To Have And To Hold
Detective Blair Sandburg rounded the corner of the alley, heart pounding, his legs aching. He’d just run three blocks faster than he thought he’d ever run in his life. Skidding to a halt, his feet almost went out from under him on the slick, garbage-strewn concrete and he just barely managed to stop himself from going over by grabbing one-handed at the edge of the Dumpster that sat pushed up against the alley wall. Bending over, he rested his hands on his knees and took as deep a breath as he could manage then another and another. As soon as he got his breathing under control, he straightened up and took a good look into the dimness of the alley. His quarry was in here. Blair had seen him run in and there was no way out other than the entrance where Blair was standing. “Murchison?” he shouted, his voice echoing off the walls and making him feel eerily alone in the gathering darkness. “I know you’re in here, man. You might as well just come out and get it over with.”
Silence greeted his words and he shook his head resignedly and unholstered his police weapon, holding it down at his side, the safety still on.
“Come on, man. Neither of us wants to be out here in the cold.”
There was a shuffling of feet to his left and he took a step further into the alley, wishing with all his heart that he’d been blessed with Sentinel sight like his partner.
“Sandburg?” Jim’s voice distracted him and he turned back to the mouth of the alley.
There was a sudden flash of light from behind him and he threw himself to one side as Jim yelled at him to get down. The bullet passed so close he literally felt it brush by him as he dropped, its heat searing a shallow trail across his arm as he hit the ground.
He heard Jim’s gun fire and then footsteps ran towards him. Instinctively he reached out and grabbed a foot as Murchison ran past. Tugging hard, he brought the fleeing felon down to the ground and pulled back his fist, ready to lay the guy out.
“Don’t bother, Chief,” Jim said from above him. “He’s out for the count. Hit his head when you pulled him down.”
Blair squinted through the dim light and decided Jim was right. Murchison was out cold, his features slack. He sat up and watched as Jim rolled the perp onto his stomach and cuffed him.
“Better call for an ambulance, Chief,” Jim said. “Mr. Murchison’s gonna be in need of a few Tylenol and a bandaid, by the look of it.”
He finished securing their prisoner then stood up and patted Blair on the shoulder. “Nice move there, Bruce Lee,” he quipped. “Remind me to get you to teach that one to the guys at the station. You okay?”
Blair rubbed at his arm but nodded. “Yeah, barely touched me. Thanks for the warning.”
“Yeah, well, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have distracted you,” Jim said, crinkling his eyes apologetically. “Sorry, partner.”
“It’s fine, Jim. I would have had him though if you hadn’t interrupted,” Blair said with a grin.
“Hey, your collar,” Jim agreed amiably.
“What? Why? You took him down too. Oh no, wait a minute... My collar, my report, right?”
“You got it, Chief.” Jim looked around as an ambulance and a police car pulled up to the mouth of the alley. “What say we leave Mr. Murchison to the tender mercies of our backup team and head back to the station. It’s Jobie night, remember?”
“As if I’d forget.” Blair frowned as he followed Jim out to the street. “Won’t we have to stay and question him though? I should call Dan, ask him to bring Jobie over a bit later-“
“Murchison’s just an escaped felon,” Jim said easily as he led the way back to the restaurant they’d been in when he’d spotted the perp. “He’s not wanted on anything newer than escaping custody. Besides, he’ll be in the prison ward overnight at least with a concussion and the docs won’t let us question him. He’ll keep.”
“Sometimes I think you look forward to Jobie night as much as I do,” Blair said, bumping shoulders with his friend as they reached Jim’s truck.
“I do,” Jim agreed, a broad smile on his face. “Nothing like a Jobie night to make me feel better.”
“You ole softie,” Blair said, laughing as he climbed into the passenger’s seat.
“You better believe it, Chief. That little girl’s got her Uncle Jim wrapped right around her finger.”
“Hey, you guys hear the news?” Rafe walked across to Jim’s desk and perched himself on the edge of it.
“Depends what the news is,” Jim replied, keeping watch on Blair out of the corner of his eye. His partner looked a little pale and he’d been rubbing at his arm on and off since the arrest in the alley. Jim had the feeling a little obfuscation had been in play when Blair had told him he hadn’t been hurt and he’d been intending to find out for sure ever since they got back. “Well?” he looked back up at Rafe who seemed to be almost vibrating with excitement.
“Samuels is dead.” Rafe gave the announcement flatly but Jim saw the way his eyes darted over to Blair as he spoke.
Blair’s head jerked up. “What? How?” he asked.
Extending his hearing, Jim could hear Blair’s heartbeat spike at the news.
“Got shivved in the showers,” Rafe replied. “Apparently he made a move on a kid. Unfortunately for him the kid was the younger brother of one of main kingpins in his cellblock.” He shrugged and stood up, straightening his jacket. “No great loss, just thought you’d be glad to hear it. Maybe you can think about getting Jobie back now, Blair.”
Blair shook his head firmly, his jaw set. “I’m never glad to hear anyone’s dead, Rafe,” he said sadly, and Jim knew he meant it. “And Jobie’s right where she should be, with her new family.”
Jim could sense the emotion that was coursing through Blair’s body. He stood and smiled at Rafe. “Thanks for filling us in, Rafe,” he said, dismissing him as politely as he could. “Chief, you got a minute?”
Blair looked up at him and nodded.
“I just need to have a word in private,” Jim said. He waited till Blair was out from behind his desk then ushered him out of the bullpen and into one of the interrogation rooms.
“Blair, are you sure you don’t want to consider what Rafe said?” Jim asked, closing the door behind them. “With both Samuels and Aaron out of the picture, it might be safe to bring Jobie home.”
Blair was shaking his head before Jim even finished speaking. “And what about the next nutjob who targets us because of what we do, Jim?” he asked, his voice tinged with equal measures of sadness and anger.
“You could leave the force-“
Blair pulled his wallet from his pocket and opened it up to his badge. “This is me now, Jim. This was me before Jobie came along. This is what I do. I’m a cop and I’m your partner and as long as Jobie’s safe, I’m okay with that. Don’t ask me to change who I am again, man. It took me long enough to get inside this skin. I’m happy with it now. I can be your Guide, a cop who’s halfway decent at his job, and Jobie’s father, and Jobie’s safe and happy.”
“Okay.” Jim nodded then pulled Blair in for a hug, patting his back. “You’re totally wrong about one thing though,” he said as he released him. “You’re way more than a halfway decent cop. You’re up there with the best. The way you spotted and took down Murchison today proves that.”
“Thanks. So, can we can the mush and get these reports finished? It’s Jobie night!” Blair gave him an incandescent grin as he left and Jim followed him, sure now Blair and Jobie were exactly where they were supposed to be.
“You’re going to let me patch up that graze on your arm from Murchison’s bullet first,” Jim called after him. “I can still smell the blood.”
“Sentinels,” he heard Blair mutter as he headed for the break room and the first aid kit.
“Where the hell are they?” Blair muttered, pacing up to the front door then over to the balcony. He let himself out through the sliding glass doors and peered hopefully over the railing. Shaking his head, he turned back to Jim who’d just hung up the phone. “Well?” he asked, walking back inside. “What did she say?”
“I couldn’t get an answer on the landline or either of Jessie’s or Dan’s cells,” Jim replied, frowning. “Maybe they’re on their way and they didn’t hear their cellphones ringing.”
“Maybe,” Blair said, unconvinced. Dan and Jessie Taalman had been scrupulous about bringing Jobie to Blair for his visitation periods. The only time they’d ever been late had been when their son, Zak, had fallen off his bike and broken his arm. Even then, Dan had called Blair while they were en route to the hospital to explain why they’d be late. Blair looked up at Jim, seeing his own worry reflected in Jim’s eyes. He swallowed against the fear that felt like it was choking him. “Maybe you should call around the hospitals,” he said hesitantly. “They might have been in a wreck.”
