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.


Murder in General
by
Sue Pokorny

.

Act I

The blue and white Ford pickup screeched to a halt near the patrol car. Both occupants of the vehicle crawled from the passenger side door, gunshots ringing out across the empty parking lot from the abandoned storefront. Hunched down, they made their way to the brown Plymouth on the far side.

"What've you got?" Detective Jim Ellison called, ducking instinctively as two more shots rang out from the small building across the lot. Both shots bounced harmlessly off the pavement, neither coming near any of the uniformed officers or detectives on the scene.

"Ellison," Detective Mark Colby grinned in greeting. "Just happened to be in the neighborhood?" Colby was a bit older than Jim, with a healthy paunch and a friendly smile. His hairline had started receding years ago, but you couldn't tell since he started cropping his graying hair very close to his head. He was crouched down behind the rear fender of his car, keeping his attention on the building.

"Something like that." Jim returned the grin. "We heard the call for backup and decided to drop by and show you how the real cops work." Jim readied his weapon as he bantered with his old friend.

"Real cops, huh?" Colby laughed. "Sandburg, I thought you were teaching this hotshot some humility."

"I tried, Mark, but it didn't take." Blair shrugged his shoulders. "You know the saying about old dogs and new tricks."

"No reason to mess with perfection, Chief." He turned back to Colby. "So who's in the building?'

"Small time drug pusher by the name of Luca. Tony Luca. We've had our eye on him for a while now. We had an APB out on him and a couple of his boys in connection with a crack house we took down a couple days ago. Word on the street is he's been pushing a new form of PCP."

"Angel Dust?" Blair asked. "I didn't think they used that stuff anymore."

Colby nodded. "It's certainly not the most popular of your illegal recreational drugs these days. Most of these pushers are supplying things like crack and Golden. This new PCP compound is pretty new. My sources tell me there's a new player supplying these kids, but I haven't been able to get a name." He turned his head and nodded back toward the storefront. "I was told Luca was pretty high up on the food chain, but he must've seen us coming, because he bolted before we could stop him."

"How many in there with him?"

Colby shrugged. "Two. They went in through the front door and decided to play Butch and Sundance with us."

A few more shots rang out, one hitting the front headlight of the patrol car, shattering the glass.

"Their aim is getting better." Blair instinctively ducked down further.

Jim focused his hearing on the building, picking up three distinct heartbeats. He held up three fingers to Blair to indicate the number of suspects he could hear inside. "They're all staying near the front of the building," Jim observed. "Any chance we could get around back?"

Jim eyed the building skeptically. The old brick front seemed solid, with cardboard covering the partially glassed display windows. One side of the building was framed by a tall chain link fence that butted up against the building next door. The other side was blocked by a rusting dumpster.

"I was just about to check that out when you came along. I can't see any way around from here, but I was thinking if we could get to that neighboring building, we may be able to find another way in." Colby motioned toward the adjoining building, which looked as old and rundown as its neighbor.

"Sounds like a plan."

"Jim..." Blair grabbed his arm and squeezed tightly, forcing him to look into the angry blue eyes. Ellison was expecting his partner's protest and held up a hand to stop him.

"I'll be okay, Chief. You stay here and keep them busy."

"Keep them busy?" Blair repeated, shaking his head angrily. "No way, Jim. I'm coming with you."

"Sandburg, we don't have time to argue about this."

Blair's expression didn't change but he released Jim's arm. "Then don't argue. Let's go."

Colby had watched the exchange, one corner of his mouth lifted in a grin as Ellison backed down. "Tough little guy, isn't he? You two take the building, I'll stay here with the uniforms and keep them busy."

Jim nodded and looked pointedly at Blair. "Keep your head down, Chief."

"Hey! Don't shoot! We're coming out!"

Jim exchanged a look of surprise with Colby. "Your lucky day?"

Colby shrugged. "Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket."

The door to the storefront opened and two young men walked through, their arms extended above their heads, their guns dangling from their fingers.

"Drop the weapons!" Jim ordered, leveling his own across the hood of the Plymouth.

Both men complied, slowly lowering their weapons to the ground.

"Place your hands on your heads and lie face down on the ground."

As both suspects began to move, Blair moved a little closer to his partner. "Where's the other guy?"

"Good question, Chief."

"We probably hit him." Blair looked up as the younger of the two uniformed officers -- Joe or John or something Stevenson -- answered eagerly. The officer rose and began to move out from the protection of the vehicle when another shot rang out, and everybody ducked for cover. Blair watched in horror as Stevenson was struck. The rookie patrolman was spun around and fell forward, right into the line of fire.

Blair, realizing the officer was now exposed, gathered himself and pushed off from the Plymouth. "Jim!" he screamed as he rushed to the fallen man and grabbed him by the arms.

Jim's head spun around at the sound of his partner's frantic voice. "Sandburg!" He fired at the two men in the lot, who had retrieved their weapons and were shooting as they scuttled to the edge of the lot. One suspect went down as he turned to make a break for the dumpster, the other catching a bullet as he changed direction and tried to make it back to the door. Gunfire was still coming from the other man inside, and Jim aimed his weapon at the muzzle flash to the left of the door.

Blair was about five feet away, dragging Stevenson toward the safety of the Plymouth. The officer was about Jim's size and Blair struggled to move the unresponsive man to safety. He was almost to the Plymouth when Blair suddenly spun around and fell to the ground. It took a moment for Jim to understand what had happened.

"Sandburg!" Jim fired again through the glass, rewarded with a scream of pain and a body falling through what was left of the window onto the pavement in front of the store. As Colby and the other uniform carefully made their way to the downed suspects, Jim rushed the few feet to his fallen partner.

Jim checked for a heartbeat, relieved to find it strong and steady.

He breathed a sigh of relief and turned Blair's head. Bright red blood stained the left side of his head, standing out in sharp contrast to the pale skin. The blood flowed down, matting the dark curls against his head.

"Oh, God. Blair." He quickly pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it to the wound, relieved to hear a low moan from his partner.

"That's it, Chief. Stay with me here."

"Jim?" Blair's voice was a whisper. "Wha--"

"Whoa." Jim pressed a hand against Blair's chest, forcing the younger man to stay down. "Just stay put, Chief. You're bleeding."

Blair's eyes opened and he looked around in confusion. He squinted up at Jim, obviously struggling to focus. "Wha... what happened?"

"You decided to play hero."

Blair's look of confusion changed to one of concern. "Stevenson?" He tried to lift his head to look around, but Jim's pressure on his forehead and his chest kept him from moving.

"Lie still. Stevenson's okay." Jim glanced behind him at Stevenson who was struggling to sit up, his left arm holding his other close to his side. "Stevenson's fine. You did good, Chief."

Blair relaxed and closed his eyes. "Good."

Jim smiled. "Yeah. Good." He looked up as Mark Colby kneeled down beside him.

"How's he doing?"

"He'll live. Luckily the bullet hit the hardest part of his body." From the look of Blair's pupils it was apparent the younger man had sustained a concussion, but he seemed coherent and alert which meant it probably wasn't too serious. "The bullet just grazed him. He'll have a hell of a headache, but I think he'll be okay."

Colby smiled. "Hit where it could do the least damage, huh?"

Jim laughed. He looked back toward the storefront noting their backup had arrived and was now taking charge of the prisoners. "What's the situation?"

Colby stood and ran a hand over his balding head. "Two dead. The third took a bullet but he's alive. I just hope he stays that way long enough to give us a name."


"You're lucky, Detective Sandburg. Another inch and we probably wouldn't be having this conversation right now." The ER doctor had finished his exam and was motioning for the nurse to bandage the angry red streak across Blair's head.

