Redhawke.org
Hear No Evil
Hear No Evil
By Melinda Holley

Beta Read by Jewelle Sprite and Wolf
Written for PetFly by Harold Apter
Rated PG
internal thought in * *


~~~~~ ACT I ~~~~~

Major Crimes

"I don't want to hear it, Jim," Capt. Simon Banks firmly announced. He was standing at the door of his office, eyeing Detective Jim Ellison with a no-nonsense expression. "In fact, I've heard more than I care to about it." He waved a sheaf of papers in front of Jim's face. "Every week, as a matter of fact, I get a nicely typed memo informing me that your yearly physical is past due." He lowered his voice. "Three months past due!" he hissed.

Jim sighed.

"You were supposed to show up for your physical three months ago!" Banks exploded. "I can't keep putting them off forever. Now what's the problem?"

Jim looked around to make sure no one was close enough to hear his explanation, then lowered his voice. "My sentinel abilities, sir. All it would take is one suspicious doctor…"

Simon half-frowned. "Mmmm…I see what you mean. What if the doctor figures out you're not normal? I thought everyone knew that." His dark eyes twinkled at Jim's sour expression. "All right, I get your point. But isn't that the reason I have to put up with Sandburg? Let him figure out how to deal with it." He turned to enter his office. "Today, Ellison."

"Yes, sir," Jim sighed

~~~~~~~~

Dr. Grant's Waiting Room

Blair Sandburg trotted as he tried to keep up with Jim's long stride. "We knew this was coming, Jim. You put it off as long as you could. We'll do the best we can."

Jim ignored the younger man as he flung the door to the waiting room open. Blair sighed and caught it to prevent it slamming shut.

"Excuse me?" Jim glanced at the shorter man. "What's this 'we' stuff?"

"Hey, I've got something at stake here." Blair grinned. "What if the world finds out about your sentinel abilities? There goes my thesis. The book. The movie rights."

"You're kidding, right?" Jim demanded.

Blair shrugged. "It could happen."

Jim missed the twinkling in his friend's eyes. Irritably, he approached the receptionist's desk. "My name is Jim Ellison. I have an appointment."

The young blonde-haired nurse smiled. "Please take a seat. Dr. Grant will be with you shortly." She handed him a clipboard and pen. "Please fill out the form. Both sides."

Jim silently nodded. He led Blair towards two empty seats. He absently nodded at the elderly couple who occupied two seats next to the wall. He started to fill out the form, then put the clipboard on his lap. He leaned closer to Blair and muttered, "What am I going to do, Sandburg?"

"Just stay calm," Blair urged. "Your body should respond normally to the tests as long as your senses don’t get…" He waved his hands in the air.

"Over stimulated?" Jim irritably finished.

"Exactly!" Blair smiled.

"And how do I prevent *that* from happening?" Ellison demanded in a low voice.

"You just gotta stay relaxed," Blair decided. "You need a mantra."

"A mantra?" Jim stared at the younger man in derision. "Like those people in the orange robes at the airport?"

"Come on, Jim. Open your mind a little, huh?" Blair complained. "Meditation is not only about spirituality. It also affects the body in many different ways." He lowered his voice. "Including the senses." He levered himself up in his chair until he could sit cross-legged in the seat. "Now don't fight me on this, okay? Work with me. I'm trying to help you." When Ellison curtly nodded, he smiled. "Now. Take a deep, cleansing breath. Like this." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then slowly exhaled.

Jim looked at the older couple who were openly watching. "He's here for therapy."

"Breathe, Jim, " Blair ordered without opening his eyes.

Jim closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply.

"Good…good…now inhale and repeat after me," Blair softly murmured. "I am…"

"I am…" Jim repeated as he inhaled.

"Relaxed…and exhale," Blair ordered.

"Relaxed," Jim exhaled.

"Again," Blair softly ordered. He opened his eyes and watched his partner.

"I am…" Jim inhaled. "Relaxed." He exhaled.

"Working?" Blair quietly asked.

"Yeah." The surprise in Jim's voice couldn't be hidden. "It is. I am…" he inhaled. "Relaxed." He exhaled. "I am…" he inhaled.

"BOO!!!" Blair shouted as he lunged sideways at his partner.

Startled, Jim nearly jumped to his feet. The older couple also instinctively moved back in their seats. Catching his breath, Jim glared at the giggling anthropologist.

"I'm sorry, man. Really." Blair tried hard to control his laughter. "It's sort of a rite of passage when you first meditate, you know."

"I'll give you a rite of passage," Jim muttered under his breath.

The older man shook his head in disapproval although the older woman softly chuckled.

"Come on, man." Blair gently patted Jim's arm. "Let's start over. C'mon…"

Jim reluctantly closed his eyes. "I am…" he inhaled. "Relaxed." He exhaled. "I am…"

~~~~~~~~

Dr. Grant's Examination Room

"Relaxed." Jim exhaled. "I am…" he inhaled. He opened his eyes and shivered. "Freezing!" He looked down at the loose gown then around for the thermostat. Finding it, he grimaced. "No wonder. Between this idiotic piece of paper I'm wearing and…" He leaned backward and to one side, reaching for the thermostat. He quickly turned back around when the door opened.

"Good afternoon, Detective Ellison. I'm Dr. Grant."

Jim appreciatively eyed the tall auburn-haired woman. Her white lab coat did nothing but emphasize her attractive body. "Dr. Grant," he greeted.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, studying the clipboard in her hand.

"No complaints," Jim quickly assured her. "Just the standard yearly physical."

"Hmmm…" Dr. Grant nodded. "Good. Glad to hear it." She smiled as she laid the clipboard on a nearby table. "We'll get started, then." She smiled. "I'm sure you've been through this before."

Jim grunted. "More times that I care to remember."

Dr. Grant warmed the stethoscope between her hands then placed it over Jim's heart. "Breathe, please."

*I am…relaxed. I am…relaxed.* Jim silently repeated the mantra as he followed the doctor's instructions to breathe, stand, hold out this arm, hold out that arm, turn left, turn right, and sit.

"Say 'ahhhh,'" Dr. Grant ordered.

"Ahhhhh," Jim sighed. He watched as the physician marked something on the clipboard. She reached for a pair of rubber gloves.

"You know, your dress matches your eyes, Doctor." He appreciatively eyed both the dress and eyes.

"Hmmm..mmmm," Dr. Grant answered. Her eyes, however, twinkled as she worked the gloves over her slim fingers. "Why don't you stand up for me?"

Jim sighed again. "My favorite part."

"Mine, too," Dr. Grant widely smiled. "This may hurt just a bit. But turn your head to the side and cough."

Not long afterwards, Jim was buttoning his shirt as Dr. Grant studied a chest x-ray.

"Your chest looks great," she offered.

Surprised, Jim glanced at her.

Dr. Grant's eyes twinkled. "I was referring to the x-ray, Detective." They exchanged a quick smile. "Actually, for your age, you're in great shape."

*For my age?!?* Jim's eyebrows rose.

"Except for one thing," Dr. Grant continued.

"What?" Jim asked in concern.

"Your ears," Dr. Grant answered.

"They've always been sensitive." Jim caught his breath.

"With all that wax in them, I'm surprised you can hear anything at all," Dr. Grant snorted. "Haven't things been sounding as though you're underwater?"

Jim half-shrugged. "I guess I've compensated for it."

Dr. Grant reached for a nearby instrument. "Well, when I get through with you, it'll be a whole new world. Have a seat, Detective."

"Look, my ears are fine," Jim protested. "Really."

"Tell you what." Dr. Grant smiled. "If you don't hear a difference, I'll owe you dinner." She indicated the examination table. "Sit."

Reluctant, Jim sat.

"Hold this for me." She handed Jim a cup to hold under his ear.

"Easy," Jim cautioned. "They're really sensitive."

~~~~~~~~

Felinton Office Building – Downtown Cascade

It had been an unusual day in Cascade. A beautiful blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see with not a cloud in sight. Brent Marten sighed as he stared out the floor-to-ceiling window of the unfinished office building. He would have given anything to have been anywhere else…doing anything else. But he was a cop. A good cop.

