Obsession: Part 1
I'm going to discover all of his secrets. What it is that makes him so special. It's more than just his appearance. There's something different about him, something that sets him apart from everyone else. And no matter how long it takes or what I have to do, by the time I'm finished I'll know everything about him. All of his hopes, his desires, his fears and his innermost thoughts will be revealed to me. I won't stop until I've seen his soul. And after I've laid him bare, totally naked and exposed to me, I'll extract all that I want from him.
I know it will be difficult. He's a fighter. His spirit is strong. But then again, that's part of the fun. Breaking his spirit, breaking him. The thrill and the ecstasy of my victory, my dominance over him, will make any struggle worthwhile. And I can tell that watching his agony will be a truly beautiful experience. Each cry, each pain filled moan, each tear will be total rapture. His suffering will be exquisite and I will relish every second of it.
Soon it will be time and I'll make my move against him. Soon, but not yet. The time isn't right yet. But I'm patient. For now I'm content to watch. Admiring his beauty, his... his light from afar. It's hard, though. It's painful being so close to him yet being unable to touch him. I long to feel his life force, to soak in his essence, to bask in his light.
I thought that I would make my move this morning, but he didn't come out alone. That interfering, irritating roommate was with him again. I think his roommate knows, or at least suspects, how special he is and because of this the man keeps a constant guard, an unrelenting vigil. But I won't be stopped. I won't be deterred. I will take what I want and no one will stand in my way.
Watching as they get in the truck and drive away, I make no move to follow them. There's no need for it. As long as the other is around, I know that I'll never be allowed to get close to him. I hadn't planned on killing his friend, but it may become necessary. Lately, it seems as if the other is aware of my presence. I've come to realize that the secrets I wish to learn may be tied to the other.
It doesn't matter. Whatever connection they may have will stand no chance against me. If the other tries to prevent me from acquiring what I want, I'll deal with the interference. Nothing will stop me. I am unbeatable and I always get what I want.
His face flashes through my mind and any hostility instantly melts away. Anticipation begins to pulse through me. Brutally, I shove it aside. Now isn't the time for it. There are still preparations that need to be made. When I finally do manage to possess him, I want to be ready. With him, I don't want to make any mistakes. With him, everything has to be perfection. He deserves no less.
The picture on the seat next to me beckons, demanding my attention. Picking it up, I trace the face imprinted on it. It portrays only a fraction of his beauty, unable to capture the full impact of his essence. "Soon, Blair. Soon you will be mine."
Oblivious to the scrutiny he had been receiving, Blair immediately started to dig in his backpack as Jim started the truck and began to drive them to the station. Feeling more than seeing the sudden shivers that racked Jim's body, Blair looked up and asked, "What's the matter?"
"Nothing, Sandburg. I just had a chill is all."
"Yeah right. This from the guy that refuses to sleep in anything more than a pair of boxers even when it's twenty below outside? I don't think so. What's up?"
"I just..." Jim began.
"Haven't you noticed anything a little... well a little off lately?"
Confused, Blair asked, "What do you mean by off?"
"I don't know," Jim replied. Frustrated, he sighed, "It's just... Lately, I've just felt like there's something... something... off. I don't know. I can't explain it."
Pursing his lips, Blair stared at Jim for a while before responding. "Maybe we should skip going into the station today and just go back home, try to figure out what's bothering you. I mean, you shouldn't be out on the streets if you're distracted like this."
"Who said I'm distracted?" Jim asked. "Whatever it is, I'll handle it. It's not a problem."
"I said it's not a problem," Jim interrupted.
"It is a problem," Blair insisted.
"It's nothing that I can't deal with."
"On your own, you mean?" Blair asked. Interpreting Jim's lack of response as assent, Blair continued, "I thought you weren't going to do this anymore, Jim. I thought things would be different after everything that happened with..."
"Happened with what?" Jim asked when Blair became silent.
"You know what." Came the soft response.
"Yeah, I do," Jim agreed. "Look, Chief, I know that we agreed to talk about stuff like this. God knows I don't ever want a repeat of what happened before. The image of you lying there..."
Pulling into a parking lot, Jim turned off the truck before continuing. "I didn't want you to have to deal with something like that again. I didn't want to have to deal with something like that again."
"Then talk to me this time. Tell me what's going on with you."
"What I've been feeling, it reminds me of... it's like...," Struggling to get the words out, Jim continued, "It's similar to what I felt when Alex Barnes was around."
Stunned, Blair inquired, "Are you telling me that there's another Sentinel in Cascade?"
"No," Jim answered. "At least I don't think so. The feeling, it's different this time."
"I don't know," Jim yelled. "It just is. It's... It's..."
"Relax, Jim," Blair instructed. "Let's just go back to the loft and talk this out."
"What? No, Sandburg," Jim replied. "I can't deal with this right now, okay? Let's just wait until tonight, maybe the feeling will go away by then."
"Or maybe I'll wind up dead by then," Blair countered.
"Please, Jim," Blair pleaded. "Don't shut me out this time. I don't... I can't deal with that again."
"I'm not shutting you out," Jim insisted. "But I just need some time. I need to... to just gather my thoughts, okay? These feelings, they're so hard to put into words. It's hard to say it without upsetting you. The last thing I want to do is hurt you again, Chief."
"It's okay, Jim. Whatever you have to say, I can deal with it." Pausing, Blair hesitantly continued, "And if you need some space again, need me to... to leave again, then I'll go."
After taking several deep breaths, Jim stated, "I don't want you to leave, Sandburg. It's like I told you, the feeling is different this time. Instead of pushing you away, this time I want... I need..."
"What?" Blair asked, unable to make out Jim's words as the older man mumbled the rest of what he had been saying. "I didn't catch that, Jim. What did you say?"
"I... Well, what I mean is... Aw hell, Chief, this time I feel like I don't want to let you out of my sight."
