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.


Road Racer
by
Brenda Bailey

.

Act I

Mark McCormick High School
Cascade, Washington
Monday Morning

Blair ended his speech to the assembled students of the Mark McCormick Magnet High School to the sound of enthusiastic applause. Taking off his glasses and shoving his notes in a folder, he gave one last smile to the audience and left the stage.

"Blair, that was a terrific speech. The kids really loved you." Judy Baker, the five foot two red-headed ball of energy who was the organizer of today's presentation and the school's guidance counselor, met him in the wings and gave him a big hug. "Some of the speakers we bring in just talk at the kids, instead of to them. You reached out to them."

"I'm happy to do it, Judy. The more kids we get to go on to college, the less likely they'll end up in trouble. Besides, it's a challenge to get their attention and you know how I love challenges." He wiggled his eyebrows and gave her his best mischievous grin.

Judy shook her head at his antics. "Oh, you! What's the matter, police work not challenging enough for you?"

Shoving a hand in his pocket, Blair swaggered a bit and dropped into his gangster impression. "Well, Toots, keeping the flatfoots in line isn't too much trouble. I just keep 'em chasing their tails and they're no challenge at all. And if they get too yappy, I just throw 'em a donut or two and they're eating out of my hand. Yeah. Yeah. Those coppers ain't nothin' special."

Judy rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Oh, Blair. What would your fellow 'coppers' say if they could hear you now?"

A deep voice from the backstage shadows startled her with an answer. "They'd probably say, 'You better come quietly, Sandburg.'"

Blair dropped his impromptu performance and spoke without even looking around to acknowledge the unseen critic. "I thought you said quiet and Sandburg in the same sentence was a contradiction in terms, Jim." Turning to face the approaching figure, he performed introductions. "Judy Baker, meet Jim Ellison, my partner."

Judy stifled a giggle. "Oh, it's nice to meet you, Mr. Ellison. Blair did a terrific job talking to our at risk kids. He was really able to relate to them and get them to listen."

"Yeah, Blair has always had a way of making contact with stubborn, hard-headed Neanderthals who always think they're right." Jim kept all expression from his face as he spoke.

Confusion was apparent in her reply. "Our kids are hardly cavemen, Mr. Ellison. All they really need is someone to help them believe in themselves."

"My point exactly, Ms. Baker."

Shaking his head, Blair intervened before Judy could formulate a suitable reply. "Don't mind him Judy, he's being inscrutable."

Judy smiled hesitantly at Jim and turned to face Blair. "I can't thank you enough, Blair. You would make a great guidance counselor."

A small smile flickered across his face. "Yeah, guiding is my true calling in life." He looked at Jim and they exchanged a shared look that spoke volumes.

Judy looked from one face to the other, so different, yet in this moment, so in tune with each other it was spooky. "I've got to get back to the office and get some scholarship packets together. I have a feeling I'm going to need them very soon. Don't be a stranger, Blair." She nodded towards Jim, and vanished into the backstage area.

"So, Jim, what's up? Something going on at the station?" Blair gathered up his ever-present backpack and shrugged on his jacket.

"I'm carrying out my assigned duty, Sandburg." Jim joined Blair in walking through the backstage area toward the exit.

Blair stopped in puzzlement. "Huh?"

Jim nudged Blair to get him moving again. "It's simple. See if you can follow me." Jim held up a finger, "One; Simon Banks, your boss and mine, needs to talk to you about the grant you wrote for him." He held up a second finger. "Two; he wants to talk to you now." A third finger went up. "Three; that's hard to do when you don't have your cell phone on." A fourth finger joined the others. "Fourth; he seems to think that I keep track of where you're supposed to be all the time." Jim displayed all five fingers in front of Blair and latched onto his arm. "So fifth; he sends me out to fetch you. Consider yourself fetched."

"Oh, man," Blair chuckled. "I feel for you, demoted to..."

"Don't say it, Chief. I prefer to look on this as an assignment in search and retrieval. And where you're concerned, any assignment may become complicated at a moment's notice." Jim pushed open the exit door that led to the parking lot and held it open, gently nudging Blair through it.

"Okay, okay. I'm coming. Simon needs to learn to chill, man."

"I'll let you explain that to him. Right after I deliver you. Where'd you park anyway?" Jim quickly scanned the parking lot, not finding the Volvo.

"What's the matter, Jim? Need some refresher training in sharpening your visual skills?"

"There's nothing wrong with my vision, Sandburg. The Volvo's not here, are you sure where you parked?"

Blair looked around at the full parking lot and started down the first row. "Sure I am. I parked down here next to the black SUV." He walked down the row, confidant he would find his car at the end and be able to kid Jim about his direction skills for a change.