He stiffened as he heard the nearby elevator doors open. *So much for the idea of a beautiful sunset.* He turned to see his colleague, Dave Brooks, calmly exit the elevator.

"What's up, Brent?" Brooks smiled. "Funny place for a meeting."

Marten shook his head. "This is serious, Dave. We have to talk."

Brooks shook his head. "So she finally told you, huh? I really thought she would keep her mouth shut."

"Leave Barbara out of this," Marten irritably replied. "She doesn't have anything to do with this."

"Get real, Brent," Brooks smirked. "This is me you're talking to, remember? Barbara's got a lot to do with this." He walked away and leaned against a nearby, unpainted wall. "What do you want?"

"End it," Marten quickly answered. "Now. Come with me."

Behind Marten, the door to a nearby stairway silently opened. A gloved hand kept the door from slamming shut.

"I'm afraid I can't do it, Brent," Brooks shook his head. "Why don't you just let sleeping dogs lie?"

"Because the dogs aren't sleeping, are they?" Marten angrily shot back.

The dark-clad figure from the stairs carefully walked down the corridor, staying close to the wall. Barely six feet behind Marten, the man looked over Marten's shoulder at Brooks.

"No," Brooks sighed after a moment of silence. "'Afraid not."

Marten saw Brooks slightly nod and started to spin around.

The dark-clad man quickly raised his pistol and slammed the butt-end against the side of Marten's head.

Stumbling, Marten fell against the wall. He shakily reached under his jacket for his gun.

Brooks quickly tackled Marten, sending the cop's gun sliding across the concrete floor. Another blow to Marten's head completed the assault.

Breathing heavily, Brooks retrieved Marten's gun.

"Chopper will be here close to midnight," the other man quietly said.

Brooks nodded. He brought out his handcuffs and secured Marten's hands behind his back. "Bring the drop cloths." He glanced around with a smile. "We wouldn't want to get blood splattered all over this nice room while we find out just what our friend, Brent, knows, now would we?"

The other man grinned and walked back towards the stairwell.

Brooks stood over Marten's unconscious body, then looked out the window at the brilliant sunset in the western sky. "Now that's pretty."

~~~~~~~~

The Loft – Just Before 2AM

*Oh the night…has a thousand eyes…*

Why the words to that particular song kept playing in Jim's mind, he'd never know. But he automatically added, *Not to mention a thousand sounds!*

He stared up at the ceiling and cataloged the sounds for probably the thousandth time. Water dripping from the bathroom faucet in the apartment just beneath him. Car horns blaring at the intersection three blocks away. A radio playing some god-awful so-called music from the car parked at the corner. A pen scratching its way across a piece of paper.

Angrily, Jim threw the blankets back and got up. Pulling on a pair of sweatpants, he quickly walked down the stairs. Leaning over the back of the couch, he grabbed Blair's pen.

"Man!" Blair jumped in surprise. "I thought you were asleep! What's going on?"

"Do you have to write so damn loud?" Jim demanded as he tossed the pen onto the end table.

"Excuse me? Write so loud?" Blair shook his head. "Get a grip. Use the earplugs I gave you." He leaned over and grabbed his pen.

"I *am* wearing them!" Jim angrily pulled the earplugs from his ears.

Just then, Blair's alarm clock went off. Jim slapped his hands to his ears and winced. Blair smacked the alarm clock, silencing the shrill whine.

"Sorry," Blair apologized. "Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I'm doing I forget to go to sleep."

Jim threw the earplugs onto the coffee table. The echo as they bounced on the polished wood caused him to wince. He sat on the opposite end of the couch and rested his head in his hands.

"Jim, you suffered from impacted wax," Blair softly explained. "It's no big deal. It happens to other people, too, you know." He ignored the glare thrown in his direction. "In your case, your sentinel hearing automatically compensated. Jim, we never knew just how powerful it actually is. You're just going to have to start at the beginning again."

"That's very encouraging, Sandburg," Jim grumbled. "Thanks so much."

"Come on, Jim," Blair encouraged. "You did it before. You can do it again. Your hearing is one of your greatest assets. And if you've only been using it at half-power, think what you can do!"

"Yeah. Spend the rest of my life tortured by dog whistles!" Jim snapped. He grabbed two throw pillows from the couch and clapped one over each ear.

Blair smothered a smile. *Earaches are no fun for anybody. So it's probably worse for Jim. But…c'mon, man!* He gently reached out and pulled one pillow away from the side of Jim's head. "Come on, Jim."

~~~~~~~~

High Above Cascade

Brent Marten sat slumped against the side of the helicopter. Several streaks of blood crisscrossed his face. His left eye was swollen shut, and his jaw was definitely broken on the right side. Through narrowed eyes, he studied Brooks, who was looking out the window to his left. He held his gun loosely in his right hand. Marten's eyes flickered towards the back of the pilot's head. *Where'd the other guy go?*

Double-checking to make sure his sight wasn't playing tricks on him, he confirmed only he and Brooks were passengers on this ride. *Must have stayed behind to clean up the place.* He closed his eyes when Brooks turned to look at him. Patiently counting to twenty, he cautiously opened his eyes. Brooks' attention was again on the city lights below.

Forcing himself to act despite the pain shooting through his body, Marten suddenly kicked at Brooks' arm, knocking the gun to the floor. Snarling, Brooks met Marten's desperate lunge and threw him backwards.

Marten screamed as the passenger door flew open and he fell out of the helicopter.

"Dammit!" Brooks swore. He smacked the pilot on the shoulder. "Down! We've got to get the body!"

~~~~~~~~

The Loft

"Look, Jim…" Blair was repeating.

Jim sat up, startled, as he heard a piercing scream. "What the hell?"

"Jim?" Blair asked in concern. He watched as Jim flung open the front door, ran out into the hallway, and then continued down the stairway. "Jim!" he called out again as he followed his sentinel.

By the time Blair joined him moments later, Jim stood on the sidewalk, carefully listening. "Put your shoes on, man!" Blair ordered. When Jim automatically obeyed, he shoved Jim's jacket into his arms. "That, too!" Pulling on his own jacket, he looked around. "What's going on?"

"You didn't hear that scream?" Jim glanced at the younger man. "And the chopper?" He looked upwards at the moonless sky.

"Choppers fly over all the time, Jim," Blair patiently explained.

"And screams?" Jim demanded. He tilted his head to one side and spun around. "It's landing." He began running towards the bay.

"Jim!" Blair shouted.

Panting, Jim ran towards the water. Focusing his sight, he saw a helicopter land. One man jumped out and heaved a limp form back into the aircraft. He was still two blocks away when the helicopter quickly rose into the black sky. Reaching the deserted shoreline, Jim gasped for air as he followed the aircraft.

Desperately dragging air into his lungs, Blair joined his partner. "C'mon, man…what is…"

"Shh!" Jim held up a hand. In horror, he watched the helicopter hover over the bay. The door of the aircraft opened, and a body fell into the water. "Oh, my god! They just threw a body into the bay."

"What?" Blair gasped. "Where…" He vainly looked up at the black sky.

"It was a police chopper," Jim curtly interrupted. "But I couldn't make out the numbers."

"Are you sure?" Blair demanded.

Jim's eyes searched the nearby ground. He silently walked towards his left. "The body landed here."

"How can you tell that?" Blair asked with barely muted excitement. *Oh, man, this is *so* cool!*

"Depression in the ground. Heat pattern from the body," Jim absently explained. He nudged a nearby glove. "There's blood on the glove." He glared out at the water. "Son of a bitch," he muttered.


~~~~~ ACT II ~~~~~

Shoreline of the Bay – Early Next Morning

Simon Banks angrily slammed the door to his car. He saw Jim Ellison standing close to the shoreline, staring at the recovery efforts. Blair Sandburg stood several yards to the detective's right and back. As Simon watch, the younger man sipped from the cup in his hand. "Ellison! *ELLISON!!*"

When Jim didn't react, Simon muttered under his breath and stalked across the ground to where Blair stood. "What's up with him, Sandburg?"

"He hasn't taken his eyes off that water, Simon," Blair carefully answered. "He's totally focused, man." They both watched as the gurney with a body bag was rolled past them. Blair turned away as Simon halted the gurney and unzipped the bag. The older man sighed and rezipped the bag. Then he walked over to Jim and nudged him. "Jim!" He saw the other man's startled look. "You okay?" he asked in a softer voice.