"Lucky, huh?" Blair winced as the nurse applied the bandage. His head was pounding and the slight pressure the nurse exerted on the wound as she secured the tape was not helping. He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't feel lucky. He felt like shit. His head hurt, his stomach was queasy and he wanted to take a nice long nap. As the nurse finished, Blair heard a familiar voice.

"What's the verdict, Doc?"

Blair opened one eye and squinted up into the too-bright room. Jim was staring down at him with an amused look on his face. Good. If the Sentinel was smiling he wasn't in too much trouble.

"He has a concussion. Speeding bullets to the head tend to do that." The doctor closed the chart and held it against his chest. "I'd like to keep him here for observation for a day or two, but he's being a bit stubborn."

Jim shook his head. "Not surprising." He looked back at his friend with an expression of fond exasperation. "You know the drill, Chief. You got shot in the head. Let them keep an eye on you for a while, huh?"

Blair was about to argue, but the throbbing in his head increased minutely and he decided against it. Jim took his partner's silence as agreement and nodded to the doctor.

"Good. I'll have the duty nurse get him a room."

Jim watched the doctor leave, then turned his attention back to his partner. "How are you feeling?"

Blair shrugged. "Head hurts."

Jim nodded in understanding. Silence reigned in the room for a few moments, each man silently rehearsing what they wanted to say.

"Jim, I'm --"

"Chief, I --"

They both spoke simultaneously, both coming to an abrupt halt as the other's voice registered. Blair took a deep breath and waited.

"Chief," Jim began, his voice low and soft. "I just wanted you to know I'm proud of you. What you did today -- you saved the life of another officer. Of course it was at the risk of your own which, believe me, we will talk about -- at length." He gave his partner a warning glare before softening his expression again. "But I want you to know you did a good job. You earned a lot of respect from those other officers."

"Thanks, Jim." Blair's felt a sudden rush of warmth run through him. Ever since he had joined the force, there had been a nagging doubt about the decision. Not about becoming Jim's partner. He knew that was where he belonged. He knew he was destined to be the Sentinel's guide. And to do that job, to be in a position to fulfill that destiny, he had had no choice other than to join the force. That was not a problem.

What had caused his doubt was the position he had been thrust into within the department. As an observer, he was content to be an outsider to the men and women in blue. The members of Major Crimes had accepted him as one of their own, but the rest of the force saw him as a civilian curiosity who helped out once in a while. And that was all right -- then. Not anymore. Now he was officially one of them -- and the perception of some of those men and women hadn't changed. He was still an outsider. A civilian. A curiosity.

He knew there was some animosity toward him because of his quick promotion to the rank of detective and his enviable position in Major Crimes as Jim's partner. But he had hoped that, in time, he could win over his critics by his dedication to the job. He had never realized how important it had become to him to be accepted in Jim's world. He always knew he had Jim's respect, but to hear the words from his partner reaffirmed that he had indeed made the right decision.

"I'm just sorry I forgot."

Jim furrowed his brow. "Forgot what?"

Blair smiled up at his partner and closed his eyes. "To duck."

He heard Jim's soft voice as he drifted off to sleep. "Don't worry, partner. We'll work on that."


Jim stepped out of the cubicle just as Mark Colby backed out of the adjoining one.

"Hey, Jim. How's Sandburg?"

"They're going to keep him for observation. He'll be okay."

"Glad to hear it." Colby looked genuinely relieved. There had been a few cops who had not been very receptive to Sandburg's official posting to Major Crimes, but Colby had been one of his staunchest supporters. Jim had worked with him on a few cases a while back when they had both done a stint in Vice. They had gotten along -- as well as Jim had gotten along with anyone back in those days. And he had been the first to approach Jim after his involvement in the bust of the special narcotics task force that had gone bad. He had assured Jim that he had a lot of support from the rest of the narcotics squad who were glad to have their department cleaned up. And Colby had taken to Blair right off. When Blair had joined the force, Colby had been one of the first to welcome him aboard. That alone had earned him Jim's gratitude.

"How's your prisoner?" Jim nodded toward the adjoining cubicle, keenly aware of the din of activity going on behind the drawn curtain.

"He took one in the chest. Doc says he has a pretty good chance. They got him stabilized, but we won't be able to talk to him for an hour or so." Colby sighed and ran a hand over his head. "In the meantime, I guess I can start all the paperwork. IA's going to have to be brought in on this one."

Jim nodded his understanding, knowing any officer-involved shooting had to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

"They've already got a public defender on the way over. We'll have to wait for his OK to question Luca."

"Mind if I sit in?" Normally, Jim wouldn't try to cut in on another detective's case, but he wanted to keep tabs on Blair for a while longer, and helping Colby question the suspect would be a good reason to stick around.

Colby seemed to understand and shrugged his shoulders, a small grin playing on his lips. "I could always use the help."


It was closer to two hours before Mark Colby poked his head inside Blair's room. He looked at the sleeping figure in the bed. Sandburg was curled onto his side, one arm tucked beneath the pillow, the other curved up to his chin. Jim sat in the chair next to the bed, thumbing through a magazine. He looked up the moment Colby opened the door.

"How's he doing?" Colby kept his voice soft and Jim smiled at the gesture.

"He's not too happy about being woken up every hour. He about took the nurse's' head off the last time."

"A little grumpy when he's sick, huh?"

Jim chuckled "Well, in all fairness, getting shot in the head would be considered -- as Sandburg would say -- a major bummer." He took another look at his friend and, assured he was sleeping soundly, waved Colby back to the door.

"What about Stevenson?" Jim asked once they were outside the room.

"He's going to be okay. They're keeping him overnight, but will probably release him in the morning. He's going to get quite a butt-chewing for pulling that stupid stunt."

"Get in line."

"You said you wanted to be around when I talked to the prisoner, right?"

Jim nodded. "Is he conscious?"

"More or less. Doctor Morrison is keeping him pretty doped up. Don't know if we'll get anything out of him or not, but his public defender says he's interested in making a deal." He noticed Jim's glance back at the partially closed door to Sandburg's room. "That is if I can tear you away from your baby-sitting job here, Papa Bear." He tried to contain the smile that was threatening to envelop his face but was not having much luck.

"I think I can spare a few minutes," Jim responded. He glared at Colby, but the detective didn't flinch in the slightest.

"Well then, let's get going before Baby Blair's next wake-up call."


The soft beep of the monitors filled the room, reminding Jim exactly why he hated hospitals. Not only were the smells and sounds unsettling to the sentinel, forcing him to keep firm control on the imaginary dials he used to control his senses, but they also served to remind him of exactly how much time he and Sandburg spent inside these walls because of his -- correction, their -- jobs. It wasn't a comforting thought.

Doctor Morrison was just finishing up an exam on the patient. Jim studied the man lying in the bed. He couldn't have been much older than Sandburg. Tony Luca had a rap sheet a mile long, starting with petty crimes as a juvenile and working his way up to possession and distribution charges. Jim had little sympathy for these people who made drugs available to kids. In his mind, the middlemen were just as bad as the people at the top of the food chain -- maybe even worse since they knew the effects their product had on their customers. They lived in the same streets as these people, saw how the drugs ruined their lives, yet continued to push the dope in their own neighborhoods. All for the almighty dollar.

Dr. Morrison approached the two detectives who had remained near the back of the room.

"Can he talk to us?" Colby asked.

Dr. Morrison coiled his stethoscope and dropped it into the large pocket of his lab coat. "He's conscious." He shook his head. "But we've given him a sedative and something for the pain. I wouldn't say he was coherent. I doubt if you'll be able to get anything out of him."

