A PRIORI
Production No. CVT706

written by:
Evermore

edited by:
Bonnie, Antoinette and Robin


The empty room spoke to him of many things: false hopes and lost dreams, nightmares and rage, memory upon memory. Joseph LaCasse didn't need to speak, so he remained seated where he was at the ruined bar inside a burned-out building, and considered the plans he had made. Ashes littered the floor beneath him, a testament to the time spent in this spot. He had enjoyed keeping in touch with his former partner, using letters painted with vague threats and old memories. Banks knew who was sending them by now, he was certain, but the man hadn't done anything about it.

Not that he knew of, anyway.

Not that he could have done a great deal, really. LaCasse smiled coldly into the cracked mirror behind the bar, noting his own reflection and the fact that the smile didn't reach his eyes. It was good to know that things had not changed; the fact that he chose to reminisce about what-might-have-beens and to wallow in self-pity had not turned him into a broody mincing prat. He stubbed out the sweet-smelling cigarette on a piece of broken ceiling tile and struck the match on the bar to light another.

The bar had been closed after the shooting and the investigation that had followed. The owner had tried to sell the property without success. LaCasse had even thought about purchasing the place, usually after a night of overindulgence, but had decided not to take such a risk. While it was true that he had not committed a crime -- at least, not one that anyone could prove -- LaCasse also did not want to live with Banks looking over his shoulder. That would place him in an untenable position, and that was unacceptable. He sighed and inhaled on the cigarette before flicking away the ashes.

Cascade was nothing special. The city on the sea had nothing particular to recommend it to anyone. Forest and mountains alongside a small metropolis next to the ocean gave the place a sense of having whatever you wanted in a city, but there was nothing really smashing about it. No sense of needing to stay, if you didn't want to stay.

Besides, it rained. If it wasn't raining, it was snowing.

Some winters, the weather did both at the same time. Working as a cop during those storms had never been pleasant. Stupid people forgot how to drive in Washington State winter weather -- it came every year, you'd think they'd remember. Joseph LaCasse snorted, holding the lit cigarette between his fingers, just watching it burn. The fury had crept up on him, dealing with stupid people day in and day out, wondering how they managed to survive day to day, let alone in situations requiring police assistance. Some -- no, most -- of his fellow officers had been no better, blabbering on about stupid things like sports scores and promotion lists instead of important things.

Truth. Reality. Life, as it should be. Change, and how to do it, whether or not requested. Fear. Terror, and how to use it.

These were all things he had learned since leaving the force, since his career had come to a screeching bloody halt. Things could have been different, but that was not to be. Here he was, seated in a place his body remembered all too well, pondering the future.

I know how this will end. One way or another, one of us will die. Taking a final drag on the cigarette, Joseph LaCasse rose from the stool before dropping the burning twist of paper and tobacco and grinding it into the damaged hardwood floor. He didn't bother to take a last look around before leaving the way he came. There was work to be done, and he would perform his duty.

As he saw fit.


From the relative peace of his office, Captain Simon Banks was able to survey his team members. He knew that, right now, they were working a major home invasion case that had been passed up from Robbery/Homicide to Major Crime after the third occurrence. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, and the press all wanted those responsible captured, and so did he, but that didn't mean they were any closer to finding the bad guys.

Now this. He shook his head, and turned his attention back to his own inbox piled high with paperwork. I'm getting phone calls asking 'if we're any closer to catching these bastards' every day, and then the Chief calls up to remind me that he's going to be 'borrowing' Sandburg for a couple days. Banks hadn't even had the chance to ask the reason why or where or even when precisely. He'd just have to corner the detective himself and find out what was going on.

And if that's not bad enough, the feds are going to 'borrow' both of them for a day or two. At least he knew why: the Harper and Harris cases. Sandburg and Ellison had managed to finish them both a few weeks ago, leaving the feds with two solved cases and three suspects in custody. Now, all that was left was the paperwork for trial and official statements. Ordinarily, there would have been plenty of time to allow for the formalities since the cases wouldn't go to trial for at least five months, if not longer, but complications had arisen. One of the suspects was a British national, and he would be undergoing an INS hearing to determine whether or not he should be deported; the government wanted him to stand trial here and serve his time here, rather than in a British prison. The second suspect's lawyer was trying to get his client off by reason of insanity, so that hearing would be immediate as well.

Simon Banks just didn't have time right now to lose two of his best detectives to go who-knew-where, even if it was the feds and the brass who were snatching them. Simon sighed, just as he spied his quarries entering the bullpen. "Ellison! Sandburg!"

The two men glanced at each other, and Simon could see the unspoken conversation going on between them. 'What did you do?' 'I didn't do anything. What's the problem?' 'I don't know.' That must be why Agent Kinsley calls them the Wonder Twins. He could understand why the cookie-cutter federal agent felt the partners were, well, a bit bizarre, but that was all normal Ellison-and-Sandburg behavior. Imagine if Kinsley had to deal with the Sentinel stuff, spirit guides, renegade Sentinels, and prophetic dreams. Simon snorted. The top of his head would explode.

"That's an evil smile, Jim. I think we should leave while we can."

"Nah, then Simon would come after us."

The voices of his detectives talking about him brought Simon back to the office. He opened his eyes and glared at both of them, looking so innocent. "That's right, I would, and it's not something you want to experience."

"I'll keep that in mind," commented Detective Blair Sandburg with a wry smile.

"See that you do." Even after two years -- maybe a bit longer than that -- on the force, it was still sometimes hard for Simon to remember that the young man was a cop. Especially during times like this, seeing that he was not really seated in a chair like his older and more experienced partner. He frowned at that. "Sandburg, get off the arm of Ellison's chair and sit down in one of your own."

The detective snorted but agreeably got up and seated himself in the second armchair. "So, what's going on?"

"Besides the fact that I have the higher-ups and the press breathing down my neck, only to be told that I'm going to lose two of my detectives for a few days, right when I need them on the job the most?" Banks decided not to use the word 'best' -- that would only embarrass Ellison and give Sandburg a bit of a swelled head. Or maybe the other way around, not that it mattered. Neither of them dealt well with embarrassment and neither needed an ego trip. "What is this thing you're doing for the brass, anyway, Sandburg?"

Blair shifted in his chair a bit before answering. "The Academy asked me to give a couple talks to the cadets on some subjects."

"And you're okay with that?" Ellison looked concerned, but considering their past history and the present situation, that was only to be expected. He approved of those feelings where the kid was concerned. If anyone needed a keeper, it was Sandburg, and when it wasn't Sandburg, it was Ellison.

They deserved each other as far as Banks was concerned.

"I'm cool with it." Sandburg shrugged easily and bounced in his chair, a smile lighting his face. "The first topic has to do with using your life experiences in the job, rather than just going with what you learned out of books. It's going to be especially helpful for the older cadets, for example, those attending the academy after getting out of the military or people with either higher education and/or work experience in some other field."

"People like you."

"Exactly, man. People just like me--"

"God help us," muttered Simon under his breath. That thought just didn't bear thinking about. He didn't know what he would do if yet another Sandburg wandered into his bullpen. The grin proved that Ellison had overheard the captain's remark, but the object of the comment was still talking. He either hadn't heard or was pretending not to have heard.

"--Valuable to police work. So, I'm really looking forward to it."

"I'm glad to hear it. Unfortunately, neither the Harper case nor the Harris case -- nor, for that matter, the feds -- are going to go away." Simon directed a firm gaze on his men, willing them both to listen and do what they were told. "I trust that you will keep in touch and keep your cells handy. I know that, because of procedure, the two of you will be more or less incommunicado for the next two days, but still..."

He didn't need to finish the sentence to make them understand. "Will do, Simon." Ellison rose from his chair and tapped his longhaired partner on the shoulder. "Let's go, Chief. It's not a good idea to keep the feds waiting. Even though we might want to."

Shaking his head, Captain Banks watched them leave before turning back to his own work. Once more into the breach, isn't that how the story goes?


Detectives Rafe and Brown were already hard at work, re-examining the latest crime scene. Two nights before, five individuals had entered the Washington household while the family slept. They had wakened the children first at gunpoint, then bound and gagged them before carrying the helpless kids downstairs to the family room. Only then had they awakened Mom and Dad, using the children as a guarantor of good behavior; the parents too had been bound and gagged and dropped unceremoniously next to their kids.

Rafe and Brown knew a lot of things already. Forensics had already gone over the house with a fine-toothed comb, as had Ellison and Sandburg, but most of those reports weren't completed yet. While they needed them desperately yesterday, it wouldn't help if they were improperly done or if there was any hint of procedural misstep. Rafe decided to walk through the place, thinking about the steps that had been taken. His partner was upstairs, carefully looking over the bedrooms for possible clues that had been missed, for anything that might help.

