DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Paramount Studios and Pet Fly Productions. These stories are offered for the enjoyment of the fans. No money has exchanged hands.

Hallowed Halls
DawnC and
Kim Heggen


Act I

David Vincent sat at the cluttered desk in his small dorm room and typed furiously at the keyboard. Tears wet his cheeks and blurred his vision, but he didn't care how many typos he made. His readers would get the gist of the letter. He finished writing and wiped at his eyes, then sent the document to print. He wouldn't bother signing it.

He rose slowly from his chair and walked in a near-daze toward the front door, swerving slightly to avoid the bright, golden rays of sunlight streaming through his window and cascading onto the carpet. Bright, golden light. He knew if he touched the rays, they would scorch him.

He had to get to the roof. The light up there wasn't this kind of light. It wouldn't hurt him. Not that it mattered, but he wanted to do it his way. So, it did matter.

No, it doesn't matter. He staggered through the door and headed up the stairs. Nothing matters. It's all a lie. A waste. Grasping the handrail, he practically dragged himself up the steps, finally emerging onto the roof, sunlight bathing him in a warm glow. The beauty of the yellow light stole his breath and he knew he was making the right decision. He would find peace at last.

His feet carried him to the ledge and he looked down at the serene campus below. With a small smile, he spread his arms and leaned forward, letting gravity pull him into the welcome arms of oblivion.

Who'd have figured I'd be good at this? Blair had soared to the top of his class at the Academy on the firing range. His scores put him near the sniper mark. Sure, he'd always had good aim. Hell, it wasn't easy to hit a man smack dab in the middle of the forehead with a baseball from across the room while bullets whizzed through the air, but he'd made the shot easily. It was always something he'd been good at; he just never liked guns. He'd never been to a firing range, but he had held and even fired a gun on a few occasions when his work with Jim made it necessary.

The gun felt heavy at Blair's hip. Well, it wasn't exactly a real gun. It was actually a heavily modified Glock 9-mm police-issue handgun that would never fire a bullet again. Instead of a magazine of bullets in the grip, this 'weapon' had electronics, and a cable snaking off to a computer interface. The barrel now housed a non-visible laser that was calibrated to the sights.

Today, Blair was going through a section of the Academy that had a reputation for washing out cadets: FATS. The Firearms Training Simulator, despite its unfortunate acronym, was an exciting and extremely well put-together training tool. Most of the time, cadets were excited about going through it; even seasoned cops out in the field enjoyed coming back to learn from this state-of-the-art simulator. With a $50,000 price tag attached to the computerized wonder, Blair's biggest fear (or so he joked with the other cadets, careful not to mention any deeper anxieties) was that he would somehow break the machine and get booted out of the Academy on that account.

Blair grimaced. He really needed to focus on the scenario instead of worrying about the technology... or worse, the real-life implications of today's training session. Once, he would have laughed at anyone who predicted he would someday become a police officer, but here he was at the Academy with a 'mock Glock' on his hip. He tried not to think about that paradox too intensely. He was doing this for Jim, and that's all that mattered. He took a deep breath, readying himself as he stared into the huge video screen that filled his vision.

He was 'walking' along the sidewalk in what appeared to be a trendy urban shopping area. He passed a blue Geo Metro parked to his right on the street. The driver's door of the shiny red Chevy Suburban stationed in front opened, and a pair of sneaker-clad feet poked out from under the dashboard just as the Suburban's car alarm went off. A stocking-capped head popped up in the driver's seat and looked directly at Blair.

"Police! Stop and put your hands where I can see them!" Blair found himself yelling, just as he'd been taught.

The modified gun was unexpectedly out of its holster and in his hands, pointing at the fellow with the stocking cap. Blair realized, in the split-second that he took to think about it, that he didn't even remember drawing the weapon.

Stocking Cap ducked down and disappeared from view again, just as a young man wearing a red bandana shot up out of the passenger seat... and pointed a sawed-off shotgun towards Blair.

Blair found his wrists twitching to the right. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The speakers thundered as he squeezed off three rapid shots at the 'gunman.' The gun jumped in his hands as the computer used CO2 puffs to create the feeling of 'recoil' in the gun. Red Bandana slumped down against the dashboard just as Stocking Cap jumped out of the car with a handgun and brought it up to point at Blair.

