Private Eyes
Private Eyes
by Melinda

Beta Read by Nikki and Carol Cappe
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
Rated PG
internal thoughts in * *

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

Tuesday 1:47 pm - Cascade Art Museum

The group of a dozen nine-year old children dutifully followed their teacher through the long hallway. Mrs. Jane Morrow was passionate about art, especially Modern Art. She was so passionate about it that she failed to notice that none of her students seemed the least bit interested.

"This kind of modern art is called an abstract," the thirtyish educator lectured. "It's how the artist tells a story with shapes and colors. Then we fill in the details with our feelings. This makes each painting a different story to each person who views it."

A few of the students automatically murmured in agreement. One young boy stifled a yawn.

"Now, remember, stay with the group," Ms. Morrow called over her shoulder. "We have much more to see in a short amount of time."

As the group moved into the next room, a young blonde-haired girl stopped and stared at one of the paintings. "I did better finger painting in kindergarten."

A woman in a guard's uniform approached. "Gwen Angeloni? I just got a call in the office about your mother. She's gotten sick and had to go to the hospital. She asked if I could bring you to her."

Greta uncertainly looked down the hall. "I need to tell Ms. Morrow." She glanced at the badge. "Officer Tanner."

"The school's going to beep her, honey." The security guard put a hand on her shoulder. "I don't what to upset you, but we need to go now."

"How sick is she?" Gwen asked in concern.

"I'm sure she'll be fine." The guard led Gwen towards the entrance as she worriedly glanced over her shoulder. "But let's not waste any time, okay?" As they left the long hallway she dropped an envelope on a nearby sculpture.

"Why are we going out the back?" Gwen asked in surprise.

"We'll miss all the traffic," the guard replied.

"Come on, Greta," the driver snapped.

"I wanna ride up front," Gwen announced.

"Get in the back." Greta shoved the child into the backseat and followed her.

"Hey!" Gwen shouted.

The driver turned around and pointed a gun at Gwen. "Sit down. Shut up. And you might see your next birthday." He watched as Greta handcuffed the child and gagged her. After she threw her jacket over the child's face, she nodded at the driver.


Tuesday 2:05 pm - Abandoned Gas Station Outside Cascade

Keeping low to the ground, Jim Ellison led his partner in a zig-zag run toward the protective cover of a State Patrol car.

"Ellison. Cascade PD," Jim identified as they crouched behind the car.

"Captain Ewing, State Patrol." The dark haired patrol commander nodded towards the building. "Hogan brothers, huh?"

"Yeah." Jim checked the ammunition in his pistol. "Robbed two banks today before heading out here."

"Let's get this show on the road," Ewing grunted. He raised a bullhorn. "This is the State Patrol and Cascade police! We have the building surrounded! Throw out your guns and come out with your hands up!"

Gunfire immediately erupted from the gas station. Everyone ducked as bullets whined and ricocheted in all directions.

Jim saw Blair curl around himself as the shattered front headlight sprayed broken glass in his direction. He pulled the younger man closer to him as his cell phone began ringing. He tugged it out, expecting to hear Simon's voice on the other end. "Ellison." He looked at Blair in amazement. "What?! Yeah, he's fine, Naomi. Wait a second." He palmed the phone and shoved it at Blair. "It's your mother. How did she get this number?"

Blair shrugged and put the phone to his ear. "Hi, Mom!" He ducked as the police began returning fire. "What? No! What makes you think we're in danger?" He scooted closer to Jim as a bullet ricocheted in front of him. "No, that's just Jim watching some police show rerun. Miami Vice, I think." He looked over his shoulder. "C'mon, man! Turn it down, okay, Jim?"

A motorcycle, carrying two men, came roaring out through the garage doors. The driver cut hard to the right allowing the man on the back to spray the area with automatic gunfire. Jim, seeing that their cover had been compromised, lunged for Blair and pulled him out of the line of fire. "Get out of the way!" Jim shouted.

"Gotta go, Mom!" Blair yelled into the cell phone as he was yanked to safety.

Jim used his sentinel sight and zeroed in on the motorcycle's rear tire. He pulled the trigger, and the tire exploded. Both riders were thrown into air and fell several yards away.

Police officers quickly moved in, putting the two men under arrest.

Jim took a deep breath and looked at his younger partner. "You okay?" he asked.

Blair pulled himself into a sitting position against the bullet-ravaged patrol car. Shakily he pushed his hair behind his ears, looked around, and nodded.


Tuesday 4:01 pm - Major Crimes Bullpen

"Fortunately, we were close when the State Patrol radioed in they'd cornered the Hogan brothers," Jim shrugged as he sat his coffee mug on his desk. "The rest was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time."

Captain Simon Banks folded his arms and sat on the edge of Jim's desk. "From what I hear, it was quite a firefight."

Blair swiveled around in Jim's chair from where he faced the computer. "Those guys had enough ammunition to start a small war."

"From the preliminary information we're getting from the Canadian authorities, you may not be too far off," Simon grunted. "Seems that…"


All three men froze.

"Mom?" Blair peered around Jim and Simon. He got to his feet with a confused smile. "What are you doing here?"

"You're all right! Thank God." Naomi Sandburg wrapped her arms around her son and held him tight.

Both Simon and Jim exchanged quick glances. Simon moved to try and escape to his office, but the attractive red-haired mother of their observer smiled over Blair's shoulder at him.

"Captain Banks! How nice to see you again," Naomi greeted.

"Ms. Sandburg." Simon smoothly smiled. "A pleasure."

"Mom," Blair squeaked. "Can you loosen up here? Just a little?"

"Oh, honey, I was so worried," Naomi explained, not loosening her grip. "You can't begin to imagine." She gave her son another hug then reluctantly released him. She looked over his shoulder and teasingly shook her head with a smile. "Jim Ellison…are you okay?"

Jim smiled despite himself. "I appreciate the concern, Naomi, but I'm fine. Sorry I couldn't talk before. I was a little…uh…preoccupied."

"I heard guns being fired," Naomi chided him. She turned back to Blair. "Are you certain you're not hurt?" She began running her hands down his arms.

"Mom, I'm fine," Blair reassured her. He lowered his voice. "Will you cut it out? C'mon…" He winced at the smirk Jim didn't even try to hide.

"Sorry," Naomi apologized with a smile.

"Excuse us a minute," Blair told Jim and Simon. He tugged on Naomi's arm and pulled her into the hallway. "What are you doing here?" He saw Jim following Simon into the captain's office. *You can run but you can't hide, Jim. She's my mom so turn off the charm!*

"Blair Sandburg, you lied to me…to your own mother," Naomi accused. "You were in a very dangerous situation. You're supposed to be an observer."

"Well, I was observing." Blair charmingly smiled. Then he saw Naomi's expression and gave her a quick hug. "Mom, I'm not making light of it, okay? But I'm fine. You can see that for yourself." He frowned. "How did you know what was going on?"

"I told her."

The force of Naomi's personality was such that Blair hadn't noticed the short stocky dark-haired man who'd been standing a short distance away.

"Oh, sweetie, this is Charlie Spring," Naomi introduced. "We were in Seattle at a convergence gathering."

"Hi, Charlie," Blair smiled, holding out his hand.

