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.
December 7, 2000
Government Document Depository
He stared at the papers in front of him, re-reading them for the umpteenth time. There was no room for error once the call was made. He double-checked the name, rank, serial number, incident date -- it was all there. Not to mention the bonus of a current address.
"Yes," he said quietly, yet emphatically, to himself. He'd spent the better part of the year anticipating this day. While others were counting the days till the "new Millennium," he'd been counting the days till the end of his obligation. And this was it.
His fingers trembled as he flipped through the Rolodex. He'd studied that particular Rolodex card every day, hoping to use it, hoping every morning to dial it before the day's end. And now he could. Even though the office was empty, he glanced nervously over his shoulder before grabbing the receiver and dialing. Halfway through the number, the knuckles in his left hand spasmed and almost caused him to hit a wrong button. He let out a long, slow breath waiting for an answer on the other end.
A party picked up and greeted him gruffly. Once more, he checked over his shoulder, then spoke into the receiver. "This is Corporal Gauer, sir. I..." His voice broke suddenly and he swallowed hard before continuing. "I have those papers you've been looking for. The request for a certain set of files...."
The voice on the other end sounded rather pleased and the corporal smiled smugly, then sat back in his government-issue chair. "They're right here in my hand, sir. I'll have them in the mail to you this afternoon."
The voice was immediately angry.
And he was immediately repentant. "This afternoon? Did I say this afternoon? No, sir. I wouldn't think of making you wait. Yes, sir. I'll walk them over to you personally. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Of course, sir."
The other party disconnected and Gauer breathed a sigh of relief as he laid his head on the desk in front of him. His break was short-lived. The sound of an opening door snapped him to attention.
Gauer turned to find his commanding officer heading directly for him. In an effort to look busy, he set the papers in his hand on the desk in front of him and shuffled some of his loose files. As the man drew closer, he stood straight up. "Yes, colonel. What can I help you with, sir?" The smile on his face wilted as he noticed the pile of files in the colonel's hands.
"Resume your seat, corporal," the colonel said, and watched as Gauer took his seat and shuffled some papers about. "Do you know what this is, son?"
Honestly baffled, Gauer replied, "A new research project, sir?"
With a grunt, the colonel set the stack of accordion folders on Gauer's desk. "What do they look like? They're declassified files. Or did you forget what department this is?" Giving a short huff of exasperation, he thumped the top of the paper stack with his index finger and scowled at his underling. "These were opened last month. Hell, the request was authorized over two months ago! Would you like to explain why they're still here in this office when they should be in Denver?"
He was pleased to see the corporal squirm. It wasn't often that his job afforded him that little comfort. The offices were mostly staffed with civilians now. Not that the depository was a boring assignment. He could think of worse ways to spend his last couple years before retirement. He'd done his tours, earned his boring command. Still, being able to make Gauer uncomfortable once in a while was worth it.
Setting his hands on his hips, he gave the corporal a menacing glare. "You needed to get these out of here last week. A rather irate friend called me asking about them. Imagine my surprise when I found them still awaiting their final clearances." He thumped the stack one more time and watched the young enlisted man fidget in his seat.
"I took the liberty of giving them the go-ahead in the computer. All you gotta do is get them boxed and outta here before the 11 AM pick-up today. I gave my word they'd be at the Denver Federal Building by 10 AM tomorrow -- and I'm not going to let the judge down."
Gauer looked at his watch and tried to control his temper. "Begging the colonel's pardon, but that gives me less than thirty minutes, sir."
Controlling the urge to smirk, the colonel set a hand firmly on the stack of files. "Yes, Corporal Gauer. When I was your age, I knew how to bug out an entire unit in twenty minutes. And I should hope that after two years in this office, you would be able to box up files in less than thirty. If you can't, then maybe you need a transfer to somewhere that could teach you the benefits of doing things quickly. Say, the Arctic Outpost?"