"Drop the gun!" BOOM! "Drop the gun!" BOOM! BOOM! "Drop the gun!" BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Stocking Cap was now sprawled face-down on the sidewalk, with the handgun lying about a foot away from his hand, dropped before it had even been fired. It's just a simulation, Blair told himself. Nothing more than a high-priced video game. No one's really getting shot. I'm not really shooting anybody. Ignoring the downed gunman, Blair straightened, his hands shaking ever so slightly. A bead of sweat traced its way down the back of his neck and disappeared beneath the collar of his uniform.

Me in a uniform? Naomi would freak if she saw me now, even if she did pretend to be happy about my getting a badge. Yes, he was getting very good at this. He might even beat Jim on the range. Okay, maybe not. Sentinel senses did have their advantage, but barring super eyesight, he might just be able to rival his ex-covert-ops partner. He wondered what reaction that would elicit from Jim.

Suddenly, a figure in a long coat with short hair came into view, his back toward Blair.

"Police! Don't move!"

The figure turned around and Blair saw the gun swing toward him.

"Police!" BOOM! BOOM! "Freeze!" The gunman crumpled to the sidewalk.

"Oh, shit, Sandburg!" whispered Blair. It wasn't a man. It was a woman with a baby cradled against her chest. The gun he'd thought he'd seen was actually a cellphone. His right hand dangled loosely at his side as the modified firearm fell to the concrete floor. A mother with her baby... and I shot her.

The street corner became alive to his senses and the body suddenly looked real. Oh God, what am I doing? He saw himself sometime in the future. One mistake. A gun in his hand. A dead mother, an injured child. Or maybe a kid with a fake pistol. Or maybe a downed grandmother after a bullet from his gun ricocheted off a building.

It was like waking up from a dream... and suddenly nothing made sense anymore. He didn't make sense anymore. His gaze dropped to the gun lying motionless on the pavement and, with a gasp, he spun around and fled.

Simon fingered the report on his desk, his eyes staring sightlessly through the blinds of his office door. A fragrant cup of fresh-brewed coffee sat at his elbow, slowly growing colder, but he paid it no attention.

First, there had been the initial report from the officers who responded to the frantic call from the University. A student had been spotted on the roof of one of the dormitories only seconds before he plunged five stories to the ground in an eerily graceful fall.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived, of course, it was much too late to do anything other than comfort the witnesses and try to reconstruct the events. The young man was unquestionably dead, his neck broken in the terrible impact with the concrete that had mercilessly awaited him.

Yes, bad enough to have an apparent suicide. Even worse when it was a promising young student such as David Vincent. The University community would be reeling in shock; even now, the college's counseling center was sending therapists amongst Vincent's friends and dorm-mates. If we're all lucky, prayed Simon fervently, there won't be any copycat events. He repressed an inward shudder at the thought.

But what if it had not been a suicide?

The events had moved too quickly. None of the witnesses had reported seeing anyone on the roof with Vincent before his fall, so straightforward murder was unlikely. Possible, but unlikely.

This new information, though, from the team that made the first cursory search of the student's room... Simon shook himself out of the haze of his thoughts as he heard the knock at his office door. Hopefully that will be Ellison.

"Come in!"

As Jim Ellison eased himself through the doorway, Simon scowled at him.

"Ellison, where the hell have you been? You said you'd be here in ten minutes!"

"Sorry, sir," said Jim in his usual low, pleasant voice. "There was construction on the bridge. I didn't think you wanted me to just drive right through it."

"And have the department pay for more repair bills on that truck? No, thank you. Sit down."

Jim sat in the chair that his captain indicated. "What's happened, Simon?" His eyes narrowed. "Is this anything to do with Sandburg?"

"No, it does not have anything to do with Sandburg!" Simon shouted, then stopped and lowered his voice. "Jim, you have got to stop worrying about him. The Academy is not going to eat him for lunch. Just let the kid be for a while."

Jim smiled ruefully. "Sorry, sir. I'm a little edgy today."

"Yeah, well, join the club. I live there. Here, have a look at these." Simon handed him the stack of reports to read, and watched his face while the detective skimmed them quickly.

Jim let out a low whistle. "So this kid jumped, huh? Ouch. That's always ugly."

"Read the rest," Simon snapped.

The police captain had the meager satisfaction of watching Jim's head jerk up as he read the next page. "'A large amount of an unknown substance was found in the desk drawer'? Simon, do we know what it is?"

"We don't have the final analysis yet," Simon said quietly. "Mind you, Jim, this is still unofficial... but the lab thinks it's probably Golden."