As they shook hands, the elevator door opened. Detective Henri Brown stepped out, automatically smiling at Blair. Then he did the classic double-take. "Charlie Spring?" He held out his hand. "I'm…"

"Detective Brown. Nice to meet you." Charlie quickly shook the detective's hand.

Henri's dark eyes twinkled. "You are as good as they say."

Blair smiled as Naomi happily squeezed his arm.

"I'm as good as I say," Charlie laughed.

Henri quickly pulled out his notebook and tore out a piece of paper. "Would you…"

Charlie already had a pen out. "My pleasure."

"He's a world-renowned psychic," Naomi whispered to her son.

"I know, Mom," Blair grinned. "Hey, Henri. This is my mom, Naomi. Mom, this is…"

"Henri Brown," Naomi smiled. "Blair's spoken highly of you."

Henri exchanged a quick smile with Blair. "I hope you'll keep an open mind anyway," he laughed. "Thanks, Mr. Spring." He slapped Blair on the arm and continued into the bullpen.

"So how was the convergence conference?" Blair asked.

"Blair, I won't be distracted." Naomi firmly shook her head. "You were in danger, and we're going to talk about this."

"Sure we will, Mom," Blair soothed. "But now's not the right time or place, you know?"

Jim exited Simon's office. He saw Blair in the grip of his mother and took pity on his partner. He tossed the file on his desk and walked to join them.

"I hear you, sweetie." Naomi smiled, squeezing his arm. "I knew you were in danger because Charlie got this hit."

"Hit?" Blair looked at Charlie.

"Stuff pops into my head," Charlie explained. "I call it a 'hit.' Like, I could see you behind a police car. Someone's shooting. Glass shattering. Run-down buildings." He cocked his head as he stared at Blair. "Yes?"

"Yeah, that's pretty good," Blair admitted.

"It's a gift," Charlie grinned. "I knew you were in danger."

"Not a big stretch for somebody riding with a cop," Jim pointed out.

"Ah, you're a skeptic, Detective Ellison." Charlie smiled.

"Jim is very big on what he can see and hear," Naomi confided with a teasing smile. "Charlie is also a detective, Jim. Just not officially."

"Is that a fact?" Jim replied, although he met Naomi's smile with one of his own.

Blair frowned warningly at his partner even though Jim easily avoided acknowledging the glare.

"You remember the Bramford murder case a couple years ago?" Charlie asked. "City Councilman Geoffrey Bramford disappeared. No one knew if he was alive or dead, let alone being able to find a body."

Jim reluctantly nodded. "A psychic gave the detective information about the location of his body." His eyes narrowed. "That was you?"

Charlie spread his arms wide with a wide grin. "They didn't call the psychic hot line!"

"And that couldn't be just a lucky guess on the part of a skilled investigator?" Jim questioned.

"I respect a man who knows what he doesn't believe in." Charlie nodded. "But I'll give you a copy of my new book anyway."

"It's called 'Doubting Thomases,'" Naomi confided.

"Just what I need," Jim said with a polite smile.

The door to Simon's office banged open. "Ellison! Now!"

Thankfully, Jim retreated to the bullpen. "Yes, sir."

"We just had a report of a kidnapping of a little girl. Gwen Angeloni, age 9, blonde hair, blue eyes," Simon said in a quiet voice. "She was snatched at the Art Museum two hours ago. The girl's teacher discovered her missing and found the note from the kidnappers under one of the statues. They said they'd be in touch."

"Why the delay in notifying us?" Jim curiously asked.

Simon shrugged. "The Angeloni's are in the middle of a divorce, according to Mr. Angeloni. He was on his way back from Seattle when his wife contacted him. She thought he might have taken Gwen in a bid for custody. He thought she might be hiding Gwen for the same reason. When they realized neither was guilty, Mr. Angeloni called us in."

"There was no ransom demand," a voice behind them spoke.

Simon spun around to see Charlie Spring. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded.

Blair quickly joined them. "Uh…Captain Banks. This is Charlie Spring. He's a psychic."

"So he says," Jim muttered.

"I see." Simon briefly nodded. He pulled Jim to one side. "Get over to the victim's house. Keep the parents calm until the ransom call comes in. I'll set up the monitoring situation here."

"What about the Feds?" Jim asked with a grimace as he reached for his jacket.

"Apparently Mr. Angeloni's had some dealings with them." Simon ruefully smiled. "He doesn't have a high opinion of them. He's requested they not be informed."

Jim nodded and turned to Blair. "Let's go, Chief." He smiled at Naomi and gave her a quick hug. "So long, Naomi. Good seeing you again."

"Bye, Jim." Naomi smiled.

"Gotta go, Mom," Blair said as he grabbed his jacket.

"Honey, you call me," Naomi ordered. "We still have something to discuss."

"Sure, Mom," Blair promised, kissing her on the cheek. "As soon as I get a chance."

"Let's go, Sandburg!" Jim called from the elevator bank.

"Nice meeting you, Charlie," Blair called as he ran towards the elevator.

Naomi watched as Jim put a hand on Blair's back to urge him into the elevator. Then she worriedly looked at Charlie.


Tuesday 4:23 pm - The Angeloni House

The Angeloni house was located in the middle of an upper-middle class neighborhood, the type where people didn't advertise how much money they possessed. From the outside, the house with its perfectly groomed lawn looked like every other house in the neighborhood.

Inside, Fred and Trish Angeloni greeted Jim and Blair. Trish Angeloni unconsciously wrung her hands as they spoke. Jim also found it interesting that both parents were dry-eyed and didn't seem to be emotionally leaning on one another.

"I'll pay them anything they want," Fred confessed, running a hand through his close-clipped dark hair.

Trish angrily glared at him. "According to your lawyers, you're practically broke."

"I'll sell whatever I have to," Fred snapped back. "Besides, I have some cash put aside for emergencies."

"I bet you do," Trish angrily muttered. She glanced at Jim and Blair. "Excuse me."

"Sorry," Fred muttered, wiping his face with both hands. "We're separated, and today's just the icing on a rotten day."

"We're just here to help recover your daughter," Jim quietly assured him. He glanced at the equipment connected to the Angeloni's phone. "Try to relax, sir."

He followed Blair to the doorway leading to the dining room. They watched as Trish sat at the table, turning over Tarot cards.

"Those are 18th century Napoleonic, aren't they?" Blair asked. "The artistry is fantastic."

Trish eagerly looked up. "You know Tarot?"

"Yeah, my Mom's been a believer for years," Blair admitted.

"They're cards, Chief," Jim muttered as he turned away.

Trish collected the cards and put them back into a small oak box. "I'm too upset to read them," she admitted. "Do you really believe or are you just comforting the upset mother?"

"I believe there are people out there with genuine gifts," Blair nodded. "People like Charlie Spring."

"You know him?" Trish asked in surprise.

"He's a friend of my Mom's," Blair admitted.

"Why don't you call him?" Trish jumped up and grabbed Blair by the elbow. "He could help us find Gwen!"

They were startled when the phone rang. Blair guided Trish back into the living room.

Jim was standing with one hand on the police phone and looking at Fred. "Pick up on my signal. Tell them you won't do anything until you talk to your daughter and make sure she's okay." When Fred nodded, Jim took a deep breath. "Okay. Pick up."

"Hello? Fred Angeloni speaking." He nodded at Jim.

Jim nodded at the technician, who was quietly speaking into his cell phone to Simon Banks.

