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.
Kevin Miller dropped down onto the couch next to his lover, Tyler Hirken with a sigh. "Ty, I can't believe we just had over a hundred people in this house. What a mess!" The lamplight highlighted the gray in his carefully clipped black hair. Clear gray eyes glowed with happiness even as exhaustion carved lines into his distinguished features.
Tyler flashed his pearly whites. "Well, you know, you didn't have to invite half the clientele from your cafe to the Christmas party."
Kevin shook his head, laughing. "Oh yeah? And what about all those people you invited? I seem to remember a couple of sweet young things. Should I be jealous?"
Tyler swung his feet up onto the couch, putting his head in his partner's lap. Looking up, his brown eyes shone with joy and mischief. "Never. I'm yours from now until eternity. Till death does us part! Or, at least a good pate."
Kevin laughed. "You and food. You're like a horse: feed you, exercise you, strap on a little leather..." He ran his fingers through Tyler's brown hair. How many more evenings like this would they have together?
Tyler gave him a mock frown. "Are you saying I'm losing my girlish figure?" He tried, and failed, to pinch an inch at his waist.
"I'm saying you're..." The doorbell rang. "Who could that be? We already threw everyone we knew out the door an hour ago." He shoved Tyler's head off him and stood up. Walking to the door, he opened it. Kevin shivered in the cool air coming from the open door.
A smooth deep male voice said, "Hi. Kevin Miller?"
Kevin smiled uncertainly. "Yes, I'm Kevin Miller."
"You don't know me, but Father Hills gave me your name. He said you might be able to help me."
Tyler came up behind Kevin. Putting his arms around him, he put his chin on Kevin's shoulder and smiled at the person at the door. "Hey, what can we do you for?"
"Can I come in and talk?"
Kevin hesitated. It was late and he had to open the cafe the next morning. Ty gave him a quick hug. Patting Tyler's hands, he opened the door wide. "Sure, come right on in."
The jungle closed around him, thorny vines catching on his thick black coat. As he ran through leafy ferns and over rotting logs, rocks cut the pads of his feet until they throbbed with pain. Still, he kept running. Somewhere ahead of him came the anguished howl of a wolf. He doubled his speed, ignoring the agony each step brought him.
Looming in his path were the remains of an ancient tree that had fallen to the jungle floor. Powerful muscles bunched as he gathered himself to leap. Springing, he cleared the log, only to howl when he realized that nothing lay beyond the giant log but air. Time froze as he hung in mid air, his cat eyes taking in everything. To his left was a ragged rope bridge stretched across the ravine, one of the guide ropes dangling towards the ground below it. A silver wolf was crouched on the wooden slats, his ears laid back in fear. Time unfroze. Screaming in rage, the cat tumbled through the air, head over heels. Above him there came a snapping sound and a growl of despair.
Noooooo! Jim woke up, his mind screaming. Strong fingers clung to the sweat-soaked sheets, as the sensation of falling pushed his body further into the mattress. Forcing his eyes open, he stared at the skylights above him, the rush of blood sounding like the roar of the ocean. He dialed back his hearing. It was just a dream, Ellison. It can't hurt you. Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly, releasing his fingers from their death grip. Cautiously he dialed his hearing back up, listening to the hum of the fridge in the kitchen and the whir of the heater turning on.
His heartbeat spiked as a moan like the one from his dream sounded in the apartment. Holding his breath, he listened. Before the second moan ended, the covers were off him and his hand was reaching for his robe. Cool air lapped the sweat-slicked skin of his legs, causing the coarse hairs to stand on end. He ran silently down the steps and around the corner into his partner's room. Pausing at the french doors, he took in the thrashing ball of tangled blankets, zooming in on the mop of dark curls peeking out at the head of the bed. Sitting down on the bed, he grabbed his partner's shoulders in a firm but gentle hold.
"Sandburg, wake up. You're safe, Chief, wake up."
The movement beneath the blankets stilled as Blair moaned his name. "Jim?"
Giving his shoulders an encouraging squeeze, Jim whispered his response. "Yeah, it's me. I need you to wake up now, Chief."
Long lashes fluttered open. A hand struggled through the twisted sheets to come up and clutch Jim's. Assured the sentinel's presence wasn't part of his nightmare, Blair collapsed into the bed. "Oh God Jim, it was so real. All that blood and Cyndi. I couldn't stop the blood. I couldn't stop it from happening!"
Jim's heart twisted at the despair in his friend's voice. It echoed the howl of the wolf in his dream. Turning his hand over, he clasped the sensitive fingers lying on top of his own. "Yeah, I know. You just have to remember it's all in your head. It can't hurt you."
Blair gave a shallow laugh. "I know that when I'm awake, I just can't seem to remember it when I'm dreaming. I mean, what is a dream? It's a bunch of symbols that your mind uses to process the day's events. And even in visions you can't take what you see for granted. It's all symbolic." He tried to sit up, but the blankets were tightly wound around him.
Jim chuckled softly. "I think sometimes you get wrapped up in all that logic. Here let me help. With the hair and all you look like someone's mummy."
The blankets tightened around the hapless guide as tried to squirm out of his nocturnal cocoon. "Ha ha, Jim. Very punny. I feel like I'm back in my dream. Trapped."
Leaning over younger man's body, Jim tugged at the fabric. "Yeah, I know, that's the way that it was in my dream."
Giving up on the struggle, Blair lay there, looking up at Jim. "Oh man, I'm so sorry."
Jim frowned at Blair. "Why are you sorry? It's not you're fault I had a nightmare."
"Yes it is. I mean, you've been listening to me have nightmares for the past few weeks. I'm just surprised that you didn't start having them before now."
Shaking his head, Jim found the loose end of the sheet under Blair's shoulder. "Blair, we live together, we work together, but please do not suggest that we dream together. That would just be too scary."
Blair looked up at Jim. "I'm serious, man."
Grasping the sheet tightly, he shook his head at Blair. "So am I. Getting information out of you is like squeezing water out of a rock. You talk to that department shrink that Simon sends you to, but you won't talk to me. It's been weeks now since the Cristo case and all I've gotten out of you is that you're fine. You're not fine, you're hurting and I want to help you. But I can't help you if you don't let me in." Jim winced at plaintive note in his voice, but dammit, Sandburg had to open up. One last yank and the blanket came free.
Blair rolled away from Jim as the colorful quilt unwound from around him like thread from a spool. Landing on the floor with a soft thud, his sleep-mussed head slowly came up. "I told you, Jim, they're just nightmares. I can handle them."
He tossed the quilt to his partner. "Yeah, you're handling them all right. You've been having them off and on for the past two months. You have to talk about them with me. Really talk about them. You can't handle this alone. You taught me that."
Standing up, Blair spread the quilt over his bed. Picking up a pillow, he turned to Jim. "You want details? Fine, I'll give you details. I'm in uniform, answering a call. I have my gun out. I go into this apartment building. I smell some burning incense so I follow it. I knock on the door and no one answers. There's some murmuring, so I kick the door in. There's my younger self, sitting on the floor in some sort of trance, chanting. The crystal pendent that Cyndi gave me, the one from my vision, is hanging in the air in front of him, me. I put my gun down and step into myself." He hugged the pillow tightly, as if he could squeeze the dream into a ball and throw it away. "All of a sudden, I'm -- we're -- in front of the door to Cyndi's meditation room. I don't want to go in, but the door opens and we go in. Cyndi's on the floor and there's blood everywhere. I look around and there's a mirror." He took another shuddering breath. "I see Cristo's reflection in the mirror. I was Cristo and I had a knife in my hand, blood on my hands, on my shirt, it was everywhere." He tossed the pillow violently down on the bed. "It happens every single time. I can't change it. I felt her dying, Jim. I killed her."
"You didn't kill her, Chief. Cristo didn't even kill her. Manning killed her."
"He used Cristo's MO. And it was my involvement in the case that got her killed. He killed her to set Cristo and me up. I knew she was going to die." He sat down on the bed and buried his face in his hands. Taking a deep breath, he looked up at Jim, his eyes shining with tears he refused to let fall. "I saw Cyndi dead in my Sierra Verde vision, Jim. Then, when I was preparing to go undercover, I saw her death again. I saw your death, Jim, in the Sierra Verde vision. What if you die too? What if I can't stop the terrible things I saw from coming true?"
Jim flipped the quilt over Sandburg's legs and sat down next to him. "I'm not dead yet, Sandburg. What you saw is the future. It hasn't happened yet. We can change that future."
Blair shook his head. "Yeah, it could change. Like your vision changed what happened? I died. You saw my death in a vision and I died."
Jim felt the blood drain out of his face. It had been the worst moment in his life when they'd pulled Blair's limp body out of the fountain. He'd killed him. He killed his best friend. He wouldn't wish that on his worst enemy. And now Blair was facing the same dilemma. He stood up. "That's not going to happen, Blair. It's not going to happen."
Blair looked up at Jim, despair in his eyes. "How do you know?"
Jim pulled him into a one-arm hug. Taking a moment, he thought about it. "Because in the vision I had I shot you with my arrow. Did that happen?"
"No, I drowned. But dead is dead, Jim."
"Yeah, but you said it yourself, dreams and visions are symbolic. I symbolically killed you. These dreams you are having, they're symbols of the fears you have. It was my fear that killed you. I didn't listen to my spirit guide. I shoved you away when I should have kept you close. This time will be different. We'll talk and we will face this together."
Small shivers ran through the younger man's body. He leaned into the older man's warmth. "You think that will be enough, Jim?"
"Yeah, I think so."
Blair poked him in the ribs. "Well then, what did you dream tonight, huh?"
Jim's hand buried itself in thick curls, rubbing away the tension that it found there while he thought about his answer. The feeling of urgency that he had felt in his dream filled him again, making his pulse jump. "In my dream I was in the jungle and I was the panther. I found you on the rope bridge as the wolf. You were on the middle of it and it was falling apart. You were the one in danger." His stomach dropped as the weightless feeling returned at the memory of his own drop.
"It's okay Jim. The bridge fell apart in my vision. It was a test of faith. Maybe what I need is faith. Faith in the future."
Jim's hand tightened on Blair's shoulder. If Blair had passed the test in his vision, why did it seem like he failed in Jim's dream?
Blair looked at Jim, concerned. "Did anything else happen in your dream?"
Jim hesitated, his eyes sliding away from Blair's intelligent gaze. He was afraid of what his dream fall meant. Did it mean he was afraid of failing Blair? That he wouldn't be there for him?
"I dreamt that I fell into the ravine. As I was falling, I could see the rope bridge fall apart on you. I didn't even look down. I just watched the bridge fall apart."
Blair expression was serious, but his eyes smiled at Jim as he replied with a fake German accent. "Very interestink. I dink da symbols of the bridge and the falls are very symbolic, ja? Da fall is symbolic of a loss of control. Da bridge indickates a transitional phase. You are afraid dat you will have no control if I am in trouble, ya?"
Jim put on a suitable awed expression. "You can tell all that from my dream?"
Blair sniffed as if offended. "That and the fact I feel the same way about you." His act crumbled as he grinned at Jim. "Why do you think I could never stay in the truck?"
"Here I thought it was insatiable curiosity." Jim shook his head in mock dismay.
"Hey, it's not my spirit guide who's a cat. Even though you did bring me back."
Jim groaned. "Please Blair. Mixed metaphors at this time of the morning is inhumane." He stifled a yawn. It had been a long day at work and they still had a couple of hours before dawn.
"It sounds like someone is ready to go back to bed." He wrinkled his nose. "Though, you may want to take a shower before you go back upstairs. You stink."
Jim smiled ruefully. "You don't smell like roses yourself, Chief. These night terrors are going to send our laundry bill through the roof. I have dibs on the fresh sheets."
Blair tried to lunge out of bed, but Jim was still sitting on his quilt. "No fair, Ellison. That's entrapment."
He stood up, freeing him. "That's making sure I get fresh sheets. All we have left are the flat ones, and you're not the one with the sensitive nose. Go hop in the shower and while I make up my bed. You have five minutes."
Tossing off the sheets, the younger man shivered in the cool air. "Five minutes, huh? You think you can get the sheets and remake your bed that fast?" His impish grin implied doubt at the idea.
Jim's chin rose as he looked down at his partner. "I think I can handle it. Why, do you care to make a wager?"
"Why, I believe I will. Whoever finishes last has to do the laundry tonight." He stuck out his hand. "Deal?"
Jim shook his hand. "Deal. Remember, no softener in the wash for my sheets."
Blair groaned as the alarm went off. His arm reached out from under the warm nest of blankets and slapped the snooze button. Just one night of uninterrupted sleep would be nice. If it wasn't the nightmares, then it was work. Not that he hadn't appreciated the reprieve from crime sprees, but having nothing to do could be as tiring as having too much to do. Of course, he could have done without theY2K serial killer case. Morton Schenk didn't even have insanity as an excuse for killing. He should have known he wasn't cut out for computer programming and just cut his losses. Like maybe I'm not cut out for police work? Blair loved his job, but there were sometimes if he wondered if he had made the right choice, joining the force.
Shoving that thought away, he remembered last night's mad dash to the shower with a smile. He'd almost killed himself slipping on the wet porcelain of the tub, but he'd made it in and out of the shower in under three minutes. It had taken Jim three and half minutes to remake his bed. I'll have to remind Jim that I like softener in my sheets.
Rolling over, Blair buried his head in the pillow. It's time to get up now, body. Any second Jim will be coming through that door and say...
Jim stuck his head in the doorway and called out cheerfully. "Rise and shine, Chief. You still have to take your morning shower. Breakfast is in twenty minutes. "
Blair lifted his head. That wasn't what I was expecting. Jim's usually a bear in the morning. Especially when he doesn't get his normal sleep. "Jim, have you been in the catnip again?"
Jim grinned as he leaned against the door jam. "Nope. You know that experiment you tried a couple months ago, the one where you tried different stimuli to affect my dreaming?"
Blair let his head fall back onto the pillow. "Yeah, we stopped it because it was giving you such weird dreams. The running water made you dream of going white water rafting upstream without any paddles. The towel on your pillow made you dream that the Downey bear was after you. You never did tell me what that bit of sage I put in your room made you dream of." He smirked at the red creeping up his partner's face.
"It was just a weird dream about a ritual or something. I can't even remember what the point to it was." Jim glared at Blair, daring to contradict him. When Blair said nothing, he continued. "And why did you put sage in my room? You know I'm allergic to it."
Blair put his most innocent look on. "You're only allergic to the fumes from burnt sage, like insense, or if you inhale actual particles. Otherwise, dining out would be a real hassle. I was kinda curious what you would dream about."
Jim snorted. "Uh-huh. You know what curiosity did to the cat. How did we get on this topic, anyway?"
