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.
The Baboon's Foot
The young man tapped away furiously on his keyboard, oblivious to the world around him. Occasionally stopping to insert a CD, remove a floppy, or print something off the laser printer, his hands and fingers remained in perpetual motion. The deadline was almost there, intoxicating with its proximity.
No wonder he didn't hear the soft footsteps behind him, nor feel the whoosh of air as a smooth cord wrapped suddenly, painfully around his neck, then twisted impossibly tighter.
Eyes bulging, fingers clawing, the young man's body twitched and spasmed as it starved for oxygen. In a sudden moment of clarity just before death, he finally realized where he had gone wrong in his algorithm. Shit, he thought. His dying hope was that Heaven supported PCs.
December 28, 1999
Jim Ellison pecked away lazily on his keyboard, painfully conscious of the world around him. Rafe was reviewing old unsolved cases and tapping his pen against his desk in an annoying non-rhythm. Henri was catching up on paperwork and crunching his way through a bag of thick pretzels. Joel... Joel was doing something unexciting -- Jim wasn't quite sure what -- and sighing dramatically every five minutes.
Crime was way down. Boredom was at an all-time high.
Given all the hype concerning the year 2000, Jim had assumed that the week before New Year's would be inundated with crime sprees, murders, and general chaos, but he couldn't have been more wrong. One domestic murder, being handled by Homicide. One homeless man dead in a straightforward mugging, also handled by Homicide. One failed attempt to clean out the cash register at a local gas station, being handled by Robbery. No major crimes reported within miles. The gangs seemed to have gone south for the winter. Potential terrorists stuck to the border towns. Politicians and their campaigns were back east in New Hampshire. As peace officers, the men and women of Major Crime were grateful for the current reign of lawfulness. As imperfect human beings, they were desperate for something -- anything -- to happen.
Until then, Jim, like Henri, was stuck working on his own backlog of reports, forced to earn his paycheck one way or another. Even Blair was having more fun, sitting over at the courthouse in case he was needed to testify.
"People! Your attention please!" Simon Banks entered the bullpen from the hallway and stood front and center.
All tapping, crunching, and sighing stopped and eight glazed eyes looked up at their captain.
"I just came from the mayor's office," Simon continued, "and he confirmed what we suspected. Because of the potential panic surrounding Y2K, every officer available will be on duty New Year's Eve. Since Megan's in Australia on 'holiday,' and Dills is in Florida visiting his parents, they're excused. But the rest of us will be here Friday night."
No one even blinked. "Whatever," said Rafe.
"Good." Simon frowned. "It won't be the same, I know, but I figure we can have our own little New Year's Eve party here, sans alcohol of course. I've taken the liberty of assigning food for each of you to bring." He began passing out squares of notepaper.
"Assignments? Can't we just bring what we want?" Jim scowled at his piece of paper. Swedish meatballs?
"What the hell is jelly salad?" asked Henri. "Lettuce mixed with strawberry jam or something? That sounds disgusting."
"That's 'Jell-O' salad," Simon said patiently. "You know, Jell-O mixed with fruit? And the reason for assigning food is the Christmas luncheon last week. If I recall correctly, we had twelve orders of Wonder Nuggets, six bags of potato chips, one large beefstick, a block of cheese with no crackers, tofu-spinach something-or-other, and a dreadful lemon store-bought pie brought in by yours truly. I think the new millennium deserves a little more effort than that."
"I thought the luncheon was pretty good, even that tofu stuff." Jim shrugged and stuck the note in his pocket. "And don't mention the phrase 'new millennium' around Sandburg or you'll get a math lecture on the base ten number system and what constitutes an actual millennium."
"Why am I not surprised? Now if there are no arguments concerning the New Year's Party..." The captain's glare dared anyone to argue with him. "Good. Ellison, my office."
Jim sighed in relief. Even though Simon's tone made it clear that the news, whatever it was, wasn't good, at least was going to get him away from his mind-numbing paperwork.
"Here." Simon handed Jim a cup of coffee as he entered the office. "What's with the look?"
Jim held up a hand and continued to eavesdrop. The 'look' turned into a smile. "Brown's trying to get Rafe to trade party dishes with him, though he's not much happier with Rafe's assignment. Rumaki, sir?"
"Mm. Chicken liver and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. Delicious."
"I know what rumaki is, Captain. I also recall that it's one of your favorites. So are Swedish meatballs."
Simon scowled and sat back in his chair. "Would you like to know why I asked you in here or not?"
"I don't know, sir." Jim remained standing, but crossed his legs and leaned against the conference table. "Would I?"
The captain's expression turned serious. "Actually, Jim, I found out something at the courthouse that I thought you should know. Oliver Perron is defending Gillespie."
"Damn." Jim rubbed his hands over his face, then looked up angrily. "What the hell is a hard-assed, well-known lawyer like Perron doing defending a smalltimer like Gillespie?"
"Apparently he's the kid's uncle. Wife's sister's son."
Jim banged the table with the palm of his hand and started pacing. "We should have known. We should have asked."
"Whoa there, Detective. This is nobody's fault. And the kid was going to have to face this sooner or later."
Until now, Blair Sandburg had been spared having to testify in a trial. Normally this wasn't a problem for a rookie detective, but given Blair's admission of academic fraud earlier in the year, everyone in Major Crime was dreading the day when he'd have to testify, pitted against a lawyer whose sole purpose would be to shred the young man's reputation into a thousand pieces.
The Gillespie trial had seemed like the perfect forum for breaking Blair in. Micky Gillespie had been seen purse snatching in front of several witnesses, and Blair had been the one to capture and arrest him. Simple. Straightforward. At least ten other witnesses. They knew Gillespie was going to plead not guilty, hence Blair's having to testify, but they had assumed the public defender would be on the case, a sensible young lawyer who concentrated on cleverly manipulating facts, not destroying witnesses. But Oliver "The Pirhanna" Perron was another story, the slimiest, most evil, corrupt, repulsive, and uncompassionate lawyer Jim had ever run across. And of course he had to be Micky Gillespie's uncle. Just Sandburg's luck.
Jim gazed absently through the window, down the street in the direction of the courthouse. "Maybe I should just --"
"No, you shouldn't 'just,'" Simon cut in immediately. "Sandburg's smart and he's tough. He'll be fine. He knows he has your unconditional support. You don't need to be there in person."
"But there's nothing --"
"Unless you were going to finish that sentence with '...like a captain's advice,' I'd just leave it unfinished. I'm willing to bet a month's salary that you haven't finished your paperwork yet."
"I thought so. You know, the higher the closure rate, the greater the quantity of paper work. That's something the ancient Sentinels didn't have to worry about." Simon gave Jim one of his throaty "heh heh heh" laughs and chomped down on an unlit cigar.
Someone knocked on the door. "It's open."
Henri stuck his head in and searched out Jim by the window. "Sorry, Captain. Jim, there's some old guy sitting at Sandburg's desk."
"Yeah. Didn't say what he wanted."
Jim sighed. "Let's hope he has a crime to solve."
Henri and Simon trailed Jim as he returned to the bullpen. Rafe, Joel, and even Rhonda had unabashedly stopped working in order to watch the scene in front of them.
The old man was in his 70s, perhaps early 80s. Small and thin, he had a shock of thick, wild, grey-white hair sprouting from his head and, in contrast, a very neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard. The man stood up and smiled politely when Jim headed towards him. Dressed in a subtle brown plaid suit and large spectacles, the man had a clear, probing look that missed nothing.
"Sir?" Jim held out his hand. The man's return grip was strong and brief.
"You must be Detective Ellison. I've heard so much about you."
Returning the polite smile, Jim cocked his head and waited.
"I'm Professor Stoddard," the man explained. Of course. The stereotypical professor. "Eli. A former professor of Blair's."
Jim straightened at that. "Oh yes... um, Borneo?"
"Correct! That was some time ago, now." The professor's smile brightened. "Blair would have been invaluable on that study with me, but I think he made the right choice."
Damn straight he did, Jim thought, but simply nodded. Stoddard was looking at him with that intense gaze, sizing him up and down until Jim felt compelled to add softly, "He did make the right choice, sir."
"Yes. Yes, he did." The professor smiled again, nodding as if he and Jim had reached some sort of secret understanding, then reached behind himself for a paper bag. "I gather Blair isn't here at the moment? Too bad. Perhaps you could give this to him for me. It's an artifact that's recently come in to my possession, and I'd be most interested in his assessment of it."