The parking space at the end of the row was completely, totally, glaringly, empty. Blair stood in the vacant space, turning around in a circle to examine every corner, but the Volvo failed to magically appear.

"I don't understand it! I know this is where I parked it. It was right here." His voice rose in frustration. "It's been STOLEN!" Blair began to pace furiously back and forth in the small space.

Jim pulled out his cell phone and made the call to Dispatch. Flipping the phone shut, he tried to catch his hyperactive partner. "Calm down, Chief, we'll find your car."

"You bet your ass we'll find it. I just got it detailed yesterday and some punk is not going to get away with my car." Blair froze as sudden inspiration hit him and he turned to eye Jim with a definite proprietary air. "And we're going to start right now."

"I've already called it in. Some kids probably took it out joy riding and they'll dump it in a few hours. It's not like there's a hot market for Volvos out there."

Blair glared at his partner. "Oh no. We are going to find my car, and it's not going to end up stripped, crashed or at the end of a wrecker. You're going to track it."

Jim looked at him as if he had lost his mind. "You want me to track your car?"

"That's right. The Volvo has an oil leak from the rear seal and I'm still using the Slick 50 oil, so it should be a snap for you to follow. You can track it, Jim. You've done it before."

"You can't be serious. You want me to go around sniffing the streets for your car?"

"I want my car back and you can find it." Blair was too angry to try conning Jim. Direct action was called for and direct action it was going to be.

"Sandburg, the patrol officers will find your car. Simon really wanted to see you right away on this grant thing." Jim tried to redirect Blair's focus.

"The grant's not due till five today. I want my car back before then!"

Jim restrained the impulse to smile. A furious Blair was a sight to remember. Eyes blazing, arms waving, giving orders... wait a minute. "What do you mean I've done it before?"

Blair fired back his answer. "When Iris kidnapped me, you tracked the Volvo to the train station."

"You weren't there, Sandburg. You were with Iris. The only way you could know anything about how we got to the train station would be from Simon. What were you doing, debriefing him every time he went out on a call with me?"

"Well, I couldn't rely on you for information." Blair swatted Jim on the arm, then cheekily grinned at him. "Besides, Simon got pretty good at supplying all those little missing details you left out. I was just never sure whether he volunteered the information so quickly to be helpful, or to get me out of his office before you found out what was going on."

Jim shook his head. "Were you always this devious or is it an acquired talent?"

"It's merely an incidental offshoot of my legendary obfuscation skills. Now, back to business. It's time for you," he pointed at Jim, "to find my car."

Rolling his eyes in frustration, Jim turned and headed toward his truck, parked in the back of the lot. After a few steps Jim glanced back to see Blair still standing in the empty parking space, staring at him. "C'mon, Chief. I'm not tracking your car on foot."

A smile grew on Blair's face as he ran to catch up.


The pickup moved slowly down the street with Jim at the wheel, tracking the miniscule drops of oil from the missing Volvo.

Blair squirmed in his seat, frustration at the slow process apparent in his every action. "How's it going, Jim? Any problems?"

Jim diverted a small portion of his attention away from the tedious task of following the difficult trail. "You mean other then you asking me how it's going every few minutes?"

The sarcasm went unnoticed. "Well if you had let me drive, I wouldn't have to check on you every few minutes. This wouldn't be a good time for a zone, you know."

"I'm hardly likely to zone with you right here, Chief." Jim cocked his head, drawing Blair's attention immediately. "You hear that?"

"Hear what? What is it? Is it my car?" Blair looked up and down the street searching for anything out of place.

"It's a police siren and it's not too far ahead of us." Jim stepped on the accelerator and the truck jumped ahead.

"Aw, Jim, do you have to respond to every..." Blair's voice died out as he got his first glimpse of what the patrol car was chasing. "Oh, no. This just isn't going to be my day."

The gray and blue patrol car was in hot pursuit of a classic green Volvo. The two vehicles were soon joined by a classic '69 Ford pickup, and all three roared down the formerly quiet street.

"What is that idiot doing?" Blair beat his fist against the dashboard. "Slow down, you moron!"

Jim maneuvered quickly around two slower moving vehicles and pulled up on the patrol car. "Looks like your car thief wants to make a chase out of it." He abruptly changed lanes into oncoming traffic to pass a truck before swerving back.

Blair braced himself more securely to keep from sliding across the seat. "Not him, the idiot driving the unit. He's going to crowd him and have an accident because he doesn't have enough room to react. We need another unit so we can do a rolling box."

Sparing a glance from the road, Jim turned a questioning eye on his exuberant partner.