The criminals had entered by way of the sliding glass door in the family room. Even though it was locked at the key, the slide was not locked with any sort of rod. They jimmied the key lock before popping the glass door off its slide, and that was all she wrote. They had entry to the house. Rafe wondered to himself how long it would take for people to realize that those kinds of doors were like a candy store window for the criminal element. If you can look outside, they can look inside and see just what they're getting.

They knew the number of criminals only because, in this scene, a three-year-old girl had been spared. She was alive, but had been terribly traumatized by what she had seen and heard. They were smart and had worn masks, but that didn't really matter since she wasn't able to tell them anything more than that. A three-year-old child was not old enough to give legal testimony in court, not for identification purposes. The bad guys apparently knew it.

Rafe walked down the hallway from the family room to the kitchen. After collecting their victims, the criminals had raided the kitchen of food and carried their goodies back to the family room before eating. Cheese, bread, cold cuts, chicken wings, potato chips, three packages of Girl Scout cookies, cold soda pop, beer, crackers, and fruit. All things that could be easily carried, that didn't require cooking, and usually found in most homes to some degree. One could also say that they were party foods. The detective frowned at that thought. Party food? Breaking into homes to party on someone else's tab?

The idea sickened him. After the criminals were finished with their feast, the mother and the eldest daughter were raped before they were killed. The father and the little boy were just killed. Whether or not the father witnessed the violation of his wife and daughter, the detectives didn't know for certain. He hoped not; to be murdered in your own home was bad enough, but to have that rubbed in your face beforehand... Rafe sighed and pulled himself away from his emotions with some difficulty.

None of the bodies had been mutilated. The father had some bruising on the face and torso, so he had apparently been beaten into submission. That raised the possibility that he had witnessed one or both of the assaults. Afterwards, the parents and the two eldest children had been shot execution-style in the back of the head. The mother had also been shot in the crotch area. Then, all five of the invaders left the same way they entered, without bothering to replace the popped door.

A co-worker had called the police the following morning when the father didn't show up for work. Having called the home several times, she grew concerned and dialed 9-1-1. The patrolmen who answered the call found the small child, the only survivor, sitting quietly in a pool of blood.

There was no doubt that a sexual component comprised some portion of these murders. The other two homes that had been invaded played out similar patterns. Everyone, except small children and one family dog, died after the other acts had occurred. The bodies were found usually within a day or two, often by another family member, by a neighbor, or the police.

There was a racial component as well. All of the victims were ethnic minorities.

"Find anything?"

Rafe turned around at his partner's voice. "No. Nothing helpful. Nothing we didn't already know."

"Not all the reports are back yet. We'll have more leads then."

There wasn't much he could say to such faith. He certainly hoped the faith was warranted; there wasn't too much to go on that he could see. Rafe started at the trill of his cell phone in the sudden silence. "Rafe," he answered.

"Rafe? Connor. Listen, mate, some of the reports are back."

"Which ones?" 'Connor', the detective mouthed back to his partner, in an effort to let him know what was happening. 'Reports are back.'

"Trace evidence lab results, and a preliminary psych report. Plus, the autopsies are ongoing and the medical examiner hopes to get those to us within the next week." Rafe heard Megan give a sharp sigh, and he stifled a grin. The woman even sighed aggressively. "Forensics is hoping to get prints off some of the bindings or the munchies."

"They think that'll work?"

"Maybe. Dunno. Me, I called the F.B.I boys and pestered them into having their mind-shrinking muckety-mucks send us a useful profile." Rafe could just imagine how the brash Australian inspector had accomplished such a thing. This time the grin escaped at the mental image that was produced -- he could just hear her haranguing the poor beleaguered Fibbies into giving into her demands just to make her be quiet. Or, for that matter, considering the striking color of the jacket she'd been wearing that evening, giving in only if she would change her clothing into something less... terrifying. "It's the least they can do for dragging Jim and Sandy off."

"True enough. Let me know when they get in touch."

"Will do, I'll ring."

As soon as he clicked his phone off, however, his partner had a question. "What was so funny, partner?"

Rafe grinned again. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Come on, I'm your partner. You have to tell me."

He recognized the sound of wheedling after working this long on this squad with the man. Heading toward the front door, the suave detective knew all too well that just telling him outright would be far too easy and not as enjoyable. Therefore, there was only one thing to do. "Says who?" He directed the comment to his partner, who dogged his steps.

"It's in the PD Handbook under the section on how to be a good partner."

Rafe stopped short and gaped at Brown. "It is not. You're making that up."

"I am not. Hairboy said so -- it's going to be in his Academy talk tomorrow."

"And that's supposed to help your case?" The trill of the cell phone sounded again, and Rafe hastily reached for it. "Rafe." He covered the speaker part briefly, and hissed to Brown. "It can't be Connor already."

"Rafe. Is Brown there with you?"

"Yes, Sir. We're at crime scene three."

Captain Banks' voice was tense. "Silent alarm at First National Bank on the corner of Crescent and Elizabeth."

"We're on our way."

"Good."

"Bank robbery at Crescent and Elizabeth," he said to Brown as the pair hurried toward the front door. Shutting the phone off, the detectives hurriedly re-secured the crime scene before running to the car and driving toward a new crime-scene-in-progress.


Simon Banks swore at himself for the second time, for looking intently in search of a tall Sentinel and his longhaired shadow to arrive, neither of which was going to show. The two of them were very probably still chained to desks at the federal building in deposition, and would probably not escape for several hours. Sandburg, of course, would be leaving the cage sooner, but only to head to the police academy for a lecture. On the other hand, that would not exactly be a hardship for the young detective.

Damn.

They needed Ellison and Sandburg on this one. This was exactly the sort of thing he'd been afraid would happen when he heard about the plans to have them elsewhere. Announcing those kinds of plans was like tempting Fate, just asking for some evil god to come along and drop an anvil on your head. "I always knew Murphy was a bastard," he muttered to himself. The situation bore out the comment. Three suspects in the bank, at noon, with a building full of hostages. Apparently, the robbers knew that the bank got a new supply of cash on the first Thursday of each month. So they planned their assault to gain control of the newly arrived money as well as the money brought in by bank customers just trying to cash their checks on their lunch hour. Unfortunately for the customers, the clerks, the crooks, and the cops, the armored car had suffered a flat tire just out of Seattle and wasn't expected until the following morning.

Murphy, the scum-sucking bastard, had struck again.

Although Banks had notified the feds of what was happening, agents weren't likely to arrive until after the situation was handled. That didn't make sense, he knew, but for some reason, it always worked out that way. Looking around at the scene, Simon could see Connor and Taggart waiting patiently behind a squad car with their weapons drawn. Rafe and Brown had arrived a few moments previously, and had immediately found a hole in the defense. Members of the S.W.A.T. Team and several other police were scattered behind the other cars serving as a barricade between the cops and the bank. Simon couldn't see them, but he knew that police sharpshooters were positioned on the rooftops. A police negotiator was present and already on the phone with one of the robbers, but the tight expression on her face didn't bode well.

The bank doors slammed open, three masked robbers burst outside into the sunshine and everyone moved. In the sunshine, but they weren't in the open. A decorative hedge protected them from the front, and an awning prevented the sharpshooters from getting a good bead. They had with them a female hostage, possibly one of the clerks, and, if that wasn't bad enough, they had fully loaded automatic weapons. "Move away or the pretty lady gets it!"

"Can't do that. You know that." The negotiator continued speaking as if their conversation had never been interrupted. "Let the girl go and no one will get hurt."

"No way!" The robber pulled the girl closer, holding her around the throat, and leered. "We've got plans for her."

Simon could see the girl shuddering. A crackled voice on the radio informed him that the other door on the building was locked from the inside and jammed, probably with acid. After all, these criminals had come prepared to break open an armored car if necessary. There was no sign of the hostages; they had probably been herded somewhere out of sight.

"There's no need for that." The negotiator didn't look at the girl, but kept her attention on the robber that was doing the talking. Simon supposed that he was the leader, and watched the negotiator smile in that way they were all trained. "I'm sure this situation can be handled without any violence."

The three robbers glanced at each other, and moved their weapons in a blur. All the police present moved to meet them, but it was the other side whose guns spoke first in a chattering babble of violence and blood.

It was quite some time later that night when a weary Captain Banks arrived at his front door. What a night it had been: one of the bank robbers shot by police, one shot himself to avoid capture, and the third had managed to elude the police's control of the immediate area after a long pursuit. Everything that could be done to re-capture the suspect had been done. The female clerk that had been taken hostage had escaped without serious injury. The same, unfortunately, couldn't be said for the PD; three cops had been injured, but, thank God, none killed.

Now, this. The bulky letter had been waiting for him in his mailbox when he arrived. The unfamiliar return address and heavy coarse paper didn't bode well for the message it contained. Putting on a pair of leather driving gloves, Simon carefully slit the top of the envelope and pulled out a folded letter. As he opened the letter, he was horrified to see a bundle of photographs spill out, all tied up and beribboned in a sickeningly gleeful fashion.

