Production No. CVT-711

written by:

edited by:
DebbieLD and Christina


"C'mon, Stan, don't give me that! You've got to have something for me!" Jim Ellison's dissatisfaction resonated throughout the Major Crime bullpen as he pushed himself to his feet and paced in front of his desk, his cell phone crushed against his ear. He listened for a moment, then rubbed his forehead in frustration before replying more calmly, "Look, Stan, I'm counting on you to help me out here, you know? It's there, I can feel it!"

The current occupants of Major Crime glanced at each other, sharing a thought. Whatever "it" was, no one doubted for a moment that Jim could, indeed, feel it. However, the question was, exactly how did he "feel" it? As intuition or as physical sensation? Since finding out that Jim was a sentinel, they had learned to look at statements like that in a whole new light.

Blair Sandburg wandered into the room, his nose buried in a thick manila folder. Hearing his partner's pleading tone, he leaned toward Henri Brown and whispered, "What's up with Jim?"

Brown shrugged and smiled slightly. "Giving one of his snitches a hard time, I think."

"Hmm. Which one?" Blair unconsciously checked the shoelaces on the hiking boots he'd worn that day. Since officially joining the Cascade Police Department, he'd decided to forego wearing his sneakers to work. His decision was partially in favor of a slightly more professional appearance, but was mostly to stave off using them as payment to Sneaks, Jim's favorite, and most productive, snitch.

"Some guy named Stan. Must be a new snitch, though. Never heard Jim mention him before." Henri's brow creased in confusion as Blair began to chuckle, hiding behind the safety of the folder he held. "I say something funny?"

Blair swallowed his remaining chuckles and took a couple of deep, steadying breaths. "Sorry, Brown, you couldn't know. Stan's not a snitch, he's Jim's mechanic!"

"Mechanic? Why is Jim yelling at his mechanic?"

Blair grinned. "For the last week, Jim's been convinced that he hears a.... a plink... under the hood of his truck. Nobody else can hear it, which really isn't all that unusual when you get right down to it."

"A plink," Henri repeated, casting a dubious glance in the senior detective's direction.

"Uh huh."

"What's a plink?"

"Haven't got a clue, Henri," Blair retorted cheerfully. "Jim's the only one who's heard it. And if Jim's giving Stan a hard time, then I'm guessing Stan hasn't heard it either." Blair couldn't stifle his grin. "What's even more fun is hearing Jim trying to describe it."

Ellison, hearing the sotto voce conversation, turned to glare at his partner. He pointed a finger at Blair as if in warning and turned back to his conversation. "Look, Stan, just keep looking, okay? Thanks." He ended the call and slid the cell phone back into his pocket with exaggerated patience.

"So let me guess, Jim. Stan can't hear the... uh.... plink, right?" Blair grinned, seemingly oblivious to his partner's frustration.

"No, Sandburg, he can't hear the plink. Just like you can't hear it and Simon can't hear it. But it's there, damn it, and he just needs to keep at it until he finds it!"

"Hey, I believe you, Jim! If you say it's there, it's there. And what about the kachunk, Jim?" Blair asked gravely, "Can he hear the kachunk?"

Ellison decided Sandburg was enjoying teasing his partner about his inability to describe noises, that apparently only he could hear, entirely too much. "Keep it up, Sandburg, and I'll be looking for a place to dump your body," he threatened, a slight lifting of a corner of his mouth belying the ominous tone.

Sandburg gave an exaggerated shiver. "Ooooh, this is me, quaking in my boots," he chuckled as he settled behind his desk, lifted the telephone receiver and dialed. "Hey, Stacy, this is Blair Sandburg in Major Crime. How're ya' doing?"