"Anything is better than what we've got now, Doc." Colby turned toward Jim and motioned for Jim to accompany him. Jim followed Colby to the bed, but hung back behind the narcotics detective. This wasn't his case and he was only here as a courtesy from Colby. He felt no pity as he took in Luca's pale form, the memory of Sandburg's bloody face still fresh in his mind.

Colby stepped up next to the bed and cleared his throat. "Mr. Luca, I'm Detective Marcus Colby and this is Detective Jim Ellison of the Cascade Police Department. Do you understand me?"

Luca's head turned slightly. It took him a few moments to find the source of the voice and he made an attempt to focus his slitted eyes on Colby.

"Mr. Luca. Do you realize you are under arrest?"

Luca blinked slowly and managed an almost imperceptible nod.

"I'm going to take that as a yes," Colby muttered. He raised the volume of his voice as he continued to speak to the prisoner. "Mr. Luca, you've been read your rights and your attorney has informed us you wanted to talk to us. You want to make a deal?"

Luca nodded again. He was obviously fighting to stay conscious, but the drugs in his system seemed to be taking hold. Luca closed his eyes and Jim was almost convinced the man had lost his feeble grasp on consciousness when he heard a soft whisper.

"More..."

Colby furrowed his brow and leaned closer. "What? Mr. Luca, can you repeat that?"

Luca made an attempt but slipped into a drug-induced sleep.

"I'm afraid that is going to have to be enough." Dr. Morrison approached the bed and checked the patient's pulse. "He's unconscious, gentlemen. I'm afraid you aren't going to get anything more out of him."

Colby sighed in frustration and looked at Jim. "Did you catch that?"

Jim shrugged and shook his head. "Not really. It sounded like he said 'More', but I can't be sure." Although he had turned the dial on his hearing up a notch to monitor Luca's heartbeat, the quiet whisper was muffled by the man's weakness and the word had been almost imperceptible.

"More?" Colby repeated, a look of frustration on his face. "More what? More drugs? More time? More what?"

Jim shrugged again and offered a look of apology. "That's what I heard, too. Whatever that means."

"Gentlemen." Dr. Morrison was motioning toward the door and the two detectives preceded the man into the hallway.

"We'll need to be informed the moment he regains consciousness, Doctor."

Morrison nodded hastily. "I'll let you know the moment he's able to talk, Detective. But right now he needs to rest." He turned and walked back through the door, closing it firmly behind them.

"Well, I guess we're back to square one." Colby's voice barely masked his disappointment.

Jim managed a grim smile. "At least we know Luca won't be selling any more crap to kids out there."

Colby nodded. "I guess that's something." He took a deep breath and raised his head. "You need a lift back to your truck?"

"Yeah. I just want to check in on Sandburg before I go."

Colby chuckled. "Of course you do. Come on, Jim. Let's go tuck him in."


Act II

Jim poked his head through the door, surprised to find Blair awake.

"I thought you were tired." He smiled as he and Colby entered the room. He didn't miss Blair's wince as he moved his head, a sure sign the headache was still going strong.

"Of course I'm tired. I'm in a hospital. Everybody knows you can't get any sleep in a hospital." Blair's grin softened the grumpy tone of his voice.

"My, my. We are a happy patient, aren't we?" Jim returned the younger man's grin and perched himself on the foot of the bed. "How's the head, Chief?"

"Still in one piece, I think." Blair looked from one man to the other. "I figured you both would have headed back to the station by now."

Jim shrugged. "We wanted to see if we could get anything out of Luca."

"Oh." Blair nodded and absently fingered the bandage on his forehead. "Did he tell you anything?"

"Nothing that made any sense," Colby admitted.

Blair looked to Jim and the big detective shrugged. "He said 'More' or something like that." He waved a hand in the air to punctuate the absurdity of the words.

"More what?"

"Your guess is as good as mine, Darwin."

Blair furrowed his brow, his finger absently tracing the edge of the bandage. "More... more... He wanted more what? Maybe it was only part of a word, maybe he was trying to tell us something." He suddenly looked up. "Could it have been a name?"

Colby raised his eyebrows as he thought. "There is a guy by the name of Moreno. We've hauled him in a couple of times, but never had anything that would stick." He shrugged. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check it out."

Both Jim and Colby turned as the door opened and a tall brunette dressed in green scrubs entered the room.

"Well, looks like we're having a party in here." The nurse smiled.

"Hey, Lacy." Jim stood and flashed the nurse a charming smile. "Good to see you."

"Hi, Jim." The nurse returned his warm smile before turning to the patient in the bed and giving him a stern look. "I thought I told you I didn't want to see you back here again, Blair."

Blair blushed but held up a hand in protest. "I swear it wasn't my fault, Lacy."

The nurse smiled and shook her head, her brown eyes dancing with laughter. "Somehow it never is." She turned and looked at the third man in the room and held out her hand. "Hi, I'm Lacy Chambers."

Colby stood and took the hand, shaking it firmly. "Mark Colby. I take it Sandburg is a familiar face around here?"

Lacy smiled fondly at Blair. "He's considered one of the regulars. Sort of a favorite of most of the nursing staff."

"Most of the nursing staff?" Blair feigned indignation.

Lacy walked past the detectives and looked down at her patient. "Well, Nurse Jenkins still hasn't forgiven you for running out on her that one time."

Blair tried to repress a shudder. "Nurse Jenkins? She scares me."

Lacy grabbed the stethoscope from around her neck and pulled the blood pressure cuff from the stand. She leaned over and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Between you and me, Blair, I think she's kind of sweet on you."

Blair looked at her in abject terror for a moment before realizing she was just pulling his leg. Nurse Helga Jenkins was at least 50 and had to weigh in at close to 200 lbs. She had started paying a little too much attention to him the time he had been admitted for a gunshot wound to his leg after the manhunt for Dawson Quinn and he hadn't been able to get out of the place fast enough. He had finally convinced the doctors he would be better off at home under Jim's care and had been able to escape her cold hands.

"Ha ha. Hospital humor." Blair smiled weakly, still unsure whether or not she was really joking.

"Don't worry, Chief," Jim joined in. "I haven't seen Nurse Jenkins anywhere on this floor since they brought you in and, if you're a good boy, they may just let you out before she even realizes you're here."

Blair gave Jim a sarcastic smile. "As long as you don't track her down and tell her."

Lacy finished checking Blair's vitals and noting down the information on the chart. "How's your head?" Her voice took on a note of seriousness. "Need anything for the pain?"

Blair leaned back into the pillows and stifled a yawn. "No. It's just a dull throbbing now."

"Well, why don't you try to get some rest?" She placed a hand on his arm. "I'm on shift until two. Just buzz me if you change your mind."

"Thanks, Lacy."

Jim stepped closer to the bed and patted his friend's' shoulder. "I'm going to head back to the station for a while, Chief. You need me to bring anything back?"

"No, man. I'm okay."

"Okay. I'll see ya later." He nodded to Colby who said his good-byes and they both followed Lacy from the room.

"Word around the hospital is that Blair's a hero." Lacy stopped by the corner nurses' desk and leaned against the counter.

"He got hit pulling another officer out of the line of fire." Jim couldn't help the bit of pride that crept into his voice. "He did a very brave and very stupid thing, but, yeah. He did good."

Lacy laughed and rounded the desk, placing the chart in its' slot. "Well, don't worry, Jim. He can't get into much trouble here. I suppose you'll be back in the morning?"

"Hopefully sooner," Colby interrupted. "Dr. Morrison said he'd let us know the minute our prisoner regained consciousness."

"You mean Tony Luca?"

Jim and Colby gave each other looks of surprise at the sudden change in Lacy's voice. She glanced up, noticing the exchange. "I'm sorry. Tony was a friend of my brother's. I guess I just never forgave them all for his death."