Jim nodded and reached out a hand to grasp Blair’s shoulder consolingly, reassuring him through touch as Blair had often done for him. He turned to pick the phone up and jumped as it rang. “Told you,” he said, turning to Blair as he picked it up, a broad smile on his face. “Wanna take a bet on Little Miss Bossypants Jobie deciding she wanted Wonderburger on the way over.”
Blair grinned back, his heart already unclenching from the painful knot it had become in his chest. “Yeah, well, if she did it’s your fault. You corrupted her. Ask them how long they’ll be, okay? I’ll start getting dinner organized in the hope Jobie’s still got an appetite left.” He turned to go into the kitchen, held back by the sudden, painful grip of Jim’s fingers on his arm. “What?” He turned back, feeling his muscles turn to water as he saw color leach from Jim’s face. “Jim? What? What’s happened? Is Jobie okay?”
Jim passed a shaking hand over his face as he said, “We’ll be right there.” He hung up the phone. “Jobie’s fine,” he said quickly, “so is Zak.”
“What then?’ Blair asked frantically. “Was there an accident? Jim! Just tell me!”
“A neighbor heard Zak screaming for help about an hour ago. When he got over there he found Zak hiding in his closet with Jobie in his arms. They were both covered in blood but he couldn’t find any injuries on them. He checked the house.” Jim stopped and put a hand on Blair’s shoulder. “Dan and Jessie were both dead in the bedroom. It looks like murder/suicide.”
“What? No way would Dan or Jessie do anything- God! Jim, I need to get to the kids.”
“I know.” Jim went and grabbed their jackets and his keys then led the way downstairs to the truck at a run, hearing Blair’s sub-vocal prayers behind him all the way.
Blair was out of the truck almost before Jim pulled it to a stop in front of the Taalman house, leaving the door wide open behind him in his urgent race to get to his child. Jim took off behind him, not wanting Blair to see anything except that Jobie was safe.
The police officer at the door waved them through, barely looking at Blair’s badge, his face solemn as he nodded acknowledgement to Jim. “The kids are in the living room with the neighbor, Mr. Collins,” he said quietly as Jim passed by him.
Blair obviously heard and detoured sharply right into the room at the foot of the stairs. “Hey, Jobie, hi baby,” Jim heard him croon.
He entered the room on Blair’s heels and almost stopped dead at the sight. Jobie sat on Mr. Collins’ lap, a beaming smile crossing her face as she saw Blair, her small, chubby arms reaching out to him as he got to her. The front of her pink sweatsuit was bloodstained, Jim saw, her tiny hands stained with the blood of her adoptive parents as well.
Jim turned, looking for Zak, and found him curled on the sofa opposite, his shoulders heaving as heartbroken sobs shook him. Jim left Jobie to Blair and went to Zak, sitting beside him and lifting the boy onto his lap, turning him to cuddle his head against his chest. He rocked back and forth, rubbing comforting circles over the thin back, not bothering to tell the child everything was okay because it so obviously wasn’t, and for Zak, it might never be again.
A quiet tap at the door made Jim look up and he saw Simon Banks standing there, his dark eyes solemn as he looked over at the two children cradled on his friends’ laps. “Jim, Blair, I’m so sorry,” he said softly. “Anything I can do, just let me know.”
“Thanks, Simon,” Blair replied, smiling sadly down at his daughter who’d reached up a chubby hand to play with the buttons on his jacket. “I’d really like to get the kids away from here,” he added.
“Of course. Um, Jim, could I have a word? Rafe can come sit with Zak. Mr. Collins,” he added to the neighbor, “if you’d come out here, an officer will take your statement now.”
Jim shook the man’s hand as he walked past. “Thank you for looking after them.”
“It was nothing,” Collins said, ruffling Zak’s hair.
Rafe walked past Simon and straight over to sit next to Jim on the sofa. “Hey, Zak,” he said, “remember me?”
Zak nodded, tears still trickling down his face, making trails through the blood he’d smeared there. “You’re Joe’s friend,” he whispered. “You’re like a supercop, Joe said.”
Rafe grinned despite the grief that permeated the room. “That’s me. Hey, you want to come sit with me for a while just while Jim goes to talk to some people. It’s really important.”
Zak looked up at Jim who gave him a reassuring smile then handed the boy over to Rafe. “I’ll be right back,” Jim assured him. He looked across the room as Blair started to stand up, a now-sleepy Jobie perched on his hip. “Stay here with Rafe, Chief. I promise I’ll fill you in on everything as soon as I can.”
Blair nodded somewhat reluctantly but he sat down again. “Could we get some washcloths to clean the kids hands and faces?” he asked.
“I’ll get the CSI guys in here now to take photos and swabs,” Simon said quickly, “then you can take them to the kitchen and help them wash up.”
“They need clean clothes-“ Blair began.
“Already thought of it, Blair,” Jim replied. “I’ll bring some back with me.” No way was he letting Blair anywhere near that upstairs bedroom where Dan and Jessie Taalman lay dead. As he followed Simon from the room his own stomach began to knot up. Not only had the Taalmans become good friends but there was also Dan’s remarkable similarity in looks to Blair. Jim wasn’t looking forward to seeing the man who looked enough like Blair to be his brother lying on the floor with his brains blown out.
Simon led him up the stairs and stopped outside the partially open master bedroom door. “We need an identification,” he said grimly. “”Not pleasant for you, I know, but I didn’t want Blair to have to do it.”
“Thanks, Simon.” Jim gave his captain’s arm a grateful squeeze then pushed open the door with the backs of his fingers and stepped inside.
It was a scene like many others Jim had been witness to in his career, the fact that the victims were known and liked by him making it both more horrific and more poignant.
Jessie Taalman lay face-down on the floor a few inches short of the en suite bathroom door. Her face was turned to one side and Jim could see her eyes were partly-open, the blue now glazed in death. Her hair had come loose of the pony tail she usually wore it in, making Jim wonder if she’d seen the gun aimed at her and tried to run and the shooter... Dan, he had to assume for now, he thought regretfully... had grabbed her by the hair to stop her. He knelt beside the body, wanting nothing more than to reach out and place a hand on her still-warm flesh, only his experience holding him back. “This is Jessie Taalman,” he stated as professionally as he could though he heard the waver in his voice himself. Then he stood and walked back to the other side of the bed and crouched beside Dan.
Dan lay on his back, his eyes closed. There was a bullet wound in his left temple, the hole there small compared to the huge exit wound on the right side of his head. Jim closed his own eyes, willing away the superimposition of Blair’s face over Dan’s. He swallowed, opened his eyes and said, “This is Dan Taalman.”
His eyes were burning by the time he stood up and he felt a handkerchief pushed into his hand. Simon’s large hand patted his shoulder as Jim scrubbed at his eyes. “You okay? We should get back downstairs,” Simon said.
Jim nodded, coughed to clear the emotion clogging his throat. He turned to follow Simon then stopped suddenly, turning back into the room and crossing back over to Jessie’s body. Kneeling again, he leaned over and brought his Sentinel sight up as high as he could without losing focus.
“There’s powder burn and stippling around the wound, sir,” Jim replied, unconsciously slipping into his professional persona.
“So?” Simon asked, sounding puzzled.
