Without saying anything else, the two men left the building and returned to Jim's truck. After a short drive, they arrived at the bank.
"Do you have a hat in here, Jim?" Blair asked after Jim had parked the truck. "A Jags cap or something?"
Reaching across Blair, Jim opened the glove box and pulled out a cap. "What do you need it for?"
Not answering, Blair took the cap and put it on. Next, he gathered up his ponytail and began stuffing it underneath the hat. After arranging his hair and the cap, he presented the back of his head to Jim. "Do you see a bulge or anything? Does it look like I have short hair?"
"It looks fine to me," Jim answered.
"Good." Turning back to face Jim, Blair said, "I'll be right back."
Watching as Blair entered the bank, Jim turned up his hearing. Keeping track of his partner, he listened in as Blair approached the counter and requested access to a Mr. John Smith's safety deposit box. "John Smith?" he mused. "Couldn't you have thought of something a little bit more original, Sandburg?"
Jim continued to listen in as Blair got the box and withdrew something from inside it. Starting the engine when he heard Blair return the box and the teller's resulting "Have a good afternoon, Mr. Smith", Jim said, "Oh yeah, Sandburg, we will definitely be talking about this one."
Watching as Blair backed out of the bank, Jim was surprised when Blair finally turned around. Taking into account the large amount of papers and files Blair was carrying, Jim reached over and opened the passenger side door as Blair reached the truck.
Carefully climbing into his seat, Blair mumbled, "Thanks." Finally getting himself and the multitude of files arranged, he turned to Jim. "I'm ready to go now."
Glancing at Blair as he started the truck, Jim asked, "Are any of those about me?"
"What?" Blair asked. Looking down, he said, "Oh these. No, Jim, none of these is about you. I keep all of my files on you somewhere else."
"Do I even want to ask where?"
"Um... probably not."
Pulling out of the parking lot, Jim warned, "Sandburg, just remember after this is over you and I are going to have a long talk."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever you say."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair asked.
"It just means..."
"Jim," Blair said when Jim stopped talking. "What is it? Is something wrong?"
"There's a car back there," Jim answered. "One that I could swear was behind us earlier when we left the station."
"Do you think they're following us?" Seeing the look Jim briefly directed his way, Blair said, "You're right, stupid question. But, can you see who it is?"
"Not until we've stopped," Jim replied. "Well, unless you want to wind up wrapped around a telephone pole that is."
"Funny, Jim. Really funny. Just like pull off to the side of the road or something. Let them pass us."
"If they are following us," Jim said, "do you really think they're going to just pass us on by?"
"Well, do you have any bright ideas?"
"Yeah," Jim answered, "this." Abruptly turning the wheel, Jim made a sharp U-turn.
Grabbing a hold of his files, which were about ready to fly all over the truck, Blair yelled, "Geez, Jim, give a guy some warning next time."
Ignoring Blair, Jim searched for the car he suspected of following them. Finding it, he locked onto the vehicle and stared at the driver as the two vehicles passed one another.
"Jim, look out!"
Startled by the shout Jim blinked his eyes rapidly and turned his attention back to the road just in time to swerve the truck, narrowly missing an oncoming car that was passing another vehicle. "Hang on," he yelled.
As the truck came to a screeching halt, Jim turned to Blair. "Are you all right?" Not receiving an answer, he repeated, "Are you all right? Sandburg, answer me. Are you okay?"
Breathing rapidly, Blair gasped out, "Fine. I'm fine. But, man, that was so not my idea of fun. But at least you got a look at the guy." When Jim didn't reply, Blair said, "Jim? You did get a look at the guy, didn't you?"
"Not exactly," Jim answered.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair yelled. "I mean either you got a look at the guy or you didn't."
Jim rubbed his eyes before informing Blair, "Whoever it was held up a mirror. Something shiny and reflective anyway. Just about blinded me. I'm still seeing spots."
"Look at me, Jim," Blair ordered. "Let me see."
"Back off, Sandburg," Jim replied. "It'll go away in a minute."
Turning away from Jim, Blair asked, "You know what this means, don't you?"
"Whoever it is, they have to know about your senses," Blair answered. "Even if they don't know that you're a Sentinel, they would at least have to suspect that you have enhanced sight."
"How do you figure?" Jim questioned. "After all, something like that would have affected anyone even if they didn't have enhanced senses."
"Jim, take a look up at the sky," Blair ordered.
"Please, Jim, just do it and then tell me what you see."
Sighing, Jim looked rolled down his window. Sticking his head out, he looked upward. "Clouds. I see clouds, Sandburg."
"Exactly," Blair responded. "So wouldn't it be a little bit odd for someone to attempt to blind a person with reflected light when the sky is full of clouds."
"Shit," Jim cursed.
"My thoughts exactly," Blair stated.
"So this guy knows about my senses and when he saw me do that U-turn he figured I was aiming to get a look at him," Jim observed.
"And he also correctly assumed that you'd have your sight dialed up," Blair added, "so that any amount of sunlight, no matter how minor, that reflected off that mirror would be enough to affect you."
"So the guy not only knows about my senses, or at least my sight, he's also a quick thinking son of a bitch," Jim stated. "I'm really starting to hate this guy."
"You're not the only one."
The rest of the drive back to the loft was quiet and when Jim and Blair finally arrived home, they found Simon waiting for them.
Walking up to the truck, Simon waited until Jim and Blair got out before asking, "Where have you two been? I was just about ready to put out an APB."
"Sorry, Simon," Jim apologized. "But we had to make a couple of stops first."
"For what?" Simon asked.
"Uh, for these," Blair answered as he joined the other two men.
"What in the world is all of that, Sandburg?"
"Just some files," Blair replied. "Files which are about ready to hit the pavement unless somebody gives me a hand with them."
"Let me grab some of those, Chief."
After smiling his thanks when Jim took some of the files, Blair said, "Well, let's go get this over with."
Entering the loft, Blair and Jim deposited the files on the dining room table. As Blair took a seat, Jim walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed three bottles of water. Walking back over to the table, he handed one to Blair before taking one over to Simon.
"Give me a minute to get organized," Blair requested.
"Just hurry it up, Sandburg," Jim replied. "I want some answers and I want them now."
"Jim, first, just back off," Blair yelled. "God, Jim, I just found out that ten people that I know... knew... and thought of as friends were tortured and then killed! So please excuse me if I need a minute here!" Taking a shaky breath, Blair turned his attention back to the files.
