After leaving the station, Hunter headed for the hospital intending to question Naomi for himself. When he arrived, he saw William Ellison nervously pacing the waiting area. Changing his plans, he headed over to the older man. "Excuse me, Mr. Ellison, I'm…"
Turning around, William gasped in shock as one hand went to clutch at his chest. "Oh my God!"
Alarmed, Hunter took a step towards Ellison only to stop when the other man began to back away. "Sir, if you'd just calm down a minute, I…"
"I can't believe it's you."
Thinking that the other man was confusing him for Ellison, Hunter began, "Mr. Ellison, I'm not your son, I'm…"
"I know exactly who you are," William interrupted as he stumbled over to a seat and sat down. "You're my nephew."
This time, it was Hunter who was shocked. "The hell I am!"
"Your mother is my sister," William insisted. "Her name is Kristine."
Hunter went over to sit down next to William. "How did you know that?"
"I told you, she's my sister." William looked over at his nephew. "My God, I never realized the resemblance was so great. I noticed it in the pictures she used to send but those stopped coming so long ago."
"Look, Mr. Ellison, I'm here to conduct an investigation," Hunter stated. "So this little family reunion, if that's what this is, can just wait. I've got a job to do and I'm going to do it."
"Captain… Vince…" William trailed off. "I don't even know what I should call you."
"Hunter is fine."
William smiled. "Hunter, surely you must realize that my son could never do what Naomi Sandburg says he did. I know that woman. She's lying. She'd do anything to drive Jim and Blair apart."
"And Ellison would do anything to make sure that doesn't happened, right?"
"That's not true! Jim would never hurt Naomi. Besides the fact that he'd never attack someone like that, he'd never want to hurt Blair that way!"
"So this Sandburg is really important to Ellison, huh?" The calculating expression was back on Hunter's face.
Seeing the look on the other man's face, William said, "Whatever you're thinking, just stop right now. You're wrong about my son. You'll see."
"I guess we will." Hunter stood up. "I'll be wanting to talk to you again, Mr. Ellison. I'll call and set up a time."
"All right," William agreed. When Hunter turned to leave, he called out, "Please, Hunter, if you talk to your mother, tell her…"
"My mother is dead," Hunter interrupted and then ignored the pained gasp from behind him as he walked off.
Although reeling from the possibility that he might be related to the man he was investigating, Hunter allowed no trace of it to show on his face as he pushed open the door to Naomi's room.
Turning as the door opened, Joel and Naomi both let out startled gasps as they saw who was entering the room. Joel's expression quickly turned to one of rage and he started towards the man, but the sound of Naomi sobbing brought him rushing back to her side. As he gathered her into his arms, he turned to glare at the man. "How dare you show your face here?"
Already growing irritated by the constant mistaken identity, Hunter rolled his eyes. "Look, I'm not Ellison, all right. My name is Hunter and I'm Internal Affairs. I was ordered here to lead the investigation into the allegations against Detective Ellison."
Upon taking a closer look, Joel could see the differences between this man and Jim. He relaxed slightly but didn't let go of Naomi. "What do you want?"
"I need to question Ms. Sandburg." Hunter took a few steps closer to the bed. "I want to hear her version of the events."
"She's already given a statement."
"Yeah, and I've read it," Hunter countered. "Now I want to hear it from her."
"I don't think…"
"It's all right, Joel." Naomi's soft voice sounded. "I'll talk to him."
Stepping past the protective man, Hunter came to stand by the bed. "So, Ms. Sandburg, tell me what happened between you and Detective Ellison."
After the paramedics had taken Blair away, Jim silently lay on the bunk. When Simon returned with another man in tow, Jim looked up in surprise as the cell door was opened. "Simon?"
"C'mon, Jim, let's go."
Simon gestured towards the man standing beside him. "Ben here is going to try and get you out of this cell. For now, at least."
"I don't understand," Jim said as he stood up and walked out of the cell. "What's going on?"
When Jim joined them, Simon said, "Jim Ellison meet Ben Stone."
Jim shook the man's hand. "You're Simon's friend. The attorney."
"Yes, I am, Detective," the man answered. "And I'm going to see to it that these baseless charges are dismissed."
"How do you know they're baseless?" Jim challenged the attorney.
"Because Simon told me they are," Stone smoothly answered. "I trust his judgement and if he says you're above reproach, then I believe him."
Jim gave the captain a nod of thanks. "Now what's this about getting me out of here?"
"We've arrange for a hearing in front of Judge Morrison," Simon explained.
"How did you do that?"
"I have my methods."
"Which means that you must have called in a whole lot of markers," Jim replied. "Thanks, Simon."
"Don't thank me yet. You can do that after we get your butt out of here for good."
After arriving at the courthouse, the three men entered the courtroom and waited for Jim's case to be called. Just as his name was announced, a man hurriedly entered the room and strode to the prosecution's table.
Giving the man a sideward look, Jim stood at the defense table with Ben Stone. Jim scowled when the DA looked over with a smug expression on his face. Hearing Simon's quiet murmur to stay calm, Jim relaxed slightly.
Straightening as the judge entered and took the bench, Jim was barely able to keep control as the DA began laying out his case. Hearing the man's lies, Jim clenched his jaw but was determined to not make a scene. He was well aware that any outburst would only be used against him.
Standing beside the man he was representing, Stone couldn't believe the flimsy evidence against his client. As the hearing proceeded, he listened as the judge asked the prosecutor several very observant and pertinent questions about the case. Gradually, he relaxed as he realized that the judge didn't seem to share the prosecutor's prejudice against Jim.
When it was Stone’s turn to speak, he addressed the prosecutor directly. "Sir, have you questioned Detective Ellison about the alleged attack on Ms. Sandburg?"
Ignoring the defense attorney, Simpson directed his answer to the judge. "Your Honor, with all due respect, we have Ms. Sandburg’s statement accusing the defendant of assaulting her. Plus, we’ve got the doctor’s report documenting her injuries." The prosecutor sneered. "There was no need for us to question Detective Ellison."
Stone persisted in questioning the other attorney. "Do you at least have some physical evidence connecting Detective Ellison to the crime scene? Or any evidence at all that corroborates Ms. Sandburg’s account of how she sustained these injuries?"
The prosecutor had the good grace to look confused. "Why would we need that? He’s guilty. This is just a formality."
