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.


Fire and Ice
by
Sue Wells

.

Act I

Jim Ellison parked his blue and white Ford truck in Rainier's visitors' parking lot. He left the truck and crossed the street to the plaza in front of Hargrove Hall. He glanced at his watch in the fading rays of the setting sun: 5:25. He was early for his meeting with Sandburg, so he slowed down, adjusting the collar on his black leather jacket.

Jim strolled across the paved concrete and brick walkway, reaching the extended bottom step of Hargrove's main entrance. The wind shifted direction, blowing the scent of water towards him. Spinning around, he faced the focal point of the plaza, a pile of rock slabs topped with bushes and a three-way fountain spraying into a shallow pool. Jim involuntarily stepped backwards, halted by the four-foot tall gray stone wall flanking the side of the building's front entrance. He continued to stare at the fountain and the world turned white.

Blair Sandburg strode towards Hargrove Hall, his once-again familiar backpack over his green windbreaker. He saw Ellison waiting by the entrance and quickened his pace. "Jim, man. Sorry I'm late, I forgot --"

He trailed off, examining Jim more closely. Ellison remained silent and wasn't even looking at him. Blair pushed a loose strand of hair back. "Jim," he began, uneasily. Blair turned partially around, so he was facing the same direction as the Sentinel. He observed an ordinary scene of campus life, small bustling groups and single students streaming across the plaza, in the direction of the dorms, their minds doubtless occupied with thoughts of the just-starting weekend. A few students sat on the low stone benches arranged around the corners of the grassy inlay surrounding the water fountain.

The fountain. Blair took in a startled breath and faced Jim, assessing his condition: unseeing, unhearing, totally unresponsive to the outside world. The Sentinel had zoned. Sandburg stepped directly in front of Jim, trying to block his friend's view of the fountain. He covered Jim's still left hand with his right one. "Jim, it's okay." Blair spoke in the soft soothing tones that Jim had dubbed his "Guide's voice". Blair tilted his head upwards, gazing into Jim's blank blue eyes. "C'mon, Jim, I'm right here. Follow my voice back, you can do it. Jim, I know you're hearing me --"

Jim blinked. "Blair? What --?"

"C'mon, I want you to sit down for a minute." Blair guided Jim over to one of the stone benches and urged Jim to sit facing outwards, his back deliberately to the fountain.

Jim eyed Blair as he sat next to him. "Well?"

"You zoned. It couldn't have lasted long, 'cause I'm only a few minutes late."

"Zoned? But I haven't zoned in ages, why now?"

"You tell me. What happened after you arrived?"

"I was five minutes early; I looked at my watch. I was at the bottom step of the stairway when the wind shifted, and started blowing my way. I smelled water" -- Jim hesitated slightly -- "not just any water, I recognized exactly what it was from. I turned around and saw the fountain. I guess I had a flashback. I saw you lying face down in the pool, and H and I dragging you, and-and --

"The memories wouldn't stop, so I concentrated really hard on the scent of the water and --"

"You zoned." Blair scrutinized Jim, concerned. Ellison had purposely induced a zone-out, rather than remember the day Sandburg had almost died. "This isn't good," Blair mumbled to himself, then caught Jim's stare.

"I never thought... How do you do it, Chief? How do you walk past that" -- he gestured behind them, at the fountain -- "without, without --"

"Remembering? It was hard. At first, I simply used the back entrance, but eventually I just made myself walk past the fountain. I tried focusing on the good parts of it."

"The good parts of it?" Jim choked out, in a half-strangled voice.

Blair reached for Jim's shoulder. "I don't remember all of it, 'cause I wasn't, well, 'here' for the whole thing. I mostly remember being the wolf and seeing the panther and waking up, alive. Y'know, the GOOD parts." He took a breath and removed his hand. "We've never really talked about this, before. What do you remember?"

Several moments of silence followed Sandburg's question, then Jim spoke. "You, Chief. You were such a big part of it that I overlook the fact that you weren't really 'here' and don't remember things the same way I do." Jim paused, eyes trained on the entrance to Hargrove. "Megan and I got here as fast as we could. I raced up the stairs, then I caught your scent, from behind me. I whirled around and saw you, floating face down in the pool. H and I carried you out and laid you on the ground. Simon was yelling, asking did I hear a heartbeat?

"I didn't. I listened as hard as I could, but I didn't hear it."

"Jim, stop. You don't have to tell me any more," Blair fidgeted in his seat, uncomfortably feeling that he had manipulated Jim into his sudden, atypical need to share. "I shouldn't have asked."

Ellison continued, ignoring Blair's words. "Simon and I tried CPR. I can still hear him counting the beats between compressions while I was giving mouth-to-mouth. The paramedics showed up and asked for room. Simon and I stepped back and they bagged you. I kept yelling at you to breathe and saying 'This can't be happening' over and over. A paramedic said 'sorry, guys', shook his head and disconnected his equipment. I -- I lost it."

"Jim," Blair interrupted again. "Please. You don't have to tell me anything else. We don't need to rehash this."

"I think we do -- or at least I do. Besides, I'm almost at your 'good part'. Now, where was I?"

"You lost it."

"Oh, yeah. I yelled 'This isn't over', knelt down and started giving you CPR again, but nothing happened. Simon and H dragged me away and Simon yelled, 'He's gone!' I looked down at you and everything was blue-tinted. In your place, I saw a large wolf. He looked at me, then bolted. There was a flash of white light, and I saw Incacha. He told me to use the power of my animal spirit, held out his hand and the panther sprang out of it.

"I shook off Simon and H and knelt by your side. I put my hands on your face and concentrated on me and you, and getting you back. The wolf and the panther appeared again, leaped towards each other and merged. Everything went white and I suddenly heard a heartbeat -- your heartbeat."

"I began chest compressions again, you rolled your head to the side and coughed up some water. The paramedics came rushing back, gave you oxygen, and flashed the thumbs up sign. The rest you know."

"Yes. Thanks for telling me, Jim. I know it wasn't easy." Blair scanned his Sentinel. "Are we okay, here?"

Jim nodded and rose to his feet. "Shall we?"

Blair stood up, too. "Are you sure you still want to do this? We could blow it off, go split a pizza or something instead. The testing can wait for another day."

"Sandburg, I'm fine. I know how busy you are, now that you're leading a double life again. I said I'd support you, and that includes Sentinel tests. So let's get busy." Jim stepped towards Hargrove Hall.

"Wrong way."

Jim stopped. "What? But this is the Anthropology Building."

"Uh huh, but my office is over there, now." Blair gestured two buildings down, to the left of Hargrove. Jim's extra-sharp eyes read the name on the distant placard even though it was significantly darker than earlier: Apter Hall.

"I'm no longer a part of the faculty, as Chancellor Edwards pointed out. Space is at a premium, so my office was given to an incoming professor."

"She kicked you out of your office? That witch! Listen, Chief, I'll --"

"No, Jim. I know how tight office space is in the anthro department, I spent three years in the basement, remember? Besides, she's right -- I'm just a student now and as such, not entitled to any office space. C'mon." He started walking towards the Apter building.

"My friend Doug Logan is letting me share his office. It's in the Geology Building and close to my classes so it's a good working arrangement for us." They reached the front steps of Apter Hall, which closely resembled the gray stone facade of Hargrove, and entered the glass double doors. "Besides, it gave me my current test idea," Blair said, escorting Jim to the third floor. He opened a closed door and flicked the lights on, beckoning Jim to enter. "I'll just pick up my notebook."

The office was the size of a third bedroom, with an impressive mahogany desk and two leather visitor's chairs occupying most of the room. Blair walked past the massive desk to a three-quarter sized cherry wood desk flush with the back wall. A blue painted bookshelf stood against the back wall, overflowing with anthropology textbooks and a few randomly placed artifacts, binders and loose papers. It contrasted with the two carved mahogany bookcases along the adjacent wall. They were full of textbooks on geology and gemology, with an occasional rock sample interspersed among the books, acting as a bookend. Jim frowned, noting the discrepancy in style and size of the two office spaces.

Blair grabbed a green notebook from his desktop. "What do you think of my new digs?" He nodded towards the large, mounted movie poster centered over his desk, its bright colors advertising "Support Your Local Sheriff".

"That's Doug's office-warming present, cool, huh?" The movie poster was flanked by smaller pictures of a wolf and panther to the right and four blown-up 8x10's of Sandburg on various field assignments on the left.

"Isn't it a little cramped?" Jim asked, remembering how Blair's clutter had filled the enormous storage area that had been his basement office.

"Hey, I'm a squatter here. Doug's doing me a tremendous favor, giving me any space at all. Plus, I can use the whole office anytime he's not here. C'mon, I'll show you the lab."

They left the office and Blair led Jim halfway down the corridor. He stopped at a room with "Sedimentary Laboratory" etched in the door's frosted glass. Finding the room unlocked, Blair entered, flicking on the lights.

They walked into a large lab classroom with five rows of multi-stationed, blacktopped desks facing a similarly topped teacher's desk at the front of the room. Steel cabinets and glass cases full of rock specimens lined two of the walls and a row of bookcases stretched along the windows on the outside wall. A freestanding lab sink with a gooseneck spout and deep basin was placed at the front of the room.

"Welcome to Sentinel Geology 101." Blair waved Jim towards one of the stations in the back row. He pulled out the metal barstool invitingly.

"And what does one do in Sentinel Geology 101?" Jim asked, settling into the indicated chair.

Sandburg chuckled, pulling out a tray of samples from the desk drawer to Jim's left. "One observes rocks, or in this case, sand."

"I know you're going somewhere with this. Care to fill me in, Darwin?"

"Sure. I was reviewing our earlier cases for possible inclusion in my new thesis, and I came across the Tommy Juno file. Specifically, the arraignment, which was dismissed because no one believed you saw what you saw at that distance."

"And how does looking at rocks tie into the Juno case? Besides, that case is ancient history."

"History tends to repeat itself, if we don't learn from its mistakes."