"What!" Jim flung the reports back down on Simon's desk. "I thought we were finished with that crap. Damn it! Who's making it this time? We caught those bastards!"

Simon watched his detective with some concern as he answered. "Obviously we don't know, Jim. That's what I want you to find out."

More than anyone else on the force, Jim had reason to despise the drug Golden. Once before, during its previous appearance on the streets of Cascade, it had torn his life apart. He'd been temporarily blinded by it during an accidental exposure, forced to rely on his other four heightened senses to function as best he could.

And Jim had been there, at the station's parking garage, listening helplessly while Sandburg raved nonsense about Golden Fire People coming to get him... the kid's perceptions clouded by the drug, his fine clear intellect crazed and warped as he fired Jim's backup weapon at the fiery invaders that only the young observer could see.

Well, not exactly helplessly, Simon amended to himself as he recalled the incident. Jim saved his partner's life that day, even with his vision shot to hell. No wonder he's upset now.

Jim had talked Sandburg down, using exactly the right words, the right tone of voice. Somehow, operating on pure instinct, the detective had convinced Blair to hand over the gun, just before the kid collapsed. Simon knew he would never forget the sight of Jim cradling his stricken partner in his arms, reassuring Blair even as the younger man slipped into unconsciousness.

"So, what do we know, sir?" asked Jim now, in a more resigned tone of voice.

"Pretty damn little. I want you to get over there. I was hoping maybe Sandburg could get away and help you; it's late enough that he might be...." Simon's phone cut him off abruptly, and he snatched it up. "Banks!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Simon could see Jim pick up the reports again as the voice of the caller came on the line. "Simon?"

That voice sounds familiar. Oh no, I know. It's...

"Marv Bennett, over at the Academy. I need to talk to you about something."

...It's just what I don't need today. Not on top of everything else. "Go ahead, Marv."

"It's about that young protege of yours, Blair Sandburg." Marv didn't sound angry, at least, just tired. Simon knew the man well; he'd instructed cadets in the use of firearms for almost twenty years.

He cast another wary eye on Jim, who still seemed absorbed in the reports. This would not be a good time for him to listen in on his captain's private conversations. "What about him?" he asked, his tone neutral.

"Well, he's been doing well overall, Simon." The voice was cautious, and Simon remembered that Bennett had expressed some mild reservations about having Sandburg at the Academy. "He's a very good shot. Almost a natural, really. But he had a little problem today, and I think someone may need to talk to him."

"What kind of problem?"

Bennett briefly explained what happened, them added: "I'll leave it to you. He's not in any trouble, not yet, but... well, I've got some concerns. Just talk to him."

"I will, Marv. Thanks."

After hanging up, Simon turned back to Jim and briefly considered how much to tell him. All of it, I guess. He'd find out eventually, and Sandburg will probably clam up on him.

"Jim, we've got a new problem. Have you heard anything from Sandburg this afternoon?"

"No, nothing at all today. But that's not unusual for him. What's wrong, Simon? What was that call about?" Simon could sense Jim's efforts to stay calm.

"That was Marv Bennett, the firearms instructor out at the Academy. Blair went through the Firearms Training Simulator today. Marv says he's been doing well overall; he's actually a very good shot. But while going through the FATS, he accidentally 'shot' the mom with the cellphone and baby. You remember that part."

Jim nodded. "Yeah, those simulations are tricky. I remember hitting the wrong target a few times myself, in practice. But that's why it's practice, Simon. And even if it was his test, he can retake it until he gets it right."

"Apparently Sandburg doesn't think of it the same way we do. Marv says he threw the gun down and ran off, looking very upset."

"Crap." Jim dropped his head to his hands for a moment, then looked up at Simon. "I suppose I'd better find him, sir."

"Do that. Straighten him out, Jim, then get both of your butts over to Rainier and see what you can find out."

Jim punched the button for the garage as the elevator doors closed and used his free hand to hit the autodial for Blair's cellphone. Four rings later, the voice mail picked up and Jim briefly debated whether he should leave a message. How upset was Blair?

Really upset? Then he won't want to talk to me. Mildly upset? Then he might. Whatever message he left would alert Sandburg to the fact that Bennett had called Simon, and Sandburg might decide to remain conveniently hard-to-reach. Hanging up, he dialed the loft and frowned when the machine answered.

