Beta Read by: Carla and Hephaistos
Written for PetFly by: David L. Newman
internal thoughts in italics
Blair Sandburg took a deep breath as the green truck ("What happened to the red one?" he'd asked as Jim picked him up. "It was a loaner," the sentinel replied with a shrug.) turned from the brightly lit street to pass into the shadow of the police garage. I'm really doing this, he thought in some surprise as the truck came to a smooth stop just past a small array of gasoline pumps. Wait until Naomi finds out, he added with a small smile.
Hopping out of the truck, he walked around it to join Jim at the front, trailing the cop toward the doorway into the building itself. "Trust me," he said, his voice persuasive.
The other man glanced over at him. "It's still not working. Let's just go over it again."
The sentinel nodded. "Yeah."
Blair sighed. "What's the problem now?"
"You got to drop that 'thin blue line' routine, okay?"
Blair stopped briefly in shock. He held up his hands in protest as he began walking again. "Oh, no, no, no, no. That's some of my best stuff, man."
"I'm telling you, drop it."
The grad student shook his head, loose curls floating around his face. He met the larger man's eyes unflinchingly. "Look, I may be a rookie in your little Dirty Harry world here but I'm telling you, man. When it comes to thesis speak, I am a pro."
"In anthropology." Jim shrugged. "The trick is to convince the captain that you're studying police science."
"I will dress up in an evening gown like J. Edgar Hoover if you thought it would help. I want this partnership..." His voice trailed off as Jim stopped and looked at him, the detective's voice hard.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there, Chief."
Blair sighed again. "Yeah, I know. I'm never to refer to us as partners."
"I'm strictly the observer, and partner means a specific thing in the cop world."
Jim nodded. "Right. This sentinel stuff stays between us. I don't want anybody finding out what's going on with me."
"Okay, fine!" Blair looked away from the other man, his face set.
"All right?" The Sentinel paused, then continued in a slightly softer voice. "We talked about it, Chief."
Blair turned to look at him. "Yeah. I know. I just forgot."
Jim started to say something, then stopped, looking around warily.
"What's up, man?"
Sniffing slightly, Jim shook his head. "I thought I smelled blood."
Blair grinned. "Oh, ho-ho! Man, you are good! I sliced myself cutting a bagel this morning."
"Man." Blair shook his head in disbelief, his mind already playing with the implications. "That is great!" He frowned. "Hmmm. Wonder why you didn't smell it on the drive over here."
Jim shrugged. Blair looked down at his hand and laughed as he spotted a tiny red spot on the small cut. "Must have torn the scab getting out of the truck," he mused.
Jim snorted. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with sharp objects?"
The two men continued toward the doors, barely noticing the passage of a uniformed police officer heading deeper into the garage. If Blair had turned to look behind him at the sound of a trunk clicking open, he would have seen only two cops pulling something from a police car. Even sentinel vision would have missed the body curled deep in the trunk, hidden under a blanket.
Jim leaned against the wall of Simon's office, chewing on a toothpick as he watched Blair try to convince the police captain to buy this whole thing. The grad student was good, he had to admit. He was calm, the wild man under control. But Jim could tell that Simon wasn't buying it. The big captain was studying Blair, skeptical disbelief plain to be seen in his face.
Blair spoke again. "The central hypothesis to my dissertation is how the quality of evidence gathering at a crime scene can affect the capture of a perpetrator and ultimately the outcome of the trial."
Simon shook his head slightly. "And you're requesting full access credentials to observe Detective Ellison on the job?"
The grad student nodded, flicking a glance over at Jim. Jim returned it blandly. "Yeah. He is the best on the force, isn't he?"
Jim winced as Simon looked over at him too. "Did you tell him that?"
Pulling the toothpick from his mouth, Jim shook his head, silently replying to his captain's question.
Simon returned his attention to Blair. "Look, Mr. ...Sandburg, is it? You don't seem like the law enforcement type. What got you interested in this field?"
Jim knew what was coming; he just knew it. Even after telling Sandburg specifically... he groaned quietly and turned away from the disaster as the anthropologist replied. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. Nothing he could say would help here.
"Well, I've always been fascinated with the concept of the thin blue line."
Simon nodded, his voice even as he repeated Blair's words. "The thin blue line."
Blair gestured as he began to explain. "It's that slender thread that separates the lawful and the criminal elements of our society. It's a concept that dates back-"
Simon held up a hand to stop the flow of words. "I'm familiar with the concept. Could you excuse us a moment? I'd like to talk to Detective Ellison alone."
