The Bull Pen

The team of Ellison and Sandburg entered the bullpen in their usual manner; Ellison in front with Sandburg close behind, talking up a storm. Jim came to a screeching halt when he saw another Elvis, this time sitting at Megan's desk. Blair peered over the taller man's shoulder and without waiting for an explanation shoved his partner into Simon's office, barely giving Jim time to open the door.

"Don't you two ever knock?" Banks looked up, already well into his familiar rant when he realized the unusual manner in which the two men had entered his office.

"They're all over the place, Simon. Cascade is crawling with them."

Simon stared at the young man, totally clueless as to what he was ranting about. Ellison seemed rather amused by the whole affair. "Jim, what is your partner babbling about? What's crawling all over Cascade?"

Blair answered before Jim could even open his mouth. "Elvi."

"What in the hell is an Elvi? Gentlemen, I'm waiting." Simon glared at them, daring them to say the wrong thing.

"Elvi, Simon. As in plural for Elvis, many, many times plural. Did you know that Cascade is hosting an Elvis impersonator convention, and that our perp was dressed up as Elvis?" Jim paused, waiting for the reaction.

The cigar dropped out of Simon's hand. "Please tell me that you're joking."

"Sorry, sir." Ellison was getting a perverse pleasure out of this. "Their headquarters is in the mall where all the robberies have occurred, and they are expecting 700 participants."

Banks barely managed to pick up his cigar before he dropped it again. "Did you say 700? There's 700 Elvis Presleys here in Cascade?"

"That would be Elvi, sir."

Jim chose to ignore Sandburg's comment. "And one of them is our robbery suspect. We're going to need more manpower, Simon."

"We even have an Elvi loose in the bullpen." That got the captain's attention.

"What?" Simon stood up for a better look.

"Over there, at Megan's desk. See him?" Blair practically bounced as he pointed out the other man. "He's not in costume, but look at that hair."

Banks headed for the door. "Let's see what the man has to say."

"Conner, are you going to introduce us to your friend?" Ellison sat on the edge of the desk opposite of Megan's. Banks and Sandburg stood on either side of him.

She stared at her boss and co-workers as if they had spouted horns. "Is there a problem? He picked up a visitor's pass downstairs." When they didn't answer, she continued. "Well, gentlemen, this is an old friend of mine from back home, Jason Meade. He's here for a convention this week. What is going on?"

"Convention, the Elvis convention?"

"Yeah, mate." Jason blushed a little at Ellison's question. "Most people don't make the connection without the costume. How'd you happen to notice?"

"Do we have a story for you, Mr. Meade. Why don't you join us for the briefing?" Blair smiled and motioned towards the conference room.


Conference Room

"That is why we need to get in the convention's inner circle." Bringing the rest of the team up to date on the robberies, Sandburg leaned back in his chair. Around the table, Rafe, Brown, Conner and her friend seemed amazed by the developments.

Simon just shook his head. "No wonder Captain Marks was so happy to kick this one up to us."

"Now that we're stuck with it, we need a person on the inside." Jim's focus never left Jason Meade. It was a look that Megan recognized all too well.

"No! Absolutely not! Jason is a respected member of the entertainment community of impersonators. It would be career suicide for him to do anything even remotely connected to the case."

"That's all right, we aren't sending in a civilian. Jim can go in undercover if it comes to that." Simon peered at the other man over his glasses.

"Excuse me! Simon, are you nuts! I can't... there's no way that..." Jim stood up and started pacing the small room. The other detectives smiled behind their hands.

Blair was the first to speak, experience with the Sentinel made him brave. "Jim's right, Simon. He doesn't have enough hair to pull it off."

"Very funny, Sandburg." Jim didn't know whether to be relieved that he would be getting out of it, or annoyed at Blair's reasons. "Are you all forgetting that the director saw me already?"

"It's all a moot point. Jim can't pull it off." Rafe spoke for the first time, drawing everybody's attention away from Ellison. "It takes weeks to perfect the moves and months to do the voice. These guys are the best of the best in what they do. If you can't compete, you'll never make it through the front door."

Henri stared at his partner. "Since when did you become the expert in all things Elvis?"

