Production No. BPP-625 (Season Finale!)

written by:

edited by: DebbieLD and Toni Rae


The Charles Manor was once known as a 'nice' hotel, at least a three-star rating in the Cascade tourist guide. A person could spend a comfortable night or lengthy stay in quiet luxury for a decent price. What kept it from receiving a higher rating was its location near the industrial part of town.

But that was more than 15 years ago and the neighborhood in which it sat had declined significantly. A couple of the surrounding plants had closed and were now havens for the homeless and the target of vandals. Drug deals were frequent occurrences in the dark doorways of the hotel and 'working' women decorated the busier streets not far away. They were the types of people who stayed there now, mainly asking for a room for only a night even though they didn't use it for the whole time. Those who stayed longer rented by the week, though there weren't many and they usually occupied the top floor of the eight-story building.

Faith Chandler Sutton was one such person.

Angrily, the woman paced back and forth across the dingy carpet of her room. The drapes covering the single window were closed and a dim light barely illuminated the room. But the woman strode angrily across the floor, avoiding the meager amount of furniture as if the room was brightly lit.

"How could I have missed him? It was so simple, so easy," Faith raged through clenched teeth. "If I hadn't been distracted..."

With a barely expressed scream, the woman swung her arm out and smashed her fist into the lamp sitting on the small end table near the bed. The resounding crash grated in Faith's ears. She clutched at them, dropping down to sit on the bed and rock in pain. When she was finally back in control, she looked up to see her reflection in the cloudy mirror on the dresser.

"Next time," she vowed.

Ellison's eyes popped open and his hand automatically stretched out for his gun sitting on the coffee table. A soft sound from the back of the loft had awakened him from his light sleep. Extending his hearing, he heard a whispered 'Just me, Jim' and relaxed. It was Blair. The young man carefully shuffled into the bathroom and quietly closed the door behind him. Jim could tell his friend was feeling the aftereffects of the attack yesterday from the slowness of his step and the low groan he was unable to completely suppress. Jim still couldn't believe his Aunt Faith had attacked his roommate outside their own home.

Shifting his hearing, he focused on the man who occupied his bed upstairs. It had taken a little convincing, but Steven Ellison had yielded to his brother's persuasive invitation to stay the night under his protection, only after their parents agreed to go back to William's house with police protection. While Jim didn't think his parents were in any great danger, it was better to be safe than sorry.

His brother could be another story. Many years before, Grace Ellison had left her husband and young sons to take care of her deranged twin sister. She'd had her sibling committed after the woman had tried to kill the young Jim. The reason: Faith was a sentinel like her nephew and felt he was a threat. She'd also lost her guide and wasn't in control of her senses. To keep her dangerous sister away from her children, Grace eventually made Faith believe that William Ellison and their two sons were dead. All had been fine until Faith learned last fall that her sister had lied about the deaths.

Now Faith was back in Cascade. She'd 'visited' Jim's home once pretending to be his mother. It hadn't been a happy reunion. Yesterday, she'd attacked Blair in the alley right outside the loft and almost went after Steven. Jim wanted to keep both of the younger men nearby until he could find a safe place for them to stay while he went after his aunt.

Throwing off the afghan covering him, Ellison rose from the couch and stretched until he felt and heard loud pops emanating from his back. The piece of furniture was not the most comfortable place to sleep compared to his bed, but Jim knew he would be able to get some rest when he could be strategically situated to protect his Guide and his brother.

"How are you doing, Chief?" Ellison asked when Sandburg reappeared and moved into the kitchen area.

"I'll live, but my body wishes otherwise," Blair replied quietly. He shifted and rotated his right arm, wincing at the pain that radiated from his shoulder. "Bruise along the shoulder and a small lump on the back of the head. Standard Op when working with the Ellison clan. Is Steven..."

"You don't have to whisper. Steve's dead to the world and will probably stay that way for another hour. He always could sleep through a brass band when we were young. I used to have one hell of a time getting him up for school each day. It usually took Sally's cooking to get him out of bed."

"He could smell it all the way up in your room? Pretty strong sense of smell if he could detect the odors all the way up there. Maybe it's heightened just enough to pick up some things, but not enough to give him problems like his sense of touch does."