Blair sat up in bed. "You were the one who brought it up. Something to do with your good mood this morning?"
Jim straightened. "Oh yeah. I spilled some baby powder last night in the bathroom. I cleaned it up, but some of it must have gotten on my boxers. By the way, why do we have baby powder in the bathroom?"
"I used it in my tennis shoes last night. The talcum powder absorbs the smell. So what did you dream about?"
Jim sighed, his face softening. "Everything was out of focus and the perspective was all screwed up. I remember feeling safe and loved. There was a woman's voice and she was singing to me. I don't remember anyone singing to me like that."
There was a peaceful look on Jim's face that Blair had never seen before. So many things have happened to him, so many demons to haunt him in the night. Now he has some of my demons chasing him. Then it hit him, who the woman was.
"Jim, don't you realize who that woman was? It was your mother! That baby powder must have triggered a sensory memory from when you were a baby."
The peaceful look vanished from his partner's face, replaced with a pained expression. He said abruptly, "You only have ten minutes left, Sandburg. It's too late for bacon and eggs. I'm going to do some toast. Do you want some?"
Blair sighed. So much for the peaceful Ellison. "Yeah, a couple slices of whole wheat sounds good. Light on the butter."
Jim nodded and left the room. Blair yanked the covers off and stood. Open mouth, insert foot. You are soo Mister Sensitivity this morning.
Jim checked his watch. Five minutes until we have to leave and Sandburg still isn't out of the bathroom. He took a sip of coffee and grimaced. I'll have to remember not make coffee when I'm distracted. Ugh.
Blair slipped out of the bathroom and dashed into his room. Jim heard him rummaging through his clothes for something to wear into work. You know, Chief, if you organized your closet it would be easier to find a clean shirt in the morning. Turning back to newspaper, he reread the headlines. Y2K predications proved groundless. I guess everyone was pretty much prepared for that. Robert Asters must have been real disappointed. I wonder what he and his group of survivalists are going to do now?
His brooding was interrupted as Blair came out of his bedroom, tugging on his thick sweater. Jim handed him the paper towel wrapped pieces of toast and his thermal cup of coffee. "Ready to go?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah. Let me grab my coat and we're all set." They walked over to the door. Jim grabbed his coat and put it on. A smile tugged at his lips as Blair juggled the coffee and the toast, trying to get his coat on without dropping them. Without a word, he took the mug and the toast from his partner. Blair smiled his thanks and shrugged into his coat.
Making one last check of the loft, Jim followed his partner through the door. As he listened to the tumblers locking, he heard the door down the hall opened. He turned around to watch their new neighbor backed out.
Her legs were the first things to catch his eye. They were showcased in a tight leather miniskirt. Moving north, his gaze skimmed over the slender hips and the long line of her back. Her dark brown hair streaked with bronze was professionally cut and styled, tumbling around her shoulders. Locking her door, she turned around. He noted her skin was a creamy cocoa. Slender arms struggled with a bundle of magazines and a long wool coat. Slick periodicals slid from her arms onto the floor as she noticed the two men staring at her. Even the surprised squeak she made was attractive.
Blair handed his coffee and toast to Jim. "Here, let me help. We didn't mean to startle you." Jim watched, bemused, as Blair turned on his famous Sandburgian charm and crouched down to gather the magazines.
The woman smiled, a light blush staining her angular cheeks. "You didn't startle me; I was being clumsy." She tried to get down and help, but the tight skirt and high heels made it impossible. Standing, she smiled at Jim. "Hi, I'm Leesha Timmons." She held out her hand.
Jim was mesmerized by sparkling sapphire eyes surrounded by lush black lashes. Balancing the toast on top of the coffee, his large, strong hand gently grasped her delicate one, cradling it as if it were made from spun silk, careful of his strength. He noted the manicured nails and long slender fingers. "Jim Ellison, and my partner, Blair Sandburg. We haven't had a chance to welcome you to the building, yet. If you need anything, we're just across the hall."
Blair stood up. "Do you have a bag or anything you can put these in? These magazines are real slippery."
Full lips made a moue of distress. "No, I just moved in and I haven't made a run yet to the grocery store. The agency had someone stock my kitchen before I came."
Jim unlocked the door to loft. "Chief, why don't you go in and grab a plastic bag out of the kitchen. I'll keep Miss Timmons company."
Blair stood there for a second. Jim could see he was torn between getting the bag for Leesha and leaving his roommate alone with her. Obviously sensing he was outmaneuvered, he smiled and stepped back into the loft.
There was silence as they stood there, taking each other's measure. Leesha was the first to speak. "How long have you two lived here?"
"Blair moved in with me a few years ago. I've been here a bit longer. You buying or renting?"
Leesha smiled. "Renting. I've decided to make an extended stay here in Cascade. That's why the agency set me up in an apartment this time."
"What agency is that?"
Leesha opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Blair came out.
"Here you go, Leesha. That's an awesome shot of you on the cover."
All three of them looked down at the magazines. There she was in a full-length evening gown, her long legs peeking through a slit on the side. Jim thought he saw a flash of surprise on her face from the corner of his eye, but when he looked up, the expression was gone.
"Yes, thank you. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'm running a little late. Thanks for all your help." Turning around, she started down the hallway towards the elevator, not looking back.
Blair frowned. "What did I say?"
Jim put an arm around him. "I don't know. Here, take your breakfast and let's go. We're late." A splash of color caught his eye. Handing the coffee and now cold toast to Blair, he leaned down and picked up the stray magazine. "You missed one." He looked down the hall but Leesha had already gone. Bypassing the elevator, he opened the stairway door and Blair slipped through.
"Huh, must have slid behind you. I don't think we're going to catch her. I'll take it back to her tonight." Their footsteps echoed in the stairwell.
"You will, will you? And what makes you think that I'll let you. I'm the one who found it." Jim held the magazine out and away from Blair as he reached for it again.
Blair huffed. "But I picked up the rest of them. I missed this one, so I should take it back."
Jim gave him a toothy grin. "Possession is nine tenths of the law. I think that I'm the one who'll be taking it back."
Simon was coming down the hallway when Jim and Blair stepped off the elevator. He walked up quietly behind the arguing pair.
"I saw her first, man. Now give me back that magazine."
He grinned at the friendly bickering. Blair had been much too quiet after the Cyndi Blake incident. Then he'd acted like police work was one big bore. The Christmas season had temporarily cured him of that. Now he was acting more like the Sandburg he knew.
Schooling his face into a serious expression, he made his presence known with his deep rumbling voice. "Who is she?" He smothered another grin as the younger man jumped around, surprised.
"Simon! Jim and I were just talking about our new neighbor, Leesha Timmons. Can you believe it, the Leesha Timmons living just across the hall from us."
Simon could practically see the enthusiasm radiating from the kid in waves. He turned to Jim as they entered the bullpen. "The Leesha Timmons? The one who's been on the cover of almost every major fashion magazine for three years running?" Simon was glad that he didn't have his cigar in his mouth, or he might have swallowed it. The Leesha Timmons.
The absolute silence of the room brought him back to the bullpen. Looking around, he saw all his detectives staring at him. He glared at everyone, daring someone to comment. The bullpen burst back into motion as everyone suddenly found something urgent to do.
He looked back at the pair who had started this. Jim was holding a magazine out of Blair's reach, while Blair hopped and feinted in an effort to get it away from the taller man.
"Children, children," Simon chided. "If you can't share, then I'm going to have to take that toy away from you."
Both of them stilled. Blair retreated to behind his desk. Jim brought the magazine down.
"That's better. May I see?" He held out his hand. Jim handed it over.
Simon looked down at the picture. "I can't believe you have Leesha Timmons as your new neighbor."
Joel plucked the magazine out his hand. "Wow, I wish I had a neighbor like this."
Another detective snatched it from him and took a good long look. It went around the room as the detectives of major crimes ogled the picture, wolf whistles filling the air. Megan was standing off to the side, a slightly disgusted look on her pretty face. Simon counted to twenty before grabbing the magazine from Rafe, who looked as if he was going to start foaming at the mouth.
"Enough. If you're finished drooling, I think we have something called work that needs to get done some time today. Ellison, Sandburg, I want you in my office." Simon took the magazine with him to ensure their prompt obedience.
Setting down his donut, he opened a drawer and dropped the periodical inside. Closing the drawer again, he picked a file out of his inbox and tossed it onto his desk.
"That is your new assignment gentlemen."
Blair picked it up and opened it. "A murder case." His voice was neutral.
Simon watched the young detective carefully. He had consulted with the department shrink before assigning them this particular case. Dr. Morse thought Blair was ready to return to heavier work. Simon had some reservations, but Blair had done pretty well with the Y2K serial case, so he was handing them this one. He had a feeling it was going to get messy before it was over. "Yeah, Homicide had it for a while, but they bumped it over to us."
Blair picked up the file. Handing Jim the envelope containing the crime scene photos, he looked over the details of the case.
"Kevin Miller and Tyler Hirken. Miller owned a local cafe. They met when Hirken was a freshman in college. He applied for a job as a handyman for Miller's house. They were found the day after Christmas in their home. Hirken died of head trauma. Hair and blood samples found on the stone mantel of their fireplace suggest that he fell or was shoved and hit it. There was also an unidentified blood stain on the mantel."
Simon nodded. "The only solid piece of evidence so far on the killer, but it doesn't help us until we have a suspect."
Blair continued reading from the file. "Miller died of massive internal bleeding. Contusions and broken ribs were consistent with repeated beating of a heavy slender object, most likely the poker from the fireplace. It was missing from the crime scene. No money or jewelry was taken. Nothing to suggest a motive. Neither one has any close relatives. " Blair looked up at Simon. "Maybe a jealous ex-lover?"
Simon shook his head. "It's a possibility. They had an off-again, on-again relationship. Hirken had only moved in six months ago. Forensics picked up dozens of fingerprints. They had a Christmas party the night before. Guests interviewed say that everything was happy between the two. What do you think, Jim?" Simon looked over to the detective, who was staring at the crime photos, his expression blank. "Jim?"
Simon watched as Blair put his hand on his partner's arm. "Jim, what's wrong?" Blue eyes drifted down to the crime scene photos. A large hand moved to cover the photos, but this time the eye was quicker. The sinking feeling Simon had felt when Jim failed to respond exploded in his stomach as the color drained out of the younger man's face.
"Sandburg, what is it? You look like you've seen a ghost!"
Blair's voice was tight with tension. "I have. The men in these pictures, they're the ones from my Sierra Verde vision."
Jim felt like someone had punched him the gut. Here were the images from Blair's vision. Except for the trickle of blood on his head, Tyler Hirken looked like he was sleeping, his strong arms crossed over a broad chest. Kevin Miller hadn't been so lucky. His chest was caved in and one arm lay crooked, probably broken when he'd tried to ward off his attacker. The blunt features of his face were twisted in a gruesome death mask. Gray eyes stared lifelessly away from his lover.
First Cyndi had been killed, then his old friend Martin Griek and now this. No wonder Sandburg was having nightmares. Something in the back of Jim's mind nagged at him, something about the picture.
A few weeks after Cyndi's death, Jim came home from a date to find Sandburg lying on the couch, totally smashed. His laptop was on the coffee table, surrounded by beer bottles and a pad of drawing paper Jim kept around for his niece. Standing next to the couch, he debated on whether to try and wake Blair up or to leave him on the couch. As he watched his partner sleep with an easiness that had been missing since before he had gone undercover on Jesus Cristo case, his jaw clenched tighter and tighter. He was angry at Blair for getting drunk alone, and felt guilty that he hadn't been there for him. Dammit Blair, what were you thinking of? Deliberately, he relaxed the muscles in his jaw and started to clean up the mess. He picked up the drawing pad, intending to close it, when the picture caught his eye. There were seven people in a circle, from seven different cultures. On the far left was Blair in what Jim privately thought of as his neo-hippie witch doctor outfit. Next to him sat Incacha in his ceremonial garb. Jim's gaze lingered on the two wistfully. He didn't have any images of Incacha outside of his memories of him. Blair had managed to capture the gentle wisdom in his eyes. Seeing the two people who had really connected to him, sitting together... the memory of the last time he had seen them together rose in his mind. Incacha lying on the couch, the coppery tang of blood overpowering the familiar earthy scent. Blair kneeling next to him. Incacha's hand reaching out to Blair, even as his spirit was leaving this plane of existence. It looked like his spirit was still reaching out to Blair.
Below each figure Blair had drawn an object and a word. Under the picture of Young Blair was a star with the word, SELF. A feather curled underneath Incacha with the word GUIDE. Jim frowned at the picture. Why would Blair label himself in the picture and then call Incacha guide?
He looked at the other figures in the drawing. He didn't know who they were, but he recognized what they were. SHAMANS. Sitting next to Incacha was an old gray woman dressed in furs and metal plates and charms with a permanent scowl on her face. A rough figure of wolf was drawn beneath her with the word KNOW. Jim could almost feel the disapproval radiating from her. She reminded him of an English teacher he once had. Mrs. Engle had been quick to point out mistakes in students' grammar and quicker with her ruler.
On the woman's right was a Native American medicine man with an intricately beaded pouch below him. Inscribed beneath the pouch was the word CHOOSE. Choose what? A beautiful scarf clad woman lounged next to the muscular Native American, a flowing scarf lay at her feet. Jim grinned at the word below her. LOVE. Uh-huh, Chief. I can see why you would want to love her.
Jim recognized the next shaman as an Aboriginal man. There was a double pointed crystal sketched beneath him with the word DREAM. Blair certainly had been doing a lot of that recently.
The last figure was a Chinese lady dressed in traditional garb with a stiff outer robe and several layers underneath. A lotus was drawn beneath her with the word SEE. His fingers touched the flower, careful not to smudge the pencil drawing. The flower was familiar to him.
Sitting down on the other couch, he flipped the page over. It was a collage of images from their past. Of himself holding Blair against the wall in his office, his face angry. A gun changing hands. Golden fire people floating in the air, boxes in an empty loft, a telephone smashed. So many incidents that Jim regretted. Incacha was there and Alex. Jim and Alex on the beach, holding each other. Alex holding a gun on Blair. A wolf and jaguar merging in the air. In one section there was an area of darkness Blair had shaded in. Jim wondered what that darkness was.