"Bloody hell!" Meade leaned across the table at Rafe. "It is you, I was sure I had made a mistake before, but you were at the Las Vegas Invitational maybe five or six years ago. Am I right?"

There was absolute silence before Banks spoke. "Is there something you'd like to share with the group, detective?" When no answer was forthcoming, he reminded the younger man that a group of investigators such as themselves could find out the information with or without his help.

"All right, all right, I worked as an impersonator while I was in college. I made more money in one evening than most of my buddies did working seven nights a week." Rafe slid down in his seat as he spoke, waiting for the laughs to start.

"So, you have a history. These people would know you, and it wouldn't be suspicious if you joined at the last minute." Despite his smile, Jim had a very serious look on his face. "We could make this work."

"Oh, come on, there has to be another way." Rafe turned pleading eyes to his captain. "Besides, I have a lot of reports to redo before the audit."

"If it comes to that, Brown can do your paperwork." Simon ignored the looks the two men were giving him and turned his attention back to Ellison and Sandburg. "Do we have any proof that the convention is involved?"

"Just a lot of circumstantial evidence, Simon."

Ellison concurred with his partner's statement. "We also don't know why the convention was moved at the last minute. I checked with Seattle, they've been hosting it for three years now. Apparently there was some sort of a falling out between the convention organizers and the management of the facility they were using. Nobody there is talking about it."

"It's all hush-hush here, too." The current Elvis in the room seemed puzzled by the change also. "There was no hint of a move until about three weeks ago, when everybody got a form letter telling us the new location. They gave us the number of a travel agent who helped us change hotel bookings, but not a word as to why."

"Did you ever attend the convention in Seattle?" Sandburg had the expression that told everyone that he was onto something. "Tell us about the mall they were at."

Jim started to say something, then thought better of it and waited for Meade to answer the question. Meade shook his head, confused. "I went two years ago, but it wasn't at a mall, it was at the convention center there. It was a heck of a lot nicer than what they've got this year. If it weren't for the chance to see Megs here, I would have canceled -- that and the fact that it was too late to get a refund on my airfare."

"Where are you going with this, Sandburg?" Simon had his own suspicions, but he wanted to be sure.

"There's nothing to steal at a convention center, except some overpriced souvenirs. Seattle is big enough that a lot of people wouldn't have heard about the convention, so an Elvis coming in off the street to rob a store would have attracted a lot of attention. Now, all of a sudden, the convention is crammed in a little mall and everywhere you look is an Elvis. Talk about hiding in plain sight, we don't have enough officers in the entire city by night to arrest every suspect when one of those stores is hit." Blair finally had to stop and take a breath, and Megan jumped in.

"So, was the convention moved to perpetrate the crime, or did they just take advantage of the situation?"

Simon tapped his fingers on the table. "That's what we need to find out before we send someone undercover. Jim, you and Sandburg continue to work on the robberies here."

Jim nodded as Sandburg answered for both of them. "We've got the surveillance tapes from the security cams at the mall to go through, and witnesses from two of the robberies are meeting with the sketch artist. Maybe we'll get lucky."

Simon turned to Brown. "You and your partner check out the Seattle connection. I want to know exactly why they aren't in that convention center."

"You're off the hook, my man." Brown grinned at Rafe. "Though I don't know what the problem was. Why'd you quit, anyway?"

"Man, you don't know what it was like, women trying to tear my clothes off..." His voice trailed off as they left the room.

Blair turned to his companions. "He considered that a downside?"


~Thunk~

~Thunk~

~Thunk~

It actually felt rather good to the Sentinel to beat his head on the tabletop. Anything to break the monotony of watching the tape from thirty different cameras.

~Thunk~

~Thwap~

This time he encountered something soft that smelled like his Guide. Ellison opened his eyes a crack to see the palm of a hand under him.

"Jim, Jim, Jim, I leave you alone for two minutes and you're already indulging in self-abuse." When no smart comeback was forthcoming, Sandburg played his trump card and waved a cup in front of the bent head. "I come bearing gifts."

"These tapes are useless." Ellison took a deep sip of the dark nectar. "There's too many of them milling around to know what to look for."