Taking a step towards Blair, Jim stopped when he felt pressure on his arm. Glancing down, he saw Simon's hand wrapped around his arm. Looking up, he glared at Simon.
"Not now," Simon advised as he released Jim's arm. "Give him some time, Jim. Let him get his head together first."
Nodding, Jim went to sit down on the couch and a few seconds later, Simon joined him. Almost thirty minutes later, both men were startled when Blair suddenly announced, "Okay, I'm ready."
After exchanging a quick glance, Jim and Simon got up and joined Blair at the table. As they sat down, Jim said, "I'm sorry, Blair. I should've..."
"Jim," Blair interrupted, "it's okay. We're cool, all right?"
Smiling, Jim replied, "All right."
Simon chose that moment to speak up. "Now that the heartwarming, bonding moment is over could we please get started?"
"Of course," Blair replied. Pulling some files over in front of him, Blair picked up the top one.
"Sandburg, first I want to know why you had these in a safety deposit box," Jim said. "Why weren't they kept in your office with the rest of your files?"
"Safety deposit box?" Simon asked. "Why do I get the feeling that I've missed something here?"
Grinning, Blair said, "Probably because you have." Seeing the resulting glare that Simon gave him, Blair stopped smiling. "Sorry, Simon. You see, in my office I have files on people with one or two heightened senses. But these files, I keep them somewhere else. Someplace more secure."
"Because..." Jim prompted.
"The people in these files are rarer and more unique," Blair explained. "You see, the people in these files have either three or four senses enhanced and quite possibly could have eventually become fully functional Sentinels."
Shocked, both Jim and Simon were silent for several seconds. Finally, Simon spoke. "Wait a minute here, you said 'could have'."
"That's right. You see the people in these files, they're all dead now," Blair stated as he held up several files. One at a time, he placed them in front of Jim and Simon. "Joanna Thompson, Douglas Carter, Michael Warren, Martha Stephens, Colleen Tucker née Hughes, Marcus Taylor, Daniel Purcell, Jane Henderson, Jack Anderson and Brenda Wilson. All had either three or four heightened senses and all are now dead, murdered by this sick son of a bitch."
"How did you know them?" Jim asked. "Or I guess that should be how did you meet them? It's pretty obvious that you knew them because of their enhanced senses, but what led to you meeting them? I mean these people were scattered all over the country and I find it pretty unlikely that all of them just happened to come to Cascade at some point in their life."
"Well, they all did eventually make a trip to Cascade," Blair answered. "You see when I first decided to focus my studies on Sentinels, to base my doctorate on them, I knew that I would have to have some kind of basis for my belief in their existence. Some hard evidence proving that people with enhanced senses were not only a possibility but were indeed a reality. So I applied for a grant which I used to..."
Stopping, Blair's brow furrowed in concentration for a moment. Standing up, he began to pace the length of the table. Hands waving, he continued, "You know that advertisements you sometimes see, ones requesting volunteers for experimental procedures like testing new drugs or something like that, well the grant I received allowed me to do something similar. I contacted various universities and medical centers all over the country announcing a program dealing with enhanced senses. Honestly, I really didn't expect much of a response but I ended up swamped with replies. I sent out questionnaires and communicated with those that responded. Most of them only had one or two heightened sense and our only correspondence was by mail or phone, but some of them were dealing with more three or four enhanced senses."
Pointing to the files laying on the table, Blair said, "They were the ones who were having the most trouble dealing with their senses. Some of them were desperate; they'd tried pills, doctors, psychiatrists but none of it had helped. Michael and Jane's families were about ready to have them committed. Colleen was about ready to drop out of medical school because she couldn't tolerate the smells permeating the hospital. You wouldn't think that they'd just up and come see a guy they'd never met in person, but they were all... They were..."
"Desperate," Jim finished.
Remembering his second meeting with Jim and the feeling of being pushed up against the wall of his office, Blair replied, "Yeah, desperate." Sitting down again, he continued, "So they came here, hoping that I could help them."
"And did you?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, I did," Blair answered. "Since they didn't have all five senses enhanced, they didn't face the risk of zone-outs. It was simply a matter of teaching them some meditation techniques, helping them gain a measure of control."
"Did you tell them about the dials?"
"What? Oh, no," Blair said. "For each of them I had to use something different. They were all unique and each had a distinct combination of enhanced senses. I couldn't use the same methods on all of them. But I have to tell you that my experiences with them still didn't prepare me for my encounter with you. The addition of completely enhanced senses totally negated anything I had learned from my dealings with the others. So, even though I did have prior dealings with people with enhanced senses, when we first met you weren't the only one on new ground, Jim. Both of us were learning as we went along. I know that sometimes I messed up, that sometimes I wasn't exactly what or who you needed me to be, and I really am sorry for that. Sorry for the mistakes that I made."
"Sandburg... Blair, I think that we've both made a few mistakes along the way," Jim replied. "But the main thing is we're both still here. Okay?"
Smiling, Blair said, "Okay."
Gesturing to some other files still laying on the table, Jim asked, "What about those?"
Picking up the three remaining folders, Blair explained, "These are the other people who came to Cascade. They've got three or four enhanced senses too."
"Shit, Sandburg," Jim cursed. "You're just now mentioning this. Those people are targets. We need to get in contact with them and warn them."
"That's not necessary."
"You want to tell me why not?"
"For starters, I doubt the killer could even find two of them," Blair answered. Holding up one file, Blair said, "Ellen Johnson is a botanist and she's currently on an expedition in the Amazon rain forest. Her group is hoping to catalogue the indigenous flora before it's totally wiped out by encroaching logging operations."
Setting that folder down, Blair picked up one of the others. "Jonathan Gibson is a Navy seal. And I don't think I have to tell you how difficult it would be for someone to track him down. Especially since the last time he wrote me he said that his team was going overseas on 'training maneuvers' and he wouldn't be in touch for awhile."
"Okay, I can see your point," Jim conceded. "But what about the third one."
Frowning, Blair set down the folder on Jonathan Gibson and picked up the last file. Voice filled with sadness and regret, he said, "Monica. Monica Ryan. She..."
"She what, Blair?" Jim asked in a gentle tone.