A snort from Blair startled him. Putting the sketchpad down, he checked on his friend. Blair had rolled onto his back, his arm hanging off the side of the couch. Getting up, he repositioned Blair carefully, making sure he was on his side with his back propped up by the couch. Satisfied that Blair wasn't going to roll off the couch, he turned to close the sketchpad. He picked up the pad and held it in his hands, feeling the weight and the texture of the paper. He knew that the images he had seen were from Blair's vision at Sierra Verde. Blair had described meeting seven mystical shamans and being shown visions of the past and the future. Seeing them here on paper gave them a weight they hadn't had before. There was one more drawing in the pad that he hadn't seen. For some reason, Blair had sketched these pictures tonight, weeks after his vision had occurred. They were important to Blair. Sensitive fingers stroked the rough paper. Flipping over the picture, Jim stared at the last drawing.
There was a wavering image of a handprint in the center. Dark rivulets streamed away from it to the scenes surrounding it. On the upper left hand corner was Cyndi Blake, a bloody cross carved into her chest. Next to her was a picture of two men, one with his arms outstretched, covered in blood, the other with flowers on his chest. The rest of the page was blank, as if the artist had meant to continue, but had forgotten to do so. Or was too drunk. Jim was sure there was more to Blair's vision. He looked back at his friend. Closing the sketchpad, he set it down among the beer bottles. Maybe it was better that he didn't know.
Jim returned to the present. Simon was still staring at Blair and Blair was still staring at the photo, his expression shell-shocked. Jim felt helpless. Looking down at the photo, he compared it to his memory of Blair's drawing. There was something different about the two images.
"Blair, are you sure it's exactly the same?" The younger man didn't move. Jim shook his shoulder. "Blair?"
Haunted blue eyes looked at him. "Yeah?"
Jim repeated the question. He held his breath as Blair studied the photos, frowning.
Blair pulled the top photo out of Jim's hand. He pointed to the older man in the picture. "Where's the blood?"
Simon spoke up. "What blood? What are you talking about?"
Blair looked at Simon, color leaching back into his face with his growing excitement. "There's no blood. No flowers either. It's not them!" He looked at Jim, relief lighting his face. "It's not them!"
"No Chief, it's not them."
A shadow flickered across the younger man's face. Before he could formulate a question, Simon broke in. "Would someone mind telling me what is going on?"
Jim looked at Simon. He had that 'I know I'm not going to like the explanation, but tell it to me anyway' look. Blair shifted in his seat next to him, silent and obviously uncomfortable. Deciding it was up to him to answer the captain, he tried to start off slow. "You remember when Blair went down to Sierra Verde to find himself before going to the Academy? He had that 'weird experience'?"
"Yes." The word was drawn out. Blair wasn't the only one who was uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going.
Jim pushed ahead. "Well, it wasn't just a weird experience. His spirit guide led him on a vision quest where he had a vision. In it, he was shown the future."
Simon's eyebrows rose as the import of what his detective was telling him sank in. "A vision quest? You mean a 'go out into the woods and starve yourself until you start to hallucinate' vision quest?"
Blair protested. "It wasn't like that, Captain. I communicated with some high-powered spirits."
Simon gave him a disbelieving smirk. "Uh-huh. Would that be Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker?"
"Sir!" Blair jumped up angrily. Grabbing his arm, Jim applied firm but gentle pressure until the young Shaman sat down again.
"Sir, what Sandburg means is he had a true vision. His spirit guide was there along with some other shamans, including Incacha. They showed him the future."
Simon heaved a heavy sigh. "And this future included two men murdered by some whacked-out psycho?"
Simon sighed again. Please, God, if you decide to 'gift' another of my detectives, make it something I don't have to tap dance around all the time. My feet are getting sore. "Right. Okay, so you saw the killer, right?"
Blair shook his head. "It doesn't work that way, Simon. I saw them after the fact. There was blood all over the place, but no sign of who did it."
The phone rang, startling them. Simon picked up the handset. "Yes? Another one? Where? Fine. Thanks Rhonda." He hung up the phone. "There's been another double murder. The bodies were laid out in the same manner as the Hirken-Miller case. It looks like we have another serial killer on our hands, gentlemen."
Blair put the file back together quickly and stood up. He still felt a little queasy, but it looked as if Simon actually wanted to talk about the supernatural happenings that plagued his detectives, and Blair really didn't feel like talking right now. "What is it about Cascade, huh? Home to more serial killers per captia than most of the world. I guess we'd better get cracking." He stilled when he noticed Simon staring at him with a strange, almost fearful look. "What?"
Simon paused, before asking carefully. "How are you going to start?"
Blair shrugged. "Well, I'd thought we'd go to the crime scene and have Jim canvass it for clues. Why?"
There was a sheepish look on Simon's face. "Nothing. Get out of here and, uh, get cracking. Jim, could you stay behind for a second?" Blair looked back briefly, but continued out, shutting the door behind him.
Simon came around his desk and sat down on the corner. Reaching behind him, he grabbed his cigar, rolling it between his fingertips as the silence lengthened.
Jim shifted in his chair, waiting. After a bit, he gave up on the notion that Simon would start the conversation. "What's up, Captain?"
"Jim, what's happening with Blair?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, last time I checked, you're the one who has visions and communes with spirit guides. I know that Blair's had a couple of brushes with mysticism. I mean, he died; you brought him back. He thought he had some sort of psychic connection with Cyndi Blake. But this -- being able to see the future? Last time I checked, he couldn't even see that ghost of yours. Psychic powers just don't develop overnight."
"You knew he followed his spirit guide to Sierra Verde."
"Yeah, but after you came back you never mentioned anything about a vision quest. I thought... Well, that he had imagined it or something. Dammit Jim, it's hard enough to explain away your little 'insights', but at least they have some basis in reality."
Jim sat up straight. "What he saw is reality, Simon. He predicted Cyndi Blake's death. He even had flashes of it before she died. That's why he went to her apartment that night."
Simon groaned. "Why didn't he tell me? I've been sending him to the department shrink, thinking he was just suffering from survivor's guilt or something. Dr. Morse said that he thought Blair was holding back something, but this? Blair just mumbled something about a psychic connection and I thought..."
"He was obfuscating? He did have some sort of connection with Cyndi Blake. He experienced her death."
"So what's happening now? What's his connection to these men?"
Jim shook his head. "I don't know." He thought about what was happening to his partner. Psychic flashes aside, Blair seemed different. Harder on the outside, more confused on the inside. Simon picked up on the change of mood. "What else is bothering you Jim?"
"Ever since Blair came back from Sierra Verde, he's changed."
"That's only natural. His whole life changed. He's finding himself."
"Is he? Or is he remaking himself into my image?"
Simon frowned. "Is this some new incarnation of the famous Ellison guilt?"
"It's not guilt, Simon. Look at him. He's having nightmares and visions. You know, sometimes it feels like he's trying to be too much like me."
Simon snorted. "Oh, you mean super cop, super abilities, super tough?"
Jim ignored him. "I'm not sure how much of what he does is because he wanted to or because he felt he had to. Even being a shaman. Would he have chosen that for himself if he hadn't met me? And what does being a shaman do for him? He doesn't even have control over what he sees."
"Did you have control when you first got your senses?"
"No. I had Blair to help me." Jim paused. Simon quirked an eyebrow at him, as if he had just said the answer to the question. "Oh, no. I can't do what Sandburg does. I wouldn't know how."
"You may know more than you think. You know Sandburg better than anyone else and you know how he has helped you. It's your turn to mentor him. And not just in that Sentinel-Shaman stuff. Your partner needs you to guide him down his chosen path. Don't let him down." Simon stood up, indicating the meeting was over.
Jim got up and walked to the door. Opening it, he paused and looked back. Simon had already moved behind his desk and picked up some papers. Jim blinked as the air shimmered around the big man. Looking more closely, he decided it was just body heat coming off of Simon. It was a little chilly in the office. Shrugging he left the room.
Simon dropped the papers he'd been holding and stared at the closed door. For some strange reason he felt drained. Anyone with sense would be after dealing with those two. Visions, spirit guides, premonitions. I thought that business with the baboon's foot was bad. Give me an old-fashion shoot-out any day of the week. How am I going to explain it if Blair does find something using his 'psychic' abilities... He sighed. I guess the same way I explain Jim's.
Blair was shuffling papers on his desk. "Hey, Jim. What was that about?"
Jim picked up his coat. "You know Simon. He feels totally out of his depth with this stuff. You ready to go?"
"Yeah." They walked into the hallway. "So, Simon thinks I've finally flipped out."
Jim hit the button for the elevator. "No. He just thinks you need to talk to someone. Well, someone who you can really talk to since the department shrink doesn't cover metaphysical manifestations. He suggested you talk to me." A soft chime announced the arrival of the elevator. They waited until it emptied out before getting on.
Blair leaned up against the elevator wall. "We did talk. We talked last night." He crossed his arms defensively. He knew he was acting childishly, but it felt as if the wounds which had scabbed over after Cyndi's death had been ripped open again. He didn't know if he could handle another psychic experience of someone's death. That part of being a shaman sucked major time. He scratched at the bullet wound that was healing on his side.
Jim pulled his hand away from his side. "Don't scratch. We talked last night, but last night we didn't know about the murders. That makes it a whole new ball game, Chief."
Blair shrugged, his expression mulish. "Fine, so two people were murdered exactly like my vision. It's been known to happen. At least it wasn't someone I knew."
Jim winced inwardly at the pain in his friend's eyes. "Blair, it was four people, and they weren't all murdered exactly like your vision. The first murder scene didn't have the flowers or the blood."
Blair stared at Jim, amazed he was nit picking details when his life was falling apart. "Well it's not my fault the murderer was inconsistent. This latest one is probably the one from my vision. Why are you getting on my back?" Why did this have to happen now? This was a new year, a new millennium. Well, not a new millennium, technically that's going to be next year. But still, the end of the world had come and gone. Why did it feel like God had hit the snooze button?
Jim sighed. "I'm not getting on your back. I'm trying to be a supportive partner." And you're not making it easy, Chief. Work with me.
Blair looked at him, searching for something. As if someone flipped a switch, his mood changed. His eyes softened and his tone was more conciliatory. "Why are we arguing?"
Jim threw up his hands. "I don't know. Maybe because you're finding out what it's like to have weird abilities. To have people talk about what's good for you without consulting you."
Blair turned away. "I never did that. Besides, you and Simon had plenty of conferences about me when I was an observer. Don't think I didn't I didn't know about those 'what's wrong with the kid' discussions."
"Now who's nitpicking details? Like you never had a conference with Simon to discuss my Sentinel abilities."
Blair hunched his shoulders. "Well..."
Jim slapped his back. "Let's go before that foot gets wedged permanently in your mouth."
The snow crunching underneath the truck's tires sounded unnaturally loud to Jim's ears as they turned between the stone pillars of the gates. Huge oak trees marched up the drive, stretching their massive limbs overhead, their intertwining branches forming a skeletal net. Neatly trimmed evergreens and shrubbery dotted the smooth white lawn. Statuary wore caps of fluffy snow, fresh from last night's snowstorm. Rolling to a stop outside the victim's house, Jim took in the ordered confusion moving in and out through the front doors. Emergency vehicles and cop cars crowded the large driveway, the blue and red lights reflecting off the snow in the watery winter sun. As he turned off the engine, a movement next to him made him turn his head.
Blair was fiddling with the seat belt, his face a mixture of nervousness and awe. "Wow, this place looks like something out of Architecture Today. Bruce Wayne didn't have a house like this."
"Uh-huh." Unfastening his own seat belt, Jim waited as Blair accustomed himself to the atmosphere of the house.
"And those cornices are fantastic. You know it's all in the details." His fingers slid over the nylon webbing.
Jim counted to ten in his head slowly. The fingers slowed their movement. "You ready to go in?"
"Yeah, of course, man. I was just admiring the architecture, you know."
Jim smiled. "Yeah, I know. Come on."
They walked up the stone-covered sidewalk, flashing their badges at the uniformed cop. Blair hesitated at the doorway. Jim waited patiently as Blair ran his fingers over the cast iron knocker on the door. The gargoyle seemed to laugh at him around the ring in his mouth. Blair started at the sound of Jim snapping on his gloves. Smiling nervously, he pulled out his own gloves and walked into the house. Come on Sandburg, you've done this before. Forensics were already busy dusting for prints. The place was a showcase, the oak paneled walls rising gracefully into curving archways. Their footsteps echoed on the flagstone entryway.
"Wow, it's even more incredible on the inside. Look at that vaulted ceiling. This is like something out of a gothic novel. The manor house and all."
Jim let Blair go ahead at his own pace. "Yeah." Walking into the living room, he noticed the table in the center of the room. Two tumblers stood there, still partially filled waiting for people who would never come to finish them off. Black dust indicated that forensics had already been here. Jim stood, taking in the details of the couch and table. "What do we have here?"
Blair nodded to the glasses. "Two glasses, two victims."
Jim shook his head. "Two victims, three glasses. There's a watermark here. The killer must have had scotch on the rocks."
A male sarcastic voice came from behind them. "Incredible piece of detective work, Detective Ellison. Couldn't the water mark come from one of the other glasses?"
Jim carefully picked up the glasses. The wood underneath was unmarked. He set them down again. "No, the victims evidently liked their whiskey straight up. The killer had his on the rocks. Any other questions?"
Blair looked at the owner of the hostile voice. The man was as tall as Jim, with wheat blond hair and hazel eyes. He was wearing the blue uniform of a beat cop and a lieutenant's badge. It said Weisner.
Weisner looked around and then at Jim. "Where's the glass, Detective?"
Jim held his gaze. He didn't know what was with the attitude, but he wasn't going to make Weisner's problem his own. He kept his stance loose and his expression unconcerned. "Probably in the drainboard if it's here. The killer wouldn't have wanted to leave any evidence behind."
"Hmm." He held out his hand. "Lieutenant Gary Weisner. I was first to respond to the call."
Jim shook his hand. "Detective Ellison and my partner, Detective Blair Sandburg. What's the story?"
Weisner gestured upstairs. "The victims were Jason Block and Thomas Garrot. They were, uh, domestic partners. Garrot was an architect and Block was a construction worker. A neighbor called it in. She got nervous when they didn't show up to shovel her driveway this morning and used a key they gave her for emergencies. She found them upstairs."
Jim nodded. "Anything else?"
"No signs of forced entry, no footprints or tire tracks outside. The killer probably left around nine or ten last night, right before the main front of the storm. Forensics is dusting for fingerprints, but it's a mess. Evidently they had a big New Year's party a couple of days ago. There's dozens of finger prints all over the place."
Blair made a small noise of sympathy for forensics. Going through all the crime scene evidence was going to be a nightmare with so many people visiting the house recently.
Jim just nodded again. Sometimes you got the breaks and sometimes the breaks got you. He started towards the stairs. "Forensics hasn't been upstairs, right?"
Weisner looked at Jim confused. "Of course they've been upstairs. That's where they started after realizing the downstairs was going to be a loss."