"You think Steve has two heightened senses?"

"It's possible. His tactile sense is definitely up there, especially after what you told me about the trip out to Hanford when you were kids and with what happened at the bachelor auction. It wouldn't be uncommon for him to have one or two more, especially since you have all five. Genetics, man." The excited tone in Blair's voice caused Jim to groan inwardly. He knew his roommate would want to test his theory and pitied his brother.

"Think about what we talked about last year, Jim. Faith is a full sentinel like you." At his friend's sharp look, he amended his words. "Well, not completely like you, but you know what I mean. Next generation comes along, you and Steven, and you're a full sentinel while he has a couple of heightened senses. I've been able to go through all those journals that we found at your godfather's place, but I want to go over them again. Maybe the abilities breed true in every generation. And I would be willing to bet your mother has one or two heightened senses. That would mean there is a possibility any children from either of you could produce a sentinel, depending on who you marry. Hmm. I wonder what Amanda's background might bring into the mix."

"Hold on there, Darwin. You leave Amanda out of your scheming. If, and I stress the if, we get to a point in our relationship when we might think about marriage, having children will be something we will both agree upon. Right now, Amanda and I are just friends with no guarantee of anything between us getting serious. Don't go counting your sentinels before they're born."

"Ooh, touchy. You must be more interested in her than I thought," Blair murmured with a gleam in his eye.

"Sandburg, leave it alone. Another marriage might not be in the cards for either me or Steven."

"Speak for yourself, brother," Steven Ellison's voice floated down from the upper level of the loft. It was rough sounding, making it obvious that the younger man had just awakened. "Just because you've got commitment problems doesn't mean I'm going to follow suit." The sarcastic, teasing tone took the bite out of his words and Steve leaned over the stair railing to smile at his brother. "I have high hopes for Michelle and me."

"Good God!" Jim exclaimed, making a show of checking his watch. "It's not even 6 a.m. and you're awake. Don't tell me you're actually getting up?"

"Ha, ha. You're about as funny now as you were when we were kids, which is not saying much. We corporate types are usually up and through our first meeting before you police types even step into the door of your favorite donut shop." Pulling on the robe his brother had given him the night before, Steven walked down the stairs and moved into the kitchen with the others. He looked longingly at the coffeemaker and, when he saw that its carafe was empty, sat down at the table with a sigh.

Seeing the younger Ellison's expression, Blair chuckled and turned to start the coffee preparations. He was enjoying the camaraderie between the two brothers, especially how relaxed Jim was despite the events the night before.

"What's the game plan, Jim? I can't be hiding out at your place for any great length of time. I do have some important meetings I have to attend this week."

Jim had been expecting the question. His brother was not that different from their father, dedicated to a corporate job and willing to do what was necessary to be successful. "I understand, Steven. But Aunt Faith is still out there and I wouldn't put it past her to make a play against you to get at me. I'd like you to stay with Sandburg at least for today and tonight. Hopefully, by tomorrow, we'll locate where she's staying and catch her before she can move out or skip town."

"Or come after me again," Blair voiced only loud enough for his Sentinel to hear. He glanced over to his partner and received a small answering nod.

"I'm going to go talk to Mom again this morning and see if she can think of any place Faith might hole up. Think you can take a break from your busy life just for today?"

Steven gave his older brother a small, smirky smile. "I guess I can suffer missing one day at the office. But I have to call Lily to let her know where I am and ask her to reschedule my appointments. She tends to get worried and will start calling all over the place if I don't at least give her that courtesy."

"Got you that well trained already, huh?" Jim laughed at the scowl that suddenly appeared on his brother's face. He shoots, he scores.

"More of that wonderful Ellison wit. You don't know how lucky you are to have grown up as an only child, Blair. Older brothers can be such a pain." Steven gave his brother a glare.

Blair turned around and smiled wistfully at the younger Ellison. "I don't know, man. Having been around Jim for over five years, I don't think I would have had any problem growing up with him."

