edited by: Melanie, Christina and Irene McGary
Cascade Times, January 29, 2001: Professor Dick Van Velzen, pathologist, has responded to accusations that he, while in the employ of Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, England, used organs obtained without proper parental consent or coroner order. He maintains that he removed and stored the organs of 845 children because he didn't have the resources to carry out detailed post-mortem examinations.
As well as pathology, Professor Van Velzen was researching cot (crib) death in children. He insists that he was not misusing the organs to progress his own career. "90% of my best papers have nothing to do with babies' organs... My intention was to skate very close to the letter of the law with only one purpose -- to achieve a better situation."
Van Velzen also faces charges in a Canadian court stemming from the removal and storage of pediatric organs. The tissue in question was located in a general storage facility among his belongings when hospital staff noted their absence.
She squeezed her eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall. The task at hand was more important than the grief she felt, despite the fact that the pain in her heart could not be dulled. The epidural anesthesia she had received guaranteed she would not feel the passage of her tiny baby. She ached, however, for the life that had ended before it even began. The doctor and his nurse murmured words of encouragement that went unheeded. She wanted to be alone; to sleep and never wake up.
Her mind drifted to the antique cradle she had found -- was it only yesterday? A delicate green, with a rocking horse on the headboard, it was in excellent condition for its age. Now, this precious child would not sleep in it. A few more minutes, and her baby would be gone forever.
"Dana, you're doing great. Time for a little pushing," the doctor announced. What was his name? She'd seen him previously at the Prenatal Clinic, but had never been his patient. Donahue, Dr. Donahue. Her coach, nurse Tecia, helped her lean forward and she bore down.
"Good, Dana. Almost there, I can see the head."
Words that under other circumstances would have buoyed her spirits instead engulfed her in black dread. A moment later the pressure eased.
"It was a girl," Dr. Donahue stated. Suddenly, a shrill cry broke the silence.
"She's alive!" Dana cried, recognizing instantly the voice of her child, even as the doctor swore.
"Dammit, Trish! This baby's too old. It must be 25 weeks!" he yelled at the nurse to his side. Tecia, still in position by Dana's head leaned forward to look at the infant, as Trish defended herself.
"I checked the chart. It was supposed to be right at 20," she affirmed.
"Well, it's not." He still had not lifted the child up for Dana to see, instead handing the wailing infant to Trish. "I'll take care of it in a minute." Dana struggled to sit up and see past the drapes on her legs.
"What's happening? I want to see my baby," Dana urged, thankful the tiny infant was alive, if premature. Dr. Donahue turned his attention to the anesthesiologist opposite Tecia by the head of the bed.
"Get her under now!" he commanded. The man pulled a machine close, and attached a black mask to a long tube. Dana continued to protest over the cries of the baby.
"Where is my baby?" she asked, meeting Tecia's gaze as she tried to answer, moisture pooling at the corners of her eyes. At that moment, the infant's cries ceased.
"Your baby is dead," the doctor stated as blackness swallowed her.
Jim Ellison held up three fingers in silent communication to the men around him. Blair Sandburg stood on the opposite side of the doorway, a hand in place on the doorknob, mentally preparing himself for the event to follow. L.T. Rafe and Henri Brown were directly behind Jim, ready to follow him into the room. Blair nodded as Jim began the countdown, fingers tightening their grip on the portal. On one, he twisted the knob and pushed inward on the door.
Jim swung into the room, leading with his gun and calling 'Cascade PD, freeze!' to the occupants. A chorus of 'Drop your weapon!' issued from Rafe and Henri. Blair prepared to step into the fray when he heard a noise from behind him. The office they had invaded was on the second floor, and as Blair peered into the gloom, he knew, even if unable to see, that an entire warehouse stretched beneath them. Outside the building, dozens of officers poised, ready for the call to clear the building. Blair was aware that the subjects in the room were nearly in custody, the snap of handcuffs echoing off the far wall. The sound -- footsteps? -- came again, from somewhere to his left, nearer the back of the warehouse. Holding his gun close to his chest, Blair moved swiftly for the stairs.
"Jim, I hear something downstairs. I'm going to check it out," he said softly, knowing the Sentinel would hear him. Wishing desperately for his partner's eyes, Blair cautiously descended the steps, keeping his back flat to the wall. He was on the last stair when the crash of metal cans startled him. He missed the last step, and went down on one knee with a hiss of pain. A strong hand grabbed his arm, dragging him to his feet.
"'Bout time," Blair complained sentinel-soft, receiving only a muffled grunt in reply. He started to move away, following the direction of the noise he had heard before, but the hand remained tight on his arm. "What?" he began.
Suddenly, a hail of bullets rocketed in their direction. Blair recoiled when the pain shot through his chest, even as Jim was dragging him down on the stairs. He struggled to draw a breath, while Jim took advantage of the lull to return fire, sliding out from under his partner to give chase.
In. Out. In. Out. Blair chanted inwardly, forcing himself to ignore the discomfort in his ribs. This really sucks! Thankful for the protection of his vest, he still couldn't imagine breathing painlessly again. A clatter on the stairs above him made Blair raise his head.
"Hairboy, you OK?" Henri asked, eyeing him worriedly in the beam of his flashlight, yet maintaining a firm grip on his suspect. In the faint light, Rafe was just visible, another man in each of his hands.
"Yeah," Blair replied weakly, sliding himself to a seated position along the wall, bracing his sore ribs. "Just not going to breathe just yet." Jim chose that moment to reappear empty-handed.
"You'd better keep breathing, 'cause you have some explaining to do."
Blair stood with his arms folded protectively across his chest, watching Jim through the one- way mirror. The suspect hadn't said a word, not even to provide his name. His friends were playing equally dumb. Identity had been no problem -- all of them had rap sheets.
Their current case stemmed from several sources reporting a shipment due to leave Cascade. Dozens of snitches delivered miniscule bits of information that so far had led only to the men in custody. The cargo remained unknown, but speculation ranged from drugs to cars to weapons. In a port the size of Cascade, anything was possible. The conflicting stories resulted in an interdepartmental investigation. Or rather, according to Captain Simon Banks, an interdepartmental headache. The three men in custody were rumored to be arranging the transportation. Felix Grant and Sean Pearl were longshoremen, their numerous run-ins with the law limited to bar brawls and domestic disputes. Chuck Vail, the man Jim was currently questioning, was a dock foreman. It appeared, unfortunately, that the evasive stranger who had taken pot shots at them would have had the information they sought.
Blair sighed and winced as the ache in his chest intensified briefly. Rubbing his side absently, he dragged his attention back to his partner just as Simon entered the observation room, a scowl gracing his features.
"How's it going?" he inquired.
"Bad. He's not talking at all. Just like the others."
"Damn. We have nothing solid to hold them on." The captain shook his head, viciously worrying the cold cigar between his fingertips. "By the way, you have a visitor at your desk."
"Thanks, sir." Blair murmured, making no move to leave, watching Jim attempt to stare down the subject.
"Well, go on, Sandburg." Simon urged irritably. "I didn't deliver the message in person to keep you company." Blair smiled, and turned to let himself out the door.
Walking past the windows of Major Crime, Blair absorbed the sight of the young woman beside his desk. Although familiar, she seemed heavier than the last time he saw her, but her pale skin and short dark hair were unchanged. When she looked up, he was shocked at the redness that edged the soft green eyes, and her name came to him all at once.
"Dana Foster. What a surprise," he greeted warmly, reaching out his hand as he approached. She accepted it with a quick shake.
"It has been a while, hasn't it?" she responded in a husky voice. Sensing a need for privacy, Blair suggested a change of venue.
"There's a conference room over here. We can talk in there if you like." She nodded her assent, and Blair led the way. Once settled with steaming cups of coffee before each of them, she began to explain her visit.
"Dennis and I have been dating a year now. We plan on getting married after graduation this summer. We were real excited when I got pregnant. He's got a job offer at Syntec Chemical, more than enough money to support us and let me take a TA job." Her eyes became misty when she continued.
"Almost 2 weeks ago now, I went in for my checkup, and they couldn't find the heartbeat. They said my baby was dead!" She broke down, and Blair reached out to hold her while she composed herself. A few minutes later, she sat back. He rubbed her shoulder to maintain the connection.
"I'm really sorry," he offered, but she waved him off as she continued to speak, the tears giving way to a sudden fierceness.
"My doctor told me he had to deliver the baby, so he gave me something to start labor. When the baby was born, though, she started to cry. He lied to me!" Blair gaped a moment, assimilating the information.
"It was alive?"
"He wouldn't let me see her. She was crying and crying, and he kept saying she was too old." Dana twisted the Kleenex in her hands mercilessly.
"What happened next?" Blair encouraged.
"I -- I'm not sure. I remember, she stopped crying, and they put this mask over my face. I think he said my baby was dead, and I tried to scream at them, but I fell asleep. When I woke up, my baby was gone. They tried to tell me I was wrong, but I know what I heard." She brought her fist down on the table to accentuate her conviction.
"I believe you," Blair assured, hoping he sounded convincing, and covered her fist with his hand.
"I just want someone to explain why to me. Why me? Why my baby?" she pleaded. He nodded, and opened his mouth to answer when a knock at the door followed by Jim's head interrupted him.
"Chief, everything OK?"
"Yeah, man, come on in." Blair introduced Dana to his friend. "Dana, this is my partner, Jim Ellison. Jim, Dana Foster. She used to be a student of mine."
"Nice to meet you," Jim said, grasping the young woman's hand briefly.
"Blair, I have a class in a little while." She stood, avoiding Jim's eyes.
"Ok. Give me the name of your doctor. I'll go talk to him."
"Dr. Ray Donahue of the Camdon Prenatal Clinic. You might want to talk to Cathy Harris and Jenna Long. I met them in his clinic." Blair jotted the information in his notebook, and, standing, offered to walk her to the elevator.
He returned to his desk to find Jim leaning against it, arms folded across his chest.
"So, who was that, Chief?" he questioned with narrowed eyes.
"Like I said, she was a student of mine at the University," Blair tried to step behind his desk, but a hand on his chest prevented his movement.
"She looked upset. What was that about a prenatal clinic?" Blair opened his mouth to answer, and caught the dangerous look in his partner's eyes.
