Production No. BPP-620
edited by: Toni Rae, Claire, and Bonnie
MEET THE CAST
"You want me to what!"
Blair Sandburg couldn't believe what he'd just heard, and had to give a shocked look to the clearly demented person seated behind the desk. Next to him, he knew without even looking that his partner Jim Ellison wore a similar expression on his face. Shock, though, was quickly wearing off in favor of anger and indignation. Wasn't it bad enough that Garrett Kincaid -- all around pain- in-the-ass and purveyor of some Top-Forty nightmares for a while, or at least until Lash sashayed into the picture -- was finally on trial again after six long years of legal delays?
This news only made the situation worse, something Sandburg hadn't believed was possible. It was something he simply hadn't expected, even if the strategy made a certain kind of sense.
"It really won't be that bad, Detective." Assistant District Attorney Lisa Ames sounded as if she didn't quite believe her own words. Sandburg remembered the ADA well, especially after the grilling he'd received from her the first time they'd met. She'd only been a legal assistant at the time Kincaid had taken over the precinct, but she'd been a very sharp assistant with lots of pointed questions as to why he'd been there and what action he'd taken.
"How can you say it won't be bad?" After his partner's words, Blair caught the look the ADA shared with the fourth member of the office. The federal prosecutor, William Sikes, had yet to say a word.
Ames sighed. "Look, everyone here knows that Kincaid won't pull any punches in his defense." Her observation was greeted by brief nods around the room. "All we want to do is make sure that nothing gets by and that we've prepared for every attack he can possibly make. Unfortunately," with a glance at Sandburg, "that means we want you to keep a low profile, in and out of the courtroom."
The Fed spoke for the first time. "Like it or not, Detectives, it comes down to this: Kincaid's facing federal charges. That means federal prison time, and he won't hesitate to use whatever he can."
"Which is one reason we were willing to give jurisdiction to the feds, provided that the state charges were kept," Ames wasn't shy about interrupting. "Plus, the federal district court has better security, lessening the chance that there'll be trouble."
"Our judges aren't as tempted, either," pointed out Sikes. The reference to the first issue they'd discussed still burned. Kincaid had bribed a state court judge to give him a lesser sentence last time, and he'd used that golden opportunity to take a basketball stadium full of hostages. The judge had since turned state's evidence. "At any rate, Sandburg," continued the fed, "your testimony is a linchpin holding the pieces together. Not only were you present during the PD hostage situation but you were up close and personal during his capture."
"That's one way of putting it," Blair muttered.
The fed didn't appear to have heard, or if he did, he chose not to acknowledge the remark. "In addition, you were inside the stadium when Kincaid took control."
"So were Jim and Si... Captain Banks."
"But not to the extent you were. That makes you a big stumbling block for the defense, and I can practically guarantee they'll attack your credibility."
Jim didn't like the turn this conversation was taking, Blair could tell, from the way his partner's jaw had clenched and the tight little lines around his eyes, and he didn't much like it either. It almost looked like Jim was squinting away from a particularly painful light. He supposed that painful memories counted. "How do you know that," he heard Jim ask.
Sikes didn't appear fazed by the hostile tone of the question. "Because that's what I would do in MacPhee's shoes." Sandburg knew that Fitzgerald MacPhee was Kincaid's high-priced defense attorney.
"Terrific," Blair muttered again. "With friends like you..."
"Don't worry, Detective. It won't be that bad."
"That's easy for you to say."
There wasn't anything left to say after that, so the detectives hurried from the ADA's office to the parking lot. Even though gray skies threatened rain with continued clouds and low temperatures, the day appeared positively glowing with sunshine after what they'd just been through. Both of them had testified in the past, but everything was different now. So much had changed. This would be Blair's first trip to the witness stand since the day of the dissertation fiasco. So much was riding on his testimony, much more than ever before.
Neither spoke on the ride home, both caught up in their own thoughts. Blair wanted so badly to put Kincaid in prison where he belonged. The militia leader was facing major charges now -- state and federal -- and he had very little to lose. The list of charges alone that Blair had witnessed were staggering, ranging from attempted murder to arson.
Theft of federal property, though, that had been a surprise. Apparently, Kincaid had some followers in the military and they had been stealing a large portion of his militia's weaponry from Uncle Sam. In hindsight, it made sense, considering the man had used goddamned Stingers, for Christ's sake. Blair wiped his sweaty hands, remembering the sound ringing in his ears after the building next to them had blown, thinking how the very earth had been shaking in terror at the madmen taking refuge atop its soil. Considering the nature of what Kincaid had already been doing, he supposed the charges for transporting weapons across state lines made sense.