Ellison allowed his attention to drift away from his irreverent partner and onto the report Stan's call had interrupted. A buddy in Auto Theft had asked Jim to take a look at the evidence gathered in a string of stolen vehicles. "We need another pair of eyes, Jimbo. We've all looked at it until we're blue and we can't make any sense out of it." Ellison had agreed to give the file a quick look on one condition -- "Stop calling me Jimbo." Rolling with the long-standing, friendly argument, Peterson had clapped Ellison on the shoulder and agreed to "Anything you say, Jimbo."

It was a strange case, Ellison had to admit. The newest car theft ring in Cascade wasn't stealing Mercedes, Audi or Lexus vehicles. They were boosting older cars, with little to no intrinsic value. While some older model cars did have some street value for parts, the listed vehicles didn't really fall into that category. Parts for those vehicles were commonly found in the pick and pull car parts junkyards. None of the stolen vehicles had been recovered, so few clues were available. Jim shook his head in consternation. Peterson was right, it just didn't make any sense.

The aroma of Simon Banks' favorite stogies heralded the Major Crime captain's arrival from yet another "tap dancing" session with the Mayor. He paused at the corner of Ellison's desk and balefully regarded the open file. "Thinking of transferring to Auto Theft, detective?" he growled. "Major Crime not exciting enough for you anymore?"

"No, sir," Jim replied quickly, then hastily revised himself, "I mean, yes, sir. I mean..."

Banks chuckled at his detective's discomfiture. "Gotcha. God, I needed a lift. Thanks for walking right into that one."

"You're welcome, sir. Always glad to be of service." Ellison responded sourly.

"So, what have you got there?"

"Peterson in Auto Theft asked me to take a look at their latest case. It's got them stumped because there doesn't appear to be a rhyme or reason to their choice of vehicles."

"Any recoveries yet to give them a clue?"

"No, sir. 'Fraid I'm going to have to lob this one back to Peterson with no ideas attached." Ellison tossed the file to the corner of his desk and rose smoothly to his feet, snagging his coffee cup on the way.

"If you're headed for the break room, how about an update on the Henderson case instead," Banks requested. "I'll guarantee you a better cup of coffee." He was already moving into his office, shedding his coat and loosening his tie as he went.

"Sounds like an offer I can't refuse," Ellison grinned, reversing his earlier direction and motioning with his cup for his partner to join him. Blair quickly ended his call, grabbed his own mug and strode into Banks' office a step behind Ellison.

After mugs were filled and seats taken, Banks requested an update on the detectives' highest priority case -- a series of daring daytime hits on prominent businessmen, presumably as part of a protection racket.

"Good news there, sir," Jim began, only to have his cell phone shrilly break into his sentence. Banks motioned his permission for the detective to answer the call. "Excuse me," Ellison said as he pulled the phone from his pocket. "Ellison." He grimaced slightly when the caller identified himself, and shrugged apologetically to his captain. "What have you got, Stan?"

"Stan?" Simon queried quietly, glancing at Sandburg.

"Mechanic," Sandburg replied succinctly, eyes twinkling.

Figuring it had something to do with Peterson's stolen vehicle case, Banks refrained from commenting. Until his senior detective sighed heavily, protested briefly, then turned away and softly began making an odd choking/whistling/grunting noise into the phone. Simon's eyebrows flew up in surprise. He didn't know whether to laugh or be concerned, so he gauged Sandburg's reaction to his partner's antics. Poorly concealed amusement. Okay, so it obviously wasn't anything to worry about. Rolling his eyes, he waited for his detective to end the call.

"Can I get you anything for that cough, Jim?" he asked in mock concern, while Blair dissolved into peals of laughter. "A glass of water or something?"

"Uh, no, thank you, sir," Ellison said, coloring in embarrassment and glowering at his partner.

"Was that the kerplunk, the kachunk or the plink, Jim?" Blair chortled. "It kind of sounded like all of them rolled into one, but what do I know. I'm sure Stan's not going to have any problem at all locating the problem with that high quality demonstration." Ellison's only response was a heartfelt glare.