Jim looked at her with sympathy. Lacy's younger brother Matt had been killed nearly a year ago. Jim had been on the case, which was how he and Lacy had met in the first place. He had never met Matt, but Lacy had told him quite a bit about him. From what Jim had learned, Matt had somehow fallen in with the wrong crowd and ended up dead. His death had been attributed to the escalating friction between two rival gangs. Lacy hadn't taken it well, Matt being her only family.

"Was Luca one of the guys Matt was running with?"

Lacy nodded, her face taking on an air of sadness. "Tony was real charismatic. I always thought he was bad news, but Matt seemed to idolize him." She laughed, but the action held no humor. "I suppose this situation could be considered justice, huh?" She looked up at the detective, and Jim couldn't help but frown at the touch of hatred in her eyes. She quickly looked away and ran a hand over her pulled-back hair. "I'm sorry. I have to get back to work. I'll let you know when Tony wakes up." She smiled up at Jim, and he was relieved to note this time it was genuine. "Don't worry about Blair. We'll take good care of him."

"I know you will." Jim gave her a wink and followed Colby down the hall.


Lacy placed the charts she had been carrying down on the desk. "If Mrs. Peterson rings that call bell one more time, I swear I'm going to pull it out of the wall."

Brenda Ayers glanced up from the report she was working on and gave her a knowing smile. "I hear ya, girl. I hear she's been running the day shift ragged, too."

"You'd think she'd be tired by now, then." The two nurses shared a laugh. Looking around, Lacy noticed the other night duty nurse still gone. "Is Maria still with Mr. Anderson?"

Brenda nodded. "Yeah. I guess he had a pretty bad reaction to that new antibiotic they put him on this morning. He's been throwing up for the last twenty minutes."

Lacy winced in sympathy. "Poor guy. I hope they get it figured out."

"Doctor Gregory has already started him on a new one. He seems to be doing a little better, but Maria hasn't been able to leave him for more than a few minutes at a time."

"Well," Lacy sighed, placing the last of her files in their holders. "I could finish her rounds for her. That way she won't get too far behind."

Brenda smiled and pointed toward a small stack of charts. "I'm sure she'll appreciate that. She only has a few more left. There's no meds scheduled for any of them. They're all routine checks."

Lacy picked up the charts and opened one. "I guess I'll be back in a little while."


Lacy sighed as she read the name on the last chart. Closing her eyes momentarily, she choked back the loathing she felt at the sight of the name. She knew Tony Luca didn't kill her brother, but she couldn't help but think he was an indirect cause. He had encouraged Matt to join his gang, and, even though Matt hadn't lived long enough to actually become involved, Lacy knew he would have. He had been so enthralled with Luca. Lacy could never understand just what intrigued her brother so much. As far as she could see, Tony Luca was just another street thug who would probably die in prison.

She stepped up to the door and smiled at the uniformed guard posted outside, realizing her assessment was probably not far off.

She took a deep breath and pushed open the door. Tony Luca lay asleep on the hospital bed, his dark complexion a stark contrast to the pale blue sheets. She stood for a moment, watching him, trying to see him through her brother's eyes. She shook her head. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get past the fact that he was -- at least partially -- responsible for Matt's death.

If she had seen him a year ago, she would have screamed at him, scratched at him, hit him; anything to make him see what he had done. But now, she realized, she didn't need that at all. He had managed to get himself arrested -- for shooting a cop of all things -- and would probably wind up doing a long term in a federal prison. She didn't feel sorry for him. She didn't feel anything for him. He was getting just what he deserved. Matt was dead, and if there really was any justice in the world, Tony Luca would live long enough to regret it.


Jim stared at the computer screen, not really reading the report. He had come back to the station, intent on taking care of some of the paper work that seemed to pile up on his desk when he wasn't aware. He knew Blair would have been able to breeze through the reports in half the time, but he figured his partner would have a headache the size of Mt. Rainier for the next few days and he could at least try to get some of the more mundane stuff taken care of before they lost sight of their desks under the stacks of folders.

"Hey, Jim."

He jumped and looked up to see Mark Colby folding himself into the chair next to his desk. Colby looked around at the Major Crimes bullpen and nodded appreciatively. "So this is how the big boys live."

Although Major Crime did have a larger space than most of the other departments, they had to make do with the same equipment and furnishing as everyone else. Jim grinned at the barb and leaned back in his chair. "Don't worry, Mark. There's still some hope for you."

Colby let out a loud guffaw and shook his head. "Nah. I'm happy right where I am."

Jim nodded. Colby was considered one of the best detectives in Narcotics. There was even a joke that he "had a nose" for the job. He had a network of snitches and informants that even Jim sometimes envied. If something was going down on the street, Mark Colby would eventually know about it.

"So what brings you up to Major Crime?"

"Just got done with IA. I gave them my report and they said the shoot shouldn't be a problem, but they're still going to want to talk to you."

Jim nodded and leaned forward on the desk. "Yeah. I figured that. Looking forward to it." The tone of his voice betrayed his real opinion. "Did you follow up on that Moreno guy?"

Colby nodded. "Word on the street is he crossed some pretty heavy hitters a few months back. He hasn't been heard from since."

"He could still be working it from underground," Jim offered.

The ringing of his phone interrupted and Jim held up a finger to Colby and grabbed the receiver. "Ellison."

A momentary look of surprise flitted across his face and he glanced quickly at Colby. "Yeah, he's here." He pulled the receiver from his ear and held it out to Colby. "It's your watch commander."

Colby raised his eyebrows in surprise and took the phone. "Colby."

He listened for a few moments, his eyes growing wide. "I'm on my way."

"What?" Jim asked as Colby jumped from the chair and grabbed Jim's jacket from the hook behind him.

Colby tossed the jacket at him and motioned for him to stand. "We have to get back to the hospital. Luca just coded."

"Damn." Jim sighed. "I thought the doc said he was going to make it?"

"Well, he's dead now. And I think this may just end up in your ballpark."

Jim shook his head, his face conveying his confusion. "I don't get it."

Colby took a deep breath before continuing. "According to security, Luca's death isn't being attributed to his wounds."

Jim's eyes narrowed as he realized Colby was trying hard not to tell him something.

"They're saying he was murdered?"

Colby nodded. "And they're holding a suspect in custody."

Jim was getting tired of playing twenty questions. "What the hell are you saying, Colby?"

"They're holding your nurse friend, Jim. Their suspect is Lacy Chambers."


Act III

Jim pushed his way into the lounge, followed closely by Mark Colby. There was no way in hell Lacy Chambers would have anything to do with murder. Colby had cautiously pointed out on the drive over that Lacy had known Luca and had even admitted she didn't like him. If she blamed him for the death of her brother, that would be considered motive. Jim had merely set his jaw and stonily ignored the comment. He knew Lacy. She had been torn up when Matt had died, but she would never, ever, take a life because of it. She wasn't like that. She fought every day to save lives.

Lacy was sitting on the small couch against the far wall. She was sitting back, her gaze fixed absently on the tile floor. Jim nodded at the female officer who stood against the wall next to the door and crossed the room quickly. He kneeled down in front of the young woman and placed a hand on her knee.

"Lace?" He kept his voice soft, not wanting to scare her. She seemed oblivious to the rest of the people in the room, her eyes vacant.

"Hey, Lacy. Come on. It's Jim."

Lacy slowly lifted her eyes and looked at the face before her. The vacant look quickly vanished to be replaced by one of pain and confusion.

"Jim?" she whispered. Her eyes began to fill with tears and her voice broke. "Oh, God, Jim. I didn't..."

