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
by
D.L. Witherspoon

.

Act I

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."

"Items stolen?"

"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."

"Meaning?"

"The last time I was with them, they were doing government work."

"Oh." Things were starting to make sense. "These were co-workers?"

"Yes."

"And you think this theft wasn't about the jewels that were stolen, but maybe about something that Masterson didn't report missing?"

"It's possible."

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."


Act II

"Oh, man, what a classic!" Sleepy exclaimed when he saw Jim's pickup truck. "1969, right?" He stroked the sides lovingly.

"I can ride in the back, right, Doc?" Dopey said, already stepping into the truck bed. "C'mon, Bash."

"Leave room for me," Sleepy called, also climbing in.

"You boys comfy?" Jim asked, walking around to the driver's door.

"Yeah, Doc. Is the station far away?"

"No."

"Darn," Dopey said. He looked around in amazement. "You sure keep it clean, Doc."

"I try." Jim got in, and waited for his partner and Happy to join him in the cab.

"Uh, Jim," Blair began hesitantly, "you didn't read them their rights. If we're taking them in, maybe it would be a good idea."

"Boys," he called. "What are your rights?"

"We have the right to remain silent," the four chorused, Bash's voice just a little behind the others. "We have the right to an attorney --"

"Enough," Blair said, sliding into the truck. "We're going to have a long talk when I get you alone," he muttered to a certain Sentinel.

Happy shut the door, and threw his arm over the back of the long seat. "So, Partner Blair, how long you been hanging with Doc?"

"About four years."

"You must be good. Doc doesn't tolerate a lot of mistakes."

"Yeah. I sorta learned that the hard way," Blair replied, his elbow "accidently" making contact with Jim's side. "But he was patient with me -- most of the time."

"Doc was 'patient' with you," Happy said with a laugh. "That's a good one, Partner Blair."

Blair scowled. He hadn't realized he'd made a pun. "So, how long have you known Doc here?" He heard a warning growl from a certain driver, and ignored it.

"It was back in '85, wasn't it, Doc?"

"Something like that."

"We took to him right off," Happy continued. "But we thought he wouldn't like us. How did Grumpy put it? 'They'll grow on you.' That's what he liked to tell people who met us."

Jim chuckled. "Yeah, that's exactly what he told me. I don't think anyone could frustrate him better than you, Hap."

Blair looked at his partner. "Don't tell me there was someone grumpier than you, Jim. In fact, I was wondering why that wasn't your handle."

"No, Doc is Doc," Happy explained. "He prepared all our missions with surgical precision. Never once had one of his missions go bad. And he didn't fuss when I wouldn't take a weapon. He said a man had to be comfortable to do a good job."

"Yeah, he's like that," Blair agreed. "He knows how to get the best out of everyone."

"Grumpy was our commander," Jim said, never comfortable with praise. "He ran the team, gave us our assignments."

"And Sneezy?"

Jim gripped the steering wheel. "He was with me in Peru."

"Sorry, man," Blair said, laying his hand briefly on Jim's shoulder. "So, what's up with this Seven Dwarfs theme anyway?

"We're all six-feet tall and over," Happy said, as if that explained everything.

Which, Blair thought to himself in amazement, it did. Of course seven tall guys would name themselves after Snow White's dwarfs. It made perfectly good sense in a weirdly human way. He wondered if it was going to make any sense to a certain captain.

Probably not.

"Anyway, Doc took to us right off," Happy said, continuing his narrative. "Even got Bash to come out of his shell a bit. Those were the best times.... Haven't been the same since you left, Doc."

"You know why I had to leave, Hap."

"We know. But it doesn't mean we missed you any less."

Jim adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. "It's good seeing you guys again, too."


Blair watched in fascination as Jim got his former men settled in the Major Crime bullpen. Being night, the large room was empty. There was a light on in Simon's office, but the blinds were open, revealing that the captain was not in residence at the time.

"This is my desk," Jim told them. "Don't touch anything else."

"But it's so clean, Doc," Dopey whined, kneading his dusting rag in his hands.

Jim pointed to the desk next to his. "That's Sandburg's. He probably won't mind a good cleaning."