"Is that why you've insisted on taking me wherever I've needed to go since the Volvo quit running?" Blair asked.
"Um... You see, Sandburg, it's a funny thing about that classic of yours."
Suspicious, Blair asked, "What exactly is funny about the Volvo dying, Jim."
"Well, it's like this... I kind of... Um..."
"What did you do, Jim?"
"Nothing that can't be fixed," Jim admitted. "Well, nothing that can't be fixed eventually."
"I can't believe you," Blair exclaimed. "Are you telling me that you killed the Volvo? Oh man, that's... I can't believe you."
"What was I supposed to do, Sandburg?" Jim asked. "Just walk up and say, 'Hey, Chief, remember when I went slightly nuts and kicked you out of the loft and you wound up dead? Well, it's happening again. Except this time my skin starts to crawl whenever you're out of my sight for longer than five minutes.'"
"Yes! That's exactly what I would have expected you to do."
"Yeah, right," Jim sarcastically responded.
"Call Simon and tell him that we're not coming in today, Jim," Blair ordered.
"Sandburg..." Trailing off when he saw the glare Blair directed his way, Jim picked up his phone and punched in Simon's number. "Simon, Sandburg and I won't be coming in today. Something's come up. What? No. Look, Simon..." After silently listening for several seconds, Jim responded, "Fine, we'll be there in a few minutes."
Watching as Jim ended the call, Blair inquired, "Jim?"
"We have to go in, Sandburg," Jim replied. "Simon's got a case for us and he says it can't wait."
"What kind of case?"
"I don't know," Jim answered. "He said that he'd fill us in when we get to the station."
"Fine," Blair relented. "But as soon as possible we're out of there, understand?" Crossing his arms, Blair turned to stare out the window.
Staring at Blair for a few seconds longer, Jim shuddered violently once again. Clenching his jaw, he tried to push aside the sudden feelings threatening to overwhelm him; tried to push aside the feelings of fear for his partner and anger towards the unknown presence that had invaded his territory. Ignoring the slight tremors in his hands, Jim started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot.
Walking into the bullpen, Jim and Blair were greeted with Simon's bellowed, "My office now."
Striding over to the captain's office, Jim came to a halt when he caught sight of the two men inside. Jarred slightly when Blair bumped into his back, Jim reached back a hand to steady his partner. Ignoring Blair's soft grunt, Jim asked, "What's going on, Simon?"
Simon started to reply but paused when he saw the intense gaze Jim was directing at the other two men. Brow furrowed, he inquired, "Is there a problem here, Detective?"
"No, Sir," Jim answered. "I'd just like to know what's going on."
"Well, if you'll get in here then I'll be glad to fill you in." When Jim still didn't budge from the doorway, he ordered, "Get in here now, Jim, and shut the door behind you."
Squeezing around Jim, Blair managed to avoid the restraining grip that Jim directed his way as he entered into the office. "Hey, Simon," he greeted.
Shrugging his shoulders at Simon's questioning look, Blair went to take a seat at the table.
Watching as Jim finally moved away from the doorway and walked over to stand behind Blair, Simon wondered what was going on with his friends. Taking in Jim's rather protective stance, Simon shook his head and tried to ignore his feelings of uneasiness.
Suddenly doubting his decision to involve Jim and Blair with this investigation, Simon warily approached the table. Indication the two seated strangers, Simon announced, "This is Agent Mark Boone and his partner Tom Allen. For the past five months, they've been on the trail of a serial killer. A serial killer who they now believe to be in Cascade."
Calm and detached appearance betrayed by a slight quiver in his voice, Jim asked, "Why do they think this killer is here?"
"Because, Detective Ellison," Agent Boone answered, "like your captain said my partner and I have tracking this guy and he's left a trail of bodies leading straight to Cascade." When Jim seemed as if he were going to reply, Agent Boone continued, "Please just take a seat and let me explain."
"I don't..." Jim began.
"Look," Boone interrupted, "each time we get close to nailing this guy, he somehow manages to give up the slip. For some reason, he's come to Cascade now and we need your help."
"Our help?" Jim asked. "Since when do you Feds ever ask for our help?"
"Since we want this guy stopped," Boone exclaimed. "Look, Detective, I know a little bit about your past dealings with other agents. I realize that you've got no reason to trust us. But believe me, we'll do whatever it takes to get this guy. No over-inflated egos and no jurisdiction bull will get in the way."
"Jim," Simon spoke up when the agent fell silent, "I've checked them out. Thoroughly. They're on the level. Believe me, I don't want any repeats of what happened the last time."
"You mean the Lash case?" Agent Allen inquired. Attention drawn to Blair when he noticed the other man's sharp intake of breath, Allen added, "The nutcase who managed to infiltrate your department? Look, we've confirmed our identity both with Captain Banks and your police commissioner. So I don't appreciate this attitude."
"Tom," Agent Boone hissed, "that's enough. It's understandable that they'd be a little cautious here."
"They sure weren't too cautious last time," Allen countered. "I mean, how screwed-up is that? What kind of department are you running here that someone like Lash could gain such easy access both here and to the case?"
"I SAID that's enough," Boone admonished. Addressing Jim and Blair, Boone added, "Look, you have to understand that this case has been rough on both myself and my partner. This... This lunatic has left a trail of ten bodies in his wake; a trail which we've been following for the past five months."
"And I'm asking again," Jim said, "what makes you think this guy is here in Cascade?"
"Will you help us?" Boone asked. "I know that your captain can order your involvement with this case, but I don't want this to be something you're forced to do. If we're constantly battling against each other, no body will get any work done. I really want you on this investigation. But it won't work unless there's cooperation." Glancing at his partner, Boone added, "Cooperation on all of our parts."
In the silence that followed, Blair spoke up. "You've got ours."
