By Debra Baschal
Beta Read by: Mary Shukes Browne and Kelly W
Written for PetFly by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Jim Ellison felt irritated as he maneuvered his truck through the darkened warehouse district towards his rendezvous.
He couldn’t believe Sandburg sometimes. When he had picked him up from the university earlier that evening, he had told him about self-defense classes and getting qualified, not only on how to handle and shoot a weapon but to receive a license to carry one while he was riding with him, that Simon had suggested. Blair had adamantly refused to carry a weapon.
Sighing in frustration as he turned the corner and pulled up to the rendezvous point, he decided to try again.
“All I'm saying is that it would be nice to know if I got into a jam, that you can cover my back.”
“Uh-un.” Blair shook his head. He had been over this with Ellison several times since they had met. He was getting ‘real’ tired of this same argument over and over. “No way, man. I'm not going around packing. My deal is that I'm here strictly -- strictly -- as an observer.”
Ellison sighed in frustration again as Sandburg repeated his position. He glanced around as the sound of an engine reached his ears. Motioning to Blair for quiet he announced. “Somebody's coming.”
No sooner had the words left his mouth than he realized the noise was coming from an approaching motorcycle. Both he and Sandburg watched the side-view mirrors as it appeared around the corner behind them.
The motorcycle passed them and pulled to a stop in front of them.
“It's him,” Jim informed his passenger as the black clad figure started shutting down his bike.
Leaving Sandburg in the truck, he moved over to the rider who had dismounted and removed his helmet revealing a young man, in his early 20s, of Asian decent. “Does your mother know you look like this?” he asked as he took in the other man’s appearance.
“Screw you,” was the answer.
Both men seemed awkward for a long moment before Jim cracked a smile and pulled the younger man into hug as they both laughed.
Pulling back, Jim continued to smile. “It’s good to see you, Danny.”
Danny returned his grin. “Good to see you, too.”
Knowing how dangerous this meeting was for the younger man, Jim got down to business.
“So, O'Toole took over another waterfront trucking firm?”
“S.K.B. Freight, run by a guy named Ray Kaminski. Word is he told Mickey O'Toole to drop dead. Then one morning he walks into his four-year-old daughter's room and finds somebody's cut the heads off all her stuffed toys.” Danny looked angry. “So now Kaminski's got himself a not-so-silent partner, twenty-five percent of his business profits, but he gets to sleep nights and not worry about his kids.”
“Yep.” Jim nodded, having seen the same scenario dozens of times before and still hating the thought of it. “Got it.” His expression softened fondly. “You okay?”
Danny shrugged nonchalantly. “I'm cool.”
“You double back on your way over here?” he asked, his care and concern obvious.
“Yeah, yeah,” Danny moaned in a put upon teenage way.
“No calls home. Right?” Jim searched his face for reassurances.
Danny grinned. “Look, you're not my big brother anymore. I can take care of myself.”
Jim returned his grin. “All right.” He pulled him into another hug.
“I'll talk to you next week.” As Danny pulled on his helmet he couldn’t resist adding, “Watch your back.”
Danny grinned saucily. “I always do.” He snapped down the visor on his helmet and climbed on his bike.
He turned back towards his truck as the undercover officer jump-started the bike’s engine. As Danny rode off, a tiny red light in an upper floor window of the warehouse at the end of the block caught Jim’s attention. Coming to a stop, he concentrated his sight on the window, and recognized a rifle with a laser sight.
Turning quickly, he started running as he yelled at the receding figure of his friend. “Danny!” a single rifle shot rang out before he could complete the name.
As if in a dream, he watched as his long time friend toppled from his bike and collapsed on the ground. Realizing that the laser dot was still targeting the fallen man, Jim grabbed his arms and quickly pulled him behind a dumpster. The sparks of metal hitting metal dancing in front of his eyes.
Glancing back around the side of the dumpster, he spotted the laser dot moving across his truck towards Sandburg, who was climbing out of the door on his side.
“Blair, get down!”
Blair ducked below the level of the door an instant before the window was shattered by another bullet. Keeping low he ran over to the cover of the dumpster.
As Blair reached his position, Jim again concentrated his vision on the shooter, who, realizing he no longer had a target, had lowered his rifle and pulled back out of view. For one moment his face was in plain view.
“Juno,” Jim murmured in recognition.
Realizing he was gone, Jim turned towards Danny. Setting him down, he carefully removed Danny’s helmet. Looking towards Blair, panic in his heart he ordered. “Call an ambulance.
As Danny’s face came into view, both men saw that his eyes were blank in an unseeing gaze.
“Oh, God,” Blair murmured in despair.
Jim felt for a pulse. “It's going to be all right.” He bent close trying to hear if he was breathing as Blair reached forward to check Danny’s pulse also.
“He's gone, man.” Blair’s voice was choked. “It's too late.”
“No, it can’t be,” Jim groaned as he opened Danny’s leather jacket.
“Oh God!” Blair exclaimed in horror as what was left of Danny’s chest was revealed. The bullet looked as thought it had exploded before exiting the young officer’s chest. Only the jacket had held most of the blood, gore, skin and bone fragments in place.