"I couldn't help her," Blair confessed. "I tried my best. I really did. But she couldn't handle her senses and she went insane."
"Sandburg, I'm..." Simon said. "What I mean to say is that's..."
"It's all right, Simon," Blair replied. "I understand. Thanks."
Silently watching the interaction between Simon and Blair, Jim waited until they were finished before he spoke up. "I think she's the killer."
"What?" Blair yelled. "No way, Jim. Look, I told you she lost it. Totally. Her parents came to Cascade and took her back home after... Well, after her breakdown."
Intently studying Blair, Jim asked, "Why do I get the feeling that there's more to this? What really happened, Sandburg?"
"I'm telling you, Chief, I've got a gut feeling about this. Call it cop instinct, call it some kind of Sentinel mumbo jumbo. I don't care. But I'm telling you, I think this girl is our killer."
"No, she isn't," Blair protested. "You didn't know her, Jim. I did. Even... Even sick, there's no way that she could be a killer. I'm telling you, she was the nicest, kindest, gentlest person you could ever meet. She was an Archaeology major. We were even planning some joint expeditions since our fields were so closely related. And we were..."
"You were what?"
Looking down at the floor, Blair murmured, "We were in love. I loved her, Jim. A part of me still does. And I know that there is no way she could ever kill anyone. I mean, what reason would she have? Why would she kill them?"
"I don't know," Jim answered. "Maybe she's jealous."
"Jealous?" Blair asked. "What reason would she have to be jealous of them?"
"That they could control their senses when she couldn't," Jim reasoned. "Or maybe it's not jealousy. Maybe she's doing it out of some misguided sense of mercy. Sparing them from suffering through what happened to her. Putting them out of their misery before their senses drive them insane. All I know is that I want to check her out."
"You're totally wrong here, Jim," Blair argued.
"I don't think so," Jim replied. "I mean think about it, that also explains why this feeling that I've had is similar to what I felt when Alex was around."
"Similar but not the same," Blair countered. "There's a difference, you said it yourself."
"Hold it," Simon yelled before Jim could respond. "Feeling? This is what you were talking about at the station earlier, isn't it, Jim?"
"Yeah," Jim confirmed.
"I really don't want to know about it," Simon complained. "But I guess I should. So, tell me." When neither Jim nor Blair said anything, he ordered, "I said tell me!"
"Well, Sandburg..." "Jim really should..."
"Hold it!" Simon yelled, cutting the other two men off. "One at a time. Jim, you first."
"Talk, Detective, and that's an order."
"Well, about three weeks ago I started to get this strange feeling," Jim explained. "I mean it was kind of like what I felt when Alex was in Cascade, but different. It's a vague feeling of uneasiness, a sense of danger, of some kind of threat. But it was nothing I could pinpoint. The only thing that really stood out was an... A kind of... I mean it was a..."
"For God's sake, Jim, just tell me!"
"A need to keep Sandburg close to me, keep an eye on him," Jim mumbled.
Deciphering the barely audible words, Simon stated, "I knew I didn't want to hear about it. Wait a minute, you said that you've been experiencing this feeling for three weeks?"
"When the killer supposedly arrived in Cascade." Jim finished.
"Okay, let's say that you're right. Monica is in Cascade and you're somehow picking up on her presence. But tell me why is the feeling different this time, Jim?" Blair asked. "I mean you seem to think you have all the answers, so what's your explanation for that?"
"There is an explanation, Sandburg. You'd see it too, but you're letting your emotions cloud your thinking," Jim reasoned. "It's different this time for two reasons. One, she's not a full Sentinel and two, you haven't been in contact with her like you were with Alex. But the only thing I can't figure out is why the feeling seems muted here and at the station."
"Muted?" Simon asked.
Ignoring Simon, Blair sighed and said, "I think I know why."
"Well, what is it?" Jim asked.
"I think it's a territorial thing," Blair explained. "Let's face it, you spend the majority of your time either here or at the station. So in essence, even though the whole city of Cascade would be considered you territory, the loft and the station would be considered your... I don't know... main territory or your domain. Your lairs, so to speak. So, theoretically, the feeling of danger, of threat, would be muted when you're in either location because you would feel more secure. You'd be more assured of victory if you were attacked either here or at the station because you'd find those places to be more defensible than any kind of unfamiliar area."
Glaring at Jim, Blair added, "But of course, I could be wrong about that, you know. What with my emotions clouding my thinking and all."
"I don't want to hear it, Jim," Blair stated. "Monica isn't the killer. I don't know what you've been feeling or what you think you've been feeling, but you're wrong on this one."
"Well we'll find out soon enough, won't we," Jim replied. "Her parents took her home with them, right?" When Blair nodded, he continued, "So we just call them and see where she's at now. And I'm betting they don't know."
"Really? Are you sure about that?"
"Wait, just hold it a minute," Simon interrupted. Lifting up his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, I don't know about the two of you, but I could use a break and I really would like some aspirin right about now."
Standing up, Blair said, "Sure thing, Simon. I'll go get you some."
Watching Blair walk over to the bathroom, Simon said, "Well, you certainly handled that one well, Jim."
"Look, I know that I screwed up," Jim admitted. "But we've got ten dead bodies already and I'll be damned if Sandburg winds up being number eleven."
"Jim, if this Ryan woman is the killer, then you'd be her next target," Simon replied. "We've already discussed this. Blair, that moron Agent Boone and I, we all believe that you're the killer's intended victim. Why do you keep insisting that it's Sandburg?"
"I just know that he's in danger, Simon," Jim said. "Last time I had a feeling like this, I ignored it and he wound up face down in that damned fountain. I won't let something let that happen again. This time I'm not just going to pretend the feeling doesn't exist. I'm going to listen to it. And right now, it's telling me to protect Sandburg because if I don't something's going to happen to him."
When Blair returned with the aspirins, he handed them to Simon then turned to Jim and said, "You know, Jim, I've been thinking and there's a little flaw with your theory."
"And what would that be, Sandburg?"
"Okay let's just suppose that Monica is the killer, which she's not, but how would she even know where to find the others?" Blair asked. "She didn't even meet them."
"Tell me something," Jim replied, "have you always keep these files in that safety deposit box?"
"No," Blair answered. "I only put them in there after the whole mess with Brackett. I figured it'd be best to put them someplace safer than just in a filing cabinet."
"So, when you knew Monica you kept them..."
