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.
Seems Like Old Times
The man stared intently at the power box. He was covered in black -- turtleneck and vest above black jeans and boots. Even his head and face were identically attired, thanks to a ski mask. Reaching into the multi-pocketed vest, he brought out a handful of wires and connectors. Deftly, he began re-routing the current until a light at the bottom of the box winked out. His lips, viewable through the slit in the mask, curled into a grin. He turned, and waved. Three more similarly dressed figures joined him, and as they walked through the heavy gate, one of them thumped the sign which read "Warning: Gate Is Electrified! Do Not Trespass!"
They halted once again, as a huge mansion came into view. One sprinted ahead, and picked the lock, then swept the others inside with a grand bow. Two went directly into the next room. One went to work on the small security panel that blinked an alarming red for a moment, then changed to welcoming green. The fourth took out a rag, and started polishing the furniture.
A few minutes later, the polisher was stopped by a touch on his shoulder, and he followed his cohort into the other room. A picture on the wall had been moved to reveal a safe. Tucking his polishing rag into his hip pocket, he patted his vest until he found the bulge he was looking for. Extracting a ropy coil of putty-like substance, he carefully pressed the material around the edges of the safe. Patting the pockets once again, he pulled out a Bic and lit one end of the explosive. It flashed, and the safe's door swung open. Pulling out his rag again, he started on the furniture in the room while the others raided the safe.
Removing the wiring on the security panel, they filed out the door, and down the drive. At the gate, the rest of the wiring was removed. One of them took a tiny doll out of his pocket, kissed it, then bent low next to the fence. Deliberately, he tipped the doll backward. There was a spark, then the sound of a klaxon.
He jumped into the car that was waiting for him, and the four men drove off.
Behind them lay a tiny smoking mass of plastic.
Captain Simon Banks stood beside his car, which was parked just outside a massive wrought- iron gate. As a blue and white truck pulled up, he stepped forward to greet his arriving detectives. He had an unlit cigar in his mouth, and was just waiting for the moment when he could climb into his car and smoke to his heart's content (or discontent, as his newest detective constantly reminded him).
"Hi, Captain. Whatcha got?" Jim Ellison asked, snapping on a pair of plastic gloves. Beside him, his partner, Detective Blair Sandburg, copied his action.
"Burglary. Third one with the same M.O. That's why Robbery is handing it off to Major Crime."
"Fenceable stuff. One of a kind items are studiously left behind. These guys are pros. In fact, the only way we've known they've struck is because they deliberately set off the security system as they leave."
"Deliberately?" Blair asked.
Simon motioned for them to follow him, taking them up to the gate. "At each crime scene, they leave a little something behind. At one of them it was a small toy car. It appears it was rolled forward to break one of the security beams. Here at the Masterson estate, something was placed against the fence to trigger the alarm. We're not quite sure what it was; the electricity pretty much destroyed it."
The three of them knelt down next to the clump of plastic. "It was a doll," Jim said. He pulled out a pen and poked at it. "See? These are strands of hair, and here's the remains of a foot. I think you'll find that it's one of a series being included in this month's Silly Meals at Wonder Burger. Wee Wonders, I think they're calling them." He felt eyes on him, and looked at his friends askance. "What?"
"Way too much detail, man," Blair said. "You got a secret life we don't know about?"
Jim's eyes grew glassy for a moment, then he sort of shook himself. "I'm a connoisseur of Wonder Burger. Is that a crime?"
"Not yet. But I'm still holding out hope that the FDA will finally see the light, and ban all fast food."
"You two finished with taking my appetite away? There's the interior to canvass as well," the captain pointed out, turning and heading back toward his car.
"We're coming, sir."
Inside the mansion, Simon and Blair focused on the safe, which was still surrounded by the forensics team. Blair turned to ask Jim if he was getting anything and was surprised to find his partner wandering around the room, looking at the furniture. "You picking up something, Jim?" he asked softly, going to his side.
Jim didn't answer. "Hey, Captain," he called over Blair's head. "We'll meet you back at the precinct."
Simon nodded, used to the unorthodox way the two worked. He'd thought he'd get a break when Sandburg became his officer for real, but the badge made little difference. They both let him push them so far, then, bam! They were off and operating on their own plane of reality. It was almost enough to make him take early retirement. Almost.
Blair looked at his partner curiously, but held his tongue until they were in the truck and barreling down the road at typical Ellison speed. "This isn't the way to the station," he observed.
"Nope. We're heading to the Hotel Seaview."
"Gee, man, I don't even rank dinner and a movie first?" he replied with a cheeky grin. An annoyed glance kept him from making another comment. Not that he feared Jim's annoyed glances -- actually they had become amusing over the years -- but he really would prefer his partner kept his eyes on the road when they were traveling at such great speeds. A few seconds of silence. "Okay, I'll bite. Why are we going to the Hotel Seaview?"
"I think I might have some friends staying there."
Blair blinked. "We're in the middle of a case, and you're going to see if some of your friends are in town? Why is this not computing?"
Jim's hands clenched the steering wheel. "Maybe you'd process it better if you knew I think my friends are the case."
"You mean --"
Jim nodded. "The M.O. fits."