"Please, Partner Blair?" came the excited request. So much junk and dust in one place. Dopey was in heaven. And Blair could see it in his eyes.

"Sure, Dope. Knock yourself out." He'd have plenty of time to straighten everything out later. It would be a nice excuse for getting out of paperwork.

Sleepy had already commandeered Jim's chair, and was drifting off. Jim rolled him back and put Blair's chair in front of the computer, and turned the machine on. "Here you go, Bash. No poking into the mainframe, okay?" Bashful nodded silently. Then Jim winked at him. "But a little tweaking won't be so bad." He got a grin in response.

"I was wondering when the two of you were going to show --" Simon began as he walked into the bullpen. He stopped as he looked up from the folder he was reading, and saw the visitors. "What's going on here?"

"I'll be with you in a minute, Captain," Jim called, as he bent to open a drawer in his desk. He handed Happy a heavy catalog, and swiped another chair. "Don't drool all over it," he cautioned.

While he made Happy happy, Blair was already in the office, quietly explaining to Simon that the one cleaning his desk was Dopey, at the computer was Bashful, the one Jim was talking to was Happy, and the sleeping one was, of course, Sleepy.

"I expect you men to go out and find thieves, and you bring me a bunch of dwarfs?" Simon asked in exasperation.

"We did exactly as you asked, Captain," Blair said as Jim moved to join them.

"You're telling me that those four are the expert team that broke into three high-security estates?"

"That's correct, Captain," Jim said, entering the office and closing the door.

Simon took another look. "Uh uh, I'm not buying it, gentlemen."

"They're military, sir. I've worked with them. I know how capable they are."

Simon eyed his detective closely. "That's why you took off so suddenly at the crime scene. You knew who you were looking for and where to look."

"I had a hunch. Always try to check into a new, expensive hotel. Their reservation system is so new, they're not surprised when you say there's been a screw-up. You sigh, ask for one of the smaller suites, and they give you a large one just to make up for 'their' mistake. They are also more likely to overlook certain eccentricities like grown men eating Silly Meals, " Jim explained.

"Have you read them their rights? Are they going to confess? Why aren't they in lock up? Or at least Interrogation? Has the D.A.'s Office been notified?"

Jim sighed. "Captain...Simon --"

"No, Ellison. I know when you start 'Simoning' me, you and your partner have come up with some lamebrain scheme that will probably achieve world peace, but makes me look like an A- Number One fool in the meantime." Simon grabbed a cigar to chomp on. "Get those men booked now! And preferably under their real names, if you know them."

"Alan Smallwood, Peter Harper, Randall Smythe, III, and Solomon Sheppard, Jr." Jim reeled off with ease. "But, sir, there's more going on here than just a few cases of simple robbery --"

"Do I look like I care, Ellison? No. Major Crime was assigned to catch the burglars. End of story."

"Nuclear weapons," Blair said softly.

"What?" Simon turned to him.

"They were stealing to have enough money to buy nuclear weapons."

Simon looked at Jim for confirmation. Jim nodded, and Simon reached for his Rolodex. He really should have memorized the number for the FBI field office by now.

A hand covered his as he reached for the phone. "Wait, Simon. Please."

Simon gazed into the solemn, sincere stare of his best detective, and folded. One of these days, he was going to learn to just give in at the beginning. "Okay, Jim. What's really going on?"

"It's true the boys were stealing to get the money to buy the nuclear weapons, but their intent was not malicious. They wanted the weapons in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Happy had already made arrangements with an authorized disposal site."

Simon scowled. "You high, Jim? Been sniffing something you aren't supposed to? Because I know Jim Ellison in his right mind wouldn't buy such a cockamamie story. No, wait. You're the same man who bought Harry Conley's sad tale too, aren't you?"

"I was right about Harry, and I'm right about these guys too, Simon," Jim said firmly. He got up and walked to the door. "Hap, we need you in here."

"Coming, Doc."

Doc? Simon mouthed silently to Blair. Blair just nodded.

"Hap, this is Captain Simon Banks, my superior officer."

Happy held out his hand, giving Simon's a firm shake. "Hello, sir," he said formally.

Blair's mouth fell open. Gone was the affable guy who had thrown his arms around Jim, and grinned constantly. This man was solemn, his back ramrod straight, his hands folded behind his back.