Blair's face fell slightly. "Yeah. Sure. No problem. I'll be right out here, man. Thanks. Great." He turned and headed into the bullpen.
Simon shut the door behind the grad student, shaking his head, and turned to face Jim. His expression is not encouraging, Jim thought. Time for Plan B.
"Jim, when you first told me about this guy I was expecting an academic, not some neo-hippie flower child with time on his hands now that the Dead have broken up. Frankly, I'm having a hard time buying that you want him on your tail."
Jim nodded, shrugging. "Yeah, I hear you, Simon." He shook his head. "This is a family thing."
The bigger man frowned. "Family?"
Smiling ruefully, Jim was grateful that his captain didn't know him well enough that this wouldn't have a chance of working. "Yeah. Blair's my cousin's kid. They've been supporting him through college for the last seven years. They figured if he finally got his doctorate he'd go out and get a job."
Simon sat down behind his desk, looking up at Jim. "And all this talk about you only working alone?"
"Look, even my dad called and begged me on this one. As far as I'm concerned he's just another ride-along. Anything happens to him, it's my responsibility. I take the heat."
Simon studied him for a moment, taking a sip of coffee. Then he shrugged. "All right. Have him go over to Personnel and start the paper work. If he can pass the security clearance, I'll sign off on him."
Jim smiled. "Terrific. I appreciate it."
Both men turned as a knock sounded on the door right before it pushed open to admit Simon's secretary, Rhonda. She leaned her hand against the door as she smiled at her boss. "Excuse me, Captain. Daryl's here."
Simon grinned widely. "Oh, great. Send him in. Thanks, Rhonda." She turned and left, leaving the door open behind her.
Jim shook his head. "I haven't seen Daryl in years. How old is he now?"
"An impossible fourteen. He's been having a pretty rough time ever since Joan and I broke up. You know, plus the usual teenage B.S." He frowned slightly, then shrugged as he pulled a pistol from his desk and checked it before holstering it. "I figure this fishing trip, we might be able to work some things out." He stood as an unsmiling teenager entered the office. "Hey, there's my boy!" He chuckled as he wrapped his arms around his son.
Daryl returned the hug briefly, then pulled his arms away, looking up at his father. "Mom wants me home for Sunday dinner."
Simon's smile disappeared. "Yeah. Okay." He turned and gestured to Jim. "Daryl, you remember Detective Ellison."
Daryl nodded to Jim. "What's up?"
Jim nodded back and smiled. "I hear you guys are going to have a hell of a weekend."
The boy scowled. "Yeah, the weekend of the dopest party of the year."
Simon's voice was tight as he responded. "Hey, all right, Daryl, we've had this trip planned for quite a while."
His son shook his head. "No, you've been planning so you don't have to go guilt-trippin' about the divorce and so Mom will get me off her back for the weekend."
"That's enough." Simon's face softened as he looked at his son apologetically. "I was hoping to get out of here by noon, but I got a call this morning about a lunch meeting at the mayor's office."
"You mean I got to hang here?"
"Don't worry about it." Simon grinned happily, and Jim could see the anticipation in his eyes. "I got you a copy of 'Assault Force II'. That ought to keep you busy."
Daryl looked down at the box his father handed him, then up again. "I already beat that game, Dad."
Jim winced at his captain's expression. Keeping his mouth shut, he moved toward the door. The other man's disappointment was clear as Simon spoke again.
"Yeah, well, this time, try it without the cheat mode, okay? I shouldn't be too long."
Reaching the door, Jim looked back as Daryl sat behind his father's desk. "I'll see you, Daryl." The teen glanced up briefly and nodded. His father sighed almost inaudibly as he joined Jim at the door.
Shaking his head, Simon paused in the doorway as he turned to look at his son again. "You be good."
Blair paced anxiously in the hallway outside the Major Crimes area, waiting for Jim to come out. He'd have waited in the room, but the other cops had kept looking over at him curiously, and he just felt uncomfortable hanging out in there. Maybe once he and Jim had been working together for a while, it wouldn't bother him so much. If they got to work together. His face tightened at the thought, then relaxed. It would work out. It had to.
The door opened and he looked up to see the captain turning away from him and heading toward the elevators. Jim was walking toward him, smiling slightly. Blair gestured a question at him, and Jim's smile widened as he shook his head.