The bag was one size larger than a typical lunch bag. Jim took it from Stoddard and reached inside. Grimacing, he removed something L-shaped and furry, something that instantly made his flesh crawl. "Uh, what should I tell him this is, exactly?"
"A baboon's foot."
"Excuse me?" Someone behind Jim made an "eew" sound.
The professor looked amused. "A real honest-to-goodness baboon's foot. I've been studying a fairly new tribe discovered in the outer regions of Arabia, and from what we can determine they considered the indigenous baboons sacred. Far back in their history, a baboon named Oppehsiah saved the entire tribe from annihilation, though we've yet to decipher how. When this baboon died, they removed his left foot and had it preserved, mummified if you will. This foot has magical powers, according to the legend."
Jim's smile became pasted to his face as he nodded absently. "That's nice."
"Magical powers?" Joel shared a look of skepticism with the others.
"According to tribal lore, anyone holding the baboon's foot thusly --" Professor Stoddard demonstrated in midair "-- could make a wish, and this wish would be granted within a 24-hour period."
Simon "heh heh heh"ed again and Jim shook his head slightly. He returned the baboon's foot to the paper bag and dropped it on his desk. "I'll be sure Sandburg gets this."
"Thank you, Detective." They shook hands again. With a final, penetrating look at Jim and a quick nod, Professor Stoddard left.
After the elevator doors had closed, the entire bullpen exploded into laughter.
"Magic foot, my foot!" Henri guffawed.
"It doesn't have a leg to stand on!" Rafe hollered, almost tipping himself off the desk.
"At least it has 'sole,'" Joel roared.
"Wish for something, Ellison," Rafe said. "Come on! Let's see if it works."
"I..." Jim didn't really know what to say. The whole thing was just too ridiculous.
Simon nudged him. "Just wish Sandburg good luck or something."
"Good luck?" Joel wiped the tears away from his eyes. "Something go wrong in court?"
"Turns out The Pirhanna is the defending attorney at Gillespie's trial."
"Shit." Henri looked stricken.
"Well, now you've got to give it a try," said Rafe. "For Sandburg's sake."
Simon removed the foot from the bag and plopped it into Jim's hands.
Jim sat down heavily in his chair and sighed. "This thing gives me the creeps."
"You're holding it wrong." Rafe demonstrated the way the professor had shown.
"You do it then," Jim said irritably.
Rafe held up his hands. "No thank you, Ellison. That honor belongs to you."
Everyone waited. Jim looked from one man to the next. Even Rhonda had paused mid-staple to watch.
"All right, all right." He grasped the sole of the foot portion in his right hand and the back of the leg with his left and closed his eyes. "I wish..." Jim cleared his throat and got into the part, intoning with a deep voice: "I wish Sandburg wouldn't have to testify before Oliver Perron."
The bullpen erupted into cheers.
Blair sighed and looked at the clock. Man, was this boring or what? He'd been sitting on the same hard chair in the same deserted hallway for the past three hours. His butt was sore and he was incredibly thirsty. What was taking so long? The defense didn't have a prayer of winning, so he had been genuinely surprised when the kid had gone through with his "not guilty" plea. Even so, he should have been the second witness up, following Mrs. Gavin, the lady whose purse had been stolen.
Just then, the door to the courtroom opened and Mrs. Gavin staggered out. Her hair, carefully piled into a bun that morning, was in complete disarray. Mascara tracked where tears had fallen and her eyes were puffy and red. Her clothes looked like she'd been trampled by a herd of elephants.
"Detective Sandburg," the bailiff who had opened the door announced.
"Yeah, okay." Blair's attention was on the woman reeling past him. "Mrs. Gavin? My god, what happened to you?"
"It's that monster," she croaked. "He's evil. I would have given that boy my purse if I'd known."
Blair held out his hand hesitantly, not sure what to say. Mrs. Gavin just blew her nose and hurried off.
"You're next, Detective." The bailiff held the door open and waited. Blair swallowed nervously and entered the courtroom.
Yes! Jim thought triumphantly as he tore yet another report off the printer and stacked it neatly on the witness statements pile... right next to the evidence logs, the field notes forms, the crime reports, the probable cause forms, and the ever-popular follow-up reports. His triumph was short-lived, however, when he realized he had still only completed about half the reports due. Somewhat discouraged, he returned to his notebook and computer.
An hour later something made him look up. "Anyone else hear that?" he asked, looking around.
"I didn't hear nothin'," Henri shrugged, eating a cruller.
"It's..." Jim cocked his head, listening. There it was again.
Oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man...
"Uh, never mind." Jim's face flushed a little as he realized it was Sandburg he was hearing, in the elevator, still several floors down. A nervous tapping accompanied the 'oh man' mantra, and when Jim concentrated he could hear his partner's elevated heartbeat. Apparently the trial had not gone well. So much for the power of the baboon's foot.
Concentrating on the elevator doors behind him while pretending to browse his notebook, Jim was ready when the doors opened and Blair popped out. He forced himself to wait until Blair actually came into the bullpen area, flung his pack to the floor, and collapsed in his chair.
"You okay, Chief?"
Blair nodded, a bewildered expression on his face.
"Hairboy's back!" Henri called out, and Simon joined them from his office.
Blair didn't seem at all surprised by the sudden attention. "Man, you would not believe what happened. There was this lawyer --"
"Oliver Perron," Jim supplied.
"The Pirhanna," Henri corrected.
"--and he was representing Gillespie, not Paul whatshisname, the nice guy. Now, I don't know what he said or did to Mrs. Gavin --"
"The woman whose purse was stolen," Jim said for the sake of the others.
"--but she looked like hell after testifying. I'll tell you guys, I was scared to death. Then the PA warned me just before I got on the witness stand that this guy... Perron?... was a real bastard and I thought 'oh man, he's gonna bring up'... well, you know. So the bailiff swears me in and I get on the witness stand, and the PA asks me about the purse snatching, and I respond with brief, concise answers like they taught us... thanks, man."
Blair paused to gulp water from the cup Jim handed him.
"And?" Simon crossed his arms.
Blair set down the cup and wiped his mouth. "And then the judge asks this Perron asshole if he wants to cross-examine me, and the guy -- I kid you not -- rubs his hands together gleefully and says 'do I ever, Your Honor.'"
"Gleefully?" Henri whispered to Rafe.
"And I think 'oh shit, now I'm really in for it' and my palms start sweating, and I can feel my heart beating like the tribal drums of New Guinea..." he paused to take another drink.
"And?" from Simon again.
"And then he approaches the witness stand and flips open this notebook, presumably with all this information on me that he can't wait to make public, and he asks 'Mr. Sandburg' -- won't even call me 'Detective' -- 'Mr. Sandburg, what line of work were you in prior to joining the police force?' And the PA yells 'I object, Your Honor! Relevence!' and the sleazy guy yells back 'Oh, I'll give you relevence' and then they start this major yelling match and the judge is trying to interrupt them, and finally she just takes her gavel and slams it against the little wooden disk --" Blair demonstrated with his fist on the desk "-- and the head of the gavel flies off -- WHAM! -- right into the back of the sleazy guy's head."
Jim started to get a funny feeling in his gut. "Quit scratching," he said automatically as Blair reached for the healing bullet graze he'd acquired last week. Blair immediately pulled his hand away and ran it nervously through his hair instead.
"Did it knock him out?" Rafe asked, looking at the others.
"Knock him out?" Blair's eyes were wide. "Yeah, man. It knocked him right out of Cascade and into the Great Beyond. I mean, one minute he's screaming at the PA, and the next minute he's flat on his back with his eyes just kind of, you know, not staring up at the ceiling. And blood..." Blair grimaced and waved his hand as if to erase the image. "Lotsa blood."
"Whoa," Henri said. Everyone but Blair looked directly at Jim who was studiously avoiding looking at his third desk drawer.
"And," Simon prodded gently.
"And that's it. Finito. Q.E.D. End of trial. That's all she wrote." Blair shook his head and finished off the water. "Weird."
"Weird," Rafe echoed.
"Captain?" Rhonda called, holding out a telephone receiver.
No one had even heard the phone ring. Simon returned to his office to take the call, and the others crowded closer around Blair.
"So he never really got to question you, right Hairboy?"
"Well, I guess not."
"And you never actually testified, did you?"
"Never. Not yet, anyway. I guess there'll be a retrial."
Simon stalked out of his office with a note. "There's been a murder at Cascade National. Ellison! Sandburg, you up for this?"
Blair nodded and re-zipped the jacket he'd never completely taken off. Jim grabbed his own coat.
"Finally. Some action."
Rafe and Brown grabbed their coats as well.