Okay, so where is he? Where would he go? Not the university, that was for sure. Unfortunately, that's where this new case led them. It never rains but it pours. It was just a bad time for this, all around. Setting foot back on his old University turf would be hard for Blair after his confession as a fraud and subsequent dismissal from academia. He had 'disappointed' a lot of people -- mentors, students, and friends -- and Blair placed a high value on friendship and loyalty, as he'd proven beyond a doubt. So, it was hard for Blair to lie to his friends and peers, to renounce his work and call it a fraud, to disappoint his mentors and deceive his friends, to betray his students...

Damn. Jim, of course, knew the truth -- Blair was not a fraud. In fact, Sandburg was the most honorable man he knew. It wasn't until just before Blair had started the academy that the two of them really talked and Jim found out what kind of painful thoughts were swirling through the young man's head.

And now he not only has to go back there and face everyone, but it has to be on a Golden case -- more painful memories. And it has to come on the heels of his error on the target course. It didn't take a Ph.D. to realize why Blair had run off the course. Sandburg had never liked guns and, for the longest time, he'd refused to carry one. Now, with his anthropology career destroyed and his reputation in ruins, Blair's only viable option to remain partnered with Jim and earn a paycheck had been the police academy.

But does he really want it, or does he feel forced into it? If anything, the press conference had proven just how much Blair was willing to sacrifice for friendship. Everything. He put me above his own welfare and I still can't get over that. So is he going to the academy because it's the only way he can remain my partner, or does he really want to be a detective? Jim hoped being a cop was something Blair genuinely wanted; it pained him too much to think of Blair spending his life doing something he didn't like. He deserves more than that.

He needed to find Sandburg, but, at the moment, he had no clue where his friend might be. He also needed to get over to the university for a preliminary investigation and, after he completed that errand, he'd put his detective training to good use and see if he could locate his elusive partner.

Ellison parked the classic Ford truck in the middle of the street amidst a crowd of emergency vehicles and gawking spectators. Overlapping red and blue lights painted the sidewalk and buildings with flickering shadows that seemed ominous in the encroaching twilight. Sliding out of the seat, Jim hurried over the yellow police line and ducked under, heading directly for the paramedics surrounding a body bag on a stretcher.

Jim flashed his badge. "What's the condition of the body?"

One of the EMTs held back as the others loaded the stretcher into the ambulance. "Not pretty. The building's six stories high and it looks like he landed at an angle, head-first. His skull is crushed, making a visual identification impossible, but he was carrying a wallet with a driver's license and student card that both identify him as David Vincent, a sophomore here."

"Any evidence that this wasn't a suicide?"

"Nothing that's immediately apparent. Of course, there's so much trauma to the body just from the fall that any bruises or cuts from a struggle would be pretty hard to decipher. That'll be the coroner's job. We're just bagging and tagging him."

Jim nodded and turned to survey the scene. A large, dark blotch of what had to be blood marred the sidewalk and the nauseating scent hit Jim a second later. He turned his head away as a reflex, even though doing so did nothing to dispel the odor. He worked on the sensory dial, getting the scent to a tolerable level, then turned his attention back to the area. A young, uniformed officer who he recognized immediately stood at the edge of the crowd and Jim trotted over to him.

"Got a sec, Baxter?"

"Huh?" The officer turned around, grimacing when he saw Jim. "Yeah, sure, Ellison. Ugly sight, isn't it? Did you see the body?"

"No. No use unbagging it with all the spectators around. I wanted to ask you a few questions."

"Go ahead."

"Who found the body?"

"Take your pick. About half a dozen people saw him hit the ground." He pointed to a grouping of squad cars in the distance. "Two of the witnesses are still giving their statements. The rest were dismissed."

Jim spotted the two red-faced women seated in the back of neighboring vehicles, their eyes puffy from tears. He turned back to the young officer. "What about the substance found in the kid's desk drawer?"

"Looks like Golden, but, of course, we don't have the official analysis yet."

"Did you find any other packets since then?"

"Nope. Just the one."

Jim shifted on his feet, feeling the tug of exhaustion after a full day's work. "What about the other students? Have they been questioned about the drug? Does anyone know where Vincent got the stuff?"

"There are a few officers working on that --"

"Detective Ellison!"

Jim turned in response to the unfamiliar voice and spotted a woman he recognized but had hoped to avoid. The Chancellor. Great. Just great.

She rushed up to him. "Detective, I hope your people will have this place cleared up soon. This is a tragedy and many of the students are understandably upset. Several officers have been harassing students about a possible drug connection on campus and I've had two complaints already of illegal searches being conducted of students' dorm rooms and backpacks."