"Why didn't you say anything to the captain?" Blair asked worriedly. It was one thing for Jim to protect Incacha when the shaman came to town, but these people weren't a jungle tribe out for retribution. These were professional thieves.
"Because I need to know what they were stealing, Chief."
"The last time I was with them, they were doing government work."
"Oh." Things were starting to make sense. "These were co-workers?"
"And you think this theft wasn't about the jewels that were stolen, but maybe about something that Masterson didn't report missing?"
Blair stared straight ahead. "It's also possible that this could be just what it appears -- a simple robbery."
"Yes. And if it is, we will deal with it appropriately," Jim said grimly.
The hotel lobby was bright and elegant. It was one of Cascade's latest additions, its tower permanently changing the skyline of the city. The two men walked inside, and headed straight for the front desk.
"Hello," the bespectacled clerk said politely. "May I help you?"
"Yes," Jim said tersely, whipping out his badge. "Cascade P.D. We'd like to know if you have a Charles Charmers registered."
The clerk gave a faint nod, relieved when Jim tucked the badge back in place. "I'll check, sir. The staff here has strict orders to work with the police." He tapped the keyboard knowledgeably. "No, sir. No Charles Charmers."
"Thank you," Jim said. "We appreciate you taking the time to help us."
Blair followed him away from the desk. "Well?"
"They're here. They always register under the name S.W. Charming. The 'Ch's' were reflected in his glasses. I saw the room number. How do you feel about visiting the penthouse, Chief?"
"Is that wise?"
Jim shrugged and walked into an opening elevator. Blair scrambled to keep up with him. He pressed the button for the top floor.
"For access to floors above concierge level, please enter the appropriate code," a computerized voice called out.
"Read the heat signatures," Blair advised.
Jim's hand hovered over the keypad for a minute, then he pressed in a string of numbers.
"Access granted. We hope you are enjoying your stay at Hotel Seaview."
"At least it's an inside elevator," Blair muttered, as the elevator rose upward. "I hate those outside ones. Man, if I wanted to climb a mountain, I'd bring a rope."
"About our next vacation, Sandburg --" Jim began.
"Don't even go there," he warned.
Jim was still laughing as they got off the elevator. "The Corona Suite," Jim mumbled, as he scanned the hallway. He marched up to the correct door and knocked loudly. Then he motioned Blair to one side of the door and he went to the other.
He heard talking inside, then a "Who is it?"
"Room Service," Jim replied. More talking.
"We need to see some ID."
Jim raised his middle finger and flashed it in front of the peephole.
"It can't be!" came the exclamation that even Blair could hear. The door was yanked open.
"Doc!" Jim was engulfed in huge arms. "Hey, everybody! It's Doc!" The tall, slim man with chestnut hair pulled Jim inside, leaving Blair to shut the door as he entered. Blair turned when his task was complete to see Jim greet another man, this one slightly shorter than Jim with spiked blond hair. He wrapped his arms around Jim and hugged him so enthusiastically that Jim was literally lifted off the floor. A grin spread across Blair's face. This was going to be good, he thought. Real good.
"Oh, man, this is sweet!" Another man called as he came out of one of the bedrooms, yawning and rubbing his eyes. He, too, was tall, his skin pecan brown, and his hair cropped close to his scalp. "How ya' been, Doc? Anyone offer you anything yet?"
"I can't, Sleep. I'm on duty," Jim said, as he leaned forward for yet another hug.
"Duty? Yeah, someone said you were a cop. That's great. Listen, have a Coke. They came with those damn Silly Meals we had to buy." Sleep turned and touched the man behind him on the shoulder. "Sorry, Dope, you know I didn't mean it."
"I know," the blond man replied, not too convincingly.
"Fine. I'll go out and get you another one tonight to make up for being mean, okay?"
The man smiled. "Okay." He handed Jim a cup with a long straw. "Here you go, Doc, and Mr. --" He held out a drink to Blair.
"This is my partner, Blair Sandburg," Jim said. "Blair, this is Happy, Sleepy, Dopey, and...." He looked around. "Where's Bash?" He listened for the missing heartbeat, and focused on a closed door. "Come on out here, Bash," he ordered. A fourth man entered the room. "And this is Bashful. How's it going, Bash?"
"Oo-kk-kay, Ddd-doc." He stood still as Jim threw his arms around him, then he smiled and returned the gesture. His black hair and slightly tilted eyes bespoke of an Asian heritage, but his height hinted at other genetic factors being tossed into the mix.
"Have a Coke, Partner Blair," Happy said, taking the cup from Dopey and putting it into a bewildered Blair's hand. "So, what do we owe this honor to, Doc? You here to arrest us?"
Jim took a seat and sipped his drink. "If I have to. I know you guys pulled the job at the Masterson estate, and I'll just assume you did the others. Why? Or is this on a need-to-know basis?"
"Nah. We don't mind telling you, Doc," Happy said, and Blair realized he was apparently the spokesman for the group. "We took the stuff because it was the only way we could figure out how to get enough money."
Jim frowned. "Enough money for what?"
"To buy nuclear weapons."
Continue on to Act II...
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This page last updated 2/2/01.