"I told you that four hours ago."

"I hate you." Nonetheless, there was a smile behind the words. "Tell me we got lucky with the sketch artist."

"The witnesses were able to describe in great detail..."

"Yes!" Ellison allowed himself a moment of joy.

"...the clothes Elvis was wearing. Unfortunately, it was different for each store he hit."

"Damn." For a minute, Jim looked like he was going to start banging his head again. "Did we get anything we can use to track this guy?"

"Well, they did agree on the pompadour hair."

"That's helpful as hell, Sandburg. You're telling me we've got squat, right?" Jim pinched the bridge of his nose, frustrated beyond words.

"Not necessarily. The costumes were pretty unique. Maybe we can narrow it down that way, but you need to take a break from those tapes." Sandburg reached over and gathered up the tapes Jim had been viewing. "Rafe and Brown just got off the phone with Seattle. Let's see what they've got."

"All right, but what are you doing with the tapes?" Jim watched him juggle the pile before reaching over and taking part of them himself.

"Serena's going to pull still shots of each of the Elvi for us. Maybe we can narrow things down with the costumes." Blair now had a free hand and opened the door for his partner.

"Smart man, we're about due to catch a break."


The Bull Pen

Jim pulled out a chair and swung it around before straddling it. Blair just hoisted himself onto Brown's desk with a grin. "What's the word, gentlemen?"

Ellison raised an eyebrow, but was too desperate for a break in the case to take that opening. Instead, he waited for Rafe.

"The group had all their permits in order in Seattle. The last bit of paperwork went to the permit office just two days before Elvis International announced the move to Cascade. The city administrators were sorry to see them go." Rafe flipped through his notes. "I talked to a guy named George Tay. He said it was a big draw, and that there were no problems with any of the past conventions. Brown's been talking to the manager of the convention center itself. If anything happened to force them out of Seattle, it had to happen on that end." The dapper detective turned to his partner.

Instead of answering right away, Brown turned towards Rhonda. "Rhonda, I've got some faxes coming in from Seattle. Would you keep an eye out for them?"

She didn't even look up from the pile of folders on her desk. "Sure thing, Henri. How are your paperwork revisions coming along?"

Brown flashed a smile in her direction. "I'm working on the last one now -- should be on your desk before the end of the day."

Rhonda finally looked up and returned his smile. "That's wonderful! How are the rest of you coming along?" When no responses were forthcoming, she shook her head. "I thought so."

Brown was still smiling when he turned to his colleagues. "Rhonda's happy with me."

Jim wasn't. "The case, Brown, what about the case?"

"Oh, yeah." Brown flipped through a notebook he'd pulled out of his shirt pocket. "I talked to the Management Company of the convention center, and they are pretty baffled about what happened too. Apparently Elvis International complained about some vandalism done at the last convention and it spiraled until they demanded the Management Company start providing round the clock security for all their staff members and absorb all the repair costs. What's really weird is all the vandalism reports we could find were about damage to the building. Elvis International wasn't the victim at all."

"So why were they the ones complaining?" Sandburg looked as confused as the rest of the group.

Brown shook his head. "I don't get it either. They're faxing us copies of all the correspondence they've had with Elvis International. I'm hoping that we can make sense of the whole thing. It's turning into another chicken and the egg thing."

"Chicken and the egg?" Jim knew he would regret the question as soon as he opened his mouth.

That had been too easy, and Brown grinned at the rest of the group. "Yeah, do you and Sandburg always get the weird cases, or do the cases turn weird because you're on them?"

"I like that one." The feminine voice startled the men. When they turned around, Rhonda was standing behind them, a stack of papers in her hand. "Your guy in Seattle is sure being cooperative. He sent a copy of every correspondence he's had with David Hayes since last year's convention."

"Losing a convention had to be a professional blow. He probably wants to show that it wasn't his fault. I'm just glad he felt that way rather than making us get warrants for all this." Brown flipped through the stack. "They're all signed or initialed by David Hayes."

Jim glanced down at his watch. "Damn, their business office closes in less than an hour."

"It's not that far." Rafe looked out the window. "You'll be ahead of the traffic."