"In my office," Blair finished.
"And in the time that you knew her, don't you think that she could've taken a look at them?" Jim inquired. "It's only natural that she would have been curious about other people with enhanced senses. I would've been. Hell, I still am."
Before Blair could answer, Simon's cell phone rang. After quickly swallowing the pills Blair had given him, he answered the call. "Hello. What? No, that's not necessary. I'm at the loft right now so I'll tell them. Are Agents Boone and Allen aware of this? Okay. Thanks, Rhonda. And by the way, could you run a check on a Monica Ryan for me. Yeah, she's from... Just a minute." Holding the phone away from his mouth, Simon looked up at Blair. "Where is this Monica Ryan from?"
"She was living here in Cascade when me met, Simon," Blair answered. "She was attending Rainier like me. But her parents, Sherry and Mike, live in Boston, Massachusetts."
Smiling, Simon softly replied, "Thank you." Bringing the phone back up to his ear, he said, "Rhonda? Yeah, a Monica Ryan from Boston, Massachusetts. And I need the information as soon as possible. While you're at it, also check out a Sherry and Mike Ryan. They're the girl's parents and they're from Boston, too. Thanks, Rhonda."
"What is it?" Jim asked as Simon ended the call. "What's going on?"
Looking at Blair, Simon replied, "We've got a dead body and the MO matches the other ones. The killer has struck here in Cascade."
"What?" Blair exclaimed. "I don't believe it. Who is it? Who was killed?"
Looking at Blair, Simon stated, "Ellen Johnson."
"No," Blair yelled. "That's impossible. She's not even in the country."
"Evidently, she is," Simon replied. "Or should I say she was."
Watching as Blair sunk down into a chair, Jim asked, "Where was the body found?"
"Rainier," Simon informed. "A maintenance worker found the body about an hour ago. She was found... Aw hell, Blair..."
Surprised at hearing Simon use his first name, Blair looked up. "What is it? Where was her body found, Simon?"
Looking straight at Blair, Simon stated, "In your office."
"My... my office," Blair stammered. "Oh, man. She wasn't even due to return to the states for another six months. And what was she doing in Cascade?"
"That's what you and Jim are going to go find out," Simon stated. "Rhonda said that Agents Boone and Allen were already there."
Looking at Blair, Jim inquired, "You up for this, Chief?"
Startled, Blair looked up at Jim. "Oh... Huh? What is it, Jim,"
Concerned, Jim asked, "Sandburg, are you going to be able to handle this?"
"Handle what?" Blair asked. "Going to my office?"
"I will," Blair declared, "because I have to. You're still at risk, Jim, even though you don't think so. And I'm going to be there to watch your back."
Clearing his throat to get Jim and Blair's attention, Simon said, "While you two head on over to the university, I'll go back to the station and see what Rhonda has found out."
"Sounds like a plan," Jim said. "After we check things out at Sandburg's office, we'll join you at the station. I really want to find out what's up with this Ryan woman."
"Look, Sandburg, we're not going to agree on this so what's the point of arguing?" Jim responded. "Let's just drop it until we find out something.
"Since when did you become the reasonable one?" Blair sarcastically asked.
"Since you stopped," Jim retorted.
Standing up, Blair walked over to stand in front of Jim. "That's a low blow, Jim. Even for you."
"Would you two just stop it!" Simon yelled. "What is up with you guys anyway? One minute you're bending over backwards trying to protect one another and the next minute you act like you're about ready to come to blows. I realize that this case is hard on both of you, but you can't let it tear you apart. Alex Barnes couldn't succeed in doing that, so don't you dare let this sick bastard do it."
"You're right, Sir," Jim agreed.
"Sorry, Simon," Blair mumbled.
"Okay," Simon said. "I'm going to leave for the station now and I'll see the two of you later."
After Simon left, Jim turned to Blair. "Look, Chief, I..."
"Not now, Jim, okay?" Blair asked before Jim could finish. "It's just... Look, Jim, like it or not, neither of us has completely gotten over everything that happened when Alex was around. And our disagreement over this case isn't helping anything. But it's like you've always told me; you've got to check your emotions at the door. I think it would be best if we both did that now. At least until this case is over and we've caught this son of a bitch. After that, then we'll deal with all of this other shit that's going on between us."
Clenching his jaw, Jim simply replied, "Fine. Now let's get over to your office before those idiotic feds totally foul up the crime scene." Without waiting for a response, Jim turned and went out the door.
Following behind Jim, Blair paused to shut and lock the front door before walking over to the elevator. After a silent, tension-filled ride to Rainier, Jim and Blair made their way through the crowd of spectators. Arriving at Blair's office, Jim flashed his badge to the uniformed officer standing guard at the door. With a quick glance at Blair, Jim pushed the door open and entered the office.
Hesitating for a second, Blair took a deep breath and then ventured inside the room. Eyes scanning the office, Blair gasped when his gaze settled on the covered body currently lying on his desk.
Hearing Blair's gasp, Agent Boone turned to look at the new arrivals. "Detective Ellison, Mr. Sandburg, how good of you to join us. Well, as you can see, it appears our killer has finally struck here in Cascade. Just as I predicted he would, I might add."
"If I remember correctly," Jim growled, "you said that I'd be the one to turn up dead. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm the one laid out on Sandburg's desk."
"The killer will eventually target you," Boone declared. "You can count on it."
"Now see here, Boone..."
"Wait," Blair yelled. "Would you two just back off? Jim, c'mon man, I want to find out what's going on."
"You want to know what's going on here, Mr. Sandburg?" Boone asked. When Blair nodded, Boone reached out a hand and grabbed hold of the sheet covering the body. Jerking his hand, he pulled the sheet off and said, "This is what's going on."
Seeing the now revealed body, lying on his desk as if on display, Blair placed a hand over his mouth and exclaimed, "Oh my God!" Beginning to gag, he gasped out, "Jim... Oh, man, I think I'm going to be..." Suddenly, Blair turned and ran from the office.
"You sick son of a bitch, I ought to..." Halting his advance towards Boone, Jim suddenly picked up on the sound of retching coming from the end of the hallway. Glaring at Boone one final time, Jim turned and left the office.
Entering the hallway, Jim followed the sounds being emitted by his partner. Coming to stand in front of the restroom door, Jim took a second to get himself under control before entering. Pushing open the door, his nose wrinkled slightly as he was hit by the odors permeating the air inside the room. "Blair?"