"Mistakes?" Jim bristled, and Blair remembered that Jim had been personally involved in the Juno case; he had seen Tommy Juno gun down his friend and fellow cop, Danny Choi.

"Yes, mistakes. We were new to the Sentinel thing, and I hadn't anticipated the possible legal ramifications of using your senses on the job.

"Jim, your eyesight and hearing are your greatest assets, just as they are for people with normal senses. We've successfully transferred the concept of the pain dial to your hearing, so that you can dial your hearing up or down, to block out or enhance sound at will. I think we can do the same thing with your eyesight."

"What good'll that do? Knowing that creep was two football fields away wouldn't have stopped Juno from killing Danny."

"No, but it would've avoided the mess at the arraignment. You could've used the knowledge that Juno was guilty to uncover other, legal evidence against him -- and bypassed the suspension and civil rights violations -- if you had known up front the distances involved. That's what we're testing for here, to give you an accurate self-measurement of your visual acuity."

"In English, Sandburg."

"I want to put 'notches' in your vision, so that you'll know you're seeing something twenty or forty times better than a normal person would. To accomplish this, we'll use the microscope, which has lenses set at pre-defined powers of magnification. It's a cumulative process, so it won't happen over night, but we can get a good start on it tonight.

"We'll begin with the basics." Blair picked up a small vial from the sample tray. "Sand. There are four different grades of sand: coarse, medium, fine and very fine, all determined by the radius of the sand grains, as observed under a microscope." Sandburg put the vial down, then picked up two small paper strips and placed them on top of the desk, to the left of the microscope. He reached for the vial again, unstoppered it and poured a tiny mound of granules onto each paper strip. Then he placed one sand-filled strip under the microscope and checked the magnification. "Okay, the lens is set at twenty power. I want you to examine the sample under the 'scope, using your normal vision. Let all of the magnification come from the microscope, the way anyone else would. Next, look at this second sample, here" - he tapped the remaining strip - "and boost your vision so that the sand grains here exactly match the appearance of the ones under the microscope.

"In other words, you'll be looking at the sample on the desk at twenty times normal vision. When you're comfortable looking at the sample at twenty power, I want you to canvass the rest of the room. Get familiar with the way everything looks at that magnification, and try to mentally mark what your vision feels like at twenty times normal. Do it several times, using the other grades of sand, too. Our goal is to enable you to walk into any room and consciously boost your vision to twenty times ordinary vision. Then, we'll increase it to forty, sixty, a hundred times normal, using the other lenses on the 'scope."

"And how long'll this take?"

"I've no idea, but you know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Behold your first step." Sandburg pointed at the microscope.

"What'll you be doing while I'm looking at this stuff?"

"I'll be a couple of rows up, working on my rough draft." Sandburg picked up his notebook, walked towards the front of the classroom, and relocated himself in the third row.

Jim's gaze flicked from his Guide to the sand grains under the microscope. He examined the grains intently. It felt weird, relying on an external aide to enhance his vision; he hadn't done that since he'd used the magnifying lens to find that illegal road in the Cyclops Oil case, back when his eyesight had been "temporarily downgraded to normal."

Ten minutes later, Jim lifted his head up and stared at the sand grains on the strip of paper to his left. He boosted his sight and the granules became gray, brown and white ping pong balls. Oops, too much, he thought, making a conscious effort to reduce his sight. He tried again, picturing the way the fine grains of sand looked under the microscope. It wasn't hard to do; after several minutes of staring at the sand, he could see the after-image of the granules without looking through the microscope. Jim concentrated on sharpening his vision gradually, and within seconds the unmagnified sand, viewed with Sentinel vision, matched the size and shape of the magnified granules. He examined the grains for several minutes, then closed his eyes and repeated the procedure, first looking at the magnified grains, then using his enhanced vision to see the plain grains at the same magnification. After three more repetitions of that, Jim kept his vision at twenty power and focused on Blair, two rows ahead of him.

Sandburg looked like a close-up shot in a movie. Jim observed every curl in his partner's hair, saw the creases in Blair's forehead as he scribbled in his notebook. The over-large words in the notebook were easily legible, but Jim's glance shifted away. He had no intention of reading any part of Sandburg's new thesis until it was freely offered to him. The smooth black top of the lab desks yielded hundreds of tiny scratches, scuff marks and stains from years of student use, likewise the chairs, when Jim turned his attention on them.

He let his gaze drift to the windows, but the shades were drawn for the night, and the bookshelves below them were only stocked with textbooks. He idly read a few of the titles: Origins of Sedimentary Rocks, Principles of Paleontology, Field Guide to Rock and Mineral Identification. Even when the titles were read sideways, they sounded boring and academic.

He skimmed quickly over the steel cabinets; large gray cabinets were uninteresting at any magnification. That left the glassed-in cases, which housed rock specimens. Jim surveyed the first case methodically, starting with the far left side of the topmost shelf. Several thick, pointy crystals of deep purple caught his eye, with a small card in front of the sample: Amethyst followed by its chemical composition, SiO2. Next to the amethyst were marked samples of brown smoky quartz, light pink rose quartz, yellow citrine, milky white quartz crystals and clear quartz crystals with black spikes of rutile embedded in them. Looking at the samples at twenty power, the rocks were almost breath taking with their rich, varied colors and sparkling, mostly smooth surfaces.

The left-most rock on the second shelf was a chunk whose top was covered in small, slightly rust-colored red crystal cubes, identified as vanadinite. Jim's gaze moved further down the shelf, finding a couple samples of the more familiar mineral, malachite. The different shades of green bands were present in both the round, polished stone and the exposed surface of the natural rock. The two samples of azurite that completed the row had similar bands in varying tones of blue. Before Jim could lower his gaze to the third shelf, the back door swung open.

A man just under six feet tall entered. "I thought I saw the light on in here. Oh, it's you, Blair."

"Doug!" Blair grinned, ceased his writing and quickly joined Jim and Doug at the back row. He lightly poked Jim, a silent reminder to knock his vision back to normal. "Jim, this is Doug Logan, geology teaching fellow extraordinaire. Doug, this is Jim Ellison, my friend and roommate."

Jim took stock of Sandburg's office-mate as they shook hands. Doug Logan had a firm grip, friendly brown eyes, and thick black hair that would barely pass the collar test.

"Ellison? Are you one of the cops Blair hangs out with?"

"Yes."

"He seems to be in good hands, then. After hearing some of his field exploits, I'm amazed he's still walking around in one piece."

"He is something of a trouble magnet, even here in Cascade." Jim agreed, keeping a straight face.

Blair glowered. "I heard that! And I'm standing right here. Don't talk about me like I'm invisible."

"Sorry, Blair. I didn't mean to bother you, just wondered who was here. It's way too early for the midnight rockhounds --" Noting Jim's puzzlement, Logan explained, "The students tend to keep late hours at the lab, hence the nickname. But most of 'em wouldn't be caught dead here on a Friday night, unless it's exam time. So, what're you two up to?"

"Jim's a closet Nature man, likes to get away from the city to recharge his batteries," Blair confided. "After years of camping and mountain climbing, he's become interested in nature's building blocks, the area's rocks."

"The university has some fine specimens, here." Jim indicated the rock samples in the glass cabinet he'd been studying before Logan came.

"Yes, Rainier's collection is world-renowned," Logan agreed. "But there's something to be said for the stones that man has tampered with, too."

Blair rolled his eyes. "That's Doug's idea of a joke," he explained. "Doug's field is gemology, the science of gems and gemstones. Y'know, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, et cetera. He's an acknowledged expert, and one of the youngest ones in the field, too."

"As a matter of fact, I've got some stones you might be interested in, Blair. Hang on a second, they're up front." Doug quickly walked to the front of the room, unlocked and rummaged around in the teacher's desk drawer, then returned. "Here." He held out his hand, revealing three nicely sized cut diamonds.

Sandburg picked up one of the diamonds, whistling. "Wow, man. Are these real or cubic zirconium?"

"Most definitely real. I was polishing them for a friend of mine, Dr. Fyodor Rudin. You really should look at one under the 'scope, Blair. They're quite impressive." He walked over to the microscope Jim was using, removed the sand sample from the viewing area and placed the two remaining diamonds under the microscope. He fiddled with the dials, then backed away. "Take a look at those beauties."

Since Blair was preoccupied, examining the diamond in his possession, Jim stepped over to the 'scope and checked out the magnified diamonds.

"Notice the sparkle of the diamond as you look at them, that's also called the diamond's 'fire.' It's determined by the cut of the diamond, with the angles of the facets or sides of the stone very carefully calculated to properly refract light through the diamond. The cuts have to be proportioned just right to get the best refraction, hence the best brilliance or fire in the finished diamond."

Blair nudged Jim. "Hey, no fair hogging the 'scope." Ellison withdrew and Blair passed him the third stone while he took his turn at the microscope. "This is awesome, man."

Jim glanced at the diamond resting in his hand, his vision easily sliding up to the twenty times normal eyesight that he'd been using in the testing. Then he further increased his eyesight, absorbed in the multi-color flashes of light cast by the flawlessly cut gem.

"Of course, cut isn't the only thing that makes a fine quality diamond. There's also color, clarity, and carat -- the four C's of the diamond world. These particular stones are of exceptional color and clarity. As for carats or weight -- well, you can see for yourself they're rather large. The biggest one is ten carats, the other two are about seven carats each."

"Thanks for the sneak peek," Blair said, raising his head from the microscope. He extracted the diamonds from the viewing area and handed them back to Doug. Then he noticed Jim, staring intently at the diamond in his hand. Blair walked over to Jim and nudged him in the ribs while talking to Doug. "Your Dr. Rudin must be a wealthy man, to own such gems."

"Oh, Fyodor doesn't own the diamonds, he's the gem expert attached to the show that they're in: the Splendors of Russia exhibit. It's been traveling across the US for the past year or so. Cascade's the last stop before it heads back to Russia."