Simon muttered something colorful about his office being used as a clearing house for personal calls from mothers and mechanics and then flicked a wave at the pair. "Shall we continue, gentlemen? That is, if the sound effects demonstration is over?"

Blair attempted to school his features while his partner cleared his throat and resumed the interrupted update. "We've got a witness willing to roll over on Bernetti in exchange for immunity and a slot in the witness protection program. We've been leaning on him pretty hard and he's getting nervous about jail time. He's got names, dates, and places all neatly documented. Rafe and Henri are picking him up now." Ellison frowned slightly, "Guy said he'd feel safer if I wasn't around when he got nabbed." He paused briefly to ponder the statement, shrugged and continued, "Anyway, no way Bernetti can get out of this one."

"Excellent!" Banks nodded approvingly. "I was beginning to think we were never going to catch a break on this one. Good work." He opened his mouth to start another sentence when Ellison's cell phone chirped again. Sighing in resignation, he motioned for the detective to answer his phone.

Ellison glanced at the caller ID display on the phone, then opened the call with a terse, "Stan, I'm gonna have to call you back." Before he could disconnect the call, however, everyone in the room clearly heard the mechanic's shout, causing Ellison to pause and listen. After a moment of silence, Jim's jaw dropped open. He paled considerably, and turned disbelieving eyes toward his partner, who had unconsciously scooted closer to his sentinel. "We'll be right there," he barked, after recovering. He ended the call with a vicious jab at the End button and turned to regard his partner, still clearly distressed.

"Jim?" Blair questioned in concern, "What's wrong, man?

"That was Stan," Ellison explained unnecessarily. "Someone just stole my truck!"

Fifteen minutes after a brief "discussion" regarding driving rights, Detectives Ellison and Sandburg pulled up in front of Stan's Garage ("We love your car like it was our own!") with Sandburg at the wheel of the Mustang. He had argued that Jim was in no condition to drive, and since they were apparently down to a single vehicle, every effort had to be made to keep it in a drivable condition. In a hurry to reach Stan's, Jim had ungraciously slouched in the passenger seat and stared resolutely ahead as Blair quickly navigated to the frequent source of "Sweetheart's" past salvations.

Exiting the vehicle before Blair brought it to a complete stop, Jim strode to the rear of Stan McCormick's garage. Stan was talking to a uniformed officer who had arrived as a result of the official stolen vehicle report filed by Simon Banks following Stan's call to Ellison. McCormick was waving his arms expansively and was obviously quite agitated.

"Stan!" Ellison barked as he approached the pair. McCormick, a comically short, stumpy man who had magic hands under the hood of a vehicle, turned nervous eyes toward the imposing detective.

"D-Detective Ell-llison," he stammered, "I don't know what to say!"

Regaining his composure, Ellison mustered up what he hoped was an encouraging smile. Blair had once told him that his stress-induced "encouraging" smiles would frighten small children, but he hoped Stan would accept the gesture in the spirit in which it was made. "Just tell me what happened, Stan."

McCormick took a deep breath, causing the shirt stretched across his portly middle to gape. Jim wondered inanely what damage could be done if one of the straining buttons suddenly let loose. A mother's standard admonition leapt to mind: You could put someone's eye out with that! Ellison almost laughed aloud at the ridiculousness of the thought.

"Okay, after I talked to you, I took the truck out for another road test." Despite his distress, Stan shot Ellison a look that clearly communicated his opinion of what he considered to be an act of futility. "Well, I'd driven it so much trying to hear whatever you were hearing, that I had to stop and get some gas."

Ellison, knowing how much gas was in the truck when he dropped it off at the garage the previous day, reflected that Stan had indeed done quite a bit of diagnostic driving. He turned his attention back to the rest of the story.

"I stopped at the Lucky Leaf station a couple doors down from here and put a few dollars worth in -- so I could test it some more. I had just capped the tank and was getting ready to go inside to pay when this dude appears out of nowhere, knocks me down, grabs the keys and takes off with the truck!"