Trish walked across the room and put her hands on her husband's arm.

"Yes, I'm listening." Fred nodded reassuringly at his wife.

"I want a hundred grand," Greta demanded.

"Just tell me where and when," Fred agreed.

"Tomorrow morning," Greta snapped. "I'll call with the location."

Trish leaned her forehead against Fred's arm.

"I want to speak with Gwen," Fred demanded.

Greta turned and nodded to her partner. He yanked the child out of the chair and pulled off the dirty gag.

"You've got five seconds," Greta snarled as she put the phone to Gwen's ear.

"Mommy?" Gwen haltingly spoke.

"Gwen, it's Daddy and Mommy," Fred quickly answered.

"Gwen! Do what they tell you!" Trish shouted.

"I wanna come home," Gwen whined.

"You will, baby," Trish choked. "I promise we'll bring you home."

Blair turned away, unable to watch the naked fear on the faces of Gwen's parents.

"That's it," Greta snapped. She yanked the phone away.

"Daddy!" Gwen screamed.

"Gwen!" Fred shouted. All he heard was the buzz of the disconnected phone line.

"Oh, God, Fred," Trish sobbed, leaning against him. "Our baby…."

Blair watched as Fred led his sobbing wife into the dining room. They sat close together as Trish covered her face and sobbed. He jumped when Jim's cell phone rang.

"Ellison," Jim barked.

"We've got a trace," Simon explained. "They're calling on a stolen cell number. The cell is stationary from the middle of the Cascade National Forest. We'll never get a search team in before dark."

"It's probably what they're counting on." Jim wearily rubbed his forehead. "Mr. Angeloni's going to get the money. There's nothing for us to do except wait for the call." He saw Trish walking Fred to the door. Fred was speaking to her in a low, soothing voice as he reached for his coat. "I'll have someone follow him just in case."

"Report when he gets back," Simon ordered then hung up.

"So we're just supposed to wait?" Trish angrily demanded. She glared first at her husband then at Jim.

Fred apologetically looked at Jim. "Trish, what do you want us to do? I have to get the money. We have to wait for them to call us back."

"In the meantime, Gwen is with those God-awful people and they're doing God knows what to her!" Trish half-screamed. She backed away when Fred tried to soothe her. Sobbing, she ran upstairs.

"Is there anyone we can call for your wife?" Jim quietly asked.

Fred wearily shook his head. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

Jim motioned to a nearby officer in civilian clothing. "Officer Mann will shadow you, Mr. Angeloni. Just in case."

Fred's dark eyes widened then he nodded with a slight smile. "Thank you, Detective Ellison."

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

Tuesday 6:44 pm - The Loft

"Naomi, are you sure your son and his friend won't mind?" Charlie looked appreciatively around the loft.

"Of course not," Naomi happily replied. She opened the refrigerator door and disapprovingly clucked. "I always stay with them when I'm visiting."

"I meant are you sure they won't mind me staying here as well?" Charlie curiously looked at the books in the bookcase.

"They're very hospitable," Naomi assured him. Concerned about the lack of food she was finding, she missed Charlie's mocking smile. "I am definitely having a long discussion with my son. I can't believe what's here to eat…and what isn't."

Charlie pulled a mystery novel from the bookshelf and thumbed through it. "We could go out to eat," he suggested. "That probably makes…"

When he didn't continue speaking, Naomi turned around. She caught her breath at the look of intense concentration on Charlie's face. "Oh…" she quietly breathed. She took a few steps forward then halted, not wanting to interrupt. A few minutes later, Charlie slowly shook his head and took a deep breath. "You got a hit?" she eagerly asked.

Charlie slowly nodded, his eyes narrowed.

"Blair…he's not in danger, is he?" Naomi quickly demanded.

Charlie looked up in surprise. "No. He's fine, Naomi." He hesitated. "I have to think about this…decipher it's meaning." He smiled and walked towards her. "Why don't you change into something fresh, and we'll go out. If Blair and Detective Ellison haven't had time to grocery shop, I wouldn't feel right about eating what they do have."

"You're right." Naomi smiled and kissed the psychic on his cheek. "I won't be long."

"Take your time," Charlie assured her. He watched as she went into the small bedroom and shut the doors. Sitting on the couch, he drummed the fingers of his right hand on his knee. After a few minutes, Naomi came out of the bedroom and went into the bathroom. Seconds later, Charlie heard the water in the shower begin running.

Making a decision, Charlie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small worn address book. Quickly finding the number he wanted, he reached for the phone. Glancing at the closed bathroom door, he smiled as he heard Naomi singing. Nodding to himself, he punched in a phone number. After a few rings, he heard someone answer. "Good afternoon. I'd like to speak to Don Haas, please."


Wednesday 7:08 am – Kenmore Development

Greta coldly stared at Gwen who was tied to the small bed. The little girl stared back at her but didn't say a word. It didn't look like the child had slept much the night before. Greta mentally shrugged. It wouldn't hurt the kid to lose a night's sleep. *It'll teach her something about the real world. Spoiled little brat.*

Shutting the door, Greta walked down the short hallway to the door. The dilapidated mobile home reminded her too much of her own childhood. She once again felt a surge of rage towards the child in the bedroom. "I can't wait to get out of this hole, Bill."

"Soon, babe." Bill Collins looked up from his plate. He speared the last piece of fried egg and shoved it into his mouth. He missed Greta's annoyance over the nickname. "Daddy will be turning over the money real soon." He looked out the small window. "You know, this'll be a nice place to live when they get it developed."

Pouring a cup of coffee, Greta looked over her shoulder. "You're not the one at risk, you know. I'm the one connected with Angeloni."

Bill chuckled. "Connected? Babe, you do temp work for his accountant. It's not like you see Angeloni every day."

"He's going through a divorce, you idiot." Greta sipped her coffee then added more sugar. "He's hiding assets. Who else would know about those assets?"

Bill shook his head. "You worry too much. We could have stayed in the National Park last night. We didn't have to drive away from a perfectly good hide-out except you're so paranoid." He got up and put his plate and fork in the kitchen sink. "Nobody's gonna figure out you know about Angeloni's assets." He grinned. "Now me…I've got something to worry about. If Gruenditch finds me, I'm D..E..A..D."

"What?" Greta screeched. "You said you'd already paid him off!"

Bill looked surprised. "Why pay him when we're going to disappear in Mexico, babe?"

"Because Gruenditch has contacts everywhere, that's why!" Greta threw her coffee cup across the kitchen.

Bill automatically ducked as hot coffee splashed close to him. The cheap plastic cup rolled across the grungy floor. "I don't want to take any chances! My God, Bill, are you insane or just stupid?"

Bill angrily bit back a reply. He simply stared back at her. "You need to make that call," he finally spoke.


Wednesday 7:11 am – The Angeloni Home

The tension was running high in the Angeloni home. Trish alternated between bursting into tears and walking around wringing her hands. Fred kept looking at his watch or worriedly watching his wife.

Blair had gotten Trish's permission to use the kitchen and was busy passing out cups of coffee and tea. Jim leaned against one wall, arms folded against his chest, generally looking furious with the world in general and the current situation in particular. Even with his enhanced hearing, he hadn't heard anything on the taped conversation to help them. All he could determine from the 'tinny' sound on the tape was that the kidnappers and the child were probably calling from some sort of trailer or mobile home.