Ben and Jim stared at Simpson in disbelief. Both of them were shocked that this man was with the Cascade DA’s office.
Even the judge seemed nonplused as she said, "Young man, I’m not sure of your academic background, so I’m going to speak in simple terms. Please concentrate. First, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Second, both physical and circumstantial evidence is required to prove a person’s guilt. Third, a person is questioned before they are arrested. Do you understand the mistakes you have made?"
The DA sputtered. "I’ve made NO mistakes. I demand this criminal be remanded into custody."
The judge looked at him in astonishment. Shaking her head, she spoke directly to Simon Banks. "Captain Banks, will you take responsibility for your detective?"
Simon’s reply was strong. "Yes, your honor, I will."
Then the judge addressed Jim. "Detective, I hope this matter is cleared up in a short period of time. Please be aware that, although you are innocent until proven guilty, you are under suspicion for this attack. Behave accordingly."
Although relieved that he would be able to go see his partner, Jim’s face was expressionless as he answered, "Yes, Ma’am."
"I’m scheduling a preliminary hearing for tomorrow morning. At that time, I want the prosecution to present its evidence, such as it is, against Detective Ellison. If I’m not satisfied that the evidence supports the prosecution’s case then I’m dismissing all charges." Ignoring Simpson as he started to protest, the judge spoke to Jim. "Until then, you are released ROR, Detective."
When Simon came up to Jim, the detective asked, "Will you take me to the hospital? I need to see my partner."
Simon nodded. "Sure. Let’s go."
As Stone walked out of the courtroom with the two police officers, he took one final look at the DA. Seeing the angry look on the other attorney’s face, he knew that there was something strange about this whole case and he wondered if there was some sort of conspiracy going on.
After watching Jim and the others leave, Simpson hurriedly left the building. Once he reached his car, he pulled out his cell phone. "Yeah, it’s me. I just got out of court. Ellison was released ROR." A grimace on his face, he listened to the muffled shouts for several seconds. "Hey, it wasn’t my fault. I thought you were going arrange for Judge Thomas to hear this case. That guy is always looking for headlines. He would’ve left Ellison’s ass in jail. Morrison is different. She doesn’t care about the press." Again, Simpson listened in silence. Then, he said, "Hey, we’ve still got the preliminary hearing tomorrow. As soon as I get Naomi Sandburg in there in front of the judge, Ellison won’t stand a chance in hell of getting these charges dismissed. You’ll see. I’ll bring him down yet." An angry expression on his face, Simpson yelled, "Just because your father helped get me this position, doesn’t mean I’m going to take any shit for you. I said I’d take care of it and I will!" Simpson hung up and then threw the phone down.
After interviewing Naomi, despite repeated interruptions from Joel, Hunter headed back down to the waiting room. When he didn't see William Ellison there, he went over to the admittance desk. "Pardon me."
The woman behind the desk smiled up at him. "Yes, can I help you?"
"I hope so." Hunter returned the smile. Pulling out his badge, he held it up to her. "I need to see a Blair Sandburg. Can you tell me what room he's in?"
When the woman gave him Blair's room number, Hunter started towards the elevator. Stepping out of it, he noticed a uniformed officer standing by a door. Figuring he could find Sandburg inside, he approached with his badge held up for the officer to see. "Captain Hunter, IA. I need to see Sandburg."
"Sorry, Sir." Although shocked by the man before him, the officer didn't move from his position. "I've got orders that no one is to enter this room."
"On whose authority?"
"Captain Banks," the officer answered. "He requested that someone be on guard here until Sandburg is released."
"You're not keeping me from going inside that room." Hunter started to push past the officer. When the other man tried to restrain him, the IA captain growled, "Do you really want to mess with me?"
The officer backed down. "I'm reporting this to Captain Banks."
"You do that." Hunter pushed past the officer and went inside the room.
Seated in a chair beside Blair's bed, William looked up as the door opened. "What do you want?"
"I just came from asking Naomi Sandburg some questions and thought I'd see if he's up to answering some as well." Hunter nodded towards Blair.
"He woke up briefly but he's sleeping now."
"What did the docs say?"
William looked at Hunter in surprise. "Why do you care?" Ashamed of his words, William immediately apologized. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
"The doctor said that he's just overwhelmed. Both physically and mentally." William laid a hand on Blair's arm. "With the concussion and all…"
William looked up at Hunter's sharp tone. "Yeah. Blair suffered a concussion earlier today." Seeing the slight narrowing of the IA captain's eyes, William said, "And before you even ask, it wasn't Jim." The elder Ellison turned his attention back to Blair. "Jim just recently found out that Blair has been suffering some harassment at the academy. Today, one of his classmates brought him into the ER. He'd suffered a concussion. He wasn't even supposed to have left the hospital." William expression was one of fondness. "But it seems he left anyway."
"So… um… he's gonna be all right, then?"
Briefly, William wondered about the other man's hesitant tone. "Yes, he should be fine. As long as he gets some rest, that is."
Feeling drawn to the young man lying on the bed, Hunter ignored William's shocked look as he walked over to stand by the bed. Gently, he reached down and moved some strands of hair off of the unconscious man's face.
Stirring at the touch, Blair eyelids fluttered. "Jimmmm…"
For some reason, one that he didn't want to think about, Hunter felt an intense feeling of anger and irritation at the thought that Sandburg might have mistaken him for Ellison.
Blair opened his eyes all the way and instantly knew that the man standing beside him wasn't his partner. Stiffening, he warily eyed the man leaning over him. "Who you are?"
Hunter straightened, putting some distance between them. "My name is Hunter and I'm with IA. I'm investigating the allegations against Detective Ellison."
Seeing the confusion on Blair's face, William spoke up. "This man is Jim's cousin, Blair."
"We don't know that," Hunter protested, crossing his arms over his chest.
On the bed, Blair looked back and forth between the two men. "Why does shit like this keep happening?" Sighing, he turned to his partner's lookalike. "Look, Hunter or whatever you name is, there's nothing for you to investigate. Jim didn't hurt Naomi."
"Really?" Hunter had a skeptical look on his face. "What makes you think that?"
"I know Jim."
"And you also know your mother, don't you?" Hunter leaned over and peered at Blair. "So tell me, Sandburg, is your mother the type of person who'd lie and bring false charges against someone?"