"Jim, you don't, you can't think," he sputtered as complete understanding set in. "Oh man, I haven't seen her for almost two years!" He stepped back, holding his hands up in a gesture of innocence while Jim regarded him, finally relaxing.
"What does she want from you?"
"She wants me to do my job," Blair replied, his voice betraying his rising anger, and he pushed past his partner to sit at his desk.
"Speaking of which, what was with that stunt you pulled this morning?" Jim asked, leaning over Blair's desk on two hands.
"What do you mean? I told you where I was going." Blair defended, his raised voice drawing attention from the detectives around the bullpen. Simon chose that moment to open his office door.
"Ellison, Sandburg! My office, now!" he bellowed. The summoned men glared a moment longer at each other before stalking into the captain's office. Jim returned to his folded-arm stance, leaning against the windowsill. Blair mimicked the position from the opposite side of the room. Simon looked from one man to the other as he shut his door behind them.
"Now, who wants to tell me what the hell that was all about?" he inquired calmly.
"Nothing, sir," Jim responded gruffly. Simon gazed at Blair, hoping for something more substantial, but he merely shrugged, meeting his eyes, but pointedly avoiding his partner's.
"Nothing, my foot," Simon grumbled. He walked behind his desk, still watching the body language of his best detective team. Finally, he decided to focus on work -- for the time being.
"Jim, what do we have on this shipment?"
"Zilch. No names, no times, no cargo. Just every snitch in Cascade brimming with the rumors of something big, some time soon," Jim replied evenly. Simon nodded, processing the information before turning to the other man in the room.
"Sandburg, was your visitor anyone I need to know about?" Simon guessed from the glare he threw at his partner that he had hit upon the source of the tension.
"Yes, sir. Dana Foster. She was a student of mine. She lost her baby prematurely, but she says the baby was born alive, that the doctor killed it after birth."
"How could something like that happen?" the captain asked.
Blair recounted the information Dana had given him, finishing with, "I told her I'd look into it."
"Sandburg, that's not a case. She was probably sedated and distraught and is mistaken. That's all you are going to find."
"Sir, I don't agree," Blair protested, but Jim interrupted.
"Simon's right, Chief. No matter what, it's not our case. She should take her complaint to a lawyer." Blair winced as he pushed off from the wall, his ribs starting to object under their bandaging.
"No harm will be done if I ask a few questions, though," Blair stated firmly.
"So, you plan to go off after the doc all by yourself again?" Jim demanded angrily.
"You're still mad about that?" Blair asked incredulously. "I told you where I was going!" Simon suddenly felt like he was in the middle of a tennis match, and he realized he had to break them up before he got whiplash.
"Enough! Jim has a point, Sandburg." He put a hand up to forestall the protest in Blair's mind. "You should have waited until your partner was ready to cover you." Indicating the detective's injury, he continued softer, "You could have gotten a lot worse." His reasoning didn't seem to have the effect he hoped for. Rather, Blair seemed more livid than before.
"I'm sorry, I forgot about 'Sandburg's Rules'." Blair twisted the doorknob viciously as he left the office, heading straight for the elevator without a backward glance, grabbing his backpack on the way.
Simon stared at the retreating form, his own anger at the outburst lost in his concern for the uncharacteristic behavior.
"What just happened?" he asked the remaining detective.
"I wish I knew."
Blair paced the elevator impatiently until it reached the garage. He arrived at his car, keys in hand, but stood there staring down instead.
What am I doing? he questioned himself. He thought about his actions and realized he'd be fortunate if Simon only reamed him out, not to mention Jim. Why couldn't Jim see that he could handle himself as well as any of the other detectives? Because trouble keeps proving Jim right, he admitted wryly. The running joke about being a magnet for trouble was getting old. He wondered if the universe would ever cut him some slack, at least long enough for Jim to listen to him.
His thoughts turned to Dana. Knowing that Jim and Simon were probably right, she needed a lawyer, not a cop, he still didn't see any harm in asking a few questions. Maybe he could set her mind at ease, and allow her to move on with life. It was the least he could do, and he could do it without Jim's help.
He opened the door, and left the garage.
Dr. Ray Donahue paced his laboratory. Surrounded by cardboard boxes packed with his many reference books and research notes, the path that remained was narrow and short. His hands alternated between rubbing his forehead and being clasped firmly behind his back.
His thoughts were occupied with the events that brought him to this day. He had devoted his life to research, only seeing enough patients at this clinic to cover the expenses his grants missed - - and provide the samples he needed. He felllt close to discovery, so close he could taste it, yet all that had to be pushed aside for the moment. Placing his life and work on hold had been an agonizing decision, but the timing of his grant reviews was the determining factor. Working diligently for a cure for Parkinson's disease was a most altruistic endeavor, but even he realized that not everyone would agree with his methods. Thanks to a pathologist half a world away, those methods would now be scrutinized.
Only two months ago, he had toiled without regard for the world at large. His position at the Camdon Prenatal Clinic made obtaining the fetal tissue for his research simple. Within the developing neurons of these unwanted children lay the secret to salvaging the lives of aging adults. His primary assistant, a Nurse Practitioner named Trish Fortner, was the only other person familiar with the extent of his work and the methods he contrived. Very careful to avoid illegalities, he was nonetheless acutely aware that the sensitivities of the public would not consent to his approach.
Until the Foster baby.
Occasionally, Trish would notice a particular tissue type in the prenatal workup: a rare blood type, or unusual protein grouping. She would bring the information to his attention, and they would 'arrange' to procure the child. That was the thin ice he tread upon -- medical records would always support his actions, but accounting for the people present was tricky. In the past, the infant had been too tiny for anyone to object. Trish's miscalculation could cost him his license, as well as his freedom. He alone was responsible for silencing the newborn.
"So close!" he muttered aloud. In less than a week, they would be gone. When the news about that pathologist in England had reached him, Ray realized it was time to leave. He cursed the fool for leaving stored specimens where just anyone could find them. In among his own belongings, no less, so that identifying the source was facilitated as well. A warrant for his arrest existed in Canada, and he had been stripped of his license and privileges in England as well. It served him right, the sensitive nature of their work was not for public consumption. Mankind wanted cures, without any knowledge of the devices to manufacture those cures. And children were sacred. So sacred, people were willing to throw them away, he noted ironically.
A timely offer from a hospital in China to continue his work, even expand it, without the ethical quagmire of a democratic country, seemed like a godsend. Watching the crucifixion of his colleague, surmising how the providers of his grants would respond, he knew the time had come. Planning carefully, and quietly, most of the pieces had fallen into place. All that remained was to load the ship he'd arranged with the cargo containers he'd obtained -- and keep Dana Foster at bay long enough for him to get beyond the reach of American law. The buzz of the intercom finally brought him to reality. Pushing the button, he responded, "Yes, Trish?"
"There's a detective here to see you, doctor," the tinny voice stated.
"A detective?" he questioned, his heart suddenly seeking escape from his chest. "What does he want?"
"He says he wants to ask a few questions."
Steeling himself with several deep breaths, he jabbed the button again, "I'll see him in my office."
Jim leaned heavily against the counter, pouring the muddy coffee down the drain in preparation for brewing a fresh pot. He heard the soft click of the break room door closing behind him.
"Simon, I don't know what else to say," he began without turning around.
"Try talking to me, instead," Henri's voice offered. Jim closed his eyes and sighed.
"Simon send you?" he inquired.
"I'm sure he would have if he'd thought of it." Jim heard a chair slide out as the detective took a seat while he finished setting up the coffeemaker. At last, Jim faced the seated man, leaning back against the counter, arms folded across his chest in defiance. Jim realized wryly that he was standing like this a lot today. They sized each other up for several minutes before Henri broke the silence.
"I would never presume to tell you how to do your job..."
"Then why do I have the feeling you're going to do just that?" Jim interrupted sarcastically. Henri glared a moment to regain his attention.
"However, I think I know a thing or two about having a new partner."
"In case you hadn't noticed, Sandburg's been around long enough to be past the junior detective stage," Jim stated, his ire growing all the while.
"As a matter of fact, we've all noticed it. We just wonder when you're going to figure it out." Jim opened his mouth to protest further, but Henri raised a hand to stop him. "Look, Jim, old habits die hard. You've been protecting Sandburg longer than he's been protecting himself. Or did you think no one would see it?"
"See what?" Jim ground out, his jaw tensing furiously.
"This morning. You set Sandburg up to be the last one in that room." Henri caught the narrowed look aimed his direction, and hurried on. "It wasn't too obvious. I'm sure neither Rafe nor Blair realized it. But I did, cause, man, I've been there. There were three perps in that room, and you made sure he went last." Jim felt his jaw snap shut, and it dawned on him that at some point it had dropped open. Moving stiffly, he sank into the seat opposite Henri, his eyes sinking to stare at the table.
"He did nothing wrong, and you know it. Any one of us in his position would have done exactly the same thing."
"I... when we were on the bottom step," Jim paused, his voice catching in his throat, and finally looked Henri in the eye. "I could feel the bullets hitting him. He was leaning back against me and I could feel the impact through his body."
A moment of shock passed across Henri's face before he responded. "Remember when Zellar was shooting up the bullpen? Rafe was the only thing between Zellar and me. He had his back to the bastard. I saw him coming, and I couldn't get him down fast enough." The confessions hung between the men, the silence maintaining their power.
"So, what the hell am I supposed to do?" Jim asked.
"I wish I had an easy answer to that, but I know it starts with letting Sandburg stand on his own two feet. You, of all people, have got to believe in him."
"Come in, Detective." Ray waved Blair into the office from his seat behind the desk. He stood and stretched out a hand as Blair introduced himself.
"Detective Blair Sandburg, Cascade Police Department." The doctor gestured toward the chairs opposite him.
"Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you." He settled himself in one of the chairs, dwarfed slightly by the oversized leather design. "I appreciate your taking the time to see me."
"No trouble at all. When my partners are in town, I have quite a bit of flexible time." He addressed the woman who had shown Blair in. "Trish, let me know when the Fiddlers arrive. Otherwise, hold my calls."
"Yes, doctor," she responded, pulling the door shut behind her.
"Well, Mr. Sandburg. What can I do for the police?"
"I'd like to ask a few questions about a patient of yours," he began, retrieving his notebook from his pocket.