Jim stopped and turned around. "Lieutenant, I always go through a crime scene before forensics goes through it. Get them down here, now. I don't care if a hundred people came through here, I want everything dusted, photographed and cataloged. The killer may have been sloppy. We can't afford to be as sloppy. You understand." It was not a question.
The lieutenant looked at Jim and Blair, a mixture of resentment and confusion burning in his hazel eyes. "Yes, Detective." Turning his back deliberately to the two detectives, he stomped up the stairs.
"Man, what's his problem?"
Jim took another look around the living room. "I don't know, Chief. This is the first time I've actually met him. He's got a reputation for being a good cop, the attitude not withstanding. He transferred in a couple of months ago."
Blair rolled his eyes. "I know that. You don't need super hearing to find out things around the precinct. Did you know that his brother is gay?"
Jim looked at Blair. "His brother's gay?"
"Yeah. I heard he moved up here to be closer to him. Some sort of family tragedy or something. The details aren't too clear. I think his brother is sick or something."
Above them came the rumbling of voices and stomping of feet as the forensics team made their way down the stairs. Weisner barely acknowledged them as he stomped into the kitchen.
Motioning Blair to go first up the stairs, Jim walked behind him, monitoring his heart rate and breathing. Blair stopped and turned around. "You didn't have to clear everyone out for me."
Jim came up next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "If these men are the ones from your vision, I didn't think you'd want an audience."
Blair put his hand over Jim's. "Thanks, man." He took a deep breath. "Let's get this over." Straightening his shoulders, he solemnly continued up the stairs. He hesitated at the top. Jim silently pointed to a door. Blair's face was pale as he walked down the hallway.
Walking through the door, his eyes were drawn to the two sheet draped figures on the floor. His hands began to sweat as he took in the details. They lay in the shape of a T with a bloody stain where the top body was covered. Blair stumbled forward.
Jim caught his arm. This was a bad idea. Dead bodies had never been his partner's forte. "You don't have to go through with this, Blair. You can look at the photos later."
Blair shook his head, his expression determined. "No, I need to see the bodies."
Jim let him go. Reaching down, he carefully lifted the first sheet. A young man in his mid-twenties was revealed. His strong face was incredibly peaceful. A bouquet of flowers had been placed on his broad chest. Jim looked up at his partner, who nodded for him to continue. Jim pulled back the other sheet. The dark haired man had his arms outstretched and gashes covered his chest. Blair swallowed hard and continued looking at the bodies, matching the details from his vision. After a long moment, he turned away. Jim covered the bodies again.
Blair walked over to the window, staring out to the pristine white snow-covered lawn. Jim joined him there, putting an arm around his shoulders. Blair took a deep breath. "It's them. It's the men from my vision."
Jim gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze. "I'm sorry, Blair."
"Sorry wasn't good enough for them, Jim. What's the use of having psychic powers if they don't make a difference?"
Jim turned the younger man towards him. "Maybe it does make a difference. There's a madman out there who has killed four times. We're in the position to stop him and we will stop him, but I need you realize you can make a difference. You, Blair Sandburg, are a force to be reckoned with. I need you focused on that and not dwelling on things that you can't change. The past is the past, we can't change it, but we can change the future."
Blair stared into Jim's eyes, absorbing the absolute conviction in them, the conviction that he, Blair Sandburg, could change the future. I can make a difference. He slipped an arm around Jim's waist. "I can do it. I can make a difference."
"Great, now tell me what you see here."
Blair turned around. He stopped comparing what he had seen in his vision and focused on what was there. He paced around the bodies, lifting off the sheets again, taking in the details. "This was a crime of passion. But it was also planned. Both Block and Garrot were drugged." He gestured to the arms of the victims. "See, no defensive wounds on Garrot's arms and Block is just too big to go down without a fight. The killer drugged their drinks. He drank with them to lower their guards."
Jim nodded. "They were killed here, though. He brought them upstairs to the bedroom. The bedroom is a significant place to the killer. Probably because they're gay."
Blair turned to Jim. "Are we sure they were killed because they were gay?"
"There's no sign of robbery. This is the second gay couple in two weeks to be killed and both couples had their bodies arranged in a similar fashion. I'd say it's a strong possibility."
"Okay, so he killed them because they were gay. Why?"
"He's a serial killer, Blair, that's what they do. For some reason, gay men piss him off." He looked over the bodies again. "He killed the younger man first."
Blair looked at the bodies, his expression puzzled. "How do you know that?"
Jim squatted next to the younger man's body. "Look at the blood splatter here on the crease of his shirt. If he were still alive at the time of his friend's murder, the blood would be smudged from him breathing. It isn't."
Blair nodded grimly, his face turning a little green, but determined to get through this. "Okay, so how did he die? Hirken was killed by a blow to the head."
Jim pointed out a small mark on the arm. "He was given a shot of something. He probably never woke up."
"The killer brings them up here, arranges the bodies and then kills Block with a shot of something. Then he turns to Garrot and stabs him to death? That doesn't make any sense. Garrot was unconscious at the time."
"'Sense' doesn't apply here, Blair. Killers have their own kind of logic."
"Fine, the crazy man stabs Garrot to death and then does what? There's blood all over the place. He's got to have it all over himself." Blair's eyes followed the bloody footprints that led away from the bodies to the master bathroom. "He cleaned himself up in bathroom."
Jim stood up and scanned the inside of the bathroom. "Forensics have been in here. There're no fingerprints on the sink. He cleaned up after himself."
Blair nodded. "He's started to think again. He grabbed the murder weapon and ran out the door. So we have four dead people, no fingerprints upstairs, too many fingerprints down stairs, no murder weapon and no suspect." He covered the victims again with the sheets, his movements jerky.
Blair sighed. "Sorry. Objectivity doesn't seem to be my long suit anymore."
"Was it ever? Come on; let's interview that neighbor. Maybe she saw something that could help us."
Blair tossed down the forensics report he was holding and stretched out his legs underneath his desk. After interviewing the neighbor, who hadn't seen anything suspicious, they'd canvassed the area before heading back to the station.
They dug through the original reports on the Miller-Hirken case, sifting through the witness reports, autopsy reports, and forensics. It had been pretty depressing. No one had seen anything, despite the fact that a huge holiday party had taken place only a few hours prior to the murders. Blair had left the autopsy reports to Jim and concentrated on going through the forensics evidence.
Over a hundred prints had been lifted at the house, mostly from downstairs. The majority had been identified by fingerprinting the guests, but there were still twenty or so unidentified prints and at least that many guests either out of town or unknown to the other guests. Dozens of hair and fiber samples had been taken, and cross-matched against samples obtained from guests at the party, but again, they couldn't be sure whether they belonged to a guest at the party or the killer because they still hadn't been able to find all the people at said party. Blair looked at the photos of the crime scene. The couple must have been interrupted during the cleaning up immediately after the party. A lot of the dishes and glasses had been collected on one of the tables. He picked up the photo that showed Miller and Hirken on the floor. Unlike the second murder, the killer had left these bodies in the living room and arranged them where they'd fallen.
He studied the position of the bodies, trying to remain objective. Despite the similarities in how the bodies were arranged in both cases, there were some differences that seemed to jump out. The positioning seemed sloppy and hurried, as if the killer had been worried about getting caught. He hadn't bothered to extend Miller's arms as carefully as he'd done with Garrot's. Blair closed his eyes, seeing the second murder scene, picking out the details. Yes, the bodies were more carefully placed. They were at right angles to each other and the bottom body was perfectly centered. He shivered as he remembered the look of peace on the younger man's face, his head haloed in blood. Blair jumped as a hand came down on his shoulder. He looked up to see Megan backing away with her hands up.
"Take it easy, Sandy. I was just checking to see if you're awake. You know you're not supposed to sleep on the job."
He sat up and ran his hands through his curly hair. "I wasn't sleeping, Megan. I was using a technique called visualization. You should try it some time. It helps improve your reaction time."
Megan shook her head. "If Simon catches you 'visualizing' you're going need that reaction time. How's it going?" There was just a touch of concern in her voice.
Blair cleared his throat. "Fine, fine. How are you and Rafe enjoying working together on the swing shift?" Megan had been temporarily partnered with the debonair detective while Brown's broken jaw healed. Simon had taken pity on him and ordered him on medical leave for the next week after it became evident that talking with his jaw wired shut was not going to work.
"Just great, Sandy. Paperwork's all caught up and Rafe was finally able to finish transferring his little black book into his organizer."
Blair rolled his eyes. Brown had given his partner an electronic organizer for Christmas. He claimed it was because sooner or later the ladies were going to realize that the bulge in Rafe's pocket was from his old little black book and not from some other source. Rafe claimed that he couldn't carry his LBB in his pocket because it kept on ripping the liner out of the pockets, it was so heavy. The teasing and boasting had gone on for a while longer, but everyone could tell that Rafe loved the present. He had gotten everyone to enter their information right then and there. He'd even managed to charm the donut lady, Dilly, into putting in her number. For emergency donut shortages, he had assured her.
"I would have thought it would have taken him at least another week."
Megan shrugged. "It might have, but he decided to weed out some of his old 'acquaintances' who are now married ladies. I say this for the man, he does have some scruples with the ladies."
"Connor, you wound me. I'll have you know that I am always a perfect gentleman with the ladies." Rafe smiled as he strolled up to Blair's desk. As always, he was dressed to the nines in a crisp gray suit and a complimentary tie.
Megan smiled at him. "Uh-huh. I wonder if Rhonda would say that about your behavior last Thursday when she took you home?"
Blair chuckled as Rafe's face turned red, the blush contrasting with the green and yellow bruising on the left side of his face. The bruise was a reminder of Rafe's disastrous dental surgery and the even more disastrous ride home from the precinct that Rhonda had given the handsome detective.
Jim walked up with the Garrot-Block pre-lim forensics report in his hand. "Are they ganging up on you, Rafe?"
Rafe put on his own version of the patented Sandburg puppy dog look. "They are attacking my dating habits."
Jim turned to Blair. "You are criticizing his dating habits? Mr. I'll-date-anything-in-a-skirt?"
Blair looked at Jim with a mock hurt expression. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be defending me, oh partner of mine?"
Jim shook his head. "Some things are just indefensible. Your dating habits just happen to be one of them. At least you've stopped overbooking them."
"Like yours are any better. In fact, when was your last date? I can't seem to remember..." His voice drifted off as he pretended to search his memory. A cuff to the head brought him back. "Oh yeah, three weeks ago. That little blonde thing."
"That little blonde thing teaches self-defense at the local woman's shelter. She also holds a master's in sociology. Karen is a very talented and giving woman."
Blair grinned. "Uh-huh. I bet she is."
Simon came out of his office, his eyes searching for delinquent detectives. Connor and Rafe disappeared as he bore down on the group. "Any progress on your case, Jim?"
Jim handed him the file he had brought with him. "Forensics is a bust. No fingerprints on the glasses or upstairs. The luminol did pick up the footprints. They were able to match them to a brand of sneakers Nike makes. Unfortunately they're fairly common running shoes. The knife was found buried underneath the snow in the yard. No prints there either."
Simon took a quick look through the file before handing it off to Blair. "Damn. The press has been pretty quiet on this so far. They're still having a field day with all the Y2K hoopla. Sooner or later they're going to be looking for fresh blood. What about witnesses?"
Blair shook his head. "None. The neighbor who discovered the body said there were people coming and going all night. She went to bed early, so she didn't hear anything after ten. This killer is either really lucky or picking his victims carefully. Both times were after a big holiday party, so lots of unfamiliar faces and cars."
"But how is he picking his victims? What do they have in common?"
Jim took the two case folders and set them side by side on his desk. The three policemen looked at the photos of the victims prior to death. "Two couples, gay, male, Caucasian. Ages ranging from 21 to 43. Miller owned a cafe, Hirken was a college student, Garrot was an architect, and Block worked in construction. Both couples were reportedly happy in their relationships."
Blair shifted impatiently. "Where would these two couples cross paths?"
Simon tapped on the folders. "Check their credit card receipts. See if they went to the same places. This is Cascade, not San Francisco. There can't be that many gay hangouts." He grinned at Blair's expression. "What's wrong, Sandburg, never been to a gay bar?"
"Well, yes and no."
Jim smirked. "Which is it, yes or no?"
Blair squirmed. "Well, I accidentally went into this bar once in Nurnburg when I was young."
Jim broke in. "Nurnburg? I didn't know you'd been to Germany. Isn't Nurnburg the second largest gay city in Germany?"
"How would you know that?"
"There's a military base there. I was TDY there a couple of times -- temporary duty. Not that I did a lot of sightseeing while I was there. I do remember the wall enclosing the city and the castle that sits above the city."
"Yeah, my Mom and I climbed up to visit the castle. I remember this big rock there."
Simon grunted in surprise. "You and your mom went into a gay bar?"
Blair sighed. "If you guys would let me finish, I would tell you that we wandered in there by accident. There aren't signs posted about that stuff. I probably wouldn't have noticed except for the guy behind the bar. It was the first time I'd ever seen a guy in a dress. Naomi got me out of there so fast that I thought I had whiplash."
Simon and Jim hooted while Blair stood there, chuckling. Simon was the first one to gain his composure. "I guess there is a limit even to Naomi's tolerance."
Blair shook his head, still smiling. "No, I think she was surprised more than anything else. She hadn't expected it to be a gay bar. It didn't look like one. If fact, except for the absence of women, it didn't really look all that different from a regular bar."
"Well, why don't you check out the gay bars here in Cascade. You can compare notes or something, Sandburg."
"Sure thing, Captain." Blair gave him a snappy salute.
"Quit that and get to work. Cruise the bars and see if you can find anything useful." Shaking his head, he wandered back to his office. Only with Sandburg could he hear about European castles and gay bars in the same conversation.
Blair stamped his feet as he waited for his partner to lock up the truck. Snow, snow and more snow. I really don't like snow. It was cold and wet and made driving difficult. Of course, it didn't help that they had been trekking through the snow for most of the afternoon, following leads. Until today, I didn't realize Cascade has such a large population of people in alternative lifestyles. I mean, it's not exactly Mayberry, but it's no Los Angeles either. They had visited 5 gay bars, 2 gay book stores, and 3 sex shops that had been on the credit card receipts. Several people had remembered the two couples, but there hadn't been any other useful information forthcoming. Just one more and we're going home.
Jim stomped around the truck. "Come on, last one."
"I was just thinking that. We need to go shopping before we go home. We're out of orange juice." Blair pulled open the heavy outside door of the 'Unicorn', a trendy gay bar. Jim held it as he went into the dark entryway. "We also need sugar and bagels. Can you think of anything?"