"Where do you think you're going?" Simon asked them as he handed Jim the address and basic information.
"Uh..." Henri started.
"Canvassing? Witness interviews?" Rafe offered.
"Captain, if I eat one more doughnut..."
Simon scowled and let the moment hang. Then he waved his hand in resignation. "Go. Get out of here."
They couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Hunter Anderson. Computer programmer. Age 29. Deceased.
"Oh, man." Blair paled at the sight of the body -- strangulations were not pleasant -- but stoically carried on with his detective duties. Jim was thankful that viewing death never seemed to get any easier for his partner. Touching Blair's arm, he pointed to the desk.
"Why don't you check out the computer, Chief. I'll handle things here."
Blair nodded gratefully. The desk was a mess; notes and papers and disks and books and candy wrappers were scattered everywhere, though it gave the appearance of poor housekeeping rather than the frantic searching of an intruder. The computer emitted an annoying BOIP BOIP BOIP as the screensaver sent multicolored balls of various sizes bouncing against the top, bottom, and sides of the monitor. He sighed and sat down in Anderson's chair.
Forensics had already done their part, and the coroner's team waited outside to do theirs, so Jim didn't waste any time. He knelt down next to the body and examined it first as a detective, then as a Sentinel. Dan had said that the murder probably happened sometime yesterday afternoon and rigor mortis had already set in. Lying on the floor, Hunter Anderson had been positioned as if he were lying in a coffin, body flat on its back, arms crossed over the chest. The Y, 2, and K keys had been ripped from the keyboard and placed between the young man's lips in a macabre smile. The murder weapon, a computer cable, was still wrapped around his neck.
"Hey Jim, check this out."
The screensaver was gone and a simulation of a note made from newspaper cutouts stared back at him from the screen.
Y2K is rEally
"Looks like whoever killed Anderson infected the computer with Y2K problems," Blair suggested. He motioned to a small blue box. "And there's a zip disk in the drive."
"Use your handkerchief to remove it," Jim said, "just in case Forensics didn't think to dust it."
"Like I have a handkerchief," Blair mumbled. He pulled an evidence bag from one of his pockets and grabbed a screen wipe to remove the disk. Dropping it in the bag, he marked it appropriately. "How are you doing?"
Jim sniffed loudly for effect. "Well, no strange odors. No unique perfumes or aftershave or cologne. No single hairs or clothing threads embedded into the carpeting. No microscopic clues clinging to the woodwork."
Blair looked disappointed. "Guess we'll have to do it the hard way."
"Worked for Sherlock Holmes."
"You know, I have this theory that Sherlock Holmes was a Sentinel."
"Of course you do," said Jim. Blair's earnest expression stopped the rest of his commentary. Oh lord. He's serious.
"Conan-Doyle may have been one himself and projected the traits onto Holmes. I mean, think about it -- the detailed conclusions he makes based on minuscule clues, his perfect musical pitch, his ability to distinguish people by their scents. If you analyse the --" he stopped suddenly when the door to Anderson's office opened. Rafe and Brown sauntered in.
Saved, Jim thought. He stood up and looked pointedly at the chocolate eclair Henri was scarfing down. "Well, I can see you two've been busy 'canvassing' and 'interviewing.'"
"Hey, the receptionist insisted I take one."
Rafe diverted attention from his partner. "We talked to the bank manager. He said Anderson was a nice quiet guy, kept to himself, worked lots of odd hours which I guess is typical for computer geeks, couldn't imagine why anyone would kill him..."
"...nothing like this has ever happened before, what's the world coming to, yadda yadda yadda," Jim guessed.
Rafe grinned and flipped a page in his notebook. "Anderson often worked straight through lunch and didn't like to be interrupted, so no one was concerned about not having seen him. It was only because one of the secretaries decided to bring him an eclair that the body was finally discovered."
Henri licked his fingers as he swallowed the last of the eclair. "The bank manager also gave us a name of a recently fired employee, one..."
"Derek Monahan," Rafe supplied.
"...and he and Anderson didn't get along very well. I guess Monahan didn't treat his computer very well, and Anderson got tired of having to repair it."
"What was he fired for?" asked Blair.
"Rude to the customers. He was a bank teller with a short temper."
"Hey, he can always get a job at the DMV," Blair grinned.
"Got a current address?"
"Yeah. 242 Greeley Street. Joel's checking him for priors." Rafe flipped his notebook shut and returned it to his pocket.
"All right. You two stay here and get statements from everyone, and Sandburg and I will check out Monahan. Tomorrow morning we can regroup."
"How come we don't get to check out Monahan?"
Jim held up his hands. "Hey, I wouldn't dream of keeping you from your interviewing and canvassing ." He placed his hand on Blair's back and prodded him toward the door. "Come along, Watson."
Jim had just started the truck when his cellphone rang. Flipping the phone open, he pulled away from the curb. "Ellison."
It was Joel. "Hey, Jim. I got that information on Derek Monahan for you. He's accumulated the usual number of traffic violations and parking tickets, and never actually been arrested, but he has been involved in a couple of barroom fights. Broke a guy's nose a few years back and threatened another guy with a broken bottle six months ago. He received as good as he got, though, and no charges were pressed in either case."
Greeley Street was in a modest, low-income part of town. Similar one- and two-story houses were built close together with postage stamp yards in the back. Most were white, some were dark green or blue or grey, and all of them needed paint. Street lamps provided ample light in the late afternoon darkness.
Blair pointed. "There it is."
242 was a white house on the left, a little more run down than the others. A man had just exited the house and was locking the door. Jim parked the truck on the opposite side of the street and got out.
The man turned and froze, caught in the proverbial headlights. After a brief hesitation, he ran down the front steps.
"Police! Stop! We just want to talk to you."
"Hey, I wanted to say that," Blair grumbled. He was two steps behind his partner as they ran toward the house. Monahan jumped the bottom step and headed for the back yard, Jim right behind him. Blair switched directions to head him off.
As he rounded the back corner, Monahan saw a 5'7" blur bearing down on him so he abruptly U-turned and ran straight into a large, well-muscled chest.
"Gotcha." Jim grabbed the guy and pushed him against the side of the house. Pulling out his badge, he motioned for Blair to do the same. "Jim Ellison, Cascade PD, and this is my partner, Blair Sandburg."
"What do you want?" Monahan growled.
"Like I said, we just want to talk to you."
"But I didn't do anything!"
"If you didn't do anything, why did you run?"
"Hey, I didn't know who you were."
Blair scoffed. "What part of 'Police! Stop!' didn't you understand?"
"Oh." He was openly sneering now. "I thought you said please stop."
"Riiight." Jim stepped closer, making his captive squirm uncomfortably. "And polite people scare you?"
"Something like that." The guy definitely had an attitude problem.
"Where were you yesterday afternoon?"
For a minute, Jim thought they were going to have to bring him down to the station, which he really didn't want to do since it was getting late and the loft was calling to him. Fortunately, Monahan's common sense prevailed.
"I was at Rio Jack's."
Blair nodded. "The gambling bar."
Jim looked at his partner in surprise. "Officially, it's just a bar."
Blair tilted his head as he looked back at him. His look was one of great patience. "My cousin Robert?"
"Ah." Jim returned his attention to man trying to twist from his grasp. "You know Hunter Anderson?"
"Anderson! That pompous little geek. He say I did something?"
"No. He's dead. Murdered. Yesterday afternoon."
Jim noticed with great satisfaction that Monahan's arrogance diminished somewhat with that knowledge.
"I didn't do it. I was at Rio Jack's, uh, drinking."
"As early as 4?"
"I'm out of work. They open at 3. You do the math." Monahan sighed. "I'd be there right now except I had a job interview earlier."
"Were you upset enough about being fired to infect the computer at Cascade National Bank with a virus?" This from Blair.
"I don't know squat about computers or computer viruses. I leave that to geeks like Anderson. Besides, my bank account's at Cascade National. Why would I mess with my own money?"
Jim had had enough of this guy. "You have lots of witnesses who can verify you were at Rio's yesterday?"
"Yeah, I do."
Jim patted Monahan's shoulders and stepped back. "Give us five names, and we're out of here."
Monahan gave them five names.
December 29, 1999
"Here are the witness statements from the bank," said Rafe.
Jim looked up from his own endless paper work and took several neatly typed pages from Rafe and Brown.
"Thanks." He looked at the two expectantly when neither of them moved. "Yes?"
Henri waved vaguely at the witness statements. "Three different people noticed a bearded guy in a big, puffy winter coat, ski hat, and gloves. He'd come in about an hour before closing time carrying two cups from Starbuck's. Said he was a friend of Anderson's and wanted to bring him some coffee."
