rough." He remained on the walkway and shouted out to the absent tenant, "Larson, Samuel Larson, this is the Cascade PD. We have some questions and a warrant to search the premises."
Blair rolled his eyes at the absurdity of waiting for a response from a man whom they both knew was nowhere near the house.
After waiting the appropriate time, Ellison moved up onto the porch and began to examine the door. Once he was satisfied it was safe; he motioned for Sandburg to join him. In unison the two men moved to the windows flanking the wooden front door. Ellison looked for booby-traps as his partner studied the austere room beyond.
"Looks clear." Ellison nodded to Sandburg.
One advantage Blair had from his years of teaching was the ability to make his voice carry without straining himself. Without effort, his words carried enough for the near-by neighbors to hear. "Mr. Larson, this is Detective Sandburg with the Cascade Police Department. We have a few questions that we need you to answer." He waited for a few seconds before knocking loudly on the door. "We have a search warrant, sir. Please open the door."
Deciding the show had gone on long enough, Ellison popped the door open with one quick kick, then stepped inside, senses on high. "Damn." Without any further explanation, he moved into the kitchen and down the basement stairs.
Once Ellison reached the bottom of the stairs he moved quickly across the unlit room. Sandburg, however, searched out the light switch on the near-by wall. Just as he was about to flip it on, Ellison shouted out a warning, "Chief, no!" and rushed back towards him.
Blair jerked back without hesitation. "What is it? Is it rigged?" He stepped out of the way just as Ellison reached him. "Jim, what is going on here, do you sense something?"
"Just don't touch anything right now, Sandburg. If an explosive is hard wired directly into the electrical system we won't know what will set it off. There's a flashlight in the truck if you need it." The Sentinel seemed agitated as he glanced around the darkened room.
The Guide responded by placing a calming hand on his Sentinel's arm. "Tell me."
Ellison turned a frustrated face to his friend. "There's C4 here, I can smell it; but I can't seem to track it."
The younger man understood the frustration. "Let me get the flashlight, and we'll figure it out. Just promise me that you'll stay here until I get back, all right?"
"Sandburg, I am perfectly capable of..." The glare from Sandburg stopped any protest Jim may have had. "Don't take all day getting the light." Sandburg had already started up the stairs when Jim shouted, "Don't touch anything in the house."
Blair grinned to himself at the words as he wondered just how many years they would do this before Ellison got out of the habit of reminding him of the most basic of details. Of course that was a two way street, a fact that the younger man conveniently ignored as he carefully entered the kitchen.
Satisfied that they were still alone in the house, Sandburg took a second to glance around as he retraced their earlier path. The sports section of the paper was laid out on the table; last night's score from the Jag's game in plain view.
"Shit!" Blair picked up his pace. "Jim, this morning's paper is on the table." He didn't have to shout, Blair knew his words would be heard by the man downstairs.
Within moments Blair was back at his Sentinel's side, his flashlight sweeping low arcs across the cluttered floor. In the far corner was an old table, covered with what appeared to be maps and crumpled newspapers. The two men picked their way through the boxes on the floor to get a better look at the contents of the table.
As Ellison opened his senses to the items on the chrome and Formica surface, Sandburg dug out two pairs of latex gloves from his coat pocket. With now practiced efficiency he snapped a pair on before handing the second set to his partner. Jim barely grunted a response as he took the gloves, still studying the scene in front of him. Once his had the gloves on he began to gingerly remove the newspapers and hand them to his partner.
The Sentinel bent down and examined the surface of the tabletop from every angle. Finally satisfied, he raised up and pointed out the bits of a clay-like substance wedged in the seams between the red Formica surface and the chrome edging. "There's our C4. Do you see it?"
Blair squinted at the smudges. "That's it?" His voice was incredulous as he stared at the bits. "That's all there is?" He looked around the room as he asked his next question; regretting it the second it was out of his mouth. "Are you sure?" The raised eyebrow and the knowing smirk was all the answer he needed.
Just to be on the safe side, Ellison continued to scan the large room as he wandered around, cell phone in hand. By the time his call for a forensic team had been placed he was absolutely sure there was no other C4 in the basement. Jim was quite pleased with himself as to how subtle he had been, and suggested they look around upstairs while waiting for them to arrive. He chose to ignore the smirk that was now on his partner's face.