"No!" Blair hesitated. "I mean…"
Feeling an odd protectiveness against the younger man, Hunter softened his expression and tone. "What you mean is that you're caught between your partner and your mother. It's only natural that you'd feel conflicted, kid."
"I'm not. I just…" Blair looked over at William. "I don't know. I just don't know."
William patted the young man's shoulder. "It's okay, Blair. Why don't you try to get some more rest?"
Starting to get out of bed, Blair protested, "No. I need to find out the truth."
Irritated by Blair's actions, Hunter moved to push him back down on the bed. "Look, you're not going anywhere right now."
"Excuse me? I don't think I heard you right. 'Cause if you think I'm staying here then…"
"Blair, I think he's right," William interrupted. "You really need to stay put for now. At least until the doctor releases you."
As a wave of dizziness threatened to overcome him, Blair stopped moving. "Oh, man."
Instantly, the two men moved close. "Blair?" William worriedly glanced over at Hunter. "Maybe we should get the doctor."
Hunter nodded and started towards the door but stopped when Blair spoke up.
"Wait, I'm okay now. I'll stay put." Under his breath he added, "For now, at least."
"Are you always this stubborn?" Hunter asked, scowling at Blair.
Surprised, Blair's head jerked up and he stared at the IA captain. He knew that his last words shouldn't have been audible to anyone. Except Jim. Or… Shocked, he glanced over at William and then looked at Hunter again. Then, he became suspicious as he thought of something. "You seem awful bothered by the idea that you and Jim could be related," he observed. "Do you know Jim or something? Hell, for all we know, you could've attacked my mom." Staring over Hunter, Blair demanded, "Exactly when did you get to Cascade, anyway? Maybe you've got some kind of grudge against Jim and you're trying to frame him or something."
"Yeah, well I hope you can prove what time you got in town. Otherwise, you're a suspect in this just as much as Jim." Blair turned to William. "Bill, hand me the phone. I need to call Simon."
"Sandburg, I'm not trying to frame Ellison!" Hunter's tone was incredulous. "I don't even know the guy. Before today, I'd never seen him before in my life."
"That's not exactly true," William spoke up. "The two of you used to play together when you were younger. When my sister brought you to visit."
"Look, Mr. Ellison…"
"You can call me Uncle Bill."
Hunter spluttered. "U… Uncle…" He shook his head. "I already told you that I don't want to get into this."
Knowing by Hunter's reaction that the captain didn't have anything to do with the attack on Naomi, Blair's curiosity resurfaced for the moment. "You have a sister, Bill?"
"Yes." William's eyes grew distance. "I loved her a great deal. She was a wonderful person and we used to be very close. But then…Well, then we had a falling out. Seems I always drive away the people who mean the most to me."
"I already told you that I'm not your long lost nephew or whatever the hell you think I am." Hunter took a menacing step forward. "I don't want to hear anymore about…"
"Your mother," Bill finished, causing an irritated look to appear on Hunter's face, "who is my sister."
"I'm here to conduct an investigation and I'm not going to stand here and listen to this crap." Turning to Blair, Hunter said, "Now, I want you to tell me about the relationship between your mother and your partner."
"Why? So you can send Jim to prison? I don't think so."
"Hey, earlier you didn't seem too surprised at the idea of Ellison attacking your mother," Hunter stated. "What's with the change of heart?"
Blair paled. "What are you talking about?"
"Hey, I overheard you at the station earlier. When you were talking with Ellison. You asked him why he tried to kill your mother." Hunter moved closer, causing Blair to press back against the bed.
"I was … I was confused." Blair looked down. "Hell, I passed out, man. I didn't know what I was saying."
"Well, then maybe we can go down and pay a visit to your mother," Hunter suggested. "Wonder what she'd say when her son accuses her of lying. She seemed pretty upset earlier but maybe she's calmed down some by now."
Blair looked up at the man looming over him. "You saw Naomi?"
"Yeah." Hunter nodded. "Right before I came to see you, I stopped and paid her a little visit. The guy, what's his name … Taggart … seemed pretty protective of her but she was eager to talk to me. Told me all about your partner's little visit and how he beat the crap out of her."
"So, tell me, Sandburg," Hunter said, "which one of them is lying … your mother or your partner?"
"C'mon, which is it?" The IA captain pressed. "Which one is a liar? Who do you believe? Who do you trust?"
"That's quite enough of that." William squeezed between Hunter and the bed, causing Hunter to take a step back. "I won't let you browbeat him like this. He's been through enough. You will leave him alone."
"Why are you protecting him?" Hunter asked. "He all but accused your son of brutally attacking his mother earlier."
"All I know is that Blair is in no condition to be interrogated right now and I'm not about to stand aside while you attack him." William poked Hunter in the chest. "So you just turn around and leave this room immediately or else I'll call security and have you removed."
"I don’t think that will be necessary." A new voice spoke up.
A scowl on his face, Hunter turned around and saw Simon walk into the room. The IA captain's scowl deepened when he saw Jim come in behind the captain. "Ellison? What in the hell are you doing here?"
From behind the two larger men, a smaller man stepped into view. "Detective Ellison is here to see his wounded partner."
"Who the hell are you?" Hunter demanded.
"My name is Ben Stone and I'm Detective Ellison's counsel. And if you continue to harass this young man," Stone gestured towards Blair, "I'll see to it that you're reprimanded, if not brought up on formal charges. You're attempting to question someone who's suffering from diminished capacity; something which is not only unethical but highly illegal as well."
Through everything, Jim and Blair were only aware of each other. Eyes locked, their surroundings faded away. A silent communication seemed to pass between sentinel and guide. The spell was broken when Jim took a small step forward. A tentative smile on his face, he said, "How are you doing, Chief?"
Blair didn't immediately say anything as he continued to regard his partner. "I wanted to ask you something earlier."
Everyone else in the room grew quiet as they listened to the conversation.
Jim touched the cut on his mouth. "Naomi slapped me."
Instantly, Stone spoke up. "Detective, I'm going to advise you not to say anything else."
Neither man seemed to have heard the attorney. Eyes still locked with Jim's, Blair asked, "Why?"
"I pissed her off." Jim shrugged. "I found out that she was having someone spy on us, reporting our movements back to her. She knew you had been brought to the hospital and she was angry because I didn't try to contact her about it. I… I kinda said some things. Then, she slapped me. When she tried to do it again, I grabbed her wrist. That's all I did, Blair. I just restrained her. I swear."