Rafe glanced briefly at his partner. "No one questioned it. Anderson was fairly well-liked and had visitors now and then."
"Okay, thanks." The other two still didn't budge. "Okay, what?"
Rafe startled at the sudden exclamation. "Uh, Henri and I... That is... we... you know, the two of us, were wondering..."
"What? What?" Jim had a sneaking suspicion. He hoped he was wrong.
"You told Hairboy about the baboon's foot thing yet?" Henri spit the sentence out like he was yanking the Band-Aid off a cut.
Jim sighed. "Haven't you two got anything better to do?"
Rafe shook his head. "In all honesty, no."
"Look," Henri leaned casually across Jim's desk and kept his voice low, "Sandburg's gone on the lunch run and won't be back for a few. Rafe and I were just wondering if we could try it out."
Jim tipped back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. "You guys don't honestly believe in that legend, do you?"
Rafe scoffed. "I'll ask Oliver Perron and get back to you on that."
"Come on, babe," Henri grinned. "Just for fun. As a test. Aren't you the great detective who doesn't believe in coincidences?"
Jim shook his head and opened the third drawer. "I can't believe I'm doing this." And I can't believe I'm actually worried about doing this. The foot still gave him the creeps whenever he got near it. "Here you go, gentlemen. Knock yourselves out. And I hope I don't mean that literally."
Like kids in a toy store, Rafe and Henri grabbed the bag, laughing lightly as they removed the foot. Glancing nonchalantly around the near-empty bullpen, Henri went first.
"I wish," he intoned dramatically, hands in their proper positions on the baboon's foot, "to loose 20 pounds this month to make up for all the extra food I've been eating during this 'downtime for crime.'"
Rafe grabbed the foot from him. "Don't bore the thing with your life's story, H."
The way they were acting, Jim figured Brown would respond by sticking out his tongue. Instead, he just looked down critically at his belly.
"The wish can take up to twenty-four hours, you know," Jim pointed out. "And maybe you shorted the foot out by creating a paradox -- a month-long wish that by legend must be accomplished in 24 hours."
Henri actually looked worried. Rafe waved him off. "My turn." He too looked around the room, though in his case it wasn't to check for potential eavesdroppers. Instead, he was checking out Rhonda, studiously working at her desk. His cheeks became an interesting shade of pink as he turned back, his voice barely above a whisper. "I wish for Rhonda to take me home."
"Ou la la," his partner grinned, wiggling his hips. Rafe bobbed his eyebrows.
Jim plucked the baboon's foot from Rafe's hand and returned it to the paper bag. "Now if you boys are done playing," he said, patting Henri's knee, "the grownups need to get back to work." He returned the bag to his desk drawer and waved with his fingers. "Bye-bye."
Laughing, the two detectives walked away. "I think you look skinnier already," he could hear Rafe saying. "You do?" Henri answered, glancing at himself sideways in the window.
That's it, Jim thought. As soon as Sandburg returned he was going to get rid of that thing.
"Roast beef! BLT! Tuna Salad! Mushroom soup!" yelled Blair carrying a box full of bags. He was instantly surrounded. "Nice to be popular." He grinned at Jim, tossing him the roast beef grinder.
Jim nodded his thanks and unwrapped just enough to take a first bite. He hadn't realized how hungry he was.
"Sandburg!" Simon bellowed from his doorway. "When you bring my soup, I want you and Ellison to give me an update on the Anderson Case. And quit yelling!"
"Yes sir, Simon." Blair dropped the empty box on his desk and picked up the soup. He flashed a huge grin as they headed toward the captain's office. "Man, this'll be great..."
"What'll be great?" Jim considered a minute, then regretfully left his sandwich on his desk to join his partner.
"You'll see." Blair bounced up on his heels and seemed immensely pleased with himself.
"Chief, what did you --"
"Shh!" Blair batted his arm. They had arrived. Handing Simon the soup, Blair hopped up onto the conference table while Jim chose to remain standing.
"Thanks, Sandburg." Simon removed the cover and blew lightly into the cup. He scowled and looked up. "I don't suppose it occurred to you that I might need a spoon?"
"Oh. Yeah. Hold on a minute." Blair patted his pockets a few times, frowned, and suddenly remembered the plastic spoon in his back pocket. "Here you go."
"Anything new on the case?" The captain looked at the plastic spoon as if it were radioactive, then plopped it into the soup.
"Not really, sir," Jim said. "According to the witness' statements, the murderer could have been a man who entered the bank at around 4:30 Monday afternoon claiming to be Anderson's friend. Unfortunately, the description is pretty ambiguous: jacket, hat, gloves, beard. We haven't ruled out Monahan completely yet, though his alibi has been verified by friends. We still think it is possible that he left the club and came back without being noticed."
Blair's eyebrows raised since the witness' testimony was news to him.
"Any other suspects?" Simon's mood had relaxed considerably as he enjoyed his lunch.
"Well, there's this survivalist group that's been picketing banks and other financial institutions," Blair offered. "The group is led by some guy named Asters. He thinks civilization will end because of the financial chaos caused by Y2K. They've been hoarding food and water in a camp just a few miles north of Cascade."
"You talked to this guy Asters?"
"Uh, no." Blair ran his fingers through his hair. "Jim doesn't think we have enough to warrant that yet; I'm merely posing the group as a possibility."
Jim batted Blair's hand as it started scratching his bullet wound again, and Blair chose wisely to cross his arms instead.
Simon nodded around another spoonful of the soup. "Good job."
"Rafe and Brown are checking out Anderson, but he seems pretty --"
"AAH!" Simon jumped up from his chair, eyes wide and staring at the cup. The spoon jerked out of his hand, flinging dots of soup all over his desktop. Only a miracle kept the cup upright. "Son of a bitch!"
Blair burst into laughter, torn between reaching out to help his captain or curling into a ball and becoming invisible. "Oh, man, Simon," he choked out. "If you could have seen your face!"
Jim moved away from his partner in order to escape culpability. Sandburg was on his own here.
Simon stopped his clean-up activities and glared with all of his captain's power at his newest detective.
"Uh oh." Blair tried desperately to stop laughing. "It was just a joke, Si-- uh, sir."
"Do I look like I'm laughing, Sandburg?"
"No, um, not at all. But if you had just seen your face --"
"Stop!" Simon held up a hand and completed wiping up his desk. After a semblance of order returned, he used the spoon to dig something out of the soup cup.
"This, I take it, is yours?" he asked Blair. Blair stared at the rubber eyeball sitting on the spoon and started grinning helplessly all over again. Jim recognized the eyeball immediately.
"Chief. You didn't." First Rafe and Brown, now Sandburg. When exactly had Major Crime turned into a daycare center?
Simon's glare turned on him. "You knew about this, Ellison?"
"Only vaguely, Captain. I... wasn't myself at the time. And I thought it was lost."
"What do you mean you weren't yourself?"
"Remember the cooking competition, when we went undercover? I got... high -- on catnip, sir."
"High on catnip." Simon looked from one partner to the other. "Never mind. I don't want to know. Go on, get out of here."
Blair smiled, thinking he had gotten away with something. He hopped off the table and held out his hand.
"What, Sandburg?" Simon had returned to his soup, checking it warily with every bite.
"My eyeball, please?"
The evil captain grin flooded Simon's face. "Oh, I don't think so. This is mine, now. In fact, I believe I'll have a very interesting use for this some time in the future." He tossed the eyeball in the palm of his hand a few times.
"Aw, come on, Captain, it's just a --"
Simon leaned forward and said in a soft, dangerous voice, "Did you or did you not give it to me? If it wasn't a gift, then I'll have to assume that you were playing a very mean-spirited trick on a superior officer. Now, which is it?"
Blair swallowed. "Gift, sir. Definitely a gift."
"I thought so." Simon grinned and returned to his soup. Jim and Blair turned to leave. "Oh, and Sandburg?"
"I hope you don't have a girly scream. Could prove embarrassing."
"Yes!" Blair exclaimed from his desk two hours later, eyeball forgotten.
Jim looked up.
"Monahan majored in mathematics in college, but minored in computer science."
"So he lied. He does have the knowledge to create a computer virus."
Jim's phone rang before Blair could respond. After taking the call, he grabbed his coat.
"Monahan may be a moot point, Chief. Grab your coat. Brown? Rafe? You with us?"
He'd hardly gotten the words out of his mouth before the two detectives in question were standing by the door, coats in hand. Boredom was still running rampant in Major Crime.
