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.
Crossed Out by CarolROI
Blair found himself being grabbed firmly by the arm and dragged into Simon's office, the door slamming shut behind him. The grip on his arm tightened and he was whirled around to face a very pissed off Sentinel. Both of them spoke at once.
"Where in the hell have you been?"
"Who in the hell are those two guys?"
Jim's fingers squeezed Blair's arm even harder as his jaw worked overtime. "Hey, man, come on. Lay off the guide abuse!" The detective released his hold, and Blair's hand automatically went to the limb, massaging the injured area. "What is it with everyone today? Is there a big sign on my back that says 'Open Season on Sandburg'?"
Taking a deep breath, Jim exhaled noisily, and Blair could see him mentally counting to ten. "Those 'two guys' happen to be DEA agents, who are not too happy about having their sting operation broken up by you."
Taking a step back, Blair blinked up at the taller man. "DEA?"
"Yes, DEA. What were you thinking, and why didn't you identify yourself as a cop?"
"I just reacted to the situation, Jim. I saw two guys beating up on a woman in an alley, and I just jumped to the rescue. She got away, and then the dark-haired guy looked like he was reaching for a weapon just as Cyndi pulled up in her car and I hopped in and we took off." He paused to take a breath.
"Who's Cyndi?" Jim managed to get in before Sandburg started up again.
"Cyndi was the woman I rescued. She used to be a grad student at Rainier and we were good friends but she got kicked out for..." He noticed the other man's eyes beginning to glaze over and skipped ahead to the important part. "Anyway she had this bag of money and that's how I found out she was dealing drugs. She drove me to this warehouse and took me inside to meet her boss, which didn't go so well, and I was trying to talk my way out of there when the big boss, Cristo, showed up in this limo, and he thought Cyndi had a good idea, only I had to pass a test first, so I had to fight this really big guy." He rushed the end of the story before Jim could interrupt. "I won, and apparently that and Cyndi's word was all there was to the test, because I now work for Cristo. Cyndi's supposed to call me with more details tomorrow." Blair leaned back against the conference table and folded his arms across his chest. "And that was my day, how was yours?"
The guide's tentative grin was infectious, and Jim found himself smiling back at him. "Well, Chief, my day was pretty crappy actually. My partner went to the garage and disappeared for two hours, then turned up with a couple thousand in laundered money on him, with some ridiculous story about being hired on the spur of the moment by the biggest drug dealer in Cascade. Unfortunately, since it's you we're talking about here, the story is probably true." He turned toward the door just as Simon entered with the DEA agents on his heels.
"Take a seat, gentlemen," Captain Banks said, his expression grim. The two Feds and the two detectives sat down at the table while Simon leaned against the front of his desk. Introductions were brief. "Ellison, Sandburg, Cascade PD. Manning, Collier, DEA. Let's hear it, Sandburg."
Once again Blair repeated his story, punctuated by outbursts from the two agents. He had just gotten to the part about knowing Cyndi from Rainier when he was interrupted again.
"I want Sandburg under federal arrest," Manning snapped.
"What!" Blair was halfway out of his seat at the agent's words. "I haven't done a damn thing but protect someone you were attacking!" Jim laid a restraining hand on his arm.
"You're a danger to our operation. If we let you walk out of here, who knows what you'll do," Manning growled. "Run straight to your little dealer friend and let her know the DEA is after her. We can't let you jeopardize a sting we've worked so hard to set up."
There was no mistaking the menace in Collier's next words. "Assault on federal agents is a pretty serious crime, as is aiding and abetting a known criminal."
Blair dropped back into his chair with a thump. He was so pissed he couldn't see straight. Who in the hell did these morons think they were? Beating up a contact sure in the hell wasn't going to get them anywhere, and if they thought they could scare Cyndi into coughing up some info for them, they were definitely barking up the wrong tree.
A knock on Banks' door disrupted Collier's tirade. "Come," Simon snapped.
Megan Connor stuck her head in the door. "Here's that report from forensics on the envelope Sandy dropped. They found a couple of good prints." She handed a file folder to her superior then beat a hasty retreat.