"Hey, I passed the driving test," Blair defended his on-going critique.

"Yeah, the 'written' driving test, Sandburg." With that comment Jim followed the speeding vehicles around traffic stopped for a red light.

"Well at least I didn't roll the test vehicle." Blair looked back to the chase to see the patrol unit lose it on a tight corner and slide into a dumpster, out of the pursuit. "See? See? What did I tell you?"

"Yeah, yeah, you're a real expert." Jim maneuvered around the disabled unit and resumed the chase.

"Now don't lose him. Anticipate his moves." Blair reached over and absent-mindedly patted his partner on the shoulder.

Jim would have rolled his eyes at the incongruity of the situation if he could. Blair was actually encouraging him on a pursuit.

"Get on the radio and tell dispatch where we are, maybe we can box him in before he manages to crash out."

Blair got the radio mike in his hand just as he saw the brake lights flare on the Volvo. The driver's door flew open and the young driver abandoned the still rolling vehicle, running in the direction of an alley. The Volvo continued to roll though, gaining momentum as it went down the slight hill.

"NO!" In his frustration, he pounded the mike against the seat. He grabbed Jim's arm and shook it. "Do something! Catch my car!"

"It's the suspect we're supposed to catch, Chief, not the car."

"Jiiiimmm!" Blair pounded on the dash with both fists.

"Okay, okay. Forget the suspect, catch the car." Jim accelerated after the driverless vehicle.

Blair watched helplessly as the Volvo rolled into the intersection at the end of the block and made it halfway across before being hit by a garbage truck. The two vehicles spun around each other, the Volvo finally coming to a halt against a light pole. Blair's eyes widened in horror as the pole slowly tilted toward the ground, landing on top of the defenseless vehicle with a resounding thud.

Jim stopped the truck short of the intersection and looked over to his partner, now slumped against the back of the seat. "Hey, it may not be as bad as it looks."

The look that Blair gave him was composed of equal parts indignation, frustration, and resignation.

Abandoning the truck before Blair could come up with a suitably scathing reply, Jim approached the driver's window of the garbage truck. "You okay in there?"

The driver shook his head, looking around with a dazed expression on his face. "What the hell happened, man? I mean, I was just going along, minding my own business, when this car comes out of nowhere and wham, we're dancing the two step."

"Yeah, some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. Why don't you come on over to the curb and sit down?" Jim assisted the still shaky driver out of his truck and across the street.

"Is he all right?" Blair joined them on the sidewalk.

"Yeah, just a little shaken up. Why don't you keep an eye on him while I go check out your car?"

"Sure. Why not? It's not like I'll be going anywhere anytime soon." Blair sat dejectedly down on the curb next to the truck driver.

Forty-five minutes later, it seemed like every on-duty officer had managed to swing by. Blair's pounding of the dashboard with the radio mike had jammed it in open mode and his anguished plea to save his car had been transmitted over the air. Someone had even managed to plaster a huge band-aid shaped sticker across the trunk. The heavy-duty wrecker had finally arrived and hooked up the garbage truck, pulling it from it's crushing embrace of the Volvo. Blair couldn't watch, just the sound of the over-stressed metal groaning as the vehicles were separated made him cringe.

"Looks like it's all structural damage, Sandburg. A little bondo, a little paint, and you'll have that classic of yours back in no time," Simon's voice came from behind him.

Blair turned around to find a pair of trouser clad legs and raised his eyes upward and upward to finally make eye contact with the captain. "It won't be the same, Simon. She'll never be the same again." He resumed his scrutiny of the pavement at his feet.

Simon sighed, Jim had tried to warn him, but he hadn't taken him seriously. Looking toward the skies above for guidance, he lowered his tall frame to sit beside Sandburg. "I've got a friend who does real good repair work. You can have it towed over to his shop and he can get started on it right away. He'll probably have it fixed as good as new in no time." He waited for a response from the dejected figure beside him.

"Thanks, Simon, but I think Jim already told the wrecker to take her over to his regular repair shop. They know him real well and they're kinda used to him bringing in vehicles." A small smile appeared on his face. "They give him a pretty good rate since he's such a regular customer."

Even Simon had to smile at that. "Regular customer, huh? They've probably named a repair bay after him." He watched the wrecker head off down the street, the Volvo in tow. "Don't worry about a report, Sandburg, Jim can take care of this one." Getting no response, he gave up on trying to cheer Blair up and stood. "If you need to take a couple of hours to do the insurance thing, go ahead. The grant thing can wait till this afternoon."

"That's okay, I'll be right down. It's just a car, right?" Blair tried to smile, but the attempt failed.

"Right, Sandburg. Just a car."

Continue on to Act II...


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