“She was running away,” Jim said thoughtfully. “Why would he take the time to grab her and hold her in place just so he could shoot her at close range in the back? Why not shoot her from across the other side of the bed where he was? By the time he caught up to her she could have made it into the bathroom, locked herself in...” Jim pushed open the bathroom door and pointed at the vanity. “There’s a phone in there. Jessie made Dan put it in there when they got Jobie because Jobie kept playing with the bedside phone.” He looked up at Simon and gave him a sad smile. “Jessie told Blair she was worried they’d end up with a toll call to Australia or somewhere.” He leaned forward again, this time focusing on Jessie’s wrists. Against the translucent skin over the bone there he could make out the faint impression of a thumb. They’d never be able to pick up a print from it but Jim knew it was there and while it couldn’t identify her killer, it did tell him that at least one other person had been in this room when Jessie Taalman died. “Someone held her,” Jim said tightly. He stood up and grabbed Simon’s arms, using his fingers as shackles around the captain’s wrists, pulling him close against his chest and holding him there. Whoever else was here held her like this then the shooter walked up and planted the gun in her back and pulled the trigger.” He released Simon’s hands and let his captain step back.
Simon looked as stunned as Jim felt. “Jesus,” he whispered. “It doesn’t make sense, Jim. Why would Dan have had an accomplice with him for a murder/suicide?”
Jim spun away from Simon and walked quickly over to the other side of the bed, kneeling at Dan’s side once more. He lifted Dan’s hands one after the other then lowered them gently again, motioning Simon to come closer. As Simon peered over his shoulder, Jim lifted Dan’s right hand and pointed to the knuckle of his middle finger. “I know you can’t see it but Dan has a callus on this knuckle because, as a teacher, he wrote a lot and he was right-handed.”
“And?” Simon prompted.
“How does a right-handed man shoot himself in the left temple?” Jim asked.
The question was rhetorical but Simon answered it anyway. “He doesn’t,” he said flatly. “They were murdered.”
Jim nodded and rose to his feet, unable to resist the urge this time to pat Dan’s shoulder in a sad and final farewell. “I’d better get downstairs and help Blair get the kids out of here. I’ll come into the PD as soon as they’re all settled at the loft-“
“No, you won’t,” Simon interjected. “You stay at the loft with Blair and the kids. I’ll put a patrol unit outside just in case.”
Jim nodded. “Surely it can’t be happening again,” he said. “Samuels is dead, Aaron’s in prison-“
“There might not be a connection this time to them,” Simon replied, heading from the room. “I need to call Dan’s and Jessie’s next of kin. You have numbers for them?”
Jim shook his head as he led the way out of the room. “Neither Dan nor Jessie had much to do with their families,” he said as they headed down the stairs. “Jessie mentioned once that she and her mom didn’t agree with her marrying Dan. I think her dad’s dead. Dan barely mentioned his own family. He did tell Blair once that he’d spent some time in foster homes. I got the impression he was adopted.”
“I’ll check their address book and their cellphones,” Simon said. “You get on down there and take those kids and Sandburg home.”
“Thanks. Let me know when you contact the family, will you? They’ll want to make a decision on what to do about Zak-“
“Christ, Jim, what about Jobie?”
Simon’s question pulled Jim to a sudden, heart-stopping halt on the bottom step. He turned to face Simon. “Jobie was legally adopted by Dan and Jessie. You’re thinking if they take Zak, they’ll want to take Jobie too.”
Jim spun back around to see Blair standing in the doorway to the living room, a sleeping Jobie cradled in his arms.
Blair shook his head fiercely. “She’s staying with me this time. I’m sorry, Jim, I’ll move out of the loft if I have to-“
Jim was across the hallway and in front of his partner within seconds. “Not happening, Chief,” he murmured, bending to place a gentle kiss on Jobie’s curls. “You want to keep Jobie and so do I. We’ll move out of the loft like I planned to before. Buy a house.”
Blair nodded. “Thanks, Jim. I can’t let her go this time. When she was with Jessie and Dan...” Words failed him as tears welled up in his eyes. He lifted Jobie up and handed her to Jim. “Sorry, can you take her? I just need a few minutes.” He looked at Simon. “Can I go up there?”
“You sure you want to do that, Blair?” Simon asked.
“No,” Blair said, his eyes filled with grief. “But I need to say goodbye. They were my friends, they were Jobie’s and Zak’s mommy and daddy, and I need to do that, for all of us.”
“I’ll go with you, Blair,” Simon said.
He followed Blair up the stairs but stopped outside the room when Blair asked him to. He heard Blair’s indrawn gasp of horror as he saw the bodies on the floor and then a muted sob a few moments later. Rubbing hastily at his own tear-damp eyes, Simon stepped away from the door as Blair came out.
“How you doing, Sandburg?” he asked gruffly.
Blair shook his head sadly. “Not okay, not by a long shot. I just can’t believe Dan would do this-“
“Maybe he didn’t,” Simon replied. At Blair’s wide-eyed look of inquiry, he reached out and patted him on the back and added, “Let’s get you organized to get those children back to the loft. Jim has something he needs to talk to you about and I have some calls to make.”
“Oh God, their families. I hadn’t even thought about that.”
“Understandable, Sandburg. You were thinking about the kids.”
Jim got Zak into the middle of the front seat of truck and belted him in with the lap belt. Blair sat Jobie on his lap and put the shoulder harness around them both. It wasn’t ideal but it was the best they could do for now. The Taalman’s car had been impounded for evidence gathering and they hadn’t been able to get Jobie’s car seat out. Jim had gotten both children changed into clean clothes he’d retrieved from their rooms and their parents’ blood had been washed from their hands and faces. Blair had gently tried to get a statement from Zak but the boy remained silent, only shaking his head when asked if he’d seen strangers in their house that night. Jim knew they’d need to question Zak further but one look at the child’s white, tear-stained face had told him they wouldn’t get anything useful out of him until they got him someplace safe and secure. They’d wait till the morning after Zak had hopefully had some sleep, he decided.
Blair looked across at him as he climbed into the truck. “Simon said you have something to tell me.”
Jim shook his head slightly as he glanced down at Zak, a clear signal to Blair to wait till they were alone.
Blair nodded his comprehension. “Hey, Zak, wanna turn on the siren and the light,” he asked.
Zak only shrugged so Blair left it and pulled the boy close against his side with his free arm. Zak turned his face into Blair’s chest and sobbed quietly all the way back to the loft while Jobie patted his head and his back and cooed to him in her sweet two year old way.
Jim couldn’t help thinking how much luckier Jobie was than Zak. Hopefully she’d never remember this night and she’d be allowed to stay with him and Blair. Zak’s memories though would be forever tainted by this dreadful night and Jim could only hope that wherever Zak ended up it would be with someone caring enough to help him cope with the trauma and the grief.
It had been easier than Jim expected to get the children settled and asleep back at the loft. Zak had sobbed quietly on and off for a while, held in Jim’s arms but once he’d quieted, Jim had put him under the covers in his own bed and the boy hadn’t stirred. He was no doubt exhausted by the horror of what he’d seen and Jim had already decided he’d stay close by the child all night. He had no doubt there were nightmares in Zak’s future, and not only for this night.
Jobie had settled into her usual routine the minute she’d entered the loft, toddling across to her toy corner and sitting down amongst the dolls and books and beginning to play. The events of the night appeared to have had no effect on her, which Jim thought, was a blessing. He loved Jobie like his own and hated to think of her being caused any emotional pain. She’d happily eaten some dinner and let Blair tuck her into her small bed and read her a story. It had only taken him a few pages of Goodnight, Moon before she was out like a light. Jim and Blair both kissed her goodnight then Jim led the way downstairs to the living room and headed straight for the cabinet where he kept the Scotch.
He held the bottle up for Blair to see and when Blair nodded, pulled down two glasses and poured a shot into each.
“Naomi would say alcohol isn’t the way to deal with this,” Blair observed but he took the glass and gulped a healthy mouthful down.