"What are you talking about, Sandburg? You're still growing up. I've been able to teach you to hang your coat up when you come in, but I don't know if I'll ever get you out of the messy bedroom stage." Jim lifted his hands and stopped the potholder that came flying at his face. He flung it back at his roommate, then quickly moved over to the stairs and fled up to his room. Laughter from the kitchen floated up after him.

When he reached his parent's house, Ellison stepped out of his truck and scanned the area. He nodded toward the sedan that was parked a half block away, acknowledging his protection in the form of Det. L.T. Rafe at the wheel. Ellison didn't think he needed a guard, but it was easier to convince his brother and partner to accept their own protection if he was also covered. Glancing down the road, he easily spotted the squad car with two officers and nodded. Both appeared to be alert and watching the different activities in the area.

Extending his senses, Ellison searched around for any indication of danger. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the quiet neighborhood. Checking internally, he didn't feel any indication that his aunt might be nearby; no warning growl from an enemy sentinel's spirit guide. Pulling his senses back down to a more normal level, Jim started up the walk to the front door. It opened just as he stepped onto the front porch.

Grace Ellison stood hesitantly in the doorway. She searched her older son's face, a timid smile on her lips.

Jim looked at his mother, comparing her appearance to the memory he had of her as a child. He saw sparkling silver strands in her hair that hadn't been there all those years ago. They complimented the soft dark locks lying loose and casual on her shoulders. Her eyes were still a brilliant shade of blue and any other signs of her age only seemed to enhance her looks. To Jim, his mother was as beautiful as he remembered, if not more.

"Hi, Mom," Jim voiced softly and held his arms slightly away from his body.

Seeing the invitation, Grace stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck. She found herself engulfed in his strong arms and pulled tightly to his chest. Tears threaten to spill from her eyes. Giving her son a firm hug, she turned her head to kiss his cheek then pulled away. She stepped back out of the doorway to allow Jim to enter. "How are you this morning, Jimmy? Are Stevie and Blair coming?" Grace looked around her son toward the road.

"I'm fine, Mom. I left Steven with Sandburg at the loft. Hopefully the two of them can keep out of trouble today, but you know kids. Where's Dad?"

"He's in the kitchen having coffee. We were just about to call your place." Taking her son's hand, Grace led him through the house. Jim knew the way, but allowed his mother the comfort she found in the action.

William Ellison looked up from his paper when the two entered the room and stood up. He reached out a hand, which his elder son took without hesitation. "Jimmy. We weren't expecting you until later. Do you want any breakfast? I'm sure Sally could fix something pretty quick."

Looking around the cheery room, Jim saw the dirty breakfast dishes waiting by the sink and Sally, the housekeeper, looking at him expectantly. "No thanks, Dad. I've already eaten. Just coffee if you have some. I came by mainly to talk to Mom about Aunt Faith."

An expression of pain crossed Grace's face at the same time a scowl appeared on William's. The three sat down at the table and Sally came forward with an empty cup and a full carafe of coffee. After she'd poured a cup for Jim and refilled the other two, the Asian woman quietly moved further into the kitchen where she wouldn't be noticed but could still pay attention to what was going on.

"How is Mr. Sand-- Blair doing this morning? Is Stevie still at your place?" William asked, searching his son's face.

"Blair's a little stiff and sore, but he'll be okay. I've asked him to stay with Steven until we can set up a safe house." Jim took a careful sip from his coffee and turned his attention to his mother. "The reason I came over, Mom, was to ask if you could think of any place your sister might hide out, anything at all that might help us find her before she tries to go after Sandburg again."

"Why would she go after him, Jimmy? Why not you like she did when you were small?" William sounded genuinely confused.

"For one thing, I'm not a helpless child. I'm very capable of protecting myself. So, she probably realizes that she can hurt me more if she goes after him. And she can, Dad." At his father's confused expression, Jim continued, "I told you how much he helped me when we first met and I was so out of control. Remember? Well, our partnership goes further than just him being someone who knows about sentinels. The connection between a sentinel and his guide is a very close one and I'm not sure just how sane I'd be if something happened to Blair."

