by: Lyn Townsend
Beta Read by: Cheri Allen and Carol Cappe
Written for PetFly by: Daniel Levine

Rated: PG
internal thought in italics


Prologue


Detective Jim Ellison leaned toward the bed as he felt the minute pressure on his hand. “Sandburg? You with me, Chief?”

His sightless eyes searched the face he could not see, then his big hand fumbled clumsily toward Blair’s peaceful body. He stiffened as his fingers brushed the hard plastic tube protruding from Blair’s mouth. Finally they came to rest against the stubbled cheek and then he relaxed back into his previous position – one hand clutching Blair’s on the silent man’s chest, Jim’s long frame stretched out on the hard plastic chair next to the bed. The sentinel extended his senses to hear Blair’s heart past the mechanical hiss of the ventilator and the annoying beep of the cardiac monitor, his partner’s heartbeat grounding him as he struggled to obey Blair’s instructions and remake the connection.

Jim’s eyes drooped closed and his mind drifted back to the day in Holden Park. A fresh, sun-drenched day that gave no hint of the tragedies about to unfold.


Act I


Jim Ellison accepted his hot dog from the vendor and continued with his diatribe. “She loves Thai food. We like the same books. I mean, she even listens to R&B. I just want to meet this woman, okay?”

Blair Sandburg shook his head and accepted his hot dog. “I just don’t think it’s going to be a good idea.” He pulled a thin black rod from his pocket and pressed one end, aiming the red laser light at a shaggy mongrel that stood next to them patiently awaiting a morsel. The two men walked over to a deserted picnic table and sat down. Blair continued to fiddle with his new toy. “Check this out. Isn’t it cool?” He didn’t wait for Jim’s answer. “It’s a laser pointer. It’s great for my lectures.”

Jim shook his head impatiently. “Look, why don’t we stick to the subject here?” Finally noticing their guest, the detective pulled a portion of his hotdog apart and offered it to the drooling animal. “Whose dog is this?” Watching Blair continue to fiddle with the pointer, he went on. “I just want to keep it casual with her. You know, go out for a cup of coffee, a drink, something like that.”

Blair finally looked up at him. “Jim, what if you two don’t hit it off? She’s a friend of mine.” He tapped the detective on the chest. “You’re a friend of mine. Your feelings get hurt, then I’m caught in the middle.”

“We already like each other,” Jim persisted.

“On the phone,” Blair countered.

“Yeah, so?”

Blair sighed and went into lecture mode. “We’re male animals, right, Jim? Attraction is partly intellectual, but the virtual components are a major aspect to it. Without the physical thing, we don’t have the whole package.”

Jim spoke thoughtfully, “What are you saying? Margaret’s not attractive?”

“I’m saying that…” Blair appeared to consider his words carefully, “…that she has an inner beauty.”

Jim chewed his hotdog and digested the information. “I like her voice,” he said finally. “I’d still like to meet her.”

The detective looked down as his cell phone rang and fished in his pocket for it. “Ellison. We’re down in Holden Park, Simon.” He listened a moment to the voice on the other end. “Responding.”

Flipping the phone shut, he stood up and tossed his remaining hot dog to the mongrel, who snapped it up eagerly. Blair stood as well and followed him. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“Cascade Reservoir,” Jim answered, hurrying toward the truck. “There’s a jumper on the dam.”


The girl could be no more than eighteen, Jim decided as he and Blair exited the truck and jogged toward the uniformed cop standing guard.

“She’s over there,” the cop said, pointing at the girl, who leaned now over the chasm of the dam, one hand holding the rail, her only link between this world and the next. “She keeps talking about a castle in the sky and a golden bridge.”

“Must be whacked out on something,” Blair replied, eyeing the girl and her precarious position nervously.

The cop nodded. “Looks that way. Every time I get close, she leans a little farther over the edge. Fire department rescue unit’s on its way.”

Jim shook his head and began to walk toward the girl. “Nah, that’ll be too late.” The detective stood and watched the girl a moment. She was pretty and closer up, he could see she was nearer to high school age than college. Long, blonde hair framed a heart-shaped, sweet face. She gave no indication of being startled by his presence. Jim was bothered by that fact. If she were a jumper, she’d be screaming at him to stay away. He started when she spoke.

“Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Yeah. Yeah. It’s beautiful.”

The girl leaned back against the railing and looked at Jim. “At first I didn’t believe it,” she said.

“Didn’t believe what?”

“The castle here, the bridges of gold and the people here. They shine.”

Jim risked a step forward. “What’s your name?”

There was a moment’s silence before she spoke, “Lisa.”

“Lisa, I can’t see the castle from here,” Jim began. “But maybe if you come down, you could tell me about it.”

Lisa stared at him, then her eyes slid back to the water and whatever she could see beyond it and Jim grew nervous. “Lisa?”

“Come with me,” she invited, falling forward even as she spoke.

“Lisa!” Jim moved at almost the exact same time as the girl, one hand reaching out and snagging her jacket, a hiss of tension escaping his lips as Lisa was pulled to an abrupt halt in his grasp. “All right. I’ve got you.”

Lisa looked up at him, her eyes full of infinite patience as a mother with a recalcitrant child. “But I want to go to the bridge,” she said.

Jim began to pull her up in panic as realization hit him. He screamed out his denial as Lisa unzipped her jacket and gravity pulled her body downward. She dropped to the water rapidly, her eyes focusing on him one last time, her face a beatific expression of bliss.


Four hours later, Jim and Blair sat in Simon's office and looked over the information they'd managed to gather on the girl at Cascade Reservoir. “Her name was Lisa Hughes. Sixteen years old. High school honors student,” Simon said, turning from the rain-drenched window to walk over to his desk. “She played cello in the school orchestra. Tox report came back positive, but no exact match with any known drug or combination thereof.”

“It could be Golden,” Blair mused almost to himself.

The police captain fixed him with a stare. “Dare I ask how you know that?”

Blair shrugged. “The university. There’s been rumors about a new designer drug.”

Jim spoke up from the opposite side of the table. “Vice reports this stuff appeared in the area about three weeks ago, sir. One of the side-effects that people experience is this luminescent golden quality to their vision. And Lisa Hughes was talking about this golden bridge.”

“It’s an hallucinogen?” Simon asked.

“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “Golden makes angel dust look like light beer. It affects each user differently. Three days ago, an employee at Walkerville Steel decided to take a plunge into a vat of molten iron. He was stoned on the stuff.”

Simon sighed and shook his head. “All right. What’s the game plan here, Jim?”

“I’m going to check with my source, sir. The… specialist in the field.” He grinned and stood up, gesturing for Blair to follow him.
 


Blair tapped his fingers impatiently on the table and looked around the diner they were seated in. “So, how come I’ve never heard of this guy, Sneaks?”

Jim shrugged as he sipped his coffee. “Never came up before.”

“So, what is he?” Blair pressed. “Like a professional snitch?”

Jim smiled a little. “One of the best.”

Blair nodded in understanding. “Very undercover. Very invisible. So that’s why they call him Sneaks, right?”

“Well, not exactly,” Jim answered. “Sneaks is actually short for…” He was cut off by the approach of a disheveled man dressed in a long coat that had seen better days. A black knit cap was crammed onto his head and a long scarf wound around his throat. He slid quickly into the seat next to Jim and grinned widely at the detective.

“Hey, excellent timing,” the man said. Eyeing Blair suspiciously, he indicated the police observer with a dirty thumb. “So, who’s this?”

“This is my associate, Blair Sandburg,” Jim answered, his smile widening at Blair’s discomfort. Blair threw the man a wave and waited but Sneaks had already lost interest in him and turned back to Jim. “So,” he began, elbowing the detective in the arm, “what you got on?”

Jim was obviously enjoying himself. He shook his head at the man’s strange request. “Nope, sorry, just some hiking boots.”

“A couple of stompers,” Sneaks replied, looking disappointed. He slammed his fist down suddenly on the tabletop, causing Blair to jump. “No sale!” Sneaks turned back to study Blair. “What do you got on your feet?”

Blair leaned forward slightly and peered quizzically at the snitch. “Excuse me?”

Sneaks leaned sideways and looked under the table, then looked at Blair with new appreciation. “Oooh. Nike Severes.”