Jim leaned forward and took her into his arms, running one hand across her smooth hair while rubbing small circles on her back with the other.

"Shh, Lace. It's okay." He spoke quietly, trying to ease the sobs that shook the small body. "It's all going to be okay."

Lacy suddenly pushed away and looked intently at him. Her mascara was smudged under her eyes, and her nose was red, but the expression on her face was one of honesty. "I swear to you, Jim. I didn't know. I was just doing my job."

Jim smiled back, transmitting all the assurance he could in the gesture. He had focused his hearing on her heartbeat, the steady beat confirming what he already knew. She was telling the truth. "I know, Lace. I never doubted that for a minute."

It took a moment for the words to sink in, but Lacy finally relaxed slightly and smiled tentatively through the tears. "Thank you."

Jim just nodded and patted her knee. "I'm going to go find out what's going on. Are you going to be all right?"

She sniffed and wiped her nose on a handkerchief before nodding and leaning back against the cushions.

"Okay. I'll be right back." Jim stood and moved toward the door where Colby had been conferring with a uniformed officer and a security guard from the hospital.

"What happened?"

The officer and guard looked a bit surprised at the detective's gruff tone, but Colby responded immediately.

"According to Barkley, who was on guard duty at the time of the... incident, Ms. Chambers went into the room and a few seconds later she sounded the code. They couldn't save him."

Jim's expression transmitted his confusion. "That all sounds pretty routine to me. Why did you say he was murdered?"

Colby took a deep breath and pulled Jim aside. "Look, Ellison. I know she's a friend, but --"

"But what?" Jim pulled his arm away and glared at the shorter detective. "She's a nurse. She was doing her job."

"She wasn't even assigned to this area, Jim. According to the duty nurse, Ms. Chambers offered to check on the patient, even though he was assigned to someone else. Since the regular nurse was busy with an emergency, she got the okay to go ahead. They found this on the tray near the bed." He held up an evidence bag with a small brown vial inside. "According to the doctor, it's a drug called Quinidine."

Jim's eyes had narrowed as he fought to follow the logic. "So?"

Colby ran a hand over his head and sighed. "So... according to Dr. Morrison, Quinidine is administered to patients suffering from arrhythmia. It affects the heart by slowing the electrical impulses. Luca had already been given a sedative which slowed his system down. The Quinidine simply slowed it until it stopped."

"Why would Lacy give him Quinidine in the first place?"

Colby shrugged. "Why don't we ask her?"


Lacy Chambers looked up into Jim's eyes, alarmed at the uncertainty she saw there.

"Jim?"

Jim sat down next to her on the couch and took her hand in his own. She glanced briefly at the other detective she had met only hours before in Blair's room. Is that all it had been? Hours? Somehow it seemed much longer than that. She couldn't understand what was happening -- why she was being held here. She had only been doing her job.

"Lacy. We need to ask you some questions." Jim couldn't look at her and that alone made her stomach knot with fear. She nodded her consent.

"Tell me what happened when you went into Luca's room."

Lacy took a deep, shaking breath and tried to calm herself.

"I was done with my rounds," she began hesitantly. "I knew Maria -- Maria Devalos, one of the other nurses on duty on the floor. I knew Maria was held up because one of her patients had a reaction to his medication and had gotten sick. She was busy trying to help him, so I offered to finish her rounds. I didn't know Tony was her patient until I saw the chart."

"According to the doctor, Luca was given a drug called Quinidine." Jim looked quickly to Colby who handed him the evidence bag.

"I didn't administer anything," Lacy shook her head. "I went in to check his vitals and I saw the vial on the table. I picked it up and read the label, but I have no idea why it would have been there. I checked Tony, but I couldn't find a pulse. That's when I sounded the code."

Jim handed the evidence bag back to Colby. "So your prints will be on the vial."

Lacy nodded, fresh tears welling up in her eyes. "I didn't think... I never..."

Jim rubbed her hand in sympathy. He had no doubts she was telling the truth, but with motive and opportunity as well as physical evidence, it was going to be hard to convince a jury of it. "I believe you, Lacy."

She gazed up at him, the realization of the situation suddenly more than she could handle. "But no one else is going to. Right?"

Jim patted her hand as she lowered her head. "I know, Lace. Don't worry, we'll figure this out."


Jim leaned back against the wall as he watched the female officer handcuff Lacy Chambers and steer her down the hallway. Lacy would be taken downtown and booked. It would take a few hours for the paperwork to be processed, then she would be arraigned and would be able to arrange bail. There was no way he was going to believe Lacy had anything to do with Luca's death. Despite the evidence to the contrary, Lacy was not a killer.

According to the guard on watch, nobody had entered Luca's room since he and Colby had left earlier. He knew he shouldn't let himself get involved in this case, his friendship with Lacy made his objectivity suspect. But he couldn't just sit by and let an innocent woman be charged with a crime she couldn't have committed.

He couldn't deny the fact that Lacy looked guilty. Sure, she had been torn up about her brother's death, and it was obvious she held Luca partially responsible for Matt's death. He even had to admit that she did have motive and opportunity. But murder? No. Never. She was no more capable of taking a life than Sandburg.

Damn.

Sandburg.

That was one scene he wasn't looking forward to. Blair had taken to Lacy almost immediately. She had been an angel of mercy to him the last time he was here and he had quickly formed a deep attachment to his favorite nurse. How the hell was Jim going to tell him the woman who made his stay in the hospital bearable was right now being booked for murder?

He rubbed a hand across his chin and sighed deeply. Sandburg was not going to take this well. Pushing off from the wall, he squared his shoulders and steeled himself for the task ahead.


Jim pushed open the door to the small hospital room and peeked inside. He almost wished Sandburg were asleep.

"Hey, Jim." Blair was lying on his side and rolled to his back as he noticed Jim at the door. The younger man looked up with a tired smile through heavy-lidded eyes.

"Hey, Chief." Jim forced a smile and stepped into the room. "How are you feeling?" He moved to the side of the bed. Blair looked around, finally spying the controls to the bed and pushed the button to raise it. Jim waited while Blair got comfortable, studying the younger man's face carefully. Blair still looked tired, and the lines of pain around his eyes were even more pronounced than before.

Blair shrugged slightly and laid his head back against the pillows. "Head still hurts."

Jim bobbed his head in sympathy. He took a seat on the edge of the bed as Blair closed his eyes and sighed. "Man, I really hate hospitals."

Jim couldn't suppress a small chuckle. "Never would've guessed that."

Blair returned an answering smile without opening his eyes. "What time is it?"

"A little past 5:00."

"What are you still doing here?" Blair finally opened his eyes and looked carefully at his partner. "Did something happen with the case?"

Jim raised his eyebrows and breathed deeply. "You could say that."

Blair waited a few moments, but the sentinel didn't elaborate. "Well?"

Jim raised a hand as if to begin, but stopped himself suddenly. "Look, Sandburg. You need to get some rest. The doctor said --"

"The doctor said I'll be fine," Blair interrupted. "What's going on, Jim?"

Jim knew there was no way around it. "Luca's dead." He looked down at his hands, not wanting to see the expression on Blair's face when he dropped the bomb.

"Okay," Blair said slowly. "And...?"

"It kind of looks like he was murdered."

Blair's eyes widened in surprise. "Murdered?"

Jim simply nodded.

"In a hospital? Man, I always suspected some of these doctors were real quacks, but murder?"

Jim looked away, raising a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose where a headache was beginning to form.

"Jim?" Blair's voice forced him to open his eyes. "Jim, you're trying real hard not to tell me something."

Sometimes Jim wished the kid couldn't read him so well.

"They're holding Lacy, Chief."

