Redhawke.org
Cypher
Cypher
by: Wolf

Beta Read by: Susanne and Danae
Written for PetFly by: Laurence Frank
Rated PG
internal thought in * *
~~~~~~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~~~~~~

"I wanted to leave at the two-minute warning. We were up 20 points, but you had to stay till the end," Jim Ellison said. He couldn’t believe the traffic they were stuck in.

"Who cares, man. We won. Whoo!" Blair Sandburg replied, bouncing in the truck seat.

Just then the radio crackled to life. "Code 2-4, Victor 12. 609 there now -- screaming woman. 3328 Anthol Street, Apartment B. Reporting party at location."

"One-Zebra-One, show me handling the call," Jim said into the radio as he turned on his lights and siren and pulled around the traffic jam.

"What's a 609, anyway?" Blair asked.

"A prowler," Jim somberly replied.

~~~~~~~~

When they arrived at the apartment, Jim and Blair entered through the open front door. They were being cautious, because they didn’t know if the perpetrator would still be there.

"Police! Anybody home?" Jim called out. Walking to the stairs he called out again, "Hello?" His sentinel hearing picked up the sound of water dripping. He followed the sound to the bathroom. There was a beautiful dark haired woman drowned in the bathtub with a yellow scarf around her neck. Her eyes were wide open and vacant. Her mouth was open in what appeared to be a silent scream.

"Oh... Oh, man." Jim turned at the sound of his young friend’s voice. Sandburg was almost as pale as the dead woman was. He felt sorry for the kid as Blair turned and dashed out of the room.

~~~~~~~~

The next evening found Simon, Jim and Carolyn in Simon’s office going over the files for the latest murder victim. This was fast becoming a serial murder case.

"Is there any chance this victim was strangled?" Simon asked hopefully.

"No. The medical examiner reports no signs of trauma to her neck. Hemorrhages in her lungs indicate drowning," Carolyn replied as she studied the report in her hand.

"What about sexual assault?" Simon tried.

"No," Carolyn said shaking her head.

"Check this out. Susan Frasier was dead at least 12 hours before Sandburg and I found her," Jim supplied reading from his own file.

"Then who the hell made the 911 call?" Simon looked exasperated.

Jim shrugged. "Got me."

Simon sighed. "All right, look, your report says that her picture frames were empty, jewelry box rifled, garments removed from her closet..." Simon ticked off the list of items he remembered.

Jim nodded his agreement. "Trophies from the kill."

Simon was getting a headache. "It's the same M.O. -- yellow scarves, trophies, drowned in the bathtub. Third victim in three months."

Scanning his case folder, Jim started reading the identity of another victim, "Adam Walker -- age 36, known dope dealer, confined to a wheelchair."

Carolyn followed suit with her own file. "Billy Bright -- age 20, underground musician."

"No witnesses, no suspects." Simon’s headache was getting worse by the minute. "All right, look, until we get more information on this I want a total media blackout. Right now, we don't even have a profile on our killer. Let's not scare the hell out of everybody. The last thing we want on our hands is a panicked city."

~~~~~~~~~

Blair gazed up into the eyes of the woman lying on top of him. The candles he had strategically placed around the loft reflected in them. Reaching up he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "You’re so beautiful."

"Took you long enough to notice." Christine snuggled with a smile to Blair’s warm body under her.

"I'm noticing now, huh?" He covered her lips with his and slowly kissed her.

Christine moaned into the kiss, "Mmm..."

Suddenly Blair stiffened and broke away. He blinked his eyes, trying to get the images out of his head, but every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Susan Frasier drowned in her bathtub.

Noticing Blair’s distress Christine asked, "What is it? Did I do something…?"

Blair tried to cover his discomfort. "No. No. It's just, uh..." he stammered.

"Just what?" Christine questioned.

Trying to think of how to express his morbid thoughts he stuttered out, "Um... See, the other night I, uh... There was this woman and she..."

Christine pulled back from him angrily. "Look, are you seeing someone else?"

"No," he exclaimed.

"Yeah, right." Christine got up and picked up her dress from the chair she had laid it on. *How do I always pick the assholes* she thought to herself as she got dressed. "Who was it, an ex-girlfriend? I knew this relationship was a mistake." She grabbed her purse and walked toward the door.

Blair sighed. This was not going well at all. "Chris, wait." Blair sat up on the couch. "You don't understand. She was dead. She was murdered -- drowned in her tub, and ... it was awful. Her mouth was open. It looked like she was screaming and her eyes, man... I'll never forget those eyes." Blair hung his head and ran his hand through his hair, shivering at the remembered images.

Christine watched the tremors run through Blair’s body. She felt horrible for thinking the worst of him. He really seemed like a nice guy. Going back to the couch, she sat down next to him. "That must have been horrible for you."

Blair shook his head. "I... I didn't even know her." He looked back up at Christine with eyes pleading for understanding. "Can you imagine what it would be like if it was someone I knew, cared about?"

Just then the front door opened forcefully, only to be stopped by the chain lock. Startled, they both looked up.

Comprehension dawned on Blair as he realized who was at the door. "Uh, Jim." He walked to the door to unhook the chain and let his friend and roommate in.

"Sandburg, what the hell's going on?" Jim questioned angrily as he waited for Blair to unlock the door. When the door was open, he walked through and continued his tirade, "What are you doing with the front...?" Before he could complete his question, he noticed Christine sitting on the couch. Nodding his head slightly he introduced himself, "Hello, there. I'm Jim Ellison. I live here."

Blair caught the glare that Jim sent his way as the detective headed for the kitchen. Remembering his manners, Blair introduced his newest girlfriend, "Uh, Jim, this is Christine Hong. Chris, this is Jim, my roommate."

Christine was confused. "I thought you said you lived alone."

"No. I said we'd be alone. He was supposed to be working tonight," Blair stated with the slightest bit of anger himself.

Christine got up and collected her coat. "You know, maybe we should just call it a night. Things are getting way too complicated here."

Almost whining, Blair said, "Come on, Chris, you said... let me explain."

"I'll call you tomorrow," she said with a smile in her voice. She kissed Blair goodnight and left.

"Bye." Blair watched her leave and then shut the door. "Great. Thanks a lot, Jim."

Jim watched as Blair flopped down on the couch like a petulant child. *Like it’s my fault he didn’t get lucky. Yeah, right.* "I'm just not used to knocking at my own front door."

Blair sighed resignedly, "I'm sorry I snapped." He laid his head back against the couch. "It doesn't matter. This whole night was a disaster anyway. I couldn't stop thinking about Susan Frasier."

Jim felt bad for his young friend, but he was going to have to learn now instead of later. "Murder victims tend to get the best of us. You got to learn to separate yourself."

Blair couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could Jim think that way? "Oh, yeah, Right. Just check my humanity at the door?"

For the first time Jim felt this was his chance to be the teacher. "Whatever it takes to stay present." He leaned against the support post next to the counter. "What if the killer had still been at the scene, hmm? If your emotions are in the way, you're useless, potentially dangerous. Now, if you're going to hang with cops, you got to learn to do the right thing 'cause your life, and the lives of many others are going to depend on it."