Ignoring the warning tone in Jim's voice, Blair asked, "Do you have any idea how long this guy has been in Cascade?"
After glancing at Simon and Jim, Boone answered, "Our best estimate puts it at three weeks."
"Funny," Blair mused as he glanced up at Jim, "that's about the same time my car died."
Avoiding Blair's eyes, Jim sighed then sunk down into the chair next to his partner. "Tell us what you know."
Reaching into a briefcase, Boone pulled out three folders and handed them to Simon, Jim and Blair. "As I said, we've been tracking this guy for the past five months."
"Are you sure it's a guy?" Blair asked.
Exchanging a glance with Allen, Boone confessed, "No, we're not. Truthfully, we have no indication as to whether the killer is a male or female. However, statistically speaking, odds are we are indeed looking for a man."
"But you're not sure," Blair persisted.
"No, we're not," Boone replied.
"That makes our job just a little bit more difficult then, doesn't it?" Jim sarcastically observed.
"Jim," Simon warned.
"What?" Jim asked. "It's not like you're not thinking the same thing."
"Jim, man, why don't we just let the guy talk, okay?" Blair requested.
Scowling, Jim replied, "Did I say I wouldn't listen to the guy? I'll listen. But I do think it's kind of strange that they don't even have any idea if this lunatic is a man or a woman." Leaning forward, Jim locked gazes with Allen and smirked, "I mean, how screwed-up is that?"
Placing his hand on Jim's back, Blair murmured, "Back off, Jim."
Shrugging his shoulders, Jim dislodged Blair's hand then leaned back. "Talk," he ordered.
Clearing his throat, Boone gestured towards the folders lying on the table. "If you're just take a look through the material in the folders, I'll tell you what we do know." Watching as the three men opened their folders, Boone began his explanation. "So far, the killer seems to be following a pattern. For the past five months, a body has turned up every two weeks."
Interrupting the agent, Blair asked, "Exactly two weeks pass between killings? The pattern is always the same, no variation?"
"That's right," Boone confirmed.
Seeing the look of concentration on Blair's face, Simon asked, "What is it, Sandburg?"
"Well," Blair replied, "if these guys are right and the killer has been here for three weeks then why hasn't a body turned up? I mean there hasn't been a killing matching this guy's MO has there?"
"I'm having Brown and Rafe check on that right now," Simon answered.
"Wait a minute," Jim demanded, "if these jokers have know that this killer has been here for the past three weeks, why are we just now hearing about it? Why didn't they come to us sooner? What kind of game are you two playing here?"
"We're not playing any kind of game, Detective," Boone insisted. "The three week time frame is just an estimate based on the established method of operation. Or at least what we know of it."
"This is just great," Jim declared with a scornful chuckle. "You guys really don't know anything about this psycho, do you? Do you even know if these killings are related? I mean, are we even dealing with a serial killer situation here? How can you even be sure that these deaths are connected? Maybe they were all just random killing."
"These killings are connected," Boone insisted. "They were all done by the same person."
"Yeah, right," scoffed Jim.
"That's enough, Jim," Simon admonished.
"We are looking at a serial killer situation here," Boone declared. "These people were all killed in the same way."
"How?" Jim asked.
Before the agent could answer all eyes turned to Blair as he suddenly gasped. Looking up from the file he had been reading, Blair said, "Jim, you have to see this."
Concerned by the sudden spike in Blair's heartbeat and respiration, Jim asked, "What is it, Chief?"
Pushing the file towards Jim, Blair replied, "Just read it."
Grabbing the file, Jim spared Blair one more penetrating look and sensory scan before turning his attention to the file. Clenching his jaw as he read what had upset his partner, Jim closed his eyes briefly before turning to lock gazes with Blair.
Having already read the report prior to Jim and Blair's arrival, Simon asked, "What is it, Jim? I know it's rather gruesome, but we've seen worse before."
"Simon, you've already read this?" Blair asked.
Puzzled, Simon replied, "Yeah."
"You read what this... this... perverted son of a bitch did?" Blair persisted.
Becoming irritated, Simon responded, "I already told you that I did."
"It's what he did before he killed them," Jim stated.
"What? I don't understand..." Trailing off as everything finally clicked, Simon whispered, "Oh my God."
Rubbing a hand over his face, Jim recited what he had read. "Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands. All of them were mutilated. Before he killed them he... he destroyed their senses."
"That's right," Boone confirmed. "And we have no idea as to why. Even our best profilers have been unable to come up with an explanation for this type of mutilation." Feeling the increased tension in the room, Boone asked, "Does it mean something to any of you? Do you know of any significance to these wounds?"
"No," Jim answered. "The... the uniqueness of the mutilation just kind of threw us for a moment." Seeing the disbelief in Boone's expression, Jim added, "You have to admit, this isn't your typical MO. Odds are nobody will be able to figure out the reasoning behind it. The only person who knows what motivates this behavior is the killer. And until we catch him and can question him about it, we'll just be wasting our time trying. We need to focus our attention on finding this guy. Any attempting at understanding the reasoning behind his behavior can wait."
"Are you insane or just plain stupid," Allen yelled. "Figuring out this guy's motive won't in any way hinder our pursuit. On the contrary, it'll serve to help us catch him sooner. We need to focus on the motive because it's our best shot at finding this guy and stopping him."
"You've been trying to figure out this guy's motive for the past five months," Jim yelled back. "And the only thing you've come up with so far is ten dead bodies. I'll help with this case, but I'll conduct my investigation the way I think is best. So instead of sitting on my ass trying to get inside this guy's head, I'm going to be doing what you two should have been doing all along. I'm going to be out finding clues and following up on any and all leads. It's a little something referred to as detective work. Maybe you two know have heard about it before, though I seriously doubt it."
"Why you son of a..." Allen began.