In a corner of the living room, Simon watched all of it and was just happy the press hadn't gotten wind of the kidnapping.

Everyone tensed when the phone rang. Fred rushed towards it, looking at Jim for permission. Trish ran from the dining room and looked at the phone with wide eyes.

"On my signal, Mr. Angeloni," Jim calmly reminded him. He glanced at the technician who sat on the couch with headphones. Then he nodded at Fred.

"Angeloni," Fred answered.


"Gwen, sweetheart, are you okay?" Fred asked. He held the receiver out so Trish could also hear their daughter.

"I want to come home," Gwen wailed. "NOW!"

"Baby…" Trish began with a sob.

Greta grabbed the receiver as Bill put his hand over Gwen's mouth. He pulled the child back into the bedroom. With ruthless efficiency, the child was again helplessly tied to the bed.

"Put the money in a small gym bag," Greta ordered. "Take it to the Portsmouth Hotel. Go to the top floor and wait for further instructions. If I see anything even resembling a cop, the deal's off." She glanced at Bill who had returned from the bedroom. "You have 30 minutes." She hung up.

Blair put his arm around Trish and led her into the hallway. Behind them, they heard Simon barking into his cell phone.

Simon looked at Jim as he put the cell phone back in his pocket. "Same phone, Jim. Different location. Somewhere out near the eastern part of the park." Simon grunted. "Jim, I want you to deliver the money," he decided. "Take Sandburg with you if you want."

"Is that wise?" Fred asked. "She said no cops."

"We'll get there early," Jim assured him. "It's doubtful they'll have Gwen with them. This way, we'll be in place to watch and follow them."

Fred hesitated. "This is my daughter's life. It's not that I don't trust you but…"

"I understand." Simon sympathetically nodded. "I have a son. And I'd feel the same way if I had to deal with something like this."

Slowly Fred nodded. "I have to find a bag. I…" He looked at Simon and Jim. "Do you think they'll release Gwen unharmed?" he asked in a low voice.

"There's a very good chance of that, Mr. Angeloni," Simon assured him. "They want money, not bloodshed."

Fred nodded. He helplessly looked at his wife, then ran upstairs.

Trish watched for a moment, then followed. "Fred?" When her husband turned and looked at her, she tentatively started up the steps. "I think…my old gym bag is still in the closet."

Fred nodded and held out his hand. Trembling, Trish took it; and they went upstairs.

"Man." Blair shook his head. "I hope they can just hold it together."


Wednesday 7:14 am – Kenmore Development

Bill gave Greta a kiss on the cheek as he opened the door to the mobile home. "Smile, babe. We're home free."

Greta glanced around until satisfied that no one was around. Very little of the property had been touched with the developer scrambling to find funding. It made for a good hide-out. She glanced down at Bill who was getting into his Ford Taurus. "Don't speed," she warned.

"Don't worry," Bill shook his head. "I'm giving myself time to get there without drawing attention to myself. You told Angeloni thirty minutes. I can make it to the Portsmouth in fifteen." He blew Greta a kiss before starting the car and driving away.

Bill glanced at the clock on the dashboard. He had just enough time to swing by his apartment and pick up a few things. Greta had insisted they leave most of their belongings behind and bring only what they were going to take with them. But there was no way he was leaving his Donna Summer posters and music collection. Greta just worried too much.

Greta watched until Bill's car disappeared over the small hill leading to the highway. She tried to ignore the uneasiness she felt and sighed. Closing the door, she walked into the bedroom and stared down at Gwen. "You know, kid. You can do your best and try your hardest. But sometimes, a man is just going to screw things up no matter what you do." She closed the door to the bedroom and walked into the kitchen. As she poured a cup of coffee, she tried to figure out how Bill was going to screw this up.


Wednesday 7:25 am - Portsmouth Hotel Parking Garage

Two heads cautiously looked over the dashboard. "He doesn't look like he's slept at all." Naomi frowned. She watched as Jim and Blair entered the elevator. With a sigh of relief, she sat up in the front seat of the car.

"They've been busy." Charlie nodded as he sat up. "They're doing they're job." He squeezed her hand. "Like we're doing ours."

"Have you gotten any more hits?" Naomi asked.

Charlie shook his head. "Just the name Portsmouth and something about a dog."

"And you saw the sunrise." Naomi smiled.

"Yeah." Charlie nodded with a wide grin. "That was a big help. At least we didn't have to sit in the car here all night."

"That poor child." Naomi shook her head. "This is going to affect her karma so negatively."


Wednesday 7:26 am – Top Floor Portsmouth Hotel

Jim stifled a cough as they exited the elevator. He irritably looked at the bag in his hand. "When was the last time she aired out that bag?"

"You air out gym bags?" Blair innocently asked.

"Don't start, Sandburg," Jim warned. He tried to clear his throat.

"I'm just glad they're renovating the top three floors," Blair paused. "We don't have to worry about innocent bystanders."

"Smart on the part of the kidnappers," Jim admitted. "Looks like somebody reads the Cascade Herald." He handed the bag to Blair.

"Now what?" Blair asked in confusion.

"We're a few minutes early." Jim pulled out his cell phone and dialed. "Simon? We're in position."

"So's your backup," Simon replied. "They've been instructed to keep their distance. If there's any way for you to track the kidnapper, use it."

"Affirmative." Jim glanced at his watch. "Call you later." He hung up and watched as Blair nervously shifted his weight from side to side.


Wednesday 7:27 am – Portsmouth Hotel Parking Garage

Naomi and Charlie instinctively ducked, barely missing knocking their heads together, when a black Mercedes slowly drove into the garage. As Charlie peeked over the dashboard, he grinned. "Look…look!" he whispered.

Naomi cautiously looked up then smiled.

The license plate of the Mercedes read T-DOG.

"Man, am I good or what?" Charlie snickered.

"The kidnappers?" Naomi murmured as the car pulled into one of the empty parking spaces near the elevator.

"Maybe…maybe," Charlie admitted. "Let's see what happens."

They ducked as a Ford Taurus drove a little too fast into the parking garage. The driver pulled into the nearest parking spot and turned the engine off. Peering over the dashboard, they saw the driver exit the car and walk slowly towards the far wall. As he turned the corner, they saw him pulling out a cell phone.


Wednesday 7:30 am – Top Floor of Portsmouth Hotel

Jim and Blair looked around as they heard the ringing chirp of a cell phone. Frowning, Jim located the ringing coming from a small metal box located between the elevator banks.

Blair nodded encouragingly when Jim retrieved the cell phone and answered it. "Yeah," he grunted.

"There's a laundry chute around the corner on the right. You have one minute to drop the money. Keep the phone with you. I'll call with the girl's location."

Jim tried hard to hear past the hissing voice, but heard nothing except the disconnect signal. He shoved the cell phone in his pocket. "We've got one minute. C'mon." He jabbed at the elevator button, then ran down the hallway.

"What? What?!" Blair shouted.

"Male voice. We have two kidnappers," Jim explained. "He wants the money dropped down the laundry chute."

"So he can split before anyone gets down there," Blair groaned.