“I’m not using it to deal with it,” Jim said. “I just thought it might unjangle our nerves a little. We’re going to have to be focused if we want to be able to care for those kids in there as well as work on the case.”
“You think Simon will let us work it?” Blair asked.
Jim shook his head. “Not actively, no. Doesn’t mean we can’t follow up leads on our own time, though. I’m pretty sure Rafe and H will keep us in the loop.”
Blair shot him a sharp glance. “You know Dan didn’t do it, don’t you?” he asked, setting his now empty glass down on the counter.
Jim nodded and told him what he’d picked up at the scene. “Blair, did Dan ever mention any enemies to you, people at school maybe that he’d had disagreements with?”
Blair shook his head emphatically. “Dan and Jessie were popular, Jim. Dan never mentioned any problems with anyone.”
“How were they doing financially, do you know?”
Blair shrugged. “Same as everyone else with a mortgage and two kids but we helped them out with money for Jobie anyway, Jim. They weren’t struggling and he wasn’t gambling or anything, I’m sure of that. Dan was a family man. Almost losing Jessie and Zak once had taught him just how much they meant to him...”
Jim winced at the pain in Blair’s voice. He noticed suddenly how pale Blair was, his eyes dark-rimmed, the whites bloodshot. “You need to eat,” he said, heading toward the kitchen.
“We both do,” Blair agreed, but there was no enthusiasm for it in his voice, just a simple acknowledgment of the fact that they had to do it in order to stay on top of things for Jobie, and for Zak.
Jim was pulling sandwich fixings out of the fridge when he heard a quiet tap at the door. He watched Blair walk across and peer through the peephole before pulling the door open and standing back to let Simon walk through.
“Hey, Simon, we were just making a sandwich,” Blair said in greeting. “You want to join us?”
Simon nodded. “That’d be good. Um, I came to tell you Zak’s grandmother is on her way. She’ll be here in the morning.” He reached a hand out to grip Blair’s shoulder. “Blair, she wants to take both the kids back with her.”
Blair shook his head emphatically, his blue eyes suddenly determined. “No. Not Jobie. I can’t stop her taking Zak, I know that. I wish I could, given what Jessie told me about her mom but I can’t. But Jobie’s mine. I gave her to Dan and Jessie to raise because I trusted them and they loved her...” Blair’s voice trailed away as tears filled his eyes, overflowing to drip down his cheeks.
“Hey there.” Jim was at his side in an instant, pulling him into a hug then leading him over to the sofa and making him sit down. He sat on the coffee table opposite and grasped Blair’s forearms firmly, giving them a small shake to get his attention. He pulled some tissues from the box next to him and pushed them into Blair’s hands, waiting till he wiped his eyes before going on. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, Chief. We need to take this step by step and stay focused on the here and now for the kids.”
“I know.” Blair gave Jim a watery smile and scrubbed at his eyes and nose again. “Simon.” He looked up at the captain. “You know any good lawyers that might be able to help me keep Jobie here?”
“The lawyer who handled my divorce is the best,” Simon affirmed. “Leave it with me, Blair. I’ll get right on it. Now, someone mentioned something about a sandwich.”
Jim went back and finished the sandwiches, bringing them out to the living room on a tray along with coffee a short while later. None of them ate much, he noticed. They talked about Dan and Jessie, reliving the moments that made the Taalmans so special to them till Simon stood up to leave.
Blair saw him to the door and Jim couldn’t help a small smile forming as Simon pulled Blair into a hug.
“You look after our girl, Sandburg. We’ll find out who did this, I promise.”
Jim sketched a wave as Simon walked out. “We should try to get some sleep,” he said as Blair began clearing up the dishes. “Jobie’s not exactly a late riser.”
Blair nodded and stacked the dishes in the sink. “You want me to wash these?”
“No, get some sleep. I’ll be right here on the sofa if you need me.”
“I could take the couch,” Blair offered but Jim knew his heart wasn’t in it. Blair wanted to be upstairs with Jobie, close enough to hear her and hold her and Jim didn’t blame him for that at all.
“I wanted to be close by in case Zak wakes up,” he explained and was glad to see the guilt clear from Blair’s eyes.
“Thank you,” Blair said simply. He walked across and pulled Jim close, an echo of the hug Simon had just given him.
Jim returned the embrace, resting his chin against Blair’s head for a moment then letting him go and watching him walk up the stairs before he went to the closet and pulled out a couple of blankets and his spare pillows. He settled down on the couch but it was a long while before he closed his eyes and went to sleep.
There was a hand patting Jim’s face and he finally gave into the impatience of the touch and opened his eyes.
“Hi,” Jobie said, a wide smile on her face. She reached out and grabbed his hand, tugging on it. “Up, Uncle Jim. Up!”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming.” Jim sat up and swung his feet to the floor then grabbed Jobie in a tickle-hug, finishing it off with a kiss on her dark curls. “Where’s your daddy?” he asked. He sniffed then stood up, pulled on his jeans and T-shirt from the night before then swung Jobie onto his shoulders. “Daddy’s making pancakes with blueberries,” he said. He glanced at the partly closed door of his room, extending his hearing. Zak was still asleep. Jim had been up with him twice during the night as the boy relived his traumatic memories of finding his parents’ bodies. “Let’s be quiet as mice so Zak doesn’t wake up,” he whispered to Jobie as he carried her into the kitchen.
Sitting Jobie in her booster seat next to the counter, he handed her a sipper cup of juice that was next to the fridge, alongside a bowl of pancake mix. “Will you sit here while Uncle Jim finds Daddy?” he asked the toddler.
Jobie nodded complacently and Jim buckled the straps of the seat securely, handed her one of her picture books then went upstairs.
Blair was sitting on the bed, one of their photo albums open on his lap. He looked up and gave Jim a sad smile. “Just remembering,” he said, holding up the book so Jim could see the photo they’d all had taken on the day Blair had decided to let Dan and Jessie adopt Jobie. The little girl, just a baby then, was sitting on a blanket, her brothers, Joe and Zak, either side of her, planting sloppy kisses on her chubby cheeks as she laughed.
“Zak still asleep but Jobie’s in her chair in the kitchen,” Jim said quickly, not wanting to look too long at the photo. He wanted to stay focused and emotion right now would only distract him from what he needed to do. “I want to get into the station, see what’s come in during the night.”
He knew Blair knew he meant the coroner’s reports but Blair didn’t say anything, just put the album down and stood up then led the way downstairs.
“You going to wait to have breakfast at least?” Blair asked as he walked past Jobie and kissed the top of her hair.
“No, I’m fine. I’ll grab something on the way. You going to be okay here with both the kids?” Jim asked. “I could call Megan-“
“I’ll be fine,” Blair said quickly. “Go,” he added when Jim hesitated. “The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be back. Jim, I need to know everything you find out, all right.”
“I know.” Jim kissed Jobie goodbye then grabbed his keys and headed out.
“Hey, Jim. Really sorry to hear about the Taalmans, man.”
Jim nodded an acknowledgment to Henri Brown as he sat down at his desk. “Listen, H,” he said, calling the other man over with a wave of his hand. He waited till Henri sat down on the corner of the desk then went on. “I know this is your case. Yours and Rafe’s but I’d really appreciate it if you copy me on anything you find out. Blair and I won’t get in your way but-“
“I get it, Jim.” Henri’s dark eyes were sympathetic. “Anything we get, you get, all right? There was something interesting that came up on the background check we ran on Dan. Nothing incriminating, just interesting, you know.” Jim waited less than patiently till Henri continued on. “Anyway, did you guys know he was adopted?” Jim’s sixth sense pricked up at that but he said nothing just gave a non-committal shrug. “That’s not the really interesting thing though,” Henri added. “He was abandoned as an baby in a synagogue. I mean, that’s kinda out there. You hear about kids being dumped in garbage cans and hospitals but a synagogue...” Henri shook his head.