Blair realized that at least part of what Jim was saying was right. Reluctantly he nodded his head in agreement. He just didn’t know if he could be as detached as he needed to be.

~~~~~~~~

The next morning, as Jim was coming back from an errand down the street from the P.D., a reporter and a camera crew caught him.

"Detective Ellison, Don Hass, KCDE News. What can you tell us about the murder victim you found Tuesday night?"

Jim grimaced. This was becoming a nightmare. "So much for the blackout."

The reporter continued his questioning ruthlessly, "My sources say it could be the work of a serial killer."

Jim clenched his jaw and replied, "Since your sources seem to have all the answers, why don't you go ask them?"

"Detective Ellison, what about the murder victim's 911 tapes? Are you going to be releasing them anytime soon?"

Jim stared hard at the reporter. If looks could kill, Jim would have had to arrest himself. He turned on his heel and entered the P.D.

The reporter turned and faced the camera. "Don Hass, here, reporting live from outside the Cascade police building."

~~~~~~~~

A few hours later Jim went to see Carolyn down in the forensics lab.

When he entered the lab he smiled. One of the things he had always liked about her was that she couldn’t keep away from all the high tech toys.

He settled himself on a chair next to the machine she was currently playing with. "What do you have for me?"

She turned and smiled at him. "This is a new machine we just got that can analyze voices. I’ve been trying to see if there was a clue here that would help us find the killer. This is the 911 call made from Susan Frasier's phone the night she was killed," Carolyn explained as she pushed a button.

The emergency operator could be heard answering the call. "Emergency 911."

"Help! Help! There's a man here. He's trying to get in. Please, help me! Help me!" a terrified woman’s voice pleaded.

"And this is her answering machine message."

"Hi, everybody, its Susan. If I could come to the phone, I would, but since I can't, I won't, so please leave a message, and if you don't, I won't call you back."

Carolyn had a hopeless look on her face. "The 911 call is so distorted, it's almost impossible to tell if it's the same voice."

Jim was silent for a moment, his brow furrowed. "Play the 911 call one more time."

"Emergency 911."

"Help! Help! There's a man here. He's trying to get in. Please, help me! Help me! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Here he comes!" There was a scream. "Oh, no, he's trying to get in!"

Jim looked at Carolyn confidently and said, "Those are two different voices."

She looked at Jim incredulously. "How can you be so sure?"

*Ok hotshot, how are you going to explain this one,* Jim thought. He had that ‘deer in the headlight’ look on his face. "I... I can just tell. They are."

Before he had to explain any further Simon came into the lab carrying a newspaper. "Hey, have you seen this?" He handed Jim the paper. "I have every news wire in the world wanting a statement. We got a leak here somewhere, Jim, and we got to plug it. Now, who else knows all the details besides us?"

"Just Sandburg," Jim replied, handing the paper to Carolyn. Somehow he knew that the anthropologist would be the captain’s target concerning the leak.

"Well, could it be him?" Carolyn asked, looking at the headline. "I mean, he is new at this. Maybe he doesn't understand. It…" she continued, but was cut off by Jim’s stern voice.

"He understands fine."

Simon sighed. He knew Jim liked the kid, hell for the most part he did too, but, someone was leaking information and he had to find out who. "Well, just have a talk with him, just in case." Quickly changing the subject he asked, "All right, what do you guys got?"

"The 911 caller's our killer," Jim stated.

"We'll have to run a voiceprint analysis to verify that," Carolyn countered. How could Jim think he knew for a fact that the caller was the killer? He had started acting so strange ever since that Sandburg kid had been following him around. But she had to admit he had been right so far.

"With Susan Frasier dead it's our only possibility," Jim told his two friends.

"Which means the killer we're looking for is a woman," Simon added.

~~~~~~~~

It was threatening to rain when Jim and Blair got out of the truck at the church where Susan Frasier’s funeral would take place. "She could be in an open casket. You going to be okay with that?" Jim asked Blair as they walked across the street to the church.

Blair sighed, "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be fine, really."

"Serial killers often like to stay around, hang out, and admire their work, sometimes even taunt you to catch them, so stay alert," he told Blair. This was their first real chance at a lead in these murders.

There was a line of reporters waiting to interview anybody they thought interesting for the nightly news at the front of the church.

"Just keep moving." Jim guided Blair ahead. The reporters were converging on him even as he spoke.

Don Hass, the reporter who had stopped Jim in front of the precinct, stuck a microphone in Jim’s face. "Detective Ellison? My sources report that it was actually the killer who placed the victim's 911 call. Any comment?"

"Yeah. I'm late for church," Jim ground out before pushing his way on into the building. He had to figure out how they were getting their information.

~~~~~~~~

Jim took a seat in the balcony so he could see everyone coming to the service. If the killer did show up here today, then he would be able to see her from there. Blair stayed with the rest of the mourners at Jim’s request. The detective listened to the minister give the eulogy as he scanned the crowd for suspects.

"Let your light shine forth that thou may glorify our father who art in heaven for God has blessed thee, forever thy throne. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall dwell in the kingdom of God forever. Blessed are they, who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be filled with thy love. From everlasting and to everlasting. Amen."

The group of people assembled all bowed their heads and said, "Amen."

The minister added, "I invite you to approach our dear departed so that she may make her final journey in peace."

As the minister finished his speech and people began to walk to the casket to view the deceased, Jim focused in with his sentinel sight and saw a woman dressed in black, with a yellow scarf.

Jim watched as the woman walked up to the casket. Blair also spotted the woman. He wanted to make sure Jim saw her, but he didn’t want to scare her off. He figured he’d take a chance and see if Jim could hear him, glancing up he softly spoke, "Jim I sure hope you’re listening man. There’s a woman at the casket with a yellow scarf. Do you think that’s her?"

Unfortunately, Jim didn’t seem to hear him, but the sentinel’s gaze was locked on the suspect.

The woman must have felt like she was being watched, because she turned and looked directly at the balcony. Jim was so focused on her that he almost didn’t react when she turned and left the church quickly. The next thing he knew he was racing down the stairs after her.

~~~~~~~~

The group of reporters had resigned themselves to waiting outside of the church until the end of the service. Suddenly, a woman dressed in a black dress with a veil over her face came running out of the side door like she was being chased.

"What the hell?" Don Hass the reporter blurted when he saw the woman running from the church. "Roll the camera. Get some footage of this. Lady! Keep it rolling. Keep on the car. Stay with it. Keep rolling."

Jim burst out of the church at a dead run. He realized that the woman had made it to her car and he immediately headed for his truck. Just as he reached the middle of the road she came roaring by. Jim had to jump to the side to avoid being run down. He quickly jumped into his truck and took off after her.

Blair pushed his way through the excited mourners and out of the church just in time to see Jim speeding off after the woman. "Damn it!" he scolded himself as he sat down on the front steps. He should be in the truck with Jim. What if the Sentinel zoned during the chase? He sent up a silent prayer that Jim would be ok.

~~~~~~~~

During the church ceremony it had started to rain and now the roads were slick. It took all Jim could do to keep his truck under control. He felt like he chased the woman all over town. She was a nut, having no regard for innocent bystanders or property. Driving on the sidewalk, running traffic lights, and at one point even barreling through a chain link fence. As hard as he tried though, Jim just couldn’t seem to pull up along side her. It would have helped if she weren’t driving a Jaguar, using the advantage on him in both horsepower and handling.

Finally, the woman pulled to a stop on a bridge. The traffic was backed up and she had no place to go. He smiled to himself. He had her now. Suddenly that smile faltered as he watched the woman exit the car and run to the railing.

Jim jumped out of the truck, drew his gun and headed toward the suspect. "Police! Hold it right there!"