Gauer stifled a smart-alec reply. "No, sir. I don't think that's necessary. I'll just have to put off processing these new requests." For emphasis, he pointed to the stack of miscellaneous papers in front of him. "You know the deadline for these is coming up fast."
Unsurprised by the bargaining ploy, the colonel patted Gauer on the shoulder, then surveyed the desktop. "No sense in delaying things -- We only have a couple weeks left to get the requests approved. I'll take the pile off your desk...." He reached for the pile of forms sitting in the center of the desk blotter.
"But, sir!" Gauer set his hand on the stack of forms, only slightly panicked. "Seeing as how I'll have these files handled by eleven hundred, I think it's safe to assume I can process the forms when I'm done." He looked up at his superior officer with a slight smile. "I'm sure the colonel has other things to occupy his time."
"Sure I do," he quipped. "But so do you. Besides this batch for Denver, there are seventy sets that need to be boxed and sent by the end of your shift today. One of the civvies went home sick fifteen minutes ago. I volunteered you to take her place."
Gauer barely managed to suppress his groan. Spending the day boxing documents wasn't a bad job. In fact, it was more active than the desk job he had. Cross-checking security status and approving requisitioned files for declassification seemed to leech the energy from him. Of course it had its undisclosed benefits. It certainly afforded him the opportunity to make an extra buck here and there.
Some people will do anything to keep things secret, he thought with a smile. Then again, some people will do anything to get to the truth --
"This is no time for daydreaming, corporal!" the colonel barked.
Gauer snapped out of his stupor and let his smile wither. "Yes, sir."
"Then let's get on it. By my calculations, you now have less than twenty-four minutes to make that courier pick-up. Let's see some hustle!"
The corporal stood up quickly and took the stack of files his superior offered, then headed to the mail room.
The colonel watched Gauer make his way grudgingly through the door. He gave a slight chuckle and started to leave, but remembered the stack of requests. Gathering up the files from the corporal's desk, he headed for his office to process them.
Thursday of This Week
"But I've already looked there...."
Blair exited his room, pushing a hand through his hair as if it would relieve the headache forming at his temples. He listened through the phone as Jim once again insisted he look in their utility closet in the building's basement.
"I know fishing rods don't just walk away, Jim." Blair rolled his eyes at the typical Ellison comment. "Yeah, yeah -- it's a FLY rod -- it must have sprouted wings... Ha ha... Are you sure you didn't loan it to Simon that last time he and Daryl went --" His comment was cut off by a derisive snort from the other end of the phone. "Fine. Fine. I'll look again."
Conceding was the best way to keep the peace at that moment. He'd look again, then let Jim find it when he got home. Having packed all the rest of the equipment -- since Jim had volunteered to fill in for Henri's day shift -- Blair just wanted to put the stress of the city behind him for four days. No research, no reports, and no bad guys.
"Geez, I hope no bad guys," Blair whispered.
Jim's painfully loud voice boomed from the receiver. Blair held the phone at arm's length. "What? No! I was just... I was just thinking out loud." He rolled his eyes when Jim made a smart-alec comment. "Ha ha.. Yes," Blair mocked, "I read out loud, so I think out loud too. You are just TOO funny today, man."
Any other time, the small barbs would have made him smile and shake his head. Today, though, after a tough week of inquiries at the U and the full day packing for the trip -- well, the Ellison humor was tanking badly. The headache was getting worse, too. Whether it was stress, or just the fact that he hadn't eaten much for lunch, Blair wasn't certain. He just knew there was a knocking in his head that was growing louder.
In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd swear it was resounding in his ears.
There it was again: that knocking.
From the other end of the phone, Jim commanded him to get the door. "Right. Get the door. Got it... Later." Shaking his head, Sandburg turned off the phone and tried to smile at his own folly. He'd been so caught up in planning and prepping for their trip -- not to mention stressing over a certain Sentinel's prized fly rod -- that he'd failed to recognize reality.