Blair laughed incredulously. "What? Lacy? You've gotta be kidding me, man. Lacy would no sooner kill someone than I would."

Jim grinned at the comment. "I know that, Chief, believe me. I know Lacy had nothing to do with it. But the fact is she had motive and opportunity." He quickly explained the facts to his partner. The look of disbelief did not leave Blair's face as he told him about Lacy admitting to handling the Quinidine vial.

"If she said the vial was already there, then it was already there." Blair leaned his head back into the pillows and rubbed his temple.

"I know," Jim said soothingly. He hated to see his friend in pain, physically or emotionally. "I told her we would find out what happened and I will."

"Where do we start?"

Jim's eyebrows rose and he gave his friend a lopsided grin. He waggled a finger between them and shook his head. "I didn't mean we we, Chief. I meant we as in the department."

Blair shot him an irritated look. "Well, I'm part of the department, Jim. So I think the we we applies here."

More than a few responses went through Jim's head, but he wasn't able to vocalize any of them before Blair started to get out of the bed. "Sandburg, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Jim placed a hand on Blair's chest and gently pushed him back onto the bed. Blair brushed the restraining hand away and threw back the blanket, maneuvering his legs to the far side of the bed. Before Jim could move around to stop him, Blair had pushed off from the bed and risen unsteadily to his feet.

"Whoa." Sandburg raised a hand to his head as the view of the hospital room began to disappear behind a growing number of black spots. He felt a strong hand on his arm as the world began to tilt sharply and leaned heavily into the embrace as his wobbly knees suddenly gave way.

"I need some help in here!"

Blair winced as Jim's shout echoed in his head, the noise causing the already throbbing headache to flare. Jim carefully helped him back into the bed, then stepped back as Dr. Morrison and a nurse came running into the room.

"What happened?" Morrison asked quickly. He pulled a small flashlight from his pocket and leaned over Blair, peering into the young man's eyes.

"He tried to get up and just collapsed." Jim took a step back to allow the doctor room to work. After a few moments, Morrison stepped back and looked at Blair admonishingly.

"Mr. Sandburg, how is your head?"

"It hurts." Blair's voice was soft and Jim did not miss the way he kept his head very still.

Morrison nodded. "Can you open your eyes for me, Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair took a deep breath and slowly cracked his eyes open. He winced once as his eyes adjusted to the light in the room, then blinked a few times, his sight finally focusing on Morrison.

Morrison studied Blair's reaction for a moment before placing the pen light back in his pocket. "You have a concussion, Mr. Sandburg. I'm sure your attending physician warned you about sudden movements?"

Blair nodded slightly. The throbbing seemed to be ebbing and he forced his eyes open a little further.

"Then I would suggest you heed that warning and stay in bed."

The doctor accepted the chart the nurse handed him and scribbled something down in it. Blair blinked as he attempted to focus his eyes. He looked at the dark blue name tag attached to the doctor's white lab coat and waited for his vision to clear.

Morrison finished his notation on the chart and handed it back to the nurse. "I'll have the nurse bring you something for your headache." He turned and glanced at Jim who had remained behind him throughout the examination. "I'll inform his doctor of this incident. He may want to run a few tests. Make sure he stays put, Detective. Rest is the best thing for him right now."

Jim threw his partner a quick look of admonishment before turning his attention back to the doctor. "Doctor Morrison, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your patient, Tony Luca."

Morrison placed his pen in his pocket and folded his hand in front of him. "Ah, yes. That is such a tragedy. I didn't know about Mr. Luca's relationship with Miss Chamber's brother, but I would have never believed she would act out in such a way."

Jim noticed Blair winding up to repudiate the doctor's' accusations and held up a hand to stifle him. "Miss Chambers is innocent until proven guilty, Doctor."

Morrison smiled blandly and removed his glasses. "Of course, Detective. I didn't mean to insinuate anything. I'm sure you'll uncover the truth. Now if you'll excuse me, I have patients waiting." He turned to Blair. "No more unscheduled strolls, young man."

Blair didn't respond, but kept his eyes on Morrison as he left the room followed by the nurse.

"What's going on in that head of yours, Chief?"

Blair shifted his gaze, a look of determination in his eyes. "What did Luca say when you and Colby questioned him?"

Jim eyes narrowed in confusion. "I told you it was too muffled to make out clearly."

"Yeah, but you did hear something, Jim. Think back. Concentrate and tell me what you think you heard."

Jim sighed in exasperation but did as his partner requested. He finally held his hands up in frustration. "It sounded like 'more.' But I can't be sure. Like I said, Luca was out of it."

Blair's stare returned to the door, and he was nodding despite the ache in his head. "Maybe he did give you what you wanted." Blair sat up, wincing only slightly at the effort. "Think about it, man. Luca knew Colby wanted the name of his supplier. What if that's just what he gave you?" He looked at Jim expectantly.

Jim shook his head. "Colby checked that angle, Chief. The only known dealer in these parts that fit was a guy named Moreno and he's been missing in action for over three months."

"Who said it had to be a known dealer?" Before Jim could voice a protest, Blair held up a hand. "Just hear me out, man. Colby said they suspected a new action in town, right? But nobody has been able to get a line on who was controlling the distribution. Maybe that's because they're looking in the wrong place. Maybe whoever is supplying this new drug is not part of the regular narcotics society."

Jim saw what he was driving at, but couldn't help but think it a bit of a stretch. "Come on, Sandburg. Just because the man's name fits some cryptic message we got from a two-bit pusher is not enough to haul him in for questioning."

The disbelief in Jim's voice did nothing to discourage the younger man. "Why not? I mean, who has a better connection to drugs? Besides, Morrison was Tony Luca's doctor, right? And Luca is suddenly killed while he is in a hospital, under guard? How? Who had access to him, Jim?"

"The guard said nobody had been in the room from the time Colby and I left until Lacy showed up to check on him." Jim noticed his partner becoming more agitated and placed a hand on Blair's arm in an attempt to calm him down. He had just narrowly avoided taking a header into the floor and Jim didn't want to encourage another attempt. "Listen, Sherlock. You need to take it easy. You heard what the doctor said. You need to calm down and rest."

"The hell with what he said, Jim. You know I'm right." Blair pushed up from the bed, his tone taking on a hint of petulance.

"No. I don't know that, and neither do you." Jim winced at the volume of his own voice, but it managed to stop the younger detective from his struggles. "Listen, Sandburg. I promise to check this theory of yours out, okay?" He looked pointedly at Blair until he received a tight nod in response. "But, in the meantime, I want you to keep your butt in that bed. You hear me?"

Blair opened his mouth to protest, but closed it quickly and nodded again. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back into the pillows, his anger diminishing, but not subsiding completely.

Jim sighed and rubbed a hand across his forehead in an attempt to quell his own burgeoning headache. "That's better." He looked at his partner, noting the stubborn set of his jaw. "Promise me you will stay in this bed, Sandburg."

Blair glared at him for a moment before sighing and closing his eyes. "I promise." His voice was barely audible as he let his head fall back into the softness of the pillow, but it was enough.

"Good." Jim grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair. Blair was rubbing his head below the bandage and Jim couldn't help but feel a twinge of sympathy. "Give yourself a break, Einstein. You just keep thinking. Let me handle the rest."


Blair squeezed his eyes against the ache in his head and tried to relax. He couldn't help being a little angry with Jim. Whenever the sentinel got that condescending attitude -- no, that wasn't fair. Jim had listened. He hadn't readily agreed with Blair's theory, but he hadn't outright denied it either. And he had promised to check Morrison out.