"Yeah. My ears are just a little sensitive," Jim sighed. *Not to mention I hate wearing these damn earplugs…not that they're doing me much good!*

Simon grunted. "You were right about the body." He glanced over his shoulder as Blair approached.

Jim nodded. "Any ID?"

"Undercover cop by the name of Brent Marten. Worked Narcotics, " Simon replied

"I knew my eyes weren't playing tricks on me, Simon. That was a police chopper." Jim glared at the open water of the bay.

"Now, you back off on that!" Simon ordered. "Cops killing their own is a heavy-duty charge unless you can prove it!"

"I intend to, sir," Jim coldly replied.

Simon looked around. Confident only the three of them could hear the conversation, he continued, "You listen to me! You don't go off half-cocked!" He saw the angry flush on Jim's face. "I'm not saying I don't believe you, but…"

"But what, sir?" Jim demanded.

"I checked the flight records," Simon continued. "No department choppers were in the area at the time you say you saw one."

"You know as well as I do that records can be altered," Jim pointed out.

"I talked to the watch commander personally," Simon argued. "He's a friend of mine. Beyond reproach."

Jim shook his head. "All I know is what I saw, sir."

Blair was relieved when a car screeched to a halt along the roadway. They turned to see an attractive casually dressed woman throw herself from the car and frantically run towards the ambulance.

"Damn it, somebody was quick to make that call," Simon groaned. He glared at Jim. "All I'm saying is you better have some hard evidence, or we are dead in the water." He walked towards the ambulance where the woman was struggling with two uniformed officers. "It's okay," Simon called. "Let her through. My responsibility." He reached out and took the woman by the arm. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have been called to see this."

Blair watched as the woman collapsed in Simon's arms. "Oh, man. That must be his wife."

Jim nodded. "Plus 1100 brothers in uniform. And some of them murdered him."

~~~~~~~~

Major Crimes

Jim sat at his desk with his head in his hands. He finally looked through his fingers and sighed. He heard Simon arguing over the phone with his ex-wife about their son. He heard Henri trying to make a date over the phone. And the tapping of Rhonda's fingers on her keyboard was enough to make him seriously consider reaching for his gun.

*Damn dials just aren't working*

Ellison angrily rubbed his temples. Each sound drove a hot spike through each eardrum. In fact, he was sure he could hear each eardrum pounding. *I swear I'd give anything for just five minutes of peace…five minutes of quiet…five minutes of not having hot knives digging in my brain!* He heard Simon slam down his phone receiver then irritably pick it back up.

He stifled a groan as he heard the donut cart arrive. The young girl with the cart was a good person. She tried to be sure that each person had a favorite pastry left on the cart if at all possible. But if she started singing under her breath in that high soprano off-key voice of hers…

"Hey, Jim!"

Ellison jerked, wincing as he raised his head. "Jeez, Sandburg. Keep it down, will you?"

"Sorry," Blair whispered. He laid a thin oblong white object on Jim's desk then bounced on his toes. "Well?"

"Well, what?" Jim snapped. "What is this?" He irritably nudged the box.

Blair sighed. "What do you hear?"

"I hear…" Jim looked around the bullpen in surprise. "Office sounds. At normal volume."

"Yes! I knew it would work!" He bounced again on his toes. "This, my man, is a white noise generator. People use it to block out unwanted sound so they can sleep at night."

"Or if sentinel hearing is screwed up." Jim curiously pulled the box closer to investigate it.

"Precisely," Blair nodded. He handed Jim a smaller box. "Try these on."

Jim opened the ring-shaped box to see two earplug-shaped objects. He looked at Blair who sat next to him. "And these would be?"

"Each one is a small white noise generator," Blair explained.

"How attractive," Jim grunted.

"You should have seen the pink ones," Blair teased. "Now, try 'em."

Jim hesitantly inserted the earplugs. Slowly he nodded. "Nice." He nodded a second time. "Now I can get some work done. Were you able to contact Marten's wife?"

Blair stared at the older man. "You know, I went to a lot of trouble to get these for you." He settled his backpack on the floor. "A 'thank you' would be nice."

Jim started to snap, then recalled how desperate he'd been not more than three minutes before. He idly tapped the white noise generator on his desk and took a deep breath. "Sorry. Thank you. I just…"

"No problem, man. You're welcome." Blair smiled in response. "Hey, it's gotta be a huge relief not to have every sound driving you up the wall, you know?" *Maybe now we can all stop walking on eggshells.*

"Yeah, I know," Jim dryly replied. "So, did you contact Marten's wife?

"She's nowhere to be found," Blair answered. "Are we sure she can tell us anything?"

"We won't know until we ask, now will we?" Jim half-smiled. "The lab came back with a blood type on the glove I found. It's O-positive. DNA typing will take a couple of days, but unless we find someone to match it to…" He shrugged. "All we know is Marten was Type A so the blood probably came from one of the killers."

"O-positive, man," Blair shook his head. "That's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Jim nodded. "Unless we get a DNA match." He glanced around then pulled a folder from the bottom of his stack.

Blair reached for his glasses and leaned forward. "That's Marten's personnel file!" he hissed. "Where did you get that?"

"This is a murder investigation, Junior," Jim replied. "Besides, you're not the only one who can charm the ladies in Records."

"Oh, man." Blair closed his eyes. "We are going to be in *so* much trouble here."

Jim waited.

Two seconds later, Blair grabbed the file. "So what did you find out?" He grimaced. "This is a copy, not the original!"

"It would be a violation of rules to remove the original, Sandburg," Jim seriously reminded him.

Blair exchanged a quick grin with his partner. The strain of the last 24 hours was evident on Jim's face. But it felt good to see him relaxing.

"Marten was a highly decorated officer. A good cop," Jim summarized. He glanced around and lowered his voice. "He was also ordered to report to Internal Affairs. But there's nothing else in his file about it."

"Internal Affairs?" Blair frowned. "Maybe he was testifying against another cop."

"Or he was being investigated himself," Jim mused. He looked up as Simon approached and casually closed the folder. "Sir?"

"I just spoke with Tommy Yuan, Marten's captain. He wants to be kept up to speed on the case." Simon smirked. "But he won't confirm or deny Marten's involvement in an IA investigation. Absolutely refused to discuss it. *And* he became awfully defensive when I brought it up."

"So we'll have to contact Internal Affairs ourselves." Jim nodded.

Simon hesitated. "You want me to make the call, Jim?"

"No." Jim quickly shook his head. "I can handle it, sir."

Both he and Simon ignored Blair's low-pitched whistle.

~~~~~~~~

Internal Affairs – Sheila Irwin's Office

Sheila Irwin nervously smoothed back her red hair. "Send him in, Louise." She looked up as the door immediately opened. "Have a seat, Detective Ellison. I'll be with you in a second." She lowered her eyes to the open folder on her desk.

Jim stifled a retort. *I don't have time for these head games, Irwin.* Silently, he sat. "I sent you over a report on the death of Detective Brent Marten. Have you looked at it?"

Sheila slowly closed the folder and leaned back in her chair. Impeccably dressed as always, she folded her hand in her lap. "You believe he was thrown out of a police chopper by other cops?"

"And I'm guessing it has something to do with your investigation." Jim nodded.

"What investigation?" Sheila calmly asked.

Jim irritably got to his feet. "Come on, Sheila. You don't have to be coy with me. We're on the same side." He hesitated, then coldly added, "This time."

Sheila shifted in her chair. "I'm not at liberty to confirm or deny an Internal Affairs investigation. You know that, Detective Ellison."

Jim refrained from slamming his fist on her desk. "You know, Irwin, according to my scorecard, you owe me."

"*That* has nothing to do with this case. And for your information, Detective, I don't trade favors," Sheila angrily shot back.

Jim raised his hands and backed away. "I'm sorry. That comment was out of line."

Sheila sighed and looked at the painted white ceiling. "You know, after the Pendergrast case, I left you a dozen messages. I wanted to apologize, but you never returned my calls."

"I was busy." Jim winced, knowing how lame the excuse sounded.

"You were unforgiving. And that's why I'm being careful now about throwing out accusations," Sheila pronounced.