“Babies get dumped on church steps too,” Jim said. “Synagogue, church, same thing really.”
“You didn’t know that about him though, did you?” Henri asked shrewdly. “Did Blair?” he asked when Jim shook his head.
“No. Dan didn’t talk much about his family. Just told us that he didn’t have much contact with them. I think both his parents were dead.”
“He was never adopted. He spent all his life till he was eighteen in foster homes and community homes. Poor guy. No wonder his kids meant so much to him. No wonder he was so keen to think Jobie was his,” Henri said.
“Yeah, makes sense now in hindsight, doesn’t it?” Jim stood up and clapped Henri’s shoulder. “Thanks, man. Coroner’s report in yet?”
“Should be ready in about an hour if you can hang around.”
“Yeah, I can do that. I want to do a little digging anyway.” Jim sat back down and turned on his computer.
“I didn’t hear you say nothing about digging, Jim.” Henri winked at him as he walked back to his own desk. “Just remember though that little info thing is reciprocal, okay?”
“You got it, H.” Jim turned his attention to the monitor and keyed in his code to access the database. Taking a deep breath, he punched in Dan’s name then sat back and began sifting through the information on the screen. Within fifteen minutes his mind was racing ahead of his fingers and he’d had to retype search parameters several times. Not for the first time he wished Blair was here. His partner had always been better with computers than Jim was.
One name stood out and Jim read it twice then cursed softly. “Jesus,” he whispered. “It can’t be.” He swung to his right and picked up his phone, dialing the number he’d highlighted on the monitor. “This is Detective Jim Ellison with the Cascade PD. Is a social worker by the name of Janet Davey still on your staff? She is? I need to speak with her immediately. Yes, I’ll hold.”
As he waited for his call to be forwarded, Jim’s thoughts meandered back to when he’d first met Dan Taalman. How stunned he’d been by his likeness to Blair. How close the two men had become, close enough that Blair had handed his child over to Dan to raise, to protect her from people like David Samuels and Aaron Zabinski.
“Detective Ellison? Janet Davey speaking.”
“Miss Davey, thank you for your time. I wonder if you remember a case you worked on back in 1967.”
“That’s a long time ago, Detective.”
“Yes, I know. Over thirty years. I was a little surprised to find you were still working with Child Services.”
“Well, back in 1967, I was only 21. I’d only been with the department a few months. What case are you interested in?”
“A baby boy was left in a synagogue-“
“Oh, you mean Daniel? What a sweet child. Poor lamb. But he was luckier than some. Some single mothers dumped their babies in Dumpsters, Detective. The 60s may have been a time of free love but it was conservative enough that being a single mother wasn’t accepted the way it is now-“
Jim cut her off before the reminiscing could go further. “Did you ever find the mother?” he asked urgently.
“Then I’ll get one,” Jim interrupted. He took a deep, calming breath. “Miss Davey, that child grew up to be a man named Dan Taalman and he and his wife were murdered last night.”
“Miss Davey, was the mother found?” Jim held his breath then released it as the social worker spoke.
“Yes, we found her. She gave the child up for adoption, but he never was, I remember that. I still have my old case files. I’m rather a magpie. Never throw anything away. Drives my husband crazy.”
“Could I come see you, see the files? I’ll get a court order so you can release them to me without any problems.”
“Of course. Call me as soon as you have the paperwork in order and I’ll see you in my office. Detective? I am so sorry about Daniel... and his wife...”
“Yes, me too.” Jim hung up the phone and looked back at the computer screen. His phone rang and he picked it up again. “Ellison,” he snapped.
“Jim, it’s me.” Blair sounded panicked and Jim was on his feet immediately. “Jessie’s mom’s here. She wants to take both the kids.”
“I’m on my way. I just need to get hold of Simon. Just keep her there and whatever you do don’t let her take the kids till we get there. Can you do that?” Jim asked, trying to soothe Blair’s fear.
“I will.” Jim hung up the phone and called Henri over. “I’ve got to get home. Can you email me a copy of the coroner’s report as soon as you get it?”
“Will do. Tell Blair to hang in there, okay?”
Jim nodded and hurried to Simon’s office, not even taking the time to knock. Finding it empty, he slammed the door in frustration then headed for the elevators and the parking garage, pulling out his cell phone on the way.
“Jim, where the hell are you?” Simon snapped as soon he picked up the call. “I’m outside your building with papers giving Blair interim custody of Jobie. I couldn’t see your truck in the parking lot and I figured it’d be better if you were here before I took them up.”
“I’m on my way,” Jim said, as he ran into the elevator and pressed the button for the garage level. “Can you go up and help Blair stall her till I get there? I know we can’t stop her taking Zak but I’d like to see him before they leave.”
“Okay, I’ll do what I can.”
Jim snapped the phone closed and was out of the elevator when the doors were only half open. He fumbled for his keys in his haste but finally got the truck door open and the engine started. He peeled out of the garage so fast he left tire tracks in his wake. As soon as he was on the road he turned on the lights and siren. To hell with procedure!
Simon ran across to his car as Jim pulled into his parking space, the relief on his face unmistakable. “I’m so glad to see you I’m not even going to tell you off for running the lights and siren,” he said as he yanked open Jim’s door for him.
“I thought you were going to try to stall her,” Jim replied, climbing out quickly and turning to lock the vehicle.
“I did. Then I got antsy and told her I needed some fresh air so I came down here to wait. Blair’s got her just about wrapped around his little finger anyway.”
Jim quirked an eyebrow at that though it didn’t really surprise him. Blair had a way with women of any age. He’d long since given up trying to work out the how or the why and right now he was just grateful that whatever it was seemed to be working on Jessie’s mom. “Does she know about the interim custody order for Jobie?” he asked as they headed into the apartment building.
“Not yet but I think Blair made it pretty clear he wasn’t giving up Jobie without a fight,” Simon replied as they stepped into the elevator. “She seemed to take it in stride. Mind you, she admitted she barely knows either of the kids. Seems she and Jessie have been estranged pretty much since Jessie married Dan.”
Jim nodded as they stepped out onto his floor. “Yeah, Jessie mentioned that to us once or twice.”
“Jim.” Simon pulled him to a halt just outside the apartment. “We need to keep in mind this is a woman who’s just found out she’s lost her daughter. She’s as much a victim as Zak and Jobie regardless of whether she and Jessie stayed in touch.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll go easy on her, Simon. But there’s no way she’s taking Jobie away from Blair.”
Jim opened the door and stepped inside, grinning as a small Jobie-shaped tornado flung herself at him and held up her hands to be picked up.
“Uncle Jim! Up! Up!” Jobie demanded and Jim acquiesced, scooping her up and depositing her on his shoulder amidst the toddler’s gleeful squeals.
“Well, hello there, Miss Jobie. Can Uncle Simon have a hug?” Simon leaned in close and Jobie wrapped one arm around his neck and squeezed, still laughing.
“Hey there, Zak.” Jim raised his free hand and waved at the boy who was sitting quietly on the couch next to a middle-aged woman with short, dark hair.
“Hi,” Zak said softly. “This is my grandma. She’s come to take us to her house in Oklahoma.”
“Yeah?” Jim handed Jobie off to Simon and looked across the room at Blair, who was standing over by the sliding doors to the balcony, his face taut with tension. “I’m Detective Jim Ellison,” he said, moving across to the couch and holding out his hand for the woman to shake. He nodded back over his shoulder. “This is my captain, Simon Banks.”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry for your loss,” Simon replied gravely, setting Jobie on the floor.