Blair took a deep breath and let the tension go. Jim would keep his word. He just wanted to help Lacy. Maybe he had jumped to conclusions. The fact Morrison had been so quick to condemn Lacy hadn't won him any points. But everything Blair said was true. Morrison's name did fit -- if a name was what Luca had been trying to give them. And it was quite a coincidence that Morrison had been the attending physician on Luca's case and Luca seemed to have died right under the noses of the entire hospital staff and the Cascade P.D.

But Lacy being accused of the murder? That was preposterous. There was no way Blair was ever going to believe Lacy Chambers would harm anyone. She may have had reason to hate Luca, even to want to see him dead, but she would never have been able to do what Morrison had suggested. It just wasn't in her.

He rubbed his forehead and tried to ignore the throbbing that had become his constant companion for the last 18 hours. Morrison had said something about having the nurse bring aspirin, hadn't he? He took a deep breath and allowed himself to sink a bit deeper into the pillows.

He started to drift but became aware of a presence in the room. Ah, the nurse. Finally. He cracked an eye open, surprised to see Dr. Morrison filling a syringe from a small clear vial.

"Just relax, Mr. Sandburg. I'm just going to give you something to help you sleep."

Blair forced both eyes open and looked up at Morrison with a frown. "I have a concussion. I didn't think I was supposed to sleep."

Morrison pulled the syringe from the vial and aspirated the air from the tube. "I'm sure you do a lot of things you're not supposed to do, Mr. Sandburg. Too bad."

"You did it. You killed Luca," Blair whispered, his eyes jumping from the needle to Morrison's face.

Morrison looked down at Blair, the friendly smile gone. "You're a bit too smart for your own good, Detective."


Act IV

Jim walked back down the hallway, one hand rubbing the back of his neck in an effort to relieve some of the tension. The duty nurse had not been able to locate Dr. Morrison and Jim had a feeling the man had already left the hospital. He had to admit, the more he thought about it, the more Sandburg's theory held up.

Morrison had been Luca's attending physician. He had still been in the room after he and Colby left. According to the guard, nobody else entered the room accept Lacy. That would have been a span of a few hours. Depending on how long it would take the drug to do job, it was possible Morrison could have administered the Quinidine himself. Despite his words, Morrison hadn't seemed at all surprised about Lacy's arrest. Quite the contrary, actually. It was almost as if he was pleased at the way things had transpired.

Then there was Luca. More. Jim kept playing the word over and over in his head. It made no sense -- but hadn't Colby just asked Luca if he wanted to make a deal? Luca had been informed by his defender that the cops were interested in his supplier. He was about to go down for the attempted murder of police officers. Maybe giving up his supplier was the only leverage he had to get a reduced sentence. Morrison had been keeping Luca under heavy sedation and he was present in the room when they tried to question Luca. So he had heard Luca. If he was Luca's supplier, and thought the man was going to give him up, that would be a perfect motive for murder.

Damn. Maybe Blair was right. But there were still a lot of ifs. He really needed to talk to Colby. But, first, he needed to talk to Blair.

Jim hurried his pace. If Sandburg was still awake he would --

"I have a concussion. I didn't think I was supposed to sleep."

Jim stopped cold at the sound of fear in his partner's voice.

"I'm sure you do a lot of things you're not supposed to do, Mr. Sandburg. Too bad."

Morrison. Jim easily recognized the voice of the elusive doctor and broke into a run.

"You did it. You killed Luca."

"You're a bit too smart for your own good, Detective."

Jim heard the sound of flesh slapping flesh, followed by the sounds of a scuffle. He rounded the corner, barely avoiding an orderly pushing a food cart as his shoes slid across the smooth linoleum. Five steps later, he pushed the door to Blair's room open with a bang and quickly crossed the room, his blue eyes blazing.

Morrison was standing over Blair, his hands clenched around the young detective's neck. Blair was grasping at Morrison's wrists, his feet trying to kick free of the blanket, his face beginning to turn an unhealthy shade of red. As soon as Jim charged into the room, Morrison released Blair and lunged at him, knocking the larger man aside and quickly dashing out the open door.

Jim moved quickly to the bed and placed a hand on either side of Blair's head, bending down to get a good look into his eyes. Blair coughed and moved one hand to his throat while waving the other toward the door.

"Go. I'm okay."

Jim hesitated, not liking the hoarse rasp of his partner's voice. Blair rolled his eyes and gave him a strong push. "Go!" he croaked urgently.

"Call it in," Jim instructed. "And get some backup."

He waited for Blair to nod his understanding before dashing back out into the hall.


His head swiveled left then right, but his eyes found no sign of Morrison. Taking a deep breath, Jim closed his eyes and focused his hearing, letting his senses drift out in a sweep of the surrounding area. He was rewarded with the sound of quickly moving footsteps to his left and took off down the hall.

At the end of the hall, he saw the door to the stairwell swing shut and heard a loud crash followed by the sound of a body tumbling down the stairs. Dashing to the stairwell door, he first tuned his hearing on to the space on the opposite side. He heard the sounds of footsteps descending the stairs and exiting through the door on the next floor. A soft moan rose from the landing just below him and he quickly pushed through the door.

Jim raced down the first flight of stairs and found a hospital security guard, pushing himself to his feet.

"Are you okay?" Jim looked down the stairway, just in time to see the door on the landing below shut.

"I'm fine," the guard responded. "What the hell was that? Some kind of emergency?"

"Something like that."

The guard started suddenly, his hand moving to his empty holster. "My gun." He looked around the stairwell quickly, finding no sign of the weapon. "He must've taken it when I fell."

Jim nodded and moved down the next flight, shouting back over his shoulder. "I'm from Cascade PD. My partner is in room 307. He'll explain everything." He didn't wait for the man's response as he continued down the stairway.


He ducked out of the stairwell, his senses had locked onto the sound of Morrison's soft shoes on the linoleum and Jim could now smell the scent of the doctor's aftershave. Following the acoustic and odiferous trail, he carefully pressed himself up against the wall of the corridor, sneaking a glance around the corner in time to see the door of a storage room swing shut. He pulled his weapon and stealthily crept to the door. Poised beside the door he reached out a hand and gently turned the handle.

His nerves were tingling and his senses were alert, telling him his prey was trapped. Unfortunately, he doubted the man would simply give up and come out willingly. He'd already killed once and had tried to add Sandburg to his list of victims. A soft click from within the room brought his attention into sharp focus.

Morrison was indeed armed.

Jim crouched low, and pushed the heavy door open slightly. Two shots rang out, both embedding harmlessly in the metal door.

"Give it up, Morrison. Backup is on the way. You've got no place to run."

He pushed the door open a little further, turning up the dial on his sight to peer into the darkness. A howl greeted him, followed closely by a solid form flying at him. Jim brought his gun up to aim, but was driven back by Morrison's flying tackle. Landing hard on the linoleum floor, Jim slid a few feet, his gun forced from his hand by the force of the impact. He quickly located his gun and reached for it, but was stopped by a voice behind him.

"I doubt if you're that fast, Detective."

Jim turned slowly, coming face to face with the doctor.

"So it was you."

Morrison shrugged, but smiled. "It was a pretty good plan. Until you and your partner ruined it."

"You were going to let Lacy Chambers take the fall for murder?"

"That was pretty good, wasn't it?" Morrison seemed terribly pleased with himself. "It couldn't have worked out any better if I had planned it myself. You see, Detective, I really didn't have any idea about Lacy's brother and Tony Luca. But I simply had to shut him up before he said something I would regret. When I found out about Miss Chambers and her brother, well, it was just too perfect. She would take the fall for Luca's murder and I would be free to keep my little enterprise." He paused, a look of resignation crossing his face. "Unfortunately for you, your little partner managed to figure it out. So now I'll just have take care of him right after I take care of you."

