Preconceptions are a pretty funny thing. Take eyewitnesses for example. Whenever a group of people witnesses the same event, in the end they all end up giving a different version of what happened. One guy will tell you, ‘It was a six foot, black guy with a moustache and beard.’ While a woman tells you, ‘It was the five foot, bald-headed white guy with a goatee.’ Sure part of it is because they either weren’t paying attention or they were too scared to remember details. But most of the time, it’s a person’s preconceptions that distort their ability to give an accurate description. Prejudices, misconceptions and biases – all of them influence a person.
So, when a witness gives you a description of the perp, you always have to consider where the witness is coming from and if they’re allowing their personal opinions to influence their viewpoint. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell reality from delusion. Sometimes people can so thoroughly convince themselves that what they're saying is the truth, that it’s hard to know whether to believe them or not.
In the end, you often have to go with your gut instinct. Unfortunately, sometimes your partner’s gut is telling him something completely different than what yours is telling you. And when that happens, even the best of partnerships is put to the test.
"I don’t want to hear it, Sandburg.” Jerking out his chair, Jim sat down at his desk and ignored all the stares they were receiving. “We’ve got an eye witness who puts McIntyre at the scene.”
Blair leaned against his partner’s desk and crossed his arms over his chest. “And I still don’t think that’s enough to go on. Peterson isn’t a reliable witness. You can’t go out and arrest McIntyre based on his statement.”
Slamming a hand down on his desk, Jim glared up at Blair. “There was nothing wrong with Peterson’s statement. He gave a dead-on description of the perp. A description which, by the way, McIntyre matches.”
Blair reached down and grabbed a file off of Jim’s desk. Opening it, he thumbed through the pages until he found the one he wanted. “Six foot, dark complexion, late 20’s with a goatee and a bald head.” Closing the folder, the younger man threw it back down on the desk. “A lot of guys match that description. I don’t think McIntyre is our guy. Besides, I told you that I don’t trust Peterson’s description. Something just seems off about him.”
“And you base this on what? Your six months’ experience as a detective?” Jim’s tone was sarcastic and challenging.
“I base it on my four years’ experience as an observer riding with you and on my expertise as an anthropologist.”
“Yeah, well, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not an anthropologist anymore.”
Even though he flinched at the harsh words, Blair didn’t back down. “Believe me, Jim, I noticed. But just because I’m a cop now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to forget or ignore everything I learned as an anthropologist. I watch people. I know how to… how to read them and I’m telling you, Peterson isn’t a trustworthy eyewitness. I think he’s biased. The guy showed me nothing but hostility after he found out my last name and he kept shooting some pretty dark looks over at Henri and Megan.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Jim pointed a finger at his partner. “You’re trying to tell me that you think Peterson is prejudiced or something and that he what? Just made up his whole statement? I don’t believe this."
“I’m not saying he lied. Not on purpose at least.”
“Well, that’s big of you.”
Blair gave Jim an irritated look. “I’m just saying that maybe the guy allowed his … his personal opinions to influence what he saw or what he remembered he saw.” The younger detective shrugged. “It’s possible.”
Jim abruptly stood up, causing his chair to roll backwards and crash into the wall behind his desk. “No, it’s not!”
“My office now, gentlemen.”
The two detectives looked over and saw their captain watching them. Without waiting for Blair, Jim stormed off. Pausing a moment to take a deep breath, Blair followed after his partner.
“Would one of you like to tell me what this is all about?” Simon asked once they were all in his office.
When Jim only clenched his jaw, Blair spoke up. “It’s the thing with McIntyre, Sir.”
“What about it? I thought you had that case just about wrapped up. Your eyewitness…"
"Is unreliable at best," Blair finished. "But Jim refuses to see it."
"No, I just refuse to listen to your line of bull," Jim protested.
Simon held up a hand when Blair started to respond. "All right, I want to know what's going on with you two. Jim, you start."
"Sit down, Sandburg. You'll get your turn once Jim is finished."
Reluctantly, Blair took a seat and then stared up at his partner.
"Go on, Jim," the captain encouraged, his patient tone not fooling either detective. "Tell me why you two are having a shouting match in the middle of my bullpen?"
With a sigh, Jim ran a hand over his face. "We're just having a little … difference of opinion, Sir." Ignoring Blair's snort, Jim continued. "I promise you it won't happen again."
