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.
Sentinel Cordon Bleu
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Ten Years Previously...
The navy blue-clad figure turned at the sound of his name, and smiled at the elderly janitor.
"Hey yourself, Frank. What's up?"
"Got a light?" Frank waved an unlit cigarette.
"Now, Frank, you know you're not supposed to smoke in here." The security guard fished around in a pocket, bringing out a cheap plastic lighter which he handed to the other man.
The janitor chuckled as he lit the cigarette. "Oh, come on now, Earl. You afraid I'll leave ashes lying around?" He tossed the lighter back. "Besides, I'm three months away from retirement. Whadaya think they're going to do, fire me?" He laughed again, a high-pitched wheeze which ended in a cough.
Earl smiled in return and wiggled his finger at his companion. This was an old, old discussion, one they'd had almost every night since Earl had come to work at the museum. The only variable had been Frank's estimate of his remaining time before retirement. "See what I mean? If you quit puffing on those cancer sticks, maybe you'll live long enough to enjoy --" He broke off, frowning. "What was that?"
"What was what?" The janitor puffed unconcernedly on his cigarette, the lit end glowing redly in the semidarkness. "Earl, you're always hearin' things."
"No," the watchman said slowly, unconvinced. "I heard something. It sounded like it was coming from the Americas collection." He pulled his walkie-talkie out of its belt pouch. "Joe, this is Earl. I think you'd better come meet me over by the Conquistador exhibit." He replaced the walkie-talkie and took off at a run.
"Be careful!" called out the janitor to the rapidly disappearing figure. "If you get hurt, who'm I gonna bum lights off of?"
Earl jogged down the hall, conscious of his sweating forehead and extra pounds. He wished now that he'd stayed in better shape. He'd been a night watchman at the Museum for eight years, and nothing much had ever happened except a few kids playing pranks. Every once in a while, some adolescent would read that book about the two kids who ran away from home to hide out in the Met, and they'd try to do the same thing. Each time, the guards would gently turn them in.
As Earl rounded the next corner, he nearly plowed into Joe Burrell.
"Jesus, Earl!" hissed Joe. "Watch it!"
"What's up, anyway?" Joe whispered, as they continued to move down the hall, now more stealthily than before.
"I heard something... and it sounded like it came from the Conquistador exhibit," replied Earl grimly, sliding carefully along the wall as he peered around the corner.
"Shit!" whispered Joe, barely audibly.
The conquistador exhibit was on loan from the Mexican government, and was the pride and joy of the museum. Shiny helmets, Aztec artifacts, and real Spanish gold doubloons worth well over half a million dollars had been drawing in the crowds for the past six months. The exhibit's presence had been well publicized, and that chest of gold doubloons had troubled Earl since its appearance. A new alarm system had been added, but the staff had been having occasional problems trying to get it to function properly.
"Joe, get the police on the horn. Now."
Looking even paler than usual, Joe pulled out his cellphone and began to place the call as Earl crept closer.
Earl could see at least two figures moving around the exhibit, both definitely adult in size. No adventurous children, here. His heart sank as he realized that the dimly visible figures were rooting about in the conquistador exhibit. Why wasn't the alarm going off?
Swallowing against a suddenly dry throat, Earl stepped out with his handgun held in front of him.
Earl caught a glimpse of two startled faces as they turned toward the sound of his voice. As if in slow motion, he saw one of the intruders duck behind the suit of armor... but his attention was riveted on the other figure, who was bringing a handgun into position. Instinctively, just as he'd been taught, Joe aimed and pulled the trigger. Before he could tell if he'd hit anything, he saw Joe run out from behind him and tackle the suit of armor, sending it flying onto the intruder skulking behind it. As Earl ran to help, he nearly fell when his feet encountered the dull heaviness of an unmoving body, bleeding copiously onto the white tile floor.
Simon closed the file folder of the last case in his "review" file and sat back to patiently wait for the gleaming Krups coffeemaker behind his desk to finish brewing its latest batch. He could almost taste the rich, subtle aroma of his latest purchase, a special dark roasted amaretto blend. In a few minutes he would be able to indulge himself with a fresh cup and enjoy a rare moment of hedonistic pleasure. He leaned back in his chair and inhaled more deeply as he relaxed... only to be abruptly interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Glaring at the demented plastic object that had dared disturb him, he grabbed the receiver.