"Can you at least tell me if Marten was under investigation?" Jim pressed.

Sheila shook her head. "If he was, I'm only legally obligated to share my information if you gave me evidence the two cases are related." She stared into Jim's eyes. "Evidence, Detective. Not a fantasy of seeing something that happened a half-mile away over the bay on a moonless night."

Jim's jaw clenched as he turned towards the door. "You mean like my fantasy of Jack Pendergrast being an innocent man, Irwin?" He slammed the door behind him.

~~~~~ ACT III ~~~~~

Cascade PD

Blair stood on tiptoes to look over Jim's shoulder. He saw a dozen solemn-looking police officers donning flak jackets, checking ammunition, and taking final looks at photographs.

"Marten's squad call themselves 'The Crew.' Collectively, they've got about 200 years of experience on the job. They've had more convictions and confiscations than any unit in Cascade P.D. history." He shook his head in silent admiration. "I'd hate to think any of them are dirty."

"But you think they may be?" Blair quietly asked. He edged around Jim to get a better look though the small pane of glass.

Jim shrugged. "Anything's possible. Especially when you've got overworked, underpaid cops handling millions in undocumented dope and cash." He cocked his head to one side and listened.

"Listen up, people!" Captain Tommy Yuan shouted. In the immediate silence, he eyed his men. "Remember, if it comes down to you or a perp, make it you. I'm not losing any more guys this week."

Every man in the room began to shout. A couple of them raised their shotguns in the air.

"Oh, man. This *so* reminds me of this warrior tribe in New Guinea. They'd kill everything in their path on the way to a battle as well as on the way back," Blair muttered with a shake of his head. He was both fascinated and appalled by the sights and sounds from the next room.

Jim grimaced at Blair then pushed the door open. "Captain Yuan?" When the older Oriental man looked up, Jim held out his hand. "Jim Ellison. Major Crimes. This is Blair Sandburg."

After a brief hesitation, Yuan shook Jim's hand. "I resent the implication that any of my men are dirty. Internal Affairs will do anything to prove one of their pet theories. You know that better than most, Ellison."

"Yeah." Jim slowly nodded. "I know first-hand how IA thinks."

"Well, I'd love to stay and chat; but this is kind of a bad time." Yuan smiled. "We've been working on this bust for six months. Expect to haul in 30 million in heroin."

"Wow. That's a lot." Blair's eyes widened.

Yuan frowned at Jim. "What did you say his name was?"

"His name is Blair Sandburg." Blair confidently smiled. "Mind if we come along and watch? "

"He's a consultant to Major Crimes," Jim hastily added.

"This is a confidential investigation." Yuan shook his head. "We don't take along sightseers."

"I understand, Captain." Jim briskly nodded. "Thanks and good luck."

Yuan nodded and picked up his walkie-talkie. "Call me when you find out who killed Marten. He was a good man."

~~~~~~~~

McCallister Family Warehousing

Blair shivered and huddled deeper into his thick jacket. He lowered his zoom-lens camera and glared at his partner. Jim wore a lighter-weight jacket, but didn't seem to feel the cold. Muttering under his breath about life's general unfairness, he raised the camera.

Trying hard not to smile at Blair's muttered complaints, Jim watched as the drug bust proceeded across the street at one of the empty warehouses. He frowned as a black stretch limousine slowly rolled into the garage area.

"It's too dark in there," Blair complained. "I can't see anything."

"I can," Jim quietly replied. He focused his sight and watched. "Looks like maybe Yuan's thirty million estimate was a bit on the conservative side."

The garage door came sliding down. The glass windows caught the overhead sun and reflected light back into Jim's eyes.

"Damn it!" Jim swore. He flinched, stumbling backwards and tried to cover his eyes.

"Jim!" Blair lowered the camera to the concrete ledge. "You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," Jim muttered. "That light just knocked the hell out of me…whacked out my senses." He blinked several times then patted Blair on the arm. "Well, that's a new one, Darwin." He stepped back to the edge of the roof. "I'd like to get in there with my hearing; but if I take out these white noise generators, I'm screwed."

Blair bit his lower lip. "I've got an idea." When Jim nodded, he slowly continued. "Try taking out the white noise generators and see if you can consciously make your sight piggyback your hearing into the warehouse. See if you can get the two to link up. Let your eyes guide your ears."

*Where in the hell does he come up with this stuff?* Jim shook his head but removed the white noise generators, flinching a little at the sudden onslaught of sound.

"Easy, man," Blair soothed, putting a hand on Jim's left arm. "Slow and easy."

Jim focused his eyesight on the building across the street…through the panes of glass in the garage door…and heard….

~~~~~~~~

Tommy Yuan watched as the contents of a truck were sealed. Then he walked to the side of the limousine. The window lowered. "Go ahead," Yuan ordered. "Take off. Things are about to get hot around here." Gunfire erupted from the far side of the warehouse.

~~~~~~~~

Across the street, Jim winced and doubled over.

"Jim!" Blair shouted in concern.

"Leave it!" Ellison snapped. "I lost my concentration when the firing started. But I heard Yuan telling the limousine to leave."

"Then it worked!" Blair grinned. "Your control is coming back over your hearing. See, we're making progress in getting back to normal!"

"I don't need these anymore." Jim happily pocketed the earplugs.

"I don't know about that, man," Blair cautioned. He put a gloved hand on Jim's arm. "Maybe you shouldn't go cold turnkey, you know? I think you should wean yourself gradually."

"I'm not a smoker doing a three-stage withdrawal, Sandburg," Jim snapped. "I'll be fine." He frowned when the garage door rose. The limousine backed out of the garage and slowly drove down the street. "Let's go. They're getting away."

"Who?" Blair demanded as he grabbed his camera and ran after Jim. "What?"

"There's at least two kilos of heroin in that car that was never logged in," Jim shouted over his shoulder. "Move it, Sandburg!"

The two men ran down the fire escape and jumped into Jim's Expedition.

"I don't see them," Blair said as he secured his seatbelt.

"I do," Jim growled. He winced at the sound of a nearby blaring car horn. He fought the instinctive reaction to cover his ears.

"Jim! Use the earplugs!" Blair urged. He braced himself as Jim's foot slammed down on the gas pedal. He fumbled with the camera, finally settling it on his lap.

"There he is. On the overpass," Jim muttered. Shaking his head, he angled the Expedition over to the curb and stopped.

Blair twisted in the seat and aimed the camera. "What's he doing?" he muttered.

Jim frowned as a darkly clad man took a bag from the back of the limousine and dropped it over the ledge. He jogged back to the vehicle, which immediately sped away.

"Do we stay or go?" Blair excitedly asked.

Jim frowned as he heard the approach of a helicopter. "Stay. A chopper's nearby."

Blair twisted further in the seat, partially leaning out of the open window.

"Get back, Sandburg!" Jim grabbed the back of the younger man's coat.

"Okay…okay…got 'em…I got 'em," Blair chattered.

Jim cursed as the helicopter started to land. He clapped both hands over his ears.

"Jim?" Blair looked over his shoulder. "You need to use the earplugs! Okay?"

Wincing, Jim reluctantly nodded. He fumbled inside his jacket pocket, nearly dropping the earplugs before finally getting them in his ears.

Blair kept the camera focused as the helicopter landed. A figure dressed in black overalls, sunglasses, and a black pilot's helmet jumped from the helicopter and retrieved the bag. Seconds later, the helicopter was in the air and flying away.

Blair turned and set the camera on the seat. He saw Jim sitting, eyes closed, with his head leaning back against the seat. The older man was breathing heavily. "You okay, man?"