As the minutes passed with no response from Blair, all five men felt the tension in the room. Seemingly unaware of all the attention focused on him, Blair continued to silently ponder his partner. Head tilted to the side, he looked at the small cut on the older man's face. "Whatever you said must've really pissed her off." It almost seemed as if he were talking to himself. "I remember times when I got her that mad. Once, my black eye lasted for about a week." Shaking himself, Blair roused some. When he spoke again, there was strength and conviction in his tone. "I believe you, Jim."
"You what?" A loud exclamation broke the silence following Blair's statement. Attention drawn by the words, everyone turned towards the door and saw Joel standing there. Stepping further into the room, Joel continued. "I can't believe you, Blair! You saw your mother. You saw what was done to her. And you've got the nerve to call her a liar?"
"Joel…" Before anyone could react, Blair unsteadily got out of bed and started over to his father. Just as his steps faltered, he felt two solid grips grab hold of him and offer support. "Dad…"
Over Blair's slightly bowed head, Hunter mouthed, 'Dad?' to Jim. Shaking his head, Jim mouthed back, 'Not now.'
Ignoring the silent conversation, Blair continued to address Joel. "Dad, do you really think that Jim would be capable of doing something like that to Naomi? Or to me? Think about it for a minute, Joel. You know Jim. He's not that kind of person."
"I think you’re the one who needs to think about what he's capable of," Joel countered. "Or am I the only one who remembers all the times that he's treated you like crap. How many times has he ridiculed you or belittled you? How many times has he blamed you for things that weren't your fault? What about when he kicked you out of the loft? Or when he let Alex Barnes kill you? He's done all of those things and more yet you'd take his word over that of your own mother."
When Blair took a step forward and almost fell, Hunter and Jim helped him back over to the bed. Shooting them both an irritated look, he sat down and then turned his attention back to his father again.
Moving off to the side, Hunter and Jim stood next to each other. Voice low, Hunter said, "Taggart is the kid's father?"
Voice just as low, Jim answered, "Yeah. Long story."
Then, the two men looked at each other. Noticing how close they were, they hastily separated and put some distance between them. The action earned them another look from Blair and they both settled down.
Rolling his eyes, Blair turned to Joel again. His voice was hushed and strained with emotion. "Joel, you're right. Naomi is my mother. I know her, just like I know Jim. I admit it. When I first saw Naomi, I was angry and confused. There for a little while, I thought that she was telling the truth. That Jim had hurt her. It had nothing to do with Jim though. It was an instinctual reaction. My mom was hurt and I reacted. Seeing her like that drudged up a lot at memories and I just lashed out without stopping to think."
Jim walked over to the bed and sat down close to Blair, their shoulders touching. Grateful for his partner's presence, Blair leaned into the contact.
"Yeah." Blair's voice was soft and everyone had to strain to hear him as he continued. "Naomi … she got mixed up with a lot of not so good people, you know. Some of her boyfriends… well, they'd get a little violent sometimes. She always left right away if any of them got out of line. But there were still times when I saw her beat up. One time, I jumped one of the guys."
Blair looked over up at Jim. "Guy beat the shit out of me." The young man let out an unpleasant sounding laugh. "Naomi was so pissed at me. I ended up in the hospital and that drew the attention of Social Services. Man, she got me out of there so fast. Next day, we were in a new town and she had a new boyfriend. I didn't like the guy so I … um … I tried to break them up. I was acting up, always trying to piss this guy off so that he'd leave." Blair looked down at the floor. "Finally, he left. Naomi was so mad at me. We got into an argument. I said something she didn't like and … and she slapped me. Then she asked me why I made her do it. That she wouldn't have hit me if I hadn't said anything to her. But then she seemed so sorry, you know. Kept apologizing and said that it would never happen again. And it didn't. For a little while at least."
Looking up, Blair saw the anger in the eyes of Jim and the others and was quick to defend his mother. "Hey, it's not like it was all her fault. I did have a smart mouth and I talked back to her a lot. I shouldn't have done that. She was a single parent trying to support us. And she had a hard enough time without me making it worse. I was always pushing her, testing the limits and trying to see how much I could get away with. A lot of times … it only happened because I pushed her. It wasn't her fault."
"It wasn't her fault, Jim."
Jim laid his hand on Blair's back and began to rub soothing circles over the tense shoulders.
Hesitantly, Joel stepped forward. "Blair, are you saying … Naomi hurt you?"
Blair shrugged. "Not really. I mean the worst I ever got was a black eye or a split lip. Nothing major or anything. It's not like she beat me or anything."
Looking up, Jim met Joel's eyes. "I didn't do it, Joel. I swear, I didn't."
"I… Aw, hell." Joel began to pace. "I … um … I still love her, you know. She's the only woman I've really ever loved. But I'm beginning to see that she's not the person I thought she was and that's the person I fell in love with. The person I thought she was." Joel shook his head. "How could I have been so wrong?" Coming to a standstill, he looked at Jim. "I don't know what to say, Jim. I…"
Jim moved his arm to Blair's shoulders. Squeezing the younger man to his side, he said, "It's okay, Joel. You were just looking out for someone you love. I know what that's like."
Despite himself, Joel felt a slight shudder run through him. Once again, he was bothered by the possessive way in which Jim referred to and treated his son. "Yeah, I guess so."
In the silence that followed, William asked, "So what now?"
It was his son that answered. "I guess a lot of that depends on Hunter." Jim looked over at the IA captain. "So, am I still under investigation?"
Hunter nodded. "Yeah, you are." He held up his hands when he received several hostile glares. "Look, I can't just drop this investigation on your say so. If Ms. Sandburg is lying, I'll need proof of that. Until then, you're still under suspicion. No matter what my personal feelings are, I'm not going to let them sway my investigation. I've got to remain impartial here. If not, then even if I did clear you, there would still be some suspicion. You know how it goes, Ellison."
Jim sighed. "I know. But if we get proof that Naomi is lying…"
"Then bring it to me," Hunter interrupted. "You give me solid proof, I'll check it out for myself. If it holds up, then you'll be cleared. Until then, I'm going to continue my investigation."
"All right then. Well, I've got to go." Hunter began to walk over to the door. "I've got some interviews to conduct." Pausing by the door, he turned to look at Blair. "You take care of yourself, kid."