He watched in astonishment as she threw a leg over the railing and climbed out onto the ledge of the bridge. Before he could reach her, she jumped. He spotted her yellow scarf by the railing and bent down to pick it up. Leaning over the edge he looked into the swirling water far below. *So much for that.*

~~~~~~~~~~ Act II ~~~~~~~~~~

In Simon's office the next morning, Jim could feel the case starting to get to him. *So much for checking you’re emotions,* he thought to himself. He had been sitting in one of the office chairs for fifteen minutes while Simon read his report on the events at the church and the bridge. When the captain was done reading, Jim could tell the case was getting to him, too.

"She escapes you at the church. You lose her at the bridge, and she's what, a high-heeled woman?" the captain asked in an exasperated voice.

"I didn't see anyone in the water, sir. You know the stretch of that river there. The currents are deadly. I didn't think she had a chance," Jim said in his defense.

"Well, Harbor Patrol dragged the river all night long. And they did not find a body. And until they do, this case is still open. Sandburg didn’t have anything to do with this, did he? Maybe he distracted you?"

Jim shook his head. "I'm the one who blew it, sir. It was my responsibility. In fact, we might not be having this conversation if I had paid more attention to him. I almost zoned, Simon."

Simon looked at his friend sympathetically. "Look, I know the kid helps you with this sentinel thing, but he's not one of us. Maybe it's time you should think about cutting him loose."

"No, sir," Jim stated adamantly. "I have to disagree with that call. Blair understands what I'm going through." Jim didn’t know if he could really explain to Simon the way that Blair helped him.

"You really trust this kid?" Simon asked, quietly studying his friend.

"Yes, sir, I do." Jim was pleading with his eyes. Finally, he could see Simon make the decision to let it go for now.

Simon sighed. It was time to get back to business. "Look, I've had to call in some help on this case."

"Simon, I can handle this case." Jim straightened his posture, trying to express confidence.

"What you and I know about serial killers wouldn't fill a coffee cup. Now, we need some expert advice."

Jim really was pleading now. He didn’t need someone coming in and getting in his way during this investigation. "Sir, if you would just give me a couple of days. I know we can crack this case."

Simon shook his head. He knew that Jim was going to give him a hard time with this. "Jim, for once in your life will you leave your pride at the desk? If this woman is out there, she's dangerous."

Just then a man entered the office and handed Simon a paper.

"This is a wash," he said.

"Thanks," Simon said taking the paper. "Dr. Bates, I'd like you to meet Detective Jim Ellison. Jim, this is Dr. Anthony Bates." *Jim be nice to the man.*

Jim looked the man up and down, sizing him up. He was shorter than Jim, closer to Blair’s height Jim guessed. He had shoulder length blonde hair, pulled back into a short ponytail. His face was thin and gaunt, and he wore glasses. He didn’t seem very threatening, but something about the man made Jim uneasy.

Dr. Bates shook Jim’s hand firmly. "Tony, please. I read your report."

"Dr. Bates is with the FBI’s San Francisco office. He's one of their top forensic psychiatrists. All I ask is that you work with him." Simon gave Jim a stern look that said it wasn’t a request.

Bates walked around the table and sat down. "Your forensic investigation was thorough enough, Detective, but I think we need to focus on the signature of the killer."

"The yellow scarves," Jim said.

"Yeah, but that's just one of the elements. We really have to analyze the rest so we'll be able to reconstruct the precise psychological dynamics and infer a profile of the suspect." Bates paused then continued, speaking with his hands, "Uh... a kind of psychological composite drawing so we know what we're dealing with here. Um... what I'm really interested in, Detective, is the exact murder ritual."

Jim slowly recited the details of the case, "The victim is drowned in a bathtub. Personal items are missing. A yellow scarf is left behind. As to the victims themselves, it appears that... Well, she has no pattern in her selection. Right now, I'd say it's random."

"Hmm. Detective, in cases like this, nothing is random," Dr. Bates stated flatly.

~~~~~~~~

Later that night, Jim and Blair were getting ready to watch the tape of the female suspect that had been filmed at the funeral. Jim put the tape in the VCR and sat down on the couch next to Blair.

"Did we really promise this Don Hass guy a hot tip in return for this video?" Blair asked.

"Better he gets it from us, on our terms, than from his source." Jim hesitated, before continuing, "You know, the captain is pretty worried about this leak."

"Yeah," Blair agreed, nodding his head.

"He thinks it might be you," Jim stated quietly, fidgeting with the TV remote.

Blair looked appalled. "Come on. You don't believe that, do you?" Blair asked, his voice rising slightly. He couldn’t believe they thought he was leaking information to the press. Simon, he could understand, but Jim?

Jim sighed. He knew Blair would react this way. "All I'm saying is I don't want you to talk about this case to anybody."

"This is because I screwed up at the church the other day, right? Now you're all pissed off at me," Blair said accusingly. "She must have overheard me or something. I don’t know…"

"I'm not pissed off," Jim said, cutting Blair’s words off, "And you didn’t screw up at the church. I did. I sort of zoned a little. I should have let you come upstairs with me," Jim admitted quietly.

Blair couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Jim was apologizing to him for zoning. "Don’t worry about it, Jim. We’re both still new to this whole sentinel thing. Let’s chalk it up to a learning experience. We’ll just make sure it doesn’t happen again." He watched Jim slowly accept his words, and then he turned on the tape.

They could hear the voice of Don Hass, the reporter. "What the hell? Roll the camera. Get some footage of this. Lady!"

Jim pointed at the TV. "Freeze it right there."

"What? What is it?" Blair asked.

"Look at the hair," Jim told him.

"Susan Frasier," Blair said after a minute of contemplation.

"Right," Jim agreed. "The killer drives the victim's car. Has the same hairstyle. Play the tape."

Blair restarted the tape. Again Hass could be heard, "Get some footage of this. Keep on the car."

Blair was getting frustrated. "Damn, if we could only see her face."

"Freeze it right there," Jim instructed. "Now back it up a little bit, right there. You see it?"

Blair looked, but he obviously wasn’t seeing what Jim was. "What?" he shrugged.

"How many women you know that have Adam's apples?" Jim asked.

Blair couldn’t believe what he was seeing. "You know, I think you're right." How could he have missed that?

"Which means our she is a he," Jim stated. They were finally making some headway in this case.

Blair chuckled. "Wait a minute. So now we're looking for a guy who likes to dress up as a woman?" he asked Jim, the surprise evident in his voice.

Jim got up to get the tape out of the VCR. "We'll have to reexamine the first two homicides. If our killer's a transvestite, maybe somebody saw something. I've got to get this tape over to Carolyn for some frame blowups." He turned back to Blair who was still sitting on the couch. "Now, tomorrow we’re gonna pay a visit to Adam Walker's old neighborhood. Afterward, I'm gonna to check into this Billy Bright character. His file included a note that he played in a band for a place called Club Doom. I figure that will be the best place for me to find out about his private life."

Blair started laughing. "You're going to Club Doom?"

"You got a problem with that?" Jim couldn’t understand what was so funny.

This was one of the funniest things Blair had ever heard. Jim would stick out at the club like a sore thumb. "Well, the Doom's an underground club." He looked up at Jim with a smirk on his face. "And you are, like, clearly labeled 'cop.' I could go in there and ask a few questions..."

Jim cut the younger man off quickly, shaking his head, "No, no way, not without me."

"Jim, I can blend in. You can't," Blair tried again. They’d never get any information with Jim there. The people simply wouldn’t tell him anything. Most of the people that went to the ‘Doom’ were trying to hide from the cops to begin with.

"I said, no way. It's too risky," Jim said with finality. He didn’t want Blair getting hurt.