Jim spotted the sign on the door. Shoving the door open, he pushed Blair towards the laundry chute. Extending his hearing, he heard the elevator approaching. "Wait until the last possible second before dropping the bag," he ordered. "I'm heading down on the elevator. Maybe I can get a good look at him." He backed out of the room. "Get down to the parking garage as soon as you drop the bag!" he yelled as he ran for the elevator.

Blair took a deep breath and began counting. "Uh…one Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi."


Wednesday 7:31 am – Portsmouth Hotel Parking Garage

Charlie frowned as he watched three men in the black Mercedes exit the car. "Naomi, call Jim. I don't like what I'm getting from those guys."

The three men slowly walked in the direction that Bill had gone. Although he'd seen nothing but the backs of their heads, Charlie had seen men like that before in his life. And nothing good ever came of dealing with them.

Naomi quickly dialed her cell phone. "Jim, it's Naomi. I…Jim? Jim?" She looked at Charlie with wide eyes. "He hung up on me."


Wednesday 7:32 am – Top Floor of the Portsmouth Hotel

"Forty Mississippi." Blair dropped the gym bag down the laundry chute. "Look out below!" he yelled before sprinting towards the elevator.


Wednesday 7:32 am – Portsmouth Hotel Parking Garage

Bill grinned as he heard the bag slide down the laundry chute. Opening the metal container, he grabbed the gym bag and pulled it out. He opened it enough to see the money, then zipped shut. Kissing the side of the bag, he jogged towards the parking area.

As he turned the corner in the hallway, he stumbled to a halt when he saw the three men standing between him and the parking garage entrance. "Whoa! Guys! I got the money! Right here!"

"You're a moron, Collins," the oldest man said. "You just had to go back to your house, didn't you? I knew you would. You're just that stupid."

"Mr. Gruenditch, I've got your money!" Bill pleaded. "Don't kill me!" When none of the men moved, he relaxed. "I've got more than enough! Take it all! It's a hundred grand!"

"Now where would a moron like you get a hundred thousand dollars?" Gruenditch asked, uncrossing his arms.

"Kidnapped this kid," Bill explained. "I told you I'd do whatever it took to get your money back. And her old man's loaded. He's got a half million in cash sitting in a safety deposit box where he's hiding it from his old lady."

"Is that a fact?" Gruenditch studied his fingernails. "So where's the kid?"

"With Greta in a motor home," Bill nervously answered. The gym bag rested heavily in his hand. "In the Kenmore Development." He looked at the two silent men flanking Gruenditch. "That's the whole story." He held out the bag. "Here. Take it all."

"I plan to." Gruenditch smiled. "Why settle for a hundred grand when you can have half a million?" Both men flanking him quickly drew their guns and fired.

In the parking garage, Naomi stifled a scream at the sound of the gunshots. Charlie immediately shoved her down onto the seat. "Quiet, Naomi! For God's sake!"

Gruenditch took the bag from Bill's lifeless hand. "Let's get out of here." They silently retreated to the Mercedes and drove away.

Charlie looked up as the Mercedes left. "It's okay. They're gone." He looked over at Bill's lifeless body as the elevator door opened.

Holding his gun stiffly out from his body, Jim's eyes flickered around the garage. Hearing the squeal of tires from a car that had quickly exited the garage, he cautiously followed the smell of cordite. A few steps into the hallway, he saw a man lying motionless on the concrete floor. He slowly walked towards Bill and knelt next to him, checking for a pulse even as he realized he didn't hear a heartbeat from the body.

Hearing two people approaching, he whirled around and aimed.

"Jim!" Naomi shrieked.

"Naomi?" Jim was stunned. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"She's with me." Charlie edged closer to the dead body. "We saw him drive in and come this way. Three hoods in a black Mercedes followed him. We heard gunfire and the three guys took off."

Jim reached for his cell phone. "Simon. We've got a problem."

"I don't need problems, Ellison," Simon barked.

"Somebody killed one of the kidnappers," Jim heavily replied. "We need an APB on…" He looked at Charlie.

Charlie's dark eyes slightly unfocused. "Black Mercedes. 1996 model. Lightly tinted windows. License plate T-DOG."

"I got it," Simon sighed. "What is he doing there?"

"I'll let you know," Jim promised as he hung up.


"Oh, Blair, honey. Are you okay?" Naomi grabbed Blair in a tight hug.

"Sure, I'm…" Blair's blue eyes widened as he saw the body on the floor. "The kidnapper?"

Jim nodded. "Most probably. He might have been just somebody in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Charlie firmly shook his head. "He was one of the kidnappers."

"A hit?" Naomi asked, taking a deep breath.

Charlie slowly nodded. "Yeah. Small mobile home. Not all that clean either."

"Mom, what are you guys doing here?" Blair demanded.

"Why, honey, we're working the case." Naomi smiled as she hugged Blair's arm. "Just like before. Isn't that wonderful?"

Blair looked helplessly at Jim.

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

Wednesday 9:02 am – The Angeloni Residence

"I can't thank you enough for coming to our aid." Trish sadly smiled.

"We'll get her back," Charlie assured her. "Can I see her room?"

Blair shook his head as Trish led the psychic upstairs. "How can he promise that?" he muttered.

"What do we do now?" Fred demanded.

"There were two kidnappers," Jim explained. "When the man, whoever he is, doesn't come back, the woman will call." He glanced up the stairs. "Excuse me. I think I'd better see what's going on upstairs." Trailed by Blair, he silently trotted up the stairs.

Fred wearily nodded and sat on the couch.

Naomi sat next to him and patted his hand. "I know it's hard to keep up your spirits, but you have to keep thinking positively. You can't let negative thoughts turn into negative actions."

Jim and Blair found Trish and Charlie in Gwen's room.

"Familiarization," Charlie was explaining. "By touching her stuff, I can get a…vibe. Yeah, a vibe. Like a tingling sensation at the base of my spine and then…BANG!…a hit." He reached out and stroked the stuffed lion sitting on Gwen's bed.

"What a load of…" Jim muttered.

"Jim! You'll break his concentration," Blair hissed.

Charlie's eyes closed. "She's scared, but she's okay. Trish, she's okay. But she thinks you're mad at her because she went with someone she didn't know."

Jim frowned at the emotion on Trish's face. He angrily cleared his throat. "I hate to interrupt, but anybody could get that from the phone call."

"But I wasn't here for the phone call," Charlie muttered. "Now quiet. I'm getting something." He ignored Jim's snort. "A cat…kitten…yeah, a kitten."

"She was wearing her kitten t-shirt under her dress," Trish gasped.

"And…a piece of jewelry…under her shirt…close to her heart…a silver locket," Charlie murmured.

"We gave it to her for her last birthday," Trish sighed. She folded her hands over her heart. "She never takes it off."

"Jim, we didn't know about the locket," Blair whispered. He ignored Jim's scowl.

"She's not hurt?" Trish agonizingly whispered.

"She's okay," Charlie assured her. He gently put his hands on her shoulders. "She's fine."

Blair watched as Jim spun on his heel and walked back downstairs. *People like Spring feed off desperate peoples' fears and desperate hopes. Makes me sick!*


Wednesday 9:58 am – The Angeloni Residence

Blair glanced up the stairs as Naomi quietly came down from the upper floor where she'd gone to check on Gwen's parents.

"They're both asleep," Naomi whispered. She sat on the steps and wrapped her arms around herself. "Those poor people. They are hurting so badly. I could feel their sadness and fear." She looked up at Blair. "No parent should worry about their child like that."