Blair wanted to shake off the gloomy mood. None of this kind of thinking was making him feel any better. Trouble was, none of the other subjects he could think of were any more pleasant. They could talk about the upcoming testimony and how they could work around hiding the Sentinel secret even further in red tape, but that discussion would inevitably lead to the dissertation. In fact, practically anything having to do with the trial tomorrow would lead back to the dissertation. God, wouldn't it ever be over? Would the specter of that act always hang over him, casting its shadow over everything he said and did?
"The DEA took care of that for us, Chief."
Jim's quiet words stopped Blair in his tracks on his way up the stairs, and he glanced inquiringly at his partner. "Took care of what?"
"The dissertation mess. The DEA gave us a plausible excuse why you would have said and done what you did, a reason that wasn't exactly the truth but was just as good. It was the reason the excuse was made public." Jim looked at him, and his face gave little of his feelings away to the casual watcher. Blair knew better; Jim was nervous but doing his best not to show it. He shared his partner's worry. After the death of an agent, the DEA had insinuated corruption within Major Crime and against himself in particular, creating a lot of road to cover for the prosecution in order to prove credibility. At the very least, they would have to retrace everything that had happened for the jury's benefit.
"How is it you always know what I'm thinking?"
"Professional secret." With that, Jim ruffled Blair's hair before unlocking the door to the loft. "Come on, we've got a lot to talk about."
In spite of those words, neither spoke until after dinner had been eaten and all the regular evening activities had been completed. They'd tried distracting themselves with a variety of subjects, ranging from sports to Joel and Megan's distressing rapidly-appearing-to-be-serial rape- murder case. They had even discussed the odd pieces of mail Simon had been receiving over the past several days. The notes weren't threatening or even slightly criminal in nature; they were vague, filled with somewhat personal hints, and a bit disturbing. After the fourth one had arrived, mentioning a long-closed bar on Greenfield Avenue and written in the same scrawled green ink, Simon had sent all of them to Forensics, but they'd found nothing of value. Eventually, all those topics had been thrown out in favor of what was really bothering them both.
Jim tossed out the first glove. "Look, Blair, this will be just like any other case. You get up, tell the jury what happened, and that's it, you're done." He directed his gaze to where his partner sat on the couch, his eyes firmly on the beer bottle in his hand, seemingly entranced by the water running down its side. "It'll be more difficult to work around the senses, considering, but we can do it. We've done it before."
"Not before." Blair shook his head. "Not like this. This time, the defense has real ammo to use against me and anything I have to say. My credibility--"
"There's nothing wrong with your credibility." Jim's voice was firm. "We've been over this. It's been handled. As far as the defense goes, I've heard a bit about Fitzgerald MacPhee. He's fair so long as the judge is watching, but he won't hesitate to use anything at his disposal otherwise. What's more, he's not too discriminating about his choice of clients."
"Most of the cops I know would be delighted if MacPhee wound up dead, whether or not his case ended up on their desk." Blair wasn't sure what to say to that, but he could tell that Jim wasn't sure why he was even saying it. "He's gotten so many criminals off on technicalities and delays and bails they didn't deserve... Sometimes I wonder how people like that can get off time and time again."
"Hey, the rule is innocent until proven guilty."
Jim glanced over, softly, to where his partner sat on the couch. The now-forgotten bottle sat on the coffee table, sans coaster, in flagrant violation of at least two house rules. For some reason, Jim smiled to see it; seeing Blair actively resist the rules for the first time in several days -- distracted by worry -- outweighed the potential for furniture damage.
"True, and that DEA press conference proved you innocent, or at least, not guilty." He grinned at a sudden thought. "I don't know if you've ever been innocent, Chief."
"But you know why it's necessary, though, right? Why he has to go over everything with us in court, even old events?"
"I understand exactly what Sikes is getting at. In order to win, they've got to accurately predict what moves the defense is going to make and then properly counter them." Blair sighed. "Better to deal with the bad stuff themselves rather than let the defense spring it, and make a bad impression on the jury."
Jim nodded grimly. "A chess match... and we're the pawns." He wasn't sure he liked the chess analogy, in spite of its accuracy.
Blair snorted. "Actually, I'm the knight to be sacrificed in order to capture the opposing king. Shah mat, you know. The king is dead."
"It's usually the queen being sacrificed, you know."
"Hey, man, exactly what are you implying?" Blair aimed a mock swat at his partner, but found his fist blocked and soundly held by a sentinel hand. His other fist flashed out, and met with the same fate. According to what he'd learned at the Academy, any strategic move he made next would probably not be the correct one to make. Temporarily defeated, he released Jim's hands and watched his partner retreat towards his bedroom before approaching his own.