Silence filled the kitchen for several long seconds. "But, but, with all your training--"

Jim cut his father off. "You told me how Aunt Faith was with her guide, how Mom said Lyssa stopped her from having her 'spells'. How was she after Lyssa was killed?"

"She snapped, William. She blamed herself completely for Lyssa's death. There wasn't much I could do to help her except keep her calm," Grace answered the question quietly.

"Not too long ago, another sentinel tried to get to me by killing Blair. It was only through a miracle she didn't succeed. Faith could be doing the same thing and I don't want to give her another opportunity to succeed. Think, Mom. What happened the other times that Faith escaped from the institution?"

Grace stared down into her coffee cup and saw that it was nearly empty. A soft touch on her shoulder made her look up to see Sally standing near and holding the carafe of coffee. Nodding, she watched the housekeeper fill each of the cups on the table, then shuffle back away. She felt rather than saw the eyes of the two men on her.

"Each time, a few days after she had escaped, she'd contact me and tell me where to find her. I'd go through her stuff for any evidence of where she'd been. The hotel receipts indicated that she always stayed in out-of-the-way, near empty, rundown places and paid her bills in cash."

"Where would she get the money? I thought you were in control of her inheritance." William's question sounded accusing.

"The hospitals didn't forbid the patients the opportunity to purchase things, if the staff was willing to go into town for them. I always made sure that Faith had money for anything she wanted. The staff was supposed to be controlling how much she had at any one time and let me know when she needed more. This last time, she was able to steal my driver's license and some slips from the bankbook. I thought I'd just lost my license."

"So, what we need to do is check motels and hotels that are away from noise and have low occupancy. She's probably ditched the car she had since I know what she's driving." The ringing of Jim's cell phone interrupted them. Apologizing to his parents, he opened the phone and said, "Ellison."

"Hey, Jim. How are things going?" It was Blair. Jim stood up, stepped away from the table and walked over to the back door.

"We're fine. But I don't think you're calling just to check up on us. Is something the matter there?"

"Uh, no. Not really. Listen, Steven needs to run by the office. It would be a real quick trip. He has some important papers that have to be signed today. Then he wants to head over there to spend some time with his parents. I thought you should know before we show up."

Jim sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Okay. If he absolutely has to go in, make it a quick trip. And I'd rather you wear your weapon, not carry it in your backpack. You hear me?"

"Sir, yes sir!"

"Sandburg, I mean it."

"I know. Come on, man. I'm taking every precaution necessary. Don't want or need a repeat of yesterday. I'll even make sure that I don't lose our protection in the traffic. We're leaving now and it shouldn't take too long."

"Okay. We'll look for you in about an hour." Closing up his cell and walking back to the table, Jim saw his parents watching him anxiously. "Steven and Blair will be over in a bit."

"I know it's probably none of my business, Jimmy, but why do you have to remind your partner to wear his gun? He's still a detective, isn't he?"

Jim grimaced slightly at his father's question. It wasn't the first time someone asked about his partner and guns when it came to police work. "Yes, he's still with the force, Dad. Sandburg is more effective if he uses his mouth before resorting to his weapon, but he's the first person I'd choose to back me up. I trust him with my life and he's never failed me."

William held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry."

"It's okay." Jim smiled to take the bite out of his words, then turned back to his mother. "Is there anything else you can think of, Mom?"

Grace shook her head. "I'm sorry, honey. Every time Faith called me, it was to meet someplace that she felt safe or didn't cause her to have headaches and it was a different place each time. One time was in a library after hours. Another was at this old warehouse that had been empty for years. She said the smells had all faded and the silence was soothing."

"There are lots of old warehouses and libraries around town, but it's better than nothing. I'll get the others started on pulling up a list of possibilities." Jim pulled out his cell phone again and hit the speed dial for the precinct.

Blair shifted down into second gear and swung his Cobra in a tight turn around the corner, then quickly accelerated to get back up to speed with the rest of the traffic. He glanced over at his passenger and chuckled when the man grabbed at the armrest on the door. "Relax, Steven. I'm a much safer driver than Jim is, especially when I have someone in the car with me."

Steven looked down at his arm as if it didn't belong to him and visibly relaxed it. "Sorry. I'm never comfortable when someone else is driving."