Jim breathed deeply and opened his eyes. Silently he nodded.

~~~~~~~~

Sheila Irwin's Office

Sheila sat behind her desk, watching the images flickering on the television set. Blair stood close to the television, bouncing on his toes. Jim stood halfway between the two, his attention more focused on Sheila than anything else.

"That's it?" Sheila asked when the tape ended. "For all we know, it could be his laundry."

"Yeah, right," Blair snorted. "I always take my dirty laundry and throw it off a bridge. Oh, and take a limousine for the ride."

Sheila barely looked at the anthropologist. "Did you run the numbers on the chopper?"

"Officially down for service," Blair quickly answered.

Sheila raised her eyebrows at Jim. "Detective?"

"No police units were supposed to be in the area. Just like the night Marten was killed," Jim added. "You wanted something more than fantasy."

Sheila slowly nodded. "I suppose this qualifies as a start."

"Good." Jim half-smiled. "Maybe now you can give me something."

Sheila's eyes flickered towards Blair. "I can only release that sort of information with another cop."

Blair's blue eyes widened in surprise. He saw Jim's expression and held up his hand. "Hey, no problem, Jim. I'm sure I have some papers I can grade, you know?" He threw an angry look at Sheila. "I'll catch up with you later."

Jim waited until the door was slammed shut before turning to glare at Sheila. "You want to explain that?" he demanded. "You know damn well Sandburg works with me." He paced back and forth in front of Sheila's desk. "He even helped me figure out what happened to Jack." He stopped pacing and looked at Sheila. "Is that the problem, Irwin? A *civilian consultant* figured out what you couldn't?"

Sheila flushed. "The problem is Sandburg *is* a civilian consultant. Not a cop."

"I don't keep things from my *partner* who's helping with an investigation," Jim flatly stated.

After a moment, Sheila unlocked the lower right-hand drawer of her desk. "I've had my eye on Yuan's crew since the Nowatny bust. Even though they brought in sixteen million in drugs and cash, Nowatny claimed there was a lot more."

Jim frowned. "Maybe he decided to muddy the waters on his arrest? Make the cops look bad."

"Nowatny became a government witness." Sheila shook her head as she opened a file so Jim could read it. "One lie, and he knows he goes down hard." She watched as Jim began rapidly flipping through the pages of the file. "Each member of the crew was interviewed. But nothing concrete ever showed up, so the file was closed. But I was sure what Nowatny said was true."

*Like you were sure about Jack,* Jim silently snorted. "Well, you can stop wondering, can't you?"

"I want to run my investigation concurrently with the Marten case," Sheila decided. "I don't want us getting in each other's way."

*Like we got in your way about Jack.* Jim tried to push past his anger. "What about Sandburg?"

"He's not a cop," Sheila repeated then sighed. "You trust him? I admit he checked out clean, but if he lets something slip…"

"I trust Sandburg more than I trust most people," Jim coldly interrupted. He enjoyed the flush that spread across Sheila's face. "And I resent you checked him out without due cause."

"I had cause to do so during the Pendergrast investigation!" Sheila snapped. "Look, do you think we can do this without fighting each other every step of the way?"

"I don't know," Jim evenly replied. He cocked his head to the left and studied Sheila. "Can we?" he asked after a few moments of silence.

Sheila leaned back in her chair. "I think we need to set some ground rules and clear the air between us." She forced a partial smile. "How about dinner? I know I apologize much better over a good meal."

Jim shrugged. "You like Italian?"

~~~~~~~~

That Evening – Sheila Irwin's Apartment

"Sorry about the mix-up at Luigi's," Sheila said as she unlocked the door. "I'd seen the notice about them closing the dining room for a private party today, but it just didn't register."

*If we'd gone to Mama Roselli's like I wanted, we wouldn't be dragging take-home into your place. We'd be sitting at a great Italian place eating the second-best lasagna in the world.* Jim pushed his thoughts away as he followed Sheila into the living room.

"Just put the stuff on the table," Sheila directed as she locked the door behind them. "I'm sure I have some wine. We'll need plates and silverware, too."

*You think?* Jim started removing the cartons from the bags. He could almost hear Sandburg's voice reminding him that he was supposed to play nice. Then again, considering the antagonism between his partner and Sheila, Jim figured even Sandburg would look the other way this one time. "Nice place," he idly complimented. *If you like living in a Home Beautiful centerfold.*

"Thanks," Sheila called from the kitchen. "It's taken a while to get it just like I want it."

Jim looked around at the bland pictures mounted ever so perfectly on the cream-colored walls. Every piece of furniture was carefully placed. Even the few magazines lying on the coffee table in the living room were artfully displayed. He refrained from shuddering or making a rude comment.

When Sheila returned with plates and silverware, they silently worked to put the food on plates, pour wine, and settle comfortably at Sheila's dining room table. At least Sheila did. The table was all glass and ceramic…and looked fragile as hell, Jim decided as he took a bite of lasagna.

"Isn't it fabulous?" Sheila asked with a smile. "But I really prefer their baked spaghetti."

*Comes in a distant third to Sandburg's and Mama Roselli's.* Jim swallowed and nodded. "Pretty good."

Sheila nodded in agreement. "So, tell me. Why is Sandburg still riding with you?"

Jim's blue eyes narrowed. "Because he's an asset, both to me and the department," he carefully answered. "And he's still working on his dissertation."

Sheila silently nodded as she twirled the noodles onto her fork. "And you're still mad that I checked him out."

Jim hesitated, then sipped his wine. "You bet your ass I am."

Sheila almost choked, then glared at him. "Would you care to explain why?"

Jim sat back in his chair and counted to five. "You publicly screwed my former partner. I don't plan to let you do it to my current partner." He coldly smiled. "Nothing personal, Irwin."

"Uh-huh," Sheila scoffed. "Somehow I don't believe that, Ellison."

Jim shrugged and took another bite of lasagna.

"My father died of a heart attack when I was seven," Sheila mused. "For a long time, it was just my mother trying to raise two daughters." She glanced across the table at Jim. "Some days my younger sister and I would fight like cats and dogs. My mother would try to play peacemaker…judge…jury…whatever. But then there were times when she just couldn't handle it. That's when she would lock us in our room and tell us we weren't getting out until we'd settled the problem." She sadly smiled. "When that happened, she didn't care about who was right or who was wrong. She just wanted peace and quiet."

Jim slowly chewed a piece of lasagna then nodded. "So we stay here until we settle the problem. Is that it?"

Sheila raised one eyebrow. "You have someplace to go all of a sudden?"