"Serena's pulling still photos of the impersonators from the mall surveillance tapes. I was hoping to match them up to the suspect sketches before we went back over there." It went unsaid, but Jim was hoping to see Hayes's reaction to a photo of their suspect.

"Ask and yea shall receive." Sandburg tilted his head towards the door as Serena walked through, carrying a large envelope.

She smiled as she placed it in front of Ellison. "Thanks to Blair's suggestion, we've got it narrowed down pretty much. I'll let your talented eye make the final selections." Serena patted Sandburg's shoulder. "Thanks for the suggestion, it opened up a great deal of dialogue at the same time."

Ellison turned and studied his partner, waiting for an answer. "Well?"

"There's a group from the academy here today. They're very..." Sandburg paused, fishing for the right word, "...enthusiastic, and their instructor wanted them to see that not all police work is exciting car chases and shoot-outs. He had them observing in the labs."

Jim knew the way his partner's mind worked. "You put them to work."

"Twenty pairs of fresh eyes, who could turn it down?" Sandburg reached over and emptied the envelope onto the table. "All she asked them to do was pull out any photos where they saw a similarity in the costume. It would have taken us the better part of a day to accomplish it, and they got a first hand look at what real police work is most of the time. Some of them really got into it. A couple of them were even asking about specializing in forensics."

Rafe started to laugh. "Only you, Sandburg."

The cadets had done a pretty good job and it only took a few minutes for sentinel vision to narrow the field down to what he considered the most likely candidates. Again and again he returned to the same picture. It was grainy and out of focus slightly. If it hadn't been for the distinctive guitar carried by that particular Elvis, no one probably would have caught it.

"What's with that one?" Blair reached out and plucked the picture out of Jim's hand. "What are you seeing?" Blair's focus kept switching between the photo and his partner.

"I'm not sure. There's something there, I'm just not sure what it is yet."

"You'll get it, you always do. Come on, let's go talk to Hayes." Blair turned back to Brown as he stood. "Tell Rhonda that I should have the rest of my paperwork changes done by tomorrow afternoon at the latest."

"I'll tell her. What about you, Jim, any messages?"

Ellison thought for a moment, then smiled. "Just tell her Jim said hello." When that comment was met by groans, he added, "tomorrow night. What about you, Rafe?"

"Have you seen my pile? It's gonna take a week." Rafe shook his head at the thought of the pile of paperwork waiting on his desk.

"So, you're going to be the one last holdout to Rhonda's happiness?" Brown couldn't help but rub it in.

"Yeah, man, put the blame on me. Your time will come."


Office of David Hayes, Director of Elvis International

"I'm sorry, Detective Ellison, Mr. Hayes is a very busy man; he has meetings scheduled until the mall closes. He squeezed you in once, but from now on, you're going to have to make an appointment." Marilyn leaned forward and gave Jim her most sultry smile. "I'm done for the day in a half an hour; perhaps there is something I can do for you, personally."

"I don't think so." Before Jim could open his mouth, Blair had answered for him. He quickly recovered.

"I appreciate the offer, but this is still official business. Now, if your boss can't be bothered to meet with us willingly tonight, you can bet that we'll be back in the morning -- with a warrant."

"Marilyn, here is the revised copy of tomorrow's schedule." Jim was so focused on the secretary that the voice from behind him came as a shock and he barely had time to move before Hayes ran into him. The older man looked up from his notes, seemingly surprised to find the two detectives back in the office.

"Detectives, this is a surprise, you caught me on my way home."

"Home?" Jim looked past the other man to see his own amazement mirrored on his partner's face. "A busy man such as yourself, I thought you'd be here to all hours of the night working."

"One of the perks of being the boss." Hayes moved past them to set his papers on her desk. "I get to go home at a decent hour and leave the hours of extra work to my underlings."

Blair started to open his mouth, but the expression on Jim's face stopped him cold. It was obvious that his partner didn't want to trip their hand about the conversation they had just had with his secretary.

Jim answered him smoothly. "We thought you'd like an update on the investigation." Behind them, the young woman's heartbeat increased dramatically. "Perhaps in your office?"