"Enough," Simon bellowed, effectively cutting Allen off. "That's enough," Simon continued in a lowered tone. "Boone, Allen why don't you two go check in with Detectives Brown and Rafe, see if they've discovered anything. Meanwhile, Ellison and Sandburg can review the case file, see if they can find something that may lead to our killer."
"Captain," Boone replied, "perhaps it would be best if Agent Allen went to check in with your other detectives while I stay here and bring Ellison and Sandburg up to speed on this case. That way I can answer any questions that they may have."
Seeing Jim's slight nod, Simon agreed, "Fine. Since I've already reviewed the file, I'll take Agent Allen to see Brown and Rafe; I want to see what they found out anyway. Jim, you and Sandburg take Agent Boone to one of the conference rooms so that he can fill you in."
Turning to Boone, Allen started to protest, "Mark..."
"Go on," Boone insisted. "This way, we won't be wasting any time. You can go on and get the investigation underway while I fill them in."
"All right," Allen relented, though his tone clearly conveyed disapproval over the arrangement.
While Blair gathered up the files that Boone had distributed, Jim stood and said, "We'll be in the conference room at the end of the hall, Simon."
Nodding his approval, Simon escorted Allen out of the room.
Standing after the two men had left, Blair clutched the files in his hands and said, "I'm all set, Jim."
"Then let's go," Jim responded.
Walking over to the door, Jim stood in the doorway and gestured for Blair to precede him out of the room. Ignoring the whispered, "play nice," uttered as his partner passed by him, Jim turned to glare at Boone.
Noticing the attention directed at him, Boone looked up at Jim. "Like I said, Detective, I just want to stop this guy before he kills anyone else. I'm not here to further my career or to make a name for myself. My sole objective is to catch a killer."
Jim simply turned and followed after Blair.
Sighing, Boone hurriedly stuffed the rest of his papers in his briefcase then hurried to catch up with Jim and Blair. Arriving in the hallway just in time to see the two men enter a room at the end of the hall, Boone tightened his grip on his briefcase as he made his own way down the hallway. Entering the room that Jim and Blair had gone into, he crossed over to the table. As he sat down across from the two men, he asked, "Ready to get started?"
"Tell us what you've got," Jim responded.
"As I said, the first body was found five months ago." Taking the papers out of his briefcase once again, Boone passed a picture across the table to Jim. "This is Joanna Thompson. She was a paramedic in Albany, New York. Shortly before her death she was involved in the rescue of two children who were trapped inside a burning car. Evidently they were out shopping with their mother when a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into them. When rescue workers arrived at the scene, there was no indication that anyone was alive in the car but Ms. Thompson insisted that she heard voices inside the burning vehicle. Ignoring orders to stay back, she rushed over to the car and somehow managed to extract the two children from the backseat of the car; the mother, however, was killed instantly. Seven days later she turned up dead."
After studying the picture of Ms. Thompson, Jim passed it over to Blair. Alerted by Blair's quick intake of breath, he turned to look at his partner.
Blair simply passed the picture back to Boone. "What about the next one?"
Pushing another picture over to Jim, Boone stated, "Douglas Carter from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a police officer and shortly before his death he came to the public's attention when he rescued a fellow officer. Evidently, the other officer was pinned down by sniper fire and Officer Carter somehow took out the shooter. It was a seemingly impossible shot because the sniper was on top of a five-story building situated a half a block away. Three days later he turned up dead."
Once again, Jim studied the picture before passing it on to Blair.
Picking up the picture, Blair took a look then closed his eyes for a second. "Who's next?"
"Michael Warren, a firefighter from Atlanta, Georgia." Again passing a picture to Jim, Boone continued, "He was off-duty and out for a walk with his family when he apparently smelled smoke. None of his family noticed anything out of the ordinary but suddenly Mr. Warren took off running. It turns out that a nearby home was on fire. Evidently, a child had gotten hold of a lighter and inadvertently lit some curtains on fire. Thankfully, Mr. Warren was able to alert the homeowners before the blaze got out of control. Ten days later he turned up dead."
The same motions were again repeated as the picture made it's rounds from Jim to Blair and then back to Agent Boone again. "Keep going," Jim ordered.
"The killer next struck in Little Rock, Arkansas." Passing the next picture over to Jim, Boone said, "Martha Stephens was part of a Search and Rescue unit. She and a group of her friends had gone out exploring some caves when she ordered some of her companions to go back to town and alert the authorities that there were some people trapped somewhere in the cave. When the authorities arrived, they were quite skeptical because nobody had been reported missing. Only Ms. Stephens' position on the S&R team allowed the search to continue. After several hours, the rescue workers finally stumbled upon three teenagers who had been conducting an unauthorized exploration of some off-limit areas of the caves. They had lost their bearings and couldn't find the way back out. Had Ms. Stephens not insisted on the search continuing, odds are that those kids would have never been found and died in those caves. Six days later she turned up dead."
While accepting the picture of Ms. Stephens from Blair with one hand, Boone passed another picture to Jim with his other hand. "The fifth victim was Mrs. Colleen Tucker. She was an emergency room physician. When she was on duty one night an unconscious man was brought into the ER. No one was able to make a diagnosis until Dr. Tucker took a look at the patient. In the course of her examination, she somehow detected a ruptured appendix by touch alone. Despite some rather understandable doubt from her colleagues, she was able to rush him up to X-Ray where the diagnosis was confirmed. If the operation had been delayed any longer, the man would have died. Eight days later she turned up dead."
Shivering slightly as he took the picture of Mrs. Tucker from Jim, Blair murmured, "Colleen Hughes."
"What?" Boone asked.
"Nothing," Blair said as he handed the picture to the agent. "Do you guys think we could take a break now? I could use a dose of caffeine."
"Sure," Jim answered. "Why don't I go to the break room and see what I can scrounge up?"