Peering through the peep hole in the loft's front door, Blair quirked an eyebrow up at the sight of a man in military fatigues with a corporal's rank. A quick chill made its way up his spine. The sight of the man's sidearm didn't reassure him any. Looking around, Sandburg spied a baseball bat peeking out from under the edge of Jim's leather jacket. He grabbed it quickly, holding it ready as he opened the door a bit -- leaving the chain on, of course -- and greeted the visitor.
"Can I help you?" Blair asked cautiously.
The young man looked down at the large manila envelope in his hand, then up at the youthful face staring back at him. "Uh -- Captain Ellison?"
"Not hardly," Sandburg said without a laugh. "I can sign for that, though, if that's all you need." Blair forced a smile, then shut the door momentarily and breathed a sigh of relief. Setting the bat down next to him, he released the chain. As he reopened the door and peered into the hallway, the courier handed him a clipboard and pointed to a numbered line. After a liberal scribble at #17, Blair handed back the clipboard and reached for the package.
It wasn't going to be that easy, though.
"You forgot to print your name under the signature, sir," the courier said.
Military precision at its finest. Careful not to shake his head at military rigmarole, Sandburg took back the clipboard and filled in the necessary blank under his squiggle. Joke's on you, buddy, he thought. My printing's no better.
Satisfied with the completed form, the corporal handed the package to the curly-haired guy, then turned quickly and headed down the hall to the stairs.
Blair shut the door behind him, and examined the envelope. It was just a regular 9" x 12" mailing envelope, like the kind used for sending reports. He immediately wondered what sort of things the military would be sending to Jim now. "Geez, man. You re-enlisting or what?"
Examining the postmark, Blair flinched momentarily. He knew by the messenger that the package was from the military. But the return address was Washington, D.C., which unsettled him deeply. While the envelope was big enough to hold a sheaf of about forty pages, it didn't seem to be filled completely. In fact, it felt more like it had been reinforced with a couple of pieces of cardboard. He wasn't sure what that meant, but he knew that if Jim wanted him to know, he'd tell him later.
After turning the envelope over once or twice in his hand, Blair forced a shrug of indifference and set the package on top of his backpack. As he turned to walk away, something made him rethink his decision to leave the letter out. Stuffing the parcel into his pack, Blair diverted his attention back to his original mystery.
"Now, if I were a fly rod, where would I be?"
"There's our man."
He looked at his partner and rolled his eyes. "I can see that's our man. I'm the one with the friggin' binoculars!" Sometimes the man just didn't use his brain. Thankfully, the man was a master with rifles and trajectories, otherwise, he'd still be cooking at Fort Bragg.
"You want we should go after him?"
He rolled his eyes again. "No, Jester. I want to go back to base and think of another way to get this job done."
If he rolled his eyes any more, they'd get stuck that way. Smacking his associate in the back of the head, he tried very hard to keep his temper from flaring further. "Jester, you really enjoyed that frontal lobotomy, didn't you?" Jester didn't answer. "Rabb, MacRaney," he said into the radio, "follow the kid. See if he can give you any information."
That task completed, he opened the door, and exited the van. He was pleased when Jester appeared next to him just after he saw his men heading down Prospect.
"What are we doing now, sir?"
He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "We're gonna go check the premises..."
"What if someone's still home?"
He pulled his weapon and chambered a round before heading across the street. "We can only hope someone is."
Jim hung up the phone and shook his head. His partner must need a vacation more than he'd thought. It wasn't surprising, after the past few weeks. Between cases and class work, Blair hadn't had a free minute in weeks. Still, he strived to be as devoted to each element of his life as he'd ever been. The paperwork didn't always get done exactly on time, but it was closer than it had ever been before. And more than once, Jim had found Blair asleep at his books, be they mug shots or texts. Jim knew it wasn't easy for Blair to handle everything. That's why this fishing trip was so necessary.
As soon as the monthly schedule was posted, Jim had called a friend and arranged for a cabin for their four-day weekend between rotations. There would be no books, no reports, and if they were lucky, no criminals. Hell, there might not even be any fish....
Not that it would be a bad thing.