"The captain needs a report on your latest mission," Jim explained.

"Sir, two weeks ago, the team and I became aware that there was a shipment of nuclear arms for sale in the region. I met with the dealer and set up terms. To secure the funding for the venture, the team and I committed three felonies. While relaxing after the last one, we were apprehended by Detectives Ellison and Sandburg."

"What was the ultimate goal of your mission?" Jim prompted.

"Sir, to dispose of the nuclear material as safely as possible. A depository for such material was discovered in New Mexico. As soon as the weapons were delivered to us, we were to arrange transport to the facility."

"And now that you've been caught?" Simon asked.

"We are prepared to pay for our crimes, sir. However, Detective Ellison has another scenario in mind."

Simon turned to Detective Ellison. "You have one minute."

"We let them complete the transaction, thereby getting the dealer and the weapons. It will not only make the world a safer place, but be a big coup for the department, sir."

"It would be, wouldn't it?" Simon said thoughtfully. And it would go a long way in repaying the favors owed to the mayor and the commissioner for allowing Blair to become a detective, despite the negative publicity. "If you're expecting a deal, however, we're gonna have to contact the D.A."

Happy shook his head. "No, sir. We do this as our duty to the public. We aren't expecting anything in return."

"Thank you, Ha --" Simon couldn't bring himself to say it -- "That will be all, soldier. Please wait outside."

"Yes, sir." He turned and Jim dismissed him with a crisp salute.

"Impressive," Blair commented.

Jim nodded. "He likes to please people. I said Simon was my commanding officer, therefore, he acted to please a C.O."

"About this plan of yours," Simon began. "It better be good."

"Doc's plans are always good, Captain," Blair said, grinning when Jim glared at him.

"Why do I think I'm going to spend the night dreaming about a prince on a white horse?" Simon muttered.

"Oooh, kinky, sir," Blair said gleefully, and Simon just dropped his head against the desk.


"The men are settled in, sir," Happy reported.

Jim turned around in his chair on the balcony. Peering into the dark loft, he could see the sleeping bags lined up precisely on the floor. "Come join us for a minute, Hap." With a lazy swipe of his leg, he dragged a chair over next to his and Blair's. The night was cool, but not uncomfortably so. He and Blair often unwound out here, the open space a balm for whatever bruises the day had given them.

"This is a nice place you have, Doc."

"Thanks. But it's your place I'm worried about. What happened? Why did you leave the Army?"

Happy sighed as he sat backward in the offered chair, leaning forward to rest his chin on the back. "Rumors were that Dopey wasn't going to pass his next psych evaluation."

"Why? He doesn't seem that changed to me."

"He wasn't the one that changed; the guidelines did. Ever since McVeigh and Nichols pulled that stunt in Oklahoma, any deviation from center line is considered suspect."

Blair took exception to calling the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, killing 168 men, women and children, a "stunt", but he bit his jaw and kept his silence.

"We weren't about to let him go off alone, and we pretty much figured they'd get all of us eventually anyway, so we turned in our fatigues and became free men."

"Free, bored, men," Jim guessed.

"Yeah, well, we always did need someone riding herd on us."

"Why didn't you --" Jim cleared his throat. "Why didn't you contact me?"

"We heard about what Col. Oliver did and figured you didn't want anything else to do with your military life."

"I wouldn't turn my back on my friends."

Happy shrugged. "I think we realized that as soon as we found out the weapons were in Cascade. That's what made up our minds. It was kismet, karma, whatever. The weapons were in Cascade. Doc was in Cascade. It was destiny." He grinned, dark eyes settling on Jim fondly. "We haven't been this jazzed since we've been on our own. Everything's in synch now." He yawned and shoved back from the chair. "Guess I better turn in. Dope only really settles down when we're all together. Goodnight, Doc, Partner Blair."

"Goodnight, Hap. And don't worry. I'll do whatever I can for you and the boys."

"We know that, Doc. Kinda sorry we forgot it earlier." He paused in the doorway. "We won't again."

"They're good men," Jim told Blair when they were alone. "Different, but good."

Blair nodded. "I just wish you had introduced me in another way. I tried five times to get them to call me Sandburg, or even just Blair. No dice."