"Yeah, right," Blair scoffed.
"Well, since you can't seem to keep quiet, which comes as no surprise, why don't you give me your version, Sandburg?" Simon suggested. "I've got a feeling it's going to be slightly different from your partner's."
With a glance over at Jim, who was pointedly looking away from him, Blair began to explain. "Like I said, it's this McIntyre case. Jim is ready to believe whatever Peterson says and I don't feel the same way. I don't think the guy has given us an accurate description of the suspect."
"Why is that?"
"It's just a feeling I get from the guy, Captain. Something about him strikes me as … off … I guess." Blair shifted in his chair, then shrugged. "I think the guy has some prejudices that are serious screwing with his statement. I'm not saying the guy wasn't there and I'm not saying that he didn't see it go down. All I'm saying is that he may not be remembering things the way they really happened." Turning in his seat, he glared over at his partner. "But Jim refuses to see it my way. This Peterson guy is an ex-Ranger so, naturally, he can't do any wrong as far as my partner is concerned."
"What's your view on this, Jim?" Simon asked. "Could Sandburg be right about this?"
The older detective cut off his partner. "Just because Peterson may have given you a funny look, that doesn't mean he's prejudiced or a racist. Hell, I gave you a funny look the first time we met."
"As I recall, you also slammed me up against a wall," Blair retorted.
The remark had its intended impact and Jim's shoulders slumped. "Hell, Sandburg, how long are you going to keep bringing that up?"
"As long as I can use it to make my point," Blair countered. "You have to admit, Jim, when we first met, you let your preconceptions influence how you reacted to me. I think Peterson is doing the same thing. But in his case, I think it runs much deeper."
"Look, there's any easy way to figure this out," Simon interjected when Jim started to reply. When both detectives looked at him, he explained, "Rafe and Brown are out rounding up McIntyre. After they bring him in, I want Sandburg to talk with him while you, Jim, bring in Peterson. We'll have him take a look at McIntyre and see if he can make a positive identification. Now get out of here and try not to make another scene."
"Yes, Sir," both detectives replied at the same time.
Shaking his head, Simon watched as the two men left his office.
Working at their desks, silently, Jim and Blair both looked up when Rafe walked over to them. "McIntyre's in interrogation room three. He's ready whenever you are."
"Thanks, Rafe," Jim replied for both his partner and himself. After their fellow detective left, he turned to look at Blair. "I called Peterson and he should be here any minute now."
"All right," Blair matched his partner's formal tone, "I'll go in and talk to McIntyre. When Peterson gets here…"
"I'll bring him to take a look at McIntyre," Jim finished. "And then you'll know that we've got the right guy. I'm telling you, Sandburg, you're way off base here."
Not in the mood to continue their argument, Blair merely said, "We'll see."
Standing up, Jim moved to greet the heavily muscled, black haired man who walked into the bullpen. Holding out his hand, he said, "Hey, Peterson, thanks for coming down."
Accepting the outstretched hand, Peterson gave it a firm shake. "No problem, Ellison, I'm glad to help." Peterson looked around the bullpen. "Where's that partner of yours at?"
Jim briefly noted the odd tone in Peterson's voice and then quickly filled it away. "He's interviewing a suspect. One that we want you to take a look at." The detective gestured towards the hallway. "If you'll come with me?"
The two men walked out of the bullpen and went down the hallway. Coming to a halt in front of a door, Jim held it open. "Right in here." After Peterson entered, Jim followed behind him. Walking over to a large window, he said, "Take a look."
Joining the detective, Peterson looked in at Blair talking to another man. "That's him! That's the son of a bitch that robbed the store. I'd know the guy anywhere."
Feeling vindicated, Jim slapped the other man on the back. "Thanks a lot, Peterson. Now, if you'll just excuse me for a second."
Peterson nodded. "No problem."
Jim gave Peterson a smile and then left. Walking over to the next door, he knocked and then opened it. Sticking his head into the room, he said, "Hey, Sandburg, you got a minute?"
Blair looked over at his partner and nodded. Turning back to the man sitting across the table from him, he said, "Excuse me for a moment." Getting up, he joined Jim outside. Immediately, he saw the smug look on his partner's face. "Don't even start, man."
Not able to resist, Jim gloated. "Peterson just made a positive ID. McIntyre is our guy."