"Not me." Jim faintly smiled. "Where do you want to start?"

~~~~~~~~

The Next Morning – The Loft

Blair sleepily rubbed his eyes as he walked out of his bedroom. He stopped in surprise to see Sheila Irwin in the kitchen making breakfast. Startled, he started walking towards the stairs only to see Jim sitting on the steps, pulling on his socks. Suddenly feeling undressed in his sweats, Blair tried to casually lean against the brick wall and folded his arms across his chest.

"You didn't come home last night," Blair hissed. "You should have called, you know."

Jim raised his eyebrows in silent question.

"Good morning," Sheila called out from the kitchen. "Hungry?"

"Uh…yeah. Morning." Blair glanced over his shoulder then back at Jim. "Remember House Rule Number…whatever?" he hissed. "Call if you're going to be late? All I had was a message on the answering machine that you were grabbing a bite to eat with the Dragon Lady over there." A little voice in his head started cheering when Jim guiltily looked away.

"Sorry, Chief," Jim quietly apologized. "You're right."

"Man, you should be glad I talked myself out of calling Simon to put out an APB or something," Blair muttered.

"Why didn't you?" Jim asked with a smile.

"I didn't think he'd believe me," Blair grumbled. He looked over his shoulder to see Sheila setting the table. "So…c'mon…give. What happened?" He grinned in expectation.

"Nothing happened," Jim muttered as he tied his shoes.

"Is that officially or unofficially?" Blair snickered.

"We wound up bringing take-out back to her place," Jim explained. "We talked. Cleared the air about a lot of stuff. It got late, and I fell asleep on the sofa."

"And she's here now because…" Blair prodded.

"She came over to work on the case," Jim finished. He smiled at Blair's pleased reaction.

"She's gonna share with both of us?" Blair excitedly asked as Jim stood.

"Yes. But if you talk, I'll be forced to kill you," Sheila interrupted with a wry grin that Blair missed. "Breakfast's ready."

"Excuse me?" Blair demanded as he glared over his shoulder. He turned when Jim stood. "Are you sure *we* can trust *her*? Remember how she tried to frame you before?" he whispered.

"Yeah, I remember," Jim murmured. "It's settled, Sandburg. Let it go, okay?" He smiled when Blair grunted. "Thank you for doing this, Sheila," Jim said as he sat at the table. "It's very nice."

Blair ducked back into his room then returned with a file. He handed the papers to Jim then sat down. "Check that out. It's the personnel files on the crew." He eyed the plates of eggs, bacon, and sausage with dismay. He silently got up and began filling the blender.

"How did you…" Sheila suspiciously demanded. She caught Jim's glare and sipped her juice.

"I thought you might try to identify the guy on the bridge," Blair explained. He started the blender, smiling to himself when Sheila winced. He noticed that Jim didn't wince and figured the sentinel was using the earplugs.

Sheila watched Jim flip through the pages as he methodically ate. When the blender cut off, she spoke, "That's impossible. Your tape's too blurry even with computer enhancement."

"Uh-huh," Blair muttered as he poured the liquid into a glass. He returned to the table and began drinking.

Sheila watched Blair, her nose wrinkling at the smell. "What *is* that?"

"Algae shake," Jim absently identified. "Here's the guy." He tossed a photograph across the table.

Blair snatched the photograph and turned it over. "Dave Brooks."

"How can you be sure?" Sheila demanded. "That bridge is a half-mile long, and you were at the other end."

Blair glanced at Jim who smiled and sipped his coffee. "Process of elimination."

"Right," Blair immediately nodded.

"We saw all the other members of the crew. He must have been working undercover," Jim explained. He looked at Blair. "You have any luck reaching Marten's wife?"

Blair shook his head as he finished his drink. "She was last seen when they were pulling Marten's body out of the bay."

Sheila spoke up as she buttered her toast. "When we interviewed the crew, we did complete background checks on them. Barbara Marten used to be known as Barbara Brooks."

"Sister?" Jim asked, spearing a piece of sausage. He saw Blair's look of disapproval and inwardly smirked.

"Ex-wife. She married Marten six months after the divorce," Sheila answered. *How's that for research, Mr. Civilian Consultant?*

Blair glanced at Sheila from the corner of his eyes. "That's pretty incestuous. But it's actually fairly common in closed social structures like police departments."

*Well, fun's fun but…* Jim gently nudged his partner under the table. "Think she's dropped out of sight because she knows something?"

"Barbara owns some property about 40 minutes to the north of Cascade," Sheila recalled. "She got it from Brooks in the divorce settlement. There's no phone listed, and the county boys report no automobiles parked in the driveway."

Jim glanced at Blair. "Get dressed, Sandburg. We're gonna take a field trip."

~~~~~ ACT IV ~~~~~

Barbara Marten's cabin

The cabin was small, probably no more than four rooms, Jim estimated. He glanced at the dirt driveway, immediately spotting at least three sets of tire treads. "Somebody's been here," he quietly warned. He drew his gun, ignoring Sheila's look of doubt.

Despite her disbelief, Sheila drew her gun as Jim knocked on the door. She positioned herself behind Jim and ignored Blair's hiss of annoyance.

"Mrs. Marten?" Jim called as he knocked on the door. He turned the doorknob, only marginally surprised to find the door unlocked. He looked over his shoulder to see Sheila ready to follow him. "Mrs. Marten? This is Detective Ellison. Cascade PD. We're coming in."

They slowly made their way into what appeared to be the living room. Wooden furniture, sparsely decorated, dominated the small room. The whole effect was rustic, and Blair fully expected to see a moose's head decorating one wall. He was relieved to see the walls were plain and unadorned.

Jim started towards the kitchen while Sheila headed towards a half-opened door. Blair followed Jim, looking past him to see a messy kitchen.

"Ellison!" Sheila called.

Jim pushed past Blair and followed Sheila's voice. Blair followed, standing on tiptoes to see past the two detectives.

A blonde-haired woman, obviously dead, lay motionless on the bed. Blair gasped and turned away. Leaning against the wall, he heard Jim and Sheila quietly talk.

"Barbara Marten," Sheila determined. "For the record, she's dead."

Jim absently nodded. "Probably last night."

"How…" Sheila started.

"The kitchen." Jim holstered his gun. "Looks like she was making dinner. Unless she was the type that liked cornbread and chili for breakfast."

"Strangled," Sheila sighed as she stepped away from the bed.

"Probably elsewhere," Jim concluded. "I figure she put up a struggle, but this room's too neat." He started towards the door.

"The killer might have straightened up," Sheila pointed out as she followed.

Jim took Blair's arm and led him outside, aware that Sheila was following in their footsteps. He was relieved to see Blair's color returning to normal. He dug out his cell phone and dialed. Seconds later, he closed it. "Must be out of range." He fished his keys from his pocket. Handing them and the cell phone to Blair he ordered, "Take the truck. Wait until you get into cell range or a pay phone. Call the local authorities and then Simon. Got it?"

"Right." Blair nodded. "Cell phone. Pay phone. Locals. Simon." He grinned as he got into the Expedition.

"One scratch, Sandburg, and you're a dead man," Jim warned. He watched until the Expedition disappeared around the curve in the road, then turned back to Sheila. "What?" he asked, noticing her expression.

"Nothing," Sheila denied. She turned back towards the cabin. "Let's see what we can find while your *partner* is getting help."

*Just another day in paradise,* Jim silently grumbled. He irritably rubbed his ear then took out the earplug. Making sure Sheila didn't see his actions he removed the other one. *These things just aren't comfortable for wearing them all the time.*

He was putting them in his pocket when Sheila opened the door to the cabin. Jim started smiling when he realized the noises weren't hurting his ears. Carefully, he extended his range. The wind gently rustled through the trees. Some small animal scuttled through the dead leaves. He faintly heard the Expedition's engine stop as Sandburg halted on the road. He tensed, then relaxed as he heard Blair talking over the cell phone.

Bringing his hearing back, he heard Sheila muttering to herself as she searched the living room of the cabin. Then he heard the sound of a shovel digging into the cold ground. Startled, he jogged up the driveway, motioning for Sheila to stay quiet.

"What?" she demanded when he approached.

"Somebody's digging," Jim quietly explained. "Close by."

Sheila immediately thought of Barbara's body lying in the cabin. She removed the safety from her gun. "Where?"

Jim frowned as he tried to concentrate. "Sandburg got through on the cell phone," he absently muttered.

"What?" Sheila frowned.

*Damn hearing's fluctuating.* Startled, Jim looked up. "Sandburg's gonna get through on the cell phone," he ad-libbed. "Stay here." He walked towards the back of the cabin.

Gun held at her shoulder, Sheila stood at the corner of the cabin.

Jim tried to extend his hearing. Just as he realized he was hearing more heartbeats than he could account for, he glanced around the corner of the cabin. Before he could react to the shadowy figure standing there, something hard struck him on the forehead.

Sheila immediately stepped away from the cabin and raised her gun when Jim went down. "Freeze! Police!" she shouted at the figure she could barely see.

Dave Brooks stepped across Jim's prone body. "Fancy meeting you here, Lieutenant."

"Drop the shovel," Sheila ordered.

"You drop the gun, Irwin. You're surrounded."

Sheila stiffened at the sound of Tommy Yuan's voice behind her. She saw another man pass Brooks and aim a gun at her. The sound of a pistol cocking behind her plus the feel of cold metal on her neck convinced her Yuan was right. She lowered her gun.

Brooks walked towards her and snatched the gun from her grasp. The third man disappeared behind the cabin then returned with a briefcase.

"So that's what Barbara died for," Sheila snapped at Brooks who easily shrugged.

He glanced at Yuan. "Now what?"

"Now you surrender," Sheila interrupted. "Backup is on the way."

"Now you come with us," Yuan removed the gun from her neck. He waited until Brooks handcuffed Sheila's wrists in front of her before stepping back. "It's my turn to ask the questions now, Irwin." He glanced at Jim. "The chopper will be here in a few minutes. Finish him off, Dave, and take the jeep. You know where to meet us." He shoved Sheila in the back. "Let's go, Irwin."

Brooks watched until the three had disappeared into the nearby trees. Then he looked down at Jim. "Too bad. Irwin could be right about that backup. Otherwise I'd put you in the hole I dug to find that briefcase." He walked closer and cocked his gun. "Maybe I'll just throw you in on top of Barbara. Bitch not only dumped me but had to spill her guts to Marten."