Joan and Daryl, all recent. Pictures of his little boy walking around the university campus, still recognizable from their walking tour way back when Daryl had still been looking at schools. Pictures of his little boy eating dinner in the window of some cafe. Pictures of Joan striding strong along the street, like she used to when they were dating and it made him so proud to love a woman so fierce. Pictures of Joan, walking alone, in a dark parking garage and so clearly vulnerable.

In each, a red marker had outlined a crossed circle around a target.

The message couldn't be clearer.

His heart in his throat, Simon read the letter scrawled in green ink that accompanied the bundle of photographs. A ransom note telling him laconically 'to come alone or else', but it didn't need to specify the 'or else.' That's what the photographs were for. Nor was a signature needed; Simon knew perfectly well who had sent the letter and photographs.

Joe LaCasse had made his move, and it was a doozy. Simon clenched his teeth and sat down heavily in the nearest chair. It was a move the man would regret making.

The other letter, the one that had come to his office, had mentioned Joan by name. That had terrified him, knowing that if the sender knew about his ex-wife then his son was likely also at risk. He had hated it, and raged about it in private, hating the fact that there was no real way to protect them the way he wanted to protect them. Reading that letter had felt like someone had ripped his heart from his chest and stomped on it, and he'd never thought it could be so bad with just a note, that for something to be so bad, it had to be happening right there in front of your eyes. When that bastard Kincaid had dangled Daryl out a window, Simon had thought he would die right there, helpless with shock and terror. He'd wanted the world to stop and time to run backward, so he could seize the boy and prevent him from going to the precinct at all that day. He'd never felt so helpless. He never wanted to feel that way again. That awful sensation was creeping back into his bones, and Simon could feel it.

Something like this, a note, was proving to be a trial all its own.

After all they had been through on and off the job, up until Joe got hurt and even after, until the man vanished without a word, Simon realized that he hadn't really known the man at all. To have joined the Sunrise Patriots and be the second in command was bad enough, but... to threaten a child, my child, whose birth he must still remember?

No, I never really knew Joe at all. Opening his eyes, Simon grimly reached for the phone.


Jim Ellison no longer had any doubt that Hell existed because he was absolutely certain that he was imprisoned there. He and Sandburg had been stuck in deposition all of the previous day, allowed no contact with the outside for fear of accidentally influencing his recollections, and only allowed to leave the federal building long after the sun had set. Now, they were back again to suffer through a seemingly endless deposition, the never-ending Harper case. The British national involved in the case had called his embassy rather than a lawyer, and had immediately shut his mouth for any questioning.

So the questioning largely centered on what exactly the prisoner had done, what evidence they had as well as the steps in finding that evidence, and the grand scheme of his criminal master plan. Basically, it was all about the importance of sending him to an American prison. Blake Harper had been the leader of a huge smuggling ring, specializing in antiquities and other art pieces. When captured, he had been in possession of several delicately painted Chinese clay figurines, green glazed vases, jade figurines of dragons and horses, and an incredibly ugly oaken sideboard. In addition, he had been carrying a briefcase filled with tiny jade and ivory figurines, mostly of people; what they were called, he couldn't remember, but Sandburg had said something about them being used to hold kimonos closed.

All of it worth several thousands of dollars, if not more, and all of it stolen. One of the more exquisite jade figurines had been on the missing list for months and had been stolen from a Chinese art exhibition in Washington, D.C., nearly causing an international incident. Ellison was certain that the government would take all the credit for finding the piece. Not that he wanted the spotlight, especially in something so likely to be press-worthy.

Still, he didn't want to be here any longer. The feds planned this solely to irritate me. Didn't they realize that we have work to do? Jim smoldered in silence. In the next room, he could hear Sandburg chattering away about the value of the pieces and their importance to their respective cultures. In spite of that, he would be finished soon. Probably quicker than I will.

Then, Sandburg would be heading to the police academy for his lectures -- neither of which Jim would get to hear -- while his poor suffering partner continued to be bound in Hell for yet another day. Once the depositions were finished, he had still more statements and affidavits and yet more paperwork that would be followed by more questioning. It would never end.

The academy gig actually looked enticing compared to this.


Simon Banks looked up from the phone for a moment to gaze at the madhouse that was Major Crime. Since he had contacted Robbery/Homicide's captain the previous evening, news had flooded through to many persons in the department. His detectives -- as well as a couple from Robbery/Homicide, since they handled kidnappings as well, and a pair from Internal Affairs -- fluttered about madly, trying to cover their own assigned cases as well as handle this new and terrifying one involving their own captain. His people were like that, fiercely protective of their territory, and they wanted to take care of the situation themselves.

As soon as he had arrived in this morning, Simon had continued his obsessive phone behavior. He had called Joan's apartment and Daryl's dorm room, without success, before calling Captain Larsen to explain the situation. This morning, he had tried to contact various relatives with whom Joan was friendly, people that she might have told about plans to go away for a few days. Simon was hoping that's all this was, that she and Daryl were just going on a mini-vacation, that this incident was not the latest one of Joe's revenge plans.

No one knew where they were, no one had known for two days. Uncles, cousins, co-workers, siblings: no one knew where Joan or Daryl were. Neither his brother Vince nor his father had heard anything either. Not even Devon, know-it-all that he was, knew where his favorite cousin was. Everyone expected that they should be where they were not, at school, at work, at home. Why didn't anyone call me? Why didn't anyone think to say something? Simon rested his forehead on the cool surface of the desk for a moment.

Simon was surprised he was still able to think so rationally. He'd done a fair bit of panicking last night, until it occurred to him that Joe -- if it was in fact Joe who had taken them -- wasn't likely to hurt them. After all, Joe wanted him. Unfortunately, his ex-wife and child were the bait for a trap. He knew that, and didn't care; he would go, trap or no.

Connor and Taggart had the bank robbery case well under control, and they would continue to work it until such time as the feds crawled out from under their rock to take over. The pair of them looked bedraggled, sitting together to peer over the same papers and records, but they'd been up since last night. He wasn't even sure that either of them had gone home, instead rushing between the bank, forensics, and the bullpen. So far, not much information had turned up. Fingerprints of the two dead men rang up two sparse criminal records, for mostly minor stuff as adults -- vandalism, public intoxication, arson -- and sealed juvenile records. One weird thing, one of the dead robbers was originally out of some little town in Maine called Icicle -- they responded to the fingerprint I.D. by way of a neighboring town with the proper equipment. Simon shook his head in frustration. We don't have enough criminals in Cascade? We have to start importing them from New England?

The third robber didn't have a record at all, so that was making identification that much more difficult. They had nothing on him yet. With another sigh, Simon decided to try Daryl at his dorm room again and quickly dialed the number. There had been no answer so far.

"Hello?"

"This is Simon Banks, Daryl's father. Is this Jeff?" The boy was Daryl's current roommate, and was the most likely to know what was happening. He would also have a clearer idea of where Daryl might be at any given time than his parents might.

"Yeah. What's up?"

"Do you know where Daryl is?"

"Uh-uh, can't say as I do. He took off the day before yesterday. Figured that he just wanted to get away from school for a few days, y'know?"

Simon stifled the impulse to reach through the phone and strangle the young man. Daryl would never, never do something like that. He knew the importance of school. Instead, he gripped the phone tighter. "Did he say anything about where he was going?"

"Not to me. You could call Randee and ask her."

"Randee?"

"A girl he's seeing."

Simon wanted to know when this happened, but instead he asked something else. "Do you have her number and last name?"

"Sure."

Simon scribbled the name and phone number on a piece of paper and tried to convince himself that the girl might know something. He supposed that Daryl might have told her if he was going away, no matter how unlikely it was. Unfortunately, it could be that Daryl wanted to spend some alone time with his girlfriend, but this scenario was not one he wanted to consider. In fact, he wasn't going to consider such a thought until Daryl was at least thirty years old.

Together, the IA and Robbery/Homicide people were formulating a plan to get Joan and Daryl back at the same time they captured the person responsible. He hadn't been paying too much attention since he'd been focusing on the phone and trying to wring useful information out of the people on the other end. From what he'd gathered, though, their plan was to wire him for sound, then have him follow the directions with a surveillance unit or two behind him.

Simon didn't know what to think of the plan. All he could think about at this point was Joan and Daryl.

Less than a half-hour later, after a quick fitting with a wire that had a tiny homing device attached, Simon Banks found himself driving his car down University Boulevard, near Rainier, as the instructions dictated. He wasn't happy about the plan, but their options were limited because of the time limit on the ransom. I wish Jim and Blair were here. They hadn't been able to reach either detective, probably because both were still stuck at the federal building, but Rhonda had promised to keep calling their cells until one or both of them answered.

Glancing in the rear view mirror, Simon noticed a dark blue sedan that had been trailing him for the past two blocks. It wasn't the police tail; that vehicle was a black van with a red racing stripe. "Guys," he spoke into the air, knowing that the wire would pick up his words. "Dark blue sedan behind Tail Car One. He's been with us for a while."