"Did you get a look at him?" Jim asked, knowing the uniform would have already asked but wanting to hear the answer first hand.

"Not a very good one," Stan admitted. "He came up from behind me and put a knee in my back after he knocked me down. I put my hands out to try and break my fall and I guess I dropped the keys. He just grabbed them up and was gone before I knew it! All I can tell you is I think he had dark hair, was kind of skinny, and reeked of cheap cologne. Guy stunk to high heaven!" The mechanic shook his head and dropped his eyes. "I'm really sorry, detective. I should have been paying more attention."

Ellison took a mental step back from the situation and tried to assess it objectively. He gripped the smaller man's shoulder and gave him a small shake. "Don't worry about it, Stan. I'm just glad you weren't hurt. You're not hurt, are you?"

Stan shook his head miserably. "No, I'm okay, aside from a bony knee-sized bruise in the middle of my back."

"Officer Conway will finish taking your statement, Stan, then I think you should close up early and get some rest."

"Thanks, Detective Ellison, I guess I'll do that. I appreciate your concern."

Ellison turned to rejoin his partner, who was interviewing potential witnesses, but half turned back to the mechanic. "Stan?"


"Did you hear it?" he asked hopefully.

Stan shook his head and responded regretfully, "Nope."

Jim sighed and turned away.

"C'mon, Blair, I'm going nuts here!" Jim cast a mournful glance at his roommate and partner as they headed out the loft door to work two days later. Long hours pouring over police reports and witness statements had produced no new clues. As with the other stolen vehicles, there was no sign of Jim's truck and he was mourning both the loss of his beloved 'Sweetheart' and his driving independence. His insurance provided for a rental car, but the per diem only allowed a compact car, which Jim argued to no avail was not large enough to accommodate his long legs. Despite sympathizing with Jim's position, Blair had steadfastly failed to yield to his partner's repeated requests to let him drive the Mustang. Jim had cajoled and begged and been told in no uncertain terms that he had control issues when it came to driving. But Jim wasn't giving up. "What are you worried about? I haven't wrecked a vehicle in months!"

"That's what I'm worried about, Jim," Blair explained patiently. "It's the law of averages, man." At Jim's inquiring look, he continued, "You haven't had a wreck in months, so you're due, man. It could happen any day now and I'd rather not provide the opportunity!"

Jim sighed heavily and actually managed to drag his toes as they walked down the hallway to the elevator. Blair bit his lip in amusement and shook his head. "Aw, don't do this to me, man. Please, don't lay a guilt trip on me."

"It's okay, Chief," Jim said, shaking his head sadly and heaving another sigh. "I was really hoping you'd support me during my time of grief, but I understand..." He trailed off, casting an assessing, sidelong glance at his partner.

Blair threw his hands up in the air and surrendered the keys with a theatrical sigh. "Man, you are so going to pay for this little melodrama! You put one scratch on my car and I swear I'll have your ass, man!"

Brightening noticeably, Jim snared the keys and quickened his step. It was no replacement for his beloved truck, but he'd been itching to drive Blair's Mustang. "Thanks, Chief!"

As they tooled down the road at a semi-sedate pace, Jim's short hair was doing its best to blow in the wind and the man sported the first contented smile Blair had seen in two days. He reflected that it really was a small price to pay to make his friend feel better. But he'd better not get used to it!

Later that afternoon, Jim and Blair sat in the almost-empty bullpen, putting the finishing touches on their Harrison case reports. Waiting for a break on Jim's stolen truck was making both men antsy and any diversion was welcome, even working on a report. Blair's phone rang and he absently reached for the receiver. "Major Crime, Detective Sandburg speaking."

"Hi, Sweetie!"

"Mom, hi!" He looked across his desk at Jim and mouthed, "It's my mom." Jim smiled indulgently and waved. "Jim says hi, Mom," Blair grinned at his partner.