"That's all right, Jim," Blair replied. "I'll go. I need to stretch my legs anyway. How do you take your coffee, Agent Boone?"
"First off, it's just Mark okay?" Seeing Blair's slight smile and nod, the agent said, "I take mine with two sugars."
Standing up, Blair responded, "Okay."
After Blair had left the room, Boone turned to Jim and asked, "So where's the restroom in the place?"
"At the other end of the hall, near the elevators," Jim answered.
"Thanks," Boone replied. "Be right back."
Watching the agent leave, Jim reviewed Blair's response to each of the pictures. Taking into account Blair's increasingly elevated vital signs and the slight tremors racking his partner's body, Jim came to only one conclusion. Coming out of the self-induced mini-zone he had fallen into, Jim startled when he heard a knock on the door. Doing a quick scan of the hallway, he detected Blair out in the hallway. Walking over, Jim opened the door and barely managed to grab two of the coffees before they fell to the floor. Standing aside to allow Blair to enter the room, Jim waited until Blair had taken a seat before asking, "You want to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Blair asked.
Coming over to stand besides Blair, Jim placed the cups on the table then leaned over to look Blair in the eyes. "Where you met these people and exactly how long you knew them before they wound up dead?"
Before Blair could say anything, Agent Boone returned to the room. Walking over to the table, he asked, "Which one is mine?" Nodding his thanks when Blair handed him one of the cups, Boone walked over and reclaimed his seat at the table. "Ready to get started again?"
Never taking his eyes off of Blair, Jim replied, "Whenever you are." Finally moving away when Blair turned away, Jim sat down and picked up one of the cups. Taking a sip, he grimaced and said, "This one's yours, Chief." Setting down the cup he held, Jim picked up the other and took a sip of it. "Aah. That's much better." Seeing Boone looking their way, Jim explained, "He takes his black but me, I gotta have cream and sugar."
Smiling, Boone said, "I know what you mean, my partner refuses to drink the stuff unless it's half coffee, half cream. One time I accidentally got a hold of his. Believe me, that was the last time I made that mistake."
Taking note that Blair's previously racing heartbeat had slowed to a more normal rate during his and Agent Boone's brief chat, Jim turned their talk back to the case. "You didn't tell us where Colleen Tucker was from."
"She was from..."
"Dallas, Texas," Blair supplied before the agent had a chance to finish.
"Yes, she was," Boone confirmed. "How did you know that?"
Nervously, Blair ran a hand through his hair. "Oh, well, I read it in my copy of the report that you gave Jim and I in Sim... um... Captain Banks' office. You know, when Jim and Agent Allen were having that little... discussion about how the case should be handled."
Cutting in when Boone appeared about ready to say something, Jim said, "Well then let's move on to the next one."
"Yes, well, the next victim was Marcus Taylor and he with the Sheriff's Department in Albuquerque, New Mexico." Withdrawing another of the now familiar pictures from his briefcase, Boone continued as he passed it over to Jim. "One day he was on patrol and, while passing by an elementary school, he suddenly stopped his car and ran over to where a group of children were having recess out on the playground. For some reason, he proceeded to approach a child who had been crawling around some bushes and poking a stick in between the branches. After ordering the teacher to take the students inside, he called animal control to the site. Surprised the hell out of them when they discovered the rattlesnake den under the bush. Nine days later he turned up dead."
When Blair looked up to pass the picture back to Boone, he found himself under close scrutiny by the agent. An attempt to take a sip of coffee was hindered by the tremors in his hands, so Blair merely asked, "And the next one?"
Turning his attention away from Blair, Boone accepted the picture and withdrew another one. "Daniel Purcell from Aspen, Colorado. He worked for a ski lodge, patrolled the slopes. One day, he insisted that the skiers had to come down off of the slopes and that the lodge had to be evacuated immediately. He said that he could feel tremors in the ground. The guy had grown up in the area and had an impeccable reputation and that's the only reason his warning was given any credence. Thirty minutes after the last of the guests and employees were evacuated the lodge was completely obliterated in an avalanche. Eleven days later he turned up dead."
Again Agent Boone gave Blair an intense, searching look as he accepted the picture back. Pulling out the next picture, he passed it over to Jim. "Victim number eight was Jane Henderson and she lived in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked as a building inspector for the city. On a routine inspection of a new constructed shopping center, she noticed several violations. However, when the building owner filled a report siting unsubstantiated allegations no other inspectors could see the violations reported by Ms. Henderson. Since Ms. Henderson persisted in her belief that the building was unsafe, the opening was delayed until a hearing could be conducted. Before the court date occurred, a section of the shopping center collapsed on the very day the Grand Opening would have occurred. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that the owner of the construction company and the owner of the building has been involved in a scheme to use substandard materials and then pocket the extra money. Four days later she turned up dead."
Remembering a similar scheme involving the renovations of a racetrack, which had been concocted by one of his brother's business associates, Jim silently passed the picture on to Blair.
Caught up in his own thoughts, Blair didn't bother to look at Boone as he glanced at the picture before passing it back to the agent.
Clearing his throat to get Jim and Blair's attention, Boone handed Jim another picture and said, "The next victim was Jack Anderson and he lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a retired marine who taught self-defense classes at a local college. During one class, he rushed from the room without explanation. Several students followed after him as he ran down three flights of stairs and continued on over to a closet at the end of the hallway. After breaking down the door, he went inside and a few moments later another gentlemen came flying through the doorway and crashed into the wall opposite the closet. The students were further shocked when Mr. Anderson re-emerged from the closet with a distraught young woman. The police were called and the young woman's assailant was arrested on charges of attempted rape. Mr. Anderson received an award for his heroism. Nine days later he turned up dead."
Accepting the picture back from Blair, Boone asked, "You were in the military weren't you, Detective Ellison?"