"Oh, of course. Marilyn, hold my calls please." Hayes seemed flustered by the cordial behavior of the two men as he ushered them into the inner office.

Once they were seated around the desk, Jim pulled out the photos and spread them out. Blair explained to the other man what they were. "The witnesses to the robberies were able to describe the clothing our robber Elvis was wearing in pretty great detail. He changed clothes each time, but we were able to get some close matches through the mall security cameras. We'll be going back through the videos and tracking each of these individuals, but we thought that you might have some insight into them."

Jim gave his most charming smile. "We understand that you wish to keep the convention out of the investigation, and we'll do our best to accommodate you, but there's a great deal of interest in this case. I'm sure you understand our position."

Hayes visibly blanched and without an argument he started to study the photos laid out on his desk. Eventually, he handed one photo over to Ellison. "I've never seen this Elvis before. He's not part of this convention, I'm sure of it. The rest of them I know, some of them for years. If you want to see for yourself, I can have their resumes pulled in the morning. They haven't been unpacked from Seattle yet."

Jim stared at the photo he had been handed. It was the same picture that had bothered him at the station. Something about this particular Elvis set off all his alarms. He studied it, the pixels drawing him in.

"You seemed pretty sure of the rest of them." Blair caught Hayes's attention while he kicked Jim's foot under the table. The Sentinel's slight jump told him the zone had been adverted.

"When you work with these men for years, you get to know them. Yes, I'm sure. Doesn't this prove what I was saying before? One of those Elvis's isn't one of mine; that's your crook. Find him, find what he stole." Hayes seemed rather pleased to be proven right. "I guess now you can't say to clean up your own backyard."

Ellison focused on the man before asking the question that had actually brought the two detectives back to the mall this evening. "Tell me, why did you move the convention from Seattle? From what we were able to understand they were sorry to see the convention go."

"Sorry? They were sorry to see us go? Why, they practically ran us out of town. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times they had Marilyn in tears with their phone calls and harassment." Any other comments the man had were put on hold when the lady in question knocked on the door, then stuck her head in.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but I have the papers you need to sign ready for you." With a sultry smile she entered the room, turning the few steps to the desk into a showgirl walk. Hayes's heart rate had risen slightly when he had been defending her honor, but it went through the roof when presented with her assets. Even Sandburg noticed how flushed he became when she leaned over to hand him the papers.

One by one, she flipped through the stack, only showing the last few inches where a signature was required. Hayes blindly signed each sheet, barely tearing his eyes away from the view. Across the desk, Ellison and Sandburg exchanged knowing glances.


The Loft

Jim pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair. "That hit the spot tonight, Chief. Thanks."

"It seemed like a good night for comfort food." Blair agreed and began clearing the table. "Today was a little weird for my taste."

Jim took the bait as he gathered the rest of the dishes and followed Blair to the sink. "I don't know, Simon would probably say that no case is too weird for the Sandburg zone."

"Simon was safely tucked away in his office all day, if you hadn't noticed. He didn't stick his head out until we had Elvi in the Bullpen." He started to fill the sink with soapy water; pointedly ignoring Jim as the older man scraped the crusted cheese off the casserole that had been filled with homemade macaroni and cheese. "By the way, Jim..."

Ellison pulled the pan closer to him. "If you're going to tell me that you used low-fat cheese in this, just keep your mouth shut. I prefer my ignorance in the matter. All right?"

Blair wisely kept his thoughts on the subject quiet.

After the kitchen was done, both men adjourned to the living room. Blair popped a video in and turned it on. A grainy image of Cascade Mall showed on the large TV. "Well, Darwin, how many tapes are we going to have to watch tonight?" Jim stretched out on the sofa and toed off his shoes. "Did you bring any popcorn?"

"Very funny, Jim. This tape should be it. It's set up to start where our mystery Elvis was seen. Let's see where he went." Both men fell silent as their suspect appeared on the television. The clothing matched what was seen during the second robbery. Elvis walked in a direction leading away from the robbery location, then disappeared behind a grouping of potted trees, one of many inside the mall.

"Is that it?" Jim turned to his partner. "That's all we've got on our suspect's movement that day?"