Looking up, a slight smile on his face, Blair said, "I will." Smile fading, he added, "And you can expect a visit from us soon. We will find evidence to clear Jim. You'll see."
With a slight inclination of his head, Hunter acknowledged Blair's words. Then, he left.
After the IA captain had left, Blair turned to his partner. "Jim, I…"
Once again, Jim gave Blair's shoulders a gentle squeeze. "I know, Chief. It's okay. I understand."
Blair smiled. "Thanks, Jim." Straightening slightly, he asked, "So, how did you get out?" Looking over at the unfamiliar man who had come into the room with his partner, he added, "And who exactly is this guy?"
"The two are kinda related actually." Jim jerked his thumb towards Stone. "This is a friend of Simon's. He used to work with the Manhattan DA but he's gone into private practice now."
Stone stepped up to Blair with his hand held out. "Mr. Sandburg."
"Please, it's just Blair." The young man shook the attorney's hand. "That's quite a change; going from being a DA to a defense attorney."
Stone released Blair's hand. "Yes, well, I found that my ethics just couldn't co-exist with some of the actions I was called upon to perform as a DA. After a particularly … distasteful … incident, I left the DA's office and spent some time traveling through Europe. After much thought and soul searching, I decided to continue practicing law, just on the other side for a change."
"Must have been a difficult case."
Briefly, an expression of regret passed over Stone's face. "Yes, it was."
Sensing the other man's discomfort, Blair said, "Well, I'm sorry about the circumstances surrounding it, but I'm glad you became a defense attorney." He looked over at Jim. "We both are." Blair turned back to the attorney again. "Thanks. From both of us."
Stone gave then a small smile. "You're very welcome."
"So how did you get Jim out?"
"It wasn’t that hard. The judge saw all of the irregularities in this case. It didn’t hurt that the DA is an idiot. And with Simon taking responsibility for Detective Ellison, the judge didn’t have any reasons not to release him." Stone looked over at Simon. "Tell me something, Simon. Is that Simpson guy typical of all the DA's in this town?"
"No, he’s not, Ben," Simon answered. "He’s definitely the exception. Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever dealt with the guy. He hasn’t been a DA all that long."
"That’s what I don’t understand," Jim said. "What is it with this Simpson guy? I mean, I was arrested and booked without ever being questioned. There was no investigation into Naomi's allegations at all. Not to mention the fact that IA, including Hunter being brought in, has already started an investigation. This whole thing is screwy."
"I definitely get the feeling that there is more going on here than what we’ve been told," Stone stated. "Something about this whole case just seems off. But, at least that doesn’t seem to be the case with the judge. She seems like she’s going to be completely fair and impartial."
"I'm aware of how difficult this is for you, Blair," Stone said, "but we need to discuss some strategy. There must be a way for us to … well … to prove that your mother is lying about Jim."
"I don’t…" Jim began.
"What is it, Jim?" Blair asked when the detective didn't finish.
"I just… I know how important your mom is to you, Chief. I don't want to do anything to screw up your relationship with her."
Looking up, his expression hard, he said, "My mom did that when she came after you. And I'm sure as hell not going to let her take you down."
The younger man turned to meet his partner's eyes. "She's not going to get away with this Jim. I could forgive her anything. Anything. My diss, everything that happened when I was growing up, I could forgive her all of that. But hurting you is the one thing that I could never forgive her for."
"Okay, Chief," Jim replied. "But whatever we do, however we decide to handle this, you've got the final say so. We won't do anything that you don't want to do."
"I mean it, Blair. You've been hurt enough and I won't do anything to add to what you've already gone through."
"I don't think you've got a choice there, Jim. No matter what happens, I think we're all in for a world of hurt."
Jim sighed. "I know."
Blair looked over at the silent attorney. "So what happens now?"
"Well, the judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for in the morning. Frankly, I'm surprised she set it up so soon. But I've already learned to expect the unexpected in this case."
"The hearing being set for tomorrow, is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Blair asked.
"Honestly, I think it's for the best," Stone answered. "From what I've seen, there's no evidence, other than Ms. Sandburg's word, that Jim committed this crime. Unless the prosecution can come up with some corroborating evidence, I look for the charges to be dismissed."
Blair looked over at Jim. "Who's the judge?"
The older man smiled. "Morrison."
Blair returned the smile. "That's good. She's sure to give you a fair hearing Jim."
"Yeah." The smile faded from Jim's face. "But I'm not so sure about Simpson."
"What do you know about this man?" William asked his son.
"Not much," Jim answered. "Why?"
Jim couldn't help noticing the speculative look on his father's face. But before he could question his father further, Blair spoke up. "Okay, well let's see about getting me out of here then."
"What?" Jim asked. "No way. You're staying here."
"I don't think so," Blair protested. "You'll need me there to testify at the hearing tomorrow."
"I'm going to be there for you, Jim, and I don't want to hear another word about it!" Seeing that the older man was about to say something, Blair laid a hand on Jim's arm. "I need to do this, Jim."
"Well, if you're going to be there, Blair, then you need to be prepared," Stone advised. "I'm positive that the prosecution will call your mother to testify. Can you handle that?"
To Blair, none of the others in the room mattered. He kept his eyes locked with his partner's as he answered, "I can." Then, when Jim put an arm around him again, he welcomed the comforting embrace as he leaned into his partner's side.
After leaving the hospital, Hunter went back to the precinct. As he strode into Major Crime, he saw a few detectives sitting around. Matching faces to the descriptions he had been given, he walked up to two officers. "Brown, Rafe, I'm Captain Vince Hunter from IA. I've conducting an investigation into the allegations against Detective Ellison."
The partners exchanged a quick glance before facing the other man again. "We heard all about you," Brown stated.
"I need to talk to the two of you."
"Why should we help you bring Ellison down?" Brown demanded. "No way he'd hurt Hairboy's mom."
"Look, I'm not out to bring anybody down," Hunter asserted. "All I want to do is find out the truth. Now is there someplace we can talk?"
Reluctantly, the two men stood up. "Yeah, c'mon." As they walked out of the bullpen and started down the hallway, Brown added, "But we can't stay long. We've got some interviews of our own to conduct."
"Into the harassment Sandburg's been experiencing at the Academy?"
"Yeah." Brown gave the IA captain a suspicious look. "What do you know about it?"