"I'm sure you are aware that confidentiality laws prevent me from talking about a patient without her consent. I will tell you whatever I can, however." Ray smiled broadly, Blair suddenly feeling doubtful about his presence. What do I really expect to uncover here? he wondered.
"Yes, sir. Do you recall a Dana Foster? You delivered her baby a couple of weeks ago."
"Yes, I do. I don't deliver many babies; my partners usually care for the majority of that work. They were both away that week. It was a rather unfortunate situation, as I recall."
"How do you mean?" Blair inquired.
"She kept insisting her child was alive. Even when Trish let her hold her daughter, she wasn't convinced. It was very unnerving, to say the least." The doctor seemed to shudder at the memory.
"Then, it wasn't born alive?"
"Certainly not. Is she still persisting in that belief? I guess I should have recommended some counseling for her." Blair was beginning to feel foolish for having believed Dana. Listening to the doctor, he realized that Jim and Simon were right, a lawyer should be investigating this matter, not him.
Ray must have noticed his discomfort, because he continued, "Don't be ashamed, Mr. Sandburg. It is difficult on everyone when an infant dies unexpectedly. Or, for that matter, when anyone dies. That's why I am mostly into research." Intrigued at what he perceived as a segue, Blair pressed for more information.
"What kind of research are you working on?"
"My grants are to examine methods of obtaining neural tissue for transplantation into Parkinson's patients. The potential benefits are amazing, including a complete cure of the disease. Imagine, people freed of the living hell caused by their own bodies betraying them."
"Who are the donors?" Blair prompted.
"That is the connection to this clinic. The neurons of a fetus are still developing, and most tissue-compatibility problems can be avoided. It's fascinating how these little cells can even regenerate defective ones. The major difficulty is that almost 1,000 donors are required for every recipient." Blair paled at that statistic.
"That means 1,000 babies," he responded.
"Not really babies. They would have been aborted anyway. We are only recycling what other people have no use for."
"I thank you for your time," Blair ended suddenly. He stood, mindful of how feeble his legs had become, and fought both the nausea and disgust that welled within him. The graphic interpretation of life portrayed by this doctor was taking its toll.
"I see I've made you uncomfortable, Mr. Sandburg. I'm sorry. I don't want you to think I have no regard for life. I only focus on the lives I can help." Blair nodded weakly as he walked to the door.
"Thank you for your time," he repeated, leaving quickly.
Out in the hall, he leaned against the wall to collect his thoughts and fight the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. Unbidden, the picture of a tiny little life thrown into the trash came to mind, and a shudder coursed through Blair's body.
The light brush of fingers on his arm made him jump as he opened his eyes to meet the gaze of the dark woman beside him.
"I'm sorry," she apologized softly. "I didn't mean to startle you, but are you OK?" Genuine concern edged the caramel features, and in the dim light of the hall, her eyes were black pools.
"I will be. The doctor was just explaining his research to me. It was a bit more gruesome than I expected."
"I don't know much about what Dr. Donahue does. He has Trish to assist him."
"And you are?" Blair hinted.
"Tecia Cunningham. I'm one of the nurses here in the clinic. I only see Trish or Dr. Donahue when he delivers a baby." Blair had a sudden thought.
"Did you assist in the delivery of Dana Foster's baby two weeks ago?"
"I was her coach, yes." She took a step back and regarded him through pinched eyes. "Are you a lawyer, or something?"
"I'm a police detective, Blair Sandburg. Dana is a friend of mine, but this isn't an official visit."
"I see," she replied.
"Dana insists her baby was born alive, and that the doctor killed it before sedating her. She asked me to talk to her doctor."
"She remembers that it was alive?" Tecia asked faintly, looking pale despite the shadow. She refused to elaborate when Blair pressed on.
"What did you see? What happened?"
"I can't tell you." She thought a moment, "Not here, not now. Later, tonight."
"Tamarino's, on 7th street, 6:30."
Jim focused his hearing on the office in the building above him. The headache brewing between his temples mirrored the anger growing at his absent partner. The object of his surveillance remained alone, watching a news program. Dragging his hearing back to normal, he was startled by the opening of the passenger door. He quickly reached for his gun, cursing himself for forgetting to lock the door, but his fingers barely closed around the grip when Blair's face appeared.
"Hi, Jim. Mind if I join you?" Jim waved him in, equally grateful for his presence, and aggravated by his tardiness.
"How'd you get here?" Jim asked, realizing the lack of his partner's car.
"I had Rafe drop me off around the corner. So, have you heard anything yet?" Jim regarded Blair a moment. Although used to the rapid changes in mood that the young man was subject to, he still hadn't expected complete forgiveness so quickly. Maybe he was reading more into it, but the calm man sitting in his passenger seat gave no impression that the earlier outburst had occurred. He shook his head, both to answer Blair's question and dispel the train of thought. There would be time to talk about it later. The ringing of a phone from the office distracted him, and Jim stretched his Sentinel hearing to listen to the near side of the conversation.
"Yeah. Vail here... No, I said we didn't tell 'em anything... It's not a problem. The containers are all set... All the papers are in order, too. I got it covered... You can load them anytime before 5 on Thursday... Yeah. I'll talk to you then."
"Jim, what have you got?" Blair inquired, curiosity overcoming him.
"Phone call. He's arranging containers for a ship leaving Thursday. He didn't give any idea what they were shipping. It could be anything."
"Not really. How often does a dock foreman arrange shipping? Wouldn't one of the local companies usually handle that?"
"You're right," Jim replied, grateful for his insightful, if annoying, partner. "Call Simon and have him run a check on ships leaving Thursday."
It hadn't been easy to ditch Jim after their turn at surveillance was over. Jim obviously felt a need to discuss his 'tanty', as Megan would call it. Blair was not yet ready to defend himself. He was hoping that whatever information he might obtain from Tecia would vindicate his convictions. Then he could go to his partner.
Tecia was already seated in a booth along the far wall of the restaurant, waving him over when she noticed his arrival. He slid into the opposite seat, and was momentarily distracted when the waitress took his drink order.
"Thank you for meeting me here," she began nervously.
"Always eager to help a damsel in distress," Blair charmed, creating a blush visible even on her dark skin.
"It's hard sometimes to know who to talk to. I wasn't sure this was really a police matter, but then an ethics board didn't seem right either." She was twisting her napkin mercilessly as she spoke, until Blair laid a calm hand over hers.
"Why don't you tell me what you know about Dana's baby?" he suggested. She took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on their intertwined hands.
"Trish Fortner, she's Dr. Donahue's nurse and assistant, she did the preliminary workup on Dana. That's not unusual. I do the workups for Dr. Dennis, Janet, the other nurse, for Dr. Provost. Both of them were out of town that week, so Janet and I mainly assisted Trish with the small stuff. Before that week, Dana had been one of my patients, so when I heard she was going to deliver, I offered to be her coach. I thought she could use a familiar face under the circumstances."
"She'd never been seen by Dr. Donahue before?" Blair interjected.
"No, Dr. Dennis is her doctor. He was devastated when he heard what happened."
"Who told him?"
"Dr. Donahue reported to him when he returned."
"What happened when Dana delivered the baby?" Blair coaxed.
"The reason she was put into labor was that the baby had died in utero and rather than wait for her body to expel it naturally, Dr. Donahue thought it would be better to deliver it quickly."
"Do you remember how far along she was?"
"I had calculated it at 17 weeks when she came in a month earlier. She was supposed to return for an ultrasound to verify the age, but she skipped her appointment."
"Could she have been farther along?"
"Easily. Young women, especially with a first pregnancy, can mistake the date of their last period. That's what we base their due date on until we check the age."
"Ok, so the baby is delivered. What happened next?"
"It started crying," she stated simply.
"It wasn't dead?"
"No, and it was older than I thought. From the brief look I got and what Dr. Donahue said, she may have been as much as 25 weeks along."
"What difference would the age make?"
"Well, less than 20 weeks, and the baby really has no chance of surviving outside the mother. By 25 weeks, the chances are better than 60% with proper care."
Blair observed her a moment, allowing the significance of her statement to sink in. "The baby could have survived?" he asked.
"With proper care, yes," she confirmed.
"Which she didn't receive," Blair stated. Tecia's answer was almost too soft for him to hear.
"No. Dr. Donahue became upset. He had Dana put to sleep by the anesthetist. Just before she went under, the baby stopped crying, and he said the baby was dead." Her words tumbled out as tears began streaming down her face.
"Did you see what he did to the baby?"
"No, I didn't. I should have watched, it all happened so fast, and then she was gone." She started sobbing, leaning her head down on her arms while Blair rubbed her shoulder.
He slipped as quietly as possible into the loft acutely aware that his Sentinel roommate would note his arrival, but hoping he wouldn't arouse enough to question him.
Tecia had finally calmed after describing the events surrounding the death of Dana's baby. Blair was more convinced than ever that something wrong had occurred, shuddering as he considered the type of human that could murder a newborn.
Eventually, they had talked about Dr. Donahue's research, his pride and joy. According to Tecia, his life revolved around finding a cure for Parkinson's disease, confident that the secret lay in the brain cells of the unwanted children he aborted. She could only repeat what his partners revealed to the staff, their main interest the funds provided to the clinic by his grants. Occasionally they would criticize his bedside manner with patients they were invested in, but usually they left him on his own. Except for his assistant, Trish Fortner, no one else was allowed in the laboratory.
Despite what he considered the gruesome nature of the doctor's research, Blair's curiosity was nonetheless piqued. He asked Tecia to see if she could find any information in his files about the fetuses the doctor used, concentrating on the three women Blair knew of. She agreed to try.
The only other piece of information she had shared was that Dr. Donahue was leaving the practice. She wasn't sure when, but suspected it was soon.
Closing the French doors of his room, Blair set up his laptop and connected to the Internet. The doctor must have published his research at some point, else his grants would not have been renewed. It took nearly an hour to locate the facts he sought. Several abstracts by Dr. Donahue dealt with the application of fetal neural tissue to disease treatment, delving so deep into theory and medical jargon that even skimming the articles gave Blair a headache. The one that finally captured his attention, however, described a method of culturing the tissue in a lab, making possible a 1:1 ratio of donor to recipient. As enthusiastic as the author was, one fact leapt out at Blair: the narrow range of the fetus required was 19-20 weeks of gestational age.
