IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
Production No. BPP-611

written by:
Kelly Meding

edited by: Saga and Claire


FoodWay Parking Lot, Midnight

Dim bulbs cast a yellowish hue onto the parking lot of the FoodWay, one of the few remaining all-night grocery stores in Cascade. The smudged glass windows at the front of the store were covered over with faded advertisements for various specials on poultry, dried beans and deodorant. Three cars remained in the lot, its cracked pavement overgrown with grass and dandelions. The street parallel to the FoodWay, still decorated with ancient Christmas lights on the lampposts, rarely saw a car after ten a.m. It was as remote a meeting place as any.

And that was how Donovan preferred it.

Donovan Gray was twenty-three and a fifth-year senior at Rainier University, completing twelve more academic credits so he could claim his Bachelor of Economics degree. It wasn't something he wanted, but it was something his father had insisted he have. And it was probably his father's dogged determination that his son be a carbon copy of himself that had Donovan sitting on the hood of his silver Monte Carlo, waiting for a man known to him only as Cypher to arrive.

He double-checked the time on his Rolex -- five past midnight. Donovan, while not always on time for class, was a stickler when it came to meeting someone at a pre-determined time. If he weren't so desperate for the stuff, he would have just called the whole thing off. But the party was tomorrow, and it was his turn to provide for the fraternity.

The automatic doors in front of the FoodWay squeaked open. A fat, balding old man waddled out with a paper bag hugged to his chest. Even from this distance, Donovan identified several different bottlenecks sticking out of the brown sack.

Why couldn't I have been in charge of the beer? he wondered. While he loved to help himself to any "specialty items" his frat brothers provided at their parties, he abhorred the idea of buying it himself. Too much risk involved. Which was why he'd found a new source, someone who didn't know the fraternity's reputation and would give them a fair deal.

The fat man unlocked the front door of a banged-up Pinto and climbed in, the bottles in his bag clinking together loudly. Donovan shook his head and shivered. It was too damn cold to wait out here much longer. He made a silent agreement that if Cypher didn't materialize in five more minutes, he would ask Peter Bracken to hook him up.

Headlights flashed on him from Denmark Street. A black Corsica was pulling into the lot and heading straight towards him. Donovan slid off his car hood and waited, stamping circulation back into his frozen feet. The Corsica slid in next to the Monte Carlo and stopped. Donovan only saw his reflection in the tinted windows of the new car.

The driver's side door opened and a shaved head emerged. The man stood an impressive six- foot-three, his muscular frame evident beneath a heavy wool lumberjack's coat. Narrow black eyes locked with Donovan's as he turned around, his square jaw set in an expression that clearly said "mess with me and I'll pound you into the pavement."

Donovan made a mental note to stay on this guy's good side. While he didn't consider himself a lightweight, he was still way out of this guy's division.

"Donovan, right?" the stranger asked, his voice deep and oddly soothing.

"That's right," Donovan replied, mortified to hear his own voice waver slightly.

The man smiled widely, pearly-white teeth glittering brightly against his tan skin. "You can call me Cypher. I hear you're looking for a good deal."

"Always," Donovan said.

"You've found the right man. You see, I'm new in town and you get the distinction of being one of my first contacts here in Cascade."

Donovan quirked an eyebrow. He'd no idea he had found a brand-new supplier. This could be better than he originally thought.

"My fraternity does a lot of business around town," Donovan said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. "Especially now that Winter Session has begun."

Cypher chuckled deeply in his chest. "Having a little back-to-campus party?"

"Hopefully not so little."

Now Cypher laughed out loud. "Well, then, I've got just the stuff for you." Cypher reached a gloved hand into the pocket of his jacket and produced a small aspirin bottle. He unscrewed the cap and shook several tiny, yellow squares onto his left hand.

"We call it Brain Candy," Cypher went on. "It dissolves under your tongue like acid, but do not take more than one. Do not. That's the only cardinal rule."

Donovan studied the tiny squares. "What do they do?"

"They open your eyes, man," Cypher said. A wicked gleam crept into his eyes and he leaned in closer. "Kiss the rest of the drug world good-bye forever, I guarantee it."

Donovan met Cypher's gaze and held it. The idea of discovering the new party drug of the year was tempting, to say the least. He was only left with a nagging curiosity about what Brain Candy did and what its affects were. But time would tell.

"How much?" Donovan asked.

Cypher smiled.


Cascade, The Next Day

Lowell Street was quietly going about its business, people milling around on its sidewalks, cars idling down the one-way street, mindful of the slush that remained from last week's snow.

~Screeeeeeeeeee~

The sharp squeal of tires broke the peace and a blue Dodge Viper careened onto Lowell, driving in the exact opposite direction of traffic. Half a dozen cars veered out of the way of the oncoming Viper. One, a green Corolla, smashed into a parked Civic with a resounding crunch. The Viper sped on down the road, fishtailing a bit on the slick pavement. Seconds later, a blue Ford pickup whipped around the block and followed the Viper down the one-way street.

"This is a one-way, Jim!" the passenger of the Ford screamed as the driver swerved to avoid colliding with a Four-Runner.

"Just hold on," Jim Ellison barked, his hands gripping the steering wheel in a death-grip.

The tires of the Ford slipped on the ice, nearly sending them into a parked car, but Jim managed to right the truck in time. They continued down the road, consistently gaining on the Viper, who was playing chicken with every oncoming car in its path.

"That guy's going to kill somebody," Blair Sandburg said, both hands planted firmly on the dashboard.

The Viper made a right turn a block up. Jim slowed only a fraction to make the turn, whipping the truck onto Durham Avenue and back into two-way traffic.

Blair picked up the handset. "All units, suspect vehicle is now proceeding west on Durham," Blair said into the mike. "David 152 still in pursuit. Over."

A block ahead of them, a yellow Fiat Spider was backing up, attempting to parallel park. The Viper sped on, seemingly oblivious of the Spider. At the last second, the Viper swerved to the left to avoid the Spider and into the path of an oncoming garbage truck. Jim slammed the Ford to a stop, watching the Viper swerve once again and crash head-on into a utility pole.

Jim pulled over next to the stationary Viper and tossed Blair his cell phone, a subconscious habit he still couldn't break himself of.

"Call it in, Chief," Jim said.


Major Crime, Several Hours Later

Daniel Lemur, the driver of the runaway Viper, was detoxing unpleasantly under hospital guard at Cascade General, kept company by the sweats and his own vomit. He'd been high when Jim had pulled him from his wrecked car, babbling on about the fireworks and butterflies. Jim had found an aspirin bottle half full of tiny yellow pills he couldn't readily identify and immediately sent them to Forensics for analysis.

Ellison and Sandburg now found themselves settling into the two chairs opposite the captain's desk when Simon spoke.

"Preliminary forensics came back on the drugs you found in the Viper," Simon Banks said, picking up a thin sheaf of papers. He was standing behind his desk, facing his best detective team with an expression of slight annoyance.

"Do we know what the driver was hopped up on?" Sandburg asked.

Banks shot the young detective a silencing glance. "Yes, we do. It's called Brain Candy and, so far, had only shown up in Seattle clubs and university parties. Three kids have already died from overdoses. This is the first report of it in Cascade. Do we see where I'm going with this?"

Jim nodded, knowing all too well. "Find the drug dealers and cut off the pipeline."

"Bingo," Banks replied.

"What's this Brain Candy supposed to do?" Sandburg asked.

"Apparently, it directly affects the senses," Simon said. "Users experience extraordinary visions in which they actually hear and smell things that aren't even there. So watch yourselves around it."

Jim had a feeling that little warning was directed at him. Drugs -- illegal or prescription -- had a habit of reacting badly with his Sentinel senses.

"Yes, sir," Jim said, starting to stand.

"And one more thing," Simon said sternly.

Jim blinked. "What?"

Banks grinned. "There's a poker game at Rafe's place tonight, seven-thirty."

"A poker game?" Jim asked.

"Brown is trying to keep Rafe's mind off David," Simon explained. "Seems they've been having a rough time of it, and Brown thinks his partner needs a distraction."

"I'll be there," Blair said. "I'm good at distracting people."

Simon snorted. "Just don't bring any food. I still haven't gotten that guacamole stain out of my couch."

"I still say that wasn't my fault," Sandburg said, looking to Jim for support.

Jim smiled. "Don't worry, captain," he said, reaching down and pulling his partner to his feet. "I'll make him leave the green stuff at home this time."

"I appreciate that," Simon replied.

Jim opened the office door and shooed Sandburg out. He headed immediately for the break room. This was looking to be a long day and the coffeepot was calling his name. He caught Sandburg out of the corner of his eye, plopping down at his own desk. Jim slowed as he neared Rafe's desk, catching the younger detective's side of what was probably a very stormy discussion.