Before Morrison could pull the trigger, a sharp whoop sounded from the other end of the hallway. Both Morrison and Jim looked up, startled as a gurney flew down the hallway at an incredible speed. It rammed right into the doctor, knocking him to the floor. The gun flew from his hand and skittered across the linoleum, coming to a rest at Jim's feet.

Jim kicked the gun, not bothering to watch as it spun its' way across the slick floor. He pounced on Morrison. The doctor, still stunned from his encounter with the speeding gurney, offered little resistance as Jim turned him onto his stomach and swiftly secured his wrists.

With the prisoner cuffed, he turned his attention down the hallway. Blair waved from near the elevator, one hand outstretched against the wall for balance, grinning at him like a loon.

"Sandburg?"

Blair's smile widened, but he didn't make any attempt to move away from the wall. "I took a shortcut." He motioned toward the elevator behind him just as the bell sounded and the doors opened up. A large nurse pushing a frail looking older woman in a wheelchair stepped off the elevator, both sets of eyes widening in surprise at the sight before them.

"Uh, Sandburg." Jim pointed to the two ladies and Blair looked over his shoulder. He smiled at the two women, his eyes closing in despair as he recognized Nurse Helga Jenkins. Nurse Jenkins and her elderly patient both returned wide smiles of their own. The woman in the wheelchair, a white-haired, frail looking lady of about 70, let her eyes travel down a foot or two and gave a low whistle of appreciation.

Suddenly Blair's eyes widened in shock and he moved his free hand, pulling the back of his hospital gown closed and turning his formerly exposed backside to the wall. His face turned a bright shade of crimson as the two ladies moved off down the corridor, both taking another look back over their shoulders and smiling.

Blair managed an embarrassed smile and waved a hand at the women as they moved around the corner. He leaned his head back against the wall and squeezed his eyes shut. "Great."

Jim hauled Morrison to his feet. The security guard Jim had met in the stairwell and another member of the hospital security staff had arrived with Blair and Jim passed Morrison off to them. After instructing them to hold the doctor until a unit arrived to take him downtown, he joined his partner, who had not managed to move away from the support of the wall.

"How ya doing, Chief?"

Blair snorted, his face just now starting to lose some of its' flush. "I'm fine."

Jim looked down the corridor at the direction the two ladies had taken and grinned. "Nurse Jenkins thought you were pretty fine, too."

Blair opened his eyes and glared at his partner.

Jim cleared his throat, trying to contain his amusement. He grabbed his friend's arm and directed him into the open elevator door. "Come on, Flash. Let's get you tucked back into bed."


Blair sat on the side of the bed, impatiently tapping his hands on his jean-clad knees. He had been dressed and waiting since Jim had arrived at 9:00 this morning. Jim could understand his partner's desire to be discharged -- hospitals had never been his favorite place either -- but Sandburg's current eagerness to leave was a bit excessive even for him.

"Will you stop that?"

Blair looked at him innocently before realizing Jim was indicating the drumming of his hands on his knees.

"Oh. Sorry." He looked momentarily abashed. He rubbed his hands across his thighs and clasped them together nervously. He took another longing look toward the door as if trying to force the nurse and his discharge papers to walk through by using mental telepathy.

"Will you just relax? The doctor said you were going to have to take it easy for a few days."

Blair nodded, but continued to stare at the door.

Jim shook his head and chuckled under his breath. Finally the door opened and Lacy Chambers poked her head in.

"Everybody decent?"

Jim refrained from commenting, and Blair only managed a flustered cough.

"Hey, guys." She approached the bed and smiled at the two detectives. "I was just going back on duty, but I wanted to stop by and say thank you."

"Just doing our duty, ma'am," Blair answered in a bad southern drawl.

Lacy laughed and placed a hand over her heart. "My heroes." She batted her eyes a few times before breaking into a soft giggle. "Seriously, guys. Thank you."

"Anytime, Lacy." Jim stood and stepped closer. "Um, I was wondering. Since Sandburg is under doctor's orders to take it easy for a few days, and I just happen to have these two tickets to the Jags next home game..."

"Are you asking me out on a date, Detective?"

"In an indirect, cryptic, Jim-like way."

Jim threw Blair an irritated glance before returning his attention to Lacy. "Would you like to go to the Jags game Thursday?"

"I'd love to." Lacy graced him with a beautiful smile, then turned to Blair. "You take it easy for a while, Blair." She leaned forward and planted a kiss on his head. "I really don't want to see you back here this year."

Blair gave her a quick salute. "I'll do my best."

"I'll keep an eye on him," Jim promised.

"See that you do." Lacy poked a finger into his chest before turning and winking at Blair.

"I see you're ready to go." All three looked back toward the tall figure of Captain Simon Banks as he moved through the doorway.

Blair rolled his eyes at his superior's observational skills.

"We're just waiting for the paperwork, Sir." Jim couldn't help but chuckle at his partner's obvious desire to leave.

"I figured they'd be eager as hell to get rid of you, Sandburg."

"On the contrary, Captain. Blair has become a very popular patient."

Blair blushed.

"As a matter of fact, Blair's finer qualities have had quite a bit of 'exposure' lately."

Jim chuckled and placed a hand over his mouth as Simon raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Why do I get the distinct impression I'm missing something vital here?"

Jim managed to control his mirth enough to respond. "Trust me, Simon, it's something you don't want to know about."

Simon studied the three faces before him. "You're probably right," he finally agreed.

Jim and Lacy both lowered their heads as they lost the battle to contain their laughter and Sandburg simply glared at them, his face sporting a lovely crimson flush.

Ignoring them as best he could, Simon cleared his throat. "I wanted to stop by and let you know Morrison's case has become a federal matter. Seems the good doctor has ties with some pretty big pharmaceutical companies the feds have been keeping an eye on for a while. He's agreed to give them names in exchange for immunity from prosecution."

"That sucks." Blair's comment elicited nods from the others in the room.

"At least he won't be able to practice medicine anymore," Lacy offered. "And the drugs he was supplying are off the streets."

Jim and Blair exchanged looks of agreement. It was something.

"Look, I have to get back to work." Lacy moved toward the door. "I'll see you Thursday, Jim." She stepped back as a wheelchair turned to enter the room. "Looks like your ride's here, Blair."

Blair's look of relief was quickly replaced by a look of sheer terror as Nurse Jenkins pushed the wheelchair through the doorway. The captain stumbled out of her way as she maneuvered the chair to the bed and focused her attention on her patient.

"I'll just wait for you outside, Chief." Jim grinned innocently and motioned Simon to the door.

"Uh, Jim. I don't think you should leave." Blair's voice was shaking as he watched the nurse advance on him. "Jim? Please? Jim? I might need your help!"

Jim turned and gave Blair a look of confidence. "You'll be fine, Sandburg." He smiled at Nurse Jenkins. "Take your time."

Blair watched in horror as Jim and Simon moved through the door and disappeared around the corner. He smiled weakly at Nurse Jenkins and scooted back a bit on the bed.

"Don't worry, Sweetcheeks," Nurse Jenkins cooed. "I can give you all the help you need."

Blair gulped, his eyes wide. "Jim?"

~ Finis ~

E-mail the author of this story, Sue Pokorny, at SPok507@aol.com
Read Sue's other fan fiction for The Sentinel at Shycat's Sentinel Domain
E-mail Faux Paws Productions at fauxpawsproductions@yahoo.com
IN TWO WEEKS on THE SENTINEL: Timor Vita, Part One (11/22/00, FPP-606) by Kim Heggen
    Blair is given the opportunity to complete his degree, but the offer comes with several strings attached. This story will conclude with Part Two in two weeks (12/6/00).
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