"The Splendors of Russia exhibit?" Blair snapped his fingers. "I have heard of that. Jim, did you read the article about the upcoming exhibit in yesterday's Times?"

"Yes, I did," Jim answered, mindful of Sandburg's poke in the ribs. "A bunch of the Tsar's treasures, things like Faberge eggs, royal knickknacks, costumes and jewelry, isn't it?"

"And gemstones, cut and uncut," Doug amended. "The various Tsars were huge gemstone collectors. Even though the stones in the exhibit are just a fraction of the original collection, they are well worth seeing." Logan held his hand out and Jim passed the last diamond back to him. He crossed to the front desk and returned the diamonds to the desk drawer, locking it. Then he rejoined Jim and Blair.

"Aren't you worried, having such expensive diamonds just lying around here?" Jim asked, his cop's instincts aroused by the cavalier treatment of the highly valuable diamonds.

"They're not just lying around here, I keep them in a locked drawer. You and Blair are the only people who know about the diamonds other than Fyodor and me. I'm returning them to him tomorrow, anyway."

"Thanks again for showing us the diamonds," Blair stepped in as peacemaker. "Now, we've got to get back to work."

"I only stopped by to grab a couple of references from the office," Doug said. "Don't forget to check out the exhibit. It opens two weeks from today, on the sixteenth."


Act II

Jim Ellison walked towards his desk, the file he retrieved from records in his right hand.

"Captain wants to see you," Rafe greeted him, gesturing towards Captain Banks' closed office door. "He's got a visitor."

Jim dropped the file on his desk and continued down the aisle to Banks' office. He knocked, opened the door, then entered.

"Jim," Captain Simon Banks said. "You remember Inspector Major Vaslova, don't you?" He indicated an attractive woman with shoulder-length, dark auburn hair. She wore a tailored charcoal gray suit and was seated at the planning table, in the chair closest to Simon's desk.

The Inspector rose, offering her hand to Ellison. "It is a pleasure to meet you again, Detective Ellison."

Jim shook hands. "Call me Jim, please."

"And you must call me Katrina."

"The Inspector is paying us a courtesy call. She's head of security for the Russian exhibit that opens at the Cascade Museum a week from Friday."

"The Splendors of Russia exhibit?" Jim blinked. "Sandburg and I were just talking about it a few days ago. You're in charge of security? Congratulations, Katrina."

"Moscow wanted someone in charge who could handle the responsibility. It was doubtless a reward for my cooperation in the Gordievsky affair, also."

Jim's eyes strayed to Katrina's left shoulder, where she had been shot at the safe house. "You seem to be fully recovered."

Katrina nodded. "It is -- how do you Americans say it? -- water under the bridge."

Jim frowned; Katrina's unfortunate choice of idiom reminded him of the unsatisfactory conclusion of the case. Yuri, the Russian assassin and technology wizard, was shot by the Feds and fell to his death in the waters of the Cascade Dam.

"Why exactly are you here, Inspector?" Simon asked. "Are you expecting trouble at the exhibit?"

"Trouble? No, not at all, Captain." Katrina smiled. "This is our last stop on the tour. The show practically runs itself, like watchwork."

"Ah, that's clockwork," Jim corrected.

"Then, begging your pardon, Inspector," Captain Banks asked again, "why are you here, if there's no problem?"

"I am sorry, Captain, if I have given you the wrong impression. I am not here officially, I am here to ask Detec -- Jim a favor." She turned slightly to face Ellison. "There is a special preview party for museum supporters and people who helped with the exhibit. It is on Wednesday the fourteenth, then the exhibit will open to the general public on Friday. I would very much like you to escort me to the party, Jim."

"I'd be delighted to escort you, Katrina."

"Good." Katrina smiled. "It is a themed event, the Fire and Ice Ball. My limousine will pick you up at seven, if that's convenient?"

"Limousine?" Simon asked.

"Yes, as head of the Russian group, I must arrive with style." She opened the gray clutch purse she was carrying and extracted a red and white ticket. Handing it to Jim, she said, "My hotel phone number is on the back. Please give me a call tonight and we will complete our arrangements. I look forward to seeing you there." She turned to face Simon. "Captain, thank you for your time. Now, gentlemen, I must get back to the museum. We just arrived in Cascade last week, and I have a million details to attend to before the opening."

"Thanks again for the invitation, Katrina." Jim held the door open. "I'm really looking forward to it. Good-bye."

Simon waited until she was well into the bull pen. "How do you do it, Jim?"

"Do what, sir?"

"You just waltzed into the hottest tickets in town. Joan has been pestering me to use my influence to get her a pair of tickets to the gala. She can't get it through her head that a police captain's influence doesn't extend to international events." He snorted. "Besides, if I could get tickets, I'd use them myself."

Jim knew that Joan Banks rarely spoke to her ex-husband, unless it concerned their son, Daryl. "Guess it must be that old Ellison charm, huh, sir?"

"Charm, eh? Well, as long as you're here, Mr. Charm, what's the status of the Pinckney file?"

Before Jim could answer, the phone rang. Simon hit the speaker. "Yes, Rhonda?"

"Miss Timmons for you, sir."

"Put her on." Simon picked up the receiver. "Hello, Leesha... Yes, I'm free next Wednesday night... I'd be delighted to! I'll call you tonight and we'll work out the details... Bye."

Simon hung up the phone, smirking. "Well, you're not the only charmer, Jim. The lady just invited me to the Fire and Ice shindig. And my charm even works over the phone. Now, about that Pinckney file...."

Twenty minutes later, Jim left Simon's office and returned to his desk.

"Jim," Inspector Megan Connor asked as he passed her desk, "who was your visitor?"

"Katrina Vaslova," Jim stopped to answer. "Inspector Major Katrina Vaslova."

"Oh. She must've been here about that Russian Navy vessel, then."

"Russian Navy vessel?"

"Don't you read the papers? The Russians have applied for and received special permission to dock in Cascade Bay Harbor. They'll be here to haul the exhibition materials back to Russia after the show closes in March. It's an enormous exhibit, and extremely valuable -- historically, as well as monetarily."

"Hmm, you could say Katrina's connected to that vessel: she's the security chief for the exhibit. But she wasn't here on business, she invited me to the preview party next Wednesday."

"You're attending the Fire and Ice Ball?" Megan asked, her startled voice louder than she had originally intended. Detective Rafe rose from his desk chair and joined them.

"Jim, you're really going to the Fire and Ice Ball?" Rafe asked, envious. "The weekend's society column was gushing with rumors of who's going to be there. It's the social event of the month."

Jim glanced at the younger detective, who was sharply dressed in a tan Armani suit. "Trust you to know that."

Rafe grinned. "You're just jealous because I have better social contacts than you."

"Maybe so. Tell me again, who has the tickets?"

"Excuse me, boys. I've got an important phone call to make." Megan crossed over to the break room and entered, closing the door behind her. She sat down on the chocolate brown sofa, reaching for the telephone on the sofa's end table. Luckily, she had a phenomenal memory for numbers and she quickly dialed.

"Hello, Vince? This is Megan, Megan Connor... I'm fine, thanks. How are you and Gwen getting along?... Really? That's wonderful. I'm calling to ask you for a favor... Could you get me a couple of tickets to the museum's Fire and Ice Ball, next Wednesday?... You can!... Never mind who the other ticket's for, Vince. You're taken, remember?... Thanks a bunch, mate. Talk to you soon. Good-bye."


Later that Afternoon

"Rafe," Megan stepped over to Rafe's desk. "Do you have the Flanders case file?"

"No, why should I have your file?"

"I don't know... Let's see, when my favorite pen was missing, it was on your desk. When my calculator was missing, it was on your desk. Do you see a pattern here, detective?"

"No, I don't," Rafe answered, his eyes not meeting Megan's. "Now that could be interesting."

"What?"

"Our latest visitor," Rafe indicated a young blonde woman closing the Major Crimes door behind her. "That's Mikki Kamarev. She publishes the only Russian language newspaper in Cascade."

"So?" Megan watched as the woman approached, a light blue suit revealed beneath her unbuttoned raincoat.

"According to Blair, she's sweet on Jim, and vice versa." They observed the visitor as she headed for Ellison's desk, where Jim and Blair were conferring. "Wish I had Jim's hearing."

"Rafe, your problem is a lack of finesse," Megan said. She plucked a file from Rafe's in-box, then walked over to the file cabinet. She placed her file on top of the case, eased the top drawer open, and began tabbing through it. This maneuver put her within three feet of Ellison's desk, as intended.

"Mikki, how nice to see you again," Jim said.

"Is there anything we can help you with?" Blair asked, offering her a seat.

"Thank you." Mikki sat down. "This is purely a social call. Perhaps you have heard of the Russian exhibit coming to Cascade?" They nodded and she continued, "Good. I have tickets to the preview party, on the fourteenth. Would you like to go with me to the Fire and Ice Ball, Jim?"

Jim cleared his throat. "Ah -- I'm sorry, Mikki. I've already accepted another invitation to attend. Katrina Vaslova asked me earlier."

"Katrina --? You mean Inspector Vaslova? She is back in town?"

"Yes, she's in charge of security for the Splendors of Russia exhibit -- been touring with it all along."

"Oh."

"I'm sorry, Mikki. I'd love to've gone with you, but --"

"I understand, Jim. You accepted the inspector's invitation and you are a man of your word. It is one of the things I like most about you." She smiled, then turned to face Blair. "Perhaps my other guardian angel is free?"

"Why, I'd be delighted to go with you, Mikki," Blair said, after a startled pause.

"Then it is settled," Mikki said, rising from her chair. "I will call you later this week, Blair. Good-bye, Jim."

Megan watched as Mikki left. Then she slammed the filing drawer shut. "Bugger!"

Ellison's head swiveled towards her at the outburst.

"Paper cut," Megan explained, then snatched up the file from the top of the cabinet. She walked back to Rafe's desk, conscious of Jim's eyes on her back.

"So that's Australian finesse," Rafe greeted her.