A faint throbbing behind Jim's temples signaled the beginning of a headache. "Chancellor, I'll look into it. I don't think any officers would take to conducting illegal searches, but they have a right to ask for consent to a search and, given the circumstances, I would think you and the students would want to cooperate to get to the bottom of David Vincent's death."

"What's to find out? He jumped off the top of a building."

Try not to sound so broken up about it. Jim suppressed a sigh and used his enhanced eyesight to hone in on the woman's watch. 6:45. Damn. He really needed to find Sandburg.

"Are you listening to me, Detective?"

"Yes, I'm listening. We will work as quickly as possible, but this is a police investigation and we won't cut corners to spare you and a few students a bit of inconvenience. Now, if you'll excuse me, this'll go faster if I'm working and not chit-chatting." He turned without waiting for an answer and continued his briefing with Baxter.

All right, deep breaths, in and out. Find the center, relax, get calmed down.

Blair closed his eyes and took the requisite deep breaths as he tried to slow down his racing heart. The soft aroma from the lavender-scented candles he'd lit was helping; he'd purposely chosen the most un-macho, un-cop-like scent he could find in his collection of aromatherapy paraphernalia. He sat there for quite a while, willing his taut muscles to relax, blocking out the world as much as he could, trying to bury his confusion and hurt.

As if from a great distance, he heard the phone ringing, but let the answering machine pick it up rather than be interrupted. Now, if he could just get past the emotions of the afternoon, he could start thinking productively again.

I'm so good at that when it's someone else's problems that we're talking about. I can badger Jim into telling me his hopes and fears, his heartbreaks... but when it comes to my problems, I guess I'd rather treat them with denial. Hey, I'm tough. I'm a helper, a listener, a counselor at heart. I'm not supposed to be the one who needs help.

Beginning the deep-breathing once again, Blair tried to empty his mind of the events of the day. That's it, let it all go. Let peace and tranquillity return...

Unbidden, though, the images rose up in front of his mind's eye... the dying mother and baby of the simulation... his panicked flight from the testing area.

Blair sighed, finally giving up on the idea of any further meditation. He opened his eyes and stared at the soft, ragged quilt covering the bed, picking at it absently.

I shouldn't have run away like that. That's only going to make things worse. What must the instructor have thought, when he saw me freak out like that?

No, he should have stayed, should have faced up to his fears and to his mistake.

Instead, I ran off like a scared kid. Oh, man, is Jim ever going to be disappointed in me. He'll be pissed.

Through the half-open French doors leading to his bedroom, Blair heard the unmistakable sounds of a key rattling in the lock. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that meant. Jim was home.

Well, if I'm lucky, he won't have heard anything about my little mishap anyway. In a way, it's none of his business. Blair put both hands over his face for a moment, trying to will his facial muscles into a less morose expression Well, here goes. Time to exercise your acting talent, Sandburg. He got slowly off the bed and started to move through the doorway... only to encounter a large, unmoving wall of Sentinel.

Blair managed what he knew must be a half-hearted, sickly smile. "Hey, Jim. Man, are you home already?"

Jim didn't smile back, but Blair thought he could read flickers of concern in the strong-jawed face. "Yeah, I'm back, Chief." He lifted a hand, as if to lay it on Blair's shoulder, then halted the motion and let his hand drop. "And we need to talk."

Damn, thought Blair. Yes, he knows.

Jim watched his partner's face carefully as he spoke. He hadn't missed the startled, guilty expression on Blair's face as they'd nearly collided in the doorway. And the soft lighting and scented candles spoke volumes about the younger man's emotional state; Jim knew that his friend tended to retreat into quiet meditation when troubled.

Now, however, Blair had pasted a bright, artificial smile on his face. "Talk, Jim? Hey, isn't that my line?" He ran a hand through his unruly curls, backing away slightly. "I'd love to, but I just remembered that I was going to go to the store today, and I never got around to it. So, unless you want cheese and crackers for dinner..."

Jim grabbed an elbow as Blair drifted further away from him. "Cut it out, Sandburg. Don't play games with me, please," he said in a low, even tone as he tried to capture Blair's eyes with his own. "Get angry, get defensive if you want, but don't screw around like this. It just wastes our time." He stopped himself from saying my time.

Blair's expression changed to one of resignation, as he turned away to sink down onto the couch. "Sorry," he said softly. "Habit, I guess."