"Got it. Continue on."

Turning left onto White, he noted that the tail van kept heading straight, but the sedan and a green van followed. The green van was Tail Car Two; they were doing a two-car surveillance in case the kidnapper had a surveillance of its own in progress. "Sedan's staying with us."

"So we see. Backing off to rely on the wire a bit. We don't want to spook him."

Simon shook his head. No, he thought, we certainly don't. Again, he couldn't help but think of what might be happening to Joan and Daryl. While Joe wasn't likely to hurt either of them, it didn't mean things couldn't go wrong. Given what Joe had done the last time they'd met, the man was capable of anything. He wouldn't hesitate once deciding his course of action. He'd been just like that when they were partners, too.

At least some things didn't change.

Some ten minutes later he followed the rest of the instructions to a gas station with an attached convenience store. Walking in, Simon glanced around wondering how to fulfill the proviso at the bottom. An attendant stuck his head around the corner and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "I'm looking for Joseph Smith." This is stupid. It's an accommodation address. Such addresses were frequently used as drop places for drugs and other illegal dealings. He mentally rolled his eyes, but went along with the plan. "There's supposed to be something here for me from him."

The coverall-wearing attendant strolled over to the counter and pulled out an envelope from a small drawer under the cash register. "Yah, this." He waved it in Simon's direction before sticking one hand out in a silent demand for something. Seeing the tall captain's expression, he hurriedly explained. "The dude said that the guy who called for it would pay the fee." He shrugged. "No fee, no envelope."

Frowning, Simon handed over the amount quoted by the weasel-faced attendant, making a mental note to add the amount to the list of things he would pound out of Joe LaCasse's hide. Joe arranged this little surprise, I just know it. He would do it just to make me angry.

He did it so I would become angry and stop thinking clearly. Simon considered that for a moment. So I won't get angry. At least, I'll try not to. He hurried back out to the car. Before tearing open the envelope, he put on a pair of gloves that Larsen had put there just in case. He pulled out a piece of lined paper, and looked over the new instructions before stashing them in a clear plastic covering for evidence purposes. Starting the car and pulling out into traffic, Simon knew that it would be a twisting route through the city, but it wouldn't take him very long to complete.

Some twenty minutes later, the captain found himself driving towards the docks in the warehouse district. The area was unsettling, reminding him rather distinctly of the Lash situation, some six years ago. He looked at the gaudily decorated building in front of him and back down at the new instructions. I should have expected something like this. He's never going to forget that incident with the stripper.

The sign over the door read Aphrodite's Nighties, and was advertised as a gentleman's club. An upscale name for a strip club located in a dilapidated building in the middle of the warehouse district. Shaking his head yet again, Simon got out of the car and entered the lion's den.

Before his eyes could adjust to the dim interior, he could feel a pair of hands wrapping around his waist. "Hey, sweetheart. You lookin' for some company?" The soft low voice belonged, he saw as his vision cleared, to a tall willowy blonde woman. Judging from the short leather skirt and bright pink brassiere she was wearing, the woman was one of the 'attractions'.

Simon mentally cringed. "No, I'm not." He tried to unwind her hands from his body, but without much success. Is the woman a damned octopus?

"Why not, baby? Don't you like me?" She pulled him a little tighter, firmly keeping his hands away from his body. "Don't you think I'm pretty?"

Actually, Simon thought she was fairly pretty, but there was no way he was going to say such a thing to her. It would lead to more problems than he wanted. "I'm supposed to meet someone here."

"Who?" Before he could answer, he felt a sharp twinge in the back of his wrist, near his watchband. Looking down, Simon could see the tip of a hypodermic needle hidden in the palm of her hand. "Don't worry, sweetness. I know jus' who you need."

The words wouldn't come to his mind to say them, the words were there but they wouldn't come out. Mentally, he knew it was a fast-acting sedative-like drug of some kind, but he knew that he just had to shout and backup would come. He felt the tugging on his shirt and could feel his legs moving him weakly in that direction even though he didn't want to go.


"Come on, Chief, answer the damn phone." Jim couldn't stop himself from growling as he drove back to the precinct as quickly as possible. The federal building is less than a mile away. You'd think that it would only take about ten minutes to drive there. Not so. Not in Cascade traffic. It was bad enough that the feds had kept him stuck there doing paperwork and statements and answering questions, but they'd kept him away from his cell phone so that there would be no possible way for him to be influenced. Worse, they'd cut him off from contact with anyone in his division until the situation with the Banks family had gone to hell.

Punching the redial button on the cell again, the sentinel waited and hoped. Suddenly, his prayer was answered.

"Sandburg."

"Chief, get back to the precinct a.s.a.p."

"What's the matter?"

"Joan and Daryl have been kidnapped. Now Simon's missing, Chief. Get back here pronto."

There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment before the guide answered. When he did, his voice was colder than Jim had ever heard. "I'm gone. Do we know who?"

"A suspect, only. No proof -- but Simon had called it as Joseph LaCasse." He could hear Sandburg shuffling papers, getting his stuff together to run out the door to his car. He had always known that his guide loved Simon like the good friend he was and even looked up to him as a father figure. Hadn't he willingly jumped out of an airplane to go search for Simon when he and Daryl had been kidnapped before? Still, it was nice to see the feeling so clear.

"The new leader of the Sunrise Patriots, according to federal investigation."

Jim sighed. "Yeah."

"Is Kincaid involved?"

"Not that we know of." That was an idea that Ellison didn't want to consider even though the same idea had occurred to him as well. He had no doubt that Garrett Kincaid could, if he wanted, control the situation from inside a federal prison. The feds hadn't even brought that up, so either they didn't think it was the case or they hadn't even thought of the possibility. "It doesn't seem like his style." And that was perfectly true. Kincaid was more straightforward with his plans; he would make certain that everyone knew who was behind it and why, and that the Sunrise Patriots took credit for it.

"Jim, even with blue lights it'll be an hour before I can get there."

"I know, Chief. Drive as fast as you can."

"Be careful. No overextending your senses without me present. You're more vulnerable." Jim smiled in spite of the situation at the guide's warning. "And driving fast shouldn't be too hard. I learned it from you."

With that last parting comment, his guide hung up on him. Stepping down on the gas pedal, Jim grinned again to feel the truck surge forward.


The ringing of the phone came as an unexpected surprise.

Fitzgerald MacPhee had learned that surprises were rarely, if ever, a good thing. It was for this reason that he found himself loath to answer the phone. True, the caller was probably a client, but that likely fact did not do anything to convince him. When the phone rang a second time, the lawyer sighed once in resignation, abandoned the paperwork in front of him, and answered the call. "Hello?"

"I'm sorry, Mister MacPhee. I know you didn't want to be disturbed." His secretary must have a real problem to go against his requests. After all, she knew all too well how interruptions interfered with his mood when he was preparing for court. "Mister LaCasse is on Line 2, and he's demanding to speak to you. I tried to explain, but..."

"It's all right, Patricia." The lawyer soothed his secretary's concerns. "It must be an urgent matter. I'll take care of it."

"Yes, sir. Transferring now."

MacPhee heard the click-whir of the machinery transferring the call over from the second public line to his private line. He wondered what could be so urgent that LaCasse would call; he had heard nothing from the man since the Kincaid trial last year. Even then, he had seen the former police officer only twice, and those visits had only been on his then-client's behalf.

The man's calm voice sounded unusually loud in the quiet of his office. "MacPhee?"

"Why are you contacting me, Mister LaCasse?"

Soft laughter came over the line. "Straight to the point, I see. Well. I want you to be present when the next part of the Plan is implemented."

"The Plan?" Even though he could hear the capitalization in the other man's voice, the lawyer had absolutely no interest in whatever he was referring to. Politics were of no real interest, save for use as a topic at cocktail parties. He, personally, had little use for them otherwise. "Thank you, but, no, thank you. I have already made plans for the foreseeable future."

"You don't even know when I am planning it."

"I know all that I need to, and my intention is to have nothing further to do with the matter."

"Garrett Kincaid was your client. You have a responsibility to him."

"The key word, there, being the use of the past tense. He was my client." After sentencing, Kincaid's first act was to fire him as attorney, which had suited him just fine. Presumably, the militia leader's new counsel planned to mount an appeal, though he had no idea what the fool would use as appropriate grounds. "Any responsibility I had to him revolved around his legal affairs and not to the man himself. Now that our legal relationship has ended, I no longer have any responsibility. Furthermore," MacPhee continued, "I am bound by the rules of my profession in regard to criminal activity."

"Rules? I wasn't aware that lawyers had rules, let alone followed them."

MacPhee chuckled darkly at that comment. "We do, indeed, and they are very clear on this matter. My decision stands: I cannot and will not have any part of any sort of criminal activity. Nor do I desire any knowledge of anything you are doing currently or plan to do in the future. The breaking," he paused briefly for effect, "of those rules could have bad consequences."