Jim shook his head and smiled.
Captain Banks stepped away from his office door and headed for Ellison's desk. The smile on Ellison's face let Simon know his shaking head was more from amusement than discouragement. It was nice to see his friend in a good mood. It would definitely work to his advantage.
Jim looked up and chuckled. He'd been so wrapped up in his thoughts, he hadn't heard Simon approach. "What's up, sir?"
"You and Sandburg all set for the weekend?" Simon asked casually.
"Uh, not exactly," Jim began, still smiling. "You know how Blair is. He can lose things he didn't even touch. Never mind the fact that I've told him five times where it is."
Banks gave a deep rumble of a laugh as he sat on the edge of Ellison's desk. "Sounds like the kid still needs some training."
Ellison laughed along and nodded. "On a regular basis, I think."
Banks smiled widely before dropping his news into Ellison's lap. "Well, then, you won't mind lending him to the academy for a couple days, right?"
"'Excuse me?" Jim managed as he sat up straight. "Lend him to the academy? For what?"
Simon stood up quickly and faced down his detective. "Whoa! It's nothing bad. I was just talking with a couple of the academy officials."
Ellison looked at his captain and tried not to panic. Whenever the academy called Major Crime, the subject was invariably Sandburg. Usually it wasn't bad things -- a lecture here, a consultation there but Jim didn't get the feeling it was going to be class work this time. And even if it was, he knew Blair was over-extended. There might not be time in the schedule.
"Ellison!" Banks bellowed, getting Jim's attention. "You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?"
There were chuckles from more than a few of the detectives in the bullpen.
Jim glanced around the office, then stared up at Simon. "Sorry. I was thinking. What does the academy want?"
After a rather dramatic sigh, Simon repeated the offer. "It's time for driver evaluations, and they want Blair to be the Fox for this year's academy chase."
"Oh, they've gotta be kidding," Jim said, hoping it was a joke. When Simon shook his head, his stomach knotted. "After everything that happened last year, they've got the nerve to ask this --" Cutting himself off before he said the wrong thing, Jim turned his attention away from Simon for a moment.
Simon wouldn't be dismissed that easily. "It's just the driving course, Jim. It's an honor to be chosen. They only ask the ones they think can elude capture."
Jim wouldn't hear it. "No, Simon. They pick the ones they think are easy targets!"
"Then why do they pick you so often?" Simon countered.
Ellison clenched his jaw tightly and crossed his arms over his chest. "Cause Captain MacLaren's got a beef with me. Every time I've been picked, it's because he thinks he's got some hotshot who can finally take me down."
The two men stared at each other. Simon let his mind process the information, eventually Breaking into a smile. No wonder old Mackie had always seemed so mad around Ellison. Something else stuck in Banks's mind. "Wait a minute. MacLaren's son was in your class, wasn't he?"
"No," Jim replied quietly. "It was his nephew, his sister's only kid. MacLaren wanted the kid to be number one. Bragged about it, even. I don't know exactly why the captain singled me out for his axe. There musta been at least a dozen of us who finished higher than Todd."
"Yeah," Simon agreed. "But you got all the press at your graduation, didn't you?"
It wasn't something Jim wanted to remember. He'd spent a good deal of the past few years putting it out of his mind. After the Peru incident, his entire life seemed to wind up in the public eye. From headlines to nightly reports, his arrival home after discharge had been covered by World Press; first day in attendance at the CPD Academy was almost as big as Elvis's send-off; even his marriage to Carolyn had made the New York Times Magazine Society pages. It was one of the reasons he'd grown the goatee and pierced his ear for working in Vice. Anything to make himself into someone else. There were days when he wished he were still there, still undercover, practically anonymous.
"Jim!" Banks barked, giving his friend a small chuck on the shoulder.
Ellison blinked and shook off his stupor. "Sorry, I was just --" He stopped when Simon's hand went up.
"Not necessary," Simon said knowingly. The haunted look in Jim's eyes let him know the man still had issues to deal with, issues better left alone.