"Yeah, Jim," Blair answered. "Just give me a second, okay?"
"Sure thing, Chief." Walking over to the sink, Jim grabbed a paper towel and then held it under the faucet. Turning on the water, he wetted the towel thoroughly. Twisting the knob and shutting off the water, Jim then wrung out the paper towel and held it up to Blair as he walked up.
Taking the paper towel, Blair murmured, "Thanks." Hands shaking, he raised the paper towel and used it to vigorously scrub his face. Lowering the towel, he looked over at Jim. "I'm sorry, Jim. I just..."
"Save it, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "You've got no reason to apologize. Hell, another minute in there and I probably would've lost it too."
Wadding up the paper towel, Blair pitched it towards the trashcan. Watching the ball as it sailed through the air and landed inside the container, Blair said, "I just can't believe someone could be capable of doing something like that. God, Jim, did you get a look at what he did to her?"
"Yeah, I did," Jim answered.
Continuing on as if he hadn't heard Jim, Blair said, "The mutilation, there's such a feeling of... I don't know... Of hostility, of anger to it. Whoever may be doing these killings, Jim, they're definitely not doing it out of some kind of pity or concept of mercy. This is pure, unadulterated hatred."
"Blair, I have to go back in there. See if I can find any clues, anything that will help us catch this guy," Jim said. "Why don't you wait outside with the officer? I'll be okay long enough to give your office and the... the body a look over. And on the off chance that I do have a problem, you'll be right there if I need you."
"No, Jim," Blair protested. "If you go back in there, I'm going with you."
"I owe it to her!" Blair exclaimed. "No matter how you look at it, she's dead because of me; because she knew me. And because I didn't do shit to warn her that she was in danger."
"You can't blame yourself, Sandburg," Jim argued. "You didn't kill her. And as for warning her, you had no reason to think that you needed to. You thought she was out of danger, someplace safe where this guy couldn't get to her."
"Well it looks like I was wrong, doesn't it," Blair responded. "And she's the one who paid the price for my screw-up."
"It's not your fault!"
Both men startled when the door to the restroom swung open. Turning to face the door, Jim stepped back until he was standing between Blair and the newcomer. Grimacing as Boone entered the room, Jim growled, "What do you want?"
Holding up his hands, Boone said, "I just wanted to apologize. I know I did a pretty lousy thing in there..."
"You've got that right," Jim agreed.
"And I just wanted to say that I'm sorry," Boone finished. "Are you all right, Mr. Sandburg."
"Fine," Blair answered. "Right now I just want to find this guy and stop him." Looking down, Blair murmured to himself, "God, I can't believe Ellen is dead."
"Oh, you knew the victim?"
Glancing at Jim and noting the angry look being directed at him, Blair replied, "Um... well... yeah, I knew her. We met once a few years ago."
"That's interesting," Boone observed. "Well, why don't we go back to your office and I'll fill you in on what Agent Allen and I discovered."
"Okay," Jim replied while frowning at Blair, "let's go."
When they reached Blair's office, Jim halted. "Why don't you tell us what you know out here," he suggested. "If we go inside, the body will be too much of a distraction."
"All right," Boone agreed as he glanced over at Blair. "When Agent Allen and I arrived at the scene we spoke with the dean and she told us that one of the janitors found the door to Mr. Sandburg's office ajar. Evidently, he discovered the body after he went into the room to investigate."
"Is he all right?" Blair asked.
"The janitor," Blair explained. "Is he all right. I imagine he was pretty shook up."
"I'm sure he's fine," Boone impatiently answered. "Now back to what I was saying, the dean called the police to report the body. The dispatcher recognized Mr. Sandburg's name when the dean informed her where the body had been found. The dispatcher immediately contacted Major Crimes and Detectives Brown and Rafe responded. They proceeded to contact us as soon as they saw the condition of the body."
"Why didn't you contact us immediately?" Jim asked.
"Listen, Detective, my partner and I may have asked for your involvement in this investigation but it is still OUR case," Boone declared. "And I'll handle it any way I see fit."
"Just stop it!" Blair shouted. "There's a woman lying in there dead, and you're standing here arguing about proper procedure and jurisdiction. I thought you said that you were only interested in catching this guy. That nothing else mattered to you. Did something happen to change your mind? I mean, what is wrong with you anyway?"
"No," Blair interrupted. "Look, the only thing I want to hear right now is why Ellen came back early. I mean the expedition wasn't supposed to have ended for several more months."
"You knew that Ms. Johnson had been on an expedition?" Boone asked.
"I... uh... well, I had heard," Blair answered. "I mean, like I said, I met her once. And we have some mutual acquaintances."
"I see. Well, we did find out that Ms. Johnson had been on an expedition," Boone replied. "In the Amazon to be precise. And she did cut her trip short."
"Why did she cut her expedition short?" Blair yelled. "And what was she doing in Cascade?"
"It seems as if you're the reason she returned early," Boone answered. "She apparently came to Cascade to see you, Mr. Sandburg."
Staring at Boone in disbelief, Blair asked, "What... what did you say?"
"She came here to see you, Mr. Sandburg," Boone repeated.
Moving to stand between Boone and his partner, Jim said, "Just hold up a minute here. You didn't even know that Sandburg knew this woman, so what makes you think that she came here to see him?"
"Actually, I believe Mr. Sandburg should be the one to answer that question," Boone replied.
Glancing back at Blair, Jim asked, "What are you getting at here, Boone?"
"You see, Detective Ellison, Ms. Johnson's purse was also found here in Mr. Sandburg's office," Boone explained. "Would you care to take a look at what I discovered inside it?"
"Cut the bull and get on with it," Jim ordered.
"Very well," Boone replied. "If you'll just step into Mr. Sandburg's office, I'll show you."
Exchanging a glance, Jim and Blair followed Boone into the office. Looking towards the desk, Jim was relieved to see that the body was covered once again. Turning to face Boone, he demanded, "Show us what you found."
Walking over to Agent Allen, Boone accepted several evidence bags from his partner. Returning to Jim and Blair, he held up the bags. "These were found inside Ms. Johnson's purse, gentlemen."
"What is it?" Blair asked.