Blair looked down and wiggled one foot, finally catching on. “Oh, yeah. Okay.”

Jim had decided that it was time to cut to the chase. “We’re here about Golden,” he said.

“Ooh, hey. The yellow powder. That’s a hot ticket and it’s going to get hotter.” Sneaks’ attention shifted back to Blair. “How’s that molded on mid-sole? I guess it’s, ah, pretty soft, huh?”

“Why is it going to get hotter?” Jim pushed.

Sneaks spared the detective a glance. “It’s scarce. And it’s pricey, too,” he replied. “I tell you. They get their act together, they build that pipeline, and the trickle is going to be a flood.”

“Who’s they?” Jim asked.

But Sneaks was back to Blair. “You’re what. Eight or an eight and a half?”

Blair shrugged. “Eight and a half.”

Jim interrupted the conversation. “Okay. All right, Sneaks, look, if I don’t get a little solid information here, nobody’s going to walk away with anything.”

“How’s that defense mesh tongue working for you?” Sneaks asked.

“Tongue is great,” Blair answered.

“Word is, you go for the gold, you go to Slicks',” Sneaks said.

Jim nodded. “The amateur drag strip.”

“Plus,” Sneaks added, “whoever is cooking that stuff is looking to make a major connection overseas.”

“You got a name for me?”

“Cyrus,” Sneaks answered. “Who else?” He rapped the table once more. “So! Do I earn my pay or what?”

“Yeah, yeah. All right. Settle down,” Jim replied. “This is a family establishment here.” He pulled out his wallet but before he could extract the cash, Sneaks pulled several bills out for himself. Jim shook his head. “Go ahead. Help yourself.” Sneaks did.

The snitch let his gaze wander from Jim to Blair. “Hey,” he said. “No bonus?”


Blair stood and watched as Sneaks exited the diner ahead of them, a pair of ratty sneakers swinging from one shoulder and Blair’s prized Nike Severes on his feet. “Sneaks,” he said in disgust. “Short for Sneakers.” He punched Jim on the arm as they walked to the truck. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’ll be reimbursed from the snitch fund.”

“Well, I hope they cover socks too, because these are my favorite Argyles.”


Blair pulled another pair of sneakers from his closet and walked out to the living room. He looked at the decidedly worn shoes glumly before bending to put them on. “So,” he asked Jim, who sat at the table cleaning his sidearm. “Cyrus is a myth?”

Jim nodded. “Two years ago, the DEA and Interpol created an international drug distributor with an appetite for big money deals. Cyrus is an Athens mail drop, a Swiss bank account and a dozen-man support group. The scam has already netted dozens of busts.”

“And they don’t mind if you use him?”

“Well, they did until I brought the DEA in on the deal,” Jim replied. He turned to face his partner. “The fact that they’re trying to contact Cyrus is an indication that the Golden is still localized.” The detective stood and holstered his weapon, then headed for the door. Blair followed him and accepted his jacket from the other man. “With any luck,” Jim continued, “we can stop it here.”

“Great.”


Blair hunched his shoulders further into the warmth of his jacket and cast an appreciative eye over the cars revving their engines on the drag strip ahead of them. “The blue one,” he challenged as both cars sped off down the track.

Jim shook his head. “Nope. Purple one,” he answered in an authoritative tone.

Blair frowned as the voice from the PA announced the purple car to be the winner and Jim smiled. “Looks can be deceiving, huh?” He cocked his head slightly trying to filter through the myriad of conversations taking place about him, feeling Blair’s hand come to press gently against his back, grounding him.

<Double or nothing on the next race, okay?>

<You’re lying.>

<You’re on.>

<Yeah, my Chevy could have blown his doors off.>

<How much do they want?>

<A quarter of a key. Half the Golden now. The rest in, uh, two days. The money upfront.>

Jim focused on the last snatch of conversation and dialed up his sight to focus on a small huddle of men gathered around a car on the opposite side of the strip.

“You get anything?” Blair asked, breaking his concentration.

Jim shrugged non-commitally. “Come on.” He led the way around the edge of the track, keeping his eyes on the three men ahead. He stopped as a muscled arm reached out and halted his progress.