"Nothing, Sandburg. Nothing at all." Jim waited until he had reached the top of the steps and his partner had made it almost to his door before speaking. "At least, nothing I'd admit to."
Jim made his escape.
Even with the aid of his eye-mask, he spent the next two hours tossing and turning in bed, unable to rest comfortably enough to sleep. He'd spent some of that time wondering where the clove-scented air freshener he'd smell in the ADA's office was hidden, but finally chalked it up to being an adjunct odor of some kind, one carried inside from some unknown outside source. While mostly unnoticeable by the others in the room, Jim had been forced to dial down his sense of smell for nearly the entire meeting. It didn't help that he could hear Sandburg downstairs also struggling to sleep. They desperately needed rest in order to be sharp tomorrow but nerves kept them awake.
Jim could guess what his partner was worrying about. It wasn't just the trial and the awkward questions that would likely demand equally awkward answers; even that prospect wasn't likely to faze Blair too much. Nor was it the idea of seeing Kincaid's ugly face again. While these things no doubt added to Sandburg's stress level, they weren't the main problem. Jim wasn't quite certain what that dilemma was, though. He supposed it all came down to worrying whether or not the dissertation fiasco was truly behind them, whether or not everything he'd given up would blow up in his face.
All those bad memories seemed to take this golden opportunity to gang up on Blair. He'd likely have nightmares tonight, and if not tonight, then tomorrow night. That was the problem with trial testimony: having to relive the experience through detailed questioning brought all the pain and misery back, as strong as it had been immediately after it had happened.
Kincaid represented a lot of pain, but it had to be done to make sure that the militia leader would never hurt anyone again. Jim was grateful, though, for one thing: David Lash had not survived to go on trial.
Blair might not have survived the reawakening of those memories; the ones he had now were bad enough. Jim was fairly sure he wouldn't have been able to manage either. But he wasn't going to think about either Kincaid or Lash, unless it was a dream about happily strangling them both. He wasn't even going to think about Blair.
Right now he had to sleep.
Finally the meeting was drawing to a close. Too many people were packed too closely together, and the smell of misery permeated the room. While it was a handsome room, the participants said nothing of interest. The defense attorney had very little left to say, here in this expensive boardroom, no doubt paid for in sweat, blood, and pain. "Garrett also wanted me to deliver a message, one for you to pass on in turn."
Fitzgerald MacPhee focused his dark eyes on the lean man seated to his right, and waited until the man nodded. "The plan is to go forward, and the package is coming by ground." The man's clear tone and vague terms made his position clear; the less the lawyer knew about anything currently being discussed, the happier he would be. All lawyers had an innate grasp of deniability.
That was fine, he could respect that. The second in command knew what it was like to have to deny knowledge. He'd been like that once himself but now things were different. Nodding to the others in the room, he waited until they'd exited before continuing the discussion. Lighting a cigarette, he knew speaking to them wasn't necessary. They knew what they were to do, what the successful completion of the plan required.
"Garrett mentioned something else." The lawyer paused, no doubt for effect, but all those professional mannerisms were lost on him. They had ceased to matter.
"You are in command until he returns. He also wants to see a lieutenant punished?" Puzzled, MacPhee's voice rose in pitch on the last word. That, too, had ceased to matter. "I assume that means something in particular to you?"
"Oh, yes." The second in command knew its meaning exactly. As a master of body language, demanded by his professions, he could tell that the lawyer understood perfectly, at least the meaning if not the particulars. The most important part of the message had already been delivered: command. Furthermore, Kincaid had said nothing about modifications.
"Be cautious, Joseph."
"I don't need to be. They do." Kincaid had also provided for revenge. After being unofficially in charge for nearly two years, it was nice to see his efforts rewarded. Also nice was being made formally in charge until such time as matters changed. Yes, there would definitely have to be some alterations made to the plan.
Minor alterations, of course.
Nearly two weeks had gone by since the opening statements, and the prosecution had gone through their witness list in sequence. For whatever reason, Sikes had decided to begin his case with eyewitnesses to describe the action, and progressed to behavioral experts to expand on what those actions meant. Forensic experts were then called to explain what evidence had been gathered at the crime scenes, and to detail what conclusions were scientifically drawn from that evidence. The list of evidence against Kincaid was staggering.
By ending his case with three final eyewitnesses -- the three most important -- Sikes hoped to slam the point home to the jury. While sometimes scientific and technical evidence would confuse jurors at trial, good persuasive eyewitnesses could win a case using nothing but their testimony alone; it all depended on whether the jury believed what they said.