"And no child should worry about his parent like that," Blair gently admonished. He sat cross-legged on the floor at the bottom of the steps. "You shouldn't have gone with Charlie, Mom. It was dangerous."

"Dangerous for you, too, sweetie," Naomi pointed out, reaching her hand out to him.

Smiling, Blair took her hand and squeezed it.

"There's so much negative karma about what you're doing," Naomi stressed. "You're around too much violence."

"Mom, why did you go with Charlie?" Blair asked after a moment.

Naomi's eyes widened in confusion. "Blair. Honey. A little girl was kidnapped. Charlie got a hit and we thought we…"

"Could help?" Blair prodded when she fell silent. "Like I can help?"

Naomi ruefully smiled. "I hear you, Blair."


Wednesday 10:04 am – Major Crimes

Charlie slid his cell phone into his pocket just before he exited the bathroom. Smiling widely, he found Jim in the bullpen. "So why do you think they killed him?" Charlie asked as he intercepted the detective.

"You're the psychic," Jim evenly replied. "You tell me." He stepped aside and walked towards the printer.

"Oh, so now you believe," Charlie smirked.

Jim took copies from the printer and headed towards his desk…followed by Charlie. "I'm willing to give you very little slack. You were right about Gwen's clothes and the car."

"Ah, T-DOG," Charlie happily sighed. "Sometimes I even surprise myself."

"Look, the only reason I'm keeping an open mind is that I'll take whatever help I can get on this case," Jim snapped. "I'm not going to waste time throwing you a bone every time you're right about something. Understand?"

"Gentlemen," Simon's quiet voice interrupted.

"Hello, Captain Banks." Charlie nodded.

"Jim, I got the report back on the prints from our victim." Simon glanced at the file. "His name is Bill Collins. No record except for a misdemeanor a couple of years ago. But he's definitely one of the kidnappers. We found a partial print on the cell phone at the hotel and matched it to Collins."

"Yes, I knew it," Charlie happily muttered.

"What about the license plate?" Jim asked as he took the file from Simon.

"Yeah. T-DOG," Charlie eagerly added.

"Registered to a phony corporation," Simon replied. "We're checking on it." He handed Jim a second file. "Oh…here's that other report you wanted. Makes for interesting reading but nothing to hold your breath about." He turned away as Rhonda called his name.

Charlie craned his neck to look at the folder in Jim's hands.

Jim glared at him. "Do you mind?"

Charlie backed away, holding his hands up in mock surrender.

Jim muttered under his breath, then snatched at his phone when it rang. "Ellison."

"Jim, you'd better get back to the Angeloni's pretty quick." Blair peeked out the window and shuddered.

"What's happened?" Jim quickly asked.

"How the hell did Haas get involved!" Simon bellowed from across the bullpen.

"Tell me the media…" Jim wearily began. He rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Are camping out on the front lawn," Blair sighed.


Wednesday 10:51 am – The Angeloni Residence

"For the love of God," Jim irritably muttered. Repeatedly slamming his hand on the car horn, he edged his way through the mob of reporters that lined the driveway of the Angeloni home. Simon, driving behind Jim, pulled close up onto Jim's bumper so no one got between the two cars.

As they exited the cars, Charlie quickly ran towards the house. Naomi opened the door just long enough for him to dart inside.

"Detective Ellison! Captain Banks!"

The cries came from several of the reporters. Jim irritably saw the photographers trying to get between them and the house.

"We have information there's been a kidnapping!" Don Haas shouted. "Have you contacted the FBI?" When neither man answered, he dogged their footsteps. "Can you give us any information? Make a statement for the public?"

Naomi quickly reopened the door, allowing Jim and Simon to get inside.

Haas tried to follow, but Naomi blocked his way with a smile. "Please don't trample on the grass. And kindly don't step on the flowers." She widened her smile and gently squeezed his arm. "Thank you so much."

The reporter stared in surprise as the door was gently but firmly shut in his face.

"This is outrageous!" Fred fumed. "This is supposed to be a confidential investigation!"

"It is, sir," Jim apologized. "I don't know where the leak occurred."

"But we'll find out," Simon grimly promised. He glanced out the window. "And there's something I can do about that right now."

Minutes later, the shrill sirens of police cars heralded the response of the Cascade PD. Simon stepped onto the front step of the house and watched as the officers began moving the reporters and photographers away from the Angeloni driveway.

"Captain Banks! You can't stop us from reporting this story!" Don Haas angrily shouted.

Simon chewed on the end of his cigar. "I don't know about any story, Mr. Haas. I'm responding to a complaint by the owners of this property about trespassers." He eyed the news truck as it backed onto the street. "And if any of you obstruct traffic or disturb the good people of this neighborhood, I'll personally throw you and your camera into the nearest holding cell."


Wednesday 11:06 am – Kenmore Development

Greta ruthlessly discarded everything that wouldn't fit into her backpack. Either Bill had double-crossed her or he'd screwed up. Going on his past record, Greta was betting on the screw up.

Tossing the backpack onto the small table in the kitchen, Greta glanced towards the bedroom. All that remained now was the kid. What to do with the kid? She weighed the choices of the brat identifying her against the penalty for killing a child if caught.

Deciding to take her chances with the identification, Greta decided to leave Gwen tied up in the bedroom. Either someone would find her or the kid would finally get herself free. And if neither happened, at least Greta had given her a chance.

Grabbing her backpack, she opened the door then fell back as a huge meaty hand shoved her hard in the chest. Stumbling, she fell back against the kitchen counter.

The man who shoved her grabbed her backpack and began going through it. A second man, equally large, stepped inside the mobile home. The gun he pointed at Greta insured her silence and cooperation.

But it was the third man who frightened her the most. "Mr. Gruenditch," she muttered.

"I see Bill has mentioned me." Gruenditch smiled.

"Where…" Greta helplessly looked around.

"Sit," Gruenditch ordered, pointing at a nearby chair.

Shaking, Greta obeyed.

"I believe in putting everything on the table," Gruenditch explained as he also sat down. "Collins owed me money. He tried to stiff me. He paid for that."

If possible, Greta turned even whiter.

"But he told me an interesting story." The gangster leaned across the table. "About a little girl and a half-million dollars." He paused. "Do you know that story?"

"I'll do whatever you want," Greta promised. "I had nothing to do with Bill's actions. I told him to pay you. I thought he had!" She took a deep breath. "All I want is to walk away from this. Get as far away from Cascade as I can."

"I have no quarrel with you." Gruenditch nodded. "My problem was with your late partner." He leaned back in his chair and nodded towards the nearby cell phone. "All you have to do is convince me this half-million dollars actually exists and make one phone call."


Wednesday 11:07 am – The Angeloni Residence

Fred and Trish sat on the couch, holding each other's hands as they stared at the television screen. Naomi sat next to Trish, slowly shaking her head in disbelief. Blair and Simon stood next to the couch each glancing worriedly at Jim. The sentinel stood with arms folded across his chest, his jaw rhythmically clenching and unclenching.

Don Haas stood in front of the Angeloni home, speaking earnestly to each and every viewer. His voice conveyed his sympathy and concern.

"While we are not able to confirm the ten-year old daughter of Fred and Trish Angeloni has been kidnapped, sources tell us she was taken from the Cascade Art Museum yesterday afternoon while on a school outing."