"What's up?" Blair asked.
"Our murderer has just become a serial killer."
Portia Delahunt. Computer Programmer. Age 36. Deceased.
Like Hunter Anderson, she worked for a bank, specifically the First National Bank of Washington. Like Anderson, she'd been strangled, this time with a mouse cord. Like Anderson, her body had been positioned as if she were lying in state. Like Anderson, the Y 2 K keys had been placed between her lips to form a smile. And like Cascade National, the computer at First National may have been infected with a virus since the exact same note appeared on Delahunt's computer screen.
"So what we've got is someone with a grudge against banks." Jim took a bite of apple pie and grimaced. "Ugh. I think they used diesel fuel instead of shortening."
After reviewing the crime scene, the four detectives had decided to stop for coffee and a bite to eat before heading back to the station. The diner was a Sentinel's nightmare -- smoky, gritty, garish, and worse yet, their booth was right next to the heavy swinging kitchen door which THWACK THWACK THWACKed every time it was used, and it was used often.
"I love this place," Henri said. His idea of a snack was a hamburger and french fries. Blair picked at an iceberg lettuce salad and Rafe wisely ordered only the coffee.
"Someone with a grudge and Y2K issues," Blair pointed out. "Which brings us back to the survivalists."
"I could almost buy one of those survivalists as a murderer, but why infect the computers? We've already determined that both banks became Y2K compliant months ago."
"Self-fulfilling prophecy? Their group has claimed the banking system will fail; perhaps someone in the group wants to make certain it will fail. Ha! I found a tomato!" Blair triumphantly speared a wilted piece of tomato about the size of a pea.
"What about Monahan?" Rafe asked. "He still a suspect?"
"Good question." Jim shoved the pie away and stuck with his coffee. "He made a comment that I keep coming back to. He said 'Besides, my bank account's at Cascade National. Why would I mess with my own money?' I think we should get a list of all the accounts closed out in the past month at Cascade National and First National, and a list of all new accounts opened at elsewhere. Then we can cross-reference the names. The killer would want to protect his own money from the virus he created. Of course, that assumes he was a customer at Cascade or First National to begin with."
"Man, Ellison, do you know how many people that's gonna be?" Henri said.
"It's not like we have anything better to do."
Henri sighed. "I gotta use the can."
He flung himself out of the booth and right into the path of the swinging kitchen door. The 250 pound bus boy on the other side had slammed through the door with enough strength to send the large detective careening back several feet where he lay writhing in pain.
"Oh my God." Blair stared wide-eyed for a moment before grabbing for his cellphone. Jim and Rafe were already administering first aid.
"Thanks, Simon. I'll call you when I know something." Jim closed his cellphone and dropped it into his pocket. He was just about to return to his seat when Rafe emerged from the emergency room cubical.
"How is he?" Blair asked.
"High on Demerol," Rafe grinned. "His jaw was broken in two places and it's got to be wired shut for several weeks. Not pretty."
"Ouch." Blair grimaced and unconsciously touched his own jaw. "That happened to my roommate my sophomore year. He could only eat through a straw, so all his solid food had to be pureed. Actually, that's when I discovered those algae shakes."
"H is more of a steak and potatoes kind of guy," Jim said sympathetically. "He is not going to be a happy camper."
"He'll just have to find something else he likes," Blair said wisely. "My roommate lost like 15, 20 pounds in one month. He even had to go in the hospital for an IV -- Rafe, man, what's wrong?"
Rafe had paled considerably when Blair mentioned the weight loss. Jim found himself swallowing uncomfortably.
Blair misunderstood the situation. "Hey, come on. Sit down. Henri will be okay, you said so yourself."
Tugged over to the bank of seats by the wall, Rafe willingly sat down. He locked eyes with Jim and Jim shrugged dismissively, not wanting to accept what Rafe was silently stating.
Once is a coincidence.
The baboon's foot was two for two.
December 30, 1999
Morton Schenk. Computer Programmer. Age 34. Not quite deceased.
"Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital, Mr. Schenk?" Jim asked. The young man shook his head and gratefully drank from the glass of water Blair handed him. He was still having trouble catching his breath, and his neck was one long angry red welt.
He was lucky. Near as Jim could figure, the killer thought Schenk was dead, used the computer to download the virus, and when Schenk started to wake up, the killer tried to complete the job, only to be interrupted by one of the loan officers entering his office to ask a question.
"Mrs. Laramie saw the back of the killer as he escaped out the window," Blair was explaining. "Just his coat and foot, so she can't really give a description."
"Thanks for the water," Schenk croaked. He handed the glass back to Blair. "Can I go home now?"
"Do you think you could come into the station on Monday to give an official statement?'
Nodding, Schenk got unsteadily to his feet.
"Do you need someone to drive you home?" Jim asked.
He shook his head. "Friend."
"Okay. We'll have some officers sitting outside your home for protection, so don't be alarmed."
Schenk's eyes got wide. "Protection? Oh my god."
"It's okay." Blair helped him find his briefcase and hat. "We figure the killer is probably satisfied with having put the virus in the computer system, and leave you alone now. You'll be fine."
Jim nodded when Schenk turned his frightened gaze on him. "And if you remember anything else, please feel free to give me a call." He handed him a business card.
Schenk nodded again and left the office.
Blair ran a hand through his hair. "What now, Holmes?"
Whapping his partner on the forehead, Jim headed for the door. "I think I'm finally ready to meet your survivalists, Chief."
"Sometimes I think it would be therapeutic to get away from civilization for an extended period of time. I think that guy -- what was his name? -- Ted Kazcinski, had the right idea for the most part." Blair shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets and hunched down in the cold air. They had parked the truck outside of the survivalist's compound -- Y2K-OS -- and had to trek in through the woods. "Well, minus the letter-bombing, killing people part."
"I'd be willing to pull some strings and get you a two or three year stint in Solitary at the Washington State Prison if you want, Chief. Does wonders for the guys there."
The rustic trail led them to a clearing, what could have been an old mining town. The wooden buildings were gone, but the foundations were still there, along with an old well near the center. Tents and campfires were scattered all about and by extending his sight, Jim could make out a huge family-sized bubble tent full of canned goods and other non-perishable foods at the far side of camp. Thirty-five, forty people milled about performing various duties. He and Sandburg were ignored by most, but a man and woman broke from the group and hurried over, their expressions not exactly welcoming.
"May I help you?" the man asked politely. Hands on hips, he was thin and wiry, with fierce black eyes and think black hair. His skin had a weathered look to it, thick and textured. The woman next to him was about the same height but with a healthier proportion of weight. Her hair was brown and wispy, pulled back into a fierce bun. Next to them, Rafe and Rhonda were the perfect couple.
Jim removed his badge. "James Ellison, Cascade PD, my partner Blair Sandburg. We're looking for Robert Asters."
"I'm Asters," the man said, not offering to shake hands. "This is my domestic partner, Eleanora Sweetwater. I can assure you we own this land and I have the deed to prove it. Furthermore, what we are doing here is not illegal."
"I'm sure it's not." Jim forced a smile. "I'll get right to the point. Three computer programmers have been attacked at three different banks; only one survived. The banks' computer systems may also have been infected with a virus. With your public denouncement of Y2K and its affect on the financial well-being of the country, we had to consider you or one of your followers a potential suspect."
"That's ridiculous!" Asters said. "We're against violence and most definitely against computers. I'm not sure anyone here would even know the difference between a computer virus and a chipmunk."
Blair laughed at that, and then tried to cover it up by coughing.
"Actually, I was a computer programmer," Sweetwater said defensively. Her tone was acerbic and she didn't even try to be polite. "It's an evil industry designed to take us away from our families, handicap us in our efforts to return to nature, and leaves us vulnerable to foreign attack."
"With the new millennium only a day away," Asters continued, "we wanted to set up a new society for ourselves. One that is completely independent of modern technology. When Y2K hits, financial records will be thrown into turmoil, ordinary citizens will loose thousands, hundreds-of-thousands of dollars not in actuality, but according to a computer. Frustrations will mount, crime will rise, companies will collapse, goods will stop being imported... and this will all happen much quicker than you'd think. You wait, Detective. You'll discover the truth."
"Uh, actually, the new millennium isn't until next year..." Blair started.
Good, Jim thought with satisfaction. If he had to suffer through a discourse on the evil of computers, it was only fair that they had to suffer through one of Sandburg's "No Year Zero" lectures.
"Y2K is this Saturday, zero hundred hours to be precise. No amount of theorizing will change that."