Thus had Sikes rattled off in his speech earlier that morning when the fed had shut up Ellison and his partner in separate rooms while waiting to take the stand. Logically, Jim knew all this and he also understood the prosecutor's reluctance to have Sandburg wandering the streets right now. The less he, hell, either of them, were heard or seen, the less opportunities for Fitzgerald to stir up trouble. Jim didn't doubt that the man would try. He was a defense attorney, after all.
Why they called these 'green rooms' Jim didn't know. The walls had been painted an ugly yellow color, and the last emotion he felt right now was relaxation. Blair would know, he thought. Or maybe those are for actors?
Simon was on the stand right now, and had been for about an hour. Of course, his captain had been called yesterday afternoon but court had adjourned before the defense got to cross-examine. Jim felt that might have been a good thing; it gave Simon a chance to rest up and prepare for what that weasel would do. He'd heard but hadn't mentioned to Blair that MacPhee tended to be... flamboyant and... intense. Instead, the detective had tried to concentrate on how he planned to counter any antic the defense might pull.
At least that way, he was less likely to eavesdrop on Simon's testimony. Not eavesdropping on Blair would be harder.
Finally, Jim heard the knock at the door, and knew it was time to go. A few minutes walk down the back stairs and suddenly they had arrived at the packed courtroom. He sincerely hoped the trial wasn't being televised but found the idea unlikely. Ignoring Kincaid was even easier than he'd expected, and Jim just breezed past the defense table like it didn't even register on his radar.
Sikes was alone at the prosecution table, which meant Ames was elsewhere doing something for the case. Going over testimony with Blair, perhaps; Jim knew all too well how stressful this was. Neither of them had slept well last night, but at one point in the early morning he'd woken to hear Blair's racing pulse, followed by a loud thump and a muffled curse.
The prosecutor rose gracefully, approaching his witness, and began his questioning with simple things. Beginning with the siege of the precinct building and ending with the capture of Kincaid after the stadium incident, Ellison told all relevant points of the stories as precisely as he could. What he saw occur, who was involved and how, what he concluded from his observations, based on his training and experience. It was hard, saying what he saw and did at the time, when he now understood what had been happening floors above him.
To think that while he and Simon were trying to rig a motorcycle to do their bidding, Joel was slowly bleeding to death, and Blair was fighting for his life. Still, the point of view was important where witness testimony was concerned; that was one reason why Blair was so important to the case.
Sikes finished his line of questioning by asking Jim what facts regarding Kincaid and the Sunrise Patriots had later come to light. They hadn't learned too much that hadn't been known previously: extreme right-wing militia group, strongly anti-government, paramilitary, with strong racist, ethnic and separatist leanings. Most members were firm believers in the Fundamentalist Church, paying special regard to the Book of Revelations.
The group had been investigated by most of the federal alphabet soup at one time or another, and although suspicion had run rampant, there had never been enough evidence to make pressing charges worthwhile.
As the prosecutor returned to his seat, MacPhee wasted no time in addressing the court. "Detective Ellison, I must commend you for giving such clear testimony to the jury."
Jim didn't like this approach. "Thank you." As first impressions go, Fitzgerald MacPhee didn't look very intimidating. Slim in build, dark hair a bit longer than he'd anticipated -- considering who he was defending -- fair skin, and average height, all wrapped up in a blue suit and power tie. Most striking were the man's eyes, dark brown and sleepy-lidded, what Carolyn used to describe as 'bedroom eyes'. No doubt, though, the man was as sharp as the proverbial razor.
"I am a bit confused on two points, however, and I hope you can clear those up for me." The defense counsel sidled closer to the witness stand, but stopped far enough away so that no claims of intimidation could be made. In addition, the distance gave the jury the image that he spoke and acted with deference and respect. "First, you stated that, at the time of the alleged incident at Cascade Sports Arena, you knew my client was at fault."
"But you were not in the main arena at the time this alleged incident took place."
"That's correct. I was questioning some witnesses about the murder of David Cassadine when this happened.
"That being the case, how do you know my client was involved?"
"I heard his voice on the television, announcing what he had done, shortly after I arrived at the scene."
MacPhee raised an eyebrow. "Really? You must have been one of the first people on the scene. How did you know to be there at that time?"
"The information I had found linked Cassadine and Berman directly to the defendant. They had gone to the Hall of Records to copy the blueprints of the Cascade Sports Arena." Jim knew exactly what the man had been implying. "As soon as I learned that, I figured the defendant meant the arena as his next target."
"How did you determine that?"
"Before I left for the stadium, I called dispatch and tried to alert stadium security. I was too late for their security. By the time I arrived there, the defendant had also gained control of the cameras. The media was everywhere, but I sneaked past the snipers the defendant had posted."