"Hey, hey, hey, it's more than we had this morning. Tomorrow, we go back to the mall and retrace his steps and see if you can pick up on anything. In the meantime, do you think this is contrasting enough?" Blair held up a red pen, a remnant of his days at the university.

Seeing such a visible reminder of the days before startled the Sentinel, and for a moment he didn't know what his friend was referring to.

"After all, the auditors should be able to see this on my paperwork. Do you need one too?"

"Nah, that's ok. I used a blue pen; that should be good enough for even government auditors. I didn't know that you had any of those left." Jim could remember many nights when Blair would sit on the floor and grade papers on the coffee table while Jim watched the game. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Blair didn't seem to notice Jim's melancholy mood. "I was cleaning out my closet last week to send some stuff to the Goodwill. Found it in a coat pocket. Who'd have thought it would come in handy again?"

Before he could come up with a suitable answer, Blair was finished with the required changes to the forms. He clipped the pen to the top file folder and dropped the stack on the coffee table. Finally, Jim opened his mouth. "Are you taking that pen to the station tomorrow?"

Blair bounced to his feet. "Sure, why not? What, are you afraid that I'll start correcting Simon's paperwork?"

"I hope not, Chief." Jim had to snort at the image of Simon Banks sitting down at his desk to a stack of paperwork with red checks, comments and smiley faces. "I think this case is better than what he would do to you for that one. Good night, Sandburg, I want to get to the mall before they open so we can look around without interruption."

"Merchants can get in at seven. If we went then, it would give us two hours before they even open the place to the public." Blair stood in front of his bedroom door, stretching and twisting his back. "Then you can treat me to breakfast."

"Oh, I can?" The corner of Jim's mouth twitched. "That's very thoughtful of you." He moved to the phone and dialed in a familiar number, waited, then dialed an extension. At Blair's puzzled look he explained. "I'm leaving a voice mail for Rafe and Brown to check into our lovely Marilyn Monroe clone. There's something strange about what's going on there."

"Jim, while you're at it, have Megan keep tabs on her for a while tomorrow. If nothing else, we'd know what she looks like in real life." Blair waited until Jim gave him a nod, then retired to his bedroom.


Cascade Mall

Mall security was waiting for the two men. Jim barely acknowledged them as they unlocked the door and admitted them. Blair picked up the slack. "Hi, guys. We really appreciate you meeting us. It's almost impossible to reconstruct a criminal's path with a lot of civilians underfoot."

The heavier of the two introduced himself as Bob as he locked the door behind them. "You said that you want in Parker's store, by yourselves, right?"

"Is that a problem?" Jim didn't want to not cooperate with the mall officials, but he didn't want them nearby when he was using his senses either.

Blair stepped closer. "Did your boss tell you what we need to do in there?" He knew the answer, since he had been the one to speak to their supervisor.

The smaller man's nametag proclaimed him as Kent, and he had a slight lisp. "No, sir, he just said you needed back in the store."

"You know what trace evidence is, right?"

Blair's question seemed to set something off in the man. "Yes, I sure do. Been studying it on my own. Are you going to use an ALS?"

Jim bit back a groan; the last thing they needed was a self-taught expert hovering. The other security guard's words eased his worry.

"Sees three episodes of CSI and the man thinks he's a blooming expert. Don't pay him no mind, detective. Kent and I will just wait out here until you're done." Bob tugged the other man's sleeve and led him to a nearby bench.

Ellison and Sandburg entered the empty storefront and moved towards the empty safe. Blair handed Jim a pair of latex gloves. "Here, gotta make it look good for the peanut gallery."

Jim rolled his eyes as he snapped on the gloves. "Just what are we officially looking for, Einstein?"

"Fiber samples that may have settled overnight." Blair began to use the lift tape on random spots on the carpet. "You do your thing, start with sight." The two men moved through the store, using a sentinel's touch to examine the scene. Nothing caught the Sentinel's eye, however another sense had better success.

"Perfume, Chief, I smell perfume."

Blair stopped, tape in hand. "Perfume, are you sure?"

"Yeah, it's actually pretty concentrated, and familiar. I've smelled it recently, I just can't place where."