Jim suddenly rolled to one side, throwing a handful of dirt towards Brooks' face. Squinting to see past the dirt and blood in his right eye, Jim lunged towards Brooks. Both men momentarily fought for balance, then fell to the ground.

Growling, Brooks brutally struck Jim on the forehead at the spot where the shovel had hit him.

Jim ruthlessly turned his pain dial to zero, gasping at the sudden cessation of agony. He brought both hands down to grab the gun.

A sudden gunshot echoed throughout the quiet woods.

~~~~~~~~

Some distance away in a clearing, Sheila gasped and turned back towards the cabin.

Yuan grabbed her arm and squeezed it. "Sorry, Irwin," he said. "But your chariot's just arrived." He grinned as the helicopter appeared over the treetops.

~~~~~~~~

Top of Cascade PD Air Support Building

Sheila silently debated her chances of escape. The only people on the roof around the helipad were members of Yuan's crew. Even if she managed to get out of the helicopter and past Yuan, any one of the rogue cops would bring her down. She turned her attention to Yuan who impatiently stood next to the aircraft, watching his men divide cash and destroy evidence. "Why wait until now to unload the stuff?" she asked.

Yuan lazily glanced over his shoulder. "People like you and Marten. Cops who like to bring heat down on other cops scare the hell out of me."

"You and this pack of jackals aren't cops," Sheila sneered. "You stopped being cops when you took the first kilo of dope." When Yuan shrugged and looked back at his men, she continued, "If you think you can use me to make a deal, forget it."

Yuan laughed. "You really think you're something, don't you, Irwin? You're *IA.* You think cops have forgotten how you smeared Pendergrast's name? Not to mention how many other cops you put in the hot seat just because of a *suspicion?*" He shook his head. "I know they're not going to deal on a cop killing. But what you *can* do is buy us a little time." He crossed his arms across his chest and leaned against the vibrating aircraft. "But I might let you go once we're done."

"Why is that?" Sheila asked. She raised her hands to push her blowing hair from her face.

Yuan abruptly yanked her hands down. "You and Ellison found out about Brooks. What else do you know?"

"Everything," Sheila snapped. "Your buyers. The numbers of your off-shore accounts." She coldly smiled. "They're all frozen now, you know."

Yuan laughed. "Now I know why Banks approved your transfer from Major Crimes to IA. You couldn't investigate your way out of a paper bag. That wasn't even a good try." He turned as a man approached.

"Everything's set," the man reported. "We're ready."

Yuan took one last look around. "Okay. Take off."

The man looked at Sheila. "What about her?"

Yuan coldly smiled. "I'll drop her off on my way. She can swim home."

~~~~~~~~

Barbara Marten's Cabin

"Keep this on, man. It's swelling enough as it is," Blair irritably ordered.

Jim rolled his eyes at his partner but sat quietly on the front steps of the cabin as Blair fussed over his head injury, placing a cold compress over the swollen area.

"Bring the dial back up," Blair softly ordered.

"Do I have to?" Jim grumbled. He was surprised when Blair smacked his shoulder. "Okay…okay…jeez, Sandburg."

They silently watched as Brooks was loaded into an ambulance.

"Is he gonna live?" Blair finally asked as the ambulance drove away.

Jim shrugged. "I just wish he'd regained consciousness long enough for me to ask him a couple of questions." He irritably removed the compress.

Blair patiently took the compress from the older man and put it back on Jim's forehead. Suddenly, he grinned. "Hey! The ambulance's siren!" He carefully looked at Jim's right ear. "You're not wearing the ear plugs!"

"Yeah." Jim slowly smiled. "The hearing started coming back. I've pretty much regained control."

"Yessss!" Blair punched the air with his right fist.

"Detective Ellison?"

They looked over their shoulder at the county sheriff who stood just outside the front door. "Just got word that your Captain Banks is on his way by chopper. But I thought you might want to see this now." He handed over a sheet of paper secured within an evidence bag then went back into the cabin.

Jim stood and stared at the paper.

"What is it?" Blair stood two steps higher than Jim and replaced the compress.

"A list of names," Jim identified. "Tommy Yuan. Dave Brooks." He glanced at Blair. "Almost all of the crew's names are here. Along with dollar amounts."

"Marten's name isn't on it?" Blair hopefully asked.

"No." Jim smiled. "Brooks must have hidden the drugs here. I bet Barbara told Marten what was going on, and it got them both killed." He shook his head. "He tried to handle it himself."

Blair removed the compress and frowned at the lump on Jim's forehead. "Like a code of silence," he decided. "It makes sense. He worked in a tightly knit unit. They were constantly in dangerous situations, depending on each other to stay alive."

"Yeah," Jim sighed. "Guess he thought it wouldn't be so bad if he could convince them to turn themselves in." He suddenly turned and stared into the sky. "Chopper." Then he turned and grinned at Blair.

"Working fine, huh?" Blair chuckled.

Jim slapped his friend's arm. "Good going, Chief." He lowered his voice. "Thanks."

They shielded their eyes as the helicopter kicked up dirt on its approach. When it landed, the front passenger door opened, and Simon jumped out of the aircraft and ran towards them. "Anything from Brooks?"

"He never regained consciousness, sir," Jim reported. "But the sheriff found a list of the crew members and dollar amounts next to their name. Looks like a payout sheet." He handed the evidence bag to Simon. "Anything on the rogue chopper?"

"Captain Fuente is checking now," Simon explained. "Seems the computer scrambled their schedules."

"Big surprise," Jim grunted.

"You okay, Jim?" Simon's dark eyes narrowed.

"Fine, sir. But I doubt Sheila will be for long," Jim snapped.

Simon started to look at Blair for reassurance, then turned as the pilot shouted from the helicopter. The three men ran towards the aircraft.

"Fuente, this is Ellison and Sandburg," Simon shouted over the noise of the rotors. "Captain Fuente."

The older Hispanic man briefly nodded. "They were spotted at headquarters. Touched down for a few minutes then took off."

"Took off!" Jim shouted.

"Dispatch didn't realize it was the rogue," Fuente defended his people. "The computers weren't unscrambled yet. Yuan presented a valid flight order."

"Valid," Blair snorted.

"Let's go, Cesar!" Simon ordered. He took the seat next to Fuente while Jim and Blair scrambled into the rear seat.

"Buckle up," Fuente ordered as he took off.

Jim smoothly buckled in then reached for the earphones.

Blair's hands shook as he buckled his seatbelt. By the time he slid the headpiece on, he was muttering under his breath. He glanced out the window at the rapidly retreating ground, and gulped.

"You okay?" Jim asked, putting a hand on Blair's wrist.

"Sure. Never better," Blair replied. He glanced at the ground far beneath him and gulped again.

Simon's attention was on the laptop computer in his lap crosschecking names on the list with personnel files. "Rob Jenning is a civilian mechanic and licensed pilot," he finally announced. He grunted. "His blood type is O-positive."

"Bingo," Blair muttered.

"From what I could tell, both choppers you saw were down for service," Fuente explained. "Our maintenance people don't require special authorization to take them out for test runs."

"So Jenning could've borrowed whatever chopper he was working on to carry the drugs or commit murder," Jim surmised.

Fuente nodded. "Hanger said he fueled and took off early this morning. Fortunately, all our units have tracking devices. His was still activated until about three minutes ago when they left our building."

"How far could he have gotten in three minutes?" Simon frowned as he closed the laptop.

"Six, maybe seven miles," Fuente guessed.

"What's out visibility?" Jim asked.

"Maybe twelve miles," Fuente answered. "But that's too far away for visual contact. You'd have better luck picking out a speck of dust on your television screen."

Jim and Blair exchanged a quick look.

"Ummm…can you just…you know…keep circling?" the young man asked.

"Why?" Fuente frowned.

"Do it, Cesar," Simon requested. He glanced over his shoulder at Blair with a silent warning.

Blair, however, was pulling off his earphones. He tapped Jim on the arm and leaned forward. Jim removed his headset as well. "Use the piggyback effect like before," Blair yelled into Jim's ear.

"How?" Jim demanded even as he winced.

"Locate that speck of dust with your hearing, then use your sight to find the sound," Blair urged, punctuating his words with hand gestures.

"In this racket?" Jim shook his head.

"It's just like white noise, man," Blair encouraged. "You can cut right through it. That rogue chopper is getting further away." He paused. "I don't see any other option. Do you?"

Jim shook his head. "You've got a point." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Slowly extending his hearing, he filtered out the sounds of their own helicopter…his ticking watch…sounds of road construction on the interstate bypass…sirens from fire engines racing towards a house fire on the south side of Cascade…a helicopter heading west….

"There!" Jim shouted, replacing his headset.

"What?" Fuente asked in confusion.

"Straight ahead," Jim urged. "Just gun it!"

Blair struggled to replace his own earphones.

"I don't see anything," Fuente protested.

"Cesar, if he says it's there, it's there!" Simon shouted. "Just do it!"

"Okay, amigos." Fuente reluctantly grinned. After a full minute, he pointed. "Got them!" He looked at Simon. "How in the hell did he see them?"

"Can we catch them?" Jim demanded.

"Yeah, but then what?" Fuente demanded.

"We're working on it," Jim grimly replied.