The smell of fresh coffee gradually drew Jim away from the land of Nod. Stretching lazily, he extended his senses searching for the familiar signs of his roommate's presence, finding him in his room. From the sounds he noted, Blair seemed to be getting dressed.
Pulling his robe around him, Jim padded down the stairs and headed for the coffeepot. He was just enjoying his first draught when Blair emerged fully dressed and sporting his backpack on one shoulder.
"Where are you going so early?" Jim inquired.
"Have an appointment at 8. I'll catch up with you at the station when I'm done," Blair replied, sitting at the table to don his sneakers.
"Who are you seeing at this hour?" Jim pressed. Blair sighed as he finished tying his shoes.
"Jenna Long, one of the women Dana suggested I talk to."
"Chief, are you still hung up on this," he began, but an angry reply cut him off.
"Yes, I am. The more I find out about this so-called doctor, the more I know that Dana is right. I talked to one of his nurses yesterday, and she corroborates Dana's story." Blair stood quickly, swinging his backpack up as he headed for the door.
"Blair, wait," Jim requested apologetically. "I'll go with you."
"No time. I'm late enough as it is." He snatched his keys from the basket, and catching the hurt look in his Sentinel's face, he conceded, "I have to see Cathy Harris at 11. If you want to come with me then, I'll meet you at the station."
"I'll be ready."
Ray paced his lab again. Trish was putting the finishing touches on packing the files they would need. All that remained unboxed were the frozen samples he planned to take with him. They had caused the difficulty in planning this move. A special container designed to maintain the -50 degrees Celsius temperature had had to be procured, and then arrangements for it to be loaded last and offloaded first confirmed.
So far, the men he had contracted with were adequate, if not entirely discreet. Their arrest several days earlier had unnerved him, but his contact assured the doctor that the police had learned nothing from the dock workers and were quickly forced to release them.
A soft knock at the door garnered his attention, and he stood still for the first time in an hour. Trish walked over, and after conferring briefly with Tecia, stepped aside to allow a man to enter.
He is a most unsavory character, the doctor thought as he examined the newcomer. Of a height to Ray, he held at least forty more pounds on his frame, filling out the flashy suits he wore. All in all, not the doctor's favorite type of acquaintance, but then you never got to choose your family, especially when you share a birthday.
"It's all set from my end," Ricky Donahue greeted. "Any problems here?"
"We're almost finished packing, and when the cold container arrives, we'll be ready. There's one other snag, however. There was a detective from Cascade PD here yesterday asking about one of my patients."
"That botched abortion woman?" Ricky guessed.
Ray sighed, "Yes, her."
"What did he want to know?"
"I didn't tell him anything, told him it had to do with patient confidentiality. I tried to get him to conclude that the woman was mistaken."
"Did he believe you?"
"I'm not sure," Ray replied shakily. Ricky watched his brother for a moment, and Ray began to shake more. He really wasn't dealing with this well.
"Did you get his name, just in case?"
"Sandburg, Blair Sandburg."
"Short, geeky guy with long curly hair?" Ricky questioned.
"Yes, that's him. How do you know him?"
"He's the jerk who almost got the drop on me at the warehouse. That's just too damn coincidental."
"What are you going to do, Ricky?" the doctor begged.
"Don't worry about it, brother. I'll only do what I have to. You just have that stuff ready to move tomorrow morning. The boat leaves at high tide tomorrow afternoon."
Tecia clutched the file folders to her chest with one hand, the other holding the bell of her stethoscope to the door. The voices were slightly muffled, but she could still make out the words.
"The boat leaves at high tide tomorrow afternoon."
"Ms. Long," Blair started, settling onto the well-worn couch. "As I mentioned on the phone, Dana Foster recommended I talk to you."
"Yeah, she said you may be calling," replied the young woman. She looked like a teenager, sitting perched on the edge of an overstuffed armchair, the fingers of one hand twisting absently at her golden curls.
"I wanted to ask you about the baby you lost. Can you tell me what happened?" he asked gently.
"It was almost six months ago. I got pregnant and my boyfriend and I decided to get married. Then, on one of my checkups, they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat."
"Which doctor did you see that visit?"
"Dr. Provost was on vacation, so I saw Dr. Donahue, his partner. He's the one who delivered the baby."
"Was there anything unusual about your baby when you saw it?" he pressed.
"It seemed to be wiggling a bit, but I'm not sure. I didn't get to see it long."
"What happened to its body?"
"They told me it was required to burn the body." She laughed softly. "I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I asked for the ashes."
"Really? Do you think I could borrow them, have some tests run on them? I'd make sure they were returned to you."
"I guess it'd be OK."
"Just one more question, how far along were you?"
"Almost five months," she answered.
Jim strode purposefully across the stretch of lawn toward the man pacing nervously near the waterfront. The tiny park had a splendid view of the giant container ships as the tugboats pushed them in and out of Cascade's harbor. At the moment, the only visible vessels were Rainier's sailing boats on the near side of the shipping lane. Their colorful sails were full of the gentle ocean breeze that ruffled the stringy hair of Jim's informant. Growing close, he called out to gain the fidgety man's attention.
"Hey, Swiffer. What've you got for me?" The informant turned at his nickname, but rather than meet the detective's gaze, his eyes roamed the park. The peculiar 'pet name' was derived from the tendency of store items to 'stick' to the man, usually illegally.
"Hey, cop," he replied finally, looking right at Jim. He knew this was the one circumstance that it was safe to be close to the police. "I got dates and times on that ship you guys are lookin' for."
"How did you come by this information?" Jim inquired casually.
"A friend of a friend."
"Mmhmm," Jim answered skeptically. "Well, let me hear it."
"'Kay, it's leaving tomorrow at high tide."
"There'll be half a dozen ships leaving then. I need a better idea which one to look at." Jim picked at his coat, working to appear bored at the revelation.
Swiffer pondered a moment while Jim grew impatient. His informant was going to want compensation, but so far there was no value in what he had provided. Half a dozen informants a day gave a similar report to their respective contacts. At last, the disheveled man spoke.
"It's going to China," he stated.
"Now, that was worth something," Jim praised as he drew two $20 bills from his wallet.
Blair dropped his backpack under his desk, and booted up his computer. Having ascertained that Jim was meeting an informant, he planned to use the time before the next interview to input a report on what he'd learned so far. The captain may not be convinced that there was a crime involved, but Blair was, increasingly so. The fact remained that he would still need to obtain concrete evidence before either Simon or Jim would take him seriously. That thought irked him as he began to type.
So focused was he on the screen that a hand laid on his shoulder made him jump in surprise. He looked up and met the blue eyes of his partner.
"Hey, Chief, whatcha working on?" he asked casually as Blair quickly saved his work and cleared the screen.
"Nothing. What time is it?" he avoided.
"Almost 10:30," Jim replied, watching the young man closely.
"Great," Blair stated, ignoring the scrutiny while retrieving his bag. "We have just enough time to make it to Cathy Harris."
"Yep. Let's go, then," Jim suggested. Before they could make it out the bullpen door, Simon called them back, a file held out in their direction.
"Gentlemen, I have some work for you to do."
"Simon, we were just on our way out," Blair mentioned.
"Well, as you can see," he indicated the empty room, "you are the only detectives available."
"What's the problem?" Jim inquired before Blair could object further.
"A robbery at a jewelry store on Marion Street. Apparently, some very expensive diamonds are gone." Jim took the file from the captain's hand.
"Very good, sir," he replied, flipping open the page. Simon returned to his office while Blair fumed silently until the door was firmly shut.
"Jim, we don't have time for this," he declared.
"Duty calls, Sandburg. We'll just have to talk to your young woman another time." He started to lead the way to the elevator when Blair's comment brought him up short.
"Excuse me?" Jim queried, spinning to look at Blair as if he'd grown an extra head.
"I'm not going to put off Cathy Harris. You go talk to the store owner, I'll keep my appointment and catch up with you later."
"Sandburg," Jim began, his voice soft as if faced with a child. "If you want to investigate your friend's baby, you have to do it on your own time. We have official work to do."
"Fine, I'm taking the rest of the day off," he retorted angrily, snatching up his backpack and stalking to the stairs.
"Chief! Blair!" Jim called to the retreating detective.
"I'll call you later, Ellison," Blair responded as he disappeared through the stairwell door.
Jim watched the owner of the jewelry store pace his office. He kept muttering, berating himself for perceived mistakes. Jim shook his head and returned to examining the safe. Forensics would not arrive for another hour, so he was careful to touch as little as possible despite the latex gloves encasing his hands. He could tell the safe was covered with fingerprints, but he doubted that they would be useful, even if any could be clearly isolated.
There was no evidence the safe had been damaged, and no sign of a listening tool on the face, so he concluded that the intruder had known the combination. The destruction of the alarm system and the picking of the locks, however, denied the possibility of an inside job.
He stood and stretched, muscles protesting the low level of the safe. He found his mind wandering, missing his Guide, and finding it hard to concentrate in his absence. Part of him regretted the harsh tone he'd used earlier, the rest reminding him constantly that he was a detective first. As that thought crossed his mind, he realized Blair would disagree. The Shaman in Blair would insist that Jim was a Sentinel first, his place to protect the city. Right now, Blair deemed the littlest citizens to be most important. Rubbing his brow to stem the headache brewing, Jim pondered how difficult it was to know which path to follow.
Turning his attention to the office door, he focused on the many scratches on its face.
"Looks like the perp picked the locks to get in," observed the uniformed officer. Jim frowned, brushing his sensitive fingers across the gouges, noting their depth, and it dawned on him that they were wrong. He inspected the keyway with Sentinel eyes, and saw none of the expected marring in the mechanism.
"No," he told the officer. "He wants us to think he picked them." He strode over to the exterior door, and bent to confirm his suspicion, followed by the owner. With both men looking over his shoulder, he pointed out the obvious inconsistencies. "Lock picking tools make marks inside the lock, not on the outside. Whoever broke in used a key, and tried to make it look like it was forced." Jim stood, taking in the entire office, searching for something out of place. Finding what he sought, he questioned the owner.
"What is in those boxes in the corner?" he gestured toward the object of his attention.
"Those? Last year's tax records. I haven't had a chance to put them in the attic yet."
"When was the last time you moved them?" Jim pressed, moving closer to the corner. He tuned his ears to the heartbeat of the elderly man, but found a regular cadence, nothing to suggest deceit. Nevertheless, the dust on the top box had been brushed recently, its faint layer absent in places. Sliding a hand under the flap, he popped it open as the man answered.