"Okay. Next time I'll call you Snow White. I can just see you singing 'Someday My Prince Will Come.'"

Blair rolled his eyes. "I carry a gun now, man," he reminded his partner. "But, hey, Prince Charming would have worked."

Jim laughed out loud, startling a cricket out of its song. "Let's go to bed, Modesty Boy."

"Gee, Jim, you make me sound like some spokesperson for a feminine protection product," Blair whined facetiously.

"Trust me, Chief. We all need protection from you."

Blair fell asleep, plotting payback.


Act III

"All right, Ellison. We're going to play this by-the-book. Understand?" Simon asked, ignoring the others in the abandoned parking deck of a building that was never finished due to the arrest of its financial backers. The police department had found it to be an effective launching point for special operations. It was isolated, easily monitored, and in case someone was being followed, it didn't "scream" police sting.

"Understood, sir."

Simon sighed. Instead of being encouraged by Jim's obedient reply, he worried that Jim was operating in Army mode, a.k.a. Black ops. That meant Jim was playing by a whole other set of rules, and that made the captain nervous -- extremely nervous. "Run it by me again," he said to the man dressed in a tailored suit, and leaning against a spotless black limo.

"Hap will introduce me as his boss. We inspect the merchandise, make the exchange, then you and the guys come in for the arrest."

Before Simon could continue, he was interrupted by a grumpy, but well-dressed Blair. "I still don't understand why I have to wear a bow tie. Not only is the thing choking me," he complained, tugging at the offending accessory, "but it won't stay straight."

"Maybe if you left it alone," Jim said, slapping Blair's hand away from the softly checked fabric. "You're wearing a bow tie because you're posing as an accountant. And accountants wear bow ties."

"That's so stereotyped, man," Blair replied, reaching for the bow again, but stopping when Jim stared at him.

"Stereotype works in undercover ops, Chief. Sleep! You ready?"

The tall, thin, black man pulled on a chauffeur's cap, completely alert for the first time since Blair had met him. "Yes, sir. Your call."

Jim smiled. There was not a vehicle made that Sleepy couldn't handle -- land, sea, air, or otherwise. "Hap, Bash, Dope?" Affirmative answers from each of his "henchmen". "Let's move out." He slid into the limo, followed by Blair and the others.

Simon watched the limo leave the deck, then went to join the rest of Major Crime already in place near the meeting site.


Harlon Spurrier was incensed. Nobody changed plans on him without his knowledge.

"What the hell is this?" he asked the man he'd originally made the deal with, ignoring the others who entered the warehouse with him. "Who are these people?" It was bad enough he was messing around with nuclear devices; he didn't need any excess crap. "Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?"

"Do you?" came a soft question.

Spurrier followed the sound, and found himself speared by two laser beams pretending to be eyes. "Uhhhh...." he replied.

"If you want answers I suggest you direct your questions to me -- and not to the hired help," Jim said, doing nothing, but looking dangerous all the same. "But then again, I don't like your tone, so maybe you should stop the questions altogether."

Spurrier was a snake, but unlike his kin that tried to slither across the road despite the eighteen-wheeler looming in the distance, he knew when it was best to leave road-crossing to the chickens. He carefully tucked his anger back inside and focused on looking as subservient as possible. It hadn't taken him long to know what the Powers That Be expected of him. And this man was definitely a power.

"You have my merchandise?"

"Yes, sir. You have --" He stopped abruptly as the laser beams sought him again. Of course, he had the money.

Jim angled his head toward Blair, and his partner stepped forward with a briefcase. Spurrier reached for it, but found his hand blocked. "The merchandise, Mr. Spurrier?" Blair questioned, trying to sound as bland as possible. If Jim wanted stereotype, he could do stereotype.

The man pointed to a large crate behind him, and Jim directed Happy and Bashful to inspect the contents. Bash used a device to scan the caps and detonators needed to set off the nuclear material. Without them -- working ones -- the weapons were useless. Spurrier wrung his hands together while the inspection occurred, then gave a huge sigh of relief when Jim indicated he could have the money.