Opening the folder, Simon read the paper within thoroughly, then raised his eyes to Blair's uncertain blue ones. "It seems there were a couple prints on the paper besides Sandburg's. They happen to belong to Frederico Juarez, an Ecuadorian national, convicted drug trafficker, and Cristo's right hand man. Care to explain how his fingerprints got on an envelope in your possession?"
The urge to shove his chair back and run was almost overwhelming. Despite the years he'd worked with them, despite the months at the academy, despite the badge and the gun, Blair for a moment felt he wasn't one of them; he was still an outsider. Then the light pressure of Jim's hand on his shoulder broke through his irrational fear, reminded him that this was where he belonged, at his partner's -- his Sentinel's -- side. He relaxed slightly, and Jim gently prodded him. "Just tell them what you told me."
Licking his dry lips, Blair explained once again about Cyndi taking him to the warehouse. He'd just gotten to the part about the limo pulling up when Manning interrupted him. "I think we've heard enough. We're placing you under arrest."
Blair couldn't breath. His panicked gaze traveled from Jim to Simon and back again. "Jim, you're not gonna let them do this, you can't let them do this! Captain!" He was on his feet, feeling like he was going to be sick.
"Don't you think arresting Blair is a little bit premature? You haven't heard the rest of the story!" Jim jumped to his defense.
Collier shook his head. "I think we've heard enough to know he's not telling the truth. I've heard druggies tell some whoppers, but waltzing into the lion's den without being challenged by one of Cristo's men is really stretching my imagination."
Blair slammed the flat of his hand down on the tabletop. "You haven't listened to a goddamned word I've said! Cyndi knows me, she trusts me! She thinks I'm another victim of the system, that we're kindred spirits --"
"I think you're full of it, Sandburg. The way I see it, you were there to help out your friend, and now your dark little secret is out in the open. We're going to take you over to the federal building and get the real story out of you." Collier produced a pair of handcuffs.
Blair's mind was whirling, trying to figure a way out of this as both Jim and Simon argued with the Feds. The solution to his problem was staring him in the face. It scared the hell out of him, but if it would keep him out of jail, he would do it. "Hey." No one paid him a bit of attention. "Listen to me." Even Jim and Simon weren't listening. "Would you just SHUT UP!" Blessed silence returned. "How long have you been working on this operation?" He directed his question to Manning.
"And how far have you gotten?"
"Our first agent was killed. Since we were brought in, we've managed to set ourselves up as dealers buying from Cristo."
"What do you mean that's it? It takes time to infiltrate this kind of operation. They have to get to know you, trust you, feel you out, test you." Collier was glaring at him.
Blair rested his palms on the table leaning his weight on his hands. "I am so far ahead of you guys, it's pathetic. I'm already in. I've been inside Cristo's headquarters, I've met his people, I've passed his test, I am in his employ. That money was payment for pummeling your sorry asses." Collier lunged across the table at him, but he danced out of range. "You throw me in jail and you lose your chance to wrap this up quickly. You want information? I can get it for you, but I have to be free to do it."
"You little snot-nosed punk --" Manning snarled.
"That's enough, all of you!" Simon bellowed. "Regardless of whether you believe him or not, Sandburg says he can get you what you need. Give him the opportunity to prove himself, to prove his innocence. This can only benefit you, while throwing him in jail benefits no one."
Manning glanced at his partner. "Let me call our superior. In private." Simon pointed at the phone, then followed Sandburg and Ellison into the nearly deserted bullpen.
"Next time, Sandburg, it would be nice to have some advance warning before you volunteer your services to the Feds, let alone decide all on your lonesome you're going to go undercover," Simon chastised him.
Feeling suddenly drained, Blair leaned against a desk. "It's not like I had much of choice, sir, either earlier today or now." He looked up at Jim. "Aren't you going to say something, man?"
Jim's jaw muscles worked for a moment, then he said, "You'll hear from me, but later -- much later."
The guide suppressed a shudder. That was gonna be worse than any grilling the Feds could put him through.
The trio's attention turned to Simon's office as the door opened and the DEA agents came out. "You're in. But if you so much as think of ratting this operation out to Cristo, your ass is going to prison."