"You should have done what I told you to, Chief. But it's okay. C'mon, we need to get your paperwork started."
Blair grinned. "I knew the thin blue line thing would do it."
Jim looked at him and laughed. "Yeah, right, Chief." He walked past Blair, headed further down the hallway. Blair turned to follow.
"You're telling me that my thin blue line rap didn't put this thing right over?"
The sentinel growled softly. "I'm telling you that if you had listened to me, I wouldn't have had to shovel the captain more bull than even you could dish out."
Blair shook his head as they walked. "Wait a minute, you didn't give him that 'cousin' story, did you?"
Jim nodded as he came to a halt. "It was a last resort."
Blair glanced at the door, noting that it was the personnel office, before returning his gaze to Jim's face. "And he bought it?"
"Yeah, for now. But from now on when I tell you to do something, you do it; when I tell you to say something, you say it, the way I tell you to say it, okay? Are we clear?"
The student nodded. "Yes, we're clear."
Jim put his hand on the doorknob. "Very good."
"Hey, wait a minute, man. Time out."
Jim looked over at him curiously. "Problem?"
Blair grimaced. "Yeah, that, uh, sixteen-ounce cafe latte I had is kinda banging at my bladder."
Jim half-smiled at Blair's hand gestures. "All right. Right down here." He turned to walk toward the restroom.
Blair laughed. "Uh, I think you can trust me to handle this mission on my own, Jim."
"You sure?" The sentinel's voice was deadpan, his eyes dancing. Blair's own sparkled in reply.
"Yeah. Thanks for the offer."
Jim shook his head. "It's a tough one."
Blair laughed and headed for the restroom. Behind him, Jim shook his head, then walked rapidly down the hall to the Major Crimes doorway. Neither of them noticed the two uniforms entering the control room just past Major Crimes. Not even the sentinel heard the quiet gunshots, stifled by silencers, which killed the communications operators.
Jim sighed to himself as he studied the file laid open on the desk in front of him. Looking at his watch, he shook his head. He wasn't even sure why he'd come back to his desk rather than waiting in the hall for Sandburg. The few minutes the kid would be busy weren't going to be enough to get any work done, that was for sure.
Flipping the file closed, he glanced up just as Carolyn walked past. Smiling to himself, he stood and intercepted her.
"I tried calling you. Where you been?"
She shrugged. "Stuck in a deposition all morning."
"Ah." Jim grimaced in commiseration, then smiled again. "So where's my lunch?"
Carolyn pouted at him. "You don't have to be so damn smug about it."
Jim laughed. "I just knew your sister wouldn't go through with the wedding."
"Right." Carolyn sighed. "Now on top of canceling her shower tomorrow, I have to buy you lunch?"
Shrugging, Jim grinned at her. "It wasn't my idea to bet on it."
She smiled reluctantly. "My afternoon is packed, but if you can be ready in five minutes, I know a great new Indian place."
Shaking his head, Jim wished he could say yes. Maybe after he'd worked with Sandburg a little longer. But for now... "No, no. That's too spicy."
Carolyn tilted her head to look up at him. "I seem to recall from our married days that you loved Tandoori."
"No, I still do, but..." Jim grinned evilly, "this afternoon I just kind of feel like..."
She shook her head. "We're not going to Wonderburger."
"My choice. That was the deal."
Carolyn sighed and turned to go. "Meet me downstairs."
As she headed toward the door, Joel entered and smiled at her. After a brief exchange, he walked toward Jim, his smile widening. "Hey, Jim, did you hear about Alton and Morrison? They were just convicted for the ferryboat bombing. Life sentences for both."
The detective shook his head, his face grim. "That's only two of them."
The bomb squad captain shrugged. "Yeah, but the way Garrett Kincaid disappeared, maybe the Sunrise Patriots are gone for good."
"Yeah," Jim replied, his voice bitter as he drawled the word. "And maybe the sun won't rise."
Joel looked at him seriously. "Lighten up on yourself, Jim. You got two of them put away for life."
"We nailed foot soldiers, Joel. Garrett Kincaid is still out there."
"You're not responsible for every lunatic on the loose."
Jim laughed, his voice devoid of amusement. "Says who?" He glanced away, then back at Joel. "Look, I gotta run. I'll see you later."
Joel nodded as Jim walked away. The sentinel left the room, walking down the hall toward Blair, who was leaning against the wall near the personnel room door. As he passed the control room, he heard a low voice say "Okay, let's do this." Idly, he wondered what was going down.