"Banks!" he barked, letting his frustration at being disturbed come clearly across in his voice.
Through the ear piece, he could hear the calming voice of his secretary, Rhonda.
"Captain, there's an Agent Mulroney from the FBI here to see you. Are you available?"
Simon gave a sarcastic snort. "No, I'm in deep communication with my coffeemaker." He sighed noisily. Better to go ahead and get the inevitable over with. If the Fed really wanted to see him, he would hang around until he succeeded, undoubtedly badgering Simon's staff in the process.
"Yeah. Sorry to growl at you, Rhonda. Send him in. Better see if I need rescuing in fifteen minutes." He heard Rhonda's soft chuckle as he hung up the phone. What does Mulroney want? He's got a lot of nerve, showing up here after that fiasco...
Agent Mulroney entered without even a perfunctory knock at the door and seated himself, placing his briefcase on the floor beside him. Folding his arms somewhat belligerently, he launched into his statement.
"Ten years ago there was a burglary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It involved the traveling Conquistador exhibit from Mexico. One of the thieves managed to make off with most of the genuine gold doubloons. The theft made national news; it became a Federal case due to the concerns of the Mexican government about the fate of their national treasures."
Pouring himself a cup of the freshly brewed coffee, Simon toyed with the idea of offering some to the agent, then discarded the idea. He wants something, and until I find out what, I'm not giving anything away, especially my damn coffee.
Purposely maintaining a slightly bored expression, he responded with what he knew about the theft.
"I remember hearing about it. The Mexican government was pretty upset. It was quite an international incident, if I recall."
The agent nodded, looking slightly less antagonistic. "One suspect was shot and killed at the scene by one of the museum security guards. Another one was arrested and convicted, though he maintained that he was innocent and just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We always knew there must have been a third man present and that he managed to somehow escape with the gold."
"That's all very interesting, Agent Mulroney, but what does that have to do with the Cascade Police Department?" Why are you telling me about a ten-year-old burglary that occurred on the other side of the country? I mean, it's not like I've run across any genuine Spanish gold doubloons lately... not unless Sandburg has been hiding them in his collection of antique doodads.
"The convicted man, Les Hall, is due to be released from the federal prison down in Sheridan, Oregon in just a few days. We've known his scheduled release date for some time. We're hoping he'll lead us to his partner in the crime and the missing gold. The most likely possibility we've been able to find is his former roommate, who just happens to live here in Cascade."
"Mulroney, a lot of people live in Cascade. It's a big city! What is it you want the Cascade PD to do that you can't do yourself?" Simon's tone was abrupt and more than a little sarcastic. My department is not an adjunct office for FBI grunt work. The last time Mulroney had shown up and proposed a joint operation, the entire affair had been a complete disaster. A Russian Inspector had gotten shot, Sandburg and Ellison had been pinned down by a Russian hit man, Yuri, at Mulroney's supposed "safe" house, and a van of agents had been blown up. Simon was not thrilled about the idea of putting his people in danger because of an old, unsolved FBI case. Let them tend to their own knitting.
Mulroney regarded Simon impassively. "The man we suspect of being Hall's partner is now employed here as the head chef at a place called The Glen. Are you familiar with it?"
"Yes. It's a very exclusive resort hotel down by the bay. I've been there once, at a city function." One of those overpriced, undersized "Northwest Cuisine" meals...tiny portions, with hazelnuts and raspberries in everything. Glad I wasn't paying.
"That's the place." The agent opened up his briefcase and handed Simon a photograph. "Boyd Deeds has been there for the past four years, and he's apparently made quite a name for himself. Deeds' life is a classic rags-to-riches story. You know, a poor kid from a broken home, went to culinary school on a scholarship. He was apprenticed at La Maison in New York at the time of the theft. The Times food critic gave him a huge write-up over a dish he created and his career took off. I don't know whether the dish was that good or whether he was, but it gave him the exposure he needed. Then he got the opportunity to come out here as head chef at one of the trendiest restaurants in the Pacific Northwest."
Simon studied the photograph of the suspected thief. "That's all very well, Mulroney, but what do you actually have on him?" Mulroney had held out on them before, almost getting his detective team killed. I don't think you're telling us the whole story, here.