Simon figured a change of subject was in order. "Look on the bright side, man. Your truck is Safe: the academy supplies the car."
"That's little comfort, sir." With a sigh, Ellison rubbed the back of his neck while finishing his thoughts. "Sandburg will still be at the wheel."
They men laughed, and Simon gave Jim a wide smile. "Well, can't be any worse than you behind the wheel." Seeing the protest forming in Ellison's eyes, Banks held up his hand and pinned his friend with a knowing stare. "And we won't even mention MY car."
There was another attempt at a rebuttal from Ellison, but Banks stopped it with a raised eyebrow. "Don't deny it, Jim. I have the body shop on speed dial because of you! Did you know the mechanics in Transportation actually have a pool going to see how long my car stays OUT of their bays?"
Jim couldn't help but chuckle at that one. If he'd known that before, he would have fixed the win somehow. Of course, there was no denying the fact that he was hard on cars himself. Just ask my insurance rep! Okay, so maybe he was a little harder on Simon's car.
"You know, sir," Jim began, in his own defense, "it's not like I was totally blind that one time --"
"Oh, I do NOT want to hear that," Simon barked. "That 'I-was-fine-by-the-time-I-stopped' speech doesn't work anymore. Face it, Jim. You have a real problem with my car, which is why you don't get to drive it anymore." Banks shoved a hand into his pocket and latched onto his keys, reassuring himself that his vehicle was indeed safe at that moment.
Jim opened his mouth to say something, but found Simon's hand held up again. He tried to listen as Simon mumbled something about smart-alec Sentinels and license restrictions, but it was so jumbled Jim couldn't make out most of it. Just as he was about to comment, Simon turned back towards him.
"Look," Simon began with a sigh, "it's really up to Blair. If he says 'no' then that's the end of it. Just ask him when you see him."
"You can ask him yourself, sir," Jim replied lightly. "He should be here soon."
Simon gave a small groan. "Like you couldn't tell me that five minutes ago?"
"Well," Jim said with a smile, "it was more fun this way, wasn't it? And I didn't have to wait. You know how impatient I am."
"That's an understatement." Banks laughed and shook his head, but noticed Ellison wasn't laughing.
Glancing over at his friend, Simon immediately recognized the look on his face. The one accompanied by the slight tilt to the head, the one that meant something -- or someone -- disturbing was headed their way.
But the sentinel didn't answer. His attention was focused squarely on the man in fatigues standing at the entrance to the bullpen.
Simon followed his friend's stare, turning just in time to see Detective Rafe send an Army corporal towards them. He took up a defensive stance in front of Jim's desk, unsurprised when his friend came around the desk and stood next to him.
They watched him approach, which unsettled him a bit. The man at the door was rather nice, but these two were downright threatening. For all that he was in the Army, he'd rather not face the pair in the corner together -- ever.
Swallowing hard, he forced himself to address the men. "Captain?"
"That would be me," Banks answered. "What can I do for you, son?"
The voice wasn't exactly stern, but then, the man was a captain. It didn't have to be stern to command respect. Holding out the small package and clipboard, he attempted to continue his appointed task. "I need your signature, sir."
Simon took the envelope and gave it a minor glance before reaching for the clipboard. Something small caught his eye, and he took a better look at the package in his hand.
"Uh, Jim?" Banks handed the envelope sideways to his friend. "I believe this is for you, Captain Ellison."
Taking the package in hand, Jim stared at the address label, then nodded in recognition. "Hmph -- got here faster than I thought it would."
"Uh, sirs?" The young man wasn't about to leave without the signature required. He held the clipboard out toward the man behind the desk, while still keeping an eye on the tall black man next to him. "My apologies, captain. I should have been more clear."
Simon finally gave the young man a smile. "It's okay, corporal. Lots of people mistake us for each other. Right, Jim?"
He had the good grace not to laugh. If the captain wanted him to believe it was a common mistake, then so be it. Taking the clipboard back with one hand, he snapped a salute with the other and awaited permission to leave.