"It's that Ellison control gene. I think your brother got a double dose. Uh, where should I park?" Blair asked when he saw the building Griffin Enterprises was located in the distance. "I don't think the parking garage would be a good idea. Too enclosed."

"There's usually some places along the street, but you might have to search around a bit. Wait, there's a guy pulling out just up ahead." Steven pointed through the windshield.

Blair leaned forward and squinted. "Good eyes, man. It's close enough to the building, too. Maybe you have three enhanced senses."

Hearing the eagerness in Blair's voice, Steven laughed. "My eyesight is as normal as yours. Locating parking places is more of a survival habit I developed due to my trips to larger cities. I hate walking for blocks and refuse to pay the ridiculous prices parking garages charge."

Downshifting the car, Blair pulled up until he was behind the exiting car with his left turn signal blinking. When the car pulled out, he slid into the open space with ease and turned the ignition off. He grabbed onto his passenger's arm when the other started to open his door. "Whoa, wait a minute. I don't see the police anywhere around. Let's wait a few minutes for them to show up."

"Blair, the first officers had to stop and take care of that accident and you saw that they called for backup. Look, we're not even a block away from the front door. It's daytime and in the open. Do you really think my aunt would be crazy enough to try something here? The parking garage, yeah. Here, I really doubt it. Come on."

Blair, looking into his companion's pleading face, dropped his resolve and nodded. Both men stepped out of the vehicle and met in front of the car. They had just started across the street when Steven stopped and snapped his fingers.

"Briefcase. I left it on your backseat. I'll need the papers in it." He turned and trotted back to the car. He'd just pulled the satchel out of the Cobra and closed the door when he heard the sound of screeching tires and a revving engine. Steven turned in the direction of the sound and froze when he saw a black car sliding sideways around the corner and accelerating... straight toward Sandburg.

"Blair! Look out!" Steven screamed and charged toward his friend.

The younger man had been searching around the area and was just as surprised to hear the car. When he swung around to look, he saw that it was Faith behind the wheel and she was barreling down the road toward him. Before he could move, a body slammed into his and they both went flying across the street.

Blair rolled painfully and ended up on his face in the middle of the next lane. Scrambling to his feet, he looked over to see that Steven was closer to the cars by the curb and slower in rising. The sound of a car horn blaring brought his attention back to the direction Faith's car had gone. The vehicle was spinning around, almost smashing into a minivan traveling in the opposite direction.

Faith's car had completed its turn and was now heading back in his direction. Blair glanced over at Steven, screamed for him to run, then pulled his weapon and turned back in the direction of the approaching car. Firming up his stance, Blair leveled the gun at the car, took a deep breath and tried to calm himself as he'd seen his partner do on many occasions.

The sound of a police siren and more tires burning rubber on the pavement came from behind. Backup was finally there. Their arrival caused the car traveling toward him to slam on its breaks, stopping less than 20 feet away. Blair stared over the barrel of his gun at the face of the woman who'd just tried to run him down. He saw her look at him for several moments with fury in her eyes, then turn in Steven's direction. Several expressions seemed to flash across her face before he saw her jerk the gearshift into reverse and send the car back down the direction it had come. Like a professional driver, she spun the car in the middle of the road and took off.

One police car swung around Blair and followed the fleeing vehicle. The second one screeched to a halt behind him and two uniformed officers bolted out. The driver ran over toward Steven and the other moved carefully up behind Blair.

"Detective?" the young officer called out when he was close. Officer J.D. Danko saw that Sandburg was still standing with his weapon pointed down the street, but he was beginning to shake as the aftershock of what happened started to set in. Taking a few steps closer, he again asked, "Are you okay, Detective Sandburg?"

"Oh, man," Blair moaned. He dropped his arms, but kept hold of the gun with both hands. Tremors seemed to spread throughout his whole body. Only one other time had he ever seen eyes looking at him the way Faith's had a few minutes ago. It had been over three years ago and they had belonged to another sentinel named Alex Barnes.