"Milk, bacon and eggs. Why don't we pick up some stuff for lasagna? We haven't had that for a while." Jim pulled out the photos they had been showing around the other clubs as they approached the bar.
Blair looked around. Like most of the other bars it looked relatively normal, except for the absence of women. The lighting was turned low and there were numerous small tables for intimate conversation. This one also had a dance floor. I wonder who leads? There were several patrons, including... He nudged Jim's shoulder. "What's Weisner doing here?"
Jim followed his partner line of sight. Weisner was sitting alone at the bar in street clothes, sipping a whiskey on the rocks. "I don't know. But I think we should find out." The two walked over to the bar.
Weisner scowled as they approached. "What are you doing here?"
Jim gave him a humorless smile. "We were about to ask you the same thing."
The ice in his glass tinkled as he swirled it. "I'm here meeting someone."
Blair looked at him surprised. He wouldn't have thought Weisner was the type to visit a gay bar. "Who?"
A young man in his early twenties sat down next to Weisner. He had the same wheat colored hair and bore a striking resemblance to Officer Weisner. "Hey Gary, who're your friends? I haven't seen them in here before." He looked at the detectives, his hazel eyes guileless. Blair noticed the pain that seemed to lurk there.
Weisner sighed and gestured toward Jim and Blair. "Martin, these are Detectives James Ellison and Blair Sandburg. Detectives, this is my brother, Martin. You happy?"
Martin frowned at his brother. "Don't be a prick, Gary. Excuse my brother, he hasn't had a good day. There was a murder early today and he's out of sorts."
Jim's expression soured as he stared at Weisner, his eyes icy. "I wasn't aware that the press had picked up on that."
The older Weisner took another sip of his drink. "They haven't."
Martin looked at the detectives and his brother, alarmed at the tension hanging in the air. He was quick to defend his brother. "Gary asked me to make some inquiries. He figured that I'd be able to get information without alarming anyone." His hands flew as he talked, nervously waving in the air.
Jim ground his teeth. "That's nice, except that he didn't okay this with the officer in charge of the investigation, which would be me. Information leaks could damage the case."
Anger flashed in Gary's eyes and he straightened on his barstool. "That's the second time you've accused me of being sloppy, Detective. I want this guy caught as badly as you do. Do you realize my brother could be a target?"
Martin tugged on his sleeve. "Gary?"
His older brother grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze before releasing it. "I didn't want to alarm you, Martin, it's really too early to tell."
Jim sighed impatiently. "To tell what?"
"The two older men who were killed, they were both terminally ill. Miller had lung cancer and Garrot had a bad heart. The killer seems to be targeting gay couples with a terminally ill partner." Martin's face paled as he revealed the information.
Blair frowned. "That's crazy. Why would anyone want to kill someone who was already dying? And how does that relate to your brother?" Too late, Blair remembered the bit of gossip he had heard. Something to do with Weisner's brother.
Weisner tossed back the rest of his drink. "Because Jonathan, Martin's partner, has AIDS. He's in Cascade General right now with pneumonia. Martin was up all night with him. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're supposed to go visit him. I hope you can get your act together and catch this guy. Until then, I'm staying close to my brother." He got up and tossed a couple of bills on the bar. Nodding to Blair, he started to leave.
Jim grabbed his arm. "Weisner, I'm sorry about your brother's friend. We're going to catch the killer. But your attitude isn't helping."
Weisner bristled. "What are you going to do? Those homophobic idiots in Homicide didn't do anything. They thought the first murder was some sort of weird lover's spat. They would've closed the case except for the fact that they couldn't explain away the missing murder weapon. Why should I believe you'd be any better?"
"Because we are better than that. We're going to find the killer. But I need a promise from you that you're not going to do any more extracurricular investigation. When --" Jim's voice stressed the word, "-- we get this guy, we don't want him getting off because you violated his civil rights. You're a police officer. I expect you to act like one."
Weisner shrugged off his grip. His eyes searched Jim's face for a second, weighing his words. He straightened his jacket with a jerky motion. "Fine, as long as we understand each other. I'm going to hold you personally responsible if you don't catch this guy before he kills again." He grabbed his brother and pushed him ahead. "Come on, Martin, let's go see Jonathan. You drive."
Jim and Blair watched silently as the Weisner brothers left. Blair looked at Jim, his face thoughtful. "Well that clears up one mystery."
Jim turned to Blair. "What mystery is that, Chief?"
"Weisner's attitude. If I had a brother and it looked like a serial killer could be after him, I'd be pushing it, too. Talk about tough luck."
Jim's face was thoughtful as he stared at the retreating pair. There was something that felt off about the situation. "It's awfully convenient."
Blair stared at his partner, surprised. "What are you talking about, Jim?"
Jim shrugged. "Weisner's concern for his gay brother. Did you see what Weisner was drinking?" He picked up the glass and sniffed at the contents. He was getting an itchy feeling. There was something about this situation he was missing, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
"Whiskey on the rocks, but that doesn't mean anything. Lots of people like whiskey on the rocks."
Jim looked down on the carpet. The wet imprints of Gary Weisner's shoes seemed to jump out at him. "What about those shoes he was wearing?"
Blair looked at the rug, trying to see what Jim was staring at so intently. "What about his shoes?"
"They're the same brand of sneakers the killer wore."
Blair threw up his hands in exasperation. "Jim, are we talking about the same man? He just made an impassioned speech about how concerned he is about his brother. He's a cop, for god's sake. Why would he start going out and killing gay couples?"
Jim took one last look at the footprints before looking at Blair, frustration clouding his expression. "I don't know. Maybe you're right." He sighed. "It's been a long day. Let's go home. Lasagna is sounding pretty good right now."
Snow was spiraling down gently as the battered blue-and-white truck turned onto Prospect Avenue. Jim had been able to replace the windows and tires on the much beloved truck, but the dents on the hood was going to have to wait until there was more money in the budget. It was a good thing that Brown and Rafe had gotten Ron Nowak away before Jim had gotten over the shock of someone taking a tire iron to his beloved Christine. Jim might drive her through concession stands and over highway dividers, but woe to be the perp that shoots at Jim's truck. Blair glanced over to his partner, gauging his energy level. Not that Jim would ever admit it, but between traipsing around in the snow, the lack of sleep, and dealing with Blair's mood swings, he was looking more than a little peaked. Blair tapped his fingers on his knee as he plotted how to get his partner off to bed early. Good food, a little wine and some soft music should do the trick. Worse comes to worse, I'll just dose him with some of Simon's special eggnog. That stuff's strong enough to put out an elephant with just one glass. He grinned as he remembered the three of them at Simon's house, two o'clock on New Years Day, trying to sing the theme song to MacGyver. They were so drunk, they hadn't even remembered there weren't any words to the music.
Jim pulled into their customary parking space, the wheels sliding on the fresh snow. Blair unbuckled his seatbelt and braced himself as he opened the door. The wave of cold seemed to suck the heat out of his body. Hopping down, he quickly grabbed two of the grocery bags out of the back of the truck. The rough edges of the brown paper bags scraped his chin as he scurried beside an equally laden Jim to the building, trying to keep the fresh snow out of his boots.
He sighed as the elevator doors closed and the car lurched upwards. He thought at first that the world had tilted, but then he realized it was Jim who was doing the leaning. "Hey, Jim, wake up man. We're almost there."
Jim blinked and stood up straight. "Sorry, Chief. I guess I'm more tired than I thought. I don't know why." He gave a big yawn. "Guess I'm going to be sleeping well tonight."
Blair clucked his tongue. "You know, you don't have to come downstairs every time I have a nightmare. Every other time is perfectly acceptable."
The elevator stopped and the pair stepped out. Jim gave the younger man a playful shove with his shoulder. "I don't come down every time. Just for the bad ones. When Carolyn and I were married, we used to do the same thing. I'd wake her up if I heard her having a bad nightmare and she'd wake me up if I were having one. Having nightmares is perfectly normal for police officers, Blair. It's part of the job."
Blair shoved him back. "That's funny, I seem to remember having them before I got my badge. I guess I'm just precocious that way."
Jim ignored the dig. "I guess so. You did a lot of cop things before you became a cop. Of course, we've never been able to get you to scarf down donuts properly. You know how important a cop skill that is." He leaned up against the wall and lowered his bags a little so Blair could transfer one of his.
Blair rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well let's see. How many grams of fat and cholesterol are there in one donut?" He shifted one of the bags to his hip and set the other one on top of the two Jim was holding. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out his keys. "Some of us are too eager to desecrate the sanctity of their bodies."
Jim peered around the third bag, the corners of his eyes wrinkling in humor. "Hey, I've had plenty of women come and worship at this temple."
Just then, the door across the hall opened, revealing the goddess next door. Blair muttered Sentinel soft, "I wouldn't mind worshiping there."
Straight white teeth flashed between luscious plum-colored lips as Leesha smiled at the pair. "Jim, Blair, nice to see you again. I see you two have been doing your grocery shopping."
Blair jingled his keys in his hand as he responded to the velvety soft voice. "Yeah, just got back. We were thinking of having homemade lasagna later. Would you like to come over and join us?" He tried to keep his eyes on her face as she slipped on her long woolen coat. He couldn't resist a quick peek as she reached up to pull her mane out from beneath the collar of her coat, the movement pulling the fabric of her shirt taunt against her chest. A nudge from behind reminded him that even if Leesha couldn't hear the pounding of his heart, the man behind him could. He could almost hear his partner's voice say, 'down boy'.
Thick dark lashes fluttered down over apologetic eyes. "I'm sorry Blair, I can't. I have a meeting tonight with some account big wigs for my company. They like to meet the models that represent their products."
Blair gave her his most charming smile. "No problem. Maybe another time. You know where we are."
She gave him a lazy smile. "Yeah, I know." She paused. "By the way, did you guys find one of my magazines yesterday? I'm missing one. Usually I wouldn't care, but I wrote this really important phone number on it."
Blair nodded. "Oh yeah, we found it after you'd left." A brilliant smile from her had him wishing that he'd gotten the magazine back from Banks. "But our boss has it. He kinda saw it when we took it into work today and appropriated it. He's a big fan of yours."
Leesha frowned. "Oh, no. I need that number before tomorrow night. Do you think I could come by and pick it up at your work tomorrow?"
"Sure." Blair pulled out his wallet and extracted one of his business cards.
"Great. Where do you work?" Leesha glanced down at her watch, totally missing the card that Blair was holding out to her.
"Major Crimes. We're on the sixth floor." Blair waved the card around, trying to catch her attention.
Leesha tossed her hair back with a practiced, but still seductive motion. Her lovely eyes met his before skittering away again. "The seventh floor of what?"
Blair bit back a sigh. "The sixth floor of the police building. Here's my card."
The model took the bit of cardboard and pocketed without looking at it. "Thanks Blain." She flashed another brilliant smile and left.
Blair stood there, dazed, watching her walk away from for the second time in two days. A nudge from Jim had him turning around. "Okay, okay. Sheesh, Jim." He fumbled with the keys.
Jim chuckled. "She didn't get your name right, Blair. That's a bad sign."
"Hey, maybe she's bad with names. It happens." He opened up the door and stalked on through.
Jim closed the door with a foot. "She had your card in hand, Sandburg."
Blair shrugged and put down his bag. Turning around, he grabbed his second bag out of Jim's arms. "Maybe she's near-sighted."
Setting the bags down on the counter, the older man started to empty them. "She was wearing contacts, Chief. Face it, you struck out."
"I didn't strike out. It takes three strikes to strike out. Besides, she was in a hurry both times we met her. Can I help it if the conditions were a little adverse?"
Jim laughed outright. "A little adverse? I'd say you got rained out. Time to move on. You still on for lasagna?"
Blair considered continuing the argument, but he really didn't have the heart for it. Jim was right about Leesha's lackluster response to his charm. It still smarted that he had a world class model living next door and she was totally cold to his advances. Oh well, another time, another place. "Yeah, that lasagna sounds good. You put the water and meat on and I'll finish putting these groceries away."
Blair spread the crime scene photos across the kitchen table. "Man, the guy who did this is sick. You still think it's Weisner?"
Jim cracked open the oven door and took an appreciative sniff of the lasagna. "I don't know. There was something about him." Jim had a brief sensory flash. "Something about the way he smelled."
Blair looked up from the folders, his face excited. "The way he smelled? Was it something from the crime scene? Maybe some blood?"
Jim shook his head, straining to figure out what he had sensed. "No, he was there at the crime scene. I smelled him there along with all the forensic teams. Even if I did smell some blood on him, he could have picked that up at the crime scene." The heat from the open oven door seared his face, causing him to jerk his head away. "Ow!"
Blair jumped up. "What?"
Jim held his face, as he closed the oven door. "It's nothing. Just singed around the edges."
Blair grabbed a clean kitchen towel and ran it underneath some cold water. "Here, put this on it. It'll help cool the burn." He wrung it out and handed it to Jim.
Jim held the towel on his face. Feeling the heat fade away, he pulled it off. "Just a sensory spike. I wasn't watching the dials."
Blair inspected his face. "It looks a little red, but I don't see any irreparable damage. Why don't you go splash your face with some cold water and then keep the towel on it."
"Sure, sure. Hey, pack up those folders for the night. I think we need a break from this. We've been at it all day."
Blair frowned. "But we've hardly scratched the surface."
"We're also jumping at shadows. What we need is a little perspective. Pack it up and set the table. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
"Okay." Blair put the folders back together. He wondered what Jim had sensed. It seemed to have centered on smell. It can't be that easy, could it? Sniff out the killer. Dropping the folders in their box, he pushed it aside and started to set the table. The only smell that mattered right now was the smell of their dinner, which was making his stomach rumble with hunger. Maybe Jim was right about perspective.
Martin Weisner smoothed out the wrinkles in the hospital sheet covering his lover. Jonathan had been in and out of the hospital for weeks with pneumonia and urinary tract infections. His body, once strong and healthy, was now painfully thin and weak. His beautiful green eyes were clouded with the medications the doctors gave him and his skin was so pale Martin could see the blue tracings of his veins. Martin sat down next to the bed. It was almost over. He could feel the end coming. He laid his head down on the bed, careful not to wake Jonathan.
Gary Weisner watched the scene from the doorway. Martin had been through so much these past few weeks. It hurt him to see him self-destructing before his eyes. Jonathan was the one who was dying, but it seemed to him that Martin was dying with him. His hand tightened on the doorjam, ignoring the bite of metal. He would do anything to end Martin's suffering. Anything.