Blair held his hands up in supplication. But he had plans of his own. What Jim didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

~~~~~~~~

Blair pulled his car up to the curb in front of the nightclub and turned off the headlights as he switched off the engine. He turned and looked at his passenger, giving a small smile. "Chris, I'm really sorry about the other night."

Christine smirked back at him. *He is so cute,* she thought. "Well, prove it." She leaned over to him and they kissed. When they finally came up for air, she added, "But from now on be straight with me, okay?"

"Absolutely," Blair replied, slightly dazed.

"So tell me, what are we doing at the Doom ten minutes before they bolt the door?" Christine asked, sitting back in the seat.

Blair took a deep breath. *Here we go,* "I'm investigating a murder."

Christine looked confused. "What?"

"You remember my roommate?" At the shake of her head he continued, "Well, he's a cop and I'm sort of working with him."

"Is this about the dead body you saw?" she asked.

"Exactly. I want to go inside and help him out and try to find a clue about who the killer is. You've got to promise me that you're not going to tell anybody about this," he pleaded.

*God, he's gorgeous when he begs.* How could she resist? "Scout's honor." She held up two fingers in the traditional sign.

Blair smiled. "All right, then, let's go."

~~~~~~~~

Jim, Simon and Dr. Bates were sitting around the conference table in Simon’s office, watching the latest news report. Jim was really beginning to hate Don Hass. He resented the way the press didn’t care who got hurt by what they reported.

"In the latest twist in Cascade's brutal and mystifying female serial killer case, confidential sources report that the police are no longer looking for a woman, but a transvestite."

"Can you believe that...?" Simon said angrily as he turned off the TV and then was rudely interrupted by Blair barging into his office.

"Okay, I've got this whole thing figured out," Blair said breathlessly. He had an enthusiasm that escaped the other men in the room.

"Don't you knock?" Simon scolded the young man as he towered over him.

Blair looked up at the tall captain meekly. "Right. Sorry, Simon." He then knocked on the door behind him before circling the table to face the three men. "Um, you see, the killer's deal is, is that he trades identities with his victims. I just had a talk with Billy Bright's band over at Club Doom. And it turns out that the night Billy was killed he bought some dope from a guy in a wheelchair -- that guy." He pointed to a picture on the table.

"Adam Walker?" Jim asked.

"Right. Murder victim number one. Only Walker had been dead for almost three weeks," he confirmed.

Dr. Bates regarded this new person with admiration. "Remarkable. I'm Tony Bates." He reached out to shake Blair’s hand.

"How you doing? Blair Sandburg." Blair shook the guy’s hand.

"He's an advisor to the department," Simon added in way of explanation to Dr. Bates.

"An advisor who doesn't do what he's told to," Jim mumbled. He would have to have another talk with his partner later about rules and regulations.

Bates gave Blair an appraising look. "I think you're right on the money about this."

"What?" Simon blurted. Maybe this Bates guy wasn’t as smart as he had originally thought. Jim looked just as shocked.

"Well, we may be dealing with a suspect who has such a weak sense of self that he fixates on a person, kills them, and then assumes their personality," Bates explained.

"He kills Walker and assumes the identity of a dope dealer in a wheelchair, and then he kills Bright and assumes his identity and then Susan Frasier?" Jim tried to put the pieces together. This wasn’t making any sense.

Bates nodded his head in agreement. "Exactly. Think of it as a process of psychic ingestion."

"Right, right, right," Blair added enthusiastically. "Like Aztec warriors used to eat the heart of their enemies because they would believe it would enhance their prowess in war." The anthropologist could tell by the look Simon and Jim gave him that they thought he was crazy. "It's true!"

"What we may be facing here is a similar psychological belief. Only our killer is hardly a warrior. I believe that he's an abject loner, from a broken home. History of severe neglect, possibly child abuse," Bates said in Blair’s defense.

Jim was really starting to get frustrated. He didn’t believe all this mumbo jumbo. "That's all theory, nothing but theory. I need some suspects."

Before he could go too far in his tirade, the phone on Simon’s desk rang. Since he was the closest to it, Jim answered it. "Yeah. Thanks." He hung up the phone and turned to the other men in the room. "We have ourselves another prowler, this time at the Maritime Museum. It's a female. She fits the description of our killer."

~~~~~~~~

Jim pulled to a stop in front of the Maritime Museum followed by other police vehicles with lights and sirens going. He got out of his truck and entered the building to talk to the frightened caretaker.

"Are you okay, ma'am?" he asked her soothingly.

"Thank god you're here. The museum's closed. I was locking up. Then I saw this face. It was leering at me through the window. It was a woman's face." The woman’s voice was trembling.

Jim nodded his head to acknowledge he understood her distress, "Ma'am, could you make your way to the front door, please?" After handing her off to the other officers, Jim headed into the dark museum.

As the woman left, Jim opened his senses. It was dark in the museum to most anybody else, but to him it was like day. He saw someone trying to hide behind one of the displays and moved toward the suspect. As he did, the person ran.

It didn’t take much of a chase before Jim caught his suspect. When the person wouldn’t stop struggling, he punched the person, effectively ending the battle. He finally got a good look at his captive and realized it was a man dressed as a woman. He sighed, hoping this would be the end of this case. But for some reason, he didn’t think so.


~~~~~~~~~~ Act III ~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning found Jim and Blair in front of the P.D. after coming back from breakfast at the diner down the street. And, of course, Jim’s favorite reporter was waiting for them.

"Detective Ellison, any statement on that transvestite you apprehended last night?" When the detective hesitated to answer he added, "Come on, you guys, what about our deal? You owe me a hot tip, remember?"

Blair could see Jim’s expression become devious. "Okay. Since you seem to know more about this investigation than we do, I got a tip for you, Don." Jim snatched the microphone from the annoying reporter. "You're under suspicion for three murders. How do you feel about that?"

"That's funny. Very funny," Hass said sarcastically as he took his microphone back.

Blair had to laugh while he followed Jim into the building. Jim could be such an asshole when he wanted to be. But at least it was to people who deserved it.

~~~~~~~~

Jim, Blair, Simon and Dr. Bates sat around the conference table going over files.

Jim read from the one in front of him, "Wayne Underwood, career junkie. He's been up a dozen times or so for using. Claims he was paid to stalk that museum worker by some plain-looking lady."

"Well, that was our killer, and he's obviously taunting you," Dr. Bates put in.

"So, there's no chance that this guy is our killer?" Simon asked tiredly.

Jim shook his head in the negative. "None. Underwood was in a detox tank the night that Susan Frasier died. Take a look at these, Simon." He pushed another file down to his captain. "Forensics pulled them from Susan Frasier's Jaguar and we've got a match."

Blair leaned back in his chair as if to distance himself from the file, while he supplied information, "Yeah, severe head case. Escaped a California mental institution three months ago. His name's David Lash."

"Three months?" Bates asked, watching Blair nod his head in the affirmative.

Simon could see things coming together for once since this case started. "Now that's the same time Adam Walker was killed."

"I've subpoenaed the patient's file from Watsonville," Jim told the other three men.

Simon leaned back in his chair, finally feeling he could relax a little. "Well, good. This may finally be the break that we've been looking for."

Bates nodded his head in agreement. "Nice work, Detective," he told Jim, then turned to face Blair across the table. "You too, Blair. Very impressive fieldwork."

Blair raised his eyebrows in surprise. He gave both Jim and Simon a quick glance before acknowledging the compliment from the FBI man, "Thanks."

~~~~~~~~

Half an hour later Jim was down in the forensics lab with Carolyn. The lab had called; they had the results of the analysis ready for them.