Megan opened her mouth, ready to increase Rafe's knowledge of Australian vocabulary, then reconsidered. "Mikki has tickets to the Fire and Ice Ball. Since Jim's already going, she invited Sandy."

"Oh. Well, at least the bull pen'll be represented." Rafe said philosophically.

"No, you don't understand. Vince Deal scrounged up a pair of tickets for me. I was going to ask --" She broke off. "Rafe, would you like to go to the Fire and Ice Ball with me?"

He grinned. "I'd be delighted to, Megan."

"Fine, we'll discuss the details later. Now, I've got to get back to work." Megan started to put the borrowed file on top of Rafe's in-box, then she read the name on the label: Curtis Flanders. "Rafe! You did have my file!"

Rafe watched Megan stalk back to her desk, then he sauntered over to Jim's desk. "Hey, Jim, guess who else is going to the Fire and Ice Ball?"

"I am," Blair said.

"You are? Okay, besides Blair, then."

"Simon." Jim said.

"Simon's going? Besides Blair and Simon, then."

"Henri?" Jim guessed.

"No."

"Rhonda?" Blair offered.

"No."

"Joel?"

"No."

"Ricardo?" Jim guessed again, lips twitching.

"No," Rafe sounded a little impatient.

"Megan?"

"Well, yes, actually, Megan is going." Rafe decided to end their little guessing game. "I'm escorting her."

"That's nice," Jim said mildly. "Anything else?"

"Yes, I came over here to give you this." Rafe extracted a business card from his navy suit's inner pocket and handed it over to Jim. "That's the name of my tailor, Antonio. He handles rentals, too, so he can fix you up for the ball. Just tell him Rafe sent you and you'll even get a discount."

"Rentals?" Jim was annoyed. "I'll have you know I have a perfectly good --"

"Jim," Blair interrupted firmly. "Did the inspector say anything about the Fire and Ice Ball when she invited you?"

"She called it a themed event."

"Y'see, a Fire and Ice Ball has an underlying dress code associated with it: Everyone wears red, white or both. You can also wear black, as a secondary color." Blair continued, reflectively, "Ironic, really, considering it's a Russian event. Red for communists and historically, White Russians were the Tsar's supporters."

Jim put the tailor's card in his wallet. "Thank you, Rafe. This'll come in handy for us."

"No offense, man," Blair said, "but I'm using Campus Formal Connections. CFC's been outfitting Rainier's students for years, and Big Eddy'll skin me alive if he finds out I rented a tux from the competition."


Jim Ellison peered through the limousine's smoked glass window. They were about four blocks from the Cascade Museum, and he glimpsed a couple of exhibit banners waving in the distance. He glanced at Katrina, her red silk evening gown flowing over most of the spacious white leather back seat. "We're almost there." He smiled, admiring how the dress's deep V-neckline set off the ruby and paved diamonds of Katrina's choker. "You look stunning, Katrina."

"Thank you, Jim." Her right hand rose to her throat, lightly touching the choker. "It's real -- part of the collection, actually. Wearing it at the parties is one of the benefits of my position." She ran her eyes over Jim, decked out in a white tuxedo. The corner of a red silk handkerchief tucked into the suit's breast pocket, and the edged red ruffles of his shirt provided the only contrasting color to his white suit. "You look camera-ready, also."

"Camera --? Are there going to be cameras?"

"The local news crews will all be here, and the newspaper photographers, of course. It is why I told you we need the limousine, for a grand entrance. Most of them are not permitted inside, so they film the arriving guests."

Jim took a few seconds to dial his sight down, in anticipation of the spotlights and flashbulbs he would encounter as they left the limousine. The white stretch limousine glided to a halt and the right door opened. Jim exited first, then extended his hand to assist Katrina. She tucked her hand through the crook of his arm and they walked down the red carpet, cameras and flashing lights tracking their progress. The last part of the carpet covered a half-flight of marble stairs. Two attendants whisked open the center pair of double glass doors as Jim and Katrina entered the museum. They strolled past the darkened admissions booths and into the main corridor, Katrina's heels clicking on the green marble floor.

"That went well," Katrina remarked. "Now, as I told you earlier, all we have to do is stand at the head of the receiving line. It should take an hour or so, then we are free to enjoy the rest of the night." She smiled ruefully at Jim. "I should have told you more about the duties of my escort when I asked you out, but I did not want you to refuse."

"I wouldn't have," Jim answered, then they walked over to the receiving line, which was forming to the right of the museum's Grand Hall. The line consisted of nine other couples and Katrina efficiently introduced Jim to everyone. He recognized the name of the Cascade Museum's chairman of the board, and the names of a couple of high-powered business acquaintances of his father.

A few minutes after Jim and Katrina assumed their places at the head of the receiving line, the glitterati of Cascade descended upon them. Jim smiled politely, introduced himself and made idle chitchat with the city's wealthy upper tier. He tried to remain focused and present, dialing down his sense of smell so the vast array of perfumes and cologne didn't become overpowering.

Surreptitiously, he peeked at his wristwatch, disappointed to learn that only thirty-five minutes had passed. He glanced up from his watch and into a pair of familiar gray eyes. "Steven!" Jim's perfunctory grin turned into one of his rare, truly happy smiles. "Katrina," he tapped his date's silk-covered arm, "may I present Steven Ellison, my brother. Steven, this is Inspector Major Katrina Vaslova."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ellison."

"I am honored to make your acquaintance, Ms. Vaslova," Steven said. Then he motioned towards the tall blonde at his right, dressed in a red sequined evening gown, with white latticework overlain on the bodice. "Allow me to present Miss Janet Owens. Janet, this is Ms. Katrina Vaslova and my brother Jim." They exchanged pleasantries, then Steven and his date moved on, and Jim greeted the next couple in line.

About fifteen minutes later, the Major Crimes contingent passed through the line. First came Simon, resplendent in a black tuxedo accented by a red velvet collar and a red patterned brocade vest. He was escorting Leesha Timmons. The African American model sparkled in a sleeveless red empire gown with a black and white beaded bodice. Blair was attired in a red tuxedo over a ruffled black silk shirt and contrasting white pants, his loose dark curls giving him a slightly Bohemian look. Mikki Kamarev's blonde hair was swept up in a bun, her creamy shoulders revealed by her strapless white silk gown. Her dress had multiple layers of red-edged flounces from the waist to the floor and a generous back slit for walking or dancing. Rafe made a distinct impression in a completely monotone tux: pants, coat, shirt and bow tie all the same, matched red. Last came Megan, her auburn hair in a sleek chignon, her evening dress a striking combination of sleeveless red bodice and floor-length white tulle skirt separated by a thick black velvet ribbon around her waist. The group lingered briefly, then disappeared through the tall arched entrance to the Grand Hall, which had been temporarily cleared of exhibits to make room for tables, chairs and a wide dance floor for the ball.

Jim and Katrina remained at their post until the last couple went through the receiving line almost half an hour later. Then they joined the ball in the Grand Hall. The museum's event designer had taken the red and white theme and never looked back, as far as the decorations were concerned. Red and white balloons abounded, the round tables were draped with red or white cloth tablecloths and contrasting white or red napkins, with red and white roses and carnations for the centerpieces. The enormous buffet held every red, white or Russian dish imaginable, from steak tartar, piroghi and Beluga caviar to jicama, strawberries and red velvet cake. The piece-de-resistance was the red and white tile dance floor, which covered almost a third of the stately room. A deejay with a huge array of CD's was discreetly situated behind the dance floor. The walls of the exhibit room were left unchanged, displaying the museum's well-known collection of Impressionists' paintings, barricaded by appropriately red velvet ropes. The actual Splendors of Russia Exhibit was housed on the second floor, as Katrina explained to Jim while they munched on the buffet dinner.

Katrina and Jim conversed about her extended tour of the US, with Katrina sharing several amusing anecdotes about life on the road with the traveling exhibit. In turn, Jim described some of the more memorable events in his cases over the past two years. They enjoyed a leisurely meal, pausing occasionally to watch the dancers from their VIP table, which fronted the dance floor.

A young man, dressed in a red tailed tuxedo and creased black pants, approached. "Forgive me, Inspector," he interrupted politely, "but we have a situation that needs your attention."

"This is Captain Nikoli Satsurov, my second in command," Katrina explained. "Captain, this is Jim Ellison." She rose from the table, bringing Jim to his feet as well. "I will rejoin you shortly. I apologize for the inconvenience."

"Take all the time you need, Katrina. I understand." Jim watched as the two Russians made their way to the entrance. As he was about to resume his seat, a hand touched his arm.

"Jim." Mikki Kamarev stood next to him. "Blair has been telling me about the customs of various peoples."

"I hope he hasn't talked your ear off, Mikki. Once Sandburg starts on a topic he's interested in -- and he's interested in pretty much everything -- he has a tendency to take over the conversation."

"Oh, we had a good long talk. One of the things we covered was your 'Sadie Hawkins' dance. As I understand it, the lady asks the gentleman to dance, yes?"

"That's right."

"Blair says tonight's ball is sort of a Sadie Hawkins dance, since I asked him, and the Inspector asked you..." She trailed off, then smiled. "So, Jim, would you like to dance?"

"I'd be honored." Jim offered his arm and escorted Mikki the short distance to the dance floor. They arrived just as the current song ended, and threaded their way towards the center of the floor. They stood across from each other, waiting for the music to start. The deejay had played a wide assortment so far, from Rachmaninoff to "From Russia With Love."

A solid wave of orchestra music heralded the next song. The orchestra faded to the background for a piano solo, then the couples waltzed elegantly to "Tonight We Love". Jim and Mikki, in their matching white suit and dress with accenting red ruffles, caught the attention of several other couples as they whirled around the floor. The song ended, and they danced to its replacement, the softer, more wistful "Lara's Theme" from Dr. Zhivago.

When that song ended, Mikki led Jim off the dance floor and over to a table towards the left side of the room, which had been claimed by the Major Crimes group. Blair glanced up from his conversation with Rafe and Megan. "Jim! I saw you guys on the floor. You were great, where'd you learn to dance like that?"