"I spoke to William Ellison at the hospital," Hunter explained as Brown led him into an interrogation room, "and he told me about it. I hope you find the sons of bitches responsible."
Surprised by the reaction, Rafe asked, "What's it to you?"
Hunter shrugged. "I spoke to the kid."
The two partners looked at each other. "Ah."
Hunter glared at the two men. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Joining the IA captain at the table, Brown explained, "Let's just say that you're not the only one to fall victim to the kid. Not many people can remain immune to the Sandburg charm. He kinda grows on a person."
Uncomfortable, Hunter cleared his throat. "Whatever. Now, about Ellison. What can you tell me about his relationship with Ms. Sandburg? I've already heard about what happened over the holidays. Seems like Ms. Sandburg isn't too happy with her son's involvement with the police department, especially Detective Ellison."
In response, the two detectives shrugged.
"Listen, I'm not convinced that she's telling the truth, all right?" Hunter admitted. "But if I'm going to have any chance at all of clearing Ellison, I'm going to need some information. Tell me something here, guys."
The two detectives assessed the intense man as they pondered the quiet declaration. Another silent communication passed between them and then Brown started to speak. When the detective was finished, he asked, "Okay, now you tell us something."
Surprised, Hunter was silent for a second. "What do you want to know?"
"What's the deal with you and Ellison?" Brown inquired. "You've got this freaky twin thing going on here."
Hunter shrugged as he reluctantly replied, "There's a slight possibility there might be some family connection between the two of us."
"You don't sound too sure of that."
"Let's just say that I'm more inclined to believe it's just some weird coincidence."
The two detectives again exchanged a quick glance. This time, it was Rafe that addressed the IA captain. "Look, Ellison is a good cop. But more important than that, he's a good friend and a decent guy. And if I were you, I'd consider myself lucky to be his family."
Standing up, the two men headed towards the door. "We've got to head out now," Brown informed the silent man sitting at the table. "If you need to talk to us again, you know where to find us."
"Hold up a minute."
Both men turned to face Hunter. "What?" Brown asked.
"Exactly how is your investigation going?" Hunter inquired. "Have you found out who's responsible for the harassment?"
"We've got a few leads."
"I heard that a cop's kid was involved."
Surprised, the two men glanced at each other before facing Hunter again. "Where'd you hear that?" Rafe demanded.
"Just around." The reply was evasive. "Is it true?"
"We don't know anything for sure yet."
Hunter tilted his head to the side as he gave the two men a speculative look. "Hmmm."
"Nothing." Hunter gestured towards the door. "We're through here."
After the two men left, Hunter could hear their hushed conversation in the hallway.
"How'd he know that? About Williams' kid being involved in this thing with Sandburg?"
"I don't know. But that guy is seriously freaky. Reminds me of Ellison."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Hey, you don't think that he really…"
"C'mon, Rafe, you know that Ellison would never hurt Hairboy's mom."
"I know. I guess I'm still kinda pissed at Ellison."
"Me too. I still can't believe the way he treated Hairboy."
"At least they've gotten over all that shit now and put it behind them."
"I'd hate to have to put up with Ellison if Blair wasn't around to keep him under control."
"I know what you mean, partner."
"Right now though, we need to go get the guys that hurt the kid. Otherwise, we'll have to answer to the captain."
"Forget the captain. We'd have to answer to Ellison."
"Plus, it really pisses me off that someone messed with the kid."
"Yeah. Nobody messes with one of us and gets away with it."
"And the kid became one of us a long time ago."
"You said it."
Inside the interrogation room, Hunter shook himself slightly as he heard the two men walk off.
"Williams, huh? I'll have to remember that name. But for now, I've got another interview to conduct. So, Rhonda Campbell, let's see what you can tell me about my supposed cousin." Leaving the room, Hunter went to find Simon's assistant.
After they discussed the upcoming hearing some more, Blair became adamant about being released from the hospital. "I don't want to stay here tonight, Jim."
Instead of Jim, Joel stepped forward to reason with the determined young man. "Blair, be reasonable. You've got a concussion. You need to stay here for tonight."
"No!" Blair protested. "Besides, I… I want to go talk to Naomi one more time."
"I don't think that's a very good idea." Simon voiced his opinion.
"You don't get it." Blair twisted around until he could see the captain. "I may be able to reason with her. Convince her to tell the truth before it's too late." He turned to look at Stone. "I mean, if she lies in court, she could get in some pretty serious trouble, couldn't she?"
The attorney met Blair's gaze. "I'm not going to lie to you. Your mother could face some serious charges when these allegations are disproved. I mean, giving false information to the police, perjuring herself in court and filing a false police report. She could find herself in some serious trouble. In Washington, she could do prison time."
"As much as I hate what she did, I… I…"
"You don't want to see her hurt," Jim finished.
Blair shrugged and looked down, unable to see the expected reproach in his friend's eyes.
Sighing, Jim reached over and tilted Blair's head up. "I understand, Blair. I wouldn't expect you to do anything else. Naomi is your mom and I know you love her. Hell, I gotta admit that I'm kinda fond of the lady myself. Even after all this shit she's put us through."
Jim smiled at the look of surprise on his Guide's face. "Hey, she gave me you, didn't she?"
Blair breath caught and he blinked his eyes against the wetness starting to gather. "God, Jim, I just don't understand how she could do this. When I was a kid, a lot of the time she acted like I was just in the way. But… I just don't understand why this matters to her so much. Why is she so against our friendship? Why does it bother her to see me happy and at peace? For the first time in my life, I've got a home. I'm settled. Why does she want to mess with that?"
"I don't know, Chief. I don't know."
Blair wiped at his eyes. "Can one of you go and get Dr. C?"
Unable to resist the pleading tone, Jim asked, "Simon, could you…"
"I'll go round up the doc," Simon interrupted. "But I want someone in the room when Sandburg talks to his mother."
"I don't think…" Blair started to protest.
"I'll do it," Joel volunteered. "If she's awake, that is. They had her pretty heavily sedated earlier. I think the run in with Hunter kinda shook her up."
Blair couldn't suppress his concern for his mother. "Why? What did he say to her?"
"He just questioned her. That's all," Joel explained.
Expression darkening, Blair demanded, "Did he get her very upset? If he hurt…"
Joel held up a hand, forestalling his son's tirade. "Blair, more than anything, it was just his resemblance to Jim that got to her."