"Yeah," Jim replied. "I was a Ranger."
"That's interesting," Boone observed as he pulled out another picture and passed it over to Jim. "Our last victim was named Brenda Wilson and she lived in Sacramento, California. She was a caseworker with the Department of Social Services. One day, she was conducting a seemingly routine visit to a group home for runaways. After the visit she submitted a request for a more thorough investigation, a request which necessitated that the household undergo a complete examination. It took two days and repeated questioning before the man running the home finally confessed. A confession that led to the discovery of several bodies buried in the basement. Seems the guy was abusing the kids in his care. Sometimes, he got a little bit carried away and a kid would wind up dead. Nobody ever suspected anything because they just assumed that the kids had ran away again. The guy was arrested and the home was shut down. Twelve days later she turned up dead."
"Well, there you have it gentlemen, all ten victims. All seemingly unrelated to each other. No common element between them," Boone stated while accepting the final picture back from Blair. "Well, except for the fact that they were all brought to the public's notice a few days before their death. That attention resulting from rather unusual, somewhat inexplicable, acts of valor. Each of them was responsible for preventing almost certain deaths that would have occurred had they not noticed something was amiss. However, the one thing we haven't been able to explain is how they were able to notice that something was wrong. In each instance, they seemed able to detect or accomplish something that no one else could have."
"But why do you think this guy is in Cascade now?" Jim asked again.
Pulling out a newspaper from his briefcase, Boone tossed it onto the table and stated, "Because of this."
After glancing down at the paper, Jim glared at Boone, "You son of a bitch!"
"Jim, what is it?" Frustrated when Jim blocked his attempt to grab the paper, Blair demanded, "Let me see it."
"Give it to me, Jim."
Closing his eyes briefly, Jim clenched his jaw and pushed the paper over to Blair.
Glancing between Jim and Boone, Blair pulled the paper over. Looking down at the headline, he gasped and then read it out loud. "'Man Drowned in Rainier Fountain'." Skimming the article, he noticed a quote from one of the paramedics that had been at the university that day.
"A very interesting article," Boone observed. "I found the paramedic's statements to be quite enlightening. Tell me, Detective, how is it that you knew Mr. Sandburg was still alive. By all appearance, he was dead and had been for a while. Yet despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite the protests of the paramedics, your captain, and your fellow detectives, you continued efforts to revive your partner. How is it that you knew he was still alive when everything else, including the paramedics and all their equipment, contradicted that your belief."
When neither man responded, Boone continued, "So you see, Detective, you are like all of the killer's other victims. Whatever his reasoning behind the killings, you fit the profile by which he chooses his victims. I believe he'll go after you next, and when he does I'm going to be there to take his down once and for all."
"Get the hell out of here," Jim growled. When Boone hesitated, Jim yelled, "NOW!"
"Fine, for now I'll leave you to your discussion of the case," Boone conceded. "But, gentlemen," he added as he gathered his papers, "we will be talking about this little fountain incident again."
After Boone left the room, Jim grabbed the newspaper away from Blair and ripped it the shreds.
"Not now, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "The only thing I want to hear from you is how you knew these victims."
"Don't even try it, Sandburg," Jim warned. "I was keeping track of your vital signs throughout the whole thing. I KNOW that you were familiar with all of the victims, you knew all of them!"
"Gee, Jim, why don't you say that a little bit louder," Blair sarcastically replied, "I don't think the guys down in the garage heard you."
"I'll tell you, Jim," Blair asserted. "But I really don't think that this conversation should take place here. That is unless you want to risk those federal agents hearing all about enhanced senses and Sentinels."
"All right," Jim agreed. "I'll go talk with Simon, tell him that we're taking the case file back to the loft to go over everything."
"Will he go for that?"
"He will," Jim insisted. "Unless he wants to tell the F.B.I why two of its men wound up accidentally falling out of a seven story window."
"Just stay here and get these files together," Jim ordered. "I'll go clear things with Simon."
"Jim, when I explain everything, Simon should be there too," Blair stated. "If this killer is in Cascade, then Boone is right when he says that you'd be a target."
Nodding, Jim walked over to the door. Reaching for the doorknob, he paused and said, "Sandburg, you do realize that there's a very good possibility that Boone will link these victims to you. I mean, wouldn't it be likely that someone who knew them also knew about their involvement with you?"
"Yeah, I guess," Blair replied. "But I... Wait a minute. C'mon, Jim, you can't seriously think that I... Jim, I didn't have anything to do with these deaths. You have got to know that."
"I know that, Sandburg. I never thought that you did. Not for an instant." Jim declared. "But the feds, however, are another matter. Plus, there's a chance that the killer knows about your involvement with his victims. So either of us could be the guy's next target."
"But I don't fit the profile," Blair protested. "This guy is targeting people with enhanced senses and since I don't have any, that puts me out of the running."
"Then explain to me why I've been feeling this overwhelming need to keep you close lately," Jim responded. "I'll tell you why, it's because somehow I sensed that this guy was in Cascade and, for some reason, I know that he's going to come after you."
"Or maybe it's because you know that he's going to come after you and you know that in order to beat this guy you're going to need my help," Blair argued.
"We're not going to get anything settled right now. We'll talk about this some more at the loft, after you've filled me in on your history with the victims. For now, just stay here until I get back." Opening the door, Jim said, "I'm gonna go talk with Simon and then we're out of here."
"Fine," Blair replied as Jim left the room. After watching the door shut behind Jim, he began to collect the papers scattered across the table.
After leaving the conference room, Jim went directly to Simon's office. Seeing the captain was inside, he knocked then entered the room.
"Jim," Simon greeted. "Did Agent Boone fill you and Sandburg in?"
"Yeah he did," Jim replied, "right before he whipped out a newspaper with an article concerning Blair's drowning."