"Yes," said Blair, his hands trying to pop out of his pockets in order to help explain, "but the millennium and Y2K are mutually exclusive. By definition, a millennium is one thousand years, and since there is no year zero, a thousand years isn't complete until the thousandth year is complete. So, Year 1000 is the end of the first millennium, and Year 2000 is the end of the second millennium." He grinned. The ever helpful Blair Sandburg.
"If you want to get technical," Sweetwater said, her eyes narrowing, "Year 1 was so arbitrary that the millennium becomes meaningless."
Blair bobbed his head, enjoying the conversation. "Yes, that's right. Current theory has it that Jesus was four years old when the new calendar was created. Most people assume it was the year of his birth. Other theories believe the calendar was created posthumously, after his death."
Okay, thought Jim. It was fun for a minute, but enough is enough.
"Come on, Chief. We have work to do."
Asters crossed his arms. "Well you have your theories, young man, and we choose the popular theory that Saturday is the dawn of a new millennium."
"It's not a theory, damnit!" Blair said loudly, frustrated. For some reason that Jim couldn't fathom, Sandburg really got his shorts in a knot over the millennium issue. He grabbed his partner's collar and yanked him gently toward the path.
"It's a mathematical fact," Blair yelled backwards. "There was no year zero."
"Give it a rest, Chief."
"But it's math, Jim. Year 1, whether rightly or wrongly, was still designated Year 1, and one thousand is still one thousand."
"I'll buy you an ice cream cone..."
"Don't bother." Simon was just leaving the bullpen, his coat on, as Jim and Blair got off the elevator. He made a half-circle gesture with his finger for them to turn around and get back on. "You've got another dead body."
"Damn." Jim hated feeling so impotent. "Where?"
"Rainier Savings Bank."
They'd sent notices to all the financial institutions in Cascade, even some financial advisors just to be safe, warning them of the potential threat to their programmers and computer systems. There were too many to offer direct police protection, so the notices and more frequent drive-bys were the best they could do. Apparently it wasn't enough.
The doors opened on the ground floor and the three men disembarked. Right into Rafe.
"My God, Rafe, what happened?"
The man sometimes known as Detective GQ was a mess. The entire left side of his face was purple and swollen, his clothes were wet and slimy and -- Jim blinked in surprise -- a rotted carnation stuck out between his shirt and coat.
Rafe looked miserable. "I ah a enis ah-ah-en."
"What?" Simon frowned, leading Rafe to a wooden bench near the elevators.
"He had a dentist appointment," Blair translated.
"Oh." Simon sat down next to him. "So what happened, son?"
"Eh enis ah-ih-en-ee urs a ai."
Simon and Jim looked at Blair. "The dentist accidentally burst a vein," Blair said. "Probably with the Novocain needle?"
Rafe nodded and leaned heavily against the wall. "Ah ee-ul ip-t."
"The needle slipped."
"I ah-oh os uh ud."
"He swallowed lots of blood."
Jim and Simon's head bounced back and forth from Rafe to Blair as if they were observing a tennis match. Rafe slumped further and held a hand to his face.
"Ee ai ee ah ai ih-er. I eel is-ee."
"Um... He gave him pain killer? Yeah. And now he feels dizzy... or queasy."
Rafe made a gesture to indicate either one was true.
"En I ef ah en-is, I ip-t ih ar-ih." Tears actually welled up in his eyes, and Jim couldn't remember seeing someone look more pathetic.
"When he left the dentist, he slipped in some garbage."
"How'd you get back here, son?"
"Why? You should have gone home."
"I ot I us oay." He took a breath. "I av ose ere. Ow-r."
"He thought he was okay. Uh, he has clothes here, and I think he planned to take a shower."
Again, Rafe nodded.
"I don't know how you can understand that, Sandburg." Simon shook his head and removed his cellphone. Blair bounced proudly.
"Hey man, all you have to do is listen."
Simon dialed a number and patted Rafe kindly on the shoulder. "I want you to go home, Rafe. Clean up, take whatever advice the dentist gave you, and go to bed."
Rafe nodded miserably.
"Rhonda? I'm on the ground floor by the elevators, and I need you to drive Rafe home. He's not feeling too well."
"O! O! O!" Rafe sat up straight, a horrified expression on his face.
"Um, I don't think he likes that idea, Captain," offered Blair.
Simon shook his head and put the phone away. "It's okay, Rafe, she doesn't mind. I'd be happy to take you but I've got an appointment with the commissioner, and Ellison and Sandburg have to go check out a crime scene."
"Ot on-ah! Ees, ot on-ah!"
"Not Rhonda, please not Rhonda." Blair looked puzzled. "I thought you liked Rhonda."
"Leave it, Chief." Jim was getting that uncomfortable feeling again. I want Rhonda to take me home. He lived in a world where, much as he tried to ignore it, spirit animals existed and shamans returned from dead to impart wisdom. Was a magical artifact so farfetched?
And the baboon's foot was now three for three.
George Vincent. Computer Programmer. Age 26. Deceased.
Jim was getting tired of writing the stats in his notebook. He wanted this guy, and he wanted him before the end of the year. Since that was only a day and a half away, it didn't seem likely.
"Man, you gotta feel for Rafe," Blair commented as he searched the desk and the papers surrounding it. "Throwing up all over Rhonda like that. What's even worse is I think he likes her. Likes her that way -- you know what I mean?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Yes Sandburg. That's the only way you ever mean what you mean."
"Oh come on, man." His partner grinned and raised his eyebrows. "I think Rafe and Rhonda would make a great couple."
"Of course you do." Jim had never been a big fan of office romances himself. And you'd think after the Sam experience Sandburg would know better.
"Anything?" Blair asked hopefully.
"No," Jim sighed.
December 31, 1999
"Are you feeling better this morning, Rafe?" asked Rhonda on her way to the copy machine. "The swelling's gone down quite a bit."
"Um, yeah. Fine, thanks." Sitting on the edge of Jim's desk he couldn't quite meet her eyes. "Thanks for driving me home, though. Sorry about... um..."
Rhonda patted his knee. "No problem. Just like the old days when I used to baby-sit my little brothers and they'd eat too much spaghetti." She flashed him a sincere smile and continued on her way.
"Ouch," said Blair after she'd gone.
"Shit," mumbled Rafe. "Just what I wanted, to be compared to her little brothers."
Blair suddenly glanced at the clock. "Oh, man! I'm late. I've gotta go meet with the PA about the Gillespie case. She thinks he's going to plead guilty. That would be so good for my karma."
"Anything to get out of the tedious side of detective work, right Sandburg?"
"You got it." He grabbed his backpack and dashed out the door. "Have the case solved by the time I get back."
"Will do," Jim said sullenly. He'd like nothing better. "So did you find anything?"
Rafe slid off Jim's desk and sat down at Blair's. "Nada."
Jim and Rafe were comparing all the names of everyone who had closed out their account from one of the four banks hit within the past month. So far no names had jumped out at them. It was an exercise in futility, Jim was sure, but they'd run out of other options.
Joel joined them from the breakroom with a large bottle of diet coke. "Want some help?"
Jim looked at him gratefully. "Sure. Thanks. Pull up a chair."
The captain grabbed some computer printouts and a list of names to look for and began reading. After a few seconds: "Hey Jim..."
Uh oh. Jim heard the ulterior motivation in his voice. "What, Joel?"
"You still got that baboon's foot?"
Rafe stiffened. "Don't even mention that thing in front of me.
"Joel." Jim shook his head. "Not you, too."
"Hey, man, I was witness to what it did to Perron. And Rafe here told me about his and Henri's wishes. Creepy, right?" Joel's amused expression revealed how much he believed them.
"It's just an artifact."
"Then why haven't you given it to Sandburg yet? I bet you haven't even told him about it."
"I --" Jim stopped. Why hadn't he given it to Sandburg? That was a very good question. It wasn't like he didn't want to get rid of the thing. "I just haven't had the opportunity. I'll give it to him tonight."
"Uh huh." Joel grinned. "Come on, let me have a wish."
"Oh, Joel." Jim shook his head sadly. "I thought you were better than that."
"You wish on that thing, Taggart, and I don't want you near me for 24 hours," Rafe threatened. He actually moved his chair back in anticipation.
"You guys had a turn."
Jim tossed the bag in front of Joel and scowled. "There. Go for it. Just don't complain to me if your life starts going sour."
"Ah yes." Joel opened the bag and removed the baboon's foot, admiring it from all sides. "This thing sure is ugly."
"You're gonna be sorry, Taggart. I'm telling you." Rafe slid even further away.