This was the moment Jim was supposed to say, "It was a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Spurrier." The phrase would signal to Simon that the deal was done, and it was time to round up the bad guys. But Jim focused in on Spurrier's rapid heartbeat and made a decision. "Something on your mind, Mr. Spurrier?" He didn't have to have Sentinel hearing to know what his captain was probably saying at the moment.

"Uh, I can get you more, lots more if you want, sir."

He heard his people's hearts start to race, but none of the anxiety showed on their faces. He was proud of his team. "Why did you indicate earlier that three were all you had?"

"I didn't think the gentleman could handle more than that." Spurrier looked at Happy derisively. "But you --" He shrugged.

"How soon?"

"Tomorrow."

Jim was surprised. That meant the supply had to be close by. "How many?"

"Ninety-seven."

"Is that all?" Just enough to destroy half the world.

Spurrier nodded unhappily. "That completes the original lot of one hundred."

"How much?"

"Same as the first three."

Jim nodded, then calmly added, "Less ten percent." The man opened his mouth to protest, but Jim continued, "After all, I'm buying in bulk."

Spurrier sucked on his lip for a minute. A ten percent discount would reach deep into his profit. But, selling the weapons to a single buyer meant he could be out of the nuclear arms business for good. He was definitely much more comfortable with his usual inventory of conventional weapons. If that Russian -- he didn't care what they were calling themselves these days -- hadn't tried to double-cross him, and had nearly given him the "hot" items in return for his life, he never would have handled the things in the first place. Yes, it would be worth the loss just to get them out of his life. "Deal, sir. May I ask who is making the purchase?"

Jim smiled. "No, you may not. Just in case you get anxious over such a minor detail, I will take my money back, and you can keep your three weapons until tomorrow." Blair pried the briefcase out of the man's hand, and stepped back to his partner's side. Happy and Bashful also found their places beside Jim. "Same time?"

The arms dealer blinked, surprised by the fact that for the first time in twenty-odd years, he'd lost control of a transaction. "Later. It's too much stuff to transfer in the day. What about ten? You can get the money by then?"

"There you go, asking questions again, Mr. Spurrier. I don't like repeating myself," Jim warned.

"Of course. Sorry, sir. Ten, tomorrow night. Here. You'll need a large transport vehicle."

Jim nodded. "By the way, Mr. Spurrier. I'm a very punctual man. Don't be late." He swept out of the room, followed by his men.

Spurrier stared at their backs and wondered if he'd just made a deal with the devil.


"What was I supposed to do, Captain?" Jim asked, pacing the confines of Simon's office. "Leave the rest of the arms on the open market? Sold to any individual or gang who can steal enough to buy one or two? Sure, a couple couldn't do any major damage -- just wipe Cascade off the face of the map for a few thousand years."

"Are you through, Detective?"

Jim looked at his captain sheepishly. "Yes, sir."

Simon sighed. Jim had never been easy to handle, but it used to be that taking a hard line with him would kick him into military mode -- which meant immediate obedience to a superior. However, exposure to Sandburg had abraded that military veneer, exposed a more logical side of Jim which decided for itself what was right and what was wrong. Now, Jim was just as difficult to argue with as Blair. "You know, with this amount of material, we're going to have to call in the Feds."

"And what are we going to tell them, sir?"

Simon looked at him, puzzled for a moment. Then he remembered that Jim's friends were involved, and while Jim had a tendency to throw caution to the wind in situations, he was always careful where friends and family were concerned. The detective wanted the mother lode, but he would accept the arrest of Spurrier and the three measly weapons if it meant protecting the Dwarfs from federal charges. Simon dropped his head into his hands. His world was suddenly changing into "the friendliest place on earth". All he needed now was a big, fluffy, white rabbit and a girl in a pinafore.

"Sandburg doesn't own an apron with a bib on it, does he?" the captain asked wearily.

Jim didn't even blink at the non sequitur. "I'll ask him later. About the F.B.I., sir?"

"You and your partner have one hour to spin a believable tale. I want the 'i's dotted and the 't's crossed on this, understand?"

"Perfectly." Jim smiled. "Thanks, Simon."

"Don't thank me, just -- obfuscate well."

"Sandburg's middle name, Captain," Jim reassured him.