Letting out the breath he'd been holding, Blair said, "Gotcha."
Collier looked at his watch. "It's late, and we have plans to make. We'll meet back here in the morning to discuss how this is going to work. 8 am."
"They'll be here," Simon promised.
The agents left, both of them giving Blair a dirty look as they passed him on their way out.
Blair sat at the kitchen table, a peanut butter and alfalfa sprout sandwich forgotten in his left hand as he pored over the Cascade PD's files on Cristo. Even though the drug dealer was relatively new on the scene, having arrived in the city a little over 18 months ago, he had quickly made a name for himself. Able to supply large quantities of cocaine and heroin due to his family's South American drug cartel, he quickly undercut Cascade's other dealers and forced them out of business. Those who refused to accept the inevitable he simply wiped out, leaving a cross carved into the chest of each of his victims as a warning to those who dared challenge him. So far the body count totaled about 30, from penny ante dealers to major players, including two CPD narcotics officers and one DEA agent.
Closing the file he'd been skimming, Blair set it in the "read" pile and took a bite of his sandwich before pulling a folder from the unread stack. He heard Jim come down the stairs and cross the loft to the kitchen, but he didn't look up until his partner pulled out a chair at the end of the table and sat down. He was trying to hide it, but Blair could see his Sentinel's concern.
"Are you sure about this, Chief? I know you've gone undercover before, but never like this. It could take weeks or months before you get enough information to convict him of anything. And you won't have me there to back you up; you'll be on your own." Jim leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. "I don't like it, Blair. Cristo won't hesitate to kill you if he suspects you're a cop."
Pulling off his glasses, Blair rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I know, Jim, but I have to do this. He has to be stopped. Too many people have died already; too many lives have been destroyed. " He flipped through the pages in front of him, then turned his attention back to his partner. "How come this guy never came across Major Crimes desk before this?"
"The case started out in Narcotics when they got word a new player was in town, but they couldn't get any information about who was behind the increased drug traffic. The murders were handled by Homicide for a couple months before they figured out they were dealing with a power struggle between Cristo and the other dealers in Cascade and not a vigilante serial killer. By the time Narcotics and Homicide got together, two undercover cops were dead and the DEA had been called in. Major Crimes was left out of the loop. That's why Simon is upset about you going undercover for them. This is their operation, and he doesn't have any say in how it's run." A shadowed look crossed his face. "Your safety is not going to be the DEA's first priority."
The guide ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his face. "I'm used to thinking on my feet, Jim. I'll be okay." His words were meant to reassure, but he couldn't ignore the small coil of fear sitting icily in the pit of his stomach. Something Jim had said earlier piqued his interest. "You said Homicide thought they had a serial killer on their hands?"
Nodding, Jim sorted through the stack of file folders. "The deaths all had certain similarities. The victims were all drug dealers, or suppliers. The scenes were similar. All of them had a cross cut into their chest." He passed a folder over to the guide. "The undercover officers who were killed had been posing as dealers."
Blair opened the folder and nearly lost his dinner. In the crime scene photo, a male victim, nude from the waist up, had been shot through the head, execution style, which was bad enough. But what was really disturbing was the cross. The vertical line ran from the hollow of the man's throat to nearly his navel and the horizontal cut went all the way across his chest just above his pectoral muscles. The blood trailing from the deep wounds showed they had been inflicted while the victim had still been alive and most likely conscious.
Shutting the folder slowly, Blair pushed it aside. He knew Jim had to be picking up his shuddered breathing and suddenly racing heart, but the Sentinel didn't comment, just laid his hand on the younger man's shoulder for a moment as he rose from the table. Pressing the heels of his hands against his closed eyes, Blair tried to banish the picture from his mind.
Blood, so much blood... puddled on the floor, splattered on the walls, dripping from the ceiling. A body was there, huddled on the floor. He didn't want to go near it, didn't want to touch it, yet his hand gave the corpse's shoulder a gentle push. It toppled over, the mutilated chest exposed, the slashes a fiery red against dark skin. He screamed.
Leaping to his feet, Blair scrambled back, knocking over his chair. Becoming tangled in the legs, he windmilled his arms trying to keep his balance and failed. He crashed to the floor, the back of his head smacking against the hardwood.