“You want something?”

“I thought maybe we could take a look,” Jim replied, indicating the car.

The muscle man looked them over carefully. “I’ve never seen you around here before.”

“Yeah, that’s right. First time,” Blair put in, bouncing nervously on his toes.

The big man shook his head. “Another night,” he said as he began to walk away.

“Nah, that wouldn’t be good for us,” Jim answered. “Our business won’t wait.”

The muscle man folded his arms across his impressive chest and stood his ground. “We don’t have any business.”

“Oh no?” Jim countered. He looked over as another man raised his head from his scrutiny of the car engine. “Ten minutes of your time, huh?” the detective suggested. “You can call off the pit bull.”

“I don’t know him,” Muscle man insisted.

“Then tell him to leave,” the other man said. He went back to his perusal of the engine and when neither Jim nor Blair moved, “call security.”

Jim shook his head. “That’s a big mistake.”

The man at the car straightened and eyed the detective balefully. “Why’s that?”

“Because you’re looking for Cyrus.”

The man smiled scornfully. “You’re Cyrus?”

“Nah. It doesn’t work that way,” Jim countered. “See, I’m Cyrus’ point man for the area. You need negotiating, you go through me.”

A much smaller man approached Jim and Blair, his manner nervous and twitchy. “Why should we trust you?” he asked belligerently, his narrow eyes flicking quickly between the two.

“You put out the word. You need connections.” Jim spread his arms wide. “I’m here.” When none of the men spoke, he shrugged once more and turned to Blair. “Three blind mice. Your loss. Very good.” He snagged Blair’s arm and turned him back toward the racetrack, stopping when one of the men spoke.

“Wait.”

Jim and Blair turned back to the men. “Let’s just say I might happen to know what you’re talking about,” the lead man said. “What could Cyrus do for us?”

“Distribution,” Jim answered casually. “Turn a mom and pop organization like you got here into General Motors, if you’ve got the product.” The detective pulled a business card from his breast pocket and held it out. “Give me a call before Cyrus changes his mind.”

Jim nodded at Blair again and the two men turned to walk away. Something dropped at Jim’s feet and he looked down at the tiny plastic bag lying on the ground.

“You dropped something.”

Jim bent and picked up the bag, eyeing the contents curiously. He tapped at the plastic a few times, knocking the yellow powder from the sides of the bag.

“We got the product,” the little man said.


Jim continued to flick at the powder in the bag as they walked back to the truck. Blair stilled his actions with a hand on his arm. “Watch it, Jim. You’re getting that stuff all over your hands,” he cautioned.

Jim let his gaze wander over the crowd and stopped as his eyes encountered a middle-aged man standing on the periphery of the track watching them closely. He nudged Blair. “Hey. You see that guy over there?”

Blair squinted into the night, obviously having trouble seeing anything. “Who?”

Jim raised his hand and pointed at the man who turned and began to walk quickly away. “That guy right there.” Jim took a couple of steps toward the figure. “He’s been watching us. Middle-aged, medium build, medium everything.” His fingertips tingled and he rubbed them together trying to dust the yellow residue from his skin. He rubbed at his eyes, trying to bring the man once more into focus.

Blair shook his head. “Where?” he asked.

“He’s right…” Jim pointed again to where he’d seen the man. An engine close behind startled him, and Jim turned, one hand going up to shield his eyes from the headlights that glared in his face and blasted sharp pain through his skull. He stopped dead in his tracks. “Whoa.”

Blair looked up at him and touched his shoulder. “You okay?”

Jim tried to focus but golden light obstructed his view. He blinked his eyes rapidly, trying to dispel it. “Man, that’s weird.”

Blair’s voice came again from beside him as he turned his head from side to side. “Jim, what’s wrong?”

The lights were so bright now they were making his head pound and his eyes felt as though they’d been sandblasted. Jim dropped to his knees, suddenly dizzy. Neither man noticed the small packet of golden powder as it dropped from Jim's fingers and fell to the ground. Blair’s voice was panicked now as he grabbed hold of Jim’s arm, trying to support the detective’s weight. “Jim! Jim, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Act II