Mulroney paused, appearing to marshal his thoughts. "In hard evidence, nothing. If you count conclusions, quite a bit. He was a former roommate of Hall's for almost a year just prior to the theft. Prior to becoming interested in cooking, Deeds had taken classes at a technical school in electrical engineering. He did well in the classes, but dropped out of the program because of financial difficulties. Neither Hall nor Marten had any knowledge of electronics that we've been able to find... and somebody who knew what they were doing bypassed the outside alarm." The agent consulted his notes again.
"A light colored van was seen leaving the scene of the theft, and we know Deeds owned a yellow van. He'd been scheduled to work that night, but he'd called in sick. When the investigating officers talked to his landlady, she said he'd gone out that night and hadn't come in till after 3 a.m. Deeds then claimed he'd just wanted to ditch work and had gone bar hopping instead."
Simon waited for the agent to continue, but that was apparently the end of his recitation. "That's it? That's all you have on him?"
"I admit it's not much, but he is a strong possibility and the stolen gold has never turned up."
"He must be holding onto it then, if he ever had it in the first place." Simon mentally weighed the credit the department could get if they helped find the missing treasure versus the difficulties of having to deal with the Feds and Agent Mulroney. "What is it you think we can help you with?"
"We had a plan in place to watch Deeds in case Hall heads here to meet with him. It turns out that Deeds is going to be both teaching and judging a combination cooking class and contest, which starts on Monday. That's the same day Hall will be released. We had an agent from the Seattle office we planned to slip into the cooking class. We have his cover all set, and he's signed up as a participant. Unfortunately, he's currently in the hospital with appendicitis."
Before Simon could answer, there came a token knock at the door...followed immediately by the entrance of Jim Ellison. Jim slipped into the captain's office, holding the door open behind him as Blair Sandburg followed him into the room.
"Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but we've finally gotten somewhere in the Baker case. I think we're ready to get a warrant." Jim's eyes met Simon's, with a look that seemed to say, do you need rescuing?
Simon fought the urge to smile at his secretary's cleverness. Rhonda had found the perfect way to "rescue" him from the clutches of the FBI agent: send in Major Crime's most effective and colorful detective team.
"Ellison, can't it wait? Come back in fifteen minutes." Simon maintained his growl in answer to Jim's question.
"Wait!" This came unexpectedly from Agent Mulroney.
Jim turned toward Mulroney slowly and proceeded to give the FBI agent a cold stare. Undoubtedly, he was remembering Mulroney's high-handed "kidnapping" of Blair and himself that had ended with setting them all up for Yuri. Jim didn't trust Mulroney any farther than he could throw him.
No, Simon reflected, that's probably being too generous. Jim could probably toss Mulroney a pretty good distance.
Then he watched, briefly mystified, as the agent pulled another photograph out of his briefcase. "This is Agent Evan Wahlberg, the man who was going to be assigned to keep an eye on Deeds. It's the same photo we sent in with the contest application, under the name of Ben Wolfe." He handed the 3 x 5 snapshot to Simon, who gaped at it...then raised his eyes to stare across the room with poorly concealed amusement.
Oh my God... he looks a lot like Sandburg. Exactly like Sandburg. I can't believe it... are there two of him?
Silently, Simon stood up and reached across the desk to hand the picture to his puzzled pair of detectives, watching for their reaction.
Jim gave the photo a cursory glance. "Why do you have a picture of my partner?"
"Take a closer look," instructed Simon, then watched as Jim did so.
"It's not him," came the slow response. "But... the resemblance is remarkable." Simon could see Jim's eyes narrow thoughtfully as the Sentinel attempted to hand the photograph back to Simon over the top of Blair's head. "So you have an agent who looks like Sandburg. So what?"
Blair intercepted the picture, snatching it from Jim's hand and studying it. "Hey, this guy does look a lot like me. Well, you never know, maybe my mysterious father got around more than..."
"Never mind that right now, Sandburg," interrupted Simon. "Mulroney, what exactly are you proposing?"
"We believe Mr. Sandburg would be useful to us. We'd like to borrow him for this operation." Briefly, the FBI agent gave a summary of the facts he'd told Simon before Jim and Blair had interrupted. "I understand," the agent concluded, turning around to address Blair, "that you're no longer an observer? That you're now...a part of the department?"
"Yeahhhh." Blair's reply had a cautious, hedging sound to it. If he intended to add anything else to his reply, he never got the chance.
Jim bristled at Mulroney's words. "What about it?"