“Nooo…” Jim moaned, his eyes unfocused.
20-year old college junior Jim Ellison walked out of the director’s office of the local Boys and Girls Club chapter. Before him was a scrawny, 12 year-old, dark haired Asian boy. At first glance, he looked like he was auditioning for a part in either a preteen remake of ‘Hell’s Angels’ or for a place in a junior sized punk rock band. Looking closer, Jim realized the boy had a lost but defiant look to him.
Walking over, he stuck out his hand in greeting. “I’m Jim Ellison. You must be Danny Choi.” He shifted uncomfortably as the boy continued to stare at him. “Director Reynolds thought we might make a pretty good team. What do you say?” he coaxed.
“Why would some rich white boy like you want to hang out with me? Slumming?”
Jim grinned self-defensively. “Look, Chief. I thought we could spend some time together. I hear you lost your dad a few years ago.”
“Yeah, so?” Danny sneered.
“So, my old man and I aren’t close, so I know a ‘little’ how you feel.” He shrugged. “I thought maybe we could try help each other.”
Danny looked off to the side with a sigh. “Yeah, I could give it a try,” he muttered indifferently.
“Good.” Jim smiled slightly.
Numb, Jim entered Major Crimes. In a slight daze he headed for Simon’s office. It had been three hours since Danny’s murder. Once Blair had pulled him back from the pit of grief he had tried to fall into, they had called the murder in. As backup had arrived, he had been able to leave immediately to look for clues as to who Juno was working for, or anything to tie him to the hit. He had come up empty on both counts. He had come back to the station after sending Blair home with a couple of uniforms he trusted.
“Jim.” Simon’s voice broke into his thoughts from where he was sitting on his desk he continued. “I think you know Assistant DA Beverly Sanchez.” He nodded towards an attractive Latino woman.
Jim glanced at her and nodded. “Yeah. We've met.”
“We’ve got one hell of a mess here, guys,” she complained with a slight New York accent. “Two months' worth of undercover work with Mickey O'Toole right where we wanted him. But, without Officer Choi's testimony, our case is dead.”
Jim’s temper started to flare, causing his voice to drop. “In case you haven't noticed, Miss Sanchez, there's a lot more that's dead here than your case.”
Suddenly realizing how tactless she had been, Beverly backed down. “I'm sorry. You're right.”
“Well,” Simon stood, picking up a file folder. “The good news is we have a positive I.D. on the shooter.” He handed the file to Beverly and walked around the desk towards his chair. “Tommy Juno.”
“You're kidding.” Beverly looked like she had just been given a $100 bill as change for a $20. “Do you know how many times Juno has walked without so much as an arrest?” Her excitement was slowly building.
Simon as he sat down. “Yes. He always has an ironclad alibi.”
“But not this time,” Jim insisted. “The man I saw was definitely Tommy Juno and I'll swear to it.”
“This changes everything.” Beverly’s expression, which had been slightly dazed with excitement, started taking on a determined glint as she worked through what had happened aloud. “O'Toole must’ve hired Juno to hit Danny Choi. We nail Juno, tie him in to O'Toole. We could still make our case. Hold on.” She snatched the phone handset that Simon was reaching for. Quickly dialing, she obviously reached someone immediately. “Lisa, wake up Judge Perlman. I need a warrant.”
Tommy Juno climbed out of his fire engine red ’57 Corvette Roadster in front of the Cascade Sandeemi Hotel where he was staying. As he helped his date for the evening from the car, they were quickly surrounded by almost a dozen officers. Some whom had arrived by car, while others had burst from the hotel itself.
“Freeze!” one of the officers who ran from the hotel yelled.
“Tommy Juno, you are under arrest for murder,” the officer continued as he holstered his weapon and proceeded to frisk and cuff Juno. Another officer gently pulled the woman several feet away.
“You're wasting your time. I spent the whole evening at a benefit party. I've got witnesses,” Juno insisted calmly in his Irish brogue. “Careful of the car; it's a classic.”
The officer pulled a small card from his breast pocket and proceeded to read it. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
“You're wasting your time,” Juno repeated.
“You have the right to be speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense. Do you understand these rights as they’ve been explained to you?” the officer asked.
“At least put the top up. It's going to rain,” Juno insisted.
“Yes, I understand!” Juno yelled as he was led to a patrol car.
Jim, Simon and Beverly had all watched the arrest happen from across the street where both Jim and Simon had parked.
“Nice job, gentlemen,” Beverly congratulated the two men, grinning. Upset, Jim walked off. Beverly looked at Simon confused and asked, “Did I say something wrong?”
Simon sighed. “Danny lost his dad when he was a little kid. When Jim was in college, he became his big brother. They were real close. Jim was the one who helped Danny get into the academy.”
Beverly suddenly felt like a heel. “Excuse me a minute?”
She followed Jim to his truck. “Detective, I didn't realize you had a history with Officer Choi. I know I was a bit cold earlier. I'm sorry.” She looked ashamed as she apologized.