"No, David, I do understand, but--" Rafe paused, listening to the voice that had cut him off.

Jim didn't have to listen in to know Rafe was talking to David Dawson, his half-brother. The two men had been arguing for the last month about David's intentions to join Phi Kappa Lambda, a fraternity at Rainier University where the young man was a first semester sophomore. In fact, David almost hadn't returned to the University after his grades dropped too low to hold his scholarship. But after an unexpected miracle -- Jim still disliked using that word -- David was told his grades had been calculated incorrectly and he would be readmitted for the winter term. Even though he'd almost been thrown out of school because of it, David was still adamant about joining the fraternity.

No one, not even Blair, could figure the kid out.

"If it's what you want, you know I'll support you," Rafe said into the phone. "Fine. If you need a ride, call me. Bye."

Rafe dropped the receiver into its cradle with a hefty ~Whoomph~ He looked up, noticing Jim for the first time.

"Don't ask," Rafe said. He pushed his chair away from the desk and stood. "Just don't ask."

Jim watched Rafe march out of the bullpen, wishing he could do something. It had been over a year since Rafe and David were reunited, and the pair was still feeling each other out.

He sighed and continued on his quest for the perfect cup of coffee.


Headon Hall, Rainier University

David Dawson dropped the cordless phone onto the floor and flopped down on his bottom bunk. The whole frame of the bunk beds shook.

"Watch out, man," Lewis Saums said from the bunk above. "I'm trying to read here."

"Sorry," David grumbled, staring at the bedsprings above him. Sometimes L.T. could be so infuriating. David wasn't used to having someone check up on him like that.

The bed creaked and Lewis' face appeared over the edge of the bunk. His gel-spiked brown hair pointed straight down to the floor and his round face slowly turned a dark shade of pink as the blood rushed to his head. Curious brown eyes seemed to wink at David.

"Trouble with your brother?" Lewis asked, his voice still tinged with the thick Wisconsin drawl he'd tried desperately to drop since his freshman year.

"Yeah." David squirmed around until his head was facing the same direction as Lewis -- he hated talking to people upside down. "He's concerned about the party tonight."

"What's to be concerned about? The Lambda's are throwing a back-to-campus party. Big deal, man."

"Maybe I shouldn't go."

Lewis' head disappeared. The mattress lump above David's head grew, and then shrunk as Lewis leapt off the bed and landed on the floor with a loud thump. Lewis squatted down in front of David, his brown eyes serious.

"No way are you bailing on me, Davey," Lewis said firmly. "We agreed. We pledge together, we get humiliated together."

"We are not going to be humiliated," David said.

"Okay, optimist." Lewis shrugged, rocking back on his heels. "Look, you go and watch what you drink. Your brother can't fault you for that."

David sighed. Lewis was right, of course. He'd been planning to attend the party long before Rafe got wind of it. There was no way to explain to his brother why the fraternity was so important to him, so why bother? He would just go and have fun.

Where's the harm in that?


Rafe's Apartment, That Evening

By seven-thirty p.m., the detectives of Major Crime were crowded around the kitchen table in Rafe's apartment. Jim, Blair, Rafe, Henri, Joel, and Simon sat in a circle, eating pretzels and tossing out poker chips. Only Connor was conspicuously absent, citing a date that evening. Henri shuffled the deck of cards and began to deal.

"Five card stud, deuces and jokers wild," H said as he flicked cards around the table in six neat piles. "One dollar ante on the first hand."

"We know, we know," Rafe said gruffly.

Henri glanced at his partner, then refocused on the cards he was dealing. Rafe had been in a particularly surly mood since the beginning of the evening. Everyone knew what was bothering him, but no one really knew what to say.

"I'm kinda jealous of David," Henri said offhandedly. "Think of all the sorority girls he's gonna meet now."

Simon laughed, popping a cigar between his lips. "They'll be falling all over him," he added.

"It could be good for him," Blair added. "The social structures of fraternities aren't unlike the -- never mind," he said, after taking a shaarp poke from Jim.

"I appreciate it, fellas," Rafe said as he organized his cards. "I just want him to be careful. A friend of mine got kicked out of college once for a stupid frat prank."

"He's a smart kid," Jim said, thinking of how clever David had been in eluding the police the first time Jim had met him.

"I know," Rafe replied. I just hope David knows that.


Phi Kappa Lambda House, That Same Hour

David stared at the dark stain spreading on his khakis, his face growing hot. He and Lewis hadn't been in the door ten minutes before Donovan Gray and his cohorts had found them. Donovan hadn't missed a beat as he began to loudly berate both of them as the pond scum pledges that they were. When David had tossed back a crisp retort, Donovan had "accidentally" spilled his beer on David.

"Sorry about that, pledge," Donovan said, sounding not the least bit sorry. "Watch where you're going next time."

Lewis put a hand on his shoulder and David bit back an acerbic reply. He watched Donovan prance away, laughing hysterically with his buddies.

"Donovan's a real jerk," a deep-timbred female voice said.

David about-faced and almost crashed into Lucy Morrison. Lucy was a junior and had been in David's accounting class last semester. They'd met while partnered for a project and become fast friends. Lucy was almost six feet tall with the willowy figure of a model and legs up to her armpits. With long, straight brown hair and sparkling green eyes, she was pretty, but not beautiful. David couldn't help but admire the short, green dress she had on.

"Hey, Lucy," David said, flashing her a wide grin.

She smiled back and handed him a plastic cup. "Got you a beer."

Lewis pretended to be hurt. "None for me?"

"The keg's back there," she replied, pointing over her shoulder.

"I get the hint," Lewis said. "Why don't you go air-dry or something, Davey?"

David looked down at his damp pants. "Excellent idea."

"Come with me," Lucy said.

She grabbed his hand and led David through a long hallway. Several people turned to stare, causing David to redden further. They finally found refuge in the empty kitchen. Lucy grabbed a towel from a ring by the sink and tossed it at David.

"Try that," she said. "If it doesn't work, I'm sure we can microwave them."

David began to dab at the wet spot on his pants. "God, I look like I wet myself. I'd like to dump a keg or two on Donovan's head."

Lucy hopped up on the counter, her long legs swinging over the edge. "He gets his rocks off making fun of underclassmen. I guess it's easy to forget he was once one himself."

"Well, guys like him are born with their heads up their asses."

She laughed, her voice brightening up the room. "Amen," she said, hopping off the counter with fragile ease.

Lucy sauntered over to the refrigerator and pulled open the door. David watched her, fascinated. The small light inside the appliance cast a golden glow over her fair skin and he found himself smiling. A sly grin spread across Lucy's face and she looked at him.

"What?" he asked.

Lucy blinked, a mischievous glimmer in her eyes. "Have you ever seen American Pie?"


"Quit hogging the cheese dip, Sandburg," Joel said, brandishing a tortilla chip.

"I'm not," Blair defended himself. "Your arm just isn't long enough to reach the bowl."

"C'mon, Joel," Jim said. "Are you in or out?"

Taggart lowered the tortilla and studied his cards once again. "Out," he finally said, laying them down.

"I'm in," Rafe said, tossing his chips onto the pile.

"Me, too," Henri said.

"Three fives," Jim announced, placing his cards onto the table.

Simon and Blair tossed their cards into the center of the table. Rafe placed his on top of theirs.

"Three nines," Rafe said.

Jim groaned.

Henri was grinning from ear to ear. "Full house, gentlemen," he announced brightly.

"Again?" Blair squawked.

"Sorry about your luck, Hairboy," H said as he gathered his chips together.


"...We went three times," Donovan said, his face glowing with pride.

"Aw, man!" Bud Walton said, fairly choking on his beer. "You lucky bastard."

Donovan settled back onto the over-stuffed couch, reveling in the admiration he was receiving from the underclassmen whose attention he held so raptly with stories of his conquests. It was so easy. Freshman believed anything a fraternity man told them. He took another gulp of his beer, and then set it down on the table behind the couch.

"That chick had breasts out to here," Donovan continued. He cupped his hands out in front of him to emphasize his point. "And man, was she luscious."

"She still go here?" another freshman asked.

"Nah," he replied. "Graduated last year. I think she's off to Law School or something."

Of course, he was making the whole thing up. His fantasy woman didn't exist, but the three first-year students surrounding him thought she did, and that was all that mattered. Donovan reached back around for his beer.

He took a swig and gulped it down, too late noticing a white, swirling substance in the bottom of the glass. Something creamy slid down his throat and his imagination kicked into overdrive. Donovan's stomach roiled as his current conversation did its part in identifying the goo in his cup.

"Shit," he muttered, before darting off the couch and towards the nearest bathroom.


"I'll definitely check my sources," Henri said. "Someone's bound to know something. A new drug in the area is big news."

"Good enough," Simon said. He placed his cigar in a glass ashtray and took a long swig from his beer glass.

"It sounds like obnoxious stuff," Rafe said, dealing out the next hand.

"That's why we're nipping it in the bud," Simon said. "We're not having another Golden incident, if I can help it."

"Seattle PD is sending everything they have on it, too," Jim added. "Right now, we just have to hope no one abuses it. The stuff is deadly."


Lucy pulled David into the deserted bedroom and slammed the door behind her. Both collapsed against each other, laughing hysterically.

"His face," David choked out between gasps. "I wish I had a picture."

Lucy giggled, trying to suck in a deep breath. "Who says we aren't influenced by the movies we watch," she said.

This caused the pair to laugh harder. David took a step back, collapsing on a neatly made bed. Lucy calmed down and held up a white, plastic container.

"I'll never call tapioca a dull food again," David said, eyeing the container.

"He got what he deserved," Lucy said, still calming her giggle fits.

"Do you think he'll know it was us?"

Lucy shrugged and sat beside him on the mattress. "I doubt the imbecile will ever realize it was only pudding in his beer."

"Too true."

David looked up. Lucy was staring down at him, her hair framing her pretty face in soft waves. He realized for the first time exactly where they had ended up, but he didn't move. With Lucy, he felt... relaxed.

Lucy smiled and leaned down to kiss him. David returned the kiss, a funny shiver dancing up his spine. She traced a purple-painted fingernail across his cheek. David felt an odd sensation... in his bladder.

Not now, he thought. I do not have to piss now.

But he did and his bladder wasn't letting him forget it. If David had inherited anything from his father, it was a small bladder.

David broke his kiss and sat up. He playfully swatted the ends of her hair and smiled.

"You want a drink?" he asked, hoping for a graceful exit.

Lucy grinned. "Sure."

"I'll be back in a jiffy," he said.

David hopped off the bed and darted out the door. In less than a minute, he had found a bathroom and relieved himself. Now, David descended the stairs in search of the keg. Every time a new one was opened, it changed locations. David finally spotted two plastic cups full of beer sitting on the corner of a table in the hallway. He snatched them up. As he passed the table, his mind never consciously registered the open aspirin bottle lying sideways on the shelf above the glasses.

With his beer secured, David headed back upstairs.


"He's gloating and he doesn't even know it," Joel said as he settled into the recliner in Rafe's living room.

Henri looked up from his spot on the couch, sandwiched between Rafe and Sandburg. "I am not," H said indignantly, trying to keep a straight face.

Simon snorted. "With a poker face like that, I'm surprised we didn't take him for all he's worth."

"It's the rabbit's foot, I'm telling you," Henri said. He pulled a blue-dyed rabbit's foot charm out of the breast pocket of his flannel shirt. "She knew daddy needed a new jacket."

Jim popped the tape into the VCR and turned to stare at Henri. "She?"

Henri shrugged.

Simon and Jim settled on the floor in front of the television. Everyone watched the screen expectantly, waiting for the blue to be replaced by the opening credits.

Nothing happened.

Henri elbowed Rafe. "You gonna start that or what?"

Rafe blinked, looking up to find all eyes on him. "Uh, sorry." He snatched the remote off of the end of the couch and pressed "play."

"Quit worrying, man," H whispered as the latest Steven Seagal film began. "Nothing's going to happen."

Rafe shrugged and tried to concentrate on the movie.


Less than ten minutes after David had returned with the beer, both were empty and he and Lucy had been into a heavy make-out session. She had begun to laugh, leaving David mystified. He'd backed up to the edge of the bed and watched her as she doubled over in convulsive laughter. As he had, his vision had begun to swim in bright swirls of greens and purples.

David blinked, unable to process what he was seeing.

Now Lucy was crying uncontrollably, pointing fearfully at a spot on the bedspread. Her breath came in unsteady gasps, alternating between screams and sobs. She curled in on herself, thin arms wrapping tightly around her long legs and holding tight.

He wanted to hold her, to comfort her somehow, but he couldn't. His entire body felt numb, like he was immersed in icy water. David tried to speak, but nothing came out. The swirls began to coagulate and form a translucent barrier over his vision, a barrier of infinite colors. He coughed and tasted blood in the back of his throat.

David began to panic.


On the television, Seagal was mercifully sparing the villain's life when the phone rang. Being the closest, Simon reached over and answered.

"Hello?" Simon asked. He paused. "Yeah, he's right here."

Simon passed the phone to Rafe, keeping half an eye on the villain as he took advantage of Seagal's morals and counterattacked.

Rafe snatched up the phone, a shiver raising goose bumps on his arms. "Hello?"

"Mr. Rafe?" an unsteady male voice asked.

"Yes?"

"It's Lewis," he continued. "David's roommate at Rainier. You gotta come down to Cascade General, man."

Rafe sucked in a sharp breath, earning a concerned glance from Ellison. "What happened? Is he hurt?"

Henri snatched up the remote and snapped off the film in the middle of the villain's dishonorable death scene. The attention of everyone in the room turned to Rafe.

"He had some kinda seizure or something at the party tonight and somebody called an ambulance. The doctors think it was a drug overdose or something. Hello?"

But Rafe was no longer on the phone. In four steps, he had his keys and was out the front door, leaving five stunned detectives behind in his apartment.


Cascade General, Late

L.T. Rafe broke every speed law imaginable and ran two stoplights on his drive to the hospital. Any number of scenarios played out in his head, ranging from him waking up from a terrible nightmare to David being dead when he finally arrived. He had the vague dream sensation of driving in slow motion, even when his speedometer read sixty. Rafe double-parked his car in the front of the parking lot and raced into the emergency room.

His first target was the nurse's station. A burly brunette was writing on a chart when Rafe marched up to her.

"David Dawson, please," he said. "An ambulance brought him in a little while ago."

The nurse finished what she was writing, then looked at him, her annoyed expression softening when she saw his frantic state. She searched the pile of charts nearby.

"I don't have his chart, so he must still be in the exam room," she said. "If you'll have a seat, the doctor will come out to see you when he's done."

Rafe nodded, expecting as much. He turned around. To his immediate left he saw a small huddle of college students sitting in the waiting room. Rafe marched over to them, picking Lewis out of the center of the bunch.

"Lewis?" Rafe asked, reaching out to grab the younger man's coat collar and yank him to his feet. "What in God's name happened? Has the doctor talked to you?"

Lewis's eyes widened in terror, his words choking in his throat. Rafe realized how he must look and released his hold on Lewis's coat.

"I don't know what happened," Lewis finally said, his voice shaking. "I saw him and Lucy go upstairs--"

"Who's Lucy?" Rafe demanded.

"A friend of ours," he continued. "Donovan spilled his drink on David earlier, because we're both pledges and he wanted to exert his authority or whatever, and then Donovan walked away and Lucy came over to talk and--"

"Lewis, calm down," Rafe said, "you're rambling."

Lewis paused and sucked in a deep breath. A girl sitting nearby patted his hand comfortingly. Lewis offered her a small smile, then turned back to Rafe.

"I saw them go upstairs," Lewis repeated. "About half an hour later someone came running down and said to call an ambulance. When I went up both of them were shaking like they were being electrocuted and David was coughing up blood. I about shit myself I was so scared, man."

Rafe let the information sink in, but nothing was processing. David was too smart to take drugs, but it sounded like both he and Lucy had overdosed on something. He shook his head, trying desperately to clear out the mental cobwebs.

"Lewis, were there drugs at this party?" Rafe asked.

Lewis hesitated. "I dunno, man. The Lambda's are famous for having, uh, extras at their parties, but I didn't see anything if they had it. I swear."

"Did any of you see the drugs?" Rafe asked the group of students.

The concerned group shook their heads in practiced unison.

"Rafe?" Henri's voice shouted.

Rafe spun around in time to see Henri, Blair and Joel stride into the ER. The doors slid shut behind them, then opened to allow Jim and Simon to enter. His friends gathered around him, all wearing identical expressions of concern and worry.

"Something's wrong with David," Rafe explained, trying to keep his voice steady. "He collapsed at the damn party tonight and nobody knows...." He trailed off, his gaze landing on Jim Ellison. "Jim?"

Ellison nodded and looked past them all, intently focused on the exam rooms. A silence settled over the collected police officers. Rafe watched him, grateful now more than ever for Jim's unique gifts. He just needed to know David was all right.

"Doctor's coming," Jim finally announced.

The doors to the nearest exam room burst open and Dr. Randall walked out, making notations on the chart in his hand. He looked up, blinking at the mix of college students and cops in the waiting room.

"For David Dawson?" he asked hesitantly.

Rafe stepped away from the crowd and met the doctor halfway. "I'm his brother, Detective Rafe. Is he okay?"

Dr. Randall looked squarely at Rafe, his expression giving away nothing. "He's stable."

Rafe expelled a deep breath, remembering to breathe again. "Thank God."

"Tox screens are pending, but from what we can deduce, he overdosed on a controlled substance we haven't been able to identify yet," Dr. Randall continued. "It sent David into an epileptic seizure and burst a blood vessel in his nose. He was unconscious when he was brought in."

Rafe felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. A comforting hand squeezed his shoulder, but Rafe didn't look to see who it was. "Will he be okay?"

Dr. Randall sighed. "David shows signs of waking. However, we still won't know the extent of the drugs effects until after the tests come back and he regains consciousness."

"What about Lucy?" Lewis asked from behind Rafe.

The doctor considered it for a moment. "From what I understand, she probably overdosed on the same drug as David. Right now, she's in a coma."

"Jesus," Lewis muttered. He sunk into a chair and wrapped his arms around the girl next to him, who began to cry.

"Can I see David?" Rafe asked.

"He's being moved up to a semi-private room on the fourth floor," Dr. Randall said. "Once he's settled, you can see him."

Rafe nodded and watched the doctor walk away. He stared blindly at the scuffed linoleum floor, his eyes tracing a jagged crack the length of his forearm. Rafe stood his ground silently, waiting for the nurse to say it was okay to go up.


Cascade General, Early Morning

Rafe shifted his weight in the plastic chair, his eyes trailing over the maze of tubes and wires protruding from David's prone body. David looked so pale, his skin almost transparent; dark smudges under each eye were the only real signs of color. His chest rose and fell in the rhythmic pattern of deep sleep. The doctor said he would probably sleep through the night and, so far, he had. Rafe checked his watch -- almost four a.m.

"Mr. Rafe?"

He turned his head towards the door. Lewis was hovering in the doorway. Rafe waved him in.

"How's he doing?" Lewis asked, walking up tentatively.

"The same," Rafe replied.

"I asked about Lucy," he said. "Nurse said she still wasn't responding. Her parents are flying in tomorrow from Michigan."

"Have you slept?" Rafe asked, noting the fatigue on the young man's face. "You've got classes tomorrow."

Lewis snorted. "Screw class, man. I'm the one who insisted Davey go to that party. I kinda feel like it's my fault."

Rafe shook his head. "You didn't do this to him, Lewis. But I'm damn sure going to find out who did."

"I need to tell you something I just heard," Lewis said softly. He looked at David, as if afraid to meet Rafe's eyes.

"What?"

Lewis cleared his throat. "I was talking to a friend of mine a few minutes ago, you know, trying to investigate. Anyway, she said Donovan Gray might know what they overdosed on. She heard him say something to someone about a new ride they had to try."

They could be talking about an amusement park ride, Rafe wanted to retort. But it was a solid lead and one he meant to follow up on.

Rafe heard a soft grunt and looked down. David's eyelids were fluttering, his head swaying on the pillow as if he was in the throes of a dream. Rafe grabbed his hand and rubbed it gently.

"David?" he called softly. "David, can you hear me?"

"I'll get the doctor," Lewis said as he bolted out the door.

"David?" Rafe asked again, a bit louder. His eyes never left David's face but his earlier hope faded as David fell silent once more.

Lewis and the doctor on-call, Dr. Younger, strode in. Dr. Younger looked about as old as David and was probably a first-year resident. That didn't raise Rafe's confidence any as Younger approached the bed and checked David's vitals.

"He sounded like he was waking up," Rafe explained.

The doctor nodded, noting something on David's chart. "It's a good sign, but the sedative they administered down in ER hasn't worn off yet. I wouldn't expect anything for another hour or two, at least."

"Do you know what did this yet?" Rafe asked impatiently.

Dr. Younger looked at the chart, coloring a bit. "The toxicology came back almost an hour ago. No one told you?"

Rafe glared, hoping his stormy expression was answer enough. Apparently it was.

"We found traces of a new drug in his blood stream, street name Brain Candy," Dr. Younger said. "It affects--"

"I know what it does," Rafe snapped. But why in the world would David take an illegal drug? And to overdose on it, to boot? It didn't make any sense.

"It could have been spiked," Rafe muttered.

"Beg pardon?" Dr. Younger asked.

Rafe looked at him. "Never mind. I need to use your phone."


Phi Kappa Lambda House, Thirty Minutes Later

Donovan awoke to the mixed scents of beer and stale potato chips. He rubbed his hands across crusty eyes, trying to figure out where he was and what he'd been doing. When he opened his eyes to a world full of empty cups and spilled pretzels, the evening came back in a rush strong enough to produce an immediate headache.

The party had ended at eleven-thirty -- hours before it normally would have -- after those two kids had overdosed upstairs. Students had been evicted in droves as soon as the ambulance arrived. Only the fraternity members remained, deciding to leave clean-up for the morning. They didn't have any intention of going to their first day of classes, anyhow. He didn't remember crashing on the living room floor.

Donovan sat up slowly, feeling rather light-headed after puking into the toilet for five minutes last night. If he ever found out who spiked his drink....

He held onto the couch and pulled himself to his feet, every muscle in his back protesting. His mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Donovan stumbled into the hallway and grabbed a half- full cup from a nearby knickknack table. He put the cup to his lips and stopped, eyes riveted on the table. A tiny yellow pill was melting into one of the two liquid rings left behind by cups now long gone.

What the....

Donovan looked up and saw on the shelf, an aspirin bottle lying tipped on its side. He'd given the bottle to Ted Lowe early in the evening and promptly forgotten about it until this very moment. Now, its open mouth hung just over the edge of the shelf, right above where those two missing cups would have been. Nausea welled up in Donovan's stomach. He grabbed the bottle with the remaining pills and dashed for the downstairs bathroom, even as he heard the first police sirens outside.

Donovan burst into the bathroom and slammed the door. In his haste, the bottle slid from his sweaty hands, spilling its contents all over the floor. The police sirens grew louder and he heard car doors opening and shutting. Donovan dropped to his knees and scrambled around for the tiny yellow pills. He scooped them up as fast as he could and dropped them into the toilet bowl.

"Cascade Police!" a deep voice yelled out in the hall.

He snatched up one more pill and pulled the handle on the toilet. It began to flush the instant a large, black man burst into the room and pointed a gun at him.

"Don't move," the cop ordered.

Donovan's hands shot up in the air, his insides turning to jelly. What was his father going to say now?


Major Crime, Five a.m.

From his office, Simon Banks shouldered his telephone and watched Brown escort Donovan Gray down the hallway to an interrogation room. Ellison and Sandburg wandered into the bullpen -- moving mechanically from lack of sleep --- and headed straight for the captain's office. As they approached, a voice brought Simon's attention back to the phone.

"This is Rafe," the detective said, his voice hollow.

Simon frowned. "It's Captain Banks. They just brought in Donovan Gray."

A sharp knock proceeded Ellison and Sandburg's entrance. Simon motioned for the two detectives to remain quiet, concentrating on the telephone call. There was silence on the other line.

"Rafe?" Simon asked. "What's wrong? Is David all right?"

Rafe breathed in sharply. "He can't see."

Simon blinked. "What?"

"He can't see, Captain," Rafe replied, sounding on the verge of tears. "The drugs did something to his eyes and he can't see a damn thing."

"Jesus Christ," he muttered. "Is it permanent?"

"The doctors don't know. They won't know anything for a couple of days." Rafe cleared his throat. "I'm coming to the station. Megan is here, she said she'd stay while I was gone."

"Rafe, I don't think--"

"I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

The connection ended as Rafe hung up. Simon stared at the receiver for a few seconds, then gently put it down in the cradle. David Dawson was only a year older than Daryl was. It was frightening to think what that poor boy must be going through.

"What's going on?" Sandburg asked, reminding Simon that other people were in the room.

Simon looked over at Jim and Blair, his expression a dark mix of anger and sorrow. He met each man's eyes for a split second, then said, "David's blind."


Cascade General, That Same Hour

David shut his eyes, his mind reeling with the notion of seeing and not seeing. When his eyes were open, he could swear he saw dark swirls of green and purple intermixing with the nothingness. They were the same colors that had invaded his vision before the seizures began. Closed he saw nothing but darkness, the same darkness that anyone else would see. David almost preferred total blindness to the odd mosaic of non-colors he was "seeing" now. He felt better in the darkness.

The doctors had been coming and going all evening, rambling on about arteries and nerves and swellings -- gobbledygook that David didn't understand in the slightest. All he knew was he couldn't see beyond the dark spectrum of swirls in front of him and it was damn frightening.

Footsteps padded across the linoleum to his right, the sharp click of a heel followed by the soft thump of a sole. David was amazed at how much stronger his hearing was when he couldn't see.

"L.T.?" he asked, his head swiveling towards the approaching person.

"Yeah, I'm back," Rafe replied.

David heard Rafe's coat rustling as he sat in the chair nearby. His voice sounded ragged and strained.

"They brought Donovan Gray in," Rafe said.

"Then what in hell are you doing here?" David asked, his voice rising a notch. Part of him wanted his brother to stay, but another part of him wanted Rafe in there during questioning -- hell, he wanted to be there.

"I'm going," Rafe said softly. David felt a warm hand touch his arm. "Megan Connor is going to stay for a while, if that's okay."

David nodded slowly, looking where he guessed Rafe's face was. "Okay."

"I'll be back soon," Rafe said, his coat swishing again. He patted David's arm, and then the shoe heels began to click. When he spoke, his voice was farther away. "Behave."

David offered a mock salute. "Yessir!"

Rafe laughed. David also heard Megan's higher-pitched chuckle. Sharper heels clicked across the linoleum, advancing towards the bed.

"Hey, you," she said in the lilting accent David loved to listen to. "Do you need anything?"

David could smell her perfume, a flowery scent he equated to tropical flowers. "No, I just want to get some rest. You don't have to stay. Go get some breakfast or something."

She was silent for a few seconds. "All right, but I'll be back to check on you in a little while."

He conjured up a winning smile, hoping he at least appeared to be looking at her. In fact, he wished he was looking at her -- she was beautiful.

What if I never see her again? Or anyone else for that matter?

"Get some rest," Megan said. Her heels began to recede.

When he was sure she was gone, David turned onto his left side, hoping he was now facing a wall. Alone at last, his control evaporated and David began to shake. His throat constricted and his breath came in short gasps.

I will not panic. I will not panic. I will not... God, what did I do? What did I do to deserve this? Am I being punished for wanting to join the fraternity? Was that a selfish thing to want? What did I do?

"What did I do?" he asked no one, his voice shaking as hard as his body.

No answer sought him out and a wave of despair washed over him in a torrent. A thick sob escaped his throat. Tears stung his eyes. David let go and lost himself in his sorrow for the short time it took sleep to catch up with him.


Interrogation Observation Room, Four Hours Later

"You have got to be kidding me!" Rafe roared, way beyond caring how loud he was. Right now he was past pissed and tracking towards absolute fury, and no one was going to calm him down.

"We don't have a choice," Banks said, sounding almost as angry as Rafe felt. "The Chief is going along with this, so we do too. Whether we like it or not."

Rafe smacked the palm of his hand against the two-way mirror, watching it wobble slightly. His eyes landed on Donovan Gray, slumped deeply into his seat at the table in the interrogation room. Next to him Donovan's lawyer, a balding man in a business suit and bed-hair, was talking softly. If the lawyer was all pompous arrogance and hot air, then Donovan was quite the opposite. In fact, the kid looked downright terrified.

Not that he had much reason to be now. Even with the drugs Brown had found on the end table and the bathroom floor, Donovan was going to get off. Mr. Arnold Gray, Donovan's father, of Chicago had "important friends" in the Cascade Elite. Gray had already worked his charms to borrow favors from several judges to insure his son received a slap on the wrist. Rafe was more than willing to provide that slap -- with a billy club -- but now Donovan was trading probation for information.

"This is bullshit, Captain," Rafe said. "It's politics, pure and simple."

"You're damn right it is," Banks said. "But if that boy can help us cut off the pipeline of Brain Candy to Cascade, then that saves a lot of other kids from what David is going through. We can't pass this up."

Rafe knew that, but it didn't make the facts any easier to swallow. If he'd had his druthers, Donovan Gray would be rotting away in Starkeville for the rest of his life. But finding the supplier, the man Donovan called Cypher, was more important in the long run.

"Rafe?" Sandburg said from across the small room. "It's the right thing. David will understand."

"The fraternity is likely to be kicked off campus for this," Banks said. "Besides the Brain Candy, Rainier can revoke their charter for serving alcohol to underage students."

"Yeah," Rafe replied, once again staring at Donovan. He found no pity in his heart for the young man in front of him, only hate in its purest form.


David was standing in a bank lobby, surrounded by people of all ages bustling about their business. He looked down and was not all at surprised to see he was wearing a policeman's uniform. Instead of silver, his badge was fashioned out of tiny yellow pills that smelled like beer. He wasn't wearing shoes, only paper hospital slippers.

"Give me your money!" a man yelled.

David turned around. Megan was standing stiffly behind the money counter, stuffing wads of money into a paper bag. Donovan was pointing a gun at her. She looked at David, her eyes begging for help as she handed Donovan the sack. David reached down and pulled a gun from his belt holster.

"Freeze! Police!" he said, pointing the gun at Donovan.

Donovan looked at him, then began to laugh. "You can't see me, copper. You can't see anything anymore. Blind cops get shot. Blind cops get shot."

Everyone in the bank stared at David and chanted, "Blind cops get shot."

"I'm not blind!" David screamed.

He looked to Megan for help, but she had transformed into his father. Now Carl Dawson sneered at him from behind the counter.

"Look what you went and did!" Carl shouted. "You can't beat me. Now you done shot me, because you can't see!"

David looked down at the smoking barrel of his gun -- when had he fired? He looked back up, but Carl was gone. Instead, Megan was there with a dark red stain blossoming on her chest.

"No!" David screamed, trying to run to her, but finding he couldn't move. "Nooo!"


Cascade General, Almost Noon

"David, wake up!" Megan said, shaking the boy's shoulders. "It's a dream."

David sat up like a shot his unseeing eyes wide open. "Blind cops get shot, blind cops get shot," he mumbled, frantically reaching for something that wasn't there.

Megan sat next to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "It's okay, David. It's Megan. You're fine."

His head tilted towards her voice. David's skin was pale as snow, but two dark roses of color tinted each cheek. He began to tremble in her embrace and she held him closer. He clutched her arms tightly.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"For what?" she asked, her voice soft and tender.

He didn't reply for a moment, just sat in her arms. "I'm never going to see again, am I? I'll never be a detective like L.T."

"You'll see again," Megan said fiercely, holding him tighter.

They sat that way for a while, until David's trembling subsided and he fell into a deep sleep.


Major Crime, Evening

Blair finished off his coffee and sat the mug back on the brown ring forming on the long table in Simon's office. Next to him, Jim cracked his knuckles, eliciting a glare from Simon. The captain drummed his fingertips on the table. They waited.

But only for two more minutes. A sharp knock on the office door startled the trio out of their sleep-deprived stupor.

"Come in," Banks bellowed.

The door opened and Officer Willem O'Dell stepped inside. Four years out of the Academy and O'Dell still looked eighteen. A thick shock of strawberry-blonde hair fell in waves over pale skin and bright eyes. Blair had met the young officer once before and had instantly liked his calm smile and self-deprecating humor.

"You wanted to see me, Captain Banks?" O'Dell asked.

Simon nodded. "Have a seat," he replied, pointing to an empty chair at the head of the table.

O'Dell sat down confidently, appearing even younger seated between Jim and Simon.

"Do you know Detectives Ellison and Sandburg?" Banks asked.

"We've met, yes, sir," O'Dell replied. He offered a friendly grin to the older men.

Blair returned the smile and said, "Did the desk sergeant tell you why you were reassigned to us?"

"Something to do with my youthful good looks," O'Dell said wryly.

"Something like that," Jim said. "We're trying to draw out a drug dealer who sells mostly to college kids. We want you to pose as a Rainier student and contact him."

"I take it we know something about this guy?" O'Dell asked.

"We know some," Simon replied and launched into an explanation of their case thus far.


Cascade General, That Same Hour

The elevator opened on the fourth floor and Rafe stepped out. He made a left past the nurse's station and headed straight for David's room. He had to tell him about Donovan's bargain sometime, so he preferred to get it over with. Rafe sucked in a deep breath and stepped into David's room. He stopped mid-step.

David was sleeping on his right side, facing the door and snoring softly. In the bedside chair, Megan Connor was also asleep with her head resting on the bed. One of her hands was lightly holding David's wrist.

Rafe stepped back, not wanting to disturb them, and hit his elbow on the doorjamb. He grunted softly, and Megan stirred. She lifted her head and rubbed her neck with one hand, then looked over at him.

"Sorry I woke you," Rafe whispered.

Megan smiled and stood up. She tiptoed across the linoleum and followed Rafe out into the hallway.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," Megan said, rubbing her eyes.

"How's he doing?" Rafe asked.

"No change," she replied. "He had a terrible nightmare this afternoon. Woke up screaming bloody murder. 'Blind cops get shot,' he kept saying."

Rafe's heart sank. David's dream was to enter the Police Academy after he graduated college. What if he never fully regained his sight?

"Rafe, what's wrong?" Megan asked.

"Megan?" David's voice called.

The pair turned as one and walked back into the hospital room. David was sitting up, blank eyes staring in their general direction.

"She's here," Rafe said, approaching the bed.

"L.T.?" David asked, his eyes following Rafe's voice.

"Yeah, I'm back." Rafe reached out and brushed his hand over David's bed-rumpled hair. "Your hair is sticking up funny."

David snorted softly. "Latest style."

"It's very becoming," Megan said.

David smiled, then turned his face towards Rafe. "Your voice sounds funny. What's wrong?"

Rafe sighed. "Donovan threw us a bone we couldn't resist."

The smile disappeared. "What bone?"


Major Crime, Mid-Morning

Jim's gaze shifted sporadically from Simon to O'Dell to the cellphone in the middle of the conference table. Filling out the rest of the quintet gathered in Simon's office were Sandburg and Rafe. They had been there since seven o'clock that morning, sipping coffee and making small talk. The details of the plan had been scrutinized carefully the night before, so all they had left to do was wait.

Following Donovan Gray's instructions, O'Dell had placed a "Help Wanted" poster on a telephone pole on the corner of Birch and 5th. The only other thing printed on the paper was the number for O'Dell's new cell phone. If Cypher checked out the number, he would find it belonged to Todd Logan, junior Behavioral Science major at Rainier University. The bait was out, now they just needed a nibble.

The phone chirped.

O'Dell picked up the phone and waited until the middle of the second ring to press "receive." He cleared his throat and put the phone to his ear.

"Yeah?" O'Dell asked. In seconds, O'Dell turned bright red. "It's not that kind of job, ma'am," he said hurriedly and cut the connection.

"Wrong number?" Jim deadpanned.

"Slightly."

Minutes passed in silence.

"Are you sure we can trust Donovan?" Rafe piped up, his voice raspy from lack of sleep. "It's been over two hours since we put up the flyer and he said--"

The telephone cut off Rafe's arguments and O'Dell snatched it up.

"Yeah?" he asked.

O'Dell waved his hands at the group: it was Cypher. Jim focused into the conversation.

"...Get my name?" Cypher asked.

"A guy I party with at Rainier said he got some righteous stuff from you," O'Dell replied casually. "Thought we could do some business for my bash next weekend."

"You in a frat, college boy?"

"Nope, I got a house off-campus. More freedom in that."

Cypher laughed deep in his throat. "My kind of man, Mr. Logan. But my candy is pricey."

Now O'Dell laughed. "And my old man's got Swiss bank accounts. I think I can afford you."

Jim found himself smiling. Damn, but Willem O'Dell was a good actor.

"Meet me in the FoodWay parking lot in one hour, the one out on Denmark Street. Park under the center lamp light."

A click and the connection ended.

"One hour at the Denmark Street FoodWay," O'Dell reported.

The five men shot to their feet, gathering coats and car keys, and filed out of the office.


FoodWay Parking Lot, Fifty-five Minutes Later

Officer Willem O'Dell always wanted to be a police officer. It was a tradition that dated back to his great-grandfather, who had been a member of New York City's first Metropolitan Police Force. As the eldest son, it was Willem's dream to follow in his father's footsteps, much to his mother's dismay. Miles O'Dell had died when Willem was six, while attempting to stop a convenience store robbery. Instead of deterring Willem, as his mother had hoped, his father's death had driven him harder. At the age of twenty-four, Willem was now participating in his first "undercover" operation and loving every minute of it. The icing on the proverbial cake was working with Ellison and Sandburg, a pair with the best arrest record in the CPD.

The parking lot of the FoodWay had only seven cars, including his own. Captain Banks and Inspector Megan Connor were positioned inside the grocery store, peeking out from the maze of posters plastered in the front windows. Ellison and Sandburg waited in a car parked a few hundred feet away on Denmark Street. Detective's Rafe and Brown were dressed in rags and pretending to pick through a garbage dumpster on the west side of the parking lot. Willem sat in the front seat of a borrowed Porsche, completing his "rich boy" image.

Minutes ticked by, the deadline slowly approaching.

"Heads up, folks," Ellison said over the ear mikes. "Black Corsica coming west on Denmark. This could be our man."

"Copy that," Willem said, tensing slightly.

He adjusted his loose-fitting flannel shirt and zipped up his down jacket, its size covering the bulk of his bulletproof vest and wire. Willem watched the Corsica pull into the parking lot and crawl toward his Porsche.

"Getting out," Willem said. He removed the mike from his ear and tossed it under the car seat -- out of sight.

Willem opened his door and climbed out as the Corsica pulled into the empty space next to the Porsche. The engine cut off and the driver's door opened. A bald head emerged, then turned to face Willem. Black Ray Bans hid the man's eyes, but the smirking grin on his face was enough to give Willem the creeps.

"Mr. Logan, I presume?"

"You must be Cypher," Willem said.

"In the flesh." Cypher slammed his car door shut and walked around to the other side of the Corsica so he was facing Willem head-on.

The sunglasses hid anything Cypher's eyes may have told him about what Cypher was thinking. Willem watched him impassively, his pulse quickening.

"So what's your major, college boy?" Cypher asked, circling Willem like a vulture.

"What's yours?" Willem shot back.

Cypher chuckled. "I asked you first."

"Behavioral Science."

"What're you gonna do with that?"

Willem quirked an eyebrow. A fine sheen of perspiration broke across the bridge of his nose. "Am I applying for a job here?"

Cypher's smile never broke. "I just like to know who I'm doing business with."

"So we do have business?" Willem asked cockily. "I was beginning to wonder."

Cypher didn't reply. His attention seemed to be fixed over Willem's shoulder. Willem glanced behind him, dismayed that Cypher was focused on the two "bums" by the trash dumpster.

"What's the matter?" Willem asked, trying to regain the man's attention. "Do you find Cascade's brand of bums particularly interesting?"

Cypher's head turned, once again intent on Willem. A meaty hand came up and pulled the Ray Bans off, revealing eyes blazing with annoyance. "I don't think we have business after all," Cypher said.

Willem blinked. "Beg pardon?"

"I've got other business right now, kid," Cypher said.

He couldn't let Cypher get away, not when they were so close. "Dammit, you said you could fix me up," Willem said and took a step forward.

"Try down at Southtown," Cypher said. He walked around his car and climbed into the driver's seat. "I'm sure they've got what you want."

"Wait a minute." Willem darted around the car and blocked Cypher from closing his door. "Once word gets around that you tried to stiff a potential customer, you won't be able to sell shit in this town. You'll run back to Seattle with your tail between your legs."

A sharp light stole over Cypher's eyes. "I never said I was from Seattle," he snarled. "Cop."

Willem realized his blunder too late. Cypher's left hand dove into a jacket pocket and produced a .357 Magnum. Light reflected off its shiny metal surface. Willem felt himself rocketing backwards and crashing into cement. The echo of the discharge followed him into unconsciousness.


FoodWay Parking Lot

They all heard the deal go sour. The detectives even had hopes that Willem could reverse the downward spiral with his "stiff a potential customer" spiel, but that had gone to hell in a hand basket, too. Captain Banks's voice came over the ear mikes the same instant Cypher fired his gun.

"Move it!" Banks yelled.

Jim turned the key in the old Ford's ignition and floored the accelerator with a short warning to his partner, "Hold on, Chief."

Willem O'Dell lay still where he had fallen. Cypher slammed his door shut and started his own engine as Connor and Banks bolted out of the FoodWay. Brown and Rafe ran towards the now- moving Corsica, guns drawn and ready. The Corsica sped towards the partners, then took a sharp left towards the exit of the parking lot, barely missing the detectives.

"Oh no, you don't," Jim muttered.

He made a harried turn into the parking lot, the entire rig bouncing when he hit a deep pothole. Jim's head slammed into the roof, creating fuzzy dots in his field of vision. They cleared almost instantly and the Corsica loomed directly in his path. Jim could just barely make out Cypher's face through the car's tinted windshield, but one thing was certain -- Cypher was sweating.

"Jim?" Sandburg asked. "Jim, we're going to--"

"He'll turn first," Jim replied.

With less than five feet to go, the Corsica cut to the right, its tires squealing on the asphalt. Jim yanked on his wheel, sending the Ford into a 180-degree turn. He hit the brakes and watched the Corsica careen out of control and impale itself on a telephone pole. The front end buckled like an accordion, shattering glass all over the pavement. A gray wisp of steam rose ghost-like from the radiator, punctuated by a soft hissing. There was no movement inside the car.

"Man, oh man," Sandburg muttered.

Jim shifted into park and climbed out of the truck, pulling his revolver. He almost collided with Rafe at the bumper of the Corsica. Waving the younger detective behind him, Jim approached the driver's side door. The glass in the window had spider-webbed into thousands of tiny fractures, making it impossible to see through. Jim nodded his head to Rafe, then yanked open the door. Rafe leapt forward, gun at the ready. Jim whipped around and stopped.

The .357 was lying on the floor by the brake pedal. Cypher was upright in the front seat, blood trickling down his forehead, eyes staring blankly ahead. He looked dead, but for the soft rise and fall of his chest.

"Out of the car!" Rafe ordered.

Cypher blinked, the only sign of acknowledgment.

"Get out of the damned car!" Rafe repeated, his voice rising a notch.

Cypher's head turned slightly towards them, his dark eyes locking with Rafe's.

"Instinct told me 'is was wrong," Cypher mumbled, his deep voice making the words almost impossible to hear. "Shoulda listened to m'self."

"Too bad," Jim said. "Because you're under arrest."

Cypher looked at Jim dully. "Shit."


Cascade General, Later

Since his arrival, David had not left his room at the hospital except for tests. Now that he was out, he was more nervous than he'd anticipated.

He'd been too afraid to enter a vast world that his dark eyes could not penetrate. The sounds and smells of his room were familiar in their simplicity. He knew how far the door was, the bathroom was, and the opposite wall was. But outside the door were people he couldn't see and obstacles he couldn't avoid. He'd gone out three times before for tests, always in a wheelchair and the company of an orderly -- a happy young man named Jonas. Aside from Lewis, Megan and L.T., Jonas was his only consistent visitor. David assumed he was around his own age, but knew little else about the man, except he was a paramedic in-training and loved ice hockey.

After lunch, David had decided enough was enough. Two days of sitting in bed was starting to get to him. Besides, there was someone he needed to see. When Jonas came back to pick up David's tray, David had convinced the man to take him on a little field trip.

"You think that's a good idea?" Jonas had asked.

"I don't know," he replied truthfully. "But I have to see her. It was my fault she--"

"Kiddo," Jonas said. "How many times am I gonna have to knock you around for saying it was your fault?"

David sighed and his sightless eyes fixed on the spot he guessed Jonas to be standing. Jonas was a big opponent of self-pity.

"Yeah, okay," David said. "So can you take me up? Just for a few minutes?"

He listened to Jonas breathing, imagining possible facial expressions the man could be making.

"I'll be back in ten minutes," Jonas had said. "After I finish collecting the trays. Deal?"

"Deal."

The ten minutes had become twenty after a patient down the hall threw up on a nurse and Jonas's assistance was required. David heard the familiar squeal of the wheelchair and turned his head towards the door. Jonas's voice drifted into the open door.

"I'd like to give you something, you old biddy," Jonas mumbled.

David smiled. It was at least another minute before Jonas's sneakers squeaked across the linoleum.

"Which old biddy?" David asked immediately.

The squeaks stopped as Jonas froze. "You know the creepy thing about blind people?" Jonas asked rhetorically. "Your hearing is too damned good."

"I'd rather be deaf than blind," David had said, letting Jonas guide him into the wheelchair. "Deaf people can at least see where they're going and what they're eating."

"And who they're talking to," Jonas had added. "So to speak."

Up in the ICU, a cacophony of beeps, whirs and hisses met David's ears that made him cringe. They stopped and Jonas spoke with the duty nurse.

"Lucy Morrison," Jonas said.

"Family only," the nurse replied.

"This kid was with her when it happened," Jonas hissed. "Five minutes, please."

There was a short pause. David could only imagine the looks passing between the nurse and orderly. Then, "Okay, five minutes. Her parents will be back soon."

David snapped his head towards the nurse's voice. "They're here?"

He imagined the nurse nodding. "Yes, they arrived yesterday. Mr. and Mrs. Morrison will be taking Lucy tomorrow."

"Home?" he asked blankly. "As in Michigan?"

"Yes."

David let that sink in. "Is she ever going to wake up?"

"I really can't tell y-" she stopped for an instant. "If Lucy does wake up, she'll probably have severe brain damage. I'm sorry. Why don't you go on in?"

The chair was moving again, past several beeping heart monitors, before stopping. Jonas maneuvered the wheelchair and David felt a soft sheet next to his left arm.

"I'll wait outside," Jonas said. His squeaky sneakers padded away.

David reached out tentatively, tracking the sheet until he found soft flesh and tubes. His fingers trailed down and found Lucy's hand. Careful not to jostle any of the wires, David gently clasped her hand in his. Her skin was cool and dry.

"I sure wish I could see you one more time, Lucy," David whispered. "You had so many plans, we both did. But I know L.T. and Henri and the other detectives. They won't quit on this until someone pays. Cheap comfort, I know, but it's all I got."

He gently brought her hand up and kissed the palm. "I'm so sorry, Lucy," he said softly.


Major Crime, That Afternoon

Simon Banks watched rivulets of water trickle down the glass panes of his office windows. They formed thin rivers that ran together and branched apart, creating intricate relationships and formations.

Sort of like people, he thought. Two fingers tapped idly on the sides of his empty coffee mug.

He'd let Ellison and Sandburg interrogate Cypher -- the man still refused to give his full name, even though he knew they were running his prints as he sat -- for almost two hours. The man was tough as nails and until Interpol came back with his prints, the detectives had nothing to bait the man with.

At least Daryl was coming home this weekend. It was an impromptu trip. He'd originally been going skiing with a group of college friends, but changed plans at the last minute. Daryl had become friends with David Dawson in the short time they'd actually been around one another and was concerned about the young man. It was a gesture that made Simon proud of his son.

The phone rang and Simon glared at it before answering.

"Banks."

"Captain Banks? This is Captain DeSoto from Seattle."

Simon jerked in his chair. DeSoto was in charge of the SPD's Narcotics Division and had been his liaison in Seattle since Brain Candy first showed up in Cascade.

"Yes, Captain?" Simon asked, his voice rising a notch.

"We've had a busy morning here in Seattle and I thought I'd tell you about it."

Something in DeSoto's voice made Simon Banks smile.

"Captain DeSoto, I am, as they say, all ears."


Thirty Minutes Later

Banks couldn't help but smirk as he led Ellison, Rafe and Sandburg back into the interrogation room. Cypher glared at them, his expression unchanged from their last discussion. Simon sat in the chair directly opposite Cypher and stared the man straight in the eye.

"You should have made a deal when you had the chance," Simon said evenly. "Jarrod DeMaeo."

Cypher blinked, his lips parting slightly.

"You're surprised," Simon continued. "That's a good sign. It proves what I've been told."

"Which is what?" Cypher asked, his voice faltering.

"For starters, that you don't work for the men who manufacture Brain Candy in Seattle," Ellison said. "That you stole the drugs you have now from them, and have been trying to sell them quickly so you can get out of town. That they found out and were planning on putting a hit out on you. That Seattle PD busted up their little ring and they decided to sing all about their old contacts. Is that enough, or should I go on?"

"That's enough," Cypher muttered. "I needed that money, man."

"I'm sure you did," Rafe sneered.

Cypher grunted, fixing his steely gaze on Rafe. "What the hell you know about it, law man? You don't know me."

"No, I don't," Rafe said. "But I know both of the kids you sent to the hospital on your drugs. So as far as I'm concerned you, your problems and your damned drugs can all rot together happily in a tiny little jail cell for the next twenty years."

"Hey, screw you!" Cypher said.

Rafe lunged for the man, but Sandburg stepped in his path. Simon stood up.

"Out," he ordered his detectives.

One by one they filed out. Simon followed, then paused in the doorway and looked back at Cypher.

"Get a good nights sleep," Simon said. "You'll be going to county lockup tomorrow and this is the last peaceful night you'll be having for a long time."

With a sinister smile, Simon walked out and slammed the door shut behind him.


Cascade General, That Evening

David's voice called Rafe into his hospital room before Rafe had a chance to knock. It was almost as spooky as when Ellison did it, but Rafe knew that David's ears were just compensating for his sight loss. Not quite the same as Ellison's abilities.

Lewis was perched on the edge of a chair; mouth slightly open as if he'd stopped mid- sentence. Both he and David looked in Rafe's direction as the detective entered.

"Hey, Lewis," Rafe said pleasantly.

"Hi, Mr. Rafe," Lewis replied. His feet tapped rhythmically against the polished linoleum.

"Did I interrupt something?" Rafe asked, looking from one college student to the other.

"No--" Lewis began.

"Just a story," David said, his eyes seeking Rafe's voice. "Lewis was telling me how this past Christmas, his Uncle Josh came to dinner and spiked the eggnog. He was just saying how his Aunt Sheryl got sloshed and spent two hours roaming around the house looking for Peter's lost peppers."

Rafe chuckled and walked to the foot of the bed. "Should I even ask what that means?"

"You know that tongue twister?" Lewis said, coloring lightly. "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Well, to prove Aunt Sheryl really was drunk, Uncle Josh had her try to repeat that. She got confused and decided I was Peter, my dad was Piper, and her mission in life was to find our lost peppers."

"Sounds like a unique family," Rafe commented as he and David dissolved into laughter.

"By the way," David said, calming a bit. "How's Officer O'Dell?"

"He's fine," Rafe said. "A little sore, but his vest saved his life. He's gonna keep the bullet to show his grandkids some day. Says it's a souvenir from his first undercover assignment. That kid will pass the detective's exam with flying colors." He paused. "Did you hear about Cypher?"

David nodded. "I called the station a little while ago and coerced it out of Henri." When Rafe didn't respond, he asked, "What are you thinking?"

"I wish I could be alone with him in a dark room," Rafe said flatly.

"You and me both," David said. "Of course, I don't know who'd have the bigger advantage. Him with complete eyesight, or me with great hearing and pinpricks of light."

"What?" Rafe rounded the edge of the bed to stand next to his brother. "You can see?"

A wide grin spread across David's pale face, the time first he'd really smiled in a few days. "Yeah, I can see little dots of light here and there," he said proudly. "The doctor said that it's good news. He should be back in a few minutes."

"That is so great!" Rafe exclaimed.

He grabbed David in a bear hug. David wrapped his own arms around Rafe's waist and held tight. Rafe felt David's heart beating through his thin T-shirt, knowing how close that heart had come to stopping for good not three days ago.

"Why didn't you say something?" Rafe asked.

David pulled away, his unseeing eyes fixing on a point just above Rafe's forehead. Rafe shifted himself into David's line of sight.

"I didn't want to jinx myself," David admitted.

"Come on," Rafe said. "This can't be anything but good news, right?"

"Mr. Dawson?"

Rafe, David and Lewis turned to the door. Dr. Robbins, the neurologist assigned to David's case, was poised in the doorway, chart in hand.

"Hey, doc," David said.

Dr. Robbins cleared his throat. "We got your final test results back."


The Loft, Evening

Blair rinsed the carrots under the kitchen faucet and transferred them to the cutting board. He reached for a sharp knife and began slicing the carrots into coins. Nearby, Jim hung up the cordless phone and wandered into the kitchen.

"Simon says there haven't been any more reports of Brain Candy overdoses in Seattle since the bust," Jim reported, stealing a piece of carrot.

"That's good news," Blair said. "Here, tear the lettuce if you want to be helpful."

Jim accepted the head of romaine, but made no move to prepare it. "The Lambda fraternity is being brought up on official charges this week. He also said Cypher's arraignment is scheduled for Monday afternoon. He's going to be charged with murder now."

Blair froze as a cold wave of fear stole through him. He turned, the knife pausing midair. "What?"

"Lucy Morrison died about fifteen minutes ago," Jim said somberly.

"Damn," Blair muttered, his shoulders slumping.

Jim nodded. The pair stood in silence for several minutes. Neither man had known Lucy, but was aware that David had. It was tragic when anyone as young as Lucy died, doubly so under her circumstances. To their knowledge, she hadn't woken up since the night of the overdose, and probably never knew what happened.

Jim broke the spell by reaching for the large salad bowl. He set about tearing the lettuce while Blair resumed his carrot chopping.


Major Crime, The Next Morning

"I swear, Sandburg, if you ever do that again," Jim growled as he led the way into Major Crime.

"Like it was my fault," Blair countered, hot on Jim's trail.

Henri and Megan looked up from their respective desks, then decided against entering the conversation and returned to their tasks. Blair trailed Jim into the bullpen and tossed his coat on the coat rack beside Jim's desk.

"It's not that bad, Jim," Blair said as he perched on the edge of the desk.

Jim slumped into his chair and glared up at his partner from under the brim of his Jags cap. "Baloney."

"Can't you see the humor in this?"

His reply was a dark glare. "I'm changing it back as soon as we're out of here," Jim said flatly.

Simon chose that moment to stroll over to the pair. "Dare I ask what you two are fighting about now?" he asked, stirring his coffee with a wooden stick.

"No," Jim said.

Blair grinned. "Come on, it's funny."

"To you, maybe," Jim groused.

"Now you have to tell," Simon said with a wicked grin. "It sounds too good not to share."

Blair held up his left hand, his palm covered with a thick, white bandage. "Well, I was slicing carrots for dinner last night and cut my hand with the knife. We went into the bathroom and Jim put peroxide on it. Then he managed to drop the bottle cap and when he bent down to get it, I accidentally knocked it over onto his head."

Simon chuckled. "So he's grumbling over a lump on his head?"

"Well, it's a little more than that," Blair said, biting his lower lip.

When no one offered any more information, Simon growled, "So?"

Realizing he wasn't going to get out of it, Jim took off the Jags cap. Simon's mouth fell open and he almost dropped his coffee mug. Blair covered his mouth with his uninjured hand, trying not to laugh out loud. The corners of Simon's mouth quivered and he began snickering softly. That did Blair in. He doubled with laughter, slipping off of Jim's desk as he did so. This caught Henri and Megan's attention, who stopped their work to gape at the detectives.

"Next time, Jim," Simon said as he laughed. "Wash out the peroxide."

Jim glared at the people around him. His brown hair had an orange streak running down the left center of his scalp, with random orange dots here and there.

"It's getting dyed as soon as I get home," Jim said.

"Jim, what did you do?" Megan asked from her desk.

"He lost a fight with a bottle of peroxide," Blair said from his spot on the floor. He wiped tears from his eyes.

"Who fought with what?" Rhonda asked as she entered the bullpen. The secretary looked harried and out of breath as she looked at the people laughing all around her. She took in Jim, then shook her head. "Forget it, I don't want to know."

Rhonda strode over to her desk and practically dumped her shoulder bag onto it.

Blair picked himself off the floor, calming considerably. "You okay, Rhonda?"

"Fine," she said, turning around. "I'm sorry I'm late, Captain Banks. I was already running late when I forgot I didn't have a car and you know how rotten public transportation can be."

Simon frowned. "What happened to your car?"

Rhonda sighed. "I drove out to visit my sister and her family last night. On the way back, I hit a deer. It totally smashed in my front end and windshield."

"Are you all right?" Simon asked, walking over to her.

"My car was the only casualty," she replied. "While not the most dependable machine in the world, it did have four wheels and moved. You know something should really be done about all the deer around here. My sister almost hit one last week and she had her daughters in the car."

"Hey, Rafe," Henri said.

Heads swiveled towards the bullpen's main doors. Rafe walked in mechanically, his eyes fixed firmly on his desk. He didn't seem to hear his partner as he crossed the room and sat down, neatly folding both hands on his desk blotter. Henri stood up and walked over. He gently put a hand on Rafe's shoulder.

"You okay, man?" Henri asked.

Rafe blinked, noticing his audience for the first time.

"How's David holding up?" H prompted.

"He wants to go to Lucy's funeral in Michigan," Rafe said, his jaw quivering minutely.

"Time off isn't a problem," Simon said gently.

"David's coming home tomorrow," Rafe continued. His words came out as if he was in a daze, unaware he was even speaking. "He's moving back in for a while. He's going to need my help."

Henri blanched. "Rafe--?"

Rafe's hands balled into tight fists as he fought for control. "The doctor said David will be lucky if he ever regains sixty percent of his sight. The best he can hope for is forty."

No one spoke. A thick cloud of silence hung over the bullpen as the seconds ticked away. There was no happy ending for this one. For anyone, knowing you will not be completely blind is an unadulterated blessing. For a nineteen year-old boy who had just seen his dream of becoming a detective obliterated in the time it took to drink a beer, it just wasn't enough.

After several minutes, activity returned to Major Crime.

And life continued.

The End


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