Jim sat down next to him, his heart aching at the sight of his partner. Blair looked, well, so defeated, not to mention miserable. He forced his own voice to remain carefully neutral.

The last thing I want to do is yell at him. I've done that way too much over the past year.

"So, Chief, do you want to tell me what happened today? Bennett called Simon; they were concerned about you over at the Academy." Not half as concerned as I am, though.

Blair leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and covering his face with his hands. "So you heard the whole thing?" he asked dully.

"All I know is that you were getting a perfect score on the simulation... until you made a mistake, and then apparently left the area without debriefing." Now Jim reached over and squeezed his partner's shoulder. "Chief, don't take it so hard. A lot of cadets find that simulator a bit unsettling, after all. You just dust yourself off and try again."

"Unsettling," Blair murmured with a hollow laugh. "That doesn't begin to cut it." He rose abruptly from the couch, shrugging off Jim's hand, and began to pace. "Jim, you're being very understanding about this, but the truth is, I shot an innocent civilian who was no threat to me. Sure, the person wasn't real -- this time -- but how do I know... what will keep me from..." He trailed off, biting his lip, and closed his eyes. Jim thought he could see the glint of tears on the dark lashes as he watched Blair fight for control.

"You're not a cop yet, Chief. You're not finished. You've got time to go back and get that simulation right. Don't let it defeat you like this."

"Jim, you're not hearing me! This is not about failing a course. It's about human life!" Blair whirled about, his fists clenched. "I'm not sure I can go through with this. What if someday I screw up and I shoot someone?" His voice rose. "And don't tell me that it never happens. Even you shot someone accidentally once. What if that security guard hadn't been wearing a vest?"

"I saw that man in my nightmares for months, Sandburg! That incident almost destroyed me. Every cop faces that possibility, if not the reality." Irrationally, Jim felt himself growing angry. "This was a training exercise! Don't over-dramatize it into something more than that." He barely stopped himself from adding, Stop acting like this. Grow up, and learn to face the music.

Angry blue eyes locked onto another pair of orbs, desperate and haunted in the deceptively youthful face. So easy to get mad, Jim realized. So easy, to try to force him into my mold, and to blame him when everything falls apart. Somehow, in the instinctive part of his brain, Jim realized that the two of them stood at a cusp in their relationship. Say the wrong thing, and Sandburg would toss out the entire scheme of becoming a detective. Say the right words, and their partnership just might survive and become stronger.

He forced down the anger, trying to regain his emotional footing.

"Don't do this to yourself, Chief," he pleaded finally.

Blair shook his head, still looking directly at this partner. "Maybe... maybe I should just quit. Now."

Simon chewed on his unlit cigar, staring out the window of his office as he listened to Marv Bennett.

"I'm concerned about Sandburg. I know you pushed to get him here after the media thing and I know you have a special interest in him, but I don't think he's got the stuff to be a cop. For one thing, he's too introspective and inquisitive. He's not the type to just follow orders. He has to think about everything and rationalize it. He can't distance himself. Hell, Simon, he RAN out during the simulation. He lost it. Face it, Simon, putting this kid in a uniform with a gun at his hip won't be doing him or the city any good."

Simon leaned back in his chair and tried to ignore the dull pounding behind his eyes. "Marv, you don't know Sandburg like I do. He's put in four years with Major Crime already. He's seen more shit than most seasoned cops and demonstrated courage when most men would have turned tail and ran. He's got what it takes, trust me. He just needs to adjust. Things happened damn fast around here, and his whole world turned upside down virtually overnight."

"I understand that, Simon, but --"

"And a situation has developed at Rainier that I need him for. He's got experience that no other cop has when it comes to the university and, uh, this particular drug connection. If I can borrow him for a few days, that'll help me out a lot and give him a break from the academy. I'll talk to him, give him and Ellison this assignment and let him bury himself in work again like he used to. It'll be good for him and it'll only be for a few days. What do you say?"

"Hell, I don't mind. He's an ace when it comes to his courses, so the time off won't hurt him. How long do you think?"

"No more than a week."

"I'll make the arrangements. If he intends to return, though, he'll have to keep up with the class assignments."

"I understand. Thanks, Marv."

"You'll talk to him?"

"Yeah. First thing in the morning. Bye, Marv."

"Take care, Simon."

Banks hung up the phone and succumbed to a tired sigh. Sandburg, what are we going to do with you?

Continue on to Act II...

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