They watched as she ran across to Blair who picked her up and held her close.
“Thank you,” the woman said, turning her head to watch Blair and Jobie.
“Sorry, sorry. Um, Jim, this is Evangeline Walters, Jessie’s mom, but of course you already knew that, right? Um, Jobie, how about you come help me make some tea for everyone?” Blair walked quickly through to the kitchen, casting a despairing look at Jim as he passed him.
“Cookie?” Jobie chirped and Blair laughed, the first genuine laugh Jim had heard since the awful events of the night before.
“Okay,” he said, “just one though. Don’t want you to spoil your lunch.”
“I want to get the children and leave as soon as possible,” Mrs. Walters said, her voice holding an edge of steel.
“Yes, about that.” Simon stepped forward and handed her the papers he’d been holding. “This is an interim emergency order granting Blair custody of Jobie until such time as the case can be brought to court.”
Mrs. Walters opened the papers and scanned them, then nodded and handed them back to Simon. “I see,” she said curtly. “Well, I don’t have a problem with her staying here. She’s not bloodkin after all.”
Jim heard Blair’s indrawn gasp of breath but he wasn’t sure if it was one of outrage or relief.
“Zak, go get your things. We’re leaving.”
“I want to say goodbye to my sister,” Zak said, his voice already crumbling into tears. “Can’t I stay here with her?” Tears overflowed his eyes and trailed steadily down his cheeks as he began to cry.
“If they wanted you to stay, your name would be on that paper, wouldn’t it?” Mrs. Walters replied acerbically.
Jim dropped to his haunches in front of Zak and pulled him close. “Zak, we’d love if you could stay too but this lady is your grandma and you both need each other right now. Do you understand?”
Zak looked up at his grandmother and he shook his head. “I don’t know her,” he wailed. “I want to stay with you and Blair and my... my sister.”
“We need to go,” the woman said.
“And I said we need to question him,” Jim replied. “Look, I’m trying to be as sympathetic to your loss as I can here but you’re not making it easy.”
Zak wrapped his arms around Jim’s legs and held on.
Jim bent down and unclenched the boy’s grip then picked him up and carried him over to the dining table and sat him down on a chair. He sat in the chair next to him and waited till Zak was fully focused on him. “Zak, will you answer some questions about what happened in your house last night?”
Zak nodded. He leaned toward Jim and spoke quietly. “If I go with her, Professor Davidman might find me and kill me too. That’s why I want to stay with you and Blair.”
“Whoa!” Blair sat Jobie in her toy corner then walked across and knelt next to the boy’s chair. “Professor Davidman? From your Dad’s school? He was the one who hurt them? Zak, are you sure?”
Zak nodded feverishly. “I saw him shoot my dad,” he said brokenly, tears trickling from his eyes again. “But he didn’t see me so I got Jobie and we hid in the closet in my room. I heard the gun go off one more time, and when he came in my room, I put my hand over Jobie’s mouth so she wouldn’t make a noise. I heard him go downstairs and then I heard the front door shut and I took Jobie and went to see if my mom was okay... But she wasn’t...” He gave a hiccuping breath and stopped, letting Blair pull him down onto his lap.
“Zak, this is very important,” Jim said, waiting till Zak lifted his tearstained face to look at him. “Was there anyone else in the room with Professor Davidman?”
“Yeah, a big man, he had skin like him,” Zak replied, pointing across to Simon. “He was holding onto my mom and pulling her hair when my daddy got shot.”
“Captain?” Jim looked over at Banks and the captain nodded.
“Mrs. Walters, Zak is a material witness and in need of police protection until such time as this case has been investigated and the perpetrators apprehended.”
“Fine.” The woman stalked over and picked her purse up off the sofa. “The cops want to keep him here then you can look after him. Just don’t expect me to take him in and provide for him once you don’t need him anymore.”
“He’s your grandson,” Blair said hotly, putting Zak back on the chair and rising to his feet to face her.
“I told Jessie she wouldn’t be my daughter if she went ahead and married Dan, told her he’d only cause her pain and trouble. Well, he did that all right, didn’t he?” With that she stormed out of the door, slamming it behind her, the noise causing Jobie to look up from where she sat on the floor amongst her toys and begin to wail.
Zak ran across to her, sitting beside her and pulling her against him, patting her back and begging her not to cry, though tears were still pouring down his own face.
“Crap!” Simon said, looking at the two children. “Blair?” He raised his hands, looking helpless.
“I want to call Jenny Henderson and see if Jobie and Zak can stay with her family for a while till we catch the creeps who caused all this,” Blair said.
“Jenny might not want to expose her family to that kind of risk again, Chief,” Jim warned but he picked up the phone anyway and started dialing.
To Blair’s obvious relief, Jenny agreed readily to take both children on the proviso that Rafe be assigned to protection detail. Jim knew Rafe had maintained a close friendship with the Hendersons, especially with young Joe, Jobie’s former foster brother, and Simon agreed readily enough.
“I was wondering,” Blair began hesitantly, as he brought bags packed with the children’s things out into the living room in readiness for their departure, “if maybe Rafe could pick them up from here and take them with him...”
“I guess. Sir?” Jim looked at Simon who nodded, pulled out his cell phone and got it organized.
“They’ll be here in fifteen minutes,” he said, putting his phone away. “You sure about this though, Blair. I thought you’d want to take Jobie over there yourself.”
Blair looked over at his daughter, recovered from her fright of earlier, and now playing a game happily with Zak. “I don’t think I can,” he said softly.
Jim understood his reluctance. Blair had had to hand his child over to someone else too many times. Jim was determined to make sure this would be the last.
Luckily the kids knew Rafe and the Hendersons well enough to go willingly and Blair managed to keep his emotions from spilling over as he handed Jobie over to Megan Connor who was accompanying Rafe on the detail.
“We’ll take good care of her, Sandy,” Megan said, leaning in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I know,” Blair said, turning away as if unable to watch them leave.
The door had just closed behind them all when the phone rang and Jim scooped it up, listened for a few minutes then hung up. “That was the CSI lab. No prints at the scene. They cleaned up too damn well,” he said with frustration. “The autopsy pretty much bore out what I thought too. Dan’s wound wasn’t self-inflicted.”
“So we go round up Davidman,” Blair said angrily. “I want this case over, Jim.”
“So do I. There’s something else we need to do too. Simon, I need to get Dan’s adoption records released. Can you organize that for me?”
“You think his adoption has something to do with all this?” Simon asked, sounding puzzled.
“No, it’s just...” He trailed off as he looked across at Blair. “There was something in his records though that I think Blair has a right to know if there’s any truth to it.”
Blair’s head snapped up at that. “What? Jim, come on, you can’t go that far and not tell me what you found out. If it’s something that affects Jobie-“
Jim shook his head. “It doesn’t affect Jobie,” he said quietly, “not really. It might affect you though. I think Dan was your half-brother.”
“What?” Simon and Blair spoke together but then Simon nodded. “They looked too much alike for it to be just coincidence.”
“No way.” Blair shook his head. “Naomi met Dan once, just after Jobie was adopted. She would have said something.”
“I don’t think she would have, Chief. I think it was something she hoped you and Dan would never find out.”
“I need to call her,” Blair said, walking past Jim to get to the phone, stopping as Jim reached out and halted him with a hand on his arm.
“This has nothing to do with the case, Blair. You going to be able to focus on catching the people who killed Dan and Jessie first because if not-“
Blair swallowed then placed his hand over Jim’s and gave it a squeeze. “You’re right. We’ll deal with it later. Let’s go do our jobs first.”