"What we have here, Mr. Sandburg, is newspaper articles covering each of the prior ten deaths," Boone explained. "What's strange about this is that Ms. Johnson was on her expedition to the Amazon while all these incidences took place. So, someone had to have sent her these articles." Looking at Blair, Boone asked, "Do you have any idea as to who that someone might be, Mr. Sandburg?"
Shocked, Blair exclaimed, "What? No, of course I don't. How could I?"
"Well, that's strange," Boone stated. "Because we also found this letter in Ms. Johnson's purse. A letter asking her to return to the United States immediately and to head straight to Cascade. A letter that just happens to have been written by you, Mr. Sandburg."
"NO!" Blair shouted. "I didn't write to Ellen. I didn't even know about the deaths until you guys showed up."
"But you did know all of the victims didn't you," Boone accused. "In fact, their actions prior to their death had nothing to do with their being killed. For some reason, they were killed because they knew you. Isn't that right, Mr. Sandburg?"
Lunging forward, Jim grabbed a hold of Boone. "Back off, Boone."
Breaking free from Jim's grasp, Boone yelled, "I will not back off, Ellison." Looking at Blair, he added, "Especially now that I've got a suspect."
Stunned, Blair just stood there silently as Jim erupted. "What the fuck are you talking about? You can't actually believe that Sandburg had something to do with this. Those murders took place all over the country. Over the past couple of years, Sandburg has only left Cascade a few times; and I've always been with him. Just like I've been with him today and I guarantee you that after we left the station today we didn't make a quick stop for him to commit murder."
"He may not have committed them himself," Boone replied, "but I think that he knows more about them than what he's saying. And if I can't get him for murder, then I sure as hell will get him on being an accomplice or for obstruction of justice. I will take him down and if you get in the way, I'll do the same to you."
"What is your problem?" Jim asked. "You've been looking to get Sandburg ever since you met him. First that move with the newspaper, then that little stunt of pulling the sheet off of the body. I don't know what you've got against Sandburg, but I'm not about to let you take him out of here. And as for that shit you found, it had to have been planted by the killer for some reason. Think about it for a minute. How would Sandburg have even been able to contact this woman? She was out in the middle of a fucking rainforest for crying out loud."
"That's just one of many questions that Mr. Sandburg will have to answer," Boone replied. "We're taking him down to the FBI's field office here in Cascade. That way, there won't be any chance of Mr. Sandburg being accidentally released before he can be interrogated."
When Boone tried to grab Blair, Jim shoved the agent away. "This isn't happening."
"Yes, it is," Boone stated. "And if you try to interfere, I'll bring you up on charges for hindering this investigation, Detective."
Both men turned as they heard Blair softly say, "I'll go."
"What?" Jim exclaimed. "No way, Sandburg. Your ass isn't going anywhere with these guys. And if you think that I'm just gonna stand here and watch as these two idiots take you away, you're nuts."
"You may not have a choice, Jim," Simon stated as he walked into Blair's office.
Turning around, Jim asked, "What? What are you doing here, Simon?"
"I wanted to come and tell you this in person," Simon replied.
Worried, Jim asked, "Tell us in person? What exactly do you have to tell us, Simon?"
"I received a call from the commissioner just a little while ago," Simon explained. "Evidently, Agent Boone here called him and informed him of Sandburg's connection to the case. As a result, we've been ordered to cooperate with the FBI fully. And that includes letting them question Sandburg."
"I don't fucking believe this," Jim yelled. "C'mon, Simon, you can't let them do this. And you certainly can't expect me to just let them take off with Sandburg."
"First of all, Detective, I do expect you to fully cooperate with Agents Boone and Allen in this matter," Simon stated. Turning to face Boone, he added, "However, Sandburg will be taken down to our precinct for questioning. This comes from the commissioner himself. You can call to confirm it if you like."
"Oh, I definitely will." Turning away, Boone pulled out his cell phone and began to dial a number.
Scowling at Boone's back, Jim asked, "Would somebody like to explain to me exactly what's going on here?"
"All I know is that the commissioner called and informed me that Agent Boone wanted to bring Sandburg in for questioning," Simon replied. "He told the commissioner something about hard evidence linking Sandburg to this case."
"So that son of a bitch just hands Sandburg over to them?" Jim asked. "I don't think so."
"Hey, guys, I am in the room you know," Blair spoke up. "And I can speak for myself."
"Just listen to me for a minute, Jim," Blair interrupted. Motioning for the other two men to join him, Blair walked over to the other side of the room. Seeing that both Agent Boone's and Agent Allen's attention were focused elsewhere, he said, "First off, I will be going with these guys, Jim."
"Yes," Blair replied. "Look, Jim, you need to do a scan of the room and... and Ellen's body to see if you can pick up anything. You can't do that with these guys around. I'll go with them to the station while you stay here and see what you can find. Simon can stay here with you. He'll be able to help you if you start to zone."
Cutting Jim off, Blair continued, "Odds are you won't even have to worry about that, Simon. Jim hasn't zoned in a while. He has good control over everything now so he'll be fine on his own."
"Who are you trying to convince, Sandburg?" Jim asked. "Simon or yourself?"
Ignoring the question, Blair added, "Then once you guys get done, you can come to the station and bail my ass out. I can hold my own with them until then."
"I don't like it," Jim stated.
"You don't have to," Blair replied.
"Jim, just hold it a minute," Simon ordered. "Look, I don't like this anymore than you do. But I can't come up with anything better. Can you?" When Jim didn't answer, Simon added, "Officer Mills is out working crowd control, how about I send him with them? You remember him don't you?"
"Yeah," Jim answered. "He's an okay guy. I trust him."
"Thanks, Simon," Blair said.
"I'm going to go out and get him," Simon informed. "And, Jim, no killing federal agents while I'm gone, okay?"
"I'll try," Jim replied, "but I'm not promising anything."
As Simon left the office, Boone walked over to Jim and Blair. "Where's Captain Banks going?"
"He's arranging for one of our officers to ride along with you guys to the station," Jim answered.
"That's not necessary."
"I think that it is," Jim replied. "And if you want to take Sandburg, that's the way it's going to be."
"Fine," Boone relented. "As long as I get to question Mr. Sandburg, we'll do it your way. For now at least."
When Simon returned with Officer Mills, Boone ordered, "Let's go."
Sparing one final glance at Jim, Blair said, "See you soon."