~~~~~~~~

Yuan's Helicopter

"I love Cascade this time of year." Yuan smiled. "And smell that fresh sea air, Irwin."

Sheila stared at Yuan. "You'll be running for the rest of your life. Is that what you want?"

"Better than rotting in jail or getting the death penalty." Yuan shrugged. "And you'd be surprised what kind of protection millions of dollars will buy." He patted her arm and pointed his gun out her window. "Sit back and enjoy the ride, Irwin."

Jenning looked over his shoulder at Yuan then pointed. "We've got a tail!"

~~~~~~~~

Fuente's Helicopter

"He's spotted us," Feunte muttered as the other chopper suddenly veered to the right.

"Oh, man. We're really up high," Blair muttered.

"Where are you going, you little rat?" Jim grumbled.

Simon reached for the radio. "This is Captain Banks, Major Crimes. Connect me with police chopper X-ray David One Alpha Two."

Fuente gave him an incredulous look. "You really think they're going to answer?"

"This is Captain Banks, Major Crimes. You are ordered to land immediately, throw out your weapons, and release Lieutenant Irwin." Simon waited thirty seconds then repeated his message. When there was no reply, he replaced the microphone and shrugged. "They've been warned."

"Stay with him, Fuente," Jim urged.

~~~~~~~~

Yuan's Helicopter

"Lose them, Jenning!" Yuan shouted.

Jenning swerved left and right to avoid gunfire. Heading for the outskirts of Cascade, he eyed the approaching terrain. Hugging close to the ground, he was far enough ahead that he ducked behind a range of hills and hovered.

"Say good-bye, Irwin." Yuan unlocked Sheila's seatbelt.

"No!" Sheila screamed, trying to grab the straps.

"Die here or down there, I don't care!" Yuan shouted.

Sheila grabbed for Yuan's gun, desperately leaning forward to prevent herself from being pushed out the door.

~~~~~~~~

Fuente's Helicopter

"Sneaky SOB," Jim muttered when the rogue chopper disappeared behind a hill.

Fuente grunted and slowed his speed, angling slightly to the right. As they flew over the hill and Yuan's chopper, he kicked his own aircraft into a tight left-hand turn and pulled back on the stick.

"Oh, jeez," Blair moaned, closing his eyes. He instinctively grabbed his stomach.

"Stay with me, Chief." Jim absently patted Blair's knee.

"Yeah…yeah…I'm okay, man," Blair gasped.

"Here we go," Fuente grunted.

"Come on, baby. Come on, baby," Jim murmured.

Fuente glanced at his fuel gauge then accelerated.

Blair's eyes widened as they approached the bridge spanning Cascade bay. His eyes widened further as both choppers seemed intent on playing an insane game of chicken with the massive span.

"Over or under?" Fuente snapped.

"Over," Jim decided.

"Hang on to your breakfast," Fuente suggested.

Blair bit back a moan as his stomach seemed to drop back to earth. *I will not throw up…I will not throw up…I will not throw up…* He opened his eyes just in time to see Fuente lower the nose of the chopper and they dove back towards the bay. Gritting his teeth, he managed to keep from losing his stomach. He felt Jim again soothingly patting him on the knee.

"You okay?" Jim asked with a worried glance.

Blair gulped and nodded.

Fuente's dive brought their aircraft down almost along side the rogue chopper. They could see Yuan and Sheila struggling in the rear seat.

"Jim, can you make the shot?" Simon demanded.

Jim moved into position and aimed. "Affirmative, sir."

Simon curtly nodded. "Do it."

"Say good-bye, you son of a bitch," Jim muttered as he fired two shots.

Sheila shrieked when Yuan fell across her lap, then grabbed Yuan's pistol and shoved him onto the floor. She put the gun to the back of Jenning's head. "Get this on the ground! Now!"

Jenning hesitated, then nodded.

Fuente grinned as Yuan's chopper began descending towards a nearby empty parking lot. Simon grabbed the radio and called for backup.

Sheila looked out the window at the other chopper and slightly raised the gun in acknowledgement.

"Nice shooting, Ellison," Fuente congratulated.

Blair leaned forward, resting his face in his hands. "We're going to land…we're going to land…we're going to land in one piece," he repeatedly muttered.

Simon covered his microphone and leaned over the seat. "Just how am I going to explain this one, Jim? Carrots!?!"

"Rabbits swear by 'em, sir," Jim grinned. He reached out and rubbed Blair's back. "Almost down, Chief."

~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~

Major Crimes

"Yuan was smart, I'll give him that," Simon acknowledged as he, Jim, and Blair slowly walked down the hallway from Interrogation Room 6.

"Come on, guys," Blair complained. "I've been in class all day. Give!"

Jim grinned. "No off-shore accounts. No buyers. Yuan knew if they tried to sell the drugs or spend the money, it would come to somebody's attention. So they hid it, figuring in a year or two, they'd be retired. Then they'd sell the drugs, split all the cash, and go their separate ways."

"And the guys in on it were such a tightly knit group, they didn't have to worry about anybody spilling the beans," Blair mused.

"Until Brooks' ex-wife married Marten and told him all about it," Simon nodded. He stopped for a moment. "I'm glad Marten was clean. He was a good cop."

"Along with a few others in Yuan's division," Jim nodded. "He needed clean busts to keep anyone from asking questions about them."

"What about the rest of the crew?" Blair asked.

Simon smiled. "All caught at airports. Jenning talked in time for us to put out the word. Now some of Yuan's crew are talking. But most of the stuff we've gotten so far is from Jenning." He nodded at both men. "Good work. Both of you."

Blair grinned and bounced on his toes. "Thanks, Simon."

Simon winked at Blair and leaned against the wall. "So, Jim. Tell me about this internal investigating you and Sheila Irwin are doing."

Jim eyed Blair who innocently stared back at him. "I don't know what you mean, sir."

"Really, Detective?" Simon chuckled. "That's not what my sources tell me."

Blair winced when Jim glared at him.

"Sir, the truth is…" Jim began.

The elevator door opened next to them. Sheila and a dark-haired man stepped out. She looked surprised, then smiled. "Jim." She held out her arms. "Thanks for the save."

"My pleasure, Sheila." Jim pulled her close for a hug.

As they hugged for a few seconds, Blair held his hand out to Simon. The older man sighed and reached for his wallet. He pulled out a dollar bill and started to lay it in Blair's open hand.

"Oh, Stan, this is Jim Ellison." Sheila reached back to pull the dark-haired man forward. "He saved my life…literally. Jim, this is Stan Roberts. My fiancé."

"Uh-uh-uh," Simon grinned as he pulled the bill away from Blair's grasping fingers. "Fiancé, huh? Well, congratulations, Sheila."

"Thanks, Simon," Sheila grinned as she hung onto Stan's arm.

Jim grinned at Blair's expression. "Nice to meet you."

"Yeah, nice to meet you," Blair grumbled as he reached for his wallet. "You just cost me."

"How about dinner, Jim?" Sheila invited. "Our treat."

Simon chuckled as he walked towards his office, holding Blair's dollar bill in his hand.

Jim watched as Blair trailed after Simon, chattering about book fees and the cost of higher education. Then he turned to Sheila. "Yeah, Sheila. I'd like that."

The End

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