Jim wasn’t sure what he was expecting when he got to meet Professor Hugh Davidman, but whatever it was, Davidman wasn’t it. If anyone looked less like a college professor, Jim had yet to meet him. The guy was a veritable man-mountain, at least as tall as Simon, with a huge belly that overflowed his belt, and an arm full of tattoos. The tattoos weren’t professionally done, Jim saw immediately. By focusing his sight on one, he could see the roughness of the design, the imperfections made by something that wasn’t as precise as a professional tattooist’s needle. These were jail tattoos, Jim was sure of it. That he was right was borne out when Davidman admitted right up front that he’d done time for assault as a young man. He’d actually begun getting his degree in jail, he said proudly.
“How long ago was that?” Jim asked, watching Davidman’s reactions carefully from his seat in front of the professor’s desk.
“More than twenty years ago,” Davidman replied. “Look, I admit I was no angel in my youth. I came from the wrong side of the tracks but being in jail turned me around. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps to get where I am today.”
“Next thing you’ll be telling us you got religion while you were there as well,” Blair muttered. “Sorry,” he added sullenly when Jim nudged him.
Davidman sat up straighter in his chair and glared at Blair. “I’ve made no secret of my past, Detective, though I can’t see it has anything to do with what happened to poor Dan and Jessie.”
“You and Dan were friends then?” Jim asked, steering the questioning back on track.
“Not friends as such. We knew each other well enough. This is a small campus after all but we were colleagues more than friends.”
“You ever been to his house?” Blair asked suddenly.
“No, never,” Davidman replied. “I just told you we were colleagues, not friends. We didn’t socialize outside work.”
“So there’d be no reason we should find your prints in the Taalman’s home?” Blair asked flatly.
Davidman shook his head slowly. “Wait, I did drop some papers off for Dan a week or so ago. They’d been delivered to me by accident, and as it was the weekend and I thought Dan might want to work on them before Monday, I took them out to his house.”
“Quite the helpful colleague, aren’t you?” Blair replied and this time Jim let it go because he thought he knew just where Blair was going with this. They’d found no fingerprints apart from the family’s, and those of friends who’d been eliminated from the investigation but Davidman had no way of knowing that for sure. “Did you just hand the papers to Dan at the front door or was he so grateful that he invited you in for a drink or a coffee?”
“Um,” Davidman hesitated, obviously unsure of what he should say. “I... I think I went inside briefly.”
“This was only a week ago and yet you can’t remember for sure if you went inside or not?” Blair snapped out.
Jim sat back, content to watch a master interrogator at work. Blair was far better at this than he was. It was one his major strengths as a cop. As an anthropologist, and then a police observer, he instinctively read people and summed up their reactions in minutes.
“I remember that I went in,” Davidman snapped back. “If you’d give me a moment to think about it, I can tell you where in the house I was. Perhaps if you told me where in the house you found my prints?”
“Would there be any reason for your fingerprints to be in the Taalman’s bedroom, for instance?” Blair asked softly.
“Well... I... Look,” Davidman replied, “maybe I should talk to my lawyer before I answer any more questions.”
“That’s entirely up to you but you should realize the fact that you think you need a lawyer increases my suspicions about your involvement in this case,” Blair said quietly.
Jim smiled. It was like watching a mongoose drawing a snake within reach of its jaws, he decided. A little more of this and Davidman would be within reach and Blair would- His phone rang, making him jump and he swore softly as he saw Davidman sink back in his seat, a look of relief crossing his pudgy face.
“Excuse me for a minute.” Jim stood and walked over to the door of the office while Blair stayed where he was, his eyes still focused on Davidman. Jim listened for a few minutes then hung up and walked back to the desk. “We need to get back to the station, Chief,” he told Blair.
“But-“ Blair began.
“Professor, thanks for your time. It’s quite likely we’ll need to speak to you again soon, so please don’t try to leave the city,” Jim said.
“I have no intention of going anywhere,” Davidman sputtered. “I do think, however, I’ll speak to my lawyer as to the advisability of answering any more of your questions.”
“Good idea,” Blair said heatedly. “Something tells me you’re going to need a lawyer and not just for advice.”
“Let’s go, Sandburg.” Jim grabbed Blair’s arm and literally towed him out of the office. Blair spluttered along behind him until Jim shushed him once they reached the parking lot.
Jim tuned out the sound of Blair’s voice and sent his hearing up in the direction of the window of Davidman’s office. He listened for a few minutes then turned and gave Blair a satisfied smile. “I think we’ve got him, Chief.” He pulled out his cellphone and dialed it. “H? What you got for me? Was he on long enough?”
“Yep, got a trace, man. We’re heading on over now to pick the guy up. That package I told you about is on your desk. Billings is heading over there to keep an eye on Davidman while you come back to the precinct to check it out.”
“Thanks.” Jim thumbed the off button and grinned over at Blair. “We’ve got the bastard.”
“What? How? What’s going on, Jim?” Blair grabbed his arm and shook it.
“Davidman just made a call to his accomplice to tell him we were onto them. Told the guy to get rid of the ‘stuff’. I had a feeling he might so I got H to get a trace authorized on his phone and they’re on their way over to pick the guy up now, hopefully with still all the evidence in his possession.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Blair asked.
“I figured if you didn’t know how close we were to trapping him you’d sound more realistic when you questioned him, get him more nervous.” Jim clapped Blair on the shoulder. “You did great, buddy. You pushed Davidman right where we needed him.”
“You could have told me,” Blair groused.
“Nah, you’re not that good an actor,” Jim said. “I wanted your anger to get through and it did. You panicked him. Here’s our backup,” he said as a silver sedan pulled up next to the truck. “Billings is gonna make sure Davidman doesn’t do a runner.” He sketched a wave at Billings then unlocked the passenger door then went around and got into the drivers seat.
“Why don’t we just go and arrest the guy?” Blair asked as he climbed in. “You just said we got him cold.”
“Because,” Jim said, steering out of the lot and onto the road, “Dan sent us something that will make sure Davidman and his buddy never see sunlight again.”
Jim picked up the manila envelope on his desk and turned it so Blair could see the front. It was addressed to Detective B. Sandburg, c/o Cascade Police Department. “You want to open this?” he asked.
Blair shrugged. “It’s fine. You do it.”
Jim slit the envelope and pulled out the contents. There was a letter addressed to both him and Blair as well as several photographs. Jim examined the photos carefully then handed them to Blair. “Davidman’s been smuggling what looks like drugs inside crates housing teaching aids,” he said. He pointed at the photos Blair had fanned out on the desk. “Here’s a delivery. You can see Davidman holding up a packet of something.” He tapped the next photo. “He’s paying off the guy and here, he’s walking out of the building with a briefcase.”
“That looks like the briefcase he had in his office,” Blair said. “Surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to keep the same one.”
Jim shrugged. “He might not realize that even once the package is gone, we can test the bag for drugs.”
“Better yet,” Blair said, pointing at the photo of Davidman handing over cash to another man, “it’s pretty likely we’ve got a picture here of the man who helped him kill Jessie and Dan.”
“I’d say so. Let’s go back and talk to the Professor, shall we?”
Blair led the way back out to the elevator. “How did Dan know to get this to us?” he asked as he stepped inside the waiting car.
“He sent it to his lawyer, said it was to be sent to you in the event of his death,” Jim replied. “Dan was no fool, Chief. I think he planned to tell us about it when he brought Jobie over but Davidman got to him before he could.”
”He probably thought if he went to the police straightaway he was leaving his family at risk,” Blair said sadly.
“Maybe,” Jim replied. “But we don’t know when these photos were taken. They could have been taken the day he was killed. Let’s go arrest Davidman. I’ve got a feeling he’ll roll over on his accomplice readily enough.”
In the end, it hadn’t taken much persuasion to get Davidman to turn in Jeff Richards, a former jail buddy of his.