"For you."

"For all of us."

"Very well, MacPhee. Have it your way, but understand this: I am not particularly a violent man, but not all of my colleagues are so civilized. Our cause is righteous, and I always get what I want. Your education should allow comprehension of what I am saying." The lawyer opened his mouth to reply to the veiled threat but didn't get the chance to speak. "By the way, Counselor, good luck in court tomorrow morning."

With the dial tone buzzing in his ear, MacPhee considered the detail that the de facto leader of the Sunrise Patriots had clear and concise knowledge of his schedule. Not many were aware that the trial of Hector Ambrose had hit a snag, requiring hearings in chambers scheduled for tomorrow morning, hence his need for quiet.

Shaking his head, the lawyer turned back to his preparations with a heavy heart. Fitzgerald MacPhee wondered whether or not it might be time to terminate his association with Joseph LaCasse in a more permanent fashion. As one of the premiere defense lawyers of Cascade, he had made many important contacts in course of business, people with influence and contacts of their own in a variety of fields. He was certain that a phone call to an appropriate person could arrange severance in a timely fashion.

Between his client list and the tap he had installed over his private phone line for security purposes, he had no reason for concern. After all, trust a lawyer to know where the bodies are buried.


What the hell happened? Simon blearily wondered, and tried to remember what the situation had been when the lights dimmed. Blinking his eyes did not make the fog over his vision go away, nor did the far-away muttering subside. Only when he tried to move his hands up to his face, intending to wipe the fog out of his eyes, did the captain realize what was happening.

He was bound, hand and foot, and lying prone on the cold ground. Gradually, Simon managed to make out the words. Women's voices, two of them, and closer than he had first thought.

"--This is a good idea, girlfriend?" There, that was the dancer that had accosted him earlier. Simon sighed. He should have known it was a trap. "Tell me the truth, Leese."

"Everything will be fine, I promise. The bastard will never even know what hit him." He wondered who this woman was. It sounded like she was behind this, but that didn't fit with the other facts he had. He frowned, wondering if this was some elaborate smokescreen of Joe's. The voice sounded vaguely familiar.

"I dunno... Jay'll kick my ass if he finds out, and Nee -- Cee'll tear me up if I don't bring back something."

"Lynnie, I'll take care of it." Footsteps brought them closer, so close he could smell their perfume. "Just remember what I told you to do. Now, help me get him in the car."

Simon Banks didn't like the sound of that, and tried to force his unwilling body to get to its feet. He had to get away from here, he had to find his family, his wife and little boy needed him. The police captain didn't even see the blow coming that knocked him to the ground.


Jim Ellison pushed through the door to Major Crime to see Rafe and Brown holding court to a crowded bullpen. "--Forensics found a single fingerprint on a glass tumbler of all things," the tall cool detective was saying, "and most of the other relatives say that Theresa Washington was almost fanatical about cleanliness where the kitchen and bathroom were concerned." The sentinel recalled that Theresa Washington was the mother's name in the latest home invasion murder case. "There was no way in hell that she would have left dishes in the sink overnight, according to them, and that's a direct quote."

"What about other family members or guests?"

Henri Brown turned around to smile at Ellison in greeting before answering the question. "No matches there, and the Washington's next-door-neighbor is one of those elderly ladies with a set of binoculars that watches the whole neighborhood's comings and goings." Moving across the room to his desk, Ellison could see the eyes of the room's occupants lighting up with mirth and the accompanying grins at his co-worker's statement. The tension in the bullpen had been growing steadily since Simon had disappeared. They were all upset and angry and nervous, but if it wasn't released through humor, all that stress was going to be released in some other way. The sentinel knew that from bitter experience. "She says that the Washingtons haven't had guests since last week."

"So the print must be one of the home invaders." Joel Taggart seemed totally unruffled by what was going on in the city lately. Of course, Jim had to remember that he'd been the captain of the Bomb Squad before choosing to come to Major Crime. There was probably very little that could ruffle the man's feathers.

"That's what Forensics thinks. That's what we think, too."

"Well?" Megan Connor stood there, her hands firmly on her hips, in a menacing manner that suggested that the detectives had better finish the story without delay. "Don't keep us waiting for the rest, mate."

"The print comes back to a Lawrence Erving, a.k.a., Larry Erving, a.k.a. Larsen Erving, a.k.a. Larry Erwin, et cetera ad infinitum. His criminal records come out of some hole-in-the-wall town called Icicle in Maine." Rafe shook his head in dismay and disbelief. "We couldn't even contact them directly. We had to call the PD in Springfield, Maine, which is the next town over and relay our call to them by way of a police scanner."

Brown picked up the story again. "After we finished discussing the current situation with the two police chiefs -- not to mention everyone in the area with access to a scanner that was on our frequency -- we had to get the criminal records. They don't have the funding for computers yet, but they're going to make photocopies of everything and send them to us via Fed Ex."

"Can you believe that, in order to fax us preliminary copies for a warrant, the police chief there had to use a public fax machine at a local convenience store? Their own machine isn't functioning right now." Rafe still looked like he was coming to terms with it. "I just can't believe how a town can be so... out of the loop."

"It's Maine," someone commented, causing laughter from others in the room. "It must be like Mayberry, R.F.D. or something way up there."

Ellison wasn't laughing, though, since something felt wrong about that. What were the odds of two criminals traveling from the same small backwoods town to commit two different major crimes in the same city in the course of the same week? A shiver went down the detective's spine as he answered his own question. None, that's what. "What if this is all just a smokescreen to distract us from the real action?" He spoke softly, almost to himself, thinking out loud. Out of the corner of his eye, Taggart had turned in his direction and had a thoughtful expression on his face. "What if this is just another... three-ring circus? Focusing our attention in one place while the most important action is taking place elsewhere?"

"Like Galileo?"

Of course, Joel Taggart would remember the bomber of Wilkinson Towers. Jim knew he would remember that day for as long as he lived, that horrible feeling when the bomb exploded and they'd all been so sure that Blair was dead. How he'd wanted to drop the scum responsible out the window, and only Blair's voice in his ear prevented him from taking that step, from betraying everything a Sentinel was for the sake and safety of his Guide.

Galileo had kept them busy though, running around in circles and trying to keep the hostages in the elevator alive. The man had wanted the ransom money in exchange for the hostages, but no one had known that he planned to kill them all anyway as soon as he was out of reach. His wife -- who happened to be the daughter to Wilkinson of Wilkinson Towers -- had been his co-conspirator in the plot to wring more money from Daddy.

A cell phone trilled, breaking the moment, and everyone present immediately reached into pockets and purses to check to whom the offending machinery belonged. Joel answered his, while everyone watched with bated breath. Chances were, the call was about Simon. "Taggart."

He didn't say anything further, just listened before turning the phone off and putting it safely away. "Simon's come to a stop," he announced. "The tail lost him in the warehouse district, but they're tracking the homing device attached to the wire as we speak. Headed east of the city." With a glance in Jim's direction, the former captain brought all his authority to bear and took charge. "Let's go."

Jim Ellison didn't mind Joel taking the temporary captain position; even for a few hours, the stress of the job would give him a headache. Headaches and Sentinel senses did not mix. He checked to see if his cell was fully charged -- it was -- and if he had extra clips for his weapon with him -- he did -- before following the others out the door and heading downstairs to the garage.

Looking back from the threshold, he noted that Connor and Rafe hadn't moved from their respective desks. He stopped and raised an eyebrow at the pair in wordless question.

"Can't, much as we'd like to." Megan gazed at him in frustration, a look in her blazing eyes that he'd last seen directed at the punching bag in the workout room. "Bloody feds, they pick now of all times to take an interest!"

"The feds called about the bank robbery yesterday," interpreted Rafe with a similar frustrated expression on his face. "Taggart wants me to stay so that Connor won't kill them."

"You'll probably help me."

"That's not likely."

"Ha!" Connor pounded the desk with her fist, making a pile of case files tremble dangerously. "They get to leave us here with those... those pigs, who think they're going to keep us away from the case, one that involves the kidnapping of our captain. I don't think so, ta very much."

Jim struggled to keep his lips from twitching into a smile. "I guess you both will just have to lead them through all of the extra paperwork necessary in such a complicated case."

"And going over all the evidence..."

"It should keep the feds busy until we get back with Simon." Jim edged toward the door again and made a break for it as soon as the redheaded inspector looked away. Only when he had made it to the relative safety of the elevator did an unholy grin reach his face. It was so nice to see other people stuck with the federal paperwork in triplicate for a change. Besides, the feds would be getting a lesson of their own in misdirection and time wasting. Revenge was sweet.