Back upstairs, the partners went through the house systematically, Ellison using his keen senses and Sandburg using his years of experience as an observer and scientist. Only the kitchen and the bedroom showed signs of use, the rest of the rooms were covered with a thin layer of dust.
The bedroom caught the attention of Sandburg, for it was the only place they found personal items of Larson. "Look at this, Jim." Blair stood in front of the shabby dresser, which had been carefully covered with an obviously antique embroidered cloth. Centered on the handmade piece was a framed photo of a redheaded toddler.
Ellison, however, had found his own point of interest in the bedroom. "No, Chief, actually I think you had better come over here and see this. He stood unmoving, assuming that his partner would abandon his own find to join him.
With a sigh that the Sentinel chose to ignore, Blair moved to his side and began to study the multitude of photos that were pinned up on the short wall between the closet and the small bathroom the serviced the bedroom. All of the pictures featured a young boy about nine years old with familiar red hair. Lost in thought, Blair turned to look across the room at the framed photo.
"Well, now we know who his next target is." Ellison's humorless words brought Sandburg's attention back to the wall in front of him.
Blair shook his head as he responded, remembering the mug shot in Larson's file. "I don't think so, Jim. I think that's his son; look at the picture on the dresser. That one's a lot younger than these are. The kid's got the same red hair as Larson, too."
"There're a lot of redheads in the world, Sandburg. There're not all related. That photo is probably from whoever hired him, and he took the rest." Ellison turned back to the pictures on the wall. "Some of these were taken from pretty far away. See how grainy they are? And unless the kid's got a pretty small wardrobe, the majority of these were taken at the same time." Ellison pinched the bridge of his nose in a silent admission of the headache that was brewing.
Part of winning an argument with a Sentinel was knowing when to have one. Blair filed away the rest of his observations and reached out for Jim's elbow. "Let's leave the rest of it for forensics and take a look outside. Maybe we can spot something out there before we have a dozen technicians mucking up the yard."
A ghost of a smile crossed Ellison's face. He recognized the tactic and was grateful. Having his senses up that high for so long had given him the mother of all headaches, but he had been loath to admit to needing a break. "Sounds good, Chief. Forensics should be here any minute."
Sandburg steered the taller man towards the hallway. "This is all familiar territory. Dial it down for a bit until we start our sweep of the rest of the exterior." The easing of the pain lines on the Sentinel's face told the Guide that his words had been heeded.
Sunlight had weakly broken through the clouds while the men had been in the basement, and Jim gratefully stretched the kinks out in the rare warmth. The familiar heavy van that housed the mobile forensics unit could be heard turning onto the street and Jim turned to greet it only to find Samuel Larson standing at the end of the driveway, a bag of groceries in his hand.
This was too easy. Ellison charged down the drive as the other man bolted, dropping his bag. "Larson, Cascade PD. You're under arrest, Larson. Don't make it any harder on yourself." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sandburg frantically getting the attention of the driver of the van before joining the chase.
Larson had the advantage of knowing the neighborhood. He ran down a pathway that led to a local park. Once there, he crashed through the hedge and headed for the play equipment. Ellison pushed through after him, wincing at the sound of the branches snapping back to hit his partner in the face. Promising himself to apologize later, he closed the gap between himself and Larson. There were no children in the park, but there were enough older citizens enjoying the sunshine that he could not risk drawing his weapon.
Larson dashed in between the swings, grabbing one on his way by, then launching it towards the detective. Ellison saw it coming, but his momentum was too great to avoid the collision. Jim threw his arms up in time to avoid being hit in the face and was able to deflect the heavy canvas and iron seat to the side, but the force still put him down on one knee. His sensitive hearing picked up the sound of ripping fabric as a sharp pain ran through his leg. As he staggered to his feet, Ellison saw Sandburg swerve around the playground equipment in an attempt to cut Larson off.
The fugitive saw Sandburg's plan and twisted suddenly, changing direction in an attempt to cut back and escape through the far entrance of the park. As the younger detective tried to change direction to follow, his feet slipped on the loose sand and he went down.