"Beaker one -- water taken from Susan Frasier's stomach. O.5 percent salinity. Beaker two -- tap water from her apartment. O.3 percent. They're not from the same source," she explained to Jim, showing him the beakers in turn.

"Susan Frasier was drowned somewhere else and then dumped in her bathtub," Jim deduced out loud.

"Right."

"And the other victims?" Jim asked.

"Water in all their stomachs -- 0.5 percent. It's a match," she answered.

Carolyn could see Jim putting things together in his head. She loved to see him work. "He kills them all in the same place."

"Yes, but there’s more. Trichloroethanol." At Jim’s blank look she elaborated, "It's chloral hydrate. The medical examiner found three milligrams per liter in all three victims' blood."

Jim looked at her confused. "So, they're unconscious when he drowns them?"

Carolyn grimaced. "Awake. He uses just enough to subdue them. Then he moves them to the kill site. The drug is short acting. The death, long-suffering." She shivered just thinking about it.

"I'm going to need more on this water. This guy's killing people; it's a game to him. I figure if I can... figure out the game, I'll know what his next move is," he told her before heading back to Major Crimes.

~~~~~~~~

Jim was on his way to Major Crimes when he passed Dr. Bates.

"Dr. Bates, we just got a call. Lash's patient file is just coming through on the modem."

Bates smiled at the detective. "Great."

Jim smiled back. "Maybe this time we'll get ahead of him."

Bates nodded his head. "Maybe. I'll meet you in the captain's office."

"Okay," Jim said as he entered the Major Crimes bullpen.

Dr. Bates watched Detective Ellison walk away before turning to go into the restroom. As he reached for the door, he bumped into Detective Brown. "Excuse me," he said nervously, letting the man pass.

~~~~~~~~

Jim, Blair and Simon were gathered around Simon’s computer starting to read the file for David Lash as it was printed out.

Simon began reading out loud, "Patient exhibits symptoms of multiple disassociative disorder. His primary identity is passive, extremely isolated, depressed. Alternate identities, however, are controlling and aggressive often absorbed from people in his proximity occurring in sudden shifts and for periods of short duration. I don't know, Jim. Bates was right on with Lash's diagnosis. It's all right here in his file."

Jim had glanced further down the page and saw something that caught his attention. "What the hell is this? The diagnosis is signed 'Dr. Bates.'"

Simon raised his eyebrows in confusion now. "Bates was Lash's psychiatrist?"

"He's treating the son of a bitch," Jim growled.

"Well, why wouldn't he let us know that?" Blair was just as confused as the other two men now.

Jim angrily grabbed the last paper from the printer just as it spit it out and looked at the picture of David Lash. "Our Dr. Bates is David Lash," he said as he handed the page to Simon and started out the door to look for the imposter.

"Ah, Christ!" Simon grabbed the mic for the P.A. system and began barking orders, "This is Captain Banks. We have an emergency. Seal all the exits now!"

~~~~~~~~

Jim slammed the door of the men's restroom open, his gun drawn. He checked each of the stalls, kicking the doors open as he went. In the last stall, he found a pile of clothes.

Blair had followed Jim into the restroom. While Jim was focused on the bathroom stalls, he glanced at the mirror.

"Jim, take a look at this." He motioned toward the mirror over the sinks. "Oh, man," he added, shaking his head.

The message on the mirror made both men shiver. Written in bright red lipstick were the words:

Who am I now?

"Let's go," Jim told him, leaving the ominous message behind.

Simon saw the two men coming out of the men’s room. "I'll take the stairs, Simon," Jim said and headed off before Blair could do or say anything.

"Come with me, Sandburg," Simon ordered, as he headed for the elevator.

~~~~~~~~

Jim was flying down the stairs two at a time. He ran out into the lobby through the access door just as Blair and Simon came out of the elevator.

"Jim, the stairs clear?" Simon asked.

"Yeah. I'm checking the street." He jogged for the door, Blair hot on his heels.

Simon started giving orders to the other officers he could see joining the search. "All right. I want a floor-by-floor lock-down."

David Lash was nowhere to be seen.

~~~~~~~~

Later that afternoon, Major Crime’s favorite reporter was in front of the P.D. doing another news report.

"Cascade's notorious serial killer has claimed a fourth victim -- F.B.I. forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Bates. Dr. Bates, an expert on serial killers, was in town to assist the lead investigator in the case..."

Simon was standing at his window looking down on the news reporter and the chaos that went along with it as he listened to the report being broadcast live. He turned away from the window to a look at Jim, Blair and Carolyn sitting in his office, watching the report as well.

Hass’ voice could still be heard. " ...Detective James Ellison. Incredibly, while Dr. Bates lay decomposing in a bathtub for three days, the killer was actually masquerading as the expert conferring with the very officers who were supposedly pursuing him. Makes you wonder who's minding the store. Don Hass, KCDE News, live."

Simon turned off the TV. He ran his hand over his head and sighed. He couldn’t believe this psycho had taken them all.

"He was taunting us. Sitting right there, daring us to catch him the whole time, giving time lines," Jim said disgustedly.

"Hang on a second. We only just established Bates' time in the bathtub," Carolyn stated.

"And we're the only ones who know?" Blair asked, feeling sick when Carolyn agreed.

Simon spoke up, "Lash was feeding the information to Hass himself."

"There's your leak," Jim angrily commented to Simon and Carolyn. Turning to Blair, still seated at the table, Jim said, "Come on, Chief, I want to talk to any relatives we can dig up for David Lash."

~~~~~~~~~~ Act IV ~~~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair were in the interrogation room questioning Lash's father. Blair was sure the man looked older than his true age partly because of the cigarettes he seemed to chain smoke. Having a son like David Lash couldn't have helped.

"...Mr. Lash," Jim asked.

"Hey, Davey was a strange little egg, I'll tell you," the man said as he puffed on a cigarette. "Me and the Mama, we could never connect with him, you know? She'd go to hold him; he'd cry every time. I figured maybe he needs a pal or something so I bagged us this little mallard from a lake by where we was living. It was cute. We called it Homer."

The man seemed to be enjoying the memory at first then his expression went cold. "Davey choked it to death. He kept him in his room for days.

"Davey's little brother, Jimmy? He was something else. Mama used to say the sun shined in that kid's eyes."

Jim and Blair glanced at each other and waited for the man to continue. Jim felt compelled to prompt him when he stayed silent. "You said Jimmy. Where is he now?"

Lash's father looked up at them in disgust. "Dead. On his fifth birthday, found him in his bed. The doc says, 'It just happens sometimes.' I says, 'God took the wrong boy.'" Jim and Blair could see the hurt in the man’s face at losing his youngest son. "The damnedest thing after that -- Davey, he starts pretending he's Jimmy."

"Does the color yellow mean anything to you?" Blair asked the man.

"Yeah, my wife's favorite color. Everything in the damn house was yellow."

"Where is your wife? Could we speak to her?" Jim asked, as he sat down next to the man.

"She started drinking heavy after Jimmy died. She says everything is my fault. We got divorced. I ain't seen her since."

"So who got custody?" Blair asked taking a seat at the table.

"Judge made her take him," Lash’s father said.

"How'd she treat him?" Jim asked.

"She'd lock him in his room for days when she was going out, you know, with her friends," the old man told them.

"You mean men?" Jim wanted to clarify.

Lash’s father looked at the detective with a smirk. "Yeah, whatever. He'd cry and cry, you know? He started smearing filth on himself. His Mama'd punish him something fierce. She gave him hot baths, scrubbing and scrubbing like she could clean him on the inside."