Banks couldn't resist. He returned the salute with a firm military stance, and didn't smile again until the corporal was dismissed by Ellison.
Jim watched Simon's shoulders slope down as he relaxed. "You coulda been a little nicer, Simon."
Ellison smiled. "Cause not all captains are hard-asses."
Banks immediately straightened up and crossed his arms over his chest. "Speak for yourself."
He watched as Jim sat down behind the desk and stared at the envelope. It didn't look like bad news; the envelope was too big. Normally bad news came in regular mailing envelopes. This one was big enough to hold unfolded sheets of standard paper. Then again, if the scowl on Jim's face was any indication, it wasn't exactly good news, either. Whatever it was, though, Simon got the impression it wasn't a surprise.
Staring at the dark gold envelope in front of him, Jim flinched mentally. He'd been expecting this for a while. It wasn't that he didn't want to open it; he wasn't ready to re-open wounds that had just begun to heal properly. The papers enclosed were as much a part of his past as they were his future. And for all that he'd actually requested them, Jim wasn't sure he was ready to deal with them just yet.
For the time being, Ellison knew he had to put them somewhere safe. Opening his side desk drawer, he placed them on top of his back-up weapon. It could wait the weekend, of that he was certain.
Watching his friend ponder the envelope made Banks uncomfortable. He felt almost voyeuristic standing there. It was a brief, yet real, glimpse of Jim's vulnerabilities, and it unnerved him. In the space of a few minutes, James Ellison had gone from feared to frightened. There was no doubting the power of that parcel. Whatever was in that envelope was potentially dangerous.
"Jim?" Simon spoke quietly, slipping around the side of the desk and touching his friend on the shoulder. The connection seemed to relax them both. "If you want to talk about it...."
Before Simon could finish the offer, Jim pushed the drawer shut, essentially closing conversation on the envelope. "Later."
Banks knew better than to push. He'd certainly let Blair know about the package. If anyone knew how to run interference for Ellison's tension and stress, it was Sandburg. "You'll keep me informed."
It wasn't a question, but a simple command. One Jim knew came from Simon Banks as a friend, rather than Simon Banks as a captain. "Of course."
If anyone in the office thought the tete-a-tete in the corner was strange, they certainly didn't say so. After all, nothing involving Jim Ellison seemed strange anymore, not after the past few years. Kidnappings, bullpen shoot-outs, bombings, drug cartels, and gangsters -- just another day at Major Crimes. A quiet moment between friends? Nothing strange there at all.
Just as Simon was getting ready to head back to his office, he saw Jim's head tilt slightly to one side. "What now?" he inquired rather tiredly.
Jim gave a chuckle and stood up, surveying the room before settling his gaze on the far door. "Incoming. Sandburg at high noon."
They exchanged amused smiles and relaxed as they watched Blair approach.
It wasn't unusual to find Simon around Jim's desk. But the stares Blair was receiving from both friend and captain worried him. Sure, they were smiling, but it was obvious that something had been going on before he arrived. Simon's arms were crossed over his chest and Jim, well, Jim's refusal to look him in the eyes just screamed trouble.
Blair said a silent prayer that whatever was wrong could be fixed before he and Jim left that evening.
Coming to stand in front of his partner's desk, Blair looked at Jim, then Simon, then back to Jim. "Okay, what'd I do wrong this time?"
Banks gave a warm chuckle. "It's nice to know I intimidate someone." At the confused look on Sandburg's face, he smiled.
"Intimidate?" Blair questioned. "I don't think you really intimidate me, Simon."
That stripped the smile from his face. "Why not?"
"Cause that's really not the way our relationship works," Sandburg replied, totally oblivious to the smirk on Jim's face.
"Then how DOES this relationship work, Detective Sandburg?"
The emphasis on his official title seemed to strike a chord. Blair looked at his partner and pleaded silently for help, only to find Ellison completely unfazed by the verbal exchange. "Uh, respect?" Blair offered. "I respect you as an authority figure, and you respect me because of the fresh approach I take to things."