Haas briefly glanced over his shoulder before continuing. "Celebrity psychic Charlie Spring was seen by this reporter entering the Angeloni home accompanied by Captain Simon Banks and Detective James Ellison, both of the Cascade Major Crimes Division."

The reporter frowned. "The FBI has refused to confirm or deny they have been called to assist the local authorities. We would hope that with the safety of a ten-year old child in the balance that the local authorities are not more concerned about territorial jurisdiction."

Haas straightened his shoulders, conveying his dedication to his viewers. "We will remain on site to follow this story and will break in with any new developments. This is…"

Fred angrily grabbed the remote control and turned the television off.

"Dear God," Trish moaned.

Upstairs in Gwen's room, Charlie had heard every word of Haas' broadcast. He absently petted the stuffed lion then reached for this cell phone. Minutes later, he bounded down the stairs to the living room.

"I know where Gwen is," Charlie announced. "Hit me just a minute ago. BOOM! But now…now I have an exact location."

Blair saw the look of hope on Trish's face. "I thought psychics never claimed to be a hundred percent sure about hits."

"Blair, I'd stake my reputation on this one." Charlie nodded.

"Please…it's been so long since we've heard," Trish begged.

"What do we have to lose?" Fred agreed.

"Mr. Spring, I'll be the first to confess I know nothing about psychics," Simon diplomatically spoke up. "But we're professionals who…"

"I'm a professional too, Captain," Charlie angrily interrupted. "Granted, my business is far more esoteric than yours; but I take it just as seriously. And frankly, I'm tired of all this negative attitude."

"I thought you liked a good skeptic." Jim eyebrows rose.

"Not when I'm trying to save a child's life," Charlie shot back.

"If the idea here is to find Gwen, why not listen to him?" Blair quietly asked. "Maybe he can help." He took both Jim and Simon by their arms and led them to one corner. "Throughout recorded history, there have been documented cases of psychic phenomenon that can't be explained." He caught their eyes. "Primitive people believed in the powers of their sentinels. Now, you can't tell me those abilities don't exist."

Jim exchanged a quick look with Simon. "We're going to have to lose the press out there."

Simon smiled. "I think I can arrange that." He looked towards Naomi. "With a little help from you, madam."

"Call me Naomi." Blair's red-haired mother smiled.

"That would be a pleasure." Simon gallantly bowed his head.

Blair jabbed his elbow into Simon's ribs. "Stop that!" he hissed. "That's my mom, man!"

Minutes later, the reporters and photographers noticed the Cascade police cars begin to leave their posts close to the Angeloni residence.

Suddenly the door to the Angeloni home was thrown open. Simon ran towards his car, barking orders into his cell phone.

Shrieking, Naomi ran after him. "Wait for me! You can't go without me!"

As Naomi jumped into the car, Simon threw it into reverse. Tires squealed as he backed out of the driveway, then drove off towards the center of Cascade.

Members of the press jumped into their vehicles and scrambled to follow. It took almost a minute for the traffic jam they'd created to clear. Two minutes after Simon had driven away, the street was deserted.

Cautiously, Jim led Blair and Charlie to his Expedition. He and Charlie ducked into the back seat while Blair got behind the wheel. Checking the street cautiously before pulling out of the driveway, Blair drove in the direction of the Cascade National Forest.

A block away, Don Haas lowered his binoculars.

"Do we follow them?" the driver asked as he turned the ignition key.

Haas settled into his seat with a pleased smile. "It's okay. I know where they're going."


Wednesday 11:15 am – The Angeloni Residence

Fred Angeloni looked at the ringing phone. The technician had gone to the bathroom, leaving Gwen's parents alone in the living room. Without a second thought, Fred answered. "Angeloni."

"Things have changed," Greta crisply reported. "I want five hundred thousand dollars."

"What?" Fred asked.

"Don't argue with me!" Greta snapped. "I know you have it. Don't play around with me, Angeloni."

"I'm not arguing with you," Fred soothed. "Just tell me where and when."

"Bring the money to the South Street bus station, locker 418," Greta ordered. "You'll find the key on top. You have two hours."


Wednesday 11:16 am – Kenmore Development

Greta hung up and looked at Gruenditch. "Okay?"

"Okay." Gruenditch nodded. "Get the kid in here, and you're free to go."

Greta got to her feet and walked into the bedroom. Seconds later she returned, shoving Gwen ahead of her.

The child looked up at Gruenditch. "Are you going to take me home?" she fearfully asked.

"Soon." Gruenditch nodded. He looked at Greta. "Get your stuff."

Greta quickly turned to grab her backpack. She didn't see one of Gruenditch's men point his gun at the back of her head. Gwen, however, did and screamed.

Gruenditch backhanded the little girl as he heard a gunshot behind him. Then he turned to see Greta lying on the kitchen floor, the back of her head blow away. He looked back at the screaming child. "Shut up before I do that to you!" he yelled.

Gwen choked back her tears.

"Drive this…thing to the junkyard. Leave her inside," Gruenditch ordered the man who was holstering his gun. "Burn whatever's in the backpack." He reached down and pulled Gwen to her feet. "Come on. One word outta you, and you'll join her. Understand?" He shook her shoulders for emphasis.

Gwen's eyes emptily stared up at him.


Wednesday 11:53 am – Cascade National Forest

Blair checked his rear view mirror one final time before turning into the Cascade National Forest. "I didn't see anybody following us."

Relieved, Jim sat up. He leaned over the seat, watching as the terrain became more and more isolated. "We've had search teams up here since daylight," he told Charlie.

"But they didn't know where to look." The psychic was also sitting up, eagerly looking out the window. "Turn left up there on that road."

"Road?" Blair anxiously scanned the roadside. "What road?"

"That road!" Charlie pointed, his finger barely missing Blair's cheek. "Slow down or you'll miss it."

"There, Chief," Jim calmly pointed. He glanced at Charlie. "Know the area well, huh?"

"Never been here." Charlie shook his head. "I'm not the outdoorsy type." He winced as the Expedition bounced over the rough terrain. "Go about a quarter of a mile. There's a…uh…a bend…curve…and water…some sort of water."

"Are you that sure?" Blair asked as he struggled with the steering wheel.

"Is the sky blue?" Charlie grinned in eager anticipation.

"Not today," Jim muttered as he eyed the overcast sky. "Look, nobody wants you to be right more than I do. I want this kid back safe. If we find her out here, I'll pin the medal on you myself."

"Well, get ready to shine it up." Charlie clapped his hands together with a wide grin.

"Nobody's shining anything," Blair interrupted. He braked the Expedition since the road had come to a dead end.

"No no no no no," Charlie muttered as he quickly got out of the vehicle. "NO!" He turned in circles, trying to look in all directions. "She's got to be here!"

Jim knelt in the dirt, examining some tire tracks. "Somebody was here pretty recently," he announced. He glanced at Charlie. "Maybe you're timing's just off."

"You have no idea," Charlie muttered.

Jim frowned, then jumped to his feet. "Damn it, no!" he muttered.

Blair turned then groaned as the Channel Two news truck turned the corner of the road.

"She's just a kid," Charlie mumbled. "She's scared. God, she's so scared now."