At least this time he remembered to turn the rolling light on and throw it on the dash before breaking the speed limit. Sandburg knew that the presence of those lights -- and the fact that he was forcing all the speed out of his car that was possible without killing himself or anyone else -- got him back into the city as quickly as he did. If he was lucky, he would get there just as Jim and the others were leaving. Sparing a glance from the road, he checked quickly to make certain that the cell phone had remained on the passenger seat where he'd left it and that it was fully charged.

It was, and he stole another moment to glare fiercely at it. No one had called yet. Jim had promised to call. That meant that there was no news, yet, unless something had happened and no one had been able to call. Sandburg chewed on his lip, considering that for a moment before dismissing the possibility. I've seen Jim call on his phone while driving one-handed along the Cascade Mountain Highway at eighty miles an hour in the rain, the detective mused, so he would find the time to call me.

Especially if it was about Simon.

Simon was far more important than the talk he'd been giving when everything had happened. True, it was nice and more than a little weird to be teaching again, even if it was at the Police Academy. Truthfully, it was more of an extended question-and-answer session or a discussion than it was a lecture, but that was all to the good as far as he was concerned. With a subject like 'Partners: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly', Blair knew that he was lucky no one had brought up any of several incidents between himself and Jim. For example, that argument in the middle of the Major Crime bullpen. Still, he and the class had also discussed how to be a good partner and what that meant on the street when your partner might be the only thing between yourself and death.

He thought the class had been enjoying the discussion when his cell phone rang and Jim had delivered the shocking news. "Joan and Daryl have been kidnapped. Now Simon's missing, Chief. Get back here pronto."

And he did. He was. Still, Blair couldn't help feeling a bit guilty for enjoying himself in front of a class of students just like -- well, maybe not exactly like -- in the bad old days, while Simon was being kidnapped by God knew who and God knew why. He turned the sharp corner onto First Street, which led right from the highway into the city and turned onto Pender Street where the precinct was located. It was the fastest route possible.

If anything happens to Simon because of this, I'll never

A blurred flash in front of his eyes, a person, and Blair slammed his foot down on the brake. With a squeal, the car shuddered to a sliding stop just inches away from the tall blonde woman standing in the middle of the road. He wanted to yell at her, but couldn't bring himself to speak; it was a minor miracle that he hadn't hit her as fast as he'd been driving.

"Hey," the blonde said sweetly. A knowing grin graced her face as she approached the idling car. Opening the passenger door, the woman hopped into the seat, stretching her legs out in a negligent manner and smoothing her short skirt. "Let's go, honey, what'cha waitin' for?"

I do not have time for this. "Excuse me, ma'am, but this is police business." Blair tried to stay calm and not just throw her out of the car onto her ass on the sidewalk like the irresistible urge was screaming he should. She might look like a prostitute, but she was still a Cascade citizen. "I need you to get out of the car--"

"Baby, we're wasting time. I know where your missing captain is, an' I know who took him away."

Blair didn't need to hear any more. He gunned the motor, tossing his grinning passenger back in her seat and reached for his cell phone.


When Simon Banks opened his eyes next, the first thing that entered his mind was that his head ached. His nerves immediately informed his brain that he was seated in and bound to a straight-backed chair of some sort, his ankles shackled with heavy rope, and he was handcuffed with his hands in front of his body. Looking down, he saw that, at some point, his clothes -- and presumably the wire he'd been wearing -- had been removed since he now found himself wearing a patrolman's uniform.

The outfit was even more uncomfortable than he remembered.

Naturally, his captor had neglected to provide a baton and the weapon holster was empty. Not that that was a surprise. Joseph LaCasse stood in front of him, and Simon worked to control his reaction on seeing him. He hadn't recognized the place when he first opened his eyes, but his memories crashed into his mind with the force of a tidal wave. The memories overlaid onto the present scene showed him the remains of the Zodiac Club.

Joseph LaCasse smiled without showing his teeth, the grin of a confident predator, and he motioned to his own clothing which was that of a patrol officer like his captive's own. Of course, the militia leader's possession of both a baton and a handgun made a noticeable difference. The gleam in his former partner's eyes lit the nervous tension that had been building with each inked letter into a burning fury. "Where're Daryl and Joan?" Simon clenched his teeth in an effort to better control his emotions. "If you've hurt either of them..."

"Your ex-wife and son are perfectly well. Whether or not they remain so," he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, "that is up to you."

"Where are they?"

"Safely away from many of my colleagues, I assure you." LaCasse smiled a second time. His accompanying expression reminded Simon of a doting parent watching his child figure out a difficult math problem. "I suspect that none of them would be particularly cautious with the safety of their prisoners, so I hand-picked my own associates for this matter. After all, it isn't really a situation involving the cause as a whole, is it?" Glancing at his captive with a quick look, he continued without waiting for an answer. "No, indeed, this is a personal matter."

"As it happens, your lovely little family is safely held by me. Some of your phone calls never made it to their destination; I simply had one of my employees, Daniel, re-route the calls so that one of our people could misdirect you." Keeping his eyes focused on his prisoner, LaCasse pulled a cigarette from a crumpled pack, stuck it in his mouth, and struck a match on the wall. He touched the lit match to the cigarette and inhaled the wafting smoke. "Ah, yes, I knew you would make them -- I rode with you for how long, and you don't think I could guess that! -- and I'll let you figure out for yourself which ones they were. Quite a brilliant young man, really. Isn't it nice to see today's young people apply themselves and take pride in their work?"

"Where are they?"

"Don't you know patience is a virtue?" He made a tsking sound, and watched long smoke rings drift hazily upwards toward the ceiling. "Relax, partner."

"You and I are not partners. Not any longer." Simon's voice was cold. This conversation had been a long time coming, a whole year, and yet it was one that the captain had never expected to ever happen. "In fact, I sincerely wonder if we ever really were."

"Is that so?"

Simon made no reply. There was nothing else he could say on that subject.

"You may be correct. After all," LaCasse gestured with his lit cigarette at the building around them, "see what we made together."

"I had nothing to do with that."

LaCasse jumped to his feet to tower menacingly over the bound man. "You had everything to do with it! You accepted the call that brought us here--"

"You were the one who wouldn't wait for backup--"

"Someone was being murdered in there," roared LaCasse, "and you wanted to wait--"

"No one was being murdered," hissed Simon in reply. "The only thing that died that night was your career, and if you had done as I'd suggested, that wouldn't have happened either."

That sharp remark brought the former policeman under control with a shuddering breath. "I would say that it is well past time to settle this once and for all. Do you recall the incident in all its glory?"

"Unfortunately." Simon Banks was certain that he would never forget what happened that night. Those memories would go with him to the grave.

"As do I, no doubt partially due to my permanent reminder." He gestured at his damaged knee, a dislocation injury so severe that it had torpedoed his career. "I'm glad you recall everything so clearly, Simon. It may serve you well in the little game I have planned."

Before he could formulate a response, LaCasse grabbed the captain by the shoulders and, after cutting the bonds, hauled him out of the chair and dropped him to sit on the floor near the long bar counter. Simon could smell the alcohol all over the counter, and there were still quite a few whiskey bottles lined up on the bar. Once there, he crouched awkwardly down on his haunches to be on eye level before speaking. "You are going to play my role, of the police officer that I was." Banks thought his former partner had to be suffering some considerable pain in that position.

Good.

"I," he continued, "will play the role of the dashing, yet tortured, criminal." Loosening but not removing the ankle bonds, he straightened up and flashed a smirk at his former partner.

Several remarks appeared in the back of Simon's mind as potential comebacks, but he decided to save his breath and test his bonds. The right moment would come. For now, he needed to figure out what the man was talking about. Watching his former partner set his burning cigarette in a battered tile ashtray, as if saving it for later, he was pretty certain the answer would not be one he would like.

"You remember that night, don't you?" LaCasse swept an arm at the empty room. "Here, it is a blank canvas, but that night, the Zodiac Club was crowded with people, hot, sweaty, drunk people, all out carousing for the evening. Loud music pounded through our eardrums, wild colored lights flashing in senseless sequence, and all of it interspersed with darkness." He walked in a tight circle before wandering toward the back of the room where the stage used to be. "We'd received a call about a fight, a male beating on another male and a female. You remember them?" LaCasse grimaced. "We never did find out exactly what was going on that night or even why they were fighting. They didn't stick around to be questioned later. No one would tell us anything about the fight, just that it was 'complicated'."

"They wouldn't say because they didn't want the police involved." Simon Banks had heard that excuse far too many times, usually when the crime was something exceptionally vile. A private matter, after all.

LaCasse looked wistful. "I didn't understand that sentiment at the time. I do now." For just a moment, Simon thought he glimpsed the shadow of the friend his enemy had once been and saw something hopeful shining inside those dark eyes. The moment didn't last, and a split second later, only the stranger remained. "Run." He pulled the handgun, and unlocked the safety.

