Production No. CVT706
edited by: Bonnie, Antoinette and Robin
MEET THE CAST
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.
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."
"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.
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.