"Hi back at him," Naomi said brightly. "How is everything, sweetie?"

"Pretty good, Mom..." Blair took a breath to start a new sentence when Naomi broke in.

"I can't believe Jim is selling his truck," Naomi chattered. "I thought he was virtually married to that old truck! I mean, it was almost a part of his karma..."

"Wait. Mom, what did you say?"

"I said it was a part of his karma, Sweetie. You really shouldn't try to do too many things at once, honey, it's very distracting."

"No, I mean before the karma part."

"I said I was surprised Jim was selling his truck. Goodness, Blair, haven't you heard anything I've said?"

Blair snapped his fingers and waved madly to attract his partner's attention. When Jim looked up curiously, Blair motioned for him to pick up his extension on Jim's phone. Complying with his partner's frantic request, Jim was in time to hear Blair ask, "Mom, what makes you think Jim is selling his truck?" Jim raised his eyes in astonishment, meeting Blair's similarly dumbfounded gaze.

"Well, I saw it on the car lot, of course, silly. I mean, I thought it was kind of odd that he'd pick such an out-of-the-way lot, but I'm not one to judge, you know. Anyway, I was on my way to visit you when I was simply struck with the notion to buy a new car. Well, not new, really, but new for me..."

"Are you sure it was Jim's truck?" Blair interrupted, his voice betraying the excitement he felt. His mother might well be providing their first solid lead in the case!

Naomi hesitated, then said slowly, "Oh yes, I'm sure."

"I mean, how do you know for sure it's Jim's truck, Mom? It's really important!"

"Well, remember the last time I was there, it was so lovely and warm and we all went on that splendid picnic by the shore? Oh we had such a nice time that day didn't we? I remember there was a slight breeze and Jim made the most wonderful sandwiches--"

"Yes, Mom, I remember." Blair was trying to be patient with his slightly ditzy parent, understanding that the story would only be told in her way and in her time. He could see that Jim was virtually strangling himself to keep from shouting at Naomi to get to the point.

"Well, when I saw that truck on the car lot, it reminded me of that day at the shore. I guess I wanted to see how that truck compared to Jim's truck. Reminiscing, you know..."

Jim's jaw was clenched.

"Anyway, the day of our picnic was so warm and I didn't realize that I'd dropped my coral lipstick between the seat and the door on the passenger side. Later, I was horrified when I realized what had happened and I tried and tried to get the lipstick out of the carpet, but no matter how hard I tried, there was still kind of a coral halo left. I'm really sorry about not telling Jim about it, Sweetie. I mean it was an unscented brand because of... well, you know... so I was sure he couldn't smell it, but I really should have told him what I'd done..."

Jim's eyes were squeezed shut and the pencil in his hand snapped. "It's okay, Naomi, really. Water under the bridge." Jim didn't know whether to hug or throttle Sandburg's mother.

"Oh! Hello, Jim! You're such a dear. Well, imagine my surprise when I opened the passenger door of that truck to find that same lipstick stain on the carpet! So I knew right away it was your truck! So, why are you selling your truck, Jim?" Her question was punctuated with a shrill beep.

"Mom, Jim isn't selling his truck -- it was stolen two days ago!"

"Oh my!" ~Beep~ " But, Jim, while I was looking at your truck, some rude man came out of the office, told me he'd bought the truck and, oh!, he's driving it off the lot right now! "

"Naomi, where are you?" Jim asked urgently. "What's that beeping?"

"I'm at PDQ Cars, Jim. And I'm calling on my new cell phone. I never wanted one of these things, but all my friends insisted that I simply had to have one what with all my traveling, so here I am! I'm not really sure what the beeping" ~beep~ "is -- something to do with the battery, I think. I'm going to follow your truck, Jim, then you guys can arrest that man when you catch up with..." ~beep~



The line was dead.

Jim Ellison didn't know whether to hug Sandburg's mother or throttle her.

When they found her.

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