Holding the foot appropriately, Joel made a great show of contemplation. "Okay. I wish for a new car... something sporty." He held the foot a moment longer and seemed disappointed when nothing happened. "Well, so much for that." He tossed the artifact back to Jim."
Startled, Jim caught it. And stared at it. He petted the leg absently with his left hand and felt along the smooth arch of the foot with his right. It was just a simple, harmless artifact. Nothing magical whatsoever. Right.
"That thing is nothing but trouble," Rafe pointed out for the umpteenth time.
"I just wish it could help us solve this case," Jim sighed softly, more to himself than anyone else.
"Ellison!" Rafe yelled.
Jim suddenly realized the significance of what he'd just said. His body jerked, inexplicably horrified, and the foot flew from his hands knocking into Joel's liter bottle of diet coke. All three men watched in horror as the bottle tipped and soda fizzed and gushed all over Jim's carefully stacked and sorted paper work, and down into his keyboard.
Joel came to his senses first and yanked the bottle upright, sending another arc of soda over the desk. "Jim... I'm really sorry."
"Oh man." Both men waited for Mount Ellison to erupt.
Jim remained motionless, staring at the mess that was once his hard work. "What do you know," he finally said.
"I'll get something to clean up with." Rafe disappeared briefly and returned with a stack of paper towels from the men's room.
Joel grabbed a few and began patting down the piles of paperwork. "Damn, Jim. I can't tell you how sorry I am." He picked up one sheet of paper. "Hm. This one is fairly readable."
Still numb, Jim took the paper. It was a list of all the new accounts opened at the Coastal Credit Union within the past month. The only name that remained completely soda-free was Kevin Yaeger II.
Blinking, Jim read it again. "Hey, look at this name."
"Kevin Yaeger. So what?" Rafe was shaking handfuls of paper out over the wastebasket.
"If you list him last name first," Jim mused, "you get Yaeger II, Kevin. Y 2 K."
"Hey, you're right," Joel looked over his shoulder and raised his eyebrows. "Coincidence?"
"I don't believe in coincidences, remember?" And Jim Ellison actually smiled.
"Okay," said Bob the Cascade PD's electronics guy. "What time was the account opened again?"
"12:43 p.m." Jim handed him the printout. Bob nodded and cued up the tape.
Jim, Blair, and Rafe had gone to the Coastal Credit Union and gotten the appropriate videotape for the day Kevin Yaeger II opened his new account. They were hoping they could recognize him, since tracing the account itself dead-ended at a post office box in Seattle. Jim's gut instinct said that Kevin Yaeger II had to be their killer.
"Here we go."
People came and went swiftly as Bob fast-forwarded through an hour. When the time reached 12:40 p.m., he let it play through at real time.
Jim extended his eyesight into the video. At 12:42 two people came through the front doors and stood in line. The man in the ski hat ended up ahead of the young woman. Apparently only one teller was on duty over the lunch hour. The man currently being waited on counted out a stack of bills and left. Ski Hat moved up and explained his business to the teller, gesturing with his hands. She gathered some forms and began writing.
"Turn around... turn around..." Blair begged the man in the video. "You, uh, recognize him, Jim? Or the woman, maybe?"
Jim shook his head, concentrating. Finally, the guy turned toward the camera, his gaze wandering while the teller completed her paperwork.
"Well I'll be damned," said Rafe.
"Cool," said Blair.
"Morton Schenk," said Jim.
"A rich kid!" Blair looked around, his eyes wide. "I can't believe he still lives with his parents. He's what, 34?"
Morton Schenk lived in a large white house with textured columns gracing the front porch and a massive open marble hallway just inside the door. A grey marble stairway spiraled elegantly up to the second level.
A uniformed maid let them in, then notified Schenk via an inconspicuous intercom near the door. Following the proper social etiquette, she offered them refreshments, accepted their refusal with a smile, curtsied, and returned to her work.
"Hello, Detectives." Schenk started down the stairway towards them. "Have you arrested the man who attacked me?"
"We expect an arrest any minute now, Morton," smiled Jim. "Or should I say Kevin Yaeger II?"
Schenk paused in mid-step, then reached for something in his pocket and ran back upstairs. Jim and Blair wasted no time following. Halfway up the stairs, Jim stopped suddenly and cocked his head. Blair smacked into him and had to grab Jim's jacket to keep from falling.
"Damn. What is it?"
"Humming... a humming noise, kind of familiar." Jim placed a protective hand against Blair's back. "It's -- look out!" A remote-controlled 747 almost three feet long narrowly missed crashing full speed into Blair's head. Circling the room, it banked to the left and swooped back toward the partners again.
"Get down!" Jim pushed on Blair's head and they both squatted on the stairs in the relative safety of the railing walls. A higher pitched hum filled the great hall and a Sopwith Camel, complete with a grinning Snoopy, joined the 747. Jim made himself as small as possible and attempted to creep up the stairs. Like heat-seeking missiles, both planes banked and swooped and aimed unerringly for Jim's head.
"Watch out!" yelled Blair. He took off his jacket and when Snoopy zoomed by, he aimed and tossed the jacket directly over the plane. The Sopwith Camel plummeted to the floor instantly with the added weight. A tinny electronic voice cried out "Curse you, Red Baron."
Three more planes filled the room, all taking aim at Jim who was closest to the top of the stairs.
"He's good." Blair sounded impressed. Looking around, Jim finally saw the security camera mounted in the corner by the door and aimed at the stairway.
"Hey Nolan," Jim shouted above the humming. "He's guiding the planes by using the camera. Can you throw something and knock it out, or at least change its position?"
Blair nodded and took off his hiking boot. Narrowly escaping getting gutted by a B-52, he let the shoe fly. Hit dead on, the camera popped of its mounting and smashed into a thousand pieces all over the marble floor.
The four remaining planes became erratic, side-swiping each other and bouncing against the wall. Invisible to their enemy, Jim and Blair were able to reach the second floor unharmed. There they discovered Morton Schenk in his bedroom, huddled among thousands of dollars worth of electrical equipment, crying.
He was arrested without further incident.
"Nice how you always show up after the hard work is done, sir," Jim observed. He leaned casually against his truck, enjoying the unusually warm afternoon. The uniforms had already taken Schenk away and Jim was just waiting for Blair to finish up with the Forensics team.
Simon grinned and took a puff on his cigar. "That's why I get the big bucks. You okay?"
Jim nodded. "He went after us with remote control airplanes, but Dead Eye Sandburg saved the day."
"So I heard. He say why he did it?"
"I assume you mean Schenk, not Sandburg," Jim grinned. "We haven't gotten a detailed statement from him yet, but it seems he told his bosses at Cascade Savings back in September that he had made them Y2K compatible. But he lied, wanting to look good since most of the other banks were compatible by that time. Then he figured he had a few months to turn his lie into the truth."
"And this week was his last chance, and he realized he wasn't going to make it."
"Very good, sir. And they say you've lost your edge."
Simon gave him a dirty look. "Go on."
"So he invented the Y2K killer. By reinfecting the bank computers with the Y2K virus, any problems happening after the new year at Cascade Savings would be considered the killer's fault. Furthermore, by killing the other programmers, he had set himself up in a position of sympathy. He could bow out of a job he wasn't really capable of doing with no questions asked, and most likely receive a pretty decent compensation package in the process. Not to mention the attention of the doting parents he still lived with. He'd look like a reluctant hero."
Simon shook his head. "Sick minds. You and Sandburg and the others did a good job."
"Thank you, sir." He didn't mention the baboon's foot.
"Hey, did you hear Joel's good news? He wanted me to be sure to tell you." Simon took the cigar out of his mouth and placed it in his pocket. "You know Crazy Carl the Car Guy?"
"Yeah," Jim said warily.
"One of his trucks lost control near the supermarket where Joel was shopping, and smashed into his car. Totaled it."
"This is good news?"
"Joel thinks so. It was ten years old and the odometer had seen 000,000 at least twice. But the real good news is that when Carl found out he'd wrecked a police officer's car, he made a deal to replace it with the best used car on his lot of equal book value. He said he had something nice and sporty, just Joel's style."
"I don't know, Captain. This from a man who dresses like George Washington every February screaming 'Screw the Delaware and buy a Volkswagen!'"
"Well, it's got to be better than what he was driving."
We'll see, thought Jim.
"Hey, how many more minutes?"
Jim sighed and leaned against the side of the elevator. "About five minutes less than the last time you asked me. Don't you have a watch?"
"Yeah, but it's in my backpack which is next to my desk." Blair shifted the bag of ice to his other arm and unconsciously bounced on his toes. "I just don't want to miss midnight."