Blair pushed off from the wall as he spotted Jim coming toward him. "Something wrong?" he asked, not liking the set expression on Jim's face. The other man shook his head.
"Not really. Just thinking about a case."
"Um, okay." Blair turned as Jim pushed open the door and followed him inside. A dark-haired woman in a black dress looked up from behind the counter. Automatically, Blair smiled at her, thinking to himself that she'd be pretty if she took her hair out of that tight braid. She gave a slight smile in return, then looked at Jim. Once the detective explained what they were there for, she reached under the counter and pulled out a stack of forms, handing them to Blair.
"You're required to read the manual, fill out the application materials, and sign the consent form."
Blair grinned at her. "Great, great. When I'm done with all this, I should qualify for a license to kill, huh?" His smile faded as he met her unamused look.
Jim looked at his watch. "We've got a couple of hours here, Chief. So I'm going to be leaving you in Vera's capable hands. All right?"
The grad student nodded, his eyes focused on the top form. "Uh-huh."
The other man took a step to leave, then turned back. "Vera, is that White Shoulders that you're wearing?"
Blair looked up at the question, keeping his face straight as the clerk smiled and blushed slightly. He'd been right about her looks, he decided, as her eyes sparkled. She could definitely hold her own in the right circumstances. She answered Jim shyly, "It's not too much, is it?"
Jim shook his head. "No, not at all. It's just that whenever I smell White Shoulders, it reminds me of my grandmother."
Blair groaned inwardly as he heard Jim's statement. Vera's face tightened as she replied.
Nodding, Jim smiled at her. "Right."
"Don't you have someplace to go, Detective?"
Blair tried valiantly to suppress his laughter at the sentinel's startled expression. Clueless, he thought. The man is clueless. He probably doesn't get out much. Jim took a step backward, then looked at Blair as he replied.
"Right. Um, good luck."
Blair grinned as the door swung closed behind the other man, then looked at Vera as she spoke again, her voice still cold.
"Now, Mr. Sandburg, the department requests all incoming personnel to submit to a drug test. I hope that's not a problem for you."
Blair widened his eyes. "Oh, come on! Do I look like that would be a problem?" He laughed nervously. "Don't answer that."
Vera just looked at him. "We need a urine sample."
Blair groaned. "Now, that actually might be a problem you see, 'cause, um... I just went."
The man in the passenger seat of the white semi smiled to himself as the driver pulled to a halt facing the Cascade PD garage entrance. The smile faded before it hit his eyes. Reaching for a handset, he keyed it on as a green truck left the garage, his gaze idly watching the vehicle recede into the distance. His voice was soft, deliberately so, as he set events into motion.
"All right. This is Kincaid. We are standby."
Replacing the handset, he waited, the voices of his men coming across the radio as they acted according to his plans. The smile returned, his mind's eye picturing the interior of the control room: the messages directing the cops already in the field to a tangled accident site, the look on his people's faces as they cleared the building, opening the way for freedom.
"Well, that takes care of the Gestapo in the field. Now for the ones in the building." The words crackled over the radio, and he poised himself as the voice continued, slightly doubled as the radio picked up the announcement inside the PD. "Attention, all field units at central. Attention, all field units at central. This is an emergency mobilization. Repeat: this is an emergency mobilization. An airliner has crashed into the Wiseman Water Reclamation Plant just south of the airport. All field personnel in the building report to Sergeant Howard at the crash site immediately."
The police garage boiled with activity, and he glanced over at the driver, silently telling him to be ready. When the stream of police cars leaving came to a halt, he nodded once. The semi shifted smoothly into motion, and as it entered the building, Garrett Kincaid's smile became briefly real.
It faded, leaving his face calm, determined as another signal came over the radio. The lockdown had started, and behind him the barred gates were pulling slowly closed as the Sunrise Patriots emerged from the back of the semi. A few uniformed cops remained in the garage, and Kincaid shook his head as he stepped out of the truck. Too bad for them. But they had chosen their path, and he felt no remorse as he shot them. His men fanned out through the garage, their weapons held in readiness. Looking around, Kincaid nodded as he caught the all-clear signal.
"Gentlemen. Let's move out."
They infiltrated the PD, the men moving rapidly down hallways and into rooms, claiming the building as their own. Sweeping each floor, they herded their hostages before them, heading for their ultimate goal -- the Major Crimes Department.