"You can count on it, partner," Jim replied with a smile. Watching as Blair was escorted out of the room, Jim continued to monitor the men as they left the building and got into a car. Hearing the car doors slam, Jim winced slightly. "They're gone," he informed Simon when he then heard the car start up and drive away.
"All right. Now let's get this over with and get to the station," Simon replied. "I don't want to leave Sandburg alone with those guys any longer than necessary."
"Me either," Jim agreed.
"What do I need to do?" Simon asked.
"Just stand aside while I do a scan of the room," Jim answered. "And if it looks like I'm zoning, just come over and start talking to me."
"And if that doesn't work?"
"I don't know," Jim replied. "Just do something that will get my attention; something that will break my concentration."
"How about I just walk over and slap you upside the head?" Simon asked. "That sounds good to me."
Frowning at Simon, Jim just said, "Whatever." Then, turning his attention to the room, he began doing a sensory scan of Blair's office.
Several moments later, Simon was startled when Jim suddenly yelled, "Shit!"
Concerned, Simon asked, "What is it, Jim?"
"Nothing," Jim replied. "I'm picking up nothing. At least nothing that will help us any. I can't find anything that would lead us to the killer. The guy left no traces, no clues."
"C'mon, Jim, the guy had to have left something," Simon insisted.
"Not if he knew what he was doing," Jim countered. "And not if he knew I was going to be taking a look at the room."
"What are you talking about?"
"Whoever this guy is," Jim answered, "he knows about my senses."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive," Jim stated.
"Shit!" Simon exclaimed.
"Exactly," Jim replied. "We're not going to find anything in here. Let's get forensics in here and then get to the station."
Nodding, Simon followed Jim out of the room. Stopping briefly, Simon told the officer standing guard outside the office to not let anyone other than forensics or police inside. Exiting the building, they spotted Serena and gave her the okay to go into Blair's office.
"C'mon, Jim," Simon said Serena walked away, "we'll take my car."
"What? No, Simon, that's okay," Jim replied, "I'll take my truck."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah," Jim insisted.
"Okay, then," Simon said, "I'll meet you there."
"Sure," Jim distractedly responded as he walked over to his truck. Once inside his truck, Jim sat for a moment and studied the group of people gathered outside the building. Shivering as the ever-present feeling of danger spiked, Jim hurriedly started his truck and started for the station.
Arriving at the station, Jim spotted Simon's car already in the garage. Bypassing the elevator, Jim raced up the stairs. Entering Major Crimes, Jim sought out Simon and spotted the captain in his office. Suddenly feeling uneasy, Jim remained standing by Rhonda's desk and watched as Simon looked up him. Mouth dry, Jim swallowed loudly as Simon walked out of his office and said, "We've got a problem."
"What is it?" Jim asked, voice low and shaky. "What's wrong?"
"It's Blair and the others," Simon answered. "They never arrived at the station."
"What did you say?" Jim asked in disbelief.
"They're never arrived at the station," Simon repeated. "And before you ask, I checked with the FBI field office. They're not there either."
Jim closed his eyes briefly before looking at Simon once again. "Then where the fuck is my partner?"
Glancing around the bullpen, Simon noted the attention being directed their way. "Let's go into my office," he suggested.
"No," Jim disagreed. "I don't have time for this. I have to get out there and find Sandburg."
"You will, Jim" Simon replied. "But first, there's something I need to tell you."
"My office, Detective," Simon ordered. "Now!"
Walking into Simon's office, Jim went to stand by the window. Staring out over the city, he said, "It's that Ryan woman. I knew that she was here in Cascade, and now she's got Sandburg!"
"Where could she have taken him?" Jim wondered out loud.
"I know she's still in Cascade because that feeling hasn't gone away," Jim reasoned.
"When I find her, she's going to regret even stepping foot in my city."
Shaking his head, Jim looked up at Simon. Irritated, he asked, "What?"
"It's not Monica Ryan," Simon stated. Seeing Jim's questioning look, Simon explained, "Rhonda was able to run a check on her. Turns out Monica Ryan is dead."
Shocked, Jim asked, "The killer got her too?"
"No," Simon answered. "At least her death isn't consistent with how the others were killed."
"Tell me what you know," Jim demanded.
"After Monica Ryan's parent brought her back home, they tried to handle her care themselves," Simon explained, "but eventually they had to place her in a psychiatric hospital when she lapsed into a catatonic state."
"Why didn't Sandburg mention that?" Jim wondered.
"Probably because he doesn't know," Simon answered. "Look, Rhonda was able to locate the girl's parents. When I found out Sandburg hadn't shown up here, I called them. They became very agitated and hostile when I mentioned his name to them. Seems they blame Sandburg for their daughter's condition."
"Where do they get off thinking that?" Jim asked. "Sandburg said he loved the girl, and I believe him. There's no way he could ever be responsible for anything like that."
"You and I know that, Jim," Simon replied, "but this is the girl's parents were talking about here. As a parent, I can understand their need to place blame. And, justifiable or not, they placed the blame solely on Sandburg."
"She was attending another university when she found out about Sandburg's inquiries about people with enhanced senses," Simon explained. "She came here to see him and soon after transferred to Rainier. Her parents didn't support her decision, seems they didn't approve of Sandburg and didn't think he was good enough for their daughter. After her breakdown, they went to court and were appointed guardianship over her. They also arranged for a permanent restraining order preventing any further communication or contact between their daughter and Sandburg."
Sighing, Jim went over and sat down. "How did she die?"
"About six months ago, she simply stopped breathing," Simon answered. "All attempts at resuscitation failed and she was pronounced dead."
"Permanent zone-out," Jim murmured.
"What?" Simon asked.
"Nothing," Jim replied. Standing up, he began to pace the length of the room. "We're totally back to square one, here. We've still got a killer running loose, and odds are he's got Sandburg now."
"We don't know that for sure, Jim."
"I do," Jim answered. Walking over to stand by the window again, Jim scanned the city. "Sandburg is out there somewhere, Simon, and he's in danger. I can feel it."
"Jim, we'll find Sandburg," Simon reassured. "You can't blame yourself for this."
"Can't I?" Jim asked. "I knew he was in danger and I just handed him over to this son of a bitch. This is just like before. I let me go and he ends up in the hands of a killer. Last time he died because of my mistake, but I was lucky enough to get him back." Pausing for a moment, Jim took a deep breath and then asked, "Tell me something, Simon?"