"Must be a month ago now."
"What are you doing?" an angry voice greeted from the office door. "Pop, they said we were robbed." The new heartbeat captured Jim's attention, as well as the smell of fear. He continued to fold the box top back while the owner answered his son.
"Yes, the diamonds we received yesterday were stolen. The detective was just checking everything."
"What does he need with your tax records?" the younger man demanded. Jim smiled as he absorbed the contents of the box before him. Lifting out the velvet covered box, he addressed the owner's son.
"Just filing an amended return," he stated, displaying the box to all in the room.
Blair signed the form turning custody of the small urn over to the forensics department under Serena Chang's guidance. His meeting with Cathy Harris had been nearly identical to Jenna Long, with the exception of the woman's age; Cathy was in her thirties. He leaned against the counter while deciding what he should do next. His first thought was to go upstairs and type the second report, but he needed to be sure Jim hadn't returned. It had taken longer than he expected to interview Cathy, and he fully intended to avoid a confrontation with his partner over his absence. It annoyed him that after all this time, he still felt like he had to prove himself to Jim, but he couldn't convince himself whether it was true, or just his perception.
In the end, he opted for the stairs, peering surreptitiously through the stairwell door before entering Major Crime. The bullpen was virtually empty, even Simon was absent. Slipping into his chair, he wrote his report as quickly as possible, avoiding his tendency to be verbose for a change. Putting the finishing touches on the form, he hit save and sat back. Closing his eyes, he wondered what to do next. For the first time today, he missed his partner's clear sense of direction. Jim always seemed to know who to talk to next or what scene to revisit. Someone clearing his throat broke Blair's reverie. Blair's eyes popped open to meet his captain's gaze.
"Where's Ellison?" Simon inquired.
"He's not back yet," Blair answered, thinking quickly. At Simon's confused look, he offered, "I returned early to finish my report. He should be back soon." It wasn't a lie, but definitely a patented obfuscation. Simon regarded him briefly and Blair became concerned that he suspected the explanation. The look passed, however, and the captain headed for his office.
"When you see him, tell Jim I want to talk to him."
"Yes, sir." Blair called cheerfully. He shut down his computer, deciding he would go see Dana again. He wanted to let her know what progress he was making, and see how she was holding up. Gathering his pack onto his shoulder, he went for the stairs again, just in case the elevator contained his partner.
Even before the elevator door opened, Jim knew Blair was not in the bullpen. Investigating the jewelry theft had distracted him long enough for some of his anger to dissipate. On the ride back, he had considered the many times he'd ignored his partner's instincts, even as he wished to focus him more on 'official' work. In the end, he decided he just needed to talk to him, or rather, listen to him. Now, all he had to do was catch up to Blair.
Stepping off the elevator, he found himself extending his hearing unconsciously, and realized the lingering scent of Blair's shampoo triggered the reflex. He turned to the only other person in the room.
"Rhonda, was Sandburg here?"
"Yes, Jim. You just missed him, he left about twenty minutes ago," she replied.
Cursing his lousy timing, he planned quickly. He would write the preliminary report on the theft and leave early to have dinner waiting when Blair arrived. He couldn't help but talk on a full stomach.
Tecia had convinced her coworkers to let her lock the office up that night, on the pretense of recalibrating one of her diagnostic machines. Even the doctors had left early this evening, facilitating her plans.
Sliding the key borrowed from Dr. Dennis into the laboratory's lock, she let herself in, and was surprised by the stacks of boxes lining the room. It occurred to her that Dr. Donahue was leaving sooner than his partners expected. Locating the boxes of files, she opened the top one and scanned the names, looking first for Foster, then any others familiar to her. Discovering her objective in the third box she checked, she carried the information down the hall to the copy machine.
The smell of stir-fry lingered in the hallway outside the loft, obvious even to one without hypersenses in spite of the late hour. Blair dropped the keys guiltily in the basket by the door, realizing belatedly that he hadn't let Jim know he would be late. He walked straight for his room, hoping he wouldn't disturb the sleeping Sentinel. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, he hung his head a moment, then decided on a preemptive strike.
"Jim, I'm really sorry about dinner," he said, turning to look at his roommate.
"Where have you been?" Jim asked, ignoring the apology, but not sounding as angry as Blair expected.
"I went to see Dana. I wanted to check on how she was doing," he responded, and tried to step past Jim into the hallway. A hand on his shoulder and a surprisingly soft voice stopped him.
"Chief, you can't keep avoiding me." Blair sighed deeply, wincing slightly at the tightness persistent in his ribs.
"I know. Tonight, I'm really beat. Can we talk tomorrow?" Jim frowned but removed his hand, allowing Blair to continue to the bathroom, listening to his partner return to bed.
Scrutinizing himself in the mirror, guilt weighed heavily upon him. He had expected harsh words from Jim, knowing he probably deserved them to some extent. Blair wasn't comfortable keeping this secret from Jim, but he felt an unusual urge to present this case, or non-case as Jim had pointed out, fully solved to both him and Simon.
I know he believes in me. Blair thought, trying to reason around his irrational need to investigate Dr. Donahue. His mind wandered in circles until he hit upon one point.
If the Shaman of the City can't protect the tiniest members of the city... He let the idea trail off, smiling at the revelation while heading for his bed.
The scent of fresh coffee roused him from sleep shortly before his alarm went off. Having deliberately set it early to be up before his roommate, Blair realized how determined Jim must be to have a talk. Or rather, for Jim to lay down the law. No chance of slipping out unnoticed remained.
What could he really say to Jim? Despite the calm greeting the night before, Blair was positive that Jim was angry. Dodging responsibility was not a way to earn points, yet the definition of responsibility was the key issue. Who exactly decided what was a priority?
Jim would argue that upholding the law was a primary responsibility. Until you find one you don't have a use for, like speed limits, he noted. His own view of responsibility was more expansive, as he'd discovered last night. The law needed no defense. The powerless victims were those who required the aid of the Sentinel and his Guide.
Always one to find the best qualities in others, no matter how hidden, it hurt him to see the pain that could be inflicted by one human on another. Blair felt it was a deep wrong for any person to die, but even that attitude had faded somewhat in the years spent with Jim Ellison. For a moment, he grieved for that lost portion of himself. That was before I met anyone who wasn't inherently good, he observed.
The right to life was most of all to be extended to children. The concept of a doctor who could or would kill a newborn infant provoked a protective instinct in him akin to what he imagined his Blessed Protector felt.
Translating his views into a form his black-and-white partner could understand would be more difficult. More important, he had to uncover hard evidence of the crime he knew existed before approaching Jim.
"Chief, I know you're awake," Jim called. From the sound of his voice, he stood right outside the French doors.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Blair replied, rolling out of bed. Opening the door, he accepted the mug offered.
"Drink that and catch a shower. Breakfast will be ready when you're done," Jim ordered and returned to the kitchen.
No, this won't be pleasant, Blair thought.
They sat in silence as the eggs cooled on their plates. Neither of them had eaten more than a few bites of breakfast, each lost in thought.
"Chief," Jim finally started.
"Look, Jim, I know you're upset about yesterday. I wanted to be there to help you with the robbery and I know I said I'd call..." His apology was cut short by Jim's response.
"That's not all that's bothering me. You are supposed to be my partner. That means we investigate the same crimes, we visit the same witnesses, we examine the same scenes. Not I work on one case and you do your own thing." Blair's eyes remained downcast, but his grip on his fork tightened minimally.
"I understand you don't agree that Dr. Donahue did anything wrong, but I've talked to the guy. He is seriously messed up."
"Whether I agree or not is not the point, Sandburg. You are letting your emotions color your assessment of the man."
"You're damn right I am!" Blair contended, pushing his chair back to stand over his roommate. "I don't have your ability to check my feelings at the door, Ellison. I'm well aware of that. I also know that however I feel, I can't bring back Dana's baby, or Cathy's or Jenna's for that matter. But if one more child is saved from that doctor's research, than I'll feel good about myself."
"Blair, his research is legal. I remember vividly how you ranted when that doctor in England lost his license for misusing his research subjects. It wasn't the research itself, it was about storage and permission problems." Jim reasoned, attempting to control his anger.
"Murder isn't legal," Blair replied softly.
"Do you have any proof that he murdered any of those infants?" he demanded.
Blair glared in return, answering the challenge with his silence. Out of words, he rigidly stalked to the loft door, turning back to throw a parting shot.
"I'll find proof, Ellison, but it amazes me how easy it is for you to ignore these citizens of your tribe just because they're babies. Some protector you are. Sentinel of the Great City. Yeah, right!" He slammed the door behind him before Jim could respond.
Jim stared at the closed door, having muted his hearing enough to prevent shock from the sound. He recognized a cheap shot when hit with one, but was shocked that his partner would think to attack him that way. He shook his head, still furious, wondering how a little conversation could become so ugly.
Blair was seething when he sat at his desk in Major Crime. All the way in his car, his own private argument raged on. While on one side, he regretted using Jim's senses against him, another part felt justified by the admonishment. At the same time, he had to admit his partner had a valid point. For all his hard work the past few days, he had nothing to prove the doctor had done anything wrong. He punched furiously at the keys on his computer, delving into the paperwork stacked on his desk, hoping a miracle would appear in his 'IN' box.
Jim arrived quietly, hanging his jacket on the coat rack, and booting his computer up without comment. Blair glanced up from time to time only to find his partner completely ignoring his presence. Ranting and raving he could handle, but the silent treatment from Jim was unnerving.
Apparently, Blair was not the only one uncomfortable in the uncharacteristic calm. When Jim disappeared on an errand, Henri strolled by Blair's desk.
"Hairboy, what's with Ellison today?" he inquired, keeping a watchful eye to the glass windows surrounding them.
"We had a bit of a disagreement this morning. I guess he's still mad at me," Blair explained.
"Man, that is one person I wouldn't want to be on the bad side of," Henri noted with a chuckle. Blair gave him a wry smile in return.
"Don't I know it. Ever since that warehouse fiasco the other day, I haven't been able to do anything right." Henri gave Blair a bewildered look. "What?"
"He didn't tell you?" he asked incredulously.
"Tell me what? What's wrong?" Blair appealed. Henri spun a chair around and sat beside the desk, leaning in confidentially.