"It was my father's idea. We had to possess all the social skills, including ball room dancing."

The music took a dramatic change in mood, as the opening bars of Billy Joel's "Back in the USSR" blared over the amplifiers. Simon turned to his date. "Leesha, would you like to dance?"

Leesha grinned, exposing her pearly white teeth. "I'd love to."

Jim watched them take the dance floor, then scanned the VIP tables to see if Katrina had returned. She was not at their table, but Jim spotted her at the entrance to the Grand Hall. "Mikki, I enjoyed our dances. Remember what I said and don't let Blair monopolize the conversation. I've got to go, maybe I'll catch you later, at the exhibit." Then Jim strode off, to reconnect with Katrina.


"Am I rushing you, Jim?" Katrina asked as they strolled past the last case of Faberge eggs. She and Jim had waited until half past nine to start the exhibit, and had seen two thirds of the impressive, historical displays. They had made short shrift of the costume portion of the exhibit, Jim only lingering to examine Peter the Great's military uniform, replete with swords and several medals. The Tsar's elaborate camping equipment for campaigning in the field also caught his attention. "I do not mean to be. I have seen a great deal of the exhibit in the past year, and I forget that you have not."

"That's okay," Jim said as they stopped to admire a display case full of ceramics and china. "I've been rushing things a bit, myself. I'm eager to see the gem exhibit. I've heard it's incredible."

They slowed down as they joined a small cluster of people waiting at the doorway into another exhibit room. "It is incredible, as you shall soon see. I have seen this before, too." She indicated the traffic jam of elegantly attired guests. "The line always swells in front of the gemstone collection. When the exhibit is open to the public, it is even longer."

Jim peered through the crowd, spotting Sandburg's red tuxedo in the midst of it. He debated cutting in line, but decided that patience was the better choice. Eventually, they gained admittance to the next room. The walls had a few large icons hanging on them, with a long, narrow display case full of the unique or ancient icons preserved by Russia's rulers. Some of the icons were jewel-encrusted and gold-trimmed. Jim and Katrina examined the icons while the line inched closer to the two display cases full of gems.

At last, they stood in front of the first center display case, full of cut and uncut diamonds. There were about ten uncut diamonds, of a fairly uniform size. The placards in front of the rough diamonds proclaimed them to be from Siberia. Even the rough, uncut diamonds with their sharp, uneven sides attracted Jim's attention. Then he took in the forty or so cut diamonds that occupied the rest of the case. Most of the diamonds were displayed as single stones, a few were coupled together. The placards in front of each diamond gave the stone's carat weight and its country of origin. A preponderance came from Russia, but some were from India and Africa, as well. A few stones had an accompanying summary about the historical significance of the diamond. Jim carefully examined the multi-faceted diamonds, enjoying the fire that each diamond displayed. He honed in on the ten carat diamond he had seen at Rainier and tried to bump his vision back up to twenty times normal, for a closer inspection. It worked and he scrutinized the diamond, enjoying the stone's sparkling beauty at the magnified level. Then he moved on to another large, cut diamond, keeping his eyesight at twenty power. He scrutinized two more diamonds this way before something pressed down on his toes and he looked up, startled.

"I'm starting to think you're part magpie," Blair whispered, removing his foot from Jim's toes. "You're hogging the exhibit, man. Go look at the other case, now."

Jim nodded minutely, then walked over to the second display case. This case held the other precious gems: rubies, emeralds, sapphires, opals, even a handful of matched black cultured pearls. Jim admired the gemstones perfunctorily; they just didn't have the same appeal for him that the diamonds did. He paused to look at an uncut emerald from Columbia. It was easily the largest object in the case, and there was something about the deep, rich color of the six-sided stone....

Jim stood in the jungle, surrounded by greenery. It really was green, he noted in surprise as he scanned his surroundings. In fact, everything was green or greenish: his tux, his skin, the foliage, the sky, the very dirt on the ground.

A large, green-black panther stepped out of the underbrush and approached Jim. The animal circled around him, then backed off slightly. Then the panther rose on its hind legs. By the time it reached full height, it had morphed into a human figure. Jim recognized the army vest, camouflage pants, and the face of his Spirit Guide.

"Why are you here?" the Spirit Guide asked in the same thunderous voice that Jim recalled from his last encounter.

"I don't know."

"Why are you here?" the man questioned again.

Jim shrugged. "I don't know, really."

"Then you do not need to be." The green world dissolved into white nothingness.

Jim blinked, and heard the reassuring hub-bub of the crowd, gawking at the Tsar's gemstones. He was in the museum, staring at the display of precious stones.

"Jim, are you all right?" Katrina asked, tapping him on the shoulder.

"Sure, I'm fine," Jim said. He located Blair over by the icons and said, "Excuse me for a minute." Jim stepped over to Blair and coughed to get his attention. "Ahem."

"Jim?"

"Chief, we need to talk -- in private."

"Now?"

"No, it'll keep til later tonight. Uh, you were planning on coming home tonight, right?"

"Jim, I'm with your girl friend. Of course I'm coming home tonight."

"Good," Jim answered, distractedly, "we'll talk then." He walked back to Katrina.

"Is everything all right?"

"Yes, everything's fine."

"So," Katrina gestured to the encased gems behind them, "did they meet your expectations? Are they not incredible?"

"Yes, quite incredible. I've never seen anything else like it."

Katrina took Jim's hand and they strolled towards the exit. "Good. Now, the last part of the exhibit is a portion of the Tsar's art collection, including some primitive daguerreotypes and other early photographs...."


Act III

Blair Sandburg turned as the loft's front door opened and Jim entered. "Hey, Jim."

"Sandburg." Jim greeted as he walked into the kitchen, loosening the red bow tie around his neck. He grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge, then walked into the living room and plopped on the sofa next to Sandburg. "Here." He handed Blair a bottle of beer.

"No thanks. I'm not really thirsty."

Jim placed it on the coffee table, then opened his bottle. "You will be."

"That's from Star Wars, right? The Empire Strikes Back, to be exact."

Jim took a swig. "Chief, you don't have to jolly me along, this time. I'm the one who said we need to talk, remember?"

"Oh, right, man. Sorry. Old habits die hard, huh?"

"Something happened at the museum," Jim started vaguely.

"I knew it! You almost zoned looking at those diamonds, didn't you? I told you you were acting like a magpie. Hmmm, I wonder if that's why magpies are so attracted to bright objects, they have Sentinel eyesight?"

"Sandburg, you're not listening. I didn't zone looking at the diamonds."

"You could've fooled me," Blair muttered.

"I zoned -- well, sort of zoned, maybe -- looking at that big, rough emerald."

"What? The emerald --?" Blair's eyes widened in surprise. "What do you mean, sort of zoned?"

"I didn't zone: I had a vision."

Blair ran his right hand through his hair. "Why don't you tell me exactly what happened, okay?"

"I was looking at the emerald, noticing how deep and dark a shade of green it was, when bam! I found myself in the jungle. It was the same jungle I'd seen before, only different. Usually, when I have a, a vision or dream, everything is blue. This time, everything was green -- the whole entire jungle. Even the panther was a dark greenish black, when he appeared."

"You saw the panther, your spirit animal?"

"Yes, he walked out of the jungle, circled me, and then -- zap! -- he transformed himself into my Spirit Guide."

"Your Spirit Guide? You recognized him?"

"He was wearing a multi-pocketed army vest and camouflage pants. Yes, I recognized him, Blair -- he had my face. He was me, back when I was in Peru."

"Oh, wow, that's awesome, man! I've seen myself as a Shaman once or twice, but I had no idea that you see yourself as your Spirit Guide."

"Ah, this isn't the first time I've seen me -- him. After Incacha --" Jim swallowed, "died, and you guided me back to my animal spirit, I saw my Spirit Guide, exactly as he appeared today -- as me."

"Okay, we'll figure out what that means, later. What else happened in your vision?

"He asked me 'why are you here?' twice. I told him I didn't know -- twice. He replied, 'Then you do not need to be' and, like the drop of a hat, I was back in the museum."

Blair reached for his beer, twisted off the cap and took a long drink. "Whew, that's some vision, Jim. I haven't the foggiest idea what it means, though. I don't recall reading about a connection between Sentinels and emeralds, but let me do some research. Hmmmm, I think that Mayan urn from the twelfth century might be a good place to start."

Jim remembered the urn from the poisonous spiders case on the campus a few years earlier. "Didn't you tell me that was a fake?"

"That particular vase was a fake, yes, Jim. But there is a real urn, with authentic writing on it, from the ancient city of Chichen Itza. It was possibly owned by the king's watcher, who may have been a Sentinel. I agree, it's kind of an iffy source, but maybe I can dig something up. At least it's a starting point." He rose from the sofa. "In the meantime, I suggest sleeping on it. We've both got a busy day tomorrow."


Jim swallowed the last bite of eggs and meat and put his fork down on the gray dining table. "Well, Chief?"

"Well what?" Blair asked absently from across the table, immersed in reading a stack of loose papers, his clean plate pushed to the side.

"It's Sunday morning and you've had over three days. I am not a patient man," Jim almost growled.

"Tell me something I don't know," Sandburg muttered.

"I can read upside-down -- like now. I see the word 'emerald' at least ten times in that top sheet of paper. So, have you found anything?"

Blair stopped reading. "It takes time to sort through everything. Anthropology is not an exact science, remember. I've come up with a bunch of interesting facts on emeralds. Your emerald in the museum is from Colombia, right? That makes sense, Colombia is renowned for its emeralds, both now and in ancient times.

"The Muzo emerald mine northwest of Bogota was originally mined by the Incas. They abandoned it and hid its location from the Spanish Conquistadors, until it was accidentally rediscovered in the seventeenth century."

Blair switched the topic abruptly. "Did you see any inclusions in the emerald at the museum? Small pieces of a mineral that's not emerald that got trapped inside the gem when it was formed?"