Jim looked down at the small wooden box in his hand. He should've made the connection weeks ago when he had seen Blair's drawing of his vision, but he'd blocked off so many memories of her. This morning's dream had brought them rushing back, along with the pain of her absence. He ran his thumb over the lacquered top, new ripples of pain going through his soul. He closed his eyes for a moment; the memory of her voice singing brought a bittersweet smile to his face. Tucking the small box into his pocket, he headed downstairs. Blair needed this and that was all that mattered. The rest could wait until he was ready to deal with it.
Jim watched as Blair's head popped up from the couch where he had been stretched out, watching the news. It was strange how tuned in Blair was with his movements at times. Like he has his own internal radar when it came to him. He came around the couch and sat down beside Blair. Pulling out the box, he handed it to his friend.
Blair looked at him with questioning eyes. "What's this? I don't know if you noticed, but Christmas was a couple of weeks ago."
Jim shrugged, trying not to let Blair notice the emotional storm that the little box had churned up within him. "I know. This is something I should have given you weeks ago. My only excuse is that I had forgotten about it until now."
Blair's thumb smoothed over the top of the box like Jim's had a few minutes before. Jim could see Blair was intrigued and worried. Keeping his face neutral, he waited patiently as Blair slid open the top. Blue eyes widened as the cool gleam of green jade was revealed, nestled in red silk.
"Jim, where did you get this? It's just like the one from my vision." He traced the carved petals of the lotus flower reverently.
"My father brought it back from China as a gift for my mother before she went away. Sally saved it for me and gave it to me after I came back from Peru."
Blair looked at him, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "It's a beautiful piece, Jim. I'm not sure I can accept it." He placed the stone back into its protective box.
Jim put his hand over Blair's, closing his fingers over the precious stone. "It's what you need, Sandburg. Doesn't the lotus flower have some special meaning?"
Blair nodded. "The lotus is one of the few plants that flowers and bears fruit at the same time. It's because of this property that Buddhists thought the lotus could reveal past, present and future all at once. A jade lotus would have special meaning because jade symbolizes immortality. Jade is also thought to protect the wearer from a fall." His hand twitched underneath Jim's.
The memory of Blair falling in his dream flashed through Jim's mind. "Then I want you to have this Blair. To help you see your way. To protect you from falling."
Blair shook his head. "This is from your mother, Jim. I can't take it."
Jim felt the frustration build inside of him. He knew this was the right thing. Why was Blair arguing with him? "I don't think you understand, Sandburg. I'm not giving you a choice. The jade lotus is yours. Take it, leave it, give it away, I don't care. Is that clear?"
Blair stared at him, his eyes trying to riddle out his secrets. Jim prayed that he wouldn't dig tonight. He was too tired and emotionally wrung out. Memories from his childhood flashed through his head. Memories of arguments, of voices screaming and shouting, and then, finally silence. The lotus flower reminded Jim of what he had lost. It was better that Blair had it.
Closing the lid, Blair tucked the small box in his pocket. "If that's the way you want it, Jim. If you ever want to talk about it..."
Jim nodded, "You'll be the first to know, Chief. " He gave a huge yawn. "Right now, I'm going to bed. Don't stay up too late." He patted his friend's shoulder.
"Sure Jim. Sleep tight."
Jim paused at the top of the stairs to watch his guide look over his gift. Maybe tonight, there wouldn't be any nightmares. He yawned again and stripped off his shirt. Tomorrow was going to be another long day.
The wolf turned his silvery head around in confusion. Lacy fronds waved gently in the humid jungle air, their movement at odds with the sense of urgency he felt. He sniffed the air, but found nothing unusual. The scream of a jaguar split the air, causing the hairs on his neck to rise. The wolf howled in response. His friend was in danger.
Loping through the dense undergrowth, the wolf ran to help. Suddenly the jungle fell away, revealing a ravine with a rope bridge. The wolf whimpered. There was something across the bridge, something bad. Another scream echoed through the jungle. The jaguar was on the other side of the ravine. The wolf trotted up to the bridge. He had to get across. He gingerly put one paw on the rope.
Without warning the world around him blurred, then faded. The ravine and bridge disappeared. In their place was a bedroom. A huge bed dominated the room, the carved posts reminding the wolf of vines twisting their way down the trees in the forest.
In the middle of the floor were two blond men. Blair's breath caught in his throat as he recognized the Weisner brothers. Their bodies were arranged in a T, the head of the younger man not quite touching the hips of the older one. The wolf circled them, sniffing. The younger man had flowers on his chest, his hands crossed in repose. His face was incredibly peaceful. Beneath the older man was a pool of blood. There were terrible gashes in his chest and his arms were outstretched, as if asking for something. His head was turned away from the younger man, but the wolf could see the scar on his face. The wolf whimpered. The scene was familiar. Why was this so familiar?
He closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them, the strong scent of flowers caused his nose to twitch. He was lying down and his body was numb and heavy. Above him was a mirrored ceiling. He could see Jim laid out, his arms outstretched. His chest was slashed and his breath sounded painfully in the silent room. Their eyes met, Jim's blues eyes were filled with pain, begging him to help him. Blair tried to move, but his body wouldn't respond. A warmth spread underneath his head. It was Jim's blood seeping through the carpet. Blair's mind screamed in fury and fear. Noooooo!!!!
Blair woke up with a start, his heart pounding. Man, that seemed so real. He tried to sit up and found himself trapped, again. For a second he thought he was back in his dream. Closing his eyes, he let out a soft groan. Get a grip, Sandburg, it's just a bunch of sweaty sheets. Just like last night. And the night before. Man, this stinks. He let out a soft chuckle at the unintentional pun. Stinking sweaty sheets. Yeah, well, at least I'm not having the same old nightmare. Now I have a new one to torment me. So much for the lotus having any affect on my dreaming.
He rolled over. Okay, think Sandburg. What does it all mean? Does it mean that my spirit guide is warning me about something? Or have I just switched one nightmare for another because of what's happening in real life? And why was Jim so certain at first that Weisner was the murderer? That was weird. He was so certain one second and then took it back the next. That's not like the big guy. He wiggled, loosening the sheets. Okay, so we've both been acting weird. Maybe it's time I start doing something on my end. Not that I haven't, but maybe I need to stopping thinking about what I'm afraid will happen and work on preventing it from happening. Shrugging his shoulders he threw off his cotton cocoon, determined that he was going to do something about the depression that had been hanging around him like a smothering cloud. Energy flowed around him, pumping him up. He felt as if he could take on the world.
Glancing over at the clock, he groaned. He didn't want to take on the world at 2:35 in the morning. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, he ran through his options. He could lie awake in bed and wait for the adrenaline to wear off or he could get a calming cup of tea and do some meditation and hope he would be able to catch another couple of hours of sleep. Grabbing his robe, he shrugged into it. A gleam from the lacquered box caught his eye. Maybe using the lotus flower as a focal point will help. Slipping the box into his robe pocket, he headed to the kitchen, rubbing his arms against the chill.
The Christmas lights from their small tree flickered, filling the loft with a multicolored glow. He stopped at the foot of the stairs, listening. The sound of soft snuffles floated down. I'm glad I didn't wake Jim up. Poor guy must have been really beat. It was kinda cute the way he did that snuffling when he was really tired. One of these days he was going to record the sound. Blair almost giggled out loud at the thought of the great blackmail material that tape would make.
Cheered at the thought, he continued on to the kitchen. The sooner he relaxed, the sooner he could get back to bed, and the sooner he could wake up tomorrow and solve this case. His eyes fell on the stack of folders they had brought home with them. They seemed to call to him. Maybe he shouldn't wait until morning. Putting the kettle on and turning on the light over the stove, Blair settled down at the kitchen counter and opened the files. Ignoring the written reports, he pulled out the photos, spreading them out. He did his best work at night. Blair smiled at the memory of late-night study sessions, cramming for finals, writing reams of papers in the wee hours of morning. He waited for the familiar pain that usually accompanied such thoughts. He felt a twinge in the region of his heart. Time really does heal all wounds. Or at least dims them. One day he would pursue his academic interests again. For now, he needed to concentrate on his police work.
The rumble of the teakettle reminded him of the tea he was brewing. Fixing the Pau d'arco tea, he sat back down at the island. The weight of the stone in his robe pocket reminded him of Jim's gift. Opening up the box, he placed the eternally blooming flower on top of its black box. Blair sat there, pondering the significance of the stone. Past, present and future. His vision had shown him his past and his future. Some of that future was now his past.
Sighing, he stared at the pure jade, willing it to give him answers. The light from the stove caressed its cool surface. The Chinese woman had told him in his vision that the jade was to see with. What was he not seeing? Images from his nightmare drifted through his consciousness. The wolf running through the jungle, taking that step across the bridge. In both dreams he crossed over the bridge to a murder. In his vision, the bridge had been a test of faith. In his dreams, the bridge became a symbol connecting him to Jim's world, the cop world. Did he see his job as something that brought him only grief? The first dream, he became the criminal. In the second dream he became the victim. What did it mean? The answer was there, in his dreams, if only he could decipher them.
Before the problem with his dissertation, he thought he knew who he was. After the diss mess, he thought he knew who he wanted to be. Now he wasn't sure who he was or where he was going. Maybe that was the answer. The first step in solving a problem was defining it.
Maybe that was the problem they were having with this case. He picked up the photo from the second crime scene and studied it. Talk about symbolism at work. The murderer was trying to say something. Jim had seemed convinced, if only briefly, that Weisner was the murderer. What if Jim was right, and the killer was Weisner? Why would Weisner start killing gay couples? Obviously it had something to do with his brother. What if Gary Weisner was transferring his feelings he had towards his brother to the other couples? What if he hated what his brother had become?
Many siblings and parents of homosexuals had trouble accepting that the loving girl or boy they had grown up with was gay. The common misperception in western culture seemed to be that gayness was a disease or a learned behavior. Blair rolled his eyes. Okay, so he didn't know much about the causes of homosexuality, but he did know many cultures accepted it as normal, while others persecuted homosexuals as being sinful or unnatural. It seemed to him that it didn't matter whether or not homosexuality was genetic or a learned behavior, it was still something that concerned the individual and that people should be free to choose their lifestyle as long as it didn't impinge on another person's rights.
Blair took a sip of tea as he tried to see Gary Weisner as the killer. Weisner was the older brother. He probably felt anger and confusion over his brother's sexual preferences. And guilt. Guilt that he hadn't protected his younger brother. He knew Weisner was from the Deep South. Ten to one he was a Southern Baptist. They tended to take sinning very seriously, and homosexuality would be a grievous sin. Plus, the fact that the brother's partner, Jonathan, was suffering from AIDS would up the ante. It would also explain the deep anger the killer felt toward the older partner in the killings. Weisner could be transferring his hatred for Jonathan for leading his brother into a sinful lifestyle and exposing him to a life-threatening disease. Reaching for a legal pad and pen on the counter, Blair started to scribble some notes.
Killer hates older man and loves younger man.
That fits. He hates Jonathan and loves his brother. But Weisner had to see his brother carrying some of the blame, too, or else he would have left the younger men alive. Maybe Weisner sees his brother as being weak. So he symbolically kills him, too.
Killer blames younger man for being weak.
Okay, so he had a theory why the man killed. But what had happened with the first couple? There was such a contrast on how the two murder scenes were arranged. The first one was violent, unplanned. The second one was equally violent, but definitely premeditated.
Blair tapped the pen against the pad, thinking. Maybe Weisner's temper got the best of him the first time. He went to the house for some reason, either to talk to a couple who were going through a similar situation as his brother or to kill them. They say something he doesn't want to hear and he snaps. He shoved Hirken, who hit his head against the fireplace. Miller tried to help and Weisner, enraged, hit him over and over again with the fireplace poker until he was dead.
First murder bungled -- crime of passion.
Second murder premeditated.
So now Weisner had two dead men on his hands and he had to do something. A sane person would clean up his tracks and try to make it look like a break in or something. But Weisner felt compelled to arrange the bodies, to make a statement.
Arrangement of the bodies is indicative of killer's mixed feelings toward the gay couple. Hates the older man so he mutilates the body. He loves the younger man so he gives him an easy death. May blame older man for the younger man's choice in lifestyle.
Blair looked at the photo of the second crime scene. The way the older man's body was arranged puzzled him. The outstretched arms, the broken legs, placed one over the other, reminded him of Christ on the cross. Toss in a crown of thorns and a couple of nails... Of course, the Romans didn't crucify just Jesus. Thousands of people had been crucified in a similar manner. But still, why crucifixion? The killer was punishing the older man.
Killer is punishing the older man by symbolically crucifying him.
Blair ran his fingers through his hair and massaged the tense muscles in his neck as he looked at the list of points he had written. What a mess. If Jim was right and Weisner was the murderer, then proving it was going to be a bitch. He was the first officer on the scenes for all four murders, so even if he had left evidence, he was in the perfect position to clean up after himself. Except for the blood at the first scene. For some reason, Weisner had forgotten about cleaning that up. Blair shifted on his stool, an uneasy feeling making his skin crawl. There was still something wrong with this picture. He couldn't put his finger on it, but the scenario still felt wrong, even as it felt right.
Draining his cup, he set it in the sink and turned off the light. He wasn't going to get much further on this tonight. Picking up the lotus flower, he put it back into its box and placed it in his robe pocket. He wondered if he would dream more tonight.
Jim took another sip of his coffee as he waited for Blair to get his act together. His partner had looked like death warmed over shuffling into the bathroom, mumbling something about late night inspirations. He had wakened briefly the night before to Blair's mumblings and had laid there listening to the familiar voice and the scratch of pen on paper. It had sounded so normal he'd almost gone downstairs. Instead he'd rolled over and gotten some more sleep. One of them had to be clear-headed this morning.
Taking another sip, he picked up the legal pad and read what his partner had written.
- Killer hates older man and loves younger man.
- Killer blames younger man for being weak.
- First murder bungled -- crime of passion.
- Second murder premeditated.
- Arrangement of the bodies is indicative of killer's mixed feelings toward the gay couple. Hates the older man so he mutilates the body. He loves the younger man so he gives him an easy death. May blame older man for the younger man's choice in lifestyle.
- Killer is punishing the older man by crucifying him.
Jim sighed. There were still elements in the case that didn't make any sense. If the killer was Weisner, why was he actively pursuing the case? He'd all but threatened them with physical violence if they didn't solve the murders soon. That didn't fit a profile of Weisner as the murderer. Also, the murders were relatively sloppy. The killer left physical evidence at the first scene and took the murder weapon with him. At the second murder scene, the killer had cleaned up the evidence downstairs, but walked through the blood upstairs, leaving footprints. He also left the murder weapon at the second scene. That suggested an amateur who was experimenting. As a cop, Weisner would have known exactly how to clean up a crime scene. He wouldn't have made those mistakes. Jim added a line to Blair's list.
- Killer is an amateur. He's experimenting with each murder, perfecting his technique.