"File it away, we'll figure it out later. Is that it?" Blair began to put his samples in an envelope.

"Yeah, let's see if we can figure out where this guy goes after he hits a place. He seems to disappear awfully fast." Jim stood up and stripped off his gloves. "Care for some mall walking?"

"Lead on, McDuff." Blair shoved the envelope in his coat pocket and followed Jim out into the dimly lit mall. With their two tag-alongs, the partners walked the corridor that lead to the heart of the mall. As they passed the pastry shop Jim stopped to take a deep breath. He waited for a smart comment from his health conscious friend, but only silence greeted him.

Jim turned to find his partner communing with nature, studying a grouping of large potted shrubs and trees against the wall between two store entrances. It was strikingly familiar. Blair turned and spoke, only it was to the men trailing along behind them.

"Is this the only way the mall groups their plants together?" Blair wasn't sure exactly why he asked, but the marked similarity between this oasis of greenery and the one the suspect had disappeared behind bothered him. He moved closer, the other men following.

"It's no big deal." The self-appointed expert announced. "It just helps the janitors find the access closets."

"Access closets? Just what are these closets, and how many are there in the mall?" Jim started analyzing the possibilities in his mind.

The older guard realized that the detectives were onto something. "I'm not sure, we've never really counted them. There is one in every branch aisle of the mall, and probably a half dozen in the main areas. The janitors store their supplies and carts in them. They're not very big, maybe ten feet deep."

Ellison's droll voice interrupted the man's babbling. He was obviously not amused. "Could we see inside one of these closets?"

"No."

"Excuse me?" Jim drew himself to his full height and glared at the guard. Behind him Blair muffled a snicker. Watching Jim terrorize rent-a-cops was a favorite pastime of the junior detective.

Kent backed away, unwilling to back his coworker in the face of the taller detective's wrath. Bob seemed to realize his error and rushed to explain himself. "I...I mean that we don't have the keys. Only the janitors have them."

"Then why don't you get a key from one of the janitors." Jim had to actually wait while the men thought about what he had asked.

"They don't come in for another hour. We'd have to get authorization to ask one of them to come in early." Behind him, Kent nodded to the other man's words.

Blair finally stepped in. "Where do the janitors get their keys -- the Janitor Fairy?"

They actually seemed to consider the question until Ellison exploded. "Does management have a key?"

"Miss Martin keeps track of all the keys in the mall." Kent looked pleased with himself over that remembered fact. When no additional information was produced, Blair gently prodded him.

"Where would we find Miss Martin?"

"In her office..." Two pairs of blue eyes stared at him. "...Umm, upstairs."

The vague growl he heard seemed to shake Bob from his stupor. "You go through the service corridor that's next to Rothman's Bookstore."

"Thank you." Blair gave a slight shove to get his partner moving in the indicated direction. They were almost home free when Kent opened his mouth again.

"You know we may be working together soon, Detective Ellison."

At that moment Sandburg desperately wished for some sort of psychic link with his Sentinel so the other man would have been able to hear his mental scream of 'no, don't answer him'. No such luck.

"Oh, really?" Jim turned back around to see the young security guard.

He grinned back at Ellison. "That's right, I've applied to the police academy. I'm sure I'll be in the next class. Who knows, maybe if I'm real lucky you'll be my training officer after I graduate." His grin widened at the thought.

This time Sandburg really shoved Jim to get him moving again. Once they were safely in the service corridor and away from prying eyes, they both leaned against the wall. Jim had a panicked expression on his face that Blair hadn't seen since they got in trouble with Simon for not following procedure one too many times. Jim swallowed hard. "You don't think..."

Blair laughed softly. "Hey man, don't worry. You're a detective; they won't make you be his training partner unless the mayor or the commissioner is really pissed... oh, man, you are so screwed."

"Have I mentioned how much I hate you?" Jim glared at his laughing partner.


Office of Miss Abigail Martin, Cascade Mall Management

Jim sat back smugly as Blair tried for the third time to explain to the elderly woman why they wanted to look in the janitor's closets. "Yes, ma'am, I understand that only the janitors have access, we just want to check..."