Simon attempted to steer the conversation to calmer waters. "Detective Sandburg has responsibilities within the department. I just don't see how I could spare him at this time." He shot a meaningful look at the young detective in question, but not in time to keep Blair from coming up with his own interpretation of the situation.
"We don't have anything big going on right now, Captain, just this missing person case." As Mulroney turned expectantly back towards Simon, the police captain was faintly amused to see Blair step on Jim's foot, pressing down hard.
But Simon knew that mere physical pain would not be enough to deter Jim from his line of reasoning. The Sentinel's last experience with the FBI agent hadn't exactly been enjoyable. It would be difficult to convince Jim to let his partner go off with someone who classified people by whether or not they were useful to an operation. Seemingly ignorant of his partner's efforts to distract him, Jim almost growled at Mulroney's dismissal of him.
"Just what is it you want Sandburg to do, Mulroney?" Jim's tone of voice left little doubt as to his opinion of the whole mess, but he quickly moved his foot out of reach of Blair's heel.
As if hoping Ellison would somehow give up and go away, Mulroney continued to face Simon as he answered Jim's question.
"We want Mr. Sandburg to go undercover in the competition and see if Hall makes an attempt to contact Deeds about the stolen gold. It would be a short assignment, no more than a few days. If Hall doesn't show, then no harm's been done." Mulroney turned to face Blair. "Can you cook?"
"Cook? Sure I can cook. At least better than Jim can anyway." He laughed a little, but Jim wasn't amused.
"And what will you be doing if Sandburg agrees to participate in this little game of yours?"
Mulroney sighed and looked briefly up at the ceiling, as if hoping divine intervention would make Jim Ellison disappear. Apparently resigned to dealing with him directly, he turned to face the detective.
"We would have a team nearby in case Hall did show up. Hopefully, he and Deeds would lead us to wherever the gold has been stashed. We would then make the arrest and recover the stolen property."
"The last time you had a team 'nearby' we almost got killed waiting for them to arrive." Jim continued to direct an icy glare at the FBI agent.
Angrily, Mulroney stood up. "That wasn't the way it was supposed to work out." He paused, taking a breath. Directing his next statement directly to Blair, he continued. "I'm asking for your assistance in this. If you don't want to help, that's fine." He started picking up the photographs of his suspects and returning them to their proper manila envelopes.
"I never said I didn't want to help," Blair responded in a slightly injured tone. His statement hung in the air. Watching Jim, Simon could see the Sentinel stiffen at those words. Blair met Simon's eyes and nodded, with just a hint of a plea written on the deceptively guileless features.
Against his own better judgement, Simon found himself acknowledging Blair's request. "Fine. You're on loan to the FBI for a week, Sandburg. See if you can wrap it up sooner. We need you back here."
Jim frowned, but before he could voice any objections, Blair spoke quickly to Mulroney. "There's one thing," he hazarded. The agent looked up in response as he gathered his briefcase in hand. "I'd like to have some backup a little closer than you have in mind. Is there a problem with that?"
"I don't have any other agents I could assign to this case. We were planning to send Wahlberg in alone, and he was fine with that." Sounding reluctant, Mulroney added, "It hasn't exactly been considered to be a high-priority case."
Then why are you so interested in solving it? wondered Simon. Is there some hidden agenda you've got up your sleeve again?
"The backup I had in mind --" Blair turned to face Jim directly, meeting his eyes, "-- is my partner. Is that a problem?"
From his vantage point behind his desk, Simon watched as Jim's expression thawed by degrees. First the eyes, then the mouth, and finally the jaw relaxed, until he was smiling at Blair.
Mulroney looked from one to another and tried another tack. "I don't have another cover set up and there's not enough time..."
"Don't worry about that. I'm sure Sandburg can come up with something. He's very --creative -- when he wants to be." Simon relaxed back into his chair. Another minor problem solved. And since Jim would be with Blair, Simon wouldn't have to worry about his newest detective -- nor would he have to put with a grumpy, irritated Sentinel for the week Blair would be gone. I just might have a peaceful week.
Mulroney looked as if he was still not happy with the situation, but Simon knew there was little the agent could do. He'd come here to request Sandburg's help, after all, and Sandburg wanted Ellison's help. "Just keep me informed on what you're doing." He handed over the file to Blair as he left the office.
"Okay, you two, turn over the Baker case to Brown and have him come talk to me about the warrant." He waved a hand at them. "Go on, get out of here and start planning Mulroney's expedition into the Sandburg zone."
"Here's an article in the paper about this cooking contest thing." Blair waved the "Local" section at Jim. "It's scheduled to run a week. This article says that the whole affair will be jointly sponsored by The Glen and by the Cascade Culinary Institute, and the winner will win a full scholarship to the cooking school." He grinned at Jim, his eyes dancing. "Hey, this could be fun."
Jim snorted. "We just got you through cop school, Chief. Don't go getting any ideas about another career change."
"It's always good to have a backup, though," Blair intoned solemnly. "You never know." He smiled and put out a hand to touch Jim's shoulder briefly. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding."
Jim looked down at his desk for a moment, unable to suppress the quick wave of regret that washed through him. Always good to have a backup career, right. You never know when you're going to have to give it all up to save your partner's career. Covertly, he eyed Blair, who stood leaning against his desk, now studying the file on Deeds. He's grown up so much since we first met, become so much steadier and more serious. Sometimes, I miss the old Sandburg. Giving his head an imperceptible shake, he wrenched his thoughts back on track.
"All right, Mr. Frugal Gourmet. So how are we going to explain my presence at this grand culinary affair? It sounds like it's too late to get me in as a contestant, or the Feds would have just used one of their own men in the first place."
Blair sat down on the edge of Jim's desk, perching comfortably. Jim smiled slightly. No, there's still a bit of the old Sandburg there. It surfaces now and again.
"Well, that's going to be kind of hard, Jim. You're not exactly easy to camouflage. You look like a cop."
"I could always be a janitor, or maybe I could pose as a dishwasher or something," mused Jim. "That'd at least get me into the building."
Blair laughed. "Jim, no one in their right mind would mistake you for a dishwasher. Or a janitor. And neither of those'll get you into where Deeds is going to be." He stared off past Jim's shoulder, the blue eyes going soft and unfocused. "Maybe you could be a journalist. You know, a reporter from the feature section of the paper, covering the contest. That'd give you an excuse to hang around all week." He smiled encouragingly at his partner.
"You've got to be kidding, Chief," groaned Jim. Me, a reporter? I'd be laughable! Blair could pull it off, but not me. "You know I hate reporters. How could I be one?"
"Come on, Jim, it's only for a few days."
"No. Forget it. Think of something else, Sandburg."
"You've got no sense of personal adventure, man," griped Blair, grinning. "I guess you could always be my all-purpose lackey and personal therapist. Or trainer. You know, you could talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger and make me do exercises to increase my endurance for beating eggs or something." He raised a hand, laughing, as if anticipating Jim's reaction to that idea. "Wait, Jim, I'm just joking!"
"I don't appreciate you making fun of me, Sandburg," growled Jim with mock severity. "Behave, or I'll tell everyone in Major Crime about those pictures your mother sent last week." He was rewarded with an embarrassed flush that spread slowly across Blair's face.
While visiting old friends at a commune on the Oregon coast, Naomi had run across someone who had some old photographs of Blair taken when he was about four. She'd had some copies made, and had sent them to Blair as a surprise. He'd make the mistake of opening the envelope at the dinner table in front of Jim, though, and had nearly died of embarrassment as Jim snatched them up, howling with laughter at the shots of a naked little Blair running through the surf.
"Okay, okay, sorry." Blair laughed and climbed down from the desk. "I deserved that. Look, it's lunchtime, and I'm getting hungry. Let's go get a bite to eat before we bite each other's head off instead."
"Sounds like a plan, Chief."
They headed for the diner around the corner, where they could have some compromise in the choice of food. Blair was fond of their sandwiches, and Jim liked almost everything on the menu. They'd come there together often in the time since Blair had graduated from the academy.
Jim studied the menu while Blair flirted shamelessly with Rosie, the cheerful waitress who was placing glasses of water of the table. It didn't seem to bother Blair that she was at least ten years older than him; he still apparently found it worthwhile to turn on the charm. Keeping in practice, no doubt.
I still find it hard sometimes to think of him as a police officer, Jim admitted to himself. He's junior to me, yes, and less experienced with the seamier side of our business... but quite capable of taking care of himself. Some days he's Mr. Professional, all business; then other days the facade slips and he reverts back to this eager-puppy persona.
"Jim. Hey, Earth to Jim. Are you going to order?"
"Sorry." He gave the menu another quick glance. "Uh, the bacon burger and a cup of chili, Rosie. Thanks."