Looking over the list, he couldn't help feeling there was still something missing. There was a lot here about how the killer felt about his victims, but there wasn't anything here to explain why. Why now? Why was the murderer killing? There were a lot of reasons why serial killers killed over and over again. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychotic episodes, an inability to function in the real world. This serial killer seemed to be reliving a fantasy, adding details with each murder. This was murder by proxy. The killer was unable to kill the people he wanted to kill, so he was substituting other victims. Jim scribbled that down on the list:
- Killer is relieving a fantasy with each murder. He is unable to kill whom he wants to kill.
They should make some calls to the local loony bins and see if there was anyone with a record of fantasies like this. They should also check with hospitals and see if there were any other people who fit the victims' profile and put them in protective custody. Capping the pen, Jim gathered up the folders and stacked them neatly in the box he had brought them home in. As soon as Blair was ready, they had to get a move on and catch the killer.
As if verbally summoned, Blair bustled out of his bedroom, tucking in his shirt. Jim grinned at the Wile E Coyote tie which the young detective was wearing. You're going to need all your wits today, Chief.
Jim held out Blair's travel mug. "Here you go, Chief. You must have set a new record for getting ready. We may even be on time for once."
Blair took a quick sip of the coffee, sucking in a breath when he realized how hot it was. He gave Jim a sour grin. "Yeah, well, if someone had woken me just a tad earlier, then we wouldn't have to worry about being on time. What's the use of living with your partner if he doesn't help you get to work on time?"
Jim handed Blair his heavy coat and donned his own. Checking for his gun, badge and cell phone, he walked over to the kitchen counter and picked up the box of case folders. "Look, for the last time, I'm not a human alarm clock. That's what the mechanical device beside your bed is for. I'll wake you up when it looks like you won't get up on your own. You're a big boy now. You can even tie your shoelaces."
"Ha, ha, ha. For your information, while you were snoozing, I was working on the case." He slipped on his coat, but left it open.
"I noticed that. Good work on that list. You made some good points there." He walked through the door Blair was holding open and waited as his partner locked it. They walked down the hallway to the elevator.
"Well, it seemed to me that we needed to define who this killer was. I've been working on figuring out why Weisner did it." The bell dinged and the two detectives got onto the elevator.
Jim pinned him with an incredulous expression. "Weisner? I thought that you thought that I was crazy to think that Weisner was the killer."
Blair shrugged. "Well, you had that sensory spike last night and it got me to thinking that maybe you were right to suspect him. I mean, he does sort of fit the profile, or at least his brother fits the profile of the victim. What if he's has this psychosis about gay couples because of his brother and his situation and he's going around killing other gay couples because he doesn't want to kill his brother?"
Jim looked back at Blair. "That's ridiculous. Why would he go out killing people because his brother is gay? He seemed pretty comfortable with the concept at the bar."
"He could be suppressing his emotions. I mean, if your brother came up to you one day and said, 'Jim, I'm gay. Do you still love me?'" Blair grabbed Jim's shoulders and looked soulfully up to him just as the door to the elevator opened. He groaned as Ms. Leesha Timmons was revealed on the other side, her wide eyes indicating that she had heard the last part of the titillating conversation.
Red tipped fingers came up to cover her mouth. "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."
Jim grinned as he pushed his stunned partner off the elevator door, letting an equally stunned Leesha Timmons onf. "Don't be embarrassed, Ms. Timmons. It took weeks for him to gather up the courage to say that to me. It's tragic, really. He should know by now that I'm just not that kind of guy."
Blair groaned again as the doors closed on the very confused model. He landed a solid punch on his 'friend's' shoulder. "I can't believe you said that, man! Now she'll never go out with me. How cruel can you be?"
"It wasn't cruelty, Chief. It was mercy. She would've never gone out with you. It's better this gets nipped in the bud." He elbowed open the heavy main door.
Blair zipped up his coat before following his partner out, muttering, "With friends like you, who needs enemies?"
They were still arguing about it when they walked into Simon's office to give him an update. Simon called them to order. "Gentlemen, as fascinating I find the drama you call your love lives, could I have an update on your case?"
Ignoring the glare from his partner, Jim gave their report. "It looks like the killer may be targeting couples who are terminally ill. We've contacted hospitals in the area. The hospitals were reluctant to give us a list of names, but they did tell us there are eight couples that fit the profile of the victims. The hospitals are contacting them now. I'd like to put them in protective custody."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa Jim. Eight couples? That's sixteen people. We don't have that kind of manpower. I'd rather you catch the killer."
Blair spoke up. "We may have a suspect."
Simon looked at Blair, his eyebrows climbing. "A suspect? Why don't you have him in custody?"
Jim looked at Blair in annoyance. "We don't have any hard evidence yet, sir."
Blair shot back. "And we're not likely to get any if we don't go after him. We need to bring him in and start asking questions."
Jim shook his head. "It just doesn't fit, Blair. He's not the one."
Simon interrupted the by-play. "Do you or do you not have a suspect?"
Blair opened his mouth, but an icy glare from his partner stopped him.
Jim turned to Simon. "Gary Weisner. Blair thinks he might be the killer."
"Gary Weisner? Officer Weisner? Tell me you're joking."
Blair jumped in before Jim could shut him out. "No. He fits the profile. His younger brother is gay with an older partner who is terminally ill. He was the first officer on the scene for both murders. He wears the same brand shoes as the murder, drinks the same alcohol."
Jim broke in with a sardonic expression. "All of which is extremely circumstantial evidence."
"That's the problem with this case, Jim. There's no hard evidence. Nothing except the blood at the first murder. I checked out Weisner's file this morning. Weisner has the same blood type as the murderer, AB negative. Only one percent of the population has that blood type. How many coincidences do there have to be before we can bring him in?"
Simon looked over to Jim, seeing he was torn, his instincts telling him that Weisner had something to do with the murders while his logic told him that Weisner was not the killer. Finally, Jim just shrugged. "It is a lot of coincidences, Simon."
"You don't sound totally convinced, Jim. I need a yes or a no. Is Weisner a viable suspect?"
Jim held out his hands, his expression noncommittal. "I'm not saying that he couldn't have done it. I just have my doubts that he did do it."
Simon's expression let Jim know how much he appreciated that response. "Look, I don't like question marks. Talk to Weisner and find out what he was doing the nights of the murders. Put a uniform on his brother if you think it is necessary and see if you can convince him to have his blood tested. But do it discretely. I don't want get IA involved with this if I can help it. I don't want to ruin a man's career."
Blair almost bounced out of his chair. "Fine. Thanks, Captain, you won't regret this."
"I already do. Now get to work."
Jim and Blair stood up. Blair turned around as he was leaving. "Oh, by the way, Leesha said she was stopping by later to pick up that magazine."
"Leesha Timmons is coming here?"
Blair grinned. He hadn't known that Simon's voice could hit that range. "Yeah, Captain, here. Could you keep an eye out for her? We're probably going to be in and out all day. I wouldn't want her to think she was unwelcome."
Simon coughed. "Sure, I think I can manage that."
Jim and Blair tracked Weisner down in the locker room of the precinct. Weisner was standing in front of his locker, tying his sneakers. His uniform lay beside him on the bench. He looked up as they approached them and gave them a tight smile. "Well if it isn't Major Crimes best detectives. Have you found a suspect yet?"
Blair's expression tightened at the taunt. If this wasn't the killer, he would eat his Elmer Fudd hat. "Funny thing that you ask. Actually, we do."
Jim looked around at the cops coming off night shift and coming on the morning shift. "Maybe we should take this somewhere a little more private."
Weisner raised an eyebrow. "Still concerned about information leaks? Fine. I just got off duty. Let me get my things together." Jim and Blair waited as he stuffed his gear into a gym bag. He followed them silently out of the locker room and down the hall to an empty interrogation room. Tossing down his bag on the table, he turned around, his posture aggressive. "So who did you think did it?" His hazel eyes bore into Blair's, daring him to do his worst.
Jim was the one who answered him. "We think the killer is related and/or has a close relationship to a gay couple who are in a similar situation as the victims. We think that the killer acting out on some fantasy of killing some one he knows, but can't bring himself to kill."
Weisner's face was carefully neutral as he absorbed this new theory. "You said you had a suspect." Neither detective spoke. Understanding dawned in Weisner's eyes. "Me? You think I did it?" He gave a bitter laugh. "Some nutcase is out there, killing people, and who do you come after? Me. I was on duty both nights. Check the duty roster. I thought the guys in Homicide were homophobic. What is it about homosexuality that scrambles people's brains? If my brother was a woman or had a 'normal' relationship, would you be coming after me? I don't think so." His voice rose with incredulity.
Jim pinned him with a stare. He spoke quietly. "Look, you were the one who wanted us to do our best to follow the evidence to find the killer. The evidence keeps on leading us to you. Personally, I don't think it's you. But we have to eliminate all the possibilities. Now, if you submitted to a blood test, then we could eliminate you from the list of suspects and get on with our investigation and find the killer. It's your choice."
"You have to be kidding me." Weisner was silent, waiting for an answer. When none was forthcoming he sighed with frustration. "Fine, if you want a blood sample, you can have one. But you're making a big mistake. I'm not your killer. He's out there. And while you're bumbling around here, chasing shadows, he could be out there killing another gay couple. But I guess you don't really care, do you? After all, they're just a bunch of gays."
Storm clouds gathered in Blair's eyes. "Hey man, chill. If we didn't care then we wouldn't be doing this. While the lab does the tests, you're going to spend the day up at Major Crimes and we are going to pursue some more leads."
Weisner shook his head. "No, no, no. My brother is at the hospital right now. I promised him I would stop by and see him. Jonathan had a bad attack a couple of days ago. He's recovering, but he's still in the ICU. Martin needs me there." He moved towards the door.
Jim stopped him. "I'm sorry, but we can't allow you access to your brother as long as you're a suspect. The test is only going to take a couple of hours. I'll tell forensics to put a rush on it."
Weisner glared at them. "Fine. A couple of hours. Then I am out of here."
After dropping off Weisner with Brown and Rafe, Jim and Blair were walking down the hallway. Blair shook his head. "That was too easy, Jim. He seemed more concerned with his brother than being caught."
"He may have a good reason. He may not be guilty." Jim hit the button for the elevator.
"Wait, if you don't think he's guilty, then why are we going through with all of this?" The younger man's hands waved around in agitation.
The elevator chimed and the doors opened. Jim stepped in the elevator. He held the doors as he waited for Blair to follow him. "Because he may be guilty and just psycho enough to not even know that he is the killer. Now come on, we have an appointment with Father Hills."
Blair stepped into the elevator. "Who's Father Hills?"
"The minister at Cascade General. He runs support groups for terminally ill patients. It's the one link we haven't checked out yet."
Father Hills turned out to be a gray-haired grandfatherly man. His kindly brown eyes wrinkled in concern as he handed Jim a list of names. "That's all the people in my groups. I'm not sure what you're looking for. Most of these people are too wrapped up in dealing with their own personal grief to even think of harming someone else."
Blair stepped up to talk to Father Hills as Jim scanned the list. "We understand that. Is there anyone who seemed more upset than usual?"
"More upset than usual? These people are dealing with losing the most important person in their life. I don't know how much more upset you want them to be."
"What I mean is, is there anyone in particular that you're worried about? Maybe someone with a friend or relative that is having problems with their situation?"
Father Hills looked troubled. "Martin Weisner. I worry about him."
"Martin Weisner? Not Gary?"
"Gary? No, Gary has been like a rock for Martin. From what I gather, their parents were strict in the boys' upbringing. They were very disappointed in Martin's choice of lifestyle. Gary tried to shield him, but Martin still had a hard time dealing with their disappointment. Finally, he and Jonathan moved here to get away from all that emotional turmoil. When Jonathan became seriously ill a couple of months ago, Martin had a small(delete) nervous breakdown. Gary moved up here to support him. I worry what will happen when Jonathan dies. Gary has no real life, no identity, outside of the one he built with Jonathan. Jonathan is so close to the end now that I'm really worried for Martin. I bumped him leaving the hospital Wednesday. He looked terrible."
Jim looked thoughtful. "What time did you see him?"
"Martin? It was around midnight. I remember it because old Mrs. Leminsky had just passed away. Was there anything else?"
"No, thank you, Reverend for the information. You've been very helpful."
Jim and Blair walked down the hallway of the hospital. Blair turned to Jim. "What was that about?"
"Martin Weisner leaving the hospital. You don't think he did it, do you?"
"Why not? We're looking for someone who is mentally unbalanced. And remember what Gary told us last night? He said Martin was with Jonathan all night. Somewhere along the line someone is not telling the truth. Come on, I want to check something out before we go."
Jim and Blair were back at their desks when the call came through. Blair waited anxiously as Jim talked to the guys down in forensics. Jim had a strange look on his face as he put the phone back on the hook.
Weisner came over from where he had been sitting. "Well? Am I the killer or not?"
Jim shook his head. "Your blood wasn't a complete match."
Gary smiled grimly and pick up his coat. "Great, if I leave now, I can still catch Martin at the hospital."
Jim grabbed his arm. "Wait a minute, Weisner."
Gary's hazel eyes stared at him coldly. "What?"
"Your blood wasn't a complete match, but the lab said there were a lot of similarities. Your brother has the same blood type as you do."
The color drained out of the lieutenant's face. "Martin? You have to be kidding. He was at the hospital both nights."
Blair moved in on his other side. "Father Hills said he saw Martin leaving the hospital around midnight the night Jason Block and Thomas Garrot were murdered." Gary shook his head, but Blair saw the uncertainty in his eyes. He knows.
Gary blurted out. "That doesn't mean that he's the killer. He can't be the killer."
Jim tightened his grip on Weisner. "Why?"
"Because, it's not in his nature. He can't be the killer." Weisner's voice was shaky.
Blair's expression gentled. "Gary, he's on the edge. Jonathan is dying. His whole life is Jonathan. He must be feeling this is some nightmare that he's going to wake up from. But he knows it's not. He's a danger to himself and to others. We have to stop him."
"If you feel that way, then why are you here? What if Martin flips out and starts on a killing spree?"
"There's an officer 'protecting' your brother right now." Jim informed him. "We had to be sure it wasn't you. We're going over there now to pick him up."
"I want to come along."
Their footsteps echoed as they walked down the hallway to the intensive care unit. The antiseptic smell, the beeps of monitors and the whooshing of ventilators reminded Jim of other times he'd had to walk these halls. Every time I come here, it feels like it's draining my soul away one beep at a time. His eyes lingered on the numbers on the doors as he remembered times when Blair, Simon, Rafe, Connor and other members of Major Crimes had been behind them. At least this time we solved a case with no explosions or gunfire. Blair was on his left, lost in his own thoughts. On his right was a quiet Weisner. It's hard to think your own brother is a killer. It was hard for me when I thought Stevie was a killer. Thank God I was proven wrong.
