By Melinda Holley
Beta Read by Carla and Lady Shelley
Written for PetFly by: David H. Balkan

Rated PG-13
internal thought in italics


Act I


The Loft

This is ridiculous. I’ve talked to Simon about this…because I had to. I’ve talked with IA about this…because I had to. Why is it so hard to talk into this stupid tape recorder?

Jim Ellison caught a glimpse of himself in the balcony windows and nearly flinched. He wasn’t especially fond of himself right now. He certainly wasn’t the man he’d thought himself to be. Staring down at the tape recorder in his hands, he silently acknowledged this was just a dry run…a practice effort. With shaking hands, he activated the tape recorder. And what does it say that I have to do a practice run before talking with my partner about this?

“Okay, this is…uh…Jim Ellison. Hell, Sandburg, maybe I’ll just leave you the tape recorder.” Jim rubbed his jaw with his left hand. “Yeah, that would be the coward’s way out, huh? You can’t really interrogate a tape recording, can you?” He nearly smiled as he thought of Blair shaking the tape recorder and yelling questions at it. “Okay. So we’ll just call this practice, okay? You know me, Sandburg. I don’t do this ‘talking things out’ stuff very well. Like that’s any big surprise to you, right?”

Slowly Jim walked towards the kitchen. He could tell he was going to need a lot of coffee for this.


TWO DAYS EARLIER – INTERROGATION ROOM #3

Jim managed to control the urge to snatch the cigarette lighter from Aldo’s hand. He knew the IA officer was doing it just to irritate Jim…to try and break him. It was amateurish…but it was also fraying his last nerve.

“Look, Ellison, you know how it goes,” Aldo sighed. “You know this scenario as well as I do. You’ll make it easier on yourself, Major Crimes, and the PD if you’ll just cooperate.” He sharply hit the table with the lighter. “You think any of us likes what’s going on? It gives all of us a black eye.” He leaned forward. “If you won’t come clean for yourself, do it for your friends and co-workers.”

Not bad, Jim admitted to himself. He’s almost got the right pitch in his voice to sound sympathetic. Sandburg could do it better, though. He folded his arms across his chest. “You have to admit, Aldo. This whole story doesn’t make sense, does it?”

“Why would she make up this kind of story?” Aldo shook his head.

“For the money,” Jim patiently pointed out.

Outside the interrogation room, Blair Sandburg stood in the darkness watching through the observation window as Jim verbally fenced with the IA interrogator. It wasn’t even a contest. Aldo was nowhere near the level of interrogator Jim had been trained to resist. He glanced to his left when the door opened.

“What’s happening?” Captain Simon Banks asked as he shut the door behind him.

“Nothing. Aldo just keeps going round and round." Blair looked through the one-way glass. “He’s not cutting Jim any slack either.” He glanced back at Simon. “What about Veronica?”

“Sticking to her story,” Simon sighed. “It doesn’t look good, Sandburg.”

Damned bitch. Blair knew he should be ashamed of the thought…but he wasn’t.

Inside the interrogation room, Aldo smiled at Jim. “Tell me about the money.”

“Oh, that’s just the punch line. If you want to get the setup, you gotta start at the beginning.”

Aldo leaned back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. “So tell me the setup, Ellison…from the beginning.”

“The beginning, huh? You gotta pay attention ‘cause I’m only doing this once.” Jim leaned forward. “Sandburg and I had just wrapped up a crime scene involving a turf war between two rival gangs. As usual, my partner was going sociological on me.”

Outside the interrogation room, Simon glared at Blair. “What’s he doing, Sandburg?”

Blair slowly shook his head. “I don’t know, Simon. I honestly don’t know.”


TWO MONTHS EARLIER

Blair waved his hands in explanation. “My point, Jim, is that battling for territory is a prehistoric basic instinct."

“Territory, huh?” Jim’s eyes flickered from the rear view mirror to the traffic in front of them. His fingers impatiently tapped the steering wheel of the Ford truck. “Isn’t that just an over-generalization? Is it really just that simple?”

It was between you and Alex Barnes. Blair immediately shoved the thought behind the door he’d labeled ‘Things Not To Be Discussed.' “Maybe the terrain and weapons have changed. But the same rules apply.”

Jim shrugged. “Primitive tribes fought for survival. That means food, water, and women.” He glanced at the side mirror then back to the traffic around them. “These gang wars today are about pure profit. That’s a modern corruption.”

“It is, huh?” Blair asked, starting to enjoy the argument.

Jim nodded. “Yeah.”

Blair slightly smiled. “What about the Crusades? Forget about protecting the Holy Land from the so-called heathens. They were motivated to control trade routes and exotic goods, and they did it for profit.” He shrugged. “It’s the same thing as a drug war.”

“Okay, genius, answer this,” Jim demanded. “What caused the appearance of those stiffs today on North Chandler?” He irritably smacked the steering wheel as the car ahead of him slowed to change lanes.

“Well, those were two harpies who ratted out their own kind to the narcs and got whacked for their trouble,” Blair answered, doing a bad Bogart imitation.

“Exactly.” Jim nodded. “A true warrior would never betray his own brother-in-arms. Especially for money.”

“Uh, speaking of money…” Blair glanced at the older man. “That twenty bucks you left on the counter? I borrowed it.”

Jim smirked. “Your Honor, the defense rests.”

“Now wait a minute…” Blair began. “Hey!” He braced his hands on the dashboard as Jim suddenly hit the brakes.

“WHOA!” Jim angrily eyed the bright red sports car that had just cut him off. “Okay, jackass, you just won today’s big prize.” He reached down and grabbed the flashing light that marked his truck as a police vehicle. He activated the light and siren, grimly smiling when the sports car accelerated away from them.