"What, Jim?" Simon asked.
"Am I going to be that lucky again?"
"Or is this the time that I lose him forever?"
Flanked by Boone and Allen as he left his office, Blair was aware that Jim's attention was focused on him. Determined to not let Jim discover just how uneasy he was feeling, Blair fought to control his raging emotions and was grateful for Mills' somewhat reassuring presence behind him. Maintaining his façade of calmness, Blair didn't falter as they walked outside and immediately attracted the attention of the spectators gathered around the building. Ignoring the questioning looks directed his way; he remained silent as he was escorted over to the agents' car. Once they reached it, Blair stood by the vehicle as Agent Boone opened the back door and gestured inside. "Get in."
Obeying the command, Blair got into the backseat and then looked to the side to see Officer Mills climb into the seat next to him. Attention returning to the front as Boone and Allen entered the car, Blair leaned back and closed his eyes as Agent Boone started the car and pulled away from the university. A little while later, Blair's eyes flew open when he heard Officer Mills ask, "What do you think you're doing?"
Alarmed, Blair looked around and stiffened when his gaze settled on the weapon held in Agent Allen's hand. Seeing that the gun was pointed at Officer Mills, Blair listened as Allen calmly said, "There's been a slight change of plans, Officer." Firing the gun, even as the officer attempted to withdraw his own weapon in a futile attempt at defending himself, Allen smiled and stated, "Plans that don't include you."
Surprised by his partner's action, Boone brought the car to a screeching halt and, after glancing into the backseat, turned to look at Allen. "What the fuck are you doing? Are you crazy? You just killed a cop!"
Swinging his weapon around, Allen aimed it at Boone and ordered, "Slowly take out your weapon and hand it over." When Boone hesitated, Allen added, "Don't even think about trying to play the hero because I won't think twice about putting a bullet in you. Or putting one in the good professor back there."
Looking back at Blair, Boone noted the dazed expression on the other man's face. Grimacing, he relented, "All right." Slowing withdrawing his weapon with two fingers, he passed it over to Allen.
"Good boy," Allen remarked as he accepted the gun from Boone.
Facing Allen, Boone watched as the other man shoved the gun into his holster. "What now?"
Never taking his eyes off of Boone, Allen calmly replied, "This." Then he fired the gun and shot Boone in the chest.
Shocked and stunned, Blair struggled to take in the scene unfolding in front of him. Fighting down nausea, his brain barely registered the sound of the gunshot. Finally shaking off the daze he had fallen into, Blair made a lunge for the door handle.
"Don't even think about it, Professor," Allen warned. "I want you alive, but that doesn't mean that I still can't shoot you. Where would you prefer it? The leg? Or how about the foot? Either one is fine with me."
Moving his hands away from the door, Blair leaned his forehead against the window and asked, "Why?"
"Why what, Professor?" Allen asked. "Why did I shoot the cop? Why did I shoot Boone? Well I could say it's so that they won't be able to tell your partner anything, but that wouldn't be entirely true. Mainly, I did it because I wanted to." Grinning, he added, "It was almost as fun as killing Ellen Johnson and the others."
Seeing the surprised look on Blair's face, Allen said, "Still don't remember me, do ya, Professor? That's okay, you soon will." Taking one hand off of his gun, Allen reached in his pocket to withdraw a pair of handcuffs and then tossed them to Blair. "Fasten one of the cuffs to your left wrist," he instructed. Smiling, he continued, "And then fasten the other one to the cop's wrist."
Paling, Blair asked, "What?"
"You heard me," Allen yelled. "Do it now. I don't think you'll be able to run anywhere dragging a corpse behind you."
Slowly, Blair followed Allen's orders. Turning to face Allen when he was finished, Blair winced at the strain the awkward position put on his shoulder. Seeing the movement, Allen mocked, "Aw, feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Well don't worry about it, Professor, because soon that will be the least of your worries." When Blair looked away, Allen said, "Oh by the way, Professor, there's just one more thing."
Looking at Allen again, Blair asked, "What?"
"This," Allen answered as he suddenly reared back the hand holding the gun and then brought it crashing down against Blair's temple. Watching as the now unconscious Blair fell over to land against Officer Mills' body, Allen smiled. "Now the fun really starts."
Laughing, Allen reached over Agent Boone's body and opened the driver's side door. Attention still mainly focused on Blair he gave the body a hard shove, not bothering to watch as it tumbled out of the car and landed on the street.
Slamming the door, he scooted over behind the wheel and turned the car on. Starting down the street again, Allen glanced in the rearview mirror to get another look at Blair. "Oh yeah," he said, "we're definitely going to have some fun now."
Regaining consciousness, Blair groaned as he struggle to lift his head. Pain spiking behind his eyes, he gave up the attempt and allowed his partial raised head to drop back down again. "Somebody please tell me this is just a really bad dream."
"For you maybe, but for me it's definitely a fantasy come true."
Hearing Allen's voice, Blair succeeded in his second attempt to raise his head. Blinking slowly, he tried to focus his eyes. Failing that, he settled for addressing the vague, bleary image hovering in front of him. "What do you want?"
"Nothing much," Allen answered. "Just the usual, ya know. Blood, screams, excruciating pain."
"Well when Jim shows up to kick your ass, he'll be more than happy to oblige you," Blair retorted. "Believe me, you'll be experiencing all of that and more."
"Funny, Professor," Allen replied. "Let's hope that charming sense of humor holds out when you're writhing in agony."
"Who are you?" Blair cried out. "What do you want?"
Walking over to Blair, Allen reached a hand out towards Blair. Laughing when the other man flinched and tried to twist away, he continued on to lightly caress Blair's face with his fingers. "You know, I'm starting to get just a little bit upset here. Insulted too. Am I that easily forgotten?" Starting to turn away, he suddenly swung around and backhanded Blair.
Head rocked back by the blow; Blair quickly registered the blood running down his chin and then defiantly he turned his head back around to glare at Allen. "I don't care who you are, you sick son of a bitch," he yelled. "I'll kill you myself."
"No, you won't, Professor," Allen replied with a smirk. Laughing, he turned and started to walk away.
"Wait," Blair yelled, causing the other man to halt. "Where are you going?"
"It's time to teach the Professor a lesson." Came the cryptic response.