"C'mon, Sandburg, don't tell me you still have doubts. You were wrong. Why can't you admit it?"
"First off, just because Peterson identified the guy, doesn't mean that I'm not right about him. And second," Blair paused and then continued in a lower voice. "Youwereright."
"What was that?" Jim held up a hand and cupped his ear. "Don't think I caught that. Mind repeating it?"
Rolling his eyes, Blair sighed. "I said you were right. Okay? McIntyre just copped to the robbery. He admitted the whole thing. So, Peterson did give an accurate description."
"That's all I wanted to hear." A smug, self-satisfied look appeared on Jim's face.
Seeing the expression on his partner's face, Blair became irritated. "I still say there's something about the guy. He was giving Megan and H some hard looks and he did give me a lot of crap after he heard my last name. Just because his description of McIntyre was accurate, that doesn't mean I'm wrong about him." With that, Blair turned and re-entered the interrogation room.
Some of his satisfaction having fled, Jim went back to Peterson. Entering the observation room, he walked up to Peterson. "That's it. You can go now. I really appreciate your coming down here."
"Always willing to help out a fellow Ranger," Peterson replied. "Say why don't you and I get together for a drink sometime. Exchange a few war stories."
"I'd like that." Jim looked through the window, his eyes coming to rest on his partner. "I'm sure Sa…"
"Just as long as you don't being him along," Peterson interrupted. A look of scornful distaste on his face, he turned to look at Blair. The look of disgust on his face increased when Brown and Megan entered the other room. "I don't envy you, Ellison. Damn, I don't know how you can stand working with all of these … these people."
Not allowing his growing anger to show, Jim calmly asked, "What are you talking about?'
"Hell, take that so-called partner of yours. We had a guy something like that assigned to our unit once. He didn't last a week." Peterson gave the detective a sly grin and a nudge with his elbow. "Friendly fire sure does come in handy sometimes, don't it? Hell, that's something you should consider. Caught in a firefight, things are all confused, no one would think twice if your partner accidentally gets in your line of fire."
Enraged, sickened by the thought of what Peterson was suggesting, Jim exploded. "Listen here, you sick son of a bitch," Jim grabbed the other man and slammed him face first into the wall. "If you ever," Jim slammed Peterson into the wall again, breaking the other man's nose, "ever, talk about my partner like that again, I'll give you a little refresher course in pain management. And we'll see just how long you'll be able to hold out as I break every single one of your fingers and toes. I guarantee you, by the time I'm finished, you'll be crying like a baby."
Peterson struggled within Jim's grip, choking on the blood that was running down the back of his throat. "What in the hell is your problem?"
"You are," Jim growled. He dragged Peterson over to the door and threw him out of the room. "Now get the hell out of here before I do something that my partner has to come and arrest me for."
Wiping at his nose, anxious to escape from the enraged detective, Peterson quickly stumbled down the hallway and disappeared. As soon as the man was gone, Blair came out into the hallway. "Jim, is something wrong? I thought I heard something."
Hearing the concern in his partner's voice, Jim was ashamed at his earlier behavior toward the younger man. "No, nothing's wrong, Chief. Just had a few of my own preconceptions adjusted."
"What? I don't understand."
"It's nothing." Jim walked over and slung his arm around Blair's shoulders. "So, what's going on with McIntyre?"
Although he was still curious, Blair let the matter drop for now. "His confession has been taken down. Brown is getting ready to take him to booking right now."
"Then I say we check in with Simon and then get the hell out of here," Jim suggested. "We can stop off on the way home and get a beer or something. How does that sound?"
Blair smiled at his partner. "Sounds good, Jim. Sounds good."
The two men started down the hallway but they only got a short way when Jim suddenly paused and turned to look at Blair. "I never did say I'm sorry."
"For slamming you into the wall when we first met," Jim explained. "I'm sorry, Chief."
"Does this have anything to do with Peterson?" Blair asked.
"No, it has to do with me. With us. You were right. I did let my preconceptions influence my opinion of you. I have to admit, when we first met, I never suspected that you would become so important to me. That you would become the best friend, and partner, that I've ever had. But you did. And you are." Jim smiled then reached over and tugged on Blair's ponytail. "Even if you didn't cut your hair."
Blair returned the smile. "Let's get out of here. I've got a feeling you have a very interesting story to tell me."
Arms slung around each other, the two partners walked off down the hallway.