"Yeah, there were a few inclusions."

"That's normal in natural emeralds. And because of these inclusions or flaws, emeralds aren't very durable. The early natives of South America used that knowledge against the invading Spaniards. They told the conquistadors that a real emerald wouldn't shatter if it was struck by a hammer, but a false one would. The greedy Spaniards smashed and destroyed countless emeralds that way, before they realized that they were being duped."

"That's interesting, but not exactly helpful."

"Which is why my research is taking so much time. I found a ton of information on emeralds, but no connection between emeralds and Sentinels. So," Blair took a breath, "I had to extrapolate.

"Emeralds, in fact, all precious gems, are a sign of wealth and a source of wealth. So, who has wealth, in pre-Columbian times? The ruler, by whatever title he holds -- emperor, king, tribal chief..."

"-- Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief," Jim interrupted. "Sorry. Couldn't help myself."

"In addition to wealth," Sandburg ignored the interruption, "the ruler has power, and lots of it. The Sentinel is also a powerful member of the tribe, although not in the ruler's league." He took another breath. "Looking into an emerald gives a Sentinel access to his Spirit Guide, without requiring the presence of a Shaman or Guide. A Sentinel needs his Spirit Guide for advice, guidance, direction, help -- whatever you want to call it, it's basically a form of control."

"Control." It was one of Jim's watchwords.

"Yes. So, he who owns the emerald --"

"-- Controls the Sentinel. I don't think I like that."

"Or at least has the potential to. I mean, how often do you need your Spirit Guide, in the daily performance of your duty? It's a remote occurrence, and it would be rare for the ancient Sentinels, too, I'd think."

"Granted, it's a rarity, but when I do see the panther, it's important."

"It's just a theory, Jim. And it's about ancient Sentinels, not modern-day Sentinels."

"Aren't you always telling me that theories need to be tested?"

"Yes."

"Then we should test this one. Put the dishes in the dishwasher and grab your coat, Chief. We're going to the Cascade Museum. I want to look at that emerald again."

"It's only the third day of the Russian exhibit. The place is gonna be packed," Blair warned as he stood, gathering the dirty plates in a pile.

"If we get to the museum right as it opens, maybe we'll beat the crowds."


Jim and Blair arrived at the Cascade Museum half an hour early, and joined the fifty other people with the same bright idea waiting in line for the doors to open. Eventually, they were admitted, and the two quickly ascended the stairs to the second floor and the Russian exhibit. They walked rapidly through the costume, Faberge and porcelain rooms, but were halted by a short line outside of the gem exhibit's room.

After a ten minute wait, they were inside, standing in front of the second case, with its emeralds, rubies, sapphires and opals glittering brightly. Blair spoke softly, "Okay, Jim. I'm right here. Just do whatever you did Wednesday...."

Jim nodded and focused his attention on the huge, uncut emerald in the middle of the case....

He stood in the jungle, taking in its solid, everywhere-you-look green-ness. Jim studied the individual trees and their foliage, deciding that this was the exact same place that he'd visited the first time. He looked for the break in the underbrush that the panther had slinked out of last time. He found it, just as the panther made an encore appearance.

The green-black panther strolled over to Jim, tail swishing. It rose on its hind legs, transforming into Jim's Spirit Guide, his younger self from Peru. "Why are you here?" The thundering voice contained a note of anger, or possibly just impatience.

Jim looked into his own, disconcertingly green eyes. "I don't know."

"Why are you here?"

"I wanted to see if I could come here again," Jim admitted. "I still don't know how or why I showed up the first time."

"You will always be able to come here," the Spirit Guide's voice was milder to Jim's ears, "if you need to."

"Sandburg would say that's circular logic, you answer questions without giving any real information."

The Spirit Guide glanced away from Jim. "Take heed."

Jim gazed in the direction indicated. A small, completely green thatch hut appeared from nowhere, its open, wooden door beckoning. Then something, a green-gray wolf, dashed out of the underbrush and ran to the hut. The wolf disappeared inside the hut and the door closed. Simultaneously, Jim heard a 'thwack' and a flaming arrow landed on the hut's thatch roof, which burst into crackling flames. The trapped wolf howled... and everything disappeared in a white fog.

Jim blinked and heard Blair's heartbeat, its even, calm rhythm at his right side. He turned to meet Blair's curious gaze.

"Did it happen again? It sure didn't take long, we've only been standing here a couple of minutes."

"It felt longer."

Blair glanced up, sharply. Something about Jim's comment was -- off. "Hey, Jim, seeing as we're here and all, why don't we go check out the diamonds again? I didn't get to spend too much time here at the gala, and you did spring for two full-priced admissions."

"Okay." They stepped over to the other display case, which was brimming with diamonds. Jim glanced down at the 80-carat whopper of a brilliant cut diamond that occupied a central position in the case. He found himself gazing at it intently and Blair's crack about magpies ran through his head. So what if I am attracted to bright, shiny objects? It's not a crime... He shook his head, and focused on the sparkling diamond. That's strange, it looks different than last time, not as bright? Its fire isn't the same, either... Jim nudged his eyesight up to twenty times normal and gave the diamond a thorough going-over. At that magnification, the glints of light that accounted for the fire split into their component colors. He frowned, concentrating on mentally comparing the smeared, uneven sections of color that he now saw with the way that the diamond's fire looked Wednesday night. The diamond's appearance did not match his recollection.

Jim searched the case of diamonds, seeking out the ten-carat diamond that he'd spent the most time admiring in Rainier's geology lab. He found the smallish, brilliant diamond and zoomed in on its sparkling fire. Once again, the individual glints of light smeared into uneven color bands under his magnified sight. Jim searched the lower left quadrant of the cut gem, recalling a small flaw or inclusion that he'd seen at the lab. It wasn't there. He closely examined two additional diamonds and observed the same smeared-looking fire with his elevated vision.

Jim's lips tightened into a thin line. "Chief, let's go." He nudged Blair's arm, indicating the exit. They left the gem room, attracting a few puzzled looks at their hasty withdrawal, especially from the museum guard on duty in the gem room. Jim rapidly descended the stairway, Blair doing his best to keep up, then they walked over to the information desk.

"Is Katrina Vaslova here?" Jim asked the rather harried-looking brunette manning the desk. He discreetly showed his badge. "It's important."

"She's not working today, sir, may I take a message? I'll see that she gets it ASAP."

"Is she at her hotel, then?" At the girl's nod, Jim said, "I'll contact her there, thanks." Jim headed for the closest exit doors, Blair following.

As soon as they were outside and walking towards the parking lot, Blair stopped. "Jim." He latched onto Ellison's shoulder. "What's going on? Talk to me, man!"

"The diamonds are fake -- I don't know how many, but definitely some of them."

Blair gaped, his hand falling off Jim's shoulder. "What?"

"The diamonds have been replaced with fakes."

"Jim, how do you know that? You're not an expert."

"No, but I looked at four of the diamonds using twenty times normal vision, and they don't hold up. For one thing, that ten-carat diamond that Doug showed us had a small flaw in it -- it's gone, now. And the colors are all smeared, not as sharp. I checked four of the cut diamonds and they were all like that."

"Oh my god! What're you going to do?"

"Tell Katrina."

"How? You can't just barge in and tell her they're fakes! She won't believe you."

"Hmm, you've got a point, there. We'll have to figure something out on the way to her hotel."


Ellison and Sandburg walked down the Imperial Hotel's corridor, stopping at room 1917. Jim knocked and heard footsteps approaching the door from the other side. After a short pause, long enough for someone to utilize the peephole, he heard the bolt being unlocked.

"Jim!" Katrina's voice was surprised as she opened the door wider. "And Blair. Please come in," she stepped back, allowing them to enter. She was casually dressed in blue jeans and a forest green Angola sweater.

Katrina led them past a king-sized bed and over to a floral patterned love seat and chair, at the far side of the room. The standard conversational grouping flanked the balcony doors and windows that comprised the room's outside wall. She sat in the chair, leaving the sofa for her guests.

"I'm sorry to bother you at home," Jim said as he sat down, "but we're here on business -- police business."

"Yes?" Katrina's eyebrows rose.

"We have reason to believe that the diamonds in the Russian exhibit might be forgeries."

"Wha-at? That is not possible!" Katrina insisted, stridently. She took a calming breath. "This reason, what is it?"

"I heard something from my best snitch."

"Your snitch? That is an informer, yes?"

"Yes."

"And what makes you think he is not lying?"

"Why should he lie?" Jim argued, "He's not a fence, or a burglar; he's not connected to the gems in any way."

"Then how does he know what he supposedly knows about the diamonds?"

"Hey, guys, time out," Sandburg entered the conversation. "Look, Katrina, this is a lot to process, all at once. And I can understand you having reservations about Jim's information. But what if he's right? It seems to me the first step is to verify the authenticity of the diamonds. That should settle the reliability of Jim's snitch, at least."

"That makes sense to me, Chief. Katrina?"

"It is quite time-consuming to verify the authenticity of the diamonds. However, in view of the circumstances, it can be arranged. It will have to be done discreetly, and quickly. I will have Dr. Rudin check the stones tonight, after the exhibit closes."

"I'd like to be there."

"No, Jim, that is not possible. It is a Russian matter, you understand."

"Look, no offense, but should you rely only on Dr. Rudin's verification of the diamonds?"

Katrina understood Jim's point. "I will have an outside expert verify the diamonds, unknown to Dr. Rudin."

"Can you get one, on such short notice? I know --" Blair was about to recommend Doug Logan. He saw Jim shake his head, and broke off.

"I'm sure any one of the local gem experts would jump at the chance to examine the diamonds, close up," Jim said. "It would be like a dream come true, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to handle such well-known diamonds."

"I thought you thought the diamonds are fake?" Katrina asked, then shrugged. "Never mind, I will know by tonight."

"We'll drop by your office first thing tomorrow, for the results."

"I could phone you."

"I'd prefer to hear them in person," Jim said firmly.

"You really do believe they are forgeries?"