"I assure you, young man, that this mall only hires the most respectable people to work here. I won't have you suggesting otherwise." Miss Martin peered over her glasses at Blair, daring him to argue.

"I'm sure that your people are the best in their fields. However, we need to officially eliminate every possibility -- clear your people." Blair felt like he was grasping at straws. "Have any keys ever turned up missing?"

That brought the woman up short, and she blushed deeply. Both men noticed her reaction and waited for an explanation. "Actually, we have one key missing. Ray reported his key was gone about a month ago."

Jim leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk edge. "Were the locks changed afterwards?"

"Heavens, no. Who would want to break in to a janitor's closet?" She realized what she had just said as Jim reached out a hand. Without further discussion she dropped a spare key into his hand.


Jim leaned against the wall as Blair unlocked the access closet closest to the scene of the first robbery. "You know, if you're wrong about this, we're never going to hear the end of it with that woman."

"What do you mean, 'if I'm wrong?' you were there too." Blair looked up at Jim as the door swung open. "Partners to the end, buddy." Any other comment he may have had stopped when Jim held up his hand.

"That smell is here again."

"The perfume, are you sure?" Blair kept in back of his Sentinel as Jim methodically searched the small room.

"There's nothing here, but the smell. Let's move on." Jim pinched the bridge of his nose.

Blair relocked the door behind them and followed Jim to the site of the second robbery. Starting there, they searched to find the familiar groupings of potted greenery. Here too, they found only the smell of perfume. Jim knelt down, giving the floor one last going over. "I know where I recognize that perfume from." He turned around to better gauge his partner's reaction. "Marilyn."

"Really?" Blair thought for a minute, his face puzzled. "Why didn't you recognize it before now?"

"It wasn't that strong on her. All I was consciously aware of smelling when we were in the office with her was hairspray."

Blair sat on the floor in front of Jim. "All right, let's think about this. What do you think, does she wait here for him while he commits the robbery, then helps him hide the evidence?"

"It's possible. We also have no idea what she looks like without her Marilyn persona. We would have never noticed her on the tapes." Jim stood up, "I guess it's time to check out what's behind door number three."

Blair followed him out and again locked up. "You know, we should have suspected her from the beginning."

Jim raised an eyebrow at him. "Why, because you didn't like her?"

"No, because diamonds are a girl's best friend." Blair automatically ducked as he spoke, but this time Jim just groaned.

They were both still chuckling when the reached the plants closest to robbery number three. This was where their suspect had disappeared on the tape. Opening this door, they found a slightly different scene, as this closet held one of the mall's janitor's carts, and was slightly larger than the rest. They pulled on gloves and Blair started examining the cart, as Jim worked the rest of the room.

"They weren't as careful in here. Look." Blair pulled out a torn piece of paper that showed a crude map of the mall. The four jewelry stores were clearly marked, as were the nearby closets and service corridors. "Maybe we can get some fingerprints off this."

"Am I ready for a break on this one. Well, look at that." Jim bent down and pulled a tissue out from under the shelf that housed floor cleaner. It was crumbled and torn, but still coated with heavy make-up.

Blair bounced on his toes as Jim slid it into an evidence bag. "Well, was it his or hers?"

Jim thought for a moment. "His, I think. The stage make-up is darker than what she would wear, and I could smell some spirit gum residue. Our Elvis had the long sideburns, and if they were fake, that would have been the best way to hold them up."

"If he rubbed hard enough, there might be some skin cells in there too. Let's keep our fingers crossed that Serena can pull some DNA from it." Blair held the two pieces of evidence, each neatly bagged, as Jim continued to search. A sparkle near the back corner caught his attention.

"You have any tweezers, Sandburg?"

Blair pulled a pair out of his coat pocket. "Never leave home without them. Course the ladies give me funny looks..." He paused as he saw the expression on Jim's face. "Too much information?" Jim just nodded as he took the tweezers.

Deft fingers removed a silver-backed rhinestone from a crack in the floor. "Looks like our boy is shedding."

Blair held out one more bag. "All we need now is a costume to match it to."

"Preferably with the right Elvis still in it."


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