A gentle hand touched his back and another rested on his arm. "Why don't you let me take that for you, Blair." The hand on his arm slid slowly down until it reached his hands and took hold of the pistol. Turning his head, Blair looked into Danko's youthful face and released his hold on the gun. Blair had gotten to know the junior officer after he'd found that the other had been helped at Christmas by Gabe the angel.

Blair closed his eyes and sank down until he was seated on the ground. "That was, like, way too close. Thanks for showing up, J.D." Pulling his legs up and resting his head on his knees, Blair started taking deep breaths to calm his nerves.

Danko patted Blair's shoulder. "Just doing my job, Blair. How are you doing?"

Before he could answer, Blair heard Steven's panicky voice call out, asking if he was okay. When he looked in that direction, Blair saw the other officer struggling to keep Steven on the sidewalk. The younger Ellison looked pale, his eyes wide in fright.

"Think you can move out of the street?" Danko asked, moving around until he could face Sandburg. He held a hand out, his other holding onto the weapon.

Blair gave a nervous chuckle and took the hand offered, allowing the officer to pull him up. Taking back control of his revolver, Blair walked slowly, with Danko following, to the sidewalk and joined the other two.

Steven grabbed Blair's arm and dropped his head on the smaller man's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Blair. If I hadn't been in such a hurry; if I'd listened to you... God, I'm sorry," he rambled.

Blair sagged on one leg and leaned his weight onto the side Steven was holding. "Forget it, man. I think she would have still tried for me no matter where I was. Let's just get your briefcase, get you up to your office and the papers signed. Then we can head over to your parents." Turning to the officers, Blair said, "Thanks, guys. Got time to follow us in before escorting us over to his parent's house?"

"Honest, Jimmy. We're both okay. The police showed up before she could do anything."

"Where's Sandburg now?"

Steven looked over to where he saw Blair perched on the corner of the desk that belonged to his secretary. The young man was talking animatedly with his hands and interspersing the conversation with what some would call his charming smile. "He's over talking to Lily. Did he really spend time studying the underground culture that follows the grunge bands?"

~chuckle~ He probably did, but more than likely he's just using the topic to make time with your secretary. Let me talk to him.

Steven frowned at his brother's words, then heard Blair ask Lily where she went to party. "Blair!" he called and raised the phone receiver. "Jim wants to talk to you. Leave Lily alone and let her do her job."

Startled out of his conversation, Blair looked up to see a grim-faced Steven gesturing to him. "Excuse me," he apologized to the woman and stood up. "What? I was curious about her Goth following. Honest, man."

"It took me a long time to find someone as qualified as she is, Sandburg. Just leave her alone, okay?" Passing the telephone to Blair, Steven gave the smaller man a stern gaze.

There wasn't any anger in the younger Ellison's voice, but Sandburg could see the typical Ellison protective stance in him. "Hey, no problem. Sorry." When Steven turned away, Blair smiled smugly then raised the receiver to his ear.

"Yeah, Jim... No, I wasn't hitting on Steven's secretary. We were just discussing... Come on, man. Quit laughing. You and your brother are just alike when it comes to... Listen, do you want to know the details or not?"

"Sorry, Chief. I'm laughing more at my brother than you. He complains a lot about Lily and her peculiarities, but he sure is sounding like a protective father. I'd stay away from the girl unless you want to see if he has a few other Ellison traits. Now tell me exactly what happened."

"She was driving a black Taurus sedan. No license plate on the front and I can't remember if there was any on the back. I might have seen it, but I'm a little too shook up to remember right now. I did see her face real clear, Jim. Her eyes..." Blair shuddered at the memory.

"It's okay, Chief. You're safe now."

Blair brushed back his hair with his free hand and forcefully blew out a lungful of air. "Yeah, by the grace of God and Cascade's finest. I'm sorry to say this about a relative, Jim, but your aunt is a menace and we need to catch her before she gets lucky with a third try. And I don't think it's a good idea to keep Steven with me."

"Agreed. I want you to go to the precinct and put an APB out on the car. Leave a couple of the uniforms there and have the other car follow you in. The officers can flip a coin to see who stays inside with Steven."

"What about you?"

"I'll be right in. This is the second time that woman has had the element of surprise and I think it's time we take control of the situation."

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