"They were approached because of their old military covers," Jim said to the federal agent seated at the conference table, the next afternoon. The man was so young, it appeared he was still "growing" into the dark suit he was wearing. "When it became apparent to them that Spurrier was on the level, they came to me, an old friend and a local authority."

"I authorized them to make the meet to see what we were dealing with." From the head of the table, Simon took over the conversation seamlessly. "The amount of nuclear material Spurrier has in his possession is both staggering and terrifying. I immediately made contact with your office. The director informed me that most of his agents were busy with another operation. I'm so glad he could spare you." Blair, seated at the other end of the table, coughed loudly, and Simon glared at him. It was hard enough to say these things without comments from the peanut gallery.

"Uh, glad to be here," Agent Roger Benoit said, his voice coming out louder than he wanted. Softer, he added, "It sounds as if Spurrier is a major threat to the safety of the American people. Perhaps we could delay the next meet until my director is able to send additional agents."

You mean agents who don't need pre-digested foods? "I'm sorry, Agent Benoit, but the schedule has already been set. If we were to change it now, we would invite suspicion. However, be assured my men and women are quite capable. Now, if we can just get your signature to authorize the release of the funds we need." Simon slid the papers across the table. Benoit hesitated a minute, glanced at the smiles that were surrounding him, then signed. He never noticed how the others relaxed after that.

"Okay, so much for the important details," Simon said, standing quickly. "Detectives Ellison and Sandburg will take you over the plans for tonight's operation, Agent. Then I want everyone to go home, or back to your hotel in your case, sir, and get a couple of hours rest. Before the night is over, you just might need it."


Act IV

"Am I going to have to pin your hands to your sides, Sandburg?" Jim growled as a technician adjusted the wire beneath his shirt.

"Man, I am never going undercover in a bow tie again," Blair muttered, as he consciously stopped himself from tugging at his neck. "I had nightmares about this thing last night."

"Well, maybe you'll sleep better tonight," Simon commented, trying to soothe his fractious officers.

"Yeah, right. Wonder Burger will no doubt want to repeat on me. I don't know why we couldn't have gone to the Thai place."

"You were outvoted, Sandburg. Even Agent Benoit raised his hand."

"Remember that vote when I wake you up in the middle of the night making ginger tea, man."

Simon rolled his eyes. "Gentlemen, if we can keep our minds on the operation...."

Two innocent faces turned to him. "Of course, Captain," they chorused.

Simon sighed, and walked over to where the rest of his Major Crime team waited.

"He always get like this before a mission?" Happy asked, his eyes following the captain.

"Yeah, but we've learned to live with it," Blair answered, his hands creeping toward the bow tie.

Jim shook his head. "Hap, get me the duct tape."


The limo slid to a smooth stop in front of the warehouse. Behind it, Sleepy pulled up in a large Haul-It-All truck. In the back of the truck was a squad of officers, ready to move at a moment's notice. Down the street, Simon, Agent Benoit, a back up squad, and a Haz-Mat team waited.

Dopey, acting as chauffeur, opened the limo's back door. Hap got out first, looked around, then nodded. Jim exited next, followed by a briefcase-bearing Blair, and Bashful, who made up the rear guard. As they all started toward the warehouse, Jim paused, frowning in concentration.

"What's up, man?" Blair whispered.

"Spurrier's not alone."

"How many?"

"At least five others."

"How do you want to play it, Doc?" Hap asked.

Jim's eyes narrowed. "Spurrier!" he barked.

The warehouse's large door rolled back. "Is there a problem?" Spurrier asked, stepping into the doorway.

"You tell me. Who are your friends?"

The weapons dealer looked surprised, and slightly frightened. "I thought additional security was needed. And I engaged a couple of dock workers to help us make the transfer. Was I out of line?"

"Quite. I don't like the unknown. I want to see your staff before I enter the building."

"But --" Jim started to turn around. "Wait! Everybody come forward. The man wants to know who's here," he called back into the warehouse.

Four men appeared behind Spurrier. The dock workers were in union approved uniforms, so Jim supposed the other two were the "additional security". But that still left one unaccounted for. "I don't like games, Mr. Spurrier," he warned softly. "If I turn away one more time, I won't come back."