"That's right," Jim confirmed. "Then the arrogant son of a bitch went on to say that I was going to be this psycho's next target."
"Shit," Simon exclaimed. "Do I even want to ask how Sandburg is handling this whole thing?"
"Well, here's the thing," Jim responded, "you see, Sandburg..."
"Sandburg what?" Simon asked.
"Knew all of the victims."
"Would you mind repeating that?" Simon requested. "On second thought, never mind. Tell me something, Jim, how does he do it?"
"How does who do what, Sir?"
"That partner of yours," Simon answered. "How is it that he always seems to wind up right in the middle of just about every single case? Between the two of you, I don't know which one has the most tendency for finding trouble."
Holding up his hand, Simon asked, "Don't, okay?" Sighing, he added, "But there's more to it than just Sandburg's prior association with the victims, isn't there?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh come off it, Jim," Simon growled. "I saw the way you were acting earlier. You looked about ready to tear those agents to shreds. Not to mention the way you were hovering over Sandburg. What's really going on here?"
"I can't get into it here, Simon," Jim replied. "Blair and I want to go back to the loft now. We've got a lot to discuss and we don't want to risk being overheard by those so-called agents."
"And exactly how am I going to explain your disappearance to those guys?"
"Just tell them we've got to wrap up another case before we start investigation this one or something," Jim replied.
"All right," Simon agreed. "I'll do my usual song and dance routine. Lord knows I've gotten enough practice over the past couple of years trying to explain your antics to the brass. Go get Sandburg and get out of here."
"Thank you, Sir," Jim replied. "But there's just one more little thing."
"Are you trying to get me to retire?" Simon asked.
Grinning, Jim answered, "Of course not, Sir. After all, what other captain would put up with Sandburg and me."
"Yeah, well you'd better keep that in mind, Ellison," Simon warned, "because retirement is looking better and better all the time. So what else do you want?"
Becoming serious once again, Jim informed Simon, "Sandburg thinks it'd be best if you were there when he explained things. He's convinced this guy will come after me next and he wants you to know everything so that you can be there to back us up."
Nodding, Simon agreed, "Okay. You and Sandburg take off now. Give me a few minutes to pacify the feds and I'll leave for the loft."
"We'll be waiting."
"Keep your guard up," Simon advised. "Boone is right, this guy could be after you."
"Somehow, I don't think that he is," Jim disagreed.
"'Don't think that he is'," Simon repeated. "What are you talking about, Jim?"
"I think that the killer is going to go after Sandburg?"
"But why?" Simon asked. "He's not like the other victims."
"I realize that," Jim responded. "I don't know what to tell you, Simon. It's just... Well, I've got this feeling and... Look, Simon, I can't really explain it. All I know is that I think Blair might be in danger from this guy."
"I guess it's safe for me to assume that this 'feeling' is related to your being a Sentinel." Seeing Jim's shrug his shoulders, Simon continued, "Look, Jim, I can't say that I understand all of this Sentinel stuff. Frankly, there's some of it that I don't even want to try to understand. But if you say that Sandburg's in danger, then your word is all that I need. However I can help, just let me know. I don't want to lose the kid, not again. I don't want to lose either of you, my friend."
"I don't want that either, Simon," Jim replied. "Trust me, I'll be on the look out."
"I know," Simon stated. "Go on and get back to Sandburg. I'll see the both of you in a little while."
"See you then," Jim said then turned and left the office.
Walking back to the conference room, Jim paused for a moment outside and placed his palm on the door. "When is this shit ever going to end, Chief?" Taking a deep breath, he entered the room once again.
Looking up as the door opened, Blair greeted, "Hey, Jim. What did Simon say?"
"For us to take off," Jim answered. "He's going to deal with the feds and then join us at the loft."
"Sounds like a plan," Blair replied. "By the way, thanks."
"Did you really expect me to believe that you could accidentally mistake my coffee for yours?" Blair asked.
Averting his eyes, Jim said, "Well... I mean... I just..."
"Wanted to give me a few minutes to get myself together," Blair finished. "And I did need the time. So, thanks."
Jim just shrugged his shoulders. "Let's go."
Rising from his seat, Blair picked up the folders and then joined Jim by the door. "Before we leave you should do a quick scan, see if you're still picking up on those weird vibes from before."
"Just do it, Jim." Watching as Jim's eyes closed, Blair stepped closer and laid a hand on Jim's arm. "What are you picking up?"
"That feeling," Jim murmured, "it's still there."
"Is it exactly the same as before?"
"Almost," Jim answered as he opened his eyes. "It's kind of... I don't know... muted somehow, not as intense. I mean it spiked some when I left you here while I went to Simon's office, but even then it wasn't as bad as this morning."
"When we were driving to the station?" Blair asked. Seeing Jim's nod, Blair remained silent for a few seconds before inquiring, "This feeling, is it also muted while we're at the loft?"
"How should I know, Sandburg?"
"Just think back to how you felt this morning," Blair stated. "Remember the feeling and focus on it. Did it feel the same as it feels now?"
Closing his eyes again, Jim thought back to the morning. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and reached out a hand to grab Blair's arm. "It was!" he exclaimed. "When we were still at the loft, it was muted; even more so than now. But as soon as we got down to the truck..."
Wincing as Jim squeezed his arm, Blair grabbed Jim's wrist and said, "Ease up, Jim, you're hurting me."
Blinking, Jim shook his head then looked down and saw his hand clamped down on Blair's arm. "Sorry, Chief. Don't know what happened." Releasing Blair's arm, he stepped back away from his partner. "We should get going now."
"We'll finish this at the loft,"
"Fine," Blair relented. "But as soon as we get home, we're gonna talk this thing out."
"Not until after you've told me everything about your involvement with the victims," Jim countered. "That comes first, understand?"