The young man relaxed slightly. Seeing that things were calm for the moment, Simon left to get the doctor.
After questioning Rhonda, Hunter felt compelled to head back to the hospital. In part, wanted to check on Sandburg again. But he also felt an overwhelming urge to question William about the connection between himself and the Ellison family. He had some memories from childhood that now made some sense. He wished his mom was still alive. He had some big questions to ask. It was possible that William Ellison had the answers.
Forgoing the elevator, the IA captain decided to use the stairs. As he arrived at the first floor landing, he overheard a familiar sounding voice. Automatically tuning in, he heard an irate sounding Naomi arguing with someone in hushed tones. Curious, he decided to investigate. Quietly, he exited the stairwell and approached Naomi's room. A frown appeared on his face as he listened to the continuing argument.
"What do you mean Ellison is out of jail?" Naomi's hushed voice inquired.
"Just what I told you," A deep male voice replied. "Banks arranged for some lawyer to come defend Ellison. The guy convinced a judge to release Ellison. They set up some kind of hearing for tomorrow. So, you'd better be ready to put on one hell of a performance 'cause the DA is sure to call you to testify."
"This is not good. How dare they let him go!"
"Yeah, well, that's not all the news I got for ya."
"Right now, Ellison is upstairs paying a visit to that baby boy of yours. 'Course that's only fair since little Blair went to see Ellison earlier. Wonder how that kid of yours liked seeing Ellison behind bars?"
Outside the room, Hunter bristled at the derisive tone the man used when referring to Blair.
"Do you know what happened?" Naomi's tone was worried and frantic. "My baby believes me, doesn't he?"
"I had a parabolic mike with me earlier. The kid walked right in there and asked Ellison why he tried to kill you." A low chuckle sounded. "I would've loved to have seen the look on Ellison's face then."
The gloating, sneering tone was evident in Naomi's voice. "Too bad you weren't able to get pictures for me."
"So what do you need me to do now?"
"Nothing. For now, I don't need your services. Tomorrow, Jim Ellison will be sent back to jail and I'll get my baby boy away from that pig for good."
Hearing that someone was approaching the door, Hunter quickly moved away. Watching from the shadows, he saw a man leave Naomi's room. An unpleasant grin on his face, the IA Captain quietly followed.
When Simon returned, he entered the room and then quickly stepped aside. Dr. Cuthbertson stormed inside and marched over to the bed. "What is this I hear about you leaving?"
Not intimidated in the least, Blair replied, "I need to get out of here."
"Well, I say you need to stay."
"Look, Dr. C., I can't stay, all right?" Blair turned pleading eyes the doctor's way. "There's some things that I need to do." The young man glanced over at the silent man beside him. "Some things that I have to do."
"I take it this has something to do with your mother being a patient here as well."
"Yeah, it does," Blair confirmed. "I can't go into it, Dr. C. but I need you to trust me on this. If anything happens, you know that Jim will bring me back here right away."
"Whether he wants to come or not," Jim added.
The doctor eyed the two men seated on the bed. Finally, she gave an exasperated sigh. "It's never easy with you two, is it?" Throwing up her hands, she relented. "All right, I'll release you." Pointing a finger at Jim, she warned, "But you'd better get him back here at the first sign of trouble, understand?"
Blair snickered slightly at his partner's response.
Turning, Dr. Cuthbertson pinned Blair in place with a glare. "And just what do you find so amusing?"
"Um… Nothing, ma'am."
The doctor nodded to herself. "Good." Her demeanor gentling, she gave them a small smile. "Take care of each other, guys."
"We will," both men replied.
Shaking her head, Dr. Cuthbertson said, "I'll go arrange for Blair's release. And I’m telling Sadie. I’m sure she’ll want some words with you."
"How long will that be?" Blair asked.
"Not too long," Dr. Cuthbertson answered. "I'll be back with shortly."
Almost half an hour had passed before Dr. Cuthbertson finally returned. Sadie Farmsworth was sitting in the room’s only chair and had evidently made her position known. Blair had that stubborn look on his face. "You're all set," she announced as she walked into the room. "You can go now. But just remember…"
"I know, I know. Right back here at the first sign of trouble."
"I'll look after him, Dr. C.," Jim promised.
Dr. Cuthbertson nodded. "I know."
"Can we forget the wheelchair?" Blair asked. "We're … um … we're not leaving the hospital right away."
"Are you going to stop in and see your mother?" Dr. Cuthbertson asked, her tone soft and gentle.
Against her better judgment, she couldn't say no to the obviously dejected young man. "All right, we'll skip the wheelchair." A stern look on her face, the doctor added, "This time."
"Thanks, Dr. C."
"You're welcome, Blair. Take care, okay?"
"I will." When Blair then moved to stand, he felt Jim's supportive hand come to rest on his back as his partner stood as well.
"You ready, Chief?"
"As I'll ever be."
The two men gave the doctor a slight nod and then left the room. Wordlessly, Simon, Stone, William and Joel followed behind them.
After they left the room, Stone said, "I need to do some preparation for tomorrow morning."
"Okay," Simon answered for the group. "I'll take…"
"No, that's all right," the attorney interrupted. "You need to stay with Jim and Blair. I'll go downstairs and catch a cab. Call me when you get done here. I need to know what happens."
"All right." Simon stuck out his hand. "Thanks for all your help, Ben. I really appreciate it."
"So do I," William added as the two men shook hands. "When this is over, send me your bill and I'll…"
Stone held up a hand. "That's not necessary, Mr. Ellison. I'm doing this pro bono."
"That's very generous of you," William replied.
"I'm just want to make sure a miscarriage of justice doesn't occur. To me, that's payment enough. Now if you'll excuse me."
"I'll call you later, Ben," Simon promised.
Stone nodded. "As for you, Detective, watch our for your partner. Tomorrow morning I'm going to do everything in my power to get these trumped up charges dismissed."
"Thank you, Ben."
"Yeah, thanks, man," Blair added his own thanks to his partner's.
"It's my pleasure, gentlemen." After giving them a final nod, the attorney walked away.
Wordlessly, the remaining men started towards the elevator.
When they reached Naomi's room, Jim laid a hand on Blair arm as the younger man started towards the door. "Are you sure you want to do this, Blair?"
"I have to, Jim. For her sake as well as my own."