Jim felt cold inside. He didn’t have any sympathy for this man anymore. "And you knew about this."

"The boy was a devil. I was hoping she *would * kill him," the old man said with disgust.

~~~~~~~~

After they talked to David Lash’s father, Blair had to get away from the police station for awhile. He needed to distance himself from this crazy case. Jim had gone to the gym to work off a little tension himself. So Blair had met Christine at the University as she was leaving her Anthropology class. It was already dark when they walked down the steps together.

"Now, Captain Banks was thinking that the leak was coming from inside the department, and then Jim figured out that it was actually the killer who was feeding the information to this Hass guy." He hesitated then continued, "Crazy. You know, for a while there, I actually... I thought the leak... Well, that it might have been you."

He could tell by the look on Christine’s face that he had said the wrong thing. Maybe he could change the subject quickly and she’d forget about that last remark. "Hey, you want to catch a movie? I heard they got this Italian neo-realist retrospective over at the Cine-Art."

Christine couldn’t believe what she was hearing. "Some other time. Taxi!"

"Chris... Chris, what's wrong?" *Yep you did it again buddy. You really screwed up.*

Christine turned on Blair. She wasn’t angry, really. Just incredibly hurt that he didn’t trust her. "I can't believe you thought it was me."

"I didn't really think it was you. It's just that we've just had so much pressure...," Blair stammered.

"Look, I was there for you and you never trusted me. And you know what, Blair? It really hurts," she said, getting into the taxi that had pulled up.

Blair sighed. "I know. C'mon, Chris, can't we talk about this? Can I call you later?" he pleaded.

Christine liked Blair, but she couldn’t be with someone if that someone didn’t trust her. "Maybe I'll call you." She shut the taxi door.

Just before the taxi pulled away, Blair could have sworn he saw a reflection of someone that looked almost like him in the glass of the window. With his heart pounding, he spun around to see if anyone was behind him, but nobody was there.

Blair shook his head as if to clear it. "Whoo. Relax. Just relax," he told himself as he headed off to his own car.

~~~~~~~~

Blair walked into the loft and turned to lock the door. He leaned back against the hard wood and let out a deep breath. "Whew. Just relax. Relax. Oh, man, just calm down. Whew."

Just as Blair started to take off his jacket, he saw a shadow pass the window in the ceiling. Startled, he hastily locked all the windows and pulled the shades.

His first thought was of Jim. *Jim has always saved me in the past, he’ll save me this time too.* His hands where shaking when he picked up the phone to call Jim's beeper.

Blair impatiently stood in the kitchen by the phone waiting for it to ring. "It’s okay, it’s okay. Ring! Come on, please!" he spoke to himself.

Just then the front door burst open. Blair was in shock. He had to get away from this nut. Quickly he ducked down on the opposite side of the big counter hoping not to be seen.

He could hear the person stalk into the loft. "Blair? Where are you?" the crazy man called. "Come on Blair, I just want to be your friend. Come out, come out, wherever you are." As he spoke he was knocking things over, breaking the lamps, shattering a set of small glass figurines and the TV set.

Maybe if he was really quiet while Lash was destroying things, he could sneak to his bedroom and go down the fire escape. Blair slowly crawled on his hands and knees toward his bedroom. Just as he reached the curtains that he used as a door, a hand grabbed his hair from behind. He hissed in pain as he was dragged to his feet.

Once he was standing, he twisted around as best as he could and tried to fight off his attacker. He landed a good solid punch, but it didn’t seem to faze the man. Before Blair could think about making another move, Lash slammed his head against the counter, making him see stars. He could feel his legs give way under him. Then he was flat on his back watching the ceiling spin.

He was so dazed that he never noticed when Lash pinched his nose closed until he was gasping for breath through his mouth. The next thing he was aware of was cool liquid being poured down his throat. He tried to cough it back up but his jaw was roughly grabbed and slammed shut. Then he was free. Lash had just let go of him, but remained sitting on the floor next to him smiling.

Blair tried to sit up, but the throbbing in his head slowed him down. He had to get away before Lash killed him. He rolled over and pushed himself up on his hands and knees, and slowly started crawling for his bedroom.

Then he realized that his arms and legs were becoming numb. Oh shit, he thought fearfully. It was getting harder and harder to keep moving. And his eyes were getting heavy. He tried to talk, to scream for help, but his mouth wouldn’t obey his commands. *Please Jim, help me,* was his last thought before the darkness claimed him.

~~~~~~~~

Jim was lifting weights, his muscles straining and rippling under his tank top. Jim had discovered while in Vice that he did some of his best thinking while working out in the weight room in the precinct's basement. While his muscles worked up a sweat, his brain was free to process all the information gathered so far. Finally coming to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to figure it out before his body gave out, he headed for the showers.

Just as he was pulling on his shirt after a nice hot shower, his pager went off. It was probably Blair wanting to ask him to bring home take out for dinner. He froze when he saw the number of the loft with 911 added to it. Blair was in trouble. He quickly finished dressing and grabbed his gun as he raced to help his friend.

~~~~~~~~

Jim pushed the door open, fear for his friend making his moves more urgent. The door had practically been knocked from the hinges. He had his gun out scanning the apartment. Once inside, he took in the sight that made him think of pictures he’d seen on TV of the aftermath of a tornado. Everything was destroyed. At least Blair had put up a good fight. "Blair?" he called out just for good measure, hoping he would get an answer. He couldn’t seem to focus his senses to scan for the anthropologist. After checking the bathroom, which he thankfully found empty, he walked to the phone. *I’ve got to find Blair before that psycho kills him.*

~~~~~~~~

Somewhere in a deserted warehouse, Blair lay unconscious on a damp concrete floor. He was gagged; his arms and legs chained together, then attached to a metal ring imbedded in the floor. For a minute he seemed to regain awareness. He tugged on the chains in a vain attempt to escape, but then fell back into unconsciousness again.

~~~~~~~~~~ Act V ~~~~~~~~~~

Jim was talking to Carolyn on the phone as he paced the loft like a caged panther. Time was running out for his partner and Carolyn wasn’t helping.

"It's not your fault," she tried to say soothingly.

"I let that creep slip through my fingers too many times, Carolyn." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "What about the water? Did you come up with anything about the water?"

"We found some contamination. It could be waste."

"Like from a sewer?" he asked.

"Maybe. I can't say for sure yet," she told him.

Still pacing, Jim asked, "What about Susan Frasier's clothes? Anything?"

"Nothing."

Jim had to do something. He couldn’t just sit around and wait for his partner to be killed. "I'm gonna head over to her house. Maybe there's something we missed. I'll call you later." He hung up the phone and bolted out of the loft’s broken door.

~~~~~~~~

When Jim got to Susan Frasier’s house he opened his senses wide. There had to be something t here that he had missed the first time, something that would lead him to Blair. After checking out the rest of the house, the last place he looked was the bathroom. He sat on the edge of the tub and leaned over scrutinizing every inch. His sight zeroed in on something caught in the drain. *Bingo.*

~~~~~~~~

Jim met Simon and Carolyn back at the forensics lab. He was waiting for Carolyn to tell him what it was he had found in the drain of the tub. She finally looked up and spoke, "It's down."

"What, a feather?" Simon asked.

Jim’s mind was reeling. "Down? Carolyn, give me that water in the beaker. "

"Why, Jim?" Carolyn asked.

"Just get it."

"Where you going with this, Jim?" Simon asked his detective.

Jim was in his own world, it seemed, because he didn’t even acknowledge Simon. "And break the seal," he told Carolyn.