Now, Jim watched as Blair picked up the phone and dialed Naomi’s number. “Mom, we need to talk. Can you come to Cascade? It’s about Dan and Jessie.”
Jim deliberately walked out onto the balcony, not wanting to eavesdrop inadvertently.
A few minutes later, Blair joined him. “She’ll be here tonight,” he said. “I told her we couldn’t discuss it over the phone.”
“Don’t be too hard on her till you hear her side of the story, Chief.”
Blair shook his head. “She denied me the chance of knowing Dan as my brother. How can I not resent her for that?”
Jim put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a quick sideways hug. “Just let her tell the story and then decide how you should feel about it, okay? She’s your mom. You only get one.”
“I know. You’re right. I’ll try to listen without being judgmental,” Blair agreed. “I’m glad she’s coming tonight. I want to get the kids back as soon as possible.”
“You still think the Walters will let Zak stay with us?’ Jim asked.
“Mrs. Walters didn’t seem too put out by the idea when I spoke with her.” Blair shrugged. “I think she’d be just as happy to forget she had a grandson as she was to forget she had a daughter. I don’t understand how people can just turn their backs on their kids – Mrs. Walters with Jessie, my mom with Dan.”
“My mom with Steven and me,” Jim added softly. “Takes all kinds of people to make a world, Chief. They’re not all natural parents like you.”
“And you,” Blair put in. “Let’s go get some lunch. I’m starving. Then I’m gonna call Jobie, put myself in a good mood before Naomi gets here.”
“I hear that,” Jim said, leading the way back inside.
“Naomi, you’re looking good.” Jim allowed himself to be pulled in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek as Naomi stepped through the doorway.
“I’m a little nervous,” she replied, pulling away from him. She was twisting her hands as she spoke and she looked pale.
“It’ll be fine.” He looked over his shoulder and saw Blair coming down the stairs. “Look who’s here, Chief.”
“Hi, Mom.” Blair crossed the floor slowly then hesitantly gave his mother a quick hug. “You want a drink, coffee, anything?”
“Looking at you, I’m thinking a Scotch might be good,” Naomi replied.
“Why don’t you two go sit down in the living room and I’ll get drinks for all of us,” Jim said, watching as Blair and Naomi walked over and sat opposite each other, both perched stiffly on the very edge of their chairs. He carried the drinks over and handed them round then turned to leave, stopping only when Blair grabbed his arm.
“I want you to stay, Jim. Please.”
Okay.” Jim sat next to Blair and sipped at his drink.
“So, what was so important?” Naomi asked, her voice falsely bright. “Not that I don’t like coming to see you because I do but I was in the middle of a very relaxing-“
“Mom! Stop! Listen, okay?” Blair put his glass down and leaned forward. “Dan and Jessie are dead. They were murdered.”
Naomi’s face lost all color so quickly Jim thought she was about to faint. He moved quickly from his seat and took her glass from her hand then sat on the arm of her chair, keeping a supportive arm around her shoulders.
“Oh no,” Naomi whispered. “I am so sorry. Where’s Jobie and their little boy?”
“They’re fine. They’re staying with the Hendersons for a while,” Jim put in quickly.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Blair interrupted angrily.
“Tell you what?” Naomi was either genuinely confused or a damn good actress, Jim thought.
“That Dan was my half-brother, that he was the son you dumped in a synagogue when he was born?” Blair stood up, his posture uncompromising.
“I didn’t- Oh God, I should have known. He looked so much like you. I wondered, but I didn’t know for sure. Blair, listen, you have to understand-“
“Understand?” Blair spat the word out contemptuously. “You left a newborn child, your own child for someone else to find and raise. You didn’t even bother to find out that he never got adopted, that he grew up in foster homes, thinking he had no family. You let me think I was your only son.”
“Chief, let Naomi explain what she needs to,” Jim said softly, relieved when Blair sat down.
“I didn’t know,” Naomi said again. “I was so young when he was born. Only fifteen. I panicked. I’d managed to hide my pregnancy from everyone, even convinced myself pretty much that I wasn’t pregnant. When he was born, I was in shock. I wrapped him up and I took him to the synagogue. I thought the rabbi would find him and someone would adopt him. So many people wanted babies.”
“Why didn’t you want him, Naomi?” Blair asked. “You were young when you had me too. Did it cross your mind to dump me?”
“No! Never! It was different. I loved your father, Blair. We just weren’t meant to be together. It was different with Dan.”
“Different how?” Jim slipped a comforting arm around Naomi’s shaking shoulders. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next and his heart ached for the frightened teenager she’s once been.
“I was raped. Dan’s father was a rapist. I couldn’t keep him. I knew every time I looked at him, every time I held him, it wouldn’t be his face I was seeing but the face of the man who raped me. Blair, I’m sorry. Sorry about Dan, and about Jessie, sorry you had to find out this way-“ Naomi buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
“God, Mom,” Blair was out of his seat now, kneeling in front of his mother, pulling her into his arms, “why didn’t you tell me before now?”
“I couldn’t. I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m so sorry for Dan. I thought he’d be adopted by someone who’d never know how he came into the world and they’d love him and look after him.”
Jim gave Naomi’s shoulder a final squeeze then stood up and went out onto the balcony.
Jim looked around at the people gathered in his living room. This was the kind of party he liked, he decided, friends and family gathered together to celebrate a new beginning – for Blair, for Jim himself, and for the two newest members of their family, Jobie and Zak. He was pleased Mrs. Walters had agreed to Blair adopting Zak. He was Jobie’s brother in every sense of the word and they loved each fiercely, perhaps even more so now Dan and Jessie were gone. Jim quickly banished the sadness that memory brought. This was a time for happiness, they’d all done their mourning though he knew there’d be days when they’d grieve still for the friends and family they’d lost. He’d wanted to give Jobie and Zak a safe place to do that, and a happy home to grow up in. He walked to the center of the room and tapped on his glass with a fork to get everyone’s attention. “I have a little announcement to make,” he said once he had it. “Blair, can you come here?”
Blair shrugged and handed Jobie over to Simon then crossed the room to stand at Jim’s side. “You’re not going to make some mushy speech, are you?” he whispered.
“Me, hard-ass Ellison? Uh uh, I’ll leave that for you to do once I’ve given you this,” Jim said, grinning at him. He handed Blair an official-looking sheaf of papers.
Blair looked at the top one curiously then his mouth dropped open and Jim reached a finger across and closed it gently.
“You bought a house?” Blair asked, sounding shocked.
“Yep. Always said I was going to buy one. Figure the loft’s a little small for all four of us,” Jim said. He looked around at his friends and colleagues who all looked as stunned as Blair. “Well, someone say something,” he added.
“Jim, it’s in my name as well,” Blair said.
“Well, I figure that way, if anything happens to me, not that I’m planning on letting that happen for quite some time yet, you and the kids will be able to keep the house without having to go through too much red tape.”
“You sold the loft?” Simon asked as he grabbed the papers out of Blair’s hand. “You did.”
Jim shrugged. “No big deal. Jobie and Zak have money in trust for their education from Dan and Jessie’s will and I got a decent price for the loft, my dad put in some cash as well so we don’t need to worry about a mortgage.”
Henri laughed and Jim raised an enquiring eyebrow at him. “What’s so funny, H?” he asked.
“I was just thinking about the rumors that are gonna be flying around the station now you and Sandburg have bought a house together.”
Blair grinned. “Not like there weren’t rumors before,” he said. He looked up at Jim as everyone wandered off to refill drinks and plates. “Thank you,” he said, sincerity shining in his eyes.
“You’re welcome, partner.” Jim ruffled his hair fondly. “Let’s go celebrate becoming a family.”