“Jim? Remember that little talk we had about road rage?” Blair nervously glanced at the older man.

Jim nodded. “Every word. Hold on, Chief.”

Blair briefly closed his eyes and said a silent prayer.

Jim expertly followed the sports car as it cut through traffic until it turned into an alley and stopped.

“Gotcha!” Jim triumphantly muttered. He parked the truck behind the car and opened his door, gun in hand. “You in the car! Get out with your hands up! Cascade PD!”

Slowly the door opened and a well-dressed man emerged. “Okay, okay. Don’t make a federal case out of…Jim?…Ellison?!"

Slowly Jim lowered the gun. “Oh my God…Alan?” He stepped away from the truck and holstered his gun.

Blair slowly got out of the truck, watching as the two men hugged and pounded each other’s backs.

“Damn, Alan. You always did know how to make an entrance.” Jim grinned.

“Oh, I know how to make an entrance, huh, hotshot?” the other man laughed.

“Either my lectures on road rage are working or you two have met before,” Blair chuckled as the two men separated.

Jim ruefully grinned at his partner. “Blair Sandburg, this is Alan Archer. We were in Special Ops together.” He lightly punched Alan’s arm. “I owe the man my life.”

Alan shrugged. “Aw, you don’t owe me anything. But it’s been…what? Ten years? What are the odds, huh?”

“I know.” Jim nodded.

Alan held up his hands. “Look. No harm no foul, right? Let’s have dinner tonight and catch up?”

“Promise me you’ll take it easy in this red rocket of yours and it’s a deal,” Jim grinned.

“Deal,” Alan sighed. “Riley’s Grill at 8 pm.” He turned back towards his car. “And if you reach for the check tonight, I’ll break your hand.”

“Oh, yeah, he’s one of your buddies,” Blair muttered with a smirk.


INTERROGATION ROOM #3

Aldo raised his eyebrows. “Let me get this straight. You’re just driving along and nearly collide with a man you haven’t seen since your Army days ten years ago?” When Jim nodded, the IA investigator shook his head. “And this didn’t strike you as strange in any way?”

“Why should it?” Jim shrugged. “People meet people they haven’t seen in a while all the time.” He leaned forward and looked Aldo in the eyes. “Haven’t you ever heard of the concept that random events are part of some greater design that we just don’t understand?”

Outside the interrogation room, Simon glared at Blair. “You taught him that!” he accused.

Blair innocently shrugged. “Hey! How was I to know he was listening to me? Much less remembering it?”

Inside the interrogation room, Aldo smirked. “That’s just cause and effect, Detective. There's nothing mysterious about that in my book.”

“Maybe you should read another book,” Jim suggested as he leaned back in his chair. “Might do you some good. Broaden your horizons.”

Outside the interrogation room, Simon glared again at Blair.

“Hey! This is pure Jim 'Stubborn and bullheaded is my middle name' Ellison!” Blair defended himself. He looked back through the glass as Simon snorted.

Inside the interrogation room, Aldo started tapping on the table with his cigarette lighter. “So you met Archer as arranged?”

Jim raised his eyebrow. “I thought you wanted the whole story. Don’t leave out your own chapter. After all, you got involved that very day. Remember?”


TWO MONTHS EARLIER – SIMON BANKS’ OFFICE

“Captain Banks, there’s no disputing that somebody grabbed two kilos of heroin before it was logged into the evidence room.” IA Inspector Ray Aldo stared in Simon’s dark eyes. “I intend to question every man on that squad. Starting with your Detective Ellison.”

“This was a joint operation!” Simon angrily snapped. “If the drugs are missing, they weren’t taken by anyone in this command. Ellison and his team have my complete confidence.”

“You know what I think, Captain?” Aldo smirked. “You operate Major Crimes like it’s your personal little kingdom. Maybe you should take off your blinders.”

Simon stood and planted both hands on his desk. Leaning across the desk, he coldly eyed the IA investigator. “Maybe you should back off the idea that Major Crimes is dirty.”

“It only takes one bad cop to make everybody look dirty,” Aldo reminded him. “The DEA is conducting its own internal investigation.”

Simon glared at the knock on his door. “Come in!”

“In the meantime, I really hope your people are as above reproach as you think they are, Captain. Because if Major Crimes is dirty, I will find out who,” Aldo promised. He curiously looked at the two men entering Simon’s office.

“You do windows, too?” Jim calmly asked.

“This isn’t going to just go away, Ellison.” Aldo peered past him. “Sandburg, isn’t it?”

“Uh…” Blair automatically looked up at Jim, then back at Aldo. “That’s right. Blair Sandburg.”

“And you were present when the arrests occurred?” Aldo’s eyes narrowed.

“Yeah.” Blair casually smiled. “You’re two for two, man.”

“Keep your calendar clear, man,” Aldo ordered. “We’ll be talking.” With barely a glance in Simon’s direction, he left the office, firmly closing the door behind him.

“Ouch! Talk about a tight…”

“This is a witch hunt, Captain,” Jim angrily interrupted.

“The drugs are missing, Jim.” With a sigh, Simon sat behind his desk. “We don’t have them. The DEA doesn’t have them. And somebody’s going to take the fall for it.”


INTERROGATION ROOM #3

Jim sighed. “We all knew Simon was right. But if I’d had any idea the poor sap about to take the high dive was me, I’d never have walked into Riley’s Grill that night.”

Aldo smirked. “Is that a fact, Detective? That’s assuming you didn’t already know about the lovely Veronica.”

Jim sighed once again. Momentarily glancing at the observation glass, he nodded. “And I didn’t know about Veronica. Not until that night.”

Act II