“No problem,” Jim replied some what icily.
“I'd like to try to make it up to you. Maybe I could buy you a beer,” she offered.
Jim shrugged. “It's getting kind of late.” All he really wanted to do was go home.
Disappointed, but understanding, Beverly nodded. “Some other time.” She turned to leave.
Suddenly, not wanting to be alone anymore, Jim offered, “Uh... maybe a beer would be a good idea.”
Surprised by his about face, Beverly accepted his offer. “Okay. You pick the place.”
20 minutes later Jim and Beverly were at Jim’s loft.
“Sandburg's always trying to get me to take up meditation or some such thing, but I figure with this place who needs it, you know?” After lighting a fire in the fireplace, Jim rejoined Beverly on the couch, where they had taken up residence. Their conversation made easier thanks to the relaxed atmosphere and a beer. “Carolyn never seemed to like it though. She thought it was too quiet,” he admitted.
“Oh,” she scoffed. “That's the best part.”
Beverly started to take a sip, then stopped and asked, “Who's Carolyn?”
Jim blushed slightly. “My ex, Carolyn Plummer -- head of the forensics and tech labs.”
Beverly frantically tried to think of something to say. “It must be hard working with her down at the station.”
“Sometimes,” Jim agreed, wishing he hadn’t brought his ex-wife into the conversation.
Beverly smiled in understanding and confessed. “My ex was a cop, too, back in Tacoma. But he was a good guy. So why the hell didn't it work out?”
Jim looked thoughtful. “I asked myself that more than a few times.”
Glancing at the doors to the balcony, Beverly mused, “Must be great on Sunday afternoons, watching all the boats out on the bay.”
“Yeah,” Jim replied thoughtfully.
Concerned, Beverly turned back towards him. “What is it?”
Jim felt his eyes start trying to tear. “I was just thinking about Danny, how much he loved to sail. He used to say there were two things in life that made him feel really alive.” His voice deepened as his throat started to close on him with emotion. “Sailing and being a cop.”
The Next Weekend
Jim led Danny down the pier at the marina to slip 23.
“What is that?” Danny asked.
Jim grinned. He enjoyed introducing his ‘little brother’ to new experiences. “That, Chief, is a sailboat. A friend agreed to loan it to us for the day. I thought I might teach you how to sail, if you’d like?”
Danny’s face broke out into a huge smile. “I love sailing. Me and my dad use to go all the time…” His face fell. “I haven’t been out since a couple of weeks before he died.”
“If you’d rather not…” Jim began.
“No way, dude. I wanna go. Me and my dad always had a blast when we went out.” He started laughing. “One time we took my mom with us and the boat almost capsized. She refused to ever go out with us again, unless we were on a ferry or something bigger.”
Jim laughed also, thinking how good it was to see his new young friend enjoying himself.
“In that case, you can be first mate.”
“Why can’t I be captain?” Danny objected.
Jim grinned. “Because I’m bigger than you.”
Danny stood toe to toe with Jim and looked up. Realizing his older friend was almost two feet taller than him, he shrugged. “Ok, dude. But that excuse is only gonna work until I out grow you in a year or two.”
Jim’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Oh, you think you’ll be taller than me in a year or two?”
Danny nodded his eyes filled with mischief. “Even if I have to stand on the mast to do it.”
Grabbing the boy around the waist, Jim turned him upside down. “You think so?”
Both were laughing hard when Jim finally set the boy down and they boarded the sailboat.
Seeing Jim lost in thought, and realizing just how hard the last few hours had been on him, not to mention how hard the next few weeks were going to be, Beverly spoke softly. “I should go.”
Startled out of his thoughts, Jim looked at his guest as he tried to remember what she had said. After a long pause, he agreed, “Right.” He led the way to door. “I'm really glad you came.”
They moved closer together. Jim reached for her, but Beverly pulled back.
“What's wrong?” Jim asked confused.
“This isn’t right,” Beverly told him miserably. “You just lost someone who meant a lot to you, and we’re going to be working on this case together. I think we both just need some breathing space, and to take, whatever this is, slowly. I messed up once, I don’t want to do it again. OK?” Her look begged for him to understand.
Sighing, though he wasn’t sure if it was in frustration or relief, Jim nodded his agreement.
“You’re right. On both counts.” He smiled gently at her as he opened the door.
“Maybe some other time?” she asked. At his nod, she smiled and left.
Jim closed the door behind her, wondering why he had tried to kiss her so soon after Danny’s death. It had to be the grief. As he walked back over to the couch, images of the time he spent with Danny flashed through his mind. Sailing, fishing, working on a motorcycle together, teaching Danny how to ride a dirt bike.
Sighing, he picked up his beer, took a sip, then frowned.
“This sure lost its taste.” He took several more sips, but still could not taste the flavor of the beer. As he concentrated on his drink and its lack of flavor, Beverly walked back in. Jim didn't hear her.
“Jim…? Jim...? Jim...?” She finally got his attention by touching him. Thinking he was alone, Jim jumped. Realizing that he couldn't hear either, Jim watched silently as Beverly got her coat and left again.