Carolyn looked at him like he was crazy. "I can't, Jim. Oxygen will contaminate the sample. It'll be useless as evidence."

"Sandburg's life is at stake," he gritted out.

"What could you possibly do with this water?" she demanded.

"Would you just break the seal?" he pleaded. When she hesitated, he turned anguished eyes on his captain. "Come on, Simon. Please?"

Simon knew they didn’t have much time if they had a chance of saving their young friend. He just hoped that Jim’s uncanny abilities would do the trick. Sighing, he ordered Carolyn to open it, "Break the seal. I'll be responsible."

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. They had both gone over the edge. She angrily broke the seal and handed the beaker to Jim. He cautiously smelled the water sample. *What did he think he could tell by smelling it, that she couldn’t by analyzing it?*

"You were right about waste," Jim stated. "It smells like bird waste."

Ok, Carolyn thought. *He is nuts.* "Bird waste?" she asked incredulously.

Jim kept sniffing the water, "Duck waste. Down. You got a down feather, right? He's drowning his victims in a duck pond," Jim blurted enthusiastically.

Simon shook his head. Maybe Jim *had* lost it. "That's a reach, Jim."

Carolyn agreed, "Simon's right -- we can't assume anything because you smell it."

Jim looked at them desperately. "Unless you have any other suggestions, this is all we've got."

~~~~~~~~

David Lash carried Blair, who was still chained and gagged, down a set of stairs in a fireman's carry. He had lit candles and placed them everywhere, giving the place an eerie atmosphere.

As he navigated the stairs in the candlelight, he skipped a step that he had rigged to collapse, just in case of intruders. "Careful of the step, man. That's for party-crashers," he told himself.

Lash crossed to the middle of the room and placed Blair into a dentist chair. After making sure his captive was as comfortable as possible, he lightly slapped Blair’s face.

Blair started to wake up a little and saw Lash standing over him again. His heartbeat skyrocketed. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. As he began to struggle, Lash tried to quiet his new friend.

"It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay," Lash told Blair, leaning back and motioning around the room. "I'd like you to meet my friends. I only have four of them now, but there will be more." Lash started to pace around the large room. "You know, friends are, like really easy to make, dude."

He stopped in front of a wheelchair that was hanging from the ceiling. "There's, uh... Adam Walker. He was really easy. He didn't struggle at all. But I guess it's 'cause he was really stoned."

Moving to his next display, he picked up a set of drumsticks. "And then there's... Billy Bright. Bright...he was not. But I...overlooked that because, man..." Lash tapped the drumsticks on the chair Blair was in. "Cause he had talent."

Blair couldn’t believe this was happening to him. *Where the hell was Jim?* He squirmed in the chair as Lash continued introducing his friends.

"Oh...then there was sweet Susan. She had really good taste in cars, but that hair, those clothes? I mean, what was the girl thinking?" Lash said almost disgustedly.

The man moved closer to Blair and leaned over him again. "You know," he sneered "... I think my finest hour... was getting up into your partner's face." He put the tips of the drumsticks one on each side of Blair’s face causing the young man to panic and squirm more frantically. "But now... it's time for Hairy Blairy and the beautiful...china doll."

~~~~~~~~

Back at the forensics lab, Jim, Simon and Carolyn were gathered around the computer that displayed maps of duck ponds in the area. Jim knew that Lash had taken Blair to one of these ponds to drown him.

Carolyn skipped through the programs until she found a map for the closest ponds, "Duck ponds, duck ponds. Here. Hillsborough Park," she said hopefully. Even she was beginning to feel the urgency to find Blair.

"No, that's no good. It's all gated. There's no public access," Simon pointed out.

Carolyn clicked on the next pond on the list, pulling up the location and surrounding area. "Grandview Zoo."

Jim shook his head."24-hour security. It's got to be isolated where he can kill unobserved."

Carolyn clicked on the last pond listed. "Here's the last one. Alfred's Pond -- down by the waterfront."

Jim seemed to perk up. "Right in the middle of old warehouses and abandoned buildings. He's got to be there somewhere."

"Well, wait a minute. Shouldn't we check nearby towns as well?" she asked. How could Jim be so positive?

Jim shook his head again. "No. There's no time." Turning to his captain he actually begged now, "Simon, we got to take a shot now."

~~~~~~~~

Blair watched Lash put on a curly, longhaired wig in front of a mirror. With the gag still in place, all he could do was sit and listen to the killer. He tried to wiggle out of the chains that bound him, but couldn’t control his movements well.

"Yeah, this is going to really be fun. You have a wicked sense of humor. You know... kind of hip... with a touch of the nerd. All in all, man... quite a piece of work." He turned and smiled at Blair, which made the anthropologist shiver.

Blair closed his eyes. *Come on Jim. Anytime now would be fine.*

~~~~~~~~

Jim had used a small boat to get from one side of Alfred’s Pond to the other. He was afraid that if he used a vehicle, Lash would hear him and kill Blair, if he hadn’t already. He put the paddle in the boat and tied it up to a rock at the edge of the pond. Dressed all in black, it was like he was back in Covert Ops in the Army. As he was headed toward the warehouses, Simon’s voice came over his radio earpiece.

"This is Zebra One. We're at Alfred's Pond. We just completed a sweep of the entire area, no sign of either of our targets. Looks like there's nothing here but ducks, man. What's your location?"

Jim responded quietly, "Zebra One, that's a roger. Commencing sweep. Will advise on location. Out."

Jim opened his senses and quietly moved toward the buildings where he knew his friend was being held captive.

~~~~~~~~

Blair was getting tired of all this. His fear had blossomed into anger. He had to get this gag out of his mouth so he could try to talk this nut out of killing him. Talking was one of the things he did best. "What are you doing?" he mumbled around the gag.

"What?" Lash asked.

Blair tried again, still muffled by the gag. "What are you doing?"

Lash walked over to Blair. "I can't hear you. I don't understand. I need to hear your voice more anyway," he told Blair as he removed the gag.

Blair started yelling the second the gag was taken away. Lash yelled right along with him, "Screw you, you head case! Help! Help me!"

Blair couldn’t believe this was happening. He was really going to die. He could see it in Lash’s eyes. This man was going to kill him and not think twice about it. He was beginning to feel sick to his stomach.

Lash grabbed Blair’s face in his hands. "You just relax." Lash’s voice was starting to sound confused and unsure. "We're going to see the ducks and then you're going to have a nice-- you're going to have... have a nice bath." Leaning closer to Blair he whispered, "Are you ready to die? 'Cause...I'm ready."