"I believe my source, Katrina. Like I said, he's my best snitch."

He and Blair rose from the sofa, and Katrina trailed them to the door. "Thanks for talking to us. See you tomorrow morning." They exchanged good-byes and left. Katrina stared at the closed door, pondering the best way to approach Dr. Rudin with her unorthodox request.


Act IV

"Inspector Vaslova." The museum secretary knocked, then opened Katrina's office door. "Your visitors are here."

"Thank you. Come in, gentlemen." Katrina watched from her desk as Jim and Blair entered the corner office, on the museum's third floor. "Make yourself comfortable," she said, indicating two chairs in front of her mahogany desk. She indicated her other visitor, a tall young man poring over an open file, seated to the left of the desk. "Jim, you remember Nikoli, yes? Blair Sandburg, this is Captain Nikoli Satsurov, my assistant security chief. He is helping me in this matter."

Nikoli looked up from the file, his blue eyes scanning the Americans intently. "How do you do?"

Katrina picked up the top sheet from a stack of papers on her desk. "The results of the examination, Jim." She handed the paper to him. "You were right," she said grimly. "Twenty of the cut diamonds are fakes, as both Dr. Rudin and the independent expert verified in my presence, last night."

"Half of the diamonds are fake? How much are they worth?"

"As part of Russian history," Captain Satsurov said, "they are priceless to us. Your expert gave them a 'street value' of between half a million and three-quarters of a million dollars."

Blair whistled, "Whew, that's a lot of money."

"Too rich for the fences," Jim mused, "must've been an arranged buyer -- someone like a black market art collector, who doesn't care if he has stolen goods, as long as he has them."

"Ahem." Katrina got their attention. "You are overlooking an obvious suspect. Mikki Kamarev."

Jim's "What?" collided with Blair's "No way, man!"

"She is Russian," Katrina said, calmly ticking the items off. "As you are perfectly aware, she has been involved with stolen diamonds before. She was at the ball Wednesday night. She has motive and opportunity -- and contacts to sell the stolen diamonds to."

"She didn't do it," Jim said decisively.

"How do you know, were your eyes on her all night? You were supposed to be my date!"

"Katrina --"

"Pardon, that was most unprofessional of me." Katrina steepled her fingers. "When I found out the diamonds were fake, I asked myself, 'How did Jim know this?'"

Before Ellison could interrupt, she continued. "It is true, you were not Miss Kamarev's date -- but Mr. Sandburg was. Perhaps he saw something or heard something that made him suspicious. He passed his suspicions on to you, and you acted on them, because they came from your 'best snitch.'"

"Inspector Vaslova." Jim's voice was cold. "Blair is not and never has been my snitch. You have nothing concrete to connect Mikki to the fake diamonds and you know it. She only had access to the diamonds on the night of the ball, when she was surrounded by a thousand or so members of Cascade's high society. In addition, there were security guards on duty, not to mention the museum's sophisticated surveillance equipment. You're barking up the wrong tree.

"You'd do well to examine your staff, particularly anyone with unlimited access to the diamonds."

"Ah, by that you mean Dr. Rudin, of course. For your information, I have considered Dr. Rudin's case."

Jim took a quick look at Katrina's face, seeing past the artfully applied makeup to the dark circles under her eyes. She probably hadn't slept a wink last night, he realized.

"I was with Dr. Rudin when he examined the diamonds. Fyodor was extremely surprised and upset when he discovered the fake diamonds. He was not acting, he was almost shocked when he found the first fake. I had to give him valium to get him to sleep last night. He is resting, and under orders to keep the information confidential."

"May I ask a question, Inspector?" Blair interrupted.

"Yes?"

"When is the last time that you're certain the diamonds were all real? Do you know?"

"We have been traveling in America for over a year, now. We have an established routine for opening and closing the exhibit at each stop. We are particularly careful in handling the more valuable parts of the exhibit, like the gems. Therefore, before every opening, we have the diamonds and other cut gemstones certified by Dr. Rudin and, as a nod to our host city, a local gem expert. The diamonds were all certified and authentic on Wednesday afternoon, the fourteenth -- just a few hours before the Fire and Ice Ball."

"The local expert's name," Captain Satsurov added from his file, "is a Mr. Douglas Logan."

"Doug?" Blair blinked.

"You know this man?" Katrina asked, interested.

"He's a friend of mine; we share an office at Rainier."

Jim glanced at the list of fake diamonds. "Inspector, are you aware that Doug Logan had three of your exhibit's diamonds in his possession earlier this month, on the second? Dr. Rudin gave them to him to polish."

"No, I was not aware of that."

"Jim --" Blair started to say.

Nikoli Satsurov picked up a stapled list from the mahogany desk and flipped through it. "Yes, here it is, Mr. Douglas Logan and Miss Lila Entwhistle attended the Fire and Ice Ball. I presume he got the tickets from Fyodor."

"Hmmm, perhaps Mikki Kamarev and Douglas Logan were working together." Katrina said.

"Now, wait just a minute! Doug's not involved in this!" Blair protested, hotly.

"Are you saying that academics do not lie, cheat, or steal, Professor Sandburg?" the captain asked, smoothly. "Oh, but it isn't professor anymore; you no longer teach, do you?"

Ellison turned his laser-sharp eyes on Satsurov with cold intensity.

"I am not. I am saying," Blair's voice was precise, "that Doug Logan is well-liked by his students, respected and admired by his professional peers, and engaged to marry a fantastic woman. In short, he is a man very contented with his life. We are looking for someone who is not."

"In your opinion, Mr. Sandburg," Katrina said firmly, "In my opinion, we are looking for someone with motive, method and the opportunity to steal the diamonds. I shall want to interview Mikki Kamarev."

"Like you did before?" Jim challenged, remembering how the inspector had interrogated Mikki the last time she was a suspect in custody. "I don't think so. I'll talk to Mikki and inform you of the results."

"I shall contact your superiors --"

"Contact whoever you like." Jim stood up. "I've got a case to solve. C'mon, Chief, we're leaving. This meeting is adjourned."


Late the Next Afternoon

"I hate to admit it, Simon," Jim said, setting his coffee mug on the conference table in Banks' office, "but we're stumped."

He, Blair and Simon were having a closed-door meeting to discuss the diamond theft. The Mayor of Cascade, personally, had informed Captain Banks that the Russian case was a top-secret, top-priority case. Simon, Sandburg and Jim were the only members of Major Crimes who knew about the fake diamonds and the mayor expected it to stay that way. He also expected the case to be solved, pronto, and if it wasn't, well, there was always the FBI....

Simon rubbed a hand over his eyes, and longed for the celebratory cigar he had promised himself when this case was finished. "Your interview with Mikki Kamarev didn't turn up any leads?"

"No, Simon, it didn't. I went over her movements very thoroughly. And she got very angry, when she realized she was a suspect, but she cooperated. In my book, she's cleared, sir. Didn't have a thing to do with the fake diamonds, was hurt and angry that I thought she did." Jim sighed, "It'll be a long time before she forgives me, too. Then I had to call Katrina and tell her about the interview -- that went over almost as well as my conversation with Mikki."

"How about you, Sandburg? Anything to report?"

"Well, sir, I had a tough time convincing Doug that he was a serious suspect," Blair said from his seat next to Jim. "Once we got over that hurdle, he told me everything. He's known Fyodor Rudin since '94, they were on the same panel at an international gemology conference. They've met again at several conferences, and mostly keep in touch by email.

"Dr. Rudin emailed him last month about the exhibit coming to Cascade. That's when he asked if Doug could polish a few of the exhibit's lesser diamonds. Doug told me more than I wanted to know about diamond and gemstone polishing. Apparently, it's a complicated, meticulous process and it takes an expert quite a while to polish a gem properly. Fyodor gave Doug a pair of tickets to the Fire and Ice Ball: the Russian staff each gets six or eight tickets, depending on their seniority.

"Doug gave me the background on Dr. Rudin, too. Fyodor Rudin has a doctorate in gemology -- his specialty is diamonds -- from the University of Moscow. He's in his mid-fifties, divorced with no children. He's a professor at Kiev University, on sabbatical, to be attached to the Splendors of Russia exhibit."

Sandburg took a breath. "Doug said that getting a position in the tour was considered a feather in Fyodor's cap. The competition among the academics was fierce, everyone wanted what was perceived to be a cushy, prestigious job, touring the decadent US for a year and a half."

"Fyodor's a great gossip. He told Doug the Russian museum staff -- the curator, the experts, the assistants and the secretaries -- weren't too thrilled with the Inspector at first. But she proved to be hardworking and fair, not as 'military' as they thought she'd be, and they warmed up to her."

"Is that all, Sandburg?" Simon asked wryly as Blair paused for another breath.

"Well, sir," Jim said, "you did ask him for a full report."

A knock interrupted their conversation. "Come in," Simon ordered.

The door opened and Henri Brown stepped inside. "I've got those names that Jim asked for, sir." He took another couple of steps and gave Jim the information.

"Thanks, H," Jim said. The conversation didn't resume until after Brown left.

"What's that, Jim?"

"A long shot, sir," Jim answered ruefully. "Something Megan said, about the Russian navy vessel... It's a list of people who've rented or bought property around the docks in the last three months. I thought maybe we'd get lucky and spot a Russian name like Tolstoy or Chekov -- someone trying to be too clever... We'll I'll be."

"What, Jim?" Sandburg asked.

"Fyodor Rudin rented a small office space at the docks in January. Paid for four months' rent, up front. But that doesn't make sense."

"Maybe it does," Blair contradicted excitedly. "What's the one thing we've overlooked in this case?"

"An accomplice?" Simon guessed.

"The other twenty diamonds?" Jim asked doubtfully.

"No, the timing! If Jim hadn't accidentally discovered that the diamonds were counterfeit, when is the next time they would've been verified? Remember, Cascade is the last city on the tour."

Jim thought quickly. "When the exhibit is dismantled, at the end of March. Or possibly, not until their ship docks in Russia."