Jim reluctantly looked at his watch. "24 more minutes. And unless we get stuck in the elevator, we'll be at our desks in about 30 seconds."
Blair looked stricken. "Don't even joke about that, man. Not funny."
"Sorry." The doors pinged opened and Jim led the way toward the bullpen. "Now go get your own watch and keep it in your pocket." He almost smiled as he saw his partner's antics in the reflective glass of the bullpen windows. "And quit mimicking me, Sandburg, or you'll be celebrating midnight face first in a toilet."
Blair immediately straightened up and had the grace to blush. "Come on, Jim, haven't you ever heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?"
Jim flipped him the bird.
Various greetings were called out as they entered the bullpen, the loudest from Simon: "You get the ice?"
Blair tossed Simon the bag of ice and looked at the table. "Nice job, guys."
"Thank Rhonda," said Simon. "She set this all up before she went home."
Four desks of vacationing detectives had been cleared off and pushed together into the middle of the room, a festive paper tablecloth tossed over them. Simon added the ice to a huge punchbowl full of -- Jim sniffed and concentrated -- gingerale, orange juice, fruit punch, and disks of cut-up orange. The other foods had been arranged attractively around the punch bowl. Rafe was arranging his rumaki on a plate and Henri was looking at the entire table with a miserable expression on his swollen face.
Joel was blowing half-heartedly into his noisemaker, watching the paper tube lazily curl and uncurl.
"Joel! What's got you so down?" Blair asked.
"I got my new car from Crazy Carl," he said despondently. "A '72 turquoise Volkswagen bus."
Blair's face lit up. "That is so cool! My mom used to drive one of those! Hers was kind of a tangerine, with big purple and yellow flowers on the side. I can't wait to ride in it."
Jim took off his coat and sat down at his desk. "I thought he had something 'sporty' for you, Joel."
"Yeah." Joel blew into his noisemaker and it barely made a sound. "My 'new' VW bus was used to transport the local high school girl's soccer team to and from tournaments around the state."
"Ellison!" Simon had a funny expression on his face. "These aren't Swedish meatballs."
"No, sir. I don't know how to make Swedish meatballs, and if you recall, we were kind of busy this week."
"What are they?"
"Wonderburgers. I put them in the blender and rolled them into little balls."
"Oh my god, that's what you were doing?" Blair was shocked.
"So much for my classy party," grumbled Simon. "Henri's Jell-O salad is just a bowl of pureed cherry Jell-O so that he'd have something he could eat, Rafe's rumaki is bacon wrapped around pretzels --"
"Hey, I didn't know where to get chicken liver or how to cook it."
"At least Sandburg brought the macaroni and cheese like I asked." Simon stirred the crockpot and breathed deeply.
"Always aim to please," Blair grinned, sipping some punch. "I made it out of rice noodles and goat cheese."
Simon dropped the spoon. "Well that figures. I'm going to break room to get the dip I brought. We need something edible on this table."
Jim removed his back-up .38 and placed it in his second drawer. Ever so slowly, his eyes dropped to the third drawer where the baboon's foot was tucked away. He looked back up, considering his partner. Blair was explaining in great detail how the new year was celebrated by natives along the shore of the Amazon. Might as well get this over with, Jim thought. Of course, if the foot did have magical properties, would it be safe in the hands of a Sandburg?
"Yeah, Jim?" Blair wandered over and sat on the edge of his own desk.
Jim picked up the paper bag and cleared his throat. Suddenly he felt somewhat embarrassed. "Uh, Professor Stoddard was in earlier this week. He... well, he dropped this off for you."
Blair jumped off the desk and reached for the bag. "Cool!" The entire bullpen had become silent, every eye on the oblivious Sandburg as he reached into the bag and removed the baboon's foot.
"You know what that is?" Jim asked hesitantly. His partner didn't seem the least bit put out by holding what had formerly been attached to a living, breathing, giant baboon.
"Sure, man. It's my Christmas present."
"Oh? Stoddard told us... me... that it was an artifact he wanted you to look over."
Blair laughed, delighted. "Did he? He probably made up some clever story to go with it. Man, that guy has one great sense of humor." And to the shock of the others, he twisted the leg and carefully unscrewed it from the foot. Peering into the opening, Blair's smile got impossibly brighter. He removed something and popped it into his mouth.
"Sandburg!" Rafe couldn't help himself.
"Sorry!" Blair mistook Rafe's shock and held out the foot to the others. "Take one. They're delicious."
Rafe and Joel both reached over and picked out something about an inch long, bulky, and black. "What is it?" asked Rafe, still a bit shell-shocked. Joel put his into his mouth and chewed carefully.
He might as well have said they were cow patties. The cricket Rafe was holding was instantly dropped to the floor and Joel made a choking sound. Blair just laughed.
"Come on, guys. Crickets are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Not only that, but they're full of protein." He ate two more and licked his lips.
Jim blinked. "That's really not an artifact."
"No, of course not." Blair laughed again. "This is just a novelty item. $12.95 at the gift shop at the Rainier Museum of Anthropological Studies." He screwed the leg back on and set the foot down on his desk. "The professor always does something like this for his students around the holidays.
Jim's jaw became tight. "How nice."
"It's not a baboon's foot?" grumbled Rafe.
"No magical powers?" mumbled Joel.
Blair's eyes were wide. "Just what did the professor tell you?"
"Nothing," said Jim.
"Come on, Ellison. The old guy really pulled one over on you, didn't he?"
"Two more minutes," called Simon, hurrying back with his dip. Joel started filling or refilling punch cups and handing them around. Henri retrieved the fancy spiral straw that Rafe had given him at the hospital and got his cup ready as they all gathered around the food and prepared to toast the new year.
"Gentleman," began Simon, raising his glass to the others, "We've had some ups and downs this year, both in our work and personally. But we've survived, as a team, and are stronger for it." The captain's face became soft and serious. "I would also like to welcome our newest detective to the force."
Blair blushed and looked briefly at Simon before examining the floor. "Thanks, Captain."
"I'd like to conclude by saying, with all sincerity, that it's a pleasure to serve with each and every one of you."
"Right back at you, sir," Jim responded for all of them. "Ten... nine... eight... seven... six..." everyone waited expectantly "... five... four... three... two... one..."
Y2K. Just after midnight. The lights remained on, the phones remained silent, the earth didn't dissolve into a fountain of molten lava. Life went on.
"Happy New Year!"
Glasses were touched, hands were shaken, backs were pounded, and Henri threw his hat in the air.
"Thanks, Chief," Jim said quietly, tugging a lock of Blair's hair.
"You, too, Jim." Blair's eyes were shiny, his face glowed like the Sandburg of old.
"Hey!" Simon suddenly noticed the baboon's foot sitting on Blair's desk. Before anyone could stop him, he reached over and picked it up. "I haven't made my wish yet."
"Uh, Captain," Jim started, that creepy feeling sliding up and down his spine. Rafe, Joel, and Henri all stepped back. Novelty item or artifact, no one wanted to take any chances.
"Let's see... I wish for an interesting and exciting New Year for all of us in Major Crime," Simon announced and returned the foot to the desk. He looked very pleased with himself.
"Oh man, Simon," Blair grinned. "Don't you know that's an ancient Chinese curse: 'May you live in interesting times.'?"
The other detectives swallowed nervously.
"Heaven help us all," said Jim.
~ Finis ~
E-mail the author of this story, Hephaistos, at email@example.com Read Hephaistos' other fan fiction for The Sentinel at The Browsery
Special thanks to those who betaed at the last minute, Mackie, Helene, and Iris. Thank you SO much! Many thanks to those who would have betaed, had I been more timely, namely Lois, Kim, and DawnC. You're pretty terrific, too! A final thank you to Suisan who provided me with names and descriptions for those never-ending police reports. I'm glad I'm not a cop...
Episode Inspired By:
The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs
Those of you who have read this wonderful story probably recognized its influence immediately. If you haven't read it, please do! One of the great horror stories of all times.
The artwork in Act IV, Vista, was created by DannyD... Enjoy more of Danny's art at her website, Dexter's World Please visit our Virtual Season 5 Staff Page to learn more about the hard-working behind-the-scenes crew responsible for bringing you this episode E-mail Faux Paws Productions at firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT WEEK on THE SENTINEL: Partners (1/12/00, FPP-515) by Wildeskind
There's a serial killer targeting gay couples in Cascade and Blair's been having nightmares about them. It's up to Jim and Blair to find the killer before Blair's nightmare comes true.
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This page last updated 2/2/01.