~~~~~~~~

Jim was being as quiet as he could as he traveled from warehouse to warehouse. He just knew Blair and Lash were here. He just had to find the right building. His instincts told him to keep moving. He didn’t know why, but he felt he was being drawn to Blair. He could tell he was getting closer. He hurried to the next warehouse.

~~~~~~~~

Blair watched the mad man as he worked. Lash was using little plastic cups to mix some kind of liquid. Probably more of whatever the man had drugged him with earlier to get him here. There had to be something he could do to delay the inevitable.

"Progress report, man." Lash turned toward Blair, still holding a plastic vile full of the drug he was mixing. "How am I doing? Do I make a good you?" he asked with a smile.

Blair’s anger overtook his fear. This guy could never be him. "You suck! Do you think you can be me? When's my birthday? Huh? What was the name of my first girlfriend? How old was I when I broke my arm falling out of Mrs. Danbush's tree? Huh? C'mon, you freak, answer me!" Blair’s voice had escalated into angry shouts during his tirade. "You can’t be me. Only I think what I think. Feel what I feel."

Lash had a confused look on his face now. *Maybe this is going to work,* Blair thought.

"I can be you! I can be…Me. I…" Lash trailed off trying to clear his head.

Blair shook his head. Maybe he had put some doubt in the nutcase’s head.

Lash glared at Blair. "Shut up, man."

Blair sneered at Lash, "You think you know who I am? I know more about you. Poor little Homer."

"No," Lash ground out.

Blair could tell the other man was losing his temper. Maybe it was time to shut up, but he couldn’t seem to stop the flow of words. "Your pet duck? Why’d you kill him? Why’d you kill your brother?" Blair taunted.

Lash was scowling at Blair now. "You are ruining this."

The words just kept coming out of Blair’s mouth faster than he could think about what he was saying. He was using everything in his arsenal against his attacker. "Why’d you rub filth…"

"Shut up!" Lash screamed.

But Blair was on a roll now. He couldn’t have shut up if he wanted to. His voice kept getting louder and louder with his anger. "Why did you make Mommy punish you? You know, if you had just been a good little boy…a good little Davey…Mamma wouldn’t have had to have scrubbed you in all those hot baths!"

Lash ran across the room and jumped on the chair, straddling Blair. He pinched Blair’s nose shut. When Blair’s mouth came open to breathe, Lash started pouring the drug down his throat. Blair fought as much as he could, but he was still weak from the last dose of drugs, as well as the blow to his head. He didn’t want to die.

~~~~~~~~

Jim stopped just outside the next warehouse. He opened his hearing, hoping to pick up something that would lead him to Blair. *Bingo.* He could hear Blair’s voice in the building. He was taunting to Lash. Then Simon’s voice was slicing through his head.

"Come in, come in."

Wincing in pain, Jim yanked out the earpiece. He followed the sound of Blair’s voice coming from the building with his sight, zeroing in on the room where his friend was being held. His instinct to protect kicked in and he ran to save his friend.

~~~~~~~~

Jim burst in the door just as Lash was pouring something down Blair’s throat. With his gun aimed at Lash, Jim started down the stairs and yelled, "Police! Freeze!"

Lash backed away from Blair as Jim walked down the stairs. Jim was so focused on the killer, he wasn’t prepared for one of the steps collapsing under his weight. Jim fell hard, and lost his gun. Lash instantly jumped on Jim and attacked him.

~~~~~~~~

Blair tried to turn his head to watch, but the drug Lash had poured down his throat was starting to take effect. His vision blurred and he felt numb. He listened to the two men fight, wishing he could do something to help Jim. Then he heard a crashing sound just before he blacked out.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Lash fought around the room. He was surprised at how strong the killer was. Suddenly they fell through a weak spot in the floor. They fell several stories down knocking the wind from both of them. Jim thought he felt something pop in his back, but he didn’t have time to think about it now. Lash recovered first and ran off into the dark building. Jim pulled his spare gun from his back holster and slowly chased after Lash.

Using his sentinel sight to search for Lash, Jim caught the other man’s reflection in a pane of glass. Lash swung a two-by-four he had found and just grazed Jim’s gun knocking it from his hand. Jim knocked Lash away from him and grabbed his gun from the floor.

Just as Lash was making another run at him Jim raised the gun and fired, shooting Lash five times. As the bullets ripped into his chest, Lash stumbled back and fell through an open space in the floor to the next level.

Jim walked over to the edge and looked down at the dead man. He wasn’t surprised when he felt no regret about having to kill the psycho. He breathed a sigh of relief. One less psycho to worry about.

*Oh shit,* thought Jim. "Blair!" he said aloud as he turned and ran back up stairs to check on his partner.

When Jim burst back into the room where Blair was, he stopped cold. Blair looked dead. He was lying in the dentist chair, chained, and completely motionless. Jim extended his hearing and immediately picked up the younger man’s heartbeat. It was steady, but very slow. *Lash must have gotten more of the drug into Blair.*

Jim walked to the chair and leaned over his partner. He was so still. Blair wasn’t supposed to be still. Even in his sleep he tossed and turned. Jim put his right hand on Blair’s cheek and called to him, "Blair? Wake up." He patted Blair’s face a little hoping to get some reaction. "Sandburg? Come on, Chief, wake up."

It was no use. The drug had Blair down for the count. Jim looked at the chains holding his friend in the chair. There had to be a key somewhere. Jim walked across the room to the table where Lash kept his supplies. Sure enough there was a key ring there. He picked it up and quickly headed back to the chair. After trying three keys, the fourth one worked.

Jim carefully unwrapped the chains from his partner. He then gently picked him up and cradled him in his arms, carrying him downstairs and out of the warehouse. When Jim cleared the building, he lay Blair down and placed Blair’s head on his lap, waiting for Simon and the cavalry to show up.

Jim noticed that he could still hear Blair’s heartbeat. It was slowly getting faster. At that moment he realized just what he’d come so close to losing. Blair’s eyelids finally fluttered and then opened slightly, trying to focus on Jim.

"Jmmm," Blair slurred. "Mmmm sorrry mannn. Srewed uppp."

Jim patted Blair’s face. "No, buddy, you didn’t. You did just fine. You did everything right." He smiled down at his sleepy partner. "Go back to sleep, Chief. Simon’s coming and we’ll have you checked out at the hospital before going home." He watched as Blair’s eyes slid shut again.

Blair let out a relaxed sigh, "K."

~~~~~~~~

Everybody was sitting around a TV that had been set up in the Major Crimes bullpen. They were watching reporter Don Hass giving his report on the past night's activities.

"In a daring 11th-hour rescue, Detective Ellison saved the life of a police observer by gunning the killer down moments before he would have struck again. And so, Cascade will sleep easy tonight because of you, Detective."

"Well, I'd say you're guaranteed good press for the rest of your career. Huh?" Simon asked his best detective.

Carolyn walked past Jim and Blair where they were perched on Jim’s desk, "Just put in a good word for me. This is my best side," she said pointing to her left cheek.

Everybody laughed and then went about getting back to work. Jim and Blair stood to get their jackets from the rack beside the desk.

"Hey, Jim." Blair tapped Jim’s arm to get his attention. "Last night when you said I did everything right -- did you mean that?"

Jim gave his young friend an appraising look. "Yeah. You kept your head, even though you thought you were going to die."

Blair finished putting on his jacket, as did Jim. "You know, the Chinese believe when you save a man's life you become his blessed protector and it's your duty to do that for the rest of your life."

Leaving the bullpen, they headed for the elevator. "Really?" Jim said. "Well, here's today's rescue -- call Christine. Beg, crawl, whatever you got to do."

Blair smiled and laughed, "I'm pretty good at that, huh?"

Jim was getting very expressive with his hands. "Don't ever lie to her. Remember -- trust, commitment."

"Speaking of commitment, I've been thinking about getting a Cascade P.D. insignia tattooed right on my chest," Blair told Jim, seemingly asking for permission.

Jim arched his brow. "Above the nipple ring?"

"How did you know about that?" Blair asked in amazement.

Jim hit the down button for the elevator. "Let me tell you something. You get a tattoo and your blessed protector's going to kick your ass down seven flights to the lobby."

"Whoa, there, tough guy! C'mon, you really think I'd put something on my body I couldn't take off? I was just kidding," Blair laughed. They got on the elevator and pushed the down button.

"Although an earring would be nice. You know something tasteful. Maybe a small silver badge," Blair added just before the elevator doors closed.

~ The End ~

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Next week's episode:Night Train by Terri Thomas




Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 November 2005 )
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