"Right. We know that the diamonds were swapped with the fakes sometime between Wednesday night and Sunday morning. But the thief was counting on the switch not being uncovered until late March at the earliest, six weeks from now. So --"

"Maybe he still has the diamonds, and hasn't turned them over to his buyer, or whoever, yet." Jim grinned. "Nice job of deducting, Junior."

"This was a well-thought out robbery, but our guy's plans have been thoroughly trashed by the premature discovery of the fakes. He's got to be running scared."

"Wait a minute, how does the thief know that the cat is out of the bag?" Simon asked, then answered his own question. "Unless it's an inside job, which it just about has to be, considering all the specialized knowledge required to pull it off."

"So, Captain, can you get me a search warrant for --" Jim scanned the list for a moment, "1762 North Dockside?"

"I can't," Simon said, reaching for the phone, "but I'm sure the mayor can get a judge to issue the warrant. It'll be waiting for you first thing tomorrow morning."


Jim pulled the Ford to a stop a street before the 1700 block of Dockside. He turned to Blair and chuckled. "C'mon, Sandburg, it's not that cold," he said, watching in amusement as Blair rubbed his gloved hands together and blew on them.

"It's twenty-five degrees, Jim; that's below freezing -- that means COLD, in my book."

"Oh, well, at least you didn't bring that ridiculous Fargo hat."

They stepped out of the truck, Jim pausing to turn up the collar on his black pea jacket. Sandburg grinned but didn't say anything and they walked down the block towards Rudin's rented office. As they approached the small one-story building, Jim cranked his hearing up, checking to see if anyone was inside the premises.

The dockside area was full of the scent of the sea and commerce: salt water, diesel fuel, fish, gasoline, more fish. Jim stopped to clear his sense of smell, when he caught an unexpected odor: napalm. I've got a bad feeling about this... He saw Blair, almost at the front door of the small office building. Deja vu! My Guide next to a wooden door, about to enter...

"Blair! No!"

Jim launched himself at Blair, tackling him by the knees and knocking him to the ground. Jim wound up on top of Sandburg, covering him. A stream of fire burst over them, connecting with the door about four feet above the ground. The door burst into flames.

"Blair! Chief, are you all right?" Jim asked anxiously, shifting off his partner and backing away from the burning door, keeping low to the ground.

"I'm fine," Blair answered, stunned. He got to his knees and scrambled after Ellison. "Jim, you moron, you're on fire!" Blair whacked the back of Jim's coat, trying to stamp out the small flame in the middle of Jim's coat.

"Napalm from the flame thrower must've dripped onto my coat. Thanks."

"Flame thrower? What is going on here?!"

"Judging from the trajectory, he fired from across the street. Maximum range is forty-five yards, so he's got to be close. Stay here and call for backup."

"Stay here?" Blair echoed. "No way, man, the place is burning up! I'm coming with you, Jim. Don't worry about backup, surely someone's already dialed 911. Let's go!"

"Keep behind me, then," Jim ordered. He surveyed the other side of the street with his Sentinel vision. "It's clear." They jumped to their feet and darted across the street. Jim immediately made his way to the gap between the two business houses directly across from the burning property.

"He was here," Jim said with certainty, sniffing the area. "I can still smell the napalm."

"Where'd he go, then?"

Jim inhaled, searching for more napalm. "There." He pointed towards an abandoned gas station, halfway down the block. They jogged over to the gas station, pausing to regroup under the still-standing roofing that had protected long-gone customers from the weather. Jim pulled his gun and waited a few seconds for Blair to do likewise. Then they raced over to the closed and locked garage doors, approaching the front door cautiously.

Jim reached over and grasped the door's handle, and it creaked open, unlocked. He called into the darkened interior. "Give it up! We're armed and we've got the place surrounded!"

"We're armed? Jim, he's got a flame thrower!"

"A portable flame thrower only has enough fuel for ten seconds of fire, which he's already used up." Jim shouted his explanation, wanting their quarry to hear it. "C'mon, you're running on empty here. Give yourself up." Jim caught the distant wail of police sirens. "Do yourself a favor, buddy. In five minutes, this place'll be swarming with cops and the SWAT team."

"Okay, I give up!" the Russian accented voice called from the interior, resigned.

"Good, take off the pack and come out with your hands over your head," Jim instructed. "Remember, my gun'll be on you the whole time."

Jim dialed his hearing up, listening to the rustle as the Russian squirmed out of the backpack that housed the flame thrower's fuel tanks and hose. Then he heard footsteps coming towards the door, and tensed, ready. Nikoli Satsurov stood framed in the doorway, hands in the air.

An unmarked police car screeched to a halt about fifteen feet away and Brown and Rafe jumped out. They sped over to Jim and Blair.

"About time you guys showed up," Jim teased. "Here, H, keep track of our prisoner, will ya? Sandburg and I have a search warrant to execute."

Henri pulled out his cuffs and asked the Russian captain to lower his hands, one at a time. He cuffed Satsurov, "You have the right to remain silent..."

"Jim, the building's on fire!"

"No, it's not, the firemen already had it put out when we got there." Rafe said.

"C'mon, Chief. Let's go." Jim started walking back towards Dockside Drive, Sandburg falling in behind him. They covered the short distance quickly.

"-- Still don't know what you think you'll find, Jim," Blair said as they arrived at the cordoned-off, small building. The fire had not been extensive, the front door and window showing the most damage.

Jim sought out the lead fireman on the scene and flashed his badge. "Cascade PD. Is it safe to go inside? We need to search the premises."

"Well, I'm not encouraging it, mind you," the six-foot-two fireman said, "but it's safe. Use the back door and don't stay too long. We're just about wrapped up, here."

"Thanks." Jim nodded to Blair and they circled around to the back door of the building. Jim pulled out a credit card and expertly jiggled the locked door open. They stepped inside and Jim promptly coughed in the faintly smoky air. He dialed his sense of smell down.

"What're we looking for, Tough Guy?"

"The diamonds."

"What? You really think they're here?"

"You don't guard a place with a flame thrower for no reason, Sandburg. They're here."

"Jim, this place almost burned down because of that flame thrower!"

"He wasn't trying to hit the building, Blair, he was aiming at you."

"Oh." Sandburg didn't know what to say, so he surveyed the office. Like the converted businesses across the street, the place was really an old residence turned into an office. The furnishings were sparse, covering just the basics, but the kitchen was still intact.

Blair walked over to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. Jim heard the noise and tracked Sandburg to the kitchen, just in time to see him pull an ice tray from the freezer.

"You're kidding, right? How many movies have you seen where they hide valuables in the ice cubes?"

"Maybe Russia doesn't have the same movies." Blair set the old-fashioned metal tray down on the countertop. He braced the tray bottom with his left hand and yanked backwards on the lever, breaking the ice into individual chunks.

Jim stared intently at the exposed ice. "Son of a gun! You found the diamonds, Chief."


Friday Night

Jim sat on the navy sofa, relaxing with the newspaper after supper. Blair put the last glass in the dishwasher and closed it, then grabbed two beers from the fridge. He walked over to the living room and poked Jim's paper.

"Here." Blair held out the beer as Jim folded his paper neatly into quarters and set it down. "What a week." He joined Jim on the couch.

"I'll drink to that," Jim quipped, taking a swig of beer.

"I mean it's not fair. Here you solve one of the biggest cases of your career and no one knows it, because officially nothing happened. That sucks, man."

"We know what happened and Simon does, too. For that matter, so do Katrina and Mikki -- and they're both talking to me, again." Jim smiled.

"Both of them? Isn't that playing with fire?"

Jim groaned, "I can't believe you said that."

"And speaking of fire," Blair's tone changed, "you never told me how you knew about that flame thrower."

Jim sighed. "I meant to, honest. But we got so caught up in this case... My Spirit Guide warned me, the second time I looked into the emerald. He didn't come right out and say it, though. He said 'take heed' and showed me a thatch hut with an open door. A gray wolf, well, greenish-gray, everything was green there -- ran into the hut and the door slammed shut. Then a flaming arrow struck the roof and it went up in flames, the wolf howling inside. Next thing I knew, I was back in the museum, with you."

"And then you discovered the diamonds were fake. I can see where that would distract you. But Jim, next time you get a premonition or visit from your Spirit Guide, tell me, okay?"

"Okay."

"Did he say anything else?"

"He asked me 'why are you here?' again -- twice. I told him I didn't know, then I said to see if I could repeat the experience, something like that. He said 'you will always be able to come here, if you need to', then he showed me the warning about the wolf."

"Y'know, Jim, I think I've got another theory about the emerald. Wait a sec." Sandburg leaped to his feet and went to his bedroom. Jim heard him shifting papers and muttering, then he returned.

"Look at this," Blair said, holding out a green-colored flyer.

Jim took the proffered flyer and read it.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PD!
15th Annual Community/Cascade Picnic
Saturday, March 10, 2001
RAIN or SHINE,
Come have a good time!

Tickets: $10/couple to benefit
The Cascade Youth Organization

See Rhonda for ticket and potluck info....

He put the flyer down on the coffee table. "Chief, how does the PD's annual picnic tie in with the emerald?"

"It's about support, Jim, not control. The Sentinel looks after the tribe, and the tribe looks after the Sentinel. The emerald allows the Sentinel contact with his Spirit Guide, when the Sentinel's Shaman, or Guide, if you prefer, is unable to."

"When the Guide is sick, or injured, or --" It's just a word, say it, "dead."

"Yes. When the Sentinel has his greatest need for guidance."

"'You will always be able to come here, if you need to.'" Jim quoted softly. "I hope I never need to... But you must do your part, too."

"What's that?"

"Stay safe, Chief."

"Not a problem, man. I've got you as my partner, remember?"

~ Finis ~

E-mail the author of this story, Sue Wells, at swellison@ev1.net
Read Sue's other fan fiction for The Sentinel at Mackie's Idol Pursuits
E-mail Faux Paws Productions at fauxpawsproductions@yahoo.com
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