"After you left that day, Jim and I got talking. He was real freaked out by the whole incident. Well, for him anyway." Henri flashed a jovial smile.
"Freaked out about what?" Blair insisted, growing impatient.
"He could feel the bullets hitting you," Henri revealed and it was Blair's turn to express shock.
"He could feel..." he moaned dropping his head into his hands. "I should have known." Henri laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't tell him I said anything." Catching sight of Jim returning, he quickly replaced the chair and went on his way. Blair looked up, noticing the reason for the detective's sudden departure. He had a sudden urge to speak to his partner, but the opportunity was lost when Jim picked up a note from his desk.
"Captain!" he called to the open office door, striding quickly in that direction. Simon met him at Rhonda's desk.
"We've got it. The Avant-Garde is leaving for China just after 5 this afternoon. Two containers are scheduled to be loaded just prior to departure. Guess who arranged for them?"
"Chuck Vail?" the captain returned.
"Alright, gather everybody. We've got plans to make."
The briefing room was crammed with detectives and uniformed officers. Without a clear indication of the suspected contraband, all of the various departments demanded representation. Since it was a Major Crime informant that had provided the lead, they conceded to allow Simon to assign duties.
Blair slipped in just as Simon began detailing the surveillance plans, standing against the back wall when he noticed that there were no empty seats. Jim stood on the far side of the room, leaning against the windowsill next to Henri and Rafe. Blair watched him as the meeting continued, disappointed that not once did he glance at his partner. Wishing he hadn't destroyed the chance to talk that Jim had arranged this morning, he was startled to hear his name.
"Sandburg," Simon had called, "you and Ellison will be here on this tower." He indicated a position on a map and moved on to the next assignment.
Blair made a mental note of the location as it registered whom he was assigned with. Of course, no one else realizes there's a problem, he thought.
Shortly after, the detectives were dismissed with the reminder to be in place at 3 PM. Blair was the first out of the room, greeted in the hall by Rhonda.
"Blair, a Miss Cunnigham left a message for you." She offered the yellow slip of paper.
"Thanks a lot," he returned, accepting the number. Looking up at the sound of a familiar voice, he saw Jim leaving by the far door, accompanied by Henri and Megan. Laughing among themselves, they walked the opposite direction, returning to Major Crime. Deciding to help his partner maintain his distance, Blair went to the conference room to call Tecia.
Entering the bullpen after his phone conversation, Blair was lost in thought, trying to figure out how to explain to Jim that he needed to leave without enraging him further. Still undecided on whether to go with the truth, or color it a bit, he pulled up a chair backward to his partner's desk, leaning his chin on arms folded across the back.
"I'm not going to like this," Jim greeted, not looking up from his work.
"Probably not," Blair confirmed. Glancing at the clock above them, he gauged the time that remained before his appointment with the nurse. "I have to go talk to someone," he began, pausing when the Sentinel's jaw tensed so firmly Blair expected to hear teeth crack.
"It's early yet," he continued, quickly and quietly, hoping to avoid a repeat of the last few episodes. "I'll be back in plenty of time for the operation this afternoon."
"Fine." Blair stared a moment, painfully aware that Jim meant anything but the stated response, and surprised by the lack of furious outburst.
"This is really important," he explained, but Jim interrupted.
"Just go, Sandburg." He turned away from the younger detective, searching for something on the far side of his desk. Blair stood slowly, and replacing the chair, left the station.
Jim leaned against the counter, attempting to ease the pain in his head by rubbing his temples. The pervasive sense that his friendship of six years was falling apart invaded every muscle. The tension wound its way up his neck and into his skull. It became rapidly obvious that his massage was useless. The Tylenol he'd ingested a short while ago seemed insufficient as well.
He wanted to talk to Blair, somehow clear the air, but every time he saw his friend's face, the last comment shot at him resurfaced. He couldn't grasp how Blair could think he cared nothing for the people of Cascade. I'm a cop, for Christ's sake! he thought. That decision had been made long before his senses were available to him, and not out of any perceived duty to a tribe. It wasn't that he was indifferent to women or children, either. He loved both. There was value in fighting the battles you could win. Some things, even horrible things, occur and there was nothing to be done to stop them.
Blair's sense of fairness and justice endeared him to the Sentinel, while at the same time aggravating him endlessly. His fresh perspective had solved more cases than Jim could count, yet it also caused trouble when he followed it on his own.
As Jim wandered back to his desk, the inner war raged on, fueled by his Guide ducking out on him yet again. He lowered himself into his chair, a sullen look on his face as he pondered his friend's penchant for trouble. His eyes alighted on a new file with Blair's name at the top. Flipping it open, he found a pair of forensics reports detailing the results of test run on ashes.
"Ashes?" he said out loud.
"Jim?" Henri questioned, and Jim explained.
"Just reading this report from forensics. Do you know what Blair was doing with ashes?" Henri approached, looking over Jim's shoulder.
"Not a clue, babe, but I saw him yesterday with a burial urn. Thought it was strange, but then, it was Sandburg." He flashed a broad smile.
"Nothing too unusual for him, is it?" His eyes returned to the comments on the form, Henri reading along with him. They both reached the same words simultaneously.
"Not human?" they asked, almost in unison. Jim read the passage aloud.
"The sealed container was received, seal broken under sterile conditions. Light gray ashes were removed. Despite the label indicating human remains, the complete absence of bone fragments and lack of calcium in the ashes suggests a non-animal organic source for the contents. Preliminary spectral analyses are consistent with a type of wood ash."
"Who would pass off wood ashes as human remains?" Henri asked.
"There's a name given -- Cathy Harris."
"Jim, there's another report," Henri pointed out, pulling the second sheet out of the file. Scanning it quickly, he confirmed, "It says the same thing, wood ash."
Jim pulled his keyboard closer, punching in the name on the top form, before asking Henri for the name on the second.
"Jenna Long," he replied.
While the computer searched for the records, Jim searched his memory for why the names were familiar. Moments later, Blair's reports filled the screen. Scrolling down, they absorbed the information gleaned from Blair's interviews with Dana's acquaintances. Noting the doctor's name, he initiated a search for that information as well. Henri watched all of this in fascination.
"Is this what Sandburg's been working on the last few days?" he inquired.
"Yeah," Jim answered absently. "He's been very thorough as well," he observed, a hint of pride in his voice.
"How did Blair get a hold of ashes?" Henri pressed, unable to read as fast as Jim was scrolling.
"They belong to women who thought they were their babies. Somehow they got switched." He continued reading Blair's impression of Dr. Donahue, realizing in his partner's comments on the doctor's research the motivation behind his contempt.
"It would have to be on purpose, but who would do that?" Henri questioned skeptically.
"Sandburg thinks it has to do with this doctor."
"Guess you'd better get the dirt from him when he returns," Henri suggested with a smile, slapping Jim playfully on the shoulder as he stood to leave.
"Mmhmm," he answered, contemplating just that task.
Blair jogged the last block to the deli, reaching Tecia's side completely out of breath. It didn't help that the ache in his chest complained with each deep breath. He dropped into the seat, supporting his ribs.
"Are you OK?" Tecia inquired.
"I'll be fine," he assured, fighting to control his respiration. "How did you get away from work?"
"Golf day. Drs. Provost and Dennis go to lunch at their club and tee off at 1. We usually do paperwork in the morning, then we all get the afternoon off," she replied, sipping at her soda. The waitress arrived and Blair requested tea.
"What did you find out?" he questioned.
"Well, I copied some of the files from Dr. Donahue's lab. I don't know how much it will help. Most of what was listed was tissue type and protein marker information. I did find a file on each of the three names you gave me. I left them in my car, though."
"That's great. I appreciate it so much," Blair responded, accepting his tea from the server.
"It was very strange."
"What was?" Blair encouraged.
"Dr. Donahue's whole lab was in boxes, everything except his specimens. I knew he was leaving, but it must be a whole lot sooner than his partners believe."
"What kind of specimens does he keep?"
"I'm not really sure. He keeps them in this giant walk-in refrigerator. Trish is always mentioning how many he has and how important they are to his work."
Blair finished his tea and, noting the time, stood to leave.
"We need to get the files. I have to get back to the station."
"My car is just around the corner." He stood back with a flourish, gesturing for her to lead the way.
Opening the passenger door of the small car, she retrieved the papers stacked on the seat. Presenting them to Blair, they were distracted when someone called her name.
"Miss Cunnigham?" She recognized the man and responded.
"Mr. Donahue," she identified. Blair could see the family resemblance when the man turned to him.
"Detective Sandburg, I presume?"
"Yesss," he drawled, then froze when he saw the gun shoved in Tecia's side and heard her gasp.
"Let's go for a ride," Ricky snarled.
Ricky ushered the pair into the office where Ray was collecting books from his shelves.
"Look what I found," he announced. Ray looked appalled when he saw the detective and the nurse in his office. Blair's handcuffs captured his wrists behind his back, while a scarf contained Tecia's.
"Dammit, Ricky! What did you do?" Ray whined.
"Only what I had to, bro." He displayed the papers from Tecia's car.
"What's that?" he demanded. Tecia cowered next to Blair while he responded.
"Some information on your research. I was curious to know more." Blair fought to keep the trepidation he felt out of his voice.
"I'll bet," Ricky sneered, digging his firearm deeper into Blair's side, making him wince when it came in contact with a bruised rib.
"Ricky, stop. This isn't right," Ray pleaded.
"Look, I said I'd do what I had to. He's a cop. Do you think he's gonna let you go knowing what's in those files?"
Ray closed his eyes, mouthing silently. After a long moment, he focused on his brother.
"What do you have in mind?" he asked.
"We just need to keep them out of the way until we're gone."
"OK, OK." Ray yielded with an exasperated sigh. "Leave them in here with me. The trucks should be out back soon. The guys are going to need help loading them. Call me when you're ready for the cold stuff." Ricky seemed unhappy, but he complied, pushing Blair with his weapon toward the chair he'd sat in previously. Tecia was directed to the matching seat.
Ray resumed his work, plucking several more volumes from the shelf. Ricky addressed the captives one last time.
"I won't be far, so don't try anything smart," he recommended.