"This feeling that you've been experiencing is just as important as my history with the victims," Blair protested. "In fact, it's probably more important. This feeling, it's got to be some kind of warning. Just like before when Alex was in Cascade. You can't just ignore it and hope it goes away."
"I'm not," Jim insisted. "I promise you, Sandburg, we will discuss it. I already told you that we would. I realize that all of this has got to be related; this feeling, the killer's probable presence in Cascade, your involvement with the victims. It's all tied together. Somehow. But we're not going to get into it here." Turning to open the door, Jim gestured for Blair to precede him out into the hallway. "So let's go."
Very much aware of the tension currently radiating between them, Blair sighed as he hurried past Jim and began walking down the hallway.
Catching up with Blair at the elevator, Jim he snapped, "Would you just hold up, Sandburg. I said the feeling was lessened, I never said it had gone away."
Any smart remark Blair might have said faded away when he turned and saw the worry in Jim's eyes. "I'm sorry, Jim."
When the elevator doors opened, Jim once again waited until Blair entered first before going in himself. Arriving at the garage, both men headed directly to Jim's truck and got in. Starting the truck, Jim pulled out of the garage. Immediately after driving out onto the street, he stiffened as the full force of the feeling hit him.
Noticing the change, Blair asked, "What is it? What's wrong?"
"That feeling we've been talking about," Jim began, "it just increased. A lot."
"It increased as soon as we left the station?" Blair asked.
"Yeah," Jim confirmed. "Do you have any ideas as to why?"
"Some," Blair answered. "But I need to think about it a little bit more. After we get to the loft, I'll tell you what I've come up with."
Not responding, Jim pressed down on the gas pedal causing the truck to speed up.
Bracing himself, Blair placed a hand against the dashboard. "I need to go by Rainier before we go to the loft."
"If I'm going to be explaining all this to Simon and you, then I'm going to need some of my files," Blair answered.
When Jim turned the truck around and began driving towards the university, neither he nor Blair noticed the car that followed them.
Arriving at the university, Jim and Blair quickly entered the building and made their way to Blair's office. Upon reaching it, Blair pulled his keys out and unlocked the door. Pushing it open, he cursed softly.
"What is it?" Jim asked.
"I think someone has been in here," Blair answered.
"Stay behind me," Jim ordered as he moved past Blair and entered the office.
Following behind Jim, Blair halted just inside the doorway. Silently, he watched as Jim scanned the room. "Are you picking up on anything?"
"I can't get a fix on anything specific," Jim complained. "There's just too many unknown scents. Take a look around and see if anything's missing or been tampered with."
As Blair began walking around the room, Jim pulled out his cell phone.
"What are you doing?" Blair asked.
"I'm going to call this in."
"You can't do that," Blair protested.
"What? Why not? We need to get forensics in here."
"Boone is already suspicious enough," Blair reasoned. "If we report this, he's just going to be even more curious and he won't quit digging until he finds out the truth about you."
Snapping his phone shut, Jim replied, "Fine, we won't call it in. For now at least."
Nodding, Blair continued his inspection of the room. "Somebody got into my files."
Moving to join Blair by the filing cabinets, Jim asked, "Can you tell what they looked at, or if they took anything?"
"They looked at the stuff filed under 'S'," Blair announced. "But it doesn't look like they took anything."
"S," Jim repeated. "So, what? They were thinking S for Sentinels?"
"Either that or S for senses," Blair responded. "I mean, it looks like they glanced through just about everything but I think they focused on this drawer."
"Looking for your files on Sentinels or enhanced senses."
"Probably," Blair replied as he shut the drawer. "But if that's what they were looking for then they didn't find anything."
"C'mon, Jim," Blair said. "Do you really think that I would be that obvious? Or that stupid?"
"So what did you file your Sentinel records under?"
Pointing to the file cabinets, Blair asked, "Who said I keep those records in there?" Walking over to his desk, Blair picked up a wooden box. "Alright, let's go."
"Are you trying to tell me that you've got records in that thing? It's way too small to hold anything."
Sighing, Blair made a few quick manipulations to the box causing a hidden interlocking box at the bottom to slide open. Pulling out a key, he said, "It's big enough to hold this." Closing the box, Blair held it out to Jim. "This is a puzzle box. See the small buttons of top? Well, you have to press them in a certain order before the inner box will pop out. And when it's closed, you can't even tell that the inner box exists. Pretty cool, huh?"
Rubbing a hand over his face, Jim replied, "Just tell me what the key goes to."
"A safety deposit box," Blair answered. "The files that I'm going to need are in it."
"Wait a minute," Jim demanded. "The first time I came to your office, you pointed out a bunch of files to me. Files about people with enhanced senses."
"And your point being?"
"My point is, if you've got files here why do we have to go somewhere else?" Jim asked.
"The files that I showed you were only about people with one or two enhanced senses," Blair explained.
"So, these files are different," Blair replied.
"I'll explain after we get the files and get home," Blair promised.
Ignoring Jim, Blair said, "C'mon, let's get going. At this rate, Simon will get to the loft before we do. The box is at the First Security bank downtown."
Confused by the whole matter, Jim just replied, "But that's not the bank you use."
"Well, I figured it would be too risky to use that one," Blair stated.
Shaking his head, Jim just walked out the door and stood in the hallway.
Following after his partner, Blair took a second to lock the door before turning to face Jim. "It'd probably be best if I go into the bank alone, Jim."
"Well, I didn't exactly use my name to get the box," Blair informed Jim. "Besides, we probably don't want to take a chance on someone remembering you being there."
"Why do I get the feeling that you've done something that I probably don't want to know about?" Jim asked.
"It's no big deal," Blair protested. "Just a little fake ID is all."
"Fake..." Jim began. "No, forget it. I don't even want to hear it right now."
"But I guess we'll be talking about it later, huh?"
"You can count on it," Jim promised.