Sandburg tucked his head down and turned his fall into a roll, bouncing back up only a few seconds later. Those few seconds had given Larson more of a lead as he headed for the parking lot and the street beyond.
His impromptu roll had reminded Blair that Jim's heavy flashlight was still in his hand as he cracked his knuckles on it. Attempting to slow the man down, Sandburg took aim and tossed the light.
Jim watched his favorite camping light spiral in the air, headed straight for their suspect. "Yeah, three points." With a barely noticeable limp, he picked up the pace to intercept Larson.
Larson saw the shadow of the object targeting him from the sky and put on a final burst of speed. His attempt was futile as it struck the back of his calf, tumbling him to the ground. Cursing, Larson staggered back to his feet just as the police department's forensics van pulled into the parking lot with three patrol cars right behind it.
"Give it up, Larson. You've got no place to go." Ellison's shout was still echoing as their suspect changed direction again, now headed for a nearby fence.
Not waiting for the patrol officers who were still crossing the parking lot, the two detectives also changed direction. The fence loomed over them, a good three feet taller than a standard fence. "You've got to be kidding," Blair muttered as he picked up his speed to try to make the height. Behind him, Jim was muttering his own string of curses.
Larson didn't speed up to make the jump; instead he slowed down and dropped to the ground. It was then that his two pursuers both saw the small gap under the wooden barricade, partially hidden by a juniper bush. Larson was tall and lanky; he had no trouble sliding through his escape route. Sandburg reached the hole next.
Blair watched as their suspect bomber propelled himself through the tight opening. He was a lot broader in the shoulders than Larson and wasn't sure if he would fit. He dropped to the ground and began to wiggle himself through the fence. Arms first, then head; he was doing well until his shoulders hit the wooden planks. One shoulder at a time, the shorter man continued to work his way through, ignoring the pain as the rough lumber ripped at his shirt, scraping his skin. Finally, he was able to grasp a tree root on the other side and use it to pull himself through. Behind him he could hear his partner yelling for assistance.
The sound of tender flesh ripping open tore at the Sentinel's heart. He dropped to his knees to pull Sandburg back, but the younger man persisted and moments later he was through the small gap. Ellison knew there was no way for him to follow his partner through Larson's escape hole but he refused to leave him alone to face the dangerous man. Ellison bellowed at the nearest officer.
"You! I need a boost; get over here!"
Patrolman Jeffrey Prochnow looked around to see who Detective Ellison was calling for before realizing that it was himself. Prochnow was a ten-year veteran with the department who had always had the honor of being the smallest man on the force. Even Sandburg had several inches and many pounds on him. What a lousy day to get pulled off desk duty thought the mousy man as he obediently trotted over to Ellison. Boosting the taller and heavier man anywhere was out of the question so without being asked, Prochnow bent down and braced himself against the fence, effectively becoming an emergency step stool.
Although grateful, Ellison didn't have time to give more than the merest of grunts in thanks before scrambling up and over the wooden blockade. Landing with a soft thud, Ellison dialed down the pain it caused in his ankle and knee. His focus was on the voice of his partner facing down a dangerous felon with nothing left to lose.
Sandburg was vaguely aware of his partner's climb over the fence as he followed the suspect down a narrow alley. One of the many nice things about having a sentinel for a partner was being secure in the fact that he would be able to track you when you got separated. This allowed Blair to keep his attention on the fleeing suspect.
Larson could feel his legs begin to falter as he struggled to keep ahead of the longhaired man chasing him. All he needed was a few more seconds to turn the last corner and he would be home free. The pounding of feet behind him pushed Larson as he turned the corner. Instead of finding a short driveway and path to freedom, he found himself face to bumper with a large parked delivery truck.
Getting through under the truck would be easy. Doing so before the tenacious cop chasing him caught up would be impossible. Seemingly out of options, Larson reached into his jacket and pulled out the cold metal sphere. In one fluid motion he pulled the pin that kept the device so harmless and lobbed it at his pursuer.
Expending every last bit of energy had brought Ellison to within twenty feet of his partner. Their suspect suddenly turned, a familiar object in his hand. Before Ellison could even draw a breath to call out a warning, the air lit up with a fiery fury.