Jim quickly tried to stop them, but the driver of the news van simply veered around him, coming to a halt beside the Expedition. Don Haas got out of the van and smugly smiled at Jim. "Would you care to comment about the so-called kidnapping now, Detective?"

Jim took a deep breath. "Yeah. I'll give you a comment." He grabbed the reporter by the lapels and threw him against the van. "You just drove onto a crime scene!" Jim furiously yelled. "You drove your van right over the tire tracks that could have led to the kidnappers!"

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

Wednesday 12:34 pm – Simon Banks' Office

"I've never been so far off in my life!" Charlie paced Simon's office from wall to wall.

Naomi sat on the end of Simon's couch, anxiously watching him. Blair lounged against the door, staring down at the floor. Simon, from behind his desk, and Jim, who stood next to it, both angrily glared at Charlie.

"You're lucky we don't charge you with interfering in a police investigation," Jim growled.

"Jim, he's trying to help," Naomi gently interrupted.

"He was also indicted a year ago for telephone and mail fraud in connection with some psychic phone service." Jim took a file from Simon's desk and gave it to Naomi. "Go ahead. Read it. It's all right there."

"They used my name without permission," Charlie irritably explained. "And I proved it. All charges were dropped."

"But defending the case cost you a lot of money," Jim continued. "Some positive publicity right now would help boost the sales of his book."

"I'm sorry." Naomi refused to take the folder. "I know Charlie, and he wouldn't do that."

"Mom, you've known the guy a month," Blair muttered, still looking at the floor.

"So what if he has money problems?" Naomi gently argued. "A lot of people have money problems. That doesn't mean he's guilty of anything."

"And how did Haas know where we were going?" Jim charged, glaring at Charlie who was still pacing.

Blair finally looked up and caught his mother's eyes. "He broke the cardinal rule. You heard him as well as I did. He believed he was infallible. You can't screw around with a gift like that." He looked at Charlie. "And if you don't come clean, it may never come back."

Naomi bit her lower lip.

"He's right," Charlie sighed. He leaned against the window. "I was too sure of myself and didn't think there would be any harm if I crowed a little."

"Oh, Charlie." Naomi frowned.

"Yeah, I screwed up the whole thing," Charlie grunted.

"Sandburg, why don't you take your mother and Mr. Spring home?" Simon suggested.

Sadly, Naomi rose and walked past Blair. Equally sad, Charlie followed.

"Keep an eye on him, Chief," Jim quietly ordered, handing him the keys to the Expedition. "We don't need any more interference."

They watched as Blair escorted his mother to the elevator. Charlie followed behind them, his head hanging down.

Jim rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I'd like to string him up by his…"

"You're not the only one," Simon grunted. He glared at the ringing phone as he picked up the receiver. "Banks."

"Captain Banks, this is Trish Angeloni."

"Yes, Mrs. Angeloni," Simon sighed.

"I'm afraid my husband has done something…" Trish took a deep breath. "We received a call from the kidnappers. The female one."

Simon pushed a button, transferring the call to the speaker phone. "I have you on speaker phone, Mrs. Angeloni. Detective Ellison is here. When did they call?"

"Almost two hours ago," Trish admitted. "It's not your officer's fault. He was in the bathroom and didn't hear the phone ring. She said she wanted a half-million dollars. Fred agreed." She sniffled. "He told Office Brannigan he had a migraine and was going upstairs to rest. Then he slipped out from the bedroom balcony."

"Where is he going, Mrs. Angeloni?" Jim asked, leaning across the desk.

"The South Street Bus Station," Trish whimpered. "Locker 418. He's supposed to be there a little after one." She sniffed. "He said since the media had gotten involved, he had to do what they said." She began softly crying. "I'm sorry…sorry…"


Wednesday 1:01 pm – The Loft

Blair worriedly glanced at his mother as she closed the door to his bedroom. The usually talkative Naomi hadn't said a single word during the drive home. Seconds later, he smelled sage. Deciding to ignore what Jim would say about the smell, he turned on Charlie. "How could you?!" he demanded.

"Will you lower your voice?" Charlie wearily asked. He slumped on the couch, head in his hands. "I feel bad enough as it is. I don't want to fight with you."

"Oh, you don't?" Blair hissed. "Well, I want to fight with you." He stalked over to the couch and stared down at Charlie. "You had my mother believing in you."

"She saw what I can do," Charlie protested. "And you have to admit I knew things about Gwen Angeloni they police didn't. Yes, I screwed up along the way. I admit it, okay?"

"No, it's not okay," Blair angrily replied. "My mom is in there hurting. And you know what? I've got a real problem with people who hurt my mother."

"Then let me make it up to both of you by helping find this kid," Charlie offered.

"What?! NO!" Blair nearly shouted.

"I'll keep a low profile," Charlie pleaded. "No one will ever know of my involvement. I had a hit on the way here."

Blair agitatedly ran a hand through his hair.

"The hit was so clear. Gwen's close…near the water." Charlie got to his feet and walked to the balcony windows.

"Did you hear me, Charlie?" Blair demanded. "I said no."

"You can stay with me every minute," Charlie offered. He turned around and gave Blair his cell phone. "Here take this. Take it! Keep it! Remove the battery! Toss it in the trash! WHATEVER! Do whatever your paranoid little heart tells you to do. But give me a chance to make it right."

Blair closed his eyes.

"Please," Charlie begged.


Wednesday 1:13 pm – South Side Bus Station

"I see him, Simon," Jim quietly radioed.

He sat uncomfortably in an unmarked police car, wishing he'd kept the Expedition. The car handled like a tank. But the look of shattered disappointment on Naomi's face at the news of Charlie's deception had unnerved him. He'd just wanted to get her out of Simon's office so she could…process in peace. On a few seconds' hesitation, he'd tossed Blair the keys to his vehicle so the younger man could take care of his mother.

"Hang on." Jim focused his sight through the large bus station window and saw Fred reaching to the top of the lockers.

Fred found the key to the locker and opened it. Reaching in, he pulled out a briefcase and an envelope. Closing the locker, he opened the envelope and pulled out a bus ticket and sheet of paper. He examined the ticket then glanced up at the arrival/departure schedule.

"Looks like they want him on a bus," Jim reported. "Make sure everybody stays back until I know what's going on."

Looking around to be sure no one was watching, Fred quickly transferred the money from the duffel bag he carried to the briefcase. He put the piece of paper on top of the money and shut the briefcase. Using the key, he reopened the locker and put the empty duffel bag inside.

"He's heading for the buses," Jim reported. "The money's now in a briefcase." He watched as Fred boarded one of the buses, the busy driver not paying any attention to the nervous man. "He just got on the bus heading for Tacoma. I'm moving in."

Fred ignored the few passengers on the bus. He put the briefcase in an overhead bin, then got off the bus. The driver, standing by the open front door, gave him a questioning look. "How long until we get to Bush Falls?" Fred asked

"We don't. This is an express straight through to Tacoma," the driver answered.

"Uh…then my ticket's wrong," Fred apologized.

The driver handed him his ticket. "You can exchange it inside."

"Thanks." Fred nodded, as he accepted the ticket. "I'll just get my briefcase." He walked back onto the bus then returned.

"He's switched briefcases," Jim reported. "The money's on the bus."

"Affirmative," Simon radioed back. "I'll have someone shadow Mr. Angeloni. Stay with the money."

"Yes, sir," Jim acknