Production No. BPP-619
edited by: Gabrielle, Alyson E, and Shelley
MEET THE CAST
Evening, Starlight Motel, Room 112
"Stevie. It's Jim."
"Jim, hi. Where are you? I've been trying to get a hold of you for three days."
"Is something wrong?" Jim's attention quickly turned from their current surroundings, to the point of tuning everything including his Guide out, as concern for his brother moved to the forefront of his thoughts.
"No. Nothing serious. Well, nothing that can't wait until I see you. Michelle and I just wanted to invite you and Blair to a small dinner party we're having next weekend. It's more of an 'entertain the clients thing'..." Steven trailed off, not quite sure why his brother would want to come to their dinner party, but needing to invite him just the same.
"We'd love to come. Provided, of course, we are back in town. And I don't have to wear a suit." Jim responded to the hesitation in his brother's voice; in fact, he was honored Steven even thought to invite them.
"No suits. Very informal."
"Good. Just call and leave a message on the machine at the loft so we know when and where. Jamison isn't going to be there? Is she?" Jim added the last as almost an afterthought. The VP's attention, as well as her disdain for his partner would make for a long evening. The attention he could probably handle, it was her dislike of his Guide that truly set his hackles on end.
"Will do. And no, Dory's not invited to this one." Knowing how she grated on his brother's nerves, Steven suppressed his desire to tease his brother about the older woman's attentions.
"So how's Lily doing?" Jim asked his brother in an attempt to forestall questioning the younger man about their childhood.
"You have no idea. She let her fingernails grow. I'm sure they were an inch long before, now they have to be at least two. And colors. I didn't even know some of these colors even existed. This week, they're white with little green shamrocks all over them. For Saint Patrick's Day, she informed me. I don't know how she types with the darned things. But I will admit at least I know when she's working because of the clacking noises on the keyboard. Heck, the whole hallway knows when she's working, she makes so much noise. Unlike Mrs. Melvin; I never knew what she was doing she was so quiet." Steven paused to take a deep breath before continuing.
"And then there's her hair. You know, last week I found these long black hairs and long white hairs in the folders I was keeping my presentation notes in. Try explaining that one to senior managers. At least it was a good icebreaker. And this is even after I explained the concept of barrettes to her. Before, not only was it showing up in my files, it would hit me in the face every time she turned around. And let me tell you, a mouth full of hair is not a good thing. At least she uses nice smelling shampoo."
"So you going to fire her?" Jim struggled and failed miserably to suppress the laughter in his voice.
"Hell no! My office hasn't been this organized in years." Steven's ready response, and the lightness of his tone, indicated his fondness for his current secretary, despite her unusual appearance.
As the subject of Steven's secretary ran its course, a decided lull in the conversation resulted.
Steven, suspecting his older brother had something specific on his mind, broke the silence. "So Jim, you have a reason for calling, other than double checking to see if I've murdered my secretary yet?"
"Actually yeah." Jim hesitated slightly, before deciding to ask questions first and explain later. "Do you remember anything about our trips to Hanford as kids?"
"We took trips to Hanford as kids? Isn't that the old plutonium manufacturing plant? What were we doing out there?" Steven's confusion at his brother's words manifested itself in his voice.
"So you don't remember anything about Jake Groves?" Jim rushed on, needing to finish his self-appointed task quickly.
"No. Jim, what's this all about?"
"How about Aunt Faith?" Jim almost hated himself for asking the question. There would be no reason Steven would have known about their aunt when he didn't, would there?
"We have an Aunt Faith? So which one of our parents had a sister they never told us about?" Steven attempted to be unfazed by the admission, but failed miserably.
"Mom. They were twins." Jim almost couldn't bring himself to say the words.
"You're kidding." Steven's stunned shock at Jim's question traveled clearly over the phone line.
"I wish I were." Steven's obvious distress over Jim's questions reassured the older man in a perverse way. At least he knew his brother wasn't keeping secrets from him. His father on the other hand....
"Jim, what the hell's going on?"
"I'm not really sure yet. But I think when this is all over, you and I need to sit down and have a long talk. Then I think we need to sit down and have a long talk with our father." Realizing that his brother was not going to be of any help, Jim decided to try ending the conversation.
"When all what is over? Jim, you lost me here."
So much for ending the conversation. Maybe he'll accept the short explanation. "An old acquaintance of mine and Sandburg's was doing some research out at the Hanford Engineer Works. She called us because her contact out here managed to get himself killed, so we came to investigate, only to find she's been kidnapped. Officially, we're on vacation."
"Aren't you a little out of your jurisdiction?" Steven reverted to logic and mundane questions in an attempt to ease his confusion.
"Let's just say there are still a few people that owe me a few favors." Jim introduced enough of an edge to his voice to forestall any further questions in this vein.
"Okay. So what does this have to do with us?"
Jim took a deep breath before answering the question. As his did so, he noticed a hand resting gently on his shoulder. Funny, he didn't remember Blair moving, he thought, before noticing that Blair hadn't moved. Rather, in an attempt to restore some balance, he'd sat down on the bed next to his Guide, who'd also unconsciously responded to his needs by placing a hand on his shoulder to ground him. He smiled gratefully at his friend and returned his attentions to the phone and his younger brother. "It seems a few of the people working out here knew mom. One of them had a picture of her and another woman in his house. Blair and I found it this afternoon. They looked almost identical." He'd explain about Jake later. Besides, wasn't that something better explained in person?
"So you decided mom was a twin." Steven still struggled to grasp the information his brother was sharing with him.
"Got any better ideas?"
"Not really, no. It just seems odd that dad never said anything."
"You really think so?"
"So, can we talk about the rest of this when I get back?"
"Yeah, sure. You mean there's more?" Steven's voice held a note of incredulity, testament to his disbelief in what his brother had told him.
Jim responded in half-truths, not wanting to further upset his brother. "Not really. I just think we should see if we can remember anything about Faith. Then we can talk to dad."
"Hey Steven, take care of yourself, okay?"
"Yeah. This is all a little much to take in, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I'll call you when I get back. But if anything comes up you can call me on my cell phone."
"Okay. Night Jim."
"Night, Stevie." Jim reverted to the childhood nickname once again, this time in an effort to reassure his brother everything would be okay.
"Took it a little hard did he?" Blair finally asked, after Jim had had several minutes to compose himself.
"That's a bit of an understatement."
That night the Sentinel dreamed.
Thursday morning, Dilly's Diner, Richland, Washington
"So, what'd Simon have to say?" Ellison asked his partner after the hostess seated them at a small booth in the back of the diner and a waitress had taken their order.
The fact that it was the same booth they'd occupied the previous day was not lost on Sandburg. "I think we're regulars, Jim. Same booth and everything."
"Place like this you don't get to be regulars until you've been doing this for twenty years. Now about Simon..."
"But it's the same table. And we both ordered the same breakfast as yesterday." Blair refused to let the subject drop.
"That's because all the regulars are at their tables and this was the only one left. As for the same order, you always order Mueslix if it's on the menu." Jim patiently explained, though the slight smile he attempted to hide indicated his amusement at his friend's enthusiasm for the subject.
"Oh." Blair's face fell at Jim's words. "But we can pretend, can't we?" The last sentence was accompanied by the patented Sandburg puppy dog gaze; the one designed to have women, children, and difficult partners wrapped around his little finger in seconds.
"If it makes you feel better, go right ahead, Houdini. Now about Simon..."
"Oh right. Well, he had Rafe and Brown pull all of Wendy's phone records, and they came up empty. Other than Jake and a few phone calls to a number listed as general information for the Engineer Works, seems the only person she's talked to in the last few weeks is her editor."
"And did he think to call the editor to see if she told him anything?"
"Already taken care of. Rafe can be very persuasive when he wants to be." Blair grinned at the image of the dapper detective interviewing witnesses. The GQ detective could win the hearts of anyone, usually even faster than Sandburg. "Seems Wendy kept her updated, but that's about it. Short conversations. 'Things are going well.' 'Might need another couple days.' Things like that, but no real information. She promised to call if anything comes up though."
"So, we aren't any further than we were when we got here?" Jim growled in frustration at the situation. "Most of this we could have done from Cascade."
"Ah, yes, but think of the fun we're having." Sandburg grinned at his friend. "And all the things I'm learning about you."
"Speaking of learning, what did Serena get from my shirt? And who did she tell?" Jim deftly returned the conversation to the original subject before the younger man could detour too far down the road to his childhood.
"Just Simon. She's keeping this as quiet as everyone else. Unfortunately, she didn't turn up much. A few trace metals, dust particles, lots of sage, that type of stuff. She's going to run some more detailed analysis and get back to us, or rather Simon, if she turns up anything."
"Matthews didn't find out what was going on, did he?"
Blair shook his head in the negative, thankful that there were not going to be any repercussions from their little research request.
"Good. I hoped that Serena's tests would explain a few things, though." Jim almost pounded the table in frustration.
"Me too. You don't think this could just be an allergic reaction to the sage, do you?" Blair grasped on to his own lifeline.
"If that were the case, why isn't it happening all the time? And why do I have that image of Steven doing the same thing when we were kids?"
"So, it's something that only happens occasionally. Which likely means that someone somewhere is controlling it. But how?" Blair paused for a moment before continuing, as a piece of the puzzle began to take shape. "And what does the fact that you both have a heightened sense of touch have to do with it?"
"That's what I'd like to know. Not to mention the why."
The arrival of the waitress with their breakfast effectively halted their conversation. Both men turned gratefully to their food, grateful for the reprise from their fruitless speculation.
Their breakfasts finished, the time consumed by eating and mindless chatter, Jim turned to Blair and hesitated. Seeking solace in his coffee cup, he drained the last of the sludge in the bottom. Taking a deep breath, he finally blurted out the issue that had been plaguing him since early that morning.
"I had a really weird dream last night. At least I think it was a dream, it might have been more of a vision." There I said it. Now it was time for twenty questions.
"That's funny. So did I."
Blair's answer took Jim momentarily by surprise. Of all the answers he'd anticipated, that was not even in the vicinity of the list. "Um." Taking a deep breath he tried again. "Wolf, jaguar, cougar, bear, fox, and deer? Lots of angst?"
"Yep. Guess that puts this in the vision category." The young shaman smiled at his flummoxed friend.
"Got any ideas what it means?"
"Not a one. You?" Blair knew the idea of a shared vision between them was a major occurrence, but he could tell by the look on his friend's face that this was not the time to press the issue.
"Not really. That's usually your department. I have the dreams, then you interpret them." Ellison grinned, disappointed the smaller man was too far away for a good hair ruffling.
"So what'd you find in the files?" Jim asked, effectively changing the subject from their unexplained shared vision.
"Not much. There are lots of files on something called the Green Run. About a box and a half of them near as I can tell. Not much narrative, just lots of statistics and factual data. Near as I can tell it took place sometime in December of 1949. Which doesn't make sense. That was before Jake even got out here. Why would he have files on it?"
"Jake was kind of a packrat. Anything that struck his fancy he was likely to hang on to. I don't envy his children cleaning out his house. There's no telling what they might find hidden in the back of closets."
"Yeah, but these seemed like specific files. Almost like someone created them for a reason. Anyway," Blair stopped his own train of thought before he went too far off track. "That's as far as I got." He shrugged his shoulders, as if to say 'oh well.'
"Damn. I was hoping the answer would be in there. Is there any reason anyone would want to get a hold of those files? Can you see them being a motive for murder?"
"If someone knew exactly what all the data meant, they might be cause for murder. We've seen them committed for less." A slight note of cynicism about the inhumanity of man entered Blair's voice, causing Ellison to wince slightly. "But someone would have to have a highly technical background to make them worth anything. Unless of course there's something there I haven't found yet."
"Guess that means we're going to have to keep looking." Disappointment radiated throughout Jim's voice.
"And if they are the reason he was murdered and Wendy kidnapped, why didn't the murderer take them with him?" Blair speculated aloud.
"Maybe he got interrupted?"
"Or maybe whoever actually committed the murder didn't know about the files?" Sandburg answered his own question.
"So it was just a grunt following orders?"
"Could be. But why?"
"There's something missing here. I just wish I could figure out what it is." Jim balled his right hand into a fist and began pounding it into his left palm in an effort to relieve some of his built-up tension.
"Maybe the Feds?" Blair responded cheekily, almost without thinking.
"You know, you're right. We've been here for two days now and haven't seen anyone doing any investigating. If this is their case, where are they?" Jim put his finger on at least part of what was bothering him about the situation.
"Maybe they're involved somehow?"
"Could be. Or there's always the other option."
"Maybe someone forgot to tell them."
"Which means that someone at the facility was involved in Jake's death. Or at least someone who would have shown up when Wendy called the authorities to report his death." Ellison could almost see the wheels turning in his partner's head. "You know, there's still the general information number we could check out. Not to mention the fact we haven't actually seen the one tourist attraction out here..."
"Chief, you read my mind."
"Is it just me or was that the ultimate public relations tour?" Blair turned to Jim, as they left the gloom of the headquarters building and stepped into the late afternoon sunlight. Both men paused to don their sunglasses to avoid the glare.
"They did leave out a few areas didn't they?" Jim replied almost noncommittally.
"Just everywhere they're actually doing something." Blair's voice expressed his frustration with government bureaucracies.
"In other words, they showed us just enough to keep us from becoming suspicious." Jim was taking a surprisingly pragmatic approach to the whitewash they'd just received from the company responsible for the clean up at Hanford.
"Good thing we're the suspicious types." Blair grinned. "So, got any ideas?"
"One or two."
"Care to share them with me, Batman?" Sandburg added the nickname in jest. After all these years I finally learned how to do that!
"Not particularly. But right now I think we need to go for a little stroll." Jim's hand motions and facial expression conveyed the message that he didn't want to talk there.
Slowly they began walking in the direction of the river, away from the sprawling, obviously government constructed and controlled facility. Long, low, flat, warehouse-like structures -- their flatness occasionally relieved by the tall, looming form of a cooling tower or a slightly taller administrative looking building -- sprang from the otherwise unrelenting desert in front of them. The presence of the Columbia River, not far from the complex, did little for the otherwise arid landscape; without prior knowledge of its existence, the river could easily go unnoticed.
"So, what are we looking for out here, man?" Blair voiced his question after they'd moved well away from the building.
"Not sure. Anything that looks suspicious." Jim replied, his eyes scanning the distant horizon looking for anything amiss.
"Oh sure. That'll be easy. Jim, man, the whole place looks suspicious. Take that building over there." Sandburg indicated a low, flat warehouse-type structure about five hundred feet to their left with a wide sweep of his arm. "That one looks deserted. Almost as if it's owner dropped it out of an airplane and then forgot to come use it. And that one over there," he indicated another building, this one off to the right, surrounded by a chain-link fence and large yellow and black signs, "it looks like you'd be taken hostage if you even came close to the fence. Any minute now, I expect the Men in Black to come out and arrest us."
Ellison followed each arm movement with his eyes, magnifying his vision slightly to get a closer look at the structures his friend was pointing out.
Noticing his Sentinel's quiet observation, the Guide placed a hand gently on the other's back to ground him, effectively stilling his conversation in the process.
"What? Oh. Why?"
"So, you want me to keep doing it? That's so unlike you, man."
"Okay, okay." He held up his hands placatingly. "So, find anything?"
"Not about that."
"What? Oh." Comprehension dawned. "Are you trying to tell me this whole place is bugged? How do you bug a whole desert? It doesn't seem possible."
"I'm not telling you anything. You're jumping to conclusions."
"Well, what conclusion am I supposed to come to when you tell me not to talk about something? Usually that means we can't talk because someone's listening." Blair's voice rose slightly as his tirade continued. "Now, seeing as how we are in the middle of a desert, the only logical conclusion I can come to is the place is bugged."
"Who said we were talking logical here. This is the government we're talking about. And the highly classified government to boot."
Blair threw up his hands in disgust and defeat. Obviously he was not going to get anything resembling a straight answer out of his friend. Deciding not to push the issue, he changed the subject. "You know, this reminds me of this time I spent with this tribe in South Africa. They had this almost pathological obsession with security..."
Blair's voice faded gently into the background as they continued to walk, and Jim carefully scanned his surroundings. Occasionally, he'd stop to look at something more closely, but he could find nothing obviously out of the ordinary. The Guide's running monologue kept the Sentinel from zoning on the barren environment. Over an hour later, they found themselves back where they started.
"So, back to the Bat Cave to look at the files?" Blair asked, as they reached the truck.
"Back to the Bat Cave. The key to all this has got to be in there somewhere. I just wish I knew were to find it."
"So back to researching?"
"Yep. Back to researching. You know, none of this is getting us any closer to finding Wendy." Jim unlocked the passenger side door to the truck before walking around to the driver's side.
"Not necessarily true. If we can figure out what's going on out here -- and what Jake knew that got him killed -- we might be able to figure out at least who took her." Blair replied after climbing into the truck beside Jim.
"And if we figure out who took her, we can find her." A note of optimism about the whole case entered Ellison's voice.
"Exactly." Sandburg bounced slightly in his seat. "And if we're lucky, we might even learn a few more things about you in the process."
"So, we're back to my childhood." The glum look on Jim's face matched his tone of voice perfectly.
"Certainly looks like it." Blair bounced even more.
"But what do my mom and Faith have to do with Wendy?"
"Who knows? Maybe nothing. Maybe something that was going on back then is still going on... Hey, that might be it. Now all we have to do is figure out what's going on." Sandburg mused aloud some of his questions surrounding the case.
"Which means back to researching." Jim's glum look worsened.
"Which means back to researching. But in that respect you're in luck."
"Yep. See, you just happen to have a partner who is very good at research."
"I always knew I kept you around for a reason." Ellison gently cuffed the other man on the shoulder before starting the truck.
"Other than that."