"Good answer," Banks replied. "And Sandburg --"
"Yes -- uh, sir?"
"I need to see you in my office before you leave," Simon instructed before heading back across the bullpen to his office.
Still in worry mode, Blair set off a barrage of questions towards Jim. It soon became obvious that his partner was neither listening, nor trying to. In fact, Jim looked more distracted than anything else.
"Jim, man, what's going on?"
Ellison shrugged and shuffled some papers on his desk. "Did you find my fly rod?"
"No," Blair replied, setting his backpack on the floor as he took the chair next to Jim's desk.
"I told you where it was."
"No," Blair corrected. "You told me where you THOUGHT it was. There's a difference." Rummaging through his pack, he looked for the package he'd signed for earlier. "Hey, I got something here for you."
"My fly rod?" Jim asked with a smirk, as he watched his friend remove several folders, a couple of books, and a seemingly unending mound of papers. "How can you find anything in there, Chief?"
"I know it's here. I put it in here before I headed down to the storage room for the FIFTIETH time." He noticed Jim's wince when he raised his voice and smiled. "I figured it was important, so I brought it with me." Finding the corner of the envelope peeking out from behind a folder, Blair gripped it firmly and yanked it from the sack. "HA! Told you I had it. Here. Came this afternoon. Military courier."
That caught Jim's attention.
Not to mention Rafe's. Rafe had been heading towards his own desk, when he heard Sandburg mention the military courier. "Geez, Jim. Army must want you back pretty bad if they're sending your recall notices home AND here."
Ellison forced a smile and took the envelope from his partner's hand, watching quietly as Rafe walked away. He needed answers to his questions, but he didn't want an audience. "What were you saying about a military courier?"
Blair relayed the story of how the package arrived, studying his friend as he did so. The fact that Jim had taken the envelope from him, but not opened it, had him intrigued. It hadn't occurred to him that it was bad news. If he'd even suspected there was bad news, Blair knew he would have waited until Jim had gotten home to give it to him. Hell, if it's that bad, I should've waited till after the weekend.
"Jim? What's going on?"
Ellison looked the worry on Blair's face. "It's okay. I just, uh..." Taking a minute to go over things in his mind, he removed the second envelope from his desk drawer and compared the two side by side. What was the likelihood that he'd get two copies of the same documents?
Sandburg watched with no little interest. "What's up, man?"
"Bureaucracy at work, Chief." Jim smiled, and tossed one envelope into the drawer before shutting down his computer and locking his desk. "Is that Flintstone-mobile of yours secured downstairs?"
Sandburg gave an indignant huff then smiled at him. "The 'Vair is parked and locked in the garage."
"Good," Jim quipped. "At least ONE thing will be safe this weekend."
"Ha ha ha." Sandburg grabbed his pack off the floor and slipped it onto his shoulder. "Glad to see you haven't lost that sense of humor, buddy."
"We've searched the whole place. You think the kid took it with him?"
He looked at Jester and sighed. "Rabb and MacRaney already reported that the courier didn't have the package on him. They've got the page of the clipboard with them. Someone signed for Ellison's package. Someone in this building."
Footsteps in the hallway and a quick knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Holding his pistol at the ready, he sneaked to the door and listened for a moment or so, relieved to hear the footsteps retreat. He wasn't taking any chances, though. "Okay, Jester. Rendezvous at the van in five."
He watched Jester slip out the back door of the apartment before he checked the front door once more. He was halfway to the stairs when he heard voices coming up toward him. They were discussing noises and the fact that Ellison wasn't home.
"Damn." He headed back into the loft, leaving the door open as he made his way to the back door. He managed to get down the fire escape just moments before someone appeared at the top. He heard them yelling and knew he had to vacate the alley, but the last thing he wanted was a witness. Raising his weapon, he aimed for the open back door and fired.
Continue on to Act II...
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This page last updated 3/28/01.