Knowing that his captor expected him to bolt for the nightclub's back entrance as it was less than ten feet away, Simon Banks feinted to the left and launched himself into a loping run toward the kitchen entrance. He didn't hear the shot but he saw the slug rip into the wood paneling around the doorway just as he flew through it. Now, to think of a plan. Simon hadn't set foot in the building after that night and he'd never had any reason to look up the architectural plans. I don't remember there being a kitchen entrance, but isn't there a second way out into the upstairs rooms? The rooms had originally been rented out by the hour, like a hooker hotel, but college students had been caught using the facilities as well. Back then, the cops were far less lenient with kids caught parking at any of the lovers' lanes. First, though... Seizing a large kitchen knife, he cut through the heavy rope around his ankles and suppressed a sigh when the material parted. Can't stay in one place too long, he's following.

Taking the edged weapon with him, ignoring the protesting aches in his lower legs, Simon hurried the length of the kitchen and through the doorway into a small stairway. At the fourth step, he could hear Joe speaking again, telling the story to himself, to his listener, to the building's ghosts. "They were angry, at us, at the people fighting, at each other, at the world. Some were frightened." Moving as quietly as possible, the captain took the steps two at a time and rushed through the door at the top.

The hallway he found himself within was long and dark with overwhelming smells of must and urine. Apparently, someone was using the rooms for something, probably homeless people. Good thing Ellison's not here. I can just see the look on his face. The image of Ellison with his nose all scrunched up like a four-year-old facing a plate full of broccoli made him grin. Breathing shallowly, Simon hurried down the hallway and headed for the stairway leading down to the main floor.

The creaking of the steps accented LaCasse's continuing story. "I remember how scared they seemed. The men fought each other and screamed obscenities at everyone while the woman just yelled herself hoarse."

Simon tried not to remember what his former partner was dredging up. Don't listen any more, concentrate on what you're going to do, concentrate on Daryl and Joan. You need to grab him and force him to release them.

Well, grab him, beat the shit out of him, and then force him to release them.

"We tried to stop the fight, I got between the two men while you tried to calm the woman. The slight little man -- remember him?" Simon heard LaCasse laugh, a harsh bitter sound with none of the joy it had meant once. "What irony, I was so certain that he wasn't a threat."

"He didn't look like a threat," Banks heard himself admitting. Just as quickly, he cursed himself for speaking at all, for making the slightest sound to lead the hunter toward him. That would change though as a plan occurred to him; soon the hunter would find himself caught in his own trap. "But, then, neither does Sandburg."

"True. Tell me, Simon, how did he fare at the Academy? I imagine it's a far cry from the cushy university life."

Banks eased open the door and slipped through, pausing to answer the question. No one insulted one of his detectives, let alone someone like LaCasse. "Detective Sandburg is a damn fine officer -- he lived up to my every expectation and then some. And how the hell do you think he did? He works with Ellison." As far as he was concerned, Ellison and Sandburg deserved each other; no one else could picture them with another partner. Connor had used the phrase "made for each other" once to her great embarrassment when Brown overheard the comment and promptly announced it to everyone else. No one realized that either Ellison or Sandburg had heard or been told about the remark until the day Ellison grabbed his junior partner right there in the middle of the bullpen and bent him into a dip. The kiss hadn't come, though -- something that Connor had actually appeared frustrated about -- and Ellison had just grinned. "What?" he'd said. "I couldn't stand waking up with hair in my mouth. Besides, he sheds." Blair had smacked him on the arm, and Jim had retaliated by dropping his partner to the floor. The younger man had upped the ante by wrapping his arms around the other man's legs and crooning, "Now, sweetums..." Personally, Simon had chosen that moment to retreat to his office and hadn't seen anything else of what had happened.

LaCasse's voice yanked him out of his reverie with a start; he was much closer than Simon had thought. "He lashed out at a passerby, who hit back and knocked me against the wall." Simon took the stairs down at the same reckless pace he'd taken the ones upstairs, and rushed through the doorway. "At the same time, the woman upended a passing waitress holding a tray full of drinks before throwing her beer bottle at you."

Simon held his breath and flattened himself against the wall to the right of the doorway to wait for his pursuer.

"Everything deteriorated after that. We pulled our weapons and radioed for backup but it was all too late. Confusion and chaos reigned."

If only Joe is just as reckless now, as he was then. If only he just runs through the door instead of doing it like they taught us...

"The little fight spread like a disease and within a few minutes the place looked like a mob scene. We were caught in the middle of it, and the crowd engulfed us."

Simon's own memories surfaced, and he struggled to keep himself in the here and now instead of being lost in them. Daryl's and Joan's lives, his own life, they all depended on him keeping his head. Unbidden, the memories surfaced.

The sound of someone being punched, flesh against flesh.

A gunshot.

The sound of his partner screaming and the sudden silence that followed. Simon had known all too well the horror that Ellison had faced at the fountain, had seen that nightmare play out night after night in his own personal hell. Not only had he felt the pain of Blair's loss and Jim's anguish so deep that it was a wonder the city didn't tremble and quake, but he had re-lived the tragedy of knowing your partner was down and the certainty that there was nothing anyone could do. Simon Banks reached out, lost in his memories, to grab the shooter, to put out the flames--

And found himself with his knife blade to the throat of his former partner and looking into the business end of a police .45 handgun. "Don't take another step," Simon ordered. Just once, dammit, listen to me.

"Or you'll what? Slit my throat with your butcher knife before I shoot you?"

"You know I will."

"I don't particularly care if you do or not." LaCasse's words admitted defeat but his dark eyes held no such emotion. "After the shooting, the burns, I thought that everything would be fine. I stupidly," he spat the word in disgust, "believed that I would heal and go back to work. Back to the job I loved." Neither of them moved, listening and learning and trying to find a way out that wouldn't involve more suffering. "I should have known better. Everything that came out of the doctors' mouths was a lie. Therapy. Drugs. False hope and failure. Surgeries. More therapy. Nothing worked. All I could think of was that something should have gone differently."

Simon had known it had been bad; he remembered those months after the shooting. He had been reassigned to another district and given a temporary partner; about six months later, he had taken and passed the sergeant's test. It had been hard to stand by and watch his friend, his partner's suffering, but Simon had done his best for as long as he'd been able. "You checked yourself out of the hospital AMA. I came to visit and you were gone."

"I couldn't take it any longer. I'm sorry." Joseph LaCasse smiled softly. "Just like I'm sorry for this." He suddenly pulled back and simultaneously lashed out with one hand, striking Simon in the face with his weapon. The captain staggered backward into the main room, and LaCasse dragged him forward, raising the weapon to aim--

"Freeze!"

"Drop the gun, LaCasse."

The former cop's smile got even wider, noting the entrance of three Major Crime detectives. "Ah, detectives, I wondered when you would arrive." He shot a fierce gaze at Banks of something that looked like envy and hauled the captain to his feet. "You have some excellent detectives in your division. I hope you can manage to hold on to them."

Simon's eyes widened at what sounded like a veiled threat but before he could reply, LaCasse fired his weapon and the entire bar counter burst into flames. He shoved the captain toward it without another word and fled toward the nearest upstairs exit. Three gunshots sounded out in a roar. From the suddenly pronounced stagger in his step and a metallic clatter on the hardwood floor, Simon Banks knew that Joe was injured and that he had dropped his weapon.

The door wouldn't open, though, and LaCasse fled toward the rear entrance. Simon felt someone -- Joel Taggart, from the soft voice and firm grip -- grab him and pull him away from the heat of the rapidly spreading flames. Every bone in his body hurt. Even his hair ached. Still, he had to find Daryl and Joan. To do that, they had to capture Joseph LaCasse, which meant he had to say... "Go after him," Simon croaked in a smoke-choked voice. "There's attic access to the roof up there!"

Ellison charged after the fleeing man, hurrying up a tiny set of back stairs to the attic. He could hear Sandburg running behind him, quick on his heels. There the detectives rushed to a drop-down door and climbed its attached ladder for access to the roof. As they emerged onto the remains of the damaged building's roof, Ellison could smell the acrid tang of alcohol-tinged smoke below them as well as the sharp clove smell emanating from their suspect.

He spotted LaCasse crossing to the building next door and spared a glance at his partner. "You okay with this?"

"Hey, man, don't make me think about it. Let's just go!" Sandburg made the leap to the other building, and Ellison quickly followed without another word. He could hear confusion on the street below them, but it was clear that the police were gradually taking control of the scene. Fire rescue sirens were getting closer, about a block away at his estimate, so they would arrive shortly to battle the fire LaCasse had started. Down the attic access on this building, Ellison trailed the distinctive clove smell in addition to line of sight of their suspect, only to run down and around three flights of stairs before the scent took an abrupt detour.

He stopped dead, grabbing his partner by the shoulder. "This way, Chief." Ellison looked closer at the faint red striping on the heavy door. "He went out the fire escape."

In the few minutes it took them to sprint down and take steps at a jump down the fire escape to the street, their quarry was already heading toward a squad car. Even though the patrolman's uniform he was wearing helped him blend in a little, it couldn't work miracles.