Jim nodded his understanding as he moved his hand away. "Just … God, I know this is gonna sound … don't let her upset you too much, okay? I mean…"
Blair gave the older man a small, bittersweet smile. "I won't, Jim. And, thanks." With a glance towards Joel, Blair let out a sigh and then pushed open the door to his mother's room.
Having fallen into a light sleep, Naomi stirred and then awakened as Blair entered the room with Joel silently coming in behind him. Sitting up, she smiled at her son. "Blair."
"Hi, Naomi." Blair stepped into the room but didn't come close to the bed. "How are you?"
"Well, I'm better now that you're back." A small frown appeared on Naomi's face. "I was so sad when you left here earlier. I needed you to be here for me, Blair."
"I… I…" Blair gave Joel a helpless look.
In support, Joel stepped up to stand beside his son.
Spotting Joel, Naomi smiled again. "Joel, you're finally back. I missed you."
Joel nodded but didn't move from Blair's side. "Naomi."
Taking a deep breath, Blair finally moved to stand by the bed. Looking down at his mother, he said, "Naomi, we need to talk."
Instantly, Naomi's expression hardened. "About what?"
Out in the hallway, Jim nervously prowled in front of the door to Naomi's room.
Irritated at the detective's actions, Simon growled, "Knock it off, Jim."
Ignoring the captain, Jim continued to pace. "I don't like this."
"None of us like this, but if you don't stand still, I'm gonna cuff you to a chair."
William moved to block his son's path. "If you're worried then listen to them, Jimmy."
Jim couldn't help the look of surprise that appeared on his face. "You're telling me to use my senses?"
William laid his hands on Jim's shoulders. "I can't go back and change the way I acted when you were a child, Jimmy. I wish to God that I could, but I can't. What I can do is realize my mistakes and learn from them. I know now what you can do, what you are, it's a…" a small smile appeared on the elder Ellison's face as he tightened his hold on Jim, "… a gift. It's something that you should embrace. And it's something that I can accept now. I'm … I'm proud of you, Son." William drew his son into a hug.
Startled, it was a few seconds before Jim brought his arms up and hugged his father back. "Thanks, Dad."
Separating from Jim, William cleared his throat. "Now, what would Blair have you do?"
"Focus one sense on something while I dial up my hearing."
"Well, what are you waiting for? Do it!"
Jim chuckled. "Yes, Sir." Then, he laid a hand on his father's shoulder. Focusing part of his attention on the warmth emanating from his father's body, he dialed up his hearing and listened in on what was going on with his guide.
When Blair didn't immediately answer her, Naomi demanded, "Tell me what we need to talk about, Blair."
Drawing another deep, steadying breath, Blair replied, "We need to talk about Jim and your … and your lies about him."
"What did you just say?"
"I… I want to know why you're lying about Jim. I know that he didn't hurt you."
Naomi appeared grief-stricken as she stared at Blair. "I don't believe this." Tears welling up in her eyes, her voice quivered. "How… How could you say something like that to me? How could you accuse me of lying to you? My own son doesn't believe me. You're taking that word of that pig over your own mother. He beat me, nearly killed me, and you're taking his side." Openly crying now, Naomi buried her face in her hands.
"Mom," Blair approached Naomi and laid a hand on her back. "I…"
Jerking away, Naomi yelled, "Just go away! I should have known that you'd take his side! You never really loved me! You've always been so selfish, putting yourself ahead of everything. I sacrificed so much while you were growing up. I worked so hard to support you and provide for you and this is how you repay me? This is the thanks I get? I deserve better than this. I deserve some loyalty and respect from my son!"
"Mom, I'm sorry. I…"
"I don't want to hear it, Blair. This time you've gone too far."
"Please, Naomi, think about what you're doing," Blair pleaded. "You don't want to go through with this. You could get in a lot of trouble…you could end up in prison."
"Are you threatening me?" Naomi interrupted. "How dare you! Let me tell you something, Blair. The only one who's going to be in trouble is that pig of yours. He's going to pay for what he's done. I'll see to that if it's the last thing I ever do!"
"Mom, don't do this! Please!" Blair tried to reason with his mother once again. "Just tell the truth and all of this will go away. I won't let anything happen to you. I'll protect you."
Naomi scoffed. "You? You're going to protect me? You couldn't do that before so why should I think that you'd do it now?"
"I remember how well you protected me," Naomi overrode her son's attempt to speak. "You stood by and let some of my boyfriends beat me up. What did you do to protect me then? Nothing, that's what."
Blair paled. "I…"
Joel’s mouth hung open. He was shocked at what he’d just heard Naomi say. She had expected her child to protect her. She was supposed to protect Blair. He placed his arm around his son and took a deep breath. He’d give Blair the defense he deserved.
Out in the hallway, Jim let out a low growl and started for the room. "That bitch!"
"Whoa!" Simon rushed forward to try to restrain Jim.
Easily evading Simon's grasp, Jim stormed into Naomi's room. In an instant, the sentinel took note of his guide's thundering heartbeat and rapid breathing. When Blair turned his way and he saw the look of absolute horror and shock on his guide's pale face, Jim's anger grew. With a snarl, he started towards the bed.
Alarmed by Jim's sudden appearance, and by the look of absolute anger and hatred on the older man's face, Blair was stunned into temporary paralysis. Then, seeing Jim head towards Naomi, he shook off the shock and moved to place himself in front of Jim.
Intent on the object of his hostility, the sentinel didn't immediately notice the presence that moved to block his way. Just as he was about to run over his guide, some part of him recognized the obstacle as being his partner. Not wanting to injure Blair, some reason returned and cleared away a portion of the red haze clouding Jim's mind. "Out of the way, Blair."
Blair laid his hand on Jim's chest, over the older man's heart. "No, Jim. I'm not going to let you do something we'd both end up regretting."
"…isn't worth it," Blair finished. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against Jim's shoulder. "I know that now, Jim. Don't give in to her. Don't do anything that would make them take you away. That's what she wants. I finally see her now, Jim. I see her for who she is and not for who I want her to be. Just get me out of here now before I lose it. Please, Jim, take me home."
Fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, Jim glared at Naomi. Seeing the smug look on her face, he almost went after her again. But then, he felt the wetness against his shirt. Looking down, seeing Blair shoulders shaking slightly, Jim wrapped his arms around his hurting partner. Without saying a single word to the woman sitting on the bed, he kept his guide in his protective embrace as they turned and left the room.