Jim paced the bullpen as the clock's ticking thundered in his ears. Simon remained on the phone in his office, everyone else having already prepared to descend on Cascade's port. He hated what his partner was making him do. He didn't want to cover for the younger detective, despite reading the reports. The knowledge that Blair had disregarded the wishes of both himself and their captain weighed heavily in his thoughts, irritating him deeply. Then the Blessed Protector side kicked, equally hurt at being left out, and wanting to protect Blair from the wrath of Simon Banks. Confident that the captain would never split them up, he still resented the need to run interference at times, despite Simon's fondness for the ex-anthropologist.
Simon hung up the phone and exited the office, straightening his tie as he walked.
"Are we ready?" he questioned Jim.
"Yes, sir, we seem to be," Jim replied smoothly. Simon glanced around the room.
"Where's Sandburg?" Jim paused, not yet sure how he wanted to answer.
"Jim, what's going on?" he asked, laying a hand in concern on the detective's shoulder.
"He's not back yet," Jim said.
"Dammit, I don't have time to pull this out of you bit by bit. Where is he?" Simon demanded.
"He went and investigated that baby's death after all. He was meeting with someone today, but he promised to be back in time."
"How long have you known about this?" he accused.
"He's been on it all along. We keep going round about it, but we always end up in different places."
Simon worried the cigar in his fingers. "You know, he could be suspended for this."
"Yes, sir." Jim was defeated, unable to provide any words that could shield his Guide this time.
"Let's go and hope he catches up," Simon offered, leading the way, certain Jim would follow.
They sat a while in silence. Blair wriggled as pins and needles started in his arms. Finally perching himself nearer the edge of the chair, he found a little comfort. Free of the distraction, he questioned the doctor.
"Dr. Donahue, I was wondering about that article you wrote on growing neural tissue." Both Tecia and Ray turned surprised faces to him, the doctor recovering first.
"What do you want to know?" he asked suspiciously, pulling another book from the top shelf.
"It can't be as easy as your article intimated to culture, and your lab here isn't very large."
"So, what's the question?" Ray snapped.
"How'd you do it?"
"I haven't yet. You're right, I need a larger workplace."
"That's why you're moving?" Blair guessed.
"Among other things," he hinted. "I got an offer I couldn't refuse from a university in China." He looked smug when he met Blair's gaze.
"You've been planning this for some time," Blair observed. A sigh escaped from Ray's lips, confirming the statement.
"About three months," he answered softly.
"Why now?" Blair pressed before he could think better of the question.
"My grant money is about to expire." Blair let his confusion show.
"Why don't you just renew it?"
"Remember that pathologist in England three months ago? The whole scandal surrounding his research? His work was legal, he technically had permission, but he lost everything anyway." Ray stepped closer to Blair. "His job, his work, his funding -- gone! All because he wasn't discreet."
"He had pieces of children!" Blair interjected.
"'People want solutions, they want cures," he asserted vehemently, standing over the bound detective. "When they get sick, they don't really care about the animals used in research, or the humans who endured the side effects or died testing a therapy. They just want to feel better."
"If that were the case, then no one would care what you did for research," Blair insisted.
"It is true of sick people. It's the healthy ones who set the limits, who determine what is ethical. What right do they have to limit another person's choices?"
"So, only those who are desperate for any means to survive have a vote? What about the children you are killing?"
Ray leaned over, resting his hands on the leather arms of Blair's seat, staring at him intently.
"Have you ever had a serious illness? Known someone who was going to die? Or maybe doomed to be trapped in a body that no longer functions?" Blair held his gaze, maintaining the silence until the doctor spoke again.
"I have, and if the life of one unwanted fetus can save that very desired life, I don't think anything should stand in the way."
"What about murder?" Tecia suggested softly, and Ray seemed to deflate.
"That was an unfortunate waste," he commented.
"You're sick!" she spat.
"No!" He faced her, "One problem of growing the tissue is that it becomes type specific. Her baby had the tissue I needed to save my..." He broke off, realizing how much he'd revealed. Slamming the last book into a box, he stormed out of the room.
Jim watched as the two tractor-trailer trucks rumbled down the street. From where he and Simon sat, they had a view of the cargo ship being loaded, as well as one of the aisles available for approaching traffic. Using his Sentinel vision, Jim could also keep an eye on Maritime Street, the location of the trucks. The configuration of the containers seemed odd to Jim, as if one was made up of machinery rather than open.
"They're here," he announced to Simon when he noted them entering the container terminal. The captain nodded, and raised the radio in his hand.
Blair had lost track of time, his watch stuck behind his back with his now numb arms. It felt like hours had passed, his mind wondering whom the doctor intended to save with Dana's baby. He thought also of Jim, realizing that although he now had the proof he needed, by the time he'd be able to use it, the subjects would be an ocean away.
He sent a silent apology to his partner, positive that the time had come and gone for the raid at the shipping terminal. The knowledge that neither Jim nor Simon would listen to him now depressed him further. All at once, inspiration hit.
"What?" she asked in a voice tinged with pain and fatigue.
"How would they move the specimens?" he questioned.
"I saw trucks out back this morning. Two of them, with cargo containers on the back," she answered.
"They're taking them by ship," he mused aloud.
"I suppose so. How else does one get to China?" Ignoring her sarcasm, he was buoyed by the understanding that Jim and Simon would intercept the cargo. Then he remembered he hadn't told them about his suspicions, and his heart sank again.
The door opened to admit Ricky.
"Where's Dr. Donahue?" Blair inquired.
"He had to go. Said I should hide you where no one would find you until tomorrow." Something in his tone made Blair aware he didn't intend to follow that order. Ricky's hands shook when he gestured for the pair to lead the way from the room.
Directing them into the lab, he sat them on 2 stools, shoulder to shoulder, and moved to the other side of the room.
Jim held his gun up as Simon slipped into position behind him. Stretching his hearing, he mentally checked off the other detectives and SWAT police as they also fell into place, surrounding the containers and the men detaching them from the trucks.
He peered around the corner of the box they stood behind. Four men worked quickly, removing the straps that held the cargo container to the trailer. They spoke little, and even without his visual advantage, he could identify three of them.
Nodding to Simon that all were ready, and aware they waited for his move first, Jim stepped around the corner.
Blair was growing nervous watching Ricky work around the lab. Most of the shelves were empty, but he seemed to have some supplies under one of the cabinets. With his back turned to them, he assembled the pieces, cursing frequently.
"Tecia?" Blair whispered, concerned when he noticed her tremors.
"What?" she answered shakily.
"How are you doing?" he inquired.
"I'm scared." They were angled slightly away from each other. Blair could only see part of her profile, but her voice betrayed her tears.
"Dammit!" cried Ricky, startling both of them. Turning suddenly, Blair could see his hand bleeding profusely. Grabbing a paper towel to apply pressure, he faced the duo. "You're a nurse, right?" Tecia shook harder, unable to speak.
"She is," Blair answered for her and the wounded man came over behind them. A moment later, Tecia was rubbing her wrists.
"Go, get something to put on this," he ordered, holding his sliced hand up for her to see. His hands were trembling violently, and he fidgeted constantly. She was headed for the door when Ricky spoke again. "Don't try going for the phone either. Just get the stuff and get back here."
She nodded leaving the room.
Ricky paced aimlessly in her absence, finding it difficult to hold pressure with the twitching of his arms. Blair questioned him, hoping shock would subdue their captor for them.
"Are you OK? You're shaking an awful lot."
"I'm fine. It's just time for my medicine," he replied, still unable to remain still.
"Medicine?" Blair prodded.
"Yeah, as in drugs, pharmaceuticals, doctors and such." Blair observed him longer, finally recognizing the characteristic movements.
"You have Parkinson's Disease."
"What of it, cop?" he snapped as Tecia rejoined them, laden with gauze and tape. Ricky rested his hand on a table for her ministrations.
"That's why you are helping Dr. Donahue," Blair observed.
"Pretty smart deduction," he growled, cringing when Tecia cleaned the gash. "My brother has the key to fixing this disease, and not just for me. He just needs the money to develop the procedure."
"He's killing babies," Blair stated. Ricky shrugged.
"They would die anyway. He's trying to save lives that people want."
"What about the Foster baby?" Blair demanded. Tecia finished the bandage and Ricky dragged her back over to the stool, fastening her hands again before addressing the question.
"That was a mistake. Accidents happen," he explained.
"It was murder!" Blair insisted.
"It doesn't matter now. Ray will continue his work far away from here where they aren't so strict with their funding." He walked over to the object that had injured him, and applying another wire, he carried it over to the table nearest the pair. Blair paled when he identified the homemade bomb.
"What are you going to do?" he asked, feeling the panic rising in his chest.
"Ray said to make sure you weren't found until tomorrow, but why take chances? If no one ever finds you, then you two can't make any trouble for us." He smiled, and it occurred to Blair that one who could discuss so callously the death of infants would have no problems with the adults between him and a cure for his illness.
"You think 30 minutes is enough?" Ricky asked.
"Please don't do this. We won't say anything," Tecia begged.
The man looked at her, and Blair was sure he saw sadness in his face.
"I'd like to believe you, but it's a chance I can't afford to take." He flipped a switch on the timer, twisting the handle to open a Bunsen burner as he left.
The dockworkers surrendered without a fight, only their unknown partner protesting at all. A uniformed officer brought him over to talk to the senior detectives while Felix Grant, Sean Pearl, and Chuck Vail were placed in a cruiser.
"What are we being charged with?" the man demanded.
"Detective Jim Ellison, Captain Simon Banks," Jim introduced. "We'll decide what charges to include after we search your containers."
"I presume you have a warrant for that?" he sneered.
"As a matter of fact, Mr.?" Simon interjected, holding aloft the requested form.
"It's doctor. Dr. Ray Donahue. All that is in those containers is my research files and specimens. If you open them, you'll destroy years of work and find nothing illegal," Ray asserted.
Jim started at the name, sizing up the subject of his partner's scrutiny. He noted the nervous spike in the doctor's heartrate at the mention of a search. It stood in sharp contrast to his irritated demeanor. Simon argued briefly with him while Jim's thoughts wandered to his absent Guide, trying to decipher how their cases could overlap and neither of them realize it. Simon shoving a sheaf of papers in front of him dragged his attention back to the dock.
"Here's the manifest. Do you see anything that gives us cause to open these boxes?" Simon requested, a pleading tone in his voice. Jim became aware that the SWAT teams were already standing down, the planned-for raid evidently nonexistent.