Besides, the smell of clove wafting from him was almost as good as a homing device.

"LaCasse, stop!"

The tall man wheeled around, his eyes wide and shocked, and he said something unintelligible due to the whining noise that sounded... Familiar. His own eyes widening, Ellison grabbed Sandburg and tumbled him to the ground, staying on top to protect the guide, and everywhere along the immediate area everyone else ran for cover or hit the deck. Sandburg's hand grazed his ear, and he understood the request. Turning his hearing down just in time, Ellison looked up at the former cop only to watch him disappear in a bloom of fire, choking black smoke, and shattering sound.

When the hail of shrapnel and whatnot was finished, Jim warily opened his eyes and got to his feet. Others were doing the same around him.

"Hey. A little help, here."

Sandburg lay sprawled on the asphalt, his hair spread out like on a pillow, his body just a bit bruised but otherwise unhurt according to his senses. With a pleased grin, Ellison extended a hand and hauled his guide to his feet. "LaCasse is gone, Chief."

"He is? Where's Simon? What the hell happened?"

"He is, over there with Taggart, and a squad car exploded." Ellison considered his words for a moment. "Probably by way of explosives."

"Oh man. This gets better and better."

Just then, Simon appeared with Taggart hovering close by -- though without appearing to be hovering, since Simon needed to look like he was perfectly in control, even though he was wearing a patrolman's uniform -- and took charge. Delegation was definitely one of those things captains did well.


The next morning found the trio seated in Simon's office, trying to make sense of the past events. In Blair's opinion, Simon looked far better than he had in the past two days; the blonde dancer that had accosted him had known precisely where the hostages were and had provided that information along with the name of the criminal currently holding them. From there, it had been a one-two-three matter for Major Crime and the SWAT team. Both of them were safe and unharmed, quickly making the journey to the hospital where Simon had been forcibly taken earlier.

"Daryl and Joan are okay, right?"

"They're fine, Sandburg." Simon's voice was both pleased at their safe recovery and resigned to the likely aftermath. To say that it had been unpleasant to tell his ex-wife exactly why she and their son had been abducted was quite an understatement. He was fairly certain he'd be hearing about this for months. "Joan and I have already discussed that Daryl should talk to a counselor about what happened."

"The university should have counselors, but they might not be aware of his prior history with the Sunrise Patriots."

Simon nodded in Jim's direction. "Which is why I scheduled some sessions for him with Doctor Smith." Ellison recognized the psychologist's name as the same one that Daryl had sessions with after Kincaid had taken over the precinct. Seeing primarily adolescents and adults with disorders resulting from traumatic events and depression, the man had been a cop for ten years before leaving the department for an office with a couch. "I'm just glad that Joe had told me the truth, that they hadn't been harmed." He snorted in frustration. "Or at least as close to the truth as he gets these days."

"Everything else seems to be up to date," Ellison reported, trying to shift the conversation back to their original topic. "The forensics technicians worked all night on the scenes -- the hotel where Daryl and Joan were, the club where you were grabbed, and the car you were taken to the Zodiac in -- and they're busy running the tests on the evidence. We do have prelim results back, but we won't know more until the rest of the tests are done. Statements took most of the night."

Sandburg took up the story at this point. "The wire you were wearing was found attached to a car owned by Jason Brightlane, also known as Jay or Jay-Jay. Forensics has matched trace evidence on your clothing to the carpet threads in his trunk. Plus," his eyes twinkled with glee, "the dancer who coshed you and accosted me has identified herself as Lyn -- short for Evelyn -- Brightlane. His wife."

"Lynnie," Simon commented absently. "She was speaking to another woman. I only remember bits and pieces of the conversation, but she called the other woman 'Leese.'"

The two detectives shared a look. "Well," began Sandburg, "her maiden name is Ames, and she has a younger sister named Lisa..."

"Lisa Ames, the assistant district attorney?" Simon raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"The very same."

"It could have been her voice... and she has more reason for revenge than most, I suppose." Simon couldn't really think of anything else to say on the matter. Certainly people had committed crimes with far less motive for revenge. Like that lunatic who went after Jim -- three years ago, or was it four? -- because the detective had cut him off in traffic.

"Revenge is a powerful motivator." Ellison spoke quietly. "He used her, so she ruined his plans by making sure we could track you to the Zodiac."

"And speaking of the Zodiac--"

Sandburg was ready for the question. "The Fire Department hasn't released the scene yet. Almost all of Greenfield Avenue is closed. Arson and Bomb Squad are already at the Zodiac Club and the dead squad car, waiting for their chance and trying to squeeze information out of the fire investigators."

"Do we know anything so far?"

This time, Ellison answered. "They haven't found a body in the explosion, but there was a manhole close by. Based on the blood staining the ladder down, they are assuming that LaCasse escaped the blast."

Simon groaned and held his head in his hands. "Please tell me you're kidding."

In spite of his anger and regret, Ellison could make out faint relief in his captain's eyes. He understood; it was hard to feel so conflicted about someone so close to you. He had felt the same way towards Blair for a while during the whole dissertation mess. "I wish I was." The tone of his voice indicated that he felt the same way. "Anyway, they think he fled via the sewer system."

"Fitting."

Both detectives nodded in agreement before Ellison continued. "We don't know how he managed to do that, how he managed to escape the blast and escape through the manhole without being seen."

"I'd like to offer the suggestion that he had an Invisibility Cloak."

"What?"

Blair Sandburg managed to keep a straight face. "Never mind."

"Anyway, the car explosion was caused by an electronic bomb set off via remote control." Ellison offered his partner a look that was partly mirth and partly forbidding. "Plastiques, possibly, but definitely a professional job. They don't know whether or not it was part of LaCasse's plan. He might have arranged it as a last-resort escape plan or someone else might have put it there."

"But who, and why?"

"Unknown. That's something we'll have to find out depending on what else Forensics and the Bomb Squad can discover. At any rate, they're fairly certain LaCasse escaped."

"Which means he'll try again." The captain's voice was grim. "And," he met his detectives' eyes, "he made a veiled threat toward you two, so he might be targeting you next." Simon Banks watched them take in that information for a moment before he asked his last few questions. "I would like to know why LaCasse couldn't get out the door to the kitchen. It wouldn't open and he had to run towards the back door."

Ellison grinned proudly at his partner. "The door wouldn't open because the marksman here fired at the door lock instead of at the bad guy like Joel and I did. The lock shattered and fused it shut."

Blair Sandburg answered with a sharp jab to his partner's ribcage. The older man immediately retaliated with a gesture of his own.

Ignoring the childish antics of his two best detectives, Captain Banks had one last question. It was the one that had kept him awake and wondering through most of the previous night. "One thing Joe mentioned was that one of his people -- Daniel was the only name he would give -- had intercepted some of our phone calls and re-routed them. That means he must have somehow known when and to whom we were making them."

"The only ones who knew were in the bullpen." Sandburg's eyes widened at the implication that the suggestion entailed. "You think another cop might be behind this?"

"Internal Affairs weeded out all the sympathizers, Simon. The precinct is clean." Ellison thought for a moment. "Unless they don't know the person they speak to is a member."

"Or something like that."

"Not necessarily," Sandburg commented thoughtfully. "You and he were partnered a long time, right?" He stood up and began to pace the length of the office.

"Yes, we were."

"So maybe LaCasse was able to figure out what you would do and who you would call and when because of that long association. He learned your habits and how you think." Blair glanced between the two men. "Jim and I have been together almost seven years now. I'm pretty sure that I could predict what Jim would do in a similar situation with the same amount of success."

"Sandburg," Simon said with sudden gruffness, "I can even predict Jim's actions right now."

"Yeah?" Blair bounced on his toes and waited. An amused expression on his face, Ellison just sat there and waited to hear what their boss would say. "What method do you use to divine that prediction?"

"Authority." Captain Banks reached for a cigar before speaking again. "As a matter of fact, Jim is going to go right out there," he used the cigar to point the direction, "to the bullpen and do the rest of his paperwork."

"Paperwork?" This was not something Jim Ellison wanted to hear. He'd done so much paperwork over the past two days...

"And you, Sandburg," Banks continued, "are going to help him."

"I am?"

"You are. There's at least a whole squad car's worth there."

Jim blanched even further and got to his feet; next to him, Blair followed suit and began gathering his things. "Where did those feds go?"

"Jim, desk! And where are you going, Detective Sandburg?"

"I have a talk at the Academy to finish."

"Don't make me offer your services to the rest of the squad..."

THE END

Thanks to everyone who helped with this story and made it so much better than the chaotic mess it was at the beginning. Endless thanks to Bonnie, who read numerous drafts of the same troublesome section; to wolfpup, who patiently kept me from tearing my hair out over the aforementioned numerous drafts and the time it all took to get right; to Robin, for battling the wild tense agreement beast into submission; and to Cindy, for everything. Much apologies to J.K. Rowling.