Spurrier sighed. "Roberts!" The fifth man appeared. "He had orders not to leave the merchandise," he explained quickly.

"I'm starting to feel annoyed," Jim said, stepping forward once again. "Let's get this over with."

Spurrier waved his hand toward the crates stacked in the center of the cavernous room. "Your order, sir."

"Your money, sir." Jim nodded at Blair and the younger man stepped forward with the briefcase.

"FBI! Freeze!" Agent Benoit yelled, stalking determinedly through the door.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then chaos erupted. The two dockworkers instantly threw their hands up in the air. The others swore, and pulled out weapons even as they heard the approaching backup. Someone called out, "Don't fire, idiot! You'll take out the whole city and us!" Surprisingly, everybody put their guns away and switched to hand-to-hand combat. Fists flew. There were grunts and groans, followed by the jangling sound of handcuffs, and recitations of the Miranda.

Simon's booming voice cut through the melange, and everyone froze. Except for Roberts, Spurrier's specialty guy who decided to take advantage of the distraction. He figured he could broker himself a safe escape by grabbing what looked like the least likely threat to use as a shield and a bargaining chip -- the guy in the bow tie. With a grunt, Blair threw his head back into Roberts' chin, and was instantly released. Before the man could grab his injured chin, Blair landed a solid punch to his jaw, which sent Roberts crashing to his knees.

"Guess you didn't get the memo, huh?" Blair growled, as he pulled the man's hands back and clasped on the metal bracelets. "I don't do hostage anymore, peabrain!" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jim disappear into the back shadows. He quickly surveyed the area. Five men in custody, which meant one was missing -- Spurrier.

"Good job, Sandburg," Simon said, as a uniform took Roberts away. "Where's your partner?"

"Spurrier went rabbit."

"And Greyhound Ellison is hot on his tail," the captain completed.

"You know Jim -- see a moving object, chase a moving object," Blair added with a grin. He wasn't worried; Spurrier was a runner, not a fighter.

"Whether it be bus, plane, or train," Simon pointed out.

"Don't forget helicopters, Captain. He likes helicopters. All sorts of moving parts, I suppose."

"And let's not rule out cars. Especially my cars." Simon looked a bit sad, remembering the vehicles which had given their lives in the pursuit of other moving objects.

Blair tried hard not to laugh. "Speaking of your cars, can I borrow yours to go find Jim?"

"No. I don't trust either of you. But you can come with me. I've seen what happens to rabbits when they tick off that particular greyhound."

"Not a problem, Captain," Blair said as they started toward the car.

"You need assistance, Partner Blair?" Hap called from the corner where he and his team were surrounding Agent Benoit, keeping him from further involvement.

"Nope. Just going to pick up Doc," Blair called back, receiving a nod in reply. He got into the car beside Simon. "What the hell happened, Captain? Benoit could have gotten us killed with that stupid stunt."

Simon sighed, and started the vehicle. "When we heard that Spurrier had extra people, I left the car to go coordinate the backup unit. I wanted them closer in case it got nasty. The next thing I knew, Benoit was standing in the doorway, opening his big mouth."

"Why? I don't get it. He knew the plan. Jim explained it to him earlier, and you know how much of a stickler for detail Jim can be."

"Maybe he got nervous, and panicked. Or maybe he wanted to make sure the bust went down on record as a federal action. Be assured, the Feds will get an earful from me. In the meantime, I just want to keep him out of your partner's way until we can safely get his butt back to Seattle."

"It'll be okay. I've convinced Jim to give up red meat for Lent," Blair joked. Actually, the Sentinel's infamous temper had been under control lately.

"May I point out, Sandburg, that neither of you is Catholic, and that it's not Lent." He pulled away from the side of the road.

Blair looked rather chagrined. Jim had to be upset about Benoit's performance, and Spurrier didn't do himself any favors by running. "Then I suppose you might want to step on the gas."

"And go where?"

"Toward the nearest moving object I suppose," Blair guessed, and Simon peered at him over the top of his glasses. Think, Sandburg. Moving object, moving ob.... Inspiration struck, and he smiled. "Toward the park, Simon. He's in the park."