Jim was beside him in an instant. "Chief! Are you okay?" Gentle fingers probed his scalp as Blair tried to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him when he hit the floor.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he replied as Jim helped him sit up. "I just. . ." What had just happened? Could it have been a vision? Or was his tired mind just reacting to the stimulus of the crime scene photos? "I don't know, Jim. I saw something, another victim, but I don't know who it was. All I could see was the bloody cross."
Ellison gave him a hand up off the floor and glanced at his watch. "It's nearly 3 AM, Chief. Why don't we both try to get some sleep before we have to be back at the station for the meeting with the Feds?"
Nodding, Blair cleaned up his plate and glass from the table, dropping the half-eaten sandwich into the garbage before heading to his room and falling into bed.
Opening the passenger door of the Rabbit, Blair slid into the seat. "Hey, Cyndi, how's it going?"
Giving him a wide grin, the dark-skinned woman replied, "Just great. Not much going on today. Just a few deliveries. But first, I have something for you." Reaching between the seats into the back of the car, she produced a large purse, from which she withdrew a small velvet bag. Handing it to him, she urged him to open it. "Go on, it's not going to bite you."
Blair untied the drawstring at the top of the bag and upended it over his open hand. A two-inch long, clear, somewhat cylindrical crystal landed on his palm. A gold cap with a ring through it fit over one end; a gold chain attached to the ring. Its warmth surprised him, and he glanced at Cyndi, for a split second seeing the features of the aboriginal shaman from the vision he'd had in Sierra Verde. "Thank you," he said softly, "but why?"
She put the car in drive and pulled away from the curb. "I read the cards for you last night. They said you were troubled, uncertain of your way. The crystal will give you clarity, help you focus, give you a surety of purpose." She gave him a smile, then turned her attention back to the road.
Blair rubbed his fingers over the gem for a few moments, then slid the chain over his neck and tucked the crystal inside his shirt. She was right; it did give him a sense of security. He shook his head. Some things in life were better left unexplained.
Jim took a sip of his coffee and grimaced. Cold. He glanced over at Connor in the driver's seat of the unmarked sedan they were using to tail Blair and Cyndi. "You got any more of this?" he asked.
"Yeah, there's a thermos in the back seat."
Wriggling around in the seat, the detective managed to snag it. Settling back down, he poured cups for himself and his temporary partner, then said, "This is really getting old."
"I know what you mean, Jimbo. I'm pretty tired of following them around myself. Three weeks is way too long to be spending 12 hour days sitting in the car." She took a sip of coffee and rubbed her nose. "And it's getting damn cold too." She changed the subject a little. "How are you doing?"
Ellison turned slightly surprised eyes on her. "What do you mean?"
"With all this, Sandy being deep undercover, living on his own, you not having your guide around. That kind of thing." She turned her concerned gaze on him. "Are you doing okay?"
Jim turned to stare at Cyndi and Blair, talking with one of their small time dealers four blocks away. "It's... all right," he finally managed. He heard her soft snort of disbelief, but didn't explain any further. He couldn't tell her how much he missed his partner's constant presence. The Feds had set Blair up in an apartment a couple blocks from where Cyndi lived. It was convenient, it allowed them to keep an eye on him, and most importantly, it was safer for Blair to not have any ties to the Cascade PD, especially not a roommate who was a cop.
Intellectually, yeah, Jim understood it, but emotionally, it was hell. Blair was keeping him informed; they talked every night on the phone, and met occasionally in an out of the way place where no one knew either of them, but it was difficult. Each time they met, Jim could see how much of a toll this was taking on his partner. He'd lost weight, and, judging by the dark circles under his eyes, he hadn't been sleeping much. But whenever Jim brought up the possibility of ending this charade, Blair had argued he just needed more time. There was a large shipment of drugs coming into Cascade soon. He was determined to find out the date and location of the drop. If they could catch Cristo making the deal himself, he would be as good as locked up. That day couldn't come soon enough for Ellison.
Megan's hand on his arm brought him out of his reflections. "They're going."