Blair favored the waitress with another one of his heart-stopping smiles. "I'll have the turkey and avocado on a croissant."
After Rosie left, Jim found himself staring at his glass of water, toying idly with the condensation patterns on the glass. "You know, it's too bad about the Baker case. We were getting close there, I think." Daniel Baker was a prominent local businessman who'd turned up missing a few days previously and was now feared to be dead.
"Yeah," Blair agreed, not seeming to object to the change of subject. "I think you were on the right track there, wanting to search his ex-wife's house. Hopefully -" Blair broke off, his gaze moving to the counter where an older couple had just been seated. Jim turned to see what his partner was staring at, and watched as Rosie came up to take their order. The man pointed silently to items on the menu, after first using sign language to consult with his companion. Rosie smiled, wrote down the order and moved on. The couple then settled back to converse with each other using what Jim assumed to be ASL.
Jim turned his attention back to his own table, noting with amusement that Blair had a far-away look on his face.
"Hey, Chief, are you with me here?"
Blair's eyes refocused and he seemed to come back to the present. The blank expression was replaced by excitement. "Jim, that's it!"
"That's what?" asked Jim, reasonably. "You just remember where you left your keys?"
Blair ignored the remark. "Jim, have you ever learned any ASL? American Sign Language?"
Jim frowned. "Sign language? I learned a little years ago from a girlfriend who was studying it. I don't think I remember too much. Why?" The last word was delivered with a hint of suspicion.
"I used to know quite a bit of it. I took a couple of classes in it. And it's not that hard to look as if you know what you're doing."
An uncomfortable premonition was growing in Jim's mind. "Just what are you driving at, Chief?"
Blair took a deep breath, and leaned forward with both elbows on the table. "I think that 'Ben Wolfe', the aspiring young cooking student, is going to turn out to be profoundly deaf. And I think that he's going to bring his very own signer to the class."
Jim stared. "Oh, no. You're not serious."
"Jim, it's perfect. No one would dare to kick you out, or question my right to bring you along. The advocates for the disabled would have an absolute cow."
"Except that you wouldn't really be disabled," Jim pointed out. How does he come up with these ideas? "One slip, and not only would our cover be shot, but you'd probably get kicked out of the class."
"But we could do it!" Jim could feel his partner's excitement growing. "Jim, you'd be in a perfect position to hear everything that's going on. We'd be much more effective as an investigative team, because you wouldn't have to do much other than stick close to me and pretend to translate things!"
Jim shook his head. "It's a pretty dicey set-up, Chief," he said slowly. "We'd both have a lot to keep track of. You'd have to pretend to be deaf, and that won't be easy." Why do I feel like I've already lost this argument? "Besides, won't the people running the contest get suspicious?"
"No!" answered Blair earnestly. "That's the beauty of it! There was a copy of the agent's 'application' to the contest in that file that Maroney gave us. There was nothing in there that would blow our cover. I mean, come on! They can't discriminate against the handicapped. That is like the most politically incorrect thing you can do these days."
"Worse than discriminating against short, long-haired detectives?" deadpanned Jim.
"Much worse, Jim," intoned Blair solemnly, his eyes laughing. "Short, long-haired detectives don't exactly have much in the way of lobbyists."
Rosie appeared just then, smoothly placing their food down in front of them with a smile. Blair grabbed his sandwich and took a bite hurriedly. Jim watched him absently for a few seconds, thinking about his partner's suggestion.
It's a typical Sandburg scheme... bizarre, creative and something that no one else would ever think of. So it just might work. He smiled to himself.
"So, Jim, what do you say?" Blair looked as if he was holding his breath waiting for Jim's response.
Jim raised a spoonful of chili halfway to his mouth, gesturing with it. "All right. For the sake of argument, let's say we try your idea. What happens if we run into some real deaf people?"
Blair waved a hand, dismissing the idea. "Pretty unlikely, Jim. We only have to keep up the pretense during the contest. And I can teach you enough ASL to make it look good."
Looking across the table at the animated face in front of him, Jim found himself nodding slowly.
"All right. We'll try selling it to Simon. But, if he won't go for it, Chief, we'll need to come up with something else." He picked up the dripping burger and looked at it appreciatively. "Now, shut up and let me enjoy one of the wonders of nature."
Continue on to Act II...
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This page last updated 2/2/01.