Jim noticed an auburn haired nurse walking towards them; her eyes were soft with concern. He recognized her as Helen Liefer, a nurse with gentle hands and a soothing voice. She stopped Weisner. "Gary? We tried to get in touch with you."
"What is it?" There was dread in his voice.
"It's Jonathan. He passed away."
"Oh my god." He pushed past her. The uniformed officer at the door caught him as he tried to enter. Weisner twisted around, his eyes wild. "Call him off, Ellison. My brother needs me."
"Let him go, Wilson." The beefy officer let Weisner go. He disappeared into the room. Jim and Blair followed close behind him. Inside, Martin was kneeling on the floor, his head on the bed, crying. He looked up as Gary stood beside him.
He launched himself at his brother, wrapping his arms around his neck. "Gary! He's gone. Why weren't you here?"
Gary wrapped his arms around his brother. "I had to help Ellison and Sandburg here solve those murders. I didn't know that Jonathan was that bad. He was okay last night."
Martin loosened his grip and looked up at his brother, his face a mask of tragedy. "He was. He was getting better. He was going to walk this morning. Oh Gary, he just slipped away. One second he was there, the next he was gone. He left me."
"He didn't want to leave you, Martin. He would have stayed if he could."
Martin's expression changed as his hazel eyes darkened. "It was your fault, you know." His hands fisted in the material of Gary's shirt.
"My fault? What are you talking about, Martin?"
"You wouldn't do it. You wouldn't end his misery. You saw how it was killing me watching him die and you just couldn't end it. You couldn't end my pain!" He shoved his brother against the wall.
"Martin, you don't know what you're talking about. Just shut up. We can get you some help." He tried to pry his brother's fingers from his shirt.
"No you shut up, you little worm. No guts, no glory, isn't that what Dad taught us? You had to shack up with that man. I should have slit your throat the first time you did it with that man. Of all the sick and disgusting things." He pounded Gary's head against the wall.
Jim grabbed the younger Weisner. "Martin Weisner, you're under arrest for the murder of Tyler Hirken, Kevin Miller, Jason Block and Thomas Garrot." He tried to yank the smaller man away from his brother, but Martin's grip was tenacious. Gary forced his arms between Martin's and knocked them away. Jim and Martin went flying backwards in a tangle of limbs, smashing Blair against the opposite wall, knocking the breath out of him. All three of them fell on the floor with Jim on the bottom and Blair gasping on the top. Yelling obscenities, Martin rolled off of Jim and over Blair, his hand fumbling in his pocket. Before Jim could react, he had the hypodermic needle out of his pocket and the top off. Blair cried out as Martin shoved it into his neck, his thumb hovering over the plunger.
Martin sneered at Jim. "You're just like the rest of them. I can tell. You think you're so strong. What if I pumped your friend here with morphine? How strong would you be when his heart stopped?"
Gary raised a hand out to his brother. "Martin what are you doing?"
"What you should have done for me. I was in pain, Gary. Why didn't you stop my pain?"
Jim lay there on the floor, weighing his options. If he tried to rush Martin, he would kill Blair. If he tried to get his gun, he would kill Blair. There was nothing he could do from on the floor. He started to get up slowly.
Martin screamed at him hysterically. "Stay down, stay down. Or your friend gets it!" He pushed down on the plunger slightly.
Blair squirmed as the narcotic was injected into him. "Stay down, Jim!"
Jim dropped down onto the floor. "Okay, okay, I'm down."
Martin pushed himself into a sitting position. He cradled Blair against his chest. "Stay down. I have to think."
Gary sat down on the floor. Jim nodded slightly in approval. If they could get Martin calmed down, there might be a chance of getting Blair away from him. The image of the wolf on the bridge flashed into his mind. Jim blanked it out. Blair was going to live. He wouldn't let him fall this time.
Martin sneered at Gary. "How does it feel, Gary? I'm glad to see you coming down to my level."
Gary held out his hands, palms upwards. "I never thought you beneath me, Martin. I love you. You're my brother."
"You never understood me. You just left me twisting in the wind in pain."
Blair shifted against him. "Hey, man, I know what you mean." He winced as the arm around his neck tightened.
"What do you know of my pain? You have your friend over there. I saw you in the bar, I heard you. I was near the door when you came in. You live together, eat together, laugh together. You are together. My other half is dead. He died and I couldn't stop it. What do you know of pain?"
Blair gave a bitter laugh. "You want to know about my pain? You're not the first psycho to try and kill me. I've known pain and suffering. I wasn't always a cop. I started out as a ride along, an 'observer'. I was just an academic in a cop world. I understand about not fitting in, of latching on to the one person who understands you, who cares about you. They bring you into their world, a place you never knew existed. A dangerous world, a forbidden world. Was it that way with you and Jonathan?"
Martin pulled him a little closer. "Yeah, it was. He was my first love. He showered me with affection. He was so handsome, so strong. At first I thought it was only friendship. I felt so close to him, that I could tell him anything. Then we got drunk one night. He touched me in ways no one had touched me before. I knew it was wrong, but it felt so right." His voice hardened. "Then my father found out about us. He beat me, called me a hellspawn sinner. I thought I was going to die. Jonathan found me on the lawn, bleeding. He took me away. He rescued me. He was my savior. And now he's gone!"
Blair reached up and patted his arm. The room was beginning to spin. He could see Jim lying on the floor. It felt like he was falling. He blinked, trying to stay focused. "It's okay Martin. He's in a better place now. He's not feeling any pain."
Martin sobbed. "What about me? I'm in pain. I want the pain to stop."
"Why murder, then? Why kill other people? Why didn't you kill yourself?"
"Because suicide is a sin. Dad called what Jonathan and I are sinful, but Gary said... he said that God understood. He understood that there were different kinds of love. I couldn't kill myself. I could never join Jonathan in heaven. I kept on waiting for Gary to kill me. He was a cop, he's killed before. He said that God forgave him for protecting himself. He would have forgive him for ending my pain."
Gary held out a hand to his brother. "Martin, I didn't know, I swear. But I couldn't have done it, I couldn't have killed you. You're my brother. I love you. You're hurting now, but we can get through this together. Just put down the needle."
Martin pressed down on the plunger a little more. "NO! I can't do it. I can't go on. I don't understand. My heart is gone and I'm still breathing. I'm still here. Why didn't you end my pain?"
Jim held his breath as his vision zoomed in on the needle. He estimated that Blair had been injected with 5cc's of morphine. He shifted on the floor. Martin's attention swung to him.
"And you, detective. What would you do for your friend? Would you crawl through hot coals? Would you climb the highest mountains, swim the deepest oceans? What would you do for him?"
Jim closed his eyes. What would he do for Blair? Just about anything. He opened his eyes. "He's my partner, Martin. I would do anything for him. Let him go. You don't have to do this."
Martin lifted his thumb off the plunger, flexing it. "What would you know about what I have to do? Who are you? Your partner suffers and you do nothing. You're the reason he's here. You're the reason he suffers, I should put him out his pain right now."
Blair grabbed the arm on his neck. He yelled, "It was worth it! Martin, it was worth it!"
Martin paused. "What are you talking about? All this pain. We have suffered, the two of us. They hurt us. They let us get hurt. They took us in and then let us get hurt. They were supposed to protect us!"
Blair stroked the arm that held him. The world was spinning faster now, the voices sounded strange. He struggled to stay focused. "It was worth it, to be with him. Every time I'm shot at, or drugged, or kidnapped or threatened. Every boring hour on stake out in a freezing truck and the reams of paperwork. Every time I put on that damn gun, I think of the alternative. A life without Jim. I would sacrifice anything to stay with him. I did sacrifice everything to be with him. And I would do it again, just to be with him. He is my sun and my moon, the light that shines in my life. And if he were to die, I would die inside. But I would go on. You know why?"
Martin shook his head. "No. How could you go on? The world would have no light."
"Because he would want me to go on. Because he would come back from the dead and kick my ass if I gave up on life. Simon would come to the loft and kick my ass if I gave up. Rafe and Brown and Connor and my Mom would kick my ass if I gave up. You have a brother, Martin. And he loves you. And he's going to kick your ass if you give up on life. Right Gary?"
Gary blinked. "Yeah." His voice was soft, uncertain.
The world was spinning faster. "I can't hear you, Gary. Are you or are you not going to kick Martin's ass?"
"Yeah! Martin, you give up on me and I'm going to kick your ASS!!" His voice was commanding.
Blair gripped Martin's arm. "And if you give up now, I guarantee you that Jonathan's ghost will haunt you in this world or the next. He will kick your ass if you give up. Are you giving up, Martin?" Martin shook his head. The darkness was starting to eat the edges of Blair's vision. He bit his lip, trying to stay awake. "I can't hear you. Are you giving up on me? Are you giving up on Jonathan?"
"No," Martin whispered. "No, I can't give up. Jonathan wouldn't want me to give up. He wouldn't want it this way. I'm sorry, Jonathan. I'm sorry." He pulled the needle out of Blair's neck. The last thing Blair saw was Jim lunging towards him.
Jim grabbed Blair and yanked him away from Martin. Gary was right behind him, tearing the needle away from Martin. Behind him, Wilson came in from where he had been hovering outside. Jim sent up a small prayer of thanks that he hadn't tried to barge in shooting. He cradled his partner against his chest, listening to his heartbeat, thankful that it was slow but steady. Give me a heart attack, Chief. You did it. You made it.
Simon stood next to Jim's desk. "Shouldn't you be at the hospital with your partner?"
"I wanted to get this paperwork out of the way so I could be with Blair tomorrow. He's going to have one heck of a hangover."
"You could have left it for a couple of days. I would have sent someone over with the paperwork."
"I know, I just had to come back here. Blair's sleeping off the morphine Martin Weisner gave him and Weisner's now a resident of the psych ward at Cascade General." Jim paused and fiddling with the Jags he'd been using to fill in the forms. He had to keep on reminding himself that Blair was okay. "I almost lost Sandburg again today, Simon. I couldn't move, couldn't do anything but lie there and watch him sit there with a needle full of morphine stuck in his neck. He was amazing, Simon. He talked Weisner out of ending his pain. I don't think anyone else could have pulled off a stunt like that."
Simon sat down on the edge of his desk. "So why are you here instead of the hospital?"
Jim put the pen he had been holding down. "Because... actually, I'm not really sure why I'm here. I guess it just hit me again, how much he means to me and how much I mean to him. It scares me. I've lost a lot of people over the years. Partners, men under my command, friends. I almost lost it in Peru when I lost my men there. But that would be nothing compared to what I would feel if I lost Sandburg. He said a lot of things when he was talking to Weisner. He made me realize that I feel the same way. He has opened my mind to so many things. There's been a lot of pain, but there has also been a lot of good times. If I had the choice of whether I could relive my life without my Sentinel powers, I would choose to have them because that's what brought Sandburg into my life."
Simon quirked an eyebrow. "It sounds like you've put some thought into this. Are you sure you want to be here?"
Jim shuffled the papers he had been working on and shoved them into a file. "I guess not. When do you want us in?"
" I don't want to see you guys in until Monday. Both you and Sandburg are seeing the department shrink. Somehow, I get the feeling those sessions would be more productive if I sent the both of you in together. Kapish?"
"Yessir. See you on Monday." He smiled as he heard the familiar tap tap tap of high heels. Leesha Timmons walked in behind Simon. She was dressed in a pair of brown soft suede pants that hugged her delicious curves and a matching top that emphasized the perfection of her figure. The overhead lights glittered off of beads of melted snow in her tawny mane. A winter coat was slung over one slender arm and a matching purse rounded off the ensemble. Jim grinned harder at the slightly glazed looks on the other detectives of the Major Crimes Unit. It wasn't every day that a world class model came visiting.
Simon frowned down at him. "What are you grinning so hard about?"
Leesha reached out and tapped his shoulder. "Captain Banks?"
Simon whirled around, almost falling on the floor. "Ms. Timmons!"
Leesha smiled seductively. "Captain Banks, please call me Leesha." She held out her slender hand.
Simon stared at it, fascinated. A discrete nudge from Jim's foot had him grabbing her hand. He gentled the pressure when he saw her wince. "Leesha. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. I've seen your pictures so many times, I feel like I know you. You were on the cover of Vogue in April and then again on Miss in June." Jim grinned at the eagerness in his captain's voice.
Leesha lowered her eyelashes in acknowledgement. "I'm flattered. Most people will say that my face is familiar to them but they can't actually place where they've seen me. That's an impressive memory you have."
"Well, it's easy to remember such a beautiful face such as yours. But I guess you hear that all the time."
"You'd be surprised." She stared up at the dark skinned captain.
Jim counted to thirty before clearing his throat. Both of them looked at him. Jim nodded towards Simon's office. "I guess you're here for that magazine."
"Oh, yes. If it's not too much trouble. I do need that number."
Simon began to back up. "Well, I guess I'll go get it. It's just in my office. If you want to wait here."
Leesha gave him a pretty little frown. "Can I come with you? I've never seen a captain's office. Does it have a good view?"
Simon bumped into the desk behind him. "It will, uh I mean, it does. Why don't you tell me what you think." He gestured her to go on ahead of him. He grinned at Jim as he followed her to his office.
Rafe and Megan walked up to Jim's desk. Both of their mouths were hanging open with surprise. Rafe was the first one to recover. "Did you just see what I saw?"
Jim nodded. "Uh-huh, and Blair's going to be real disappointed when he hears that the captain hit a home run on his first time up at the bat."
~ Finis ~
E-mail the author of this story, Wildeskind, at firstname.lastname@example.org Read Wildeskind's other fan fiction for The Sentinel at Wildeskind's Sentinel Fan Fiction Archive
Special Thanks: There were a lot of people who kept me on the straight and reasonable. Special thanks to Carol, for not letting me take an easy out on the ending and insisting that there is no such thing as 'too long,' and Susan for assisting me with the Sierra Verde vision. Lois and Mackie are just plain awesome.
The artwork in Act I, Confrontation, was created by Kirsten... Enjoy more of Kirsten's art at her website, Magic Moments 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 email@example.com NEXT WEEK on THE SENTINEL: Vegas in Cascade (1/19/00, FPP-516) by Brenda Bailey
A state Senator is planning a 'Vegas in Cascade' night at the local Performing Arts Center. It's going to be a high-profile event with private security, but Jim and Blair end up as guests. Two separate groups of criminals plan to rip-off the proceeds, resulting in mass confusion.
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This page last updated 2/2/01.