"How did you do that?"
Jim smiled, his lips thinned with memories. "You forget, Counselor, I used to be an Army Ranger. Getting by amateur militia boys was like a tiptoe through some alleged tulips." Temptation won out, and he sneaked a glance; Kincaid's face was the color of radishes. "I used the paramedic squad as a shield, and made my way to an outside entrance of the old duct system, using it to get into the building."
"One marked, no doubt, 'authorized personnel only'?" Jim's nod gave the attorney room to continue. "Are you 'authorized personnel' then?"
Jim gave his opponent a stern look. "First and foremost, I'm a police detective. I knew something was wrong inside the arena, and I used my police authority to go where I needed to go. In that sense, I was authorized."
Point, Jim thought, I think. "I made my way through the duct system and began tracking what the defendant was doing. I located the defendant just in time to observe him herding my captain, my captain's son, my partner, and several civilians into a truck."
"And how did you react?"
"I jumped on top of the truck and hung on until it stopped." Jim resisted the temptation to see Kincaid's face. "After that, I opened the hatch and prepared the troops."
"Did you call for back-up at any time during this operation?"
"That's a violation of procedure, isn't it?"
"Yes," Ellison admitted. "But there simply wasn't time. I couldn't call while inside the duct system because all cell phones were blocked. If I had done so from the top of the truck, I risked that either the defendant or one of his men would see or hear me. There was really no choice but to wait until the situation was no longer critical."
"You seem to take a great deal of chances, Detective."
"With myself, yes. Not with the lives of civilians and fellow officers."
"Very well. My second question, Detective, is this. You are partnered with Detective Sandburg."
Jim nodded, steeling himself for a possibly painful question. Still, he'd caught the faint hesitation in the man's voice and sensed the hissed cursing coming from Kincaid when his partner's name was mentioned. "Yes." And the best partner I've ever had, he wanted to add.
"I would think that you, Detective, are the senior and therefore wiser partner. At least, one would hope so."
"Yes." Although some would dispute which of us is wiser, Jim thought with amusement, and I strongly suspect it wouldn't be me.
"That being the case, why did you think that arming several civilians in pursuit of an alleged criminal thought to be armed and dangerous was the correct procedure to follow?"
Hell, that was a good question. Simon had asked him the same question the day after, and he'd been there, but Jim still hadn't come up with a decent answer. He didn't think he knew exactly why he'd done that, but it had simply seemed like the right thing to do. Such an answer probably wouldn't go over too well in the jury room.
"There were very few of us, and several of them. The Sunrise Patriots had better weapons than we did, and we'd taken ours off the three soldiers we'd surprised." Jim looked MacPhee in the eye and mentally dared him to say something. "It all came down to a matter of capturing the bad guys. The more people we had, the better our chances."
"Didn't one of them, in fact, accidentally alert your quarry to your presence before your group was ready?"
"Yes, that's true."
"And you still insist it was a good chance."
"Absolutely. In fact," Ellison borrowed the defense attorney's phrasing, "the civilians played a crucial role in the defendant's capture. If that tear gas canister hadn't made it through the submarine's hatch before it closed, he would surely have gotten away."
"I see. Your Honor, I'm finished with this witness."
Jim Ellison expected that Blair would be sworn in for his testimony immediately afterwards; that was the move he hoped to see. That way, they could both finish and put this whole mess behind them. The motion to adjourn for lunch break didn't exactly sit well with him.
Since Blair hadn't testified yet, they couldn't have lunch together either. Actually, his partner would probably be forced to have lunch brought inside the building. His testimony had to be protected from any hint of undue influence; the prosecutor was being careful. Unfortunately, this meant Jim would have to go back to the station... that in turn meant he would be shackled to a desk until Blair returned. With a grimace, he left the courtroom, and wasn't surprised to see ADA Ames following him into the hallway.
"You did very well, Detective."
"Thanks." Jim hesitated a moment, unsure whether the request he wanted to make would be allowed. What the hell, the worst she can say is no. "Listen, could you call me when Blair goes up against MacPhee? From what you and Sikes have said, I think he's going to need the support when he's done here."
Lisa Ames looked down and nodded agreement, but her expression didn't change. "Unfortunately, you're probably right. I'll give you a call when it's time."
Some of his worry dissolved, knowing that he would be there for Blair when he was able, but the rest remained like a solid lump of cold hard coal in his stomach. Still, if he was going to spend most of the rest of the afternoon chained to a desk, Jim figured a visit to Wonderburger was in order.
He had to keep his strength up, after all.