Jim had just started to congratulate his partner on the head butt, when he saw Spurrier flee toward the back of the warehouse. A loose piece of aluminum revealed an escape hatch. Outside, his eyes adjusted to the dark easily. He searched for clues to his quarry's position, and his Sentinel sight picked up on the settling water in a poorly draining section of asphalt. He followed the water trail until the asphalt ended at the edge of a thick growth of trees. Focusing his senses, he could hear Spurrier crashing through the woods, so he took off after him.

The copse soon thinned out, and in the resulting clearance was a wooden carousel -- and Harlon Spurrier. Throwing his body forward, Jim knocked Spurrier to the ground. Desperate, the man reached out, trying to gain a hold on something so that he'd have leverage against his opponent. His hands wrapped around a metal bar and he pulled it, hoping to free it and use it as a weapon. Instead, lights and music blared as the old carousel came to life.

The sudden sensory onslaught slammed into the Sentinel. He closed his eyes and covered his ears, freeing Spurrier. Surprised, but eager to take advantage of his good fortune, the arms dealer made a dash for the carousel, dodging the rising and falling horses to make good his escape. However, Jim recovered quickly, and also hopped onto the carousel. Spurrier never knew what hit him.

As Jim clicked the handcuffs around Spurrier's wrist, securing him to one of the front "hooves" of a noble steed, he heard a car approaching. He grinned when he recognized the vehicle.

From the interior of the car, Blair pointed at the two men. "My case in point, Captain. Looking for Jim? Find the nearest moving object. I wonder if his parents ever put a mobile above his crib? That surely would have calmed a cranky Jim. I know I've learned that sitting him in front of the television is a good way to soothe him when his feathers are all ruffled and --"

"Sandburg?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Go get your partner and his detainee."

"Sure."

Simon clamped down on his cigar and shook his head.


"Jim'll be a moment, Captain," Blair said, as he walked into Simon's office and plopped down on the corner of the desk. "He's on the phone, making sure his buds arrived in Florida okay."

"Florida?" Embarrassment over Benoit's actions kept the Feds from filing any charges against the Disneyesque quartet, and since they had returned what they'd stolen and made formal apologies -- while offering suggestions about how to improve the violated security systems -- the D.A. was satisfied with having Spurrier and his cohorts to prosecute. So, the Dwarfs were free -- and Jim had sent them to Florida. How appropriate.

"Yeah, Jim has a friend there who operates a -- business." Blair raised suggestive eyebrows. "Let's just say that the Dwarfs won't be bored."

The captain grimaced. "I'm starting to realize, as bizarre at it sounds, that you're one of the most normal friends that man has," he reluctantly admitted.

"Why, Simon, is that a compliment?" Blair asked excitedly.

"No."

Blair made a face, then turned to look at his arriving partner. "Everything okay?"

"One hundred percent," Jim replied.

Blair rolled his eyes. "Can't we drop the military jargon already? If I hear 'Partner Blair, please make us your delicious all-wheat waffles' one more time --"

"They were just showing their appreciation, Chief," Jim said.

"It was you saying it, Jim," Blair reminded him.

"Oh, yeah." The Sentinel gave an apologetic shrug.

"Out," Simon said, having heard enough.

"But you're the one who called us in here, Captain," Jim pointed out.

"Here." Simon handed Jim a folder from his desk. "Robberies at three local malls. Same M.O. Go. Investigate."

Not exactly a standard briefing, but Jim shook his head when Blair started to make a comment. He urged his partner to follow him out the door, deliberately leaving it ajar behind them.

Simon let out a sigh at their carelessness, and got up to close the door properly. Just as he reached out, he heard the faint strains of whistling. The tune sounded familiar, and he paused for just a second searching his brain for the title. His lips were supplying the answer even as the title popped into his mind -- "Heigh ho, heigh ho...."

Jim and Blair grinned at each other as the door slammed closed.

~ Finis ~

E-mail the author of this story, D.L. Witherspoon, at dlspoon@prodigy.net
Read D.L.'s other fan fiction for The Sentinel at TV Lit 101
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NEXT WEEK on THE SENTINEL: Deal's Way (2/2/00, FPP-518) by Linda S. Maclaren (Mackie) and Gina Martin
    Vince Deal (of The Real Deal) is up to his neck in trouble on the set of his new television movie.
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