"Yeah, okay, just follow like we always do." Jim focused his attention back on the job.
Jesus Cristo looked up from the invoices he was working on. "Si, Rico, que pasa?"
The dark haired man entered his boss' office and took a seat in the chair in front of the large mahogany desk. He gazed around the room, taking in his superior's collection of religious artifacts. Crucifixes of every size, shape and origin hung on the walls, along with a number of paintings of Christ's death and resurrection. A statue of the Virgin Mary stood in the corner, several lit votive candles on a table in front of it. No matter how many times he'd been in here, the place still gave him the creeps.
"You wanted to see me for a reason?" Cristo asked.
"Si, si, that new gringo, Sandburg. I've been asking around about him." He flinched as Cristo's eyes narrowed. He knew his boss hated to have his decisions questioned. "He used to work with the cops."
Leaning back in his chair, Jesus folded his well-manicured hands over his chest, idly stroking the gold cross that hung there today. "And your point is?"
Rico flushed. "Well, just that, I mean, we really don't know him that well. What if he's still got friends on the police force?"
A narrow smile graced Cristo's lips. "You used to be a member of the policia in Ecuador, Rico. Do you still have friends on the force?"
"Si, jefe, but..."
"And you do not tell them about your job in America selling drugs, do you?"
"No, jefe. I tell them I work for your import company."
"Blair is a smart man, Rico. He has worked very hard these past weeks. I am sure that if he still associated with his policia amigos, he would keep his mouth shut. People are capable of great things, if one overlooks their past and gives them a second chance. I would appreciate it if you followed our Savior's example and gave Blair the benefit of the doubt. He is shaping up to be a very talented disciple. And he is a good influence on our flighty Cyndi."
With a heavy sigh, Rico nodded. "Si, jefe. But I will keep my eyes open, so that I can report his good deeds, eh?"
Jesus waved the other man out. "You do that, Rico." After his subordinate had left, Cristo rocked slowly in his chair, pondering Blair Sandburg. He needed disciples -- students -- to pass on his knowledge, his message. But which disciple was Blair? Paul, the man of letters? He could see that. Blair was well educated; they had many interesting conversations on all manner of subjects. Thomas? He did ask many questions, but that was how one learned. Hmm, he would have to consult the scriptures and think on it for a while, before deciding how Blair fit into his circle of followers.
Cyndi pulled the Volkswagen up to the corner and pushed in the clutch. "Okay, Blair. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good time with your friend tonight."
"Later," he said with a wave as he got out of the car.
Pulling away from the curb, the young woman had driven two blocks when she noticed something lying on the passenger side floorboard. Coming to a stop at a traffic light, she leaned over for a closer look. "Damn," she hissed under her breath. Blair's Swiss Army knife. It must have fallen out of his coat after he'd slit open their last delivery for the dealer's inspection. The light turned green and she made a hard right. If she hurried, she might catch him before he got on the bus.
Circling the block, she came to a stop at the intersection where she'd dropped him off in time to see Blair getting into an old, beat up, blue-and-white Ford pickup. Curious, instead of honking her horn to get his attention, she tailed the pickup for several miles. Much to her surprise, it drove into the underground parking garage of the Cascade Police Department.
Shifting her car into park, Cyndi sat there for a couple of minutes, her hands clenching and unclenching on the wheel. This wasn't what it looked like, she kept telling herself, but still... He'd worked with that big cop, Jim... Joe... whatever... when he'd been at Rainier. But he'd told her that was over, had ended when he'd declared himself a fraud on TV. She chewed her lip, then made a decision. She'd tell Cristo what she'd seen and let him ask Blair about it.
Putting the car in drive, she was just about to pull back out into traffic when the passenger door opened, and someone slid into the seat. "What in the hell do you think you're doing?" she started to ask. "Oh, it's you. What the fuck do you want, loser?" Her eyes widened as her unwelcome rider shoved a gun in her ribs.
Another man climbed into the back seat. "Just shut up and drive, Cyndi, shut up and drive."
Continue on to Act III...
Back to the FPP Home Page
E-mail Faux Paws Productions.
If you experience any problems with this page, please contact The Pagemaster.
This page last updated 2/3/01.