Jim took the list, and glanced at the first page. Each box in the first container was listed with a reference number and a vague description of its contents. Flipping through a few pages, he was annoyed by the lack of information provided. Reaching the fifth page, he was rewarded with more details as the items in the second container were listed.
Beside the reference numbers, the index included names and dates. His eyes browsed the columns until a familiar name leapt off the page. Continuing his examination, he saw two other names known to him.
"Simon, we need to open the cold container," he announced. Ray rolled his eyes and resumed his protest.
"Tecia, listen to me," Blair commanded his hysterical companion. "Is the freezer airtight?"
"As far as I know," she snuffled. "It's cold in there, though."
"In a few minutes that'll be better than the heat out here," he observed, hopping off his stool. He'd heard Ricky throw the lock when he left, so walking out was not an option and the odor of the gas leaking from the burner was becoming overpowering. Supporting Tecia with his shoulder when she stumbled off her seat, he led the way. The latch was tricky, but between them they got it open. Relieved to find it unfastened from the inside as well, but disappointed that neither of them could reach the light switch in their bound state, he let the door slide shut. The inky blackness threatened to overwhelm him briefly.
"I'm cold," Tecia mentioned, forcing him to focus on her instead.
"Come here and sit close. We'll be out of here soon," he promised.
Jim, Simon and Rafe examined the glass cases stacked in the frigid box. He had passed the second two names to the others to locate, while he looked for the first, fighting his disgust at what he could see.
The many tiny bodies were each encased in a glass 'coffin', surrounded by a clear liquid. It was colder than a freezer in the cargo container, a very efficient refrigerator working overtime while the door stood open. Each case had an ID number attached near the end. Rafe's voice distracted him momentarily.
"Jim, I found it," the young detective confirmed, his revulsion evident in his voice.
"Mine, too," Simon added. "How can a doctor do this?"
Jim shook his head, his eyes alighting on the object of his search. He looked closer, focusing through the refraction of the fluid to the premature infant within. A perfect body with ten fingers and ten toes became apparent, looking angelic. He was drawn in to the child, willing its chest to move, for it to draw a breath, for the pale skin to come alive with a cry, for the faint marks on the little neck to fade. All that existed was the infant in front of him.
"Jim!" the shout disturbed his reverie, and all at once, Jim was devoid of strength. Simon slid an arm around his shoulder while he leaned on the frame of the container to regain his composure. "What a time for Blair to take a day off!" the captain swore.
"I'm OK," Jim answered, shaking off the effects of the zone as he realized what he had seen. "Blair was right. He murdered the Foster baby," he murmured for his captain's ears only.
"What did you see?" Simon asked incredulously.
"There are marks on its neck," he replied, walking out into the sunlight. Simon swore again, following Jim, his cell phone already dialing for a forensics team.
"Like what you see?" Ray taunted from where he leaned against a police car. The officer guarding him stepped forward to hold Jim back when he lunged for the man's throat.
"You son-of-a- bitch. They're babies!" Jim cried, fighting against the arm firmly holding him, while more officers came closer.
"Careful, detective. You can't do anything to save these lives," he stated cryptically. "I have complete documentation to the validity of my samples. This matter will be dismissed, and I'll still be on my way to China."
"And my partner has information that you deceived the parents of those infants, that they thought their children were dead before you stole them." The doctor paled slightly, but regained his poise quickly.
"What does he have? The words of distraught women? Not very strong proof in that, detective."
"He had some tests run on the ashes of those children. The results were very interesting," Jim replied.
"Jim, that's enough. We'll get it out of him when we interrogate him later." The captain's hand replaced those of the officers restraining him, and turned him away from the doctor.
"Without his testimony to verify where he got those ashes, you have nothing." Jim and Simon turned as one. "And I've made sure he won't be available for a few days. Just long enough for me to get on a plane."
"What the hell?" Simon began, tightening his grip as Jim surged forward again.
"Let me go," Ray reasoned. "You can keep the stuff in the containers. My brother is keeping an eye on your detective, for now." He looked Jim in the eye. "You know, he told me about the mishap in the warehouse. Too bad he missed, could have saved us all a lot of trouble."
"Get him out of here!" Simon barked, tired of the pointless goading. Realizing Jim was no longer fighting him, he met the Sentinel's eyes.
"I should have listened to him," Jim stated plaintively.
"Jim, pull it together. Where would he be?"
"He could be anywhere," Jim replied.
"Well, let's start at Dr. Ray Donahue's office," Simon suggested.
They followed the fire engines into the back parking lot of Northside Medical Center, having overheard the dispatch for the silent alarm of fire at their destination. Even so, the smoke billowing from the second story windows of the annex shocked them. Simon spoke to the dispatcher while Jim tracked down the Fire Chief. By the time they had the information they sought, the internal fire suppression systems had functioned, allowing the clouds to dissipate.
At his insistence, the Fire Chief allowed Jim to accompany the firefighters as they cleared the building, providing him with appropriate turnout gear.
"The clinic is on the second floor," Simon informed him with a silent prayer that his newest detective was not involved with the conflagration.
Following the professionals through the dark stairwell, Jim found the heavy coat and airtank cumbersome despite his physical condition. He thought briefly to the heavier-than-usual man leading the way, wondering how he managed the agility he displayed. They passed the door announcing the entrance to the Camdon Prenatal Clinic and the damage from both smoke and water increased dramatically. Thick soot lined the top third of the walls in an irregular pattern and they sloshed through ankle deep ponds that escaped quickly through each door opened.
"Must have been closed today!" called the leader, shouting to be heard above the cycle of the respirators.
Jim opened a door on his right, examining the vacant office. A box sat on the desk, saturated cardboard slagging around the contents. Peeling it aside, he found books within. The shelves around the room were clear, except for the lines of dust along their edges.
Josh Franklin, one of the other firefighters checking the building, poked is head in the office. "There's no one here," he stated, yelling to be sure he was heard. "The fire investigators are on the way in."
Jim nodded in response, sending silent thanks that his partner's body hadn't been found in the destruction. "Can I see where the fire started?"
"Sure." Josh motioned him to follow, and led the way into a devastated lab. The tables were tossed haphazard against the walls, leaving a charred open area near the center of the room. Josh pointed to his mask, shouting again.
"We can take these off now," he stated, loosening the straps holding the respirator in place. Jim followed suit, automatically dampening his sense of smell in preparation.
So focused was Jim on avoiding the acrid odor, he neglected his elevated hearing. Instantly assaulted by a cacophony of noise, he took a few moments to distinguish the sounds around him. Dismissing the distant splashes of water, the footsteps on the floor above and the power tools, he rapidly became aware of a pair of faint rhythms standing in contrast to the increased rate in Josh's and his own heart. They seemed close by, but muffled.
"You've checked everywhere?" he demanded, grabbing Josh by the arm.
"All the rooms, yes," the firefighter confirmed, confusion evident in his face. Jim released him, eyes roaming the room.
"Someone's here, I hear them," he muttered, becoming frantic as the beats slowed measurably.
"What? I didn't hear that," Josh asked, but Jim's sight fell on a metal door obscured by an upended table.
"Chief, tell me you didn't," he murmured, pushing at the table. "Give me a hand here," he requested of the firefighter. Together they moved it aside and Jim dragged the door open against the smaller debris. Through the heavy coat Jim could feel the rush of air exchanging and tell the temperature within the metal room was near zero. The chill instantly formed a thick fog in the lab, but Jim fought his way through the mist to reach the source of the sound, barely discerning the two figures huddled along the wall. He fell to his knees beside them, pulling them apart to look into the face of his Guide.
Blair stretched out on the lounge chair, a beer held lightly in his hand while he watched the sunset. The warm spring night did little to dispel the ideas gnawing at his consciousness.
Jim had spoken barely two words to him since finding them in the freezer. A trip to the ER had revealed that neither was seriously injured, aside from a little chilly. The copies Tecia had made of Dr. Donahue's files had been destroyed in the fire, but when she was told the police had the original boxes, she expressed confidence that she could find the pertinent information.
Ricky and Trish had been intercepted at the airport awaiting Ray's arrival for their flight to China. They would all cool off in jail while the DA examined the files and autopsied the infants, 30 of whom had been recovered from the container.
Simon had allowed Blair to leave without a reprimand, for which he was eternally grateful. The captain was expecting full disclosure tomorrow, and had hinted that if he wasn't satisfied, he could change his mind.
All of which brought Blair back to his friend. He mentally listed all the ways he'd wronged the Sentinel in the last few days, wondering at what point he'd become a reflection of his partner's stubborn nature.
Startled by the clack of the window latch, he turned to see Jim step out on the balcony. Taking a deep breath, the larger man stretched lazily. For an instant, Blair envied his ability to do that, his ribs still reminded him of his first transgression.
Wordlessly, Jim settled into the other seat, leaning back and closing his eyes. Blair was growing impatient with the silent treatment when Jim spoke.
"Chief," he began, but Blair didn't let him finish.
"Jim, I am soo sorry about that Sentinel comment. It was wrong for me to throw that in your face." The words tumbled out with hardly a pause. He was halted, however, when his roommate opened his eyes, forcing Blair to look away.
"You were right." Blair was bewildered by the unexpected reply. "I am Sentinel to this city. That means protecting everyone in it."
"I shouldn't have avoided you. If I'd told you and Simon what I'd learned earlier..."
"Nothing would have changed. You can't undo what's done. Besides, neither of us was really listening." Jim leaned forward, but Blair still refused to meet those blue eyes.
"I should have done what Simon said in the first place," he stated.
"And then a murderer would have gotten away scot-free. Blair, I'm the one who let you down. Sometimes it slips my mind that you are as good a detective as I am. Hell, in some ways, you're better." He reached and grabbed Blair's chin, pulling his face to look into his own. "You shouldn't have to prove anything to me. That's my problem, not yours. One of these days, I'll solve that."
"How Jim? What will it take?" Blair appealed.
"I don't know," Jim breathed, then his face split with a huge grin. "But I imagine you'll think of something."
Blair returned the smile and leaned back, taking a pull from his beer.
"By the way, Chief," he mentioned.
"I'm listening now," he suggested.
Author's note: The information for the article at the beginning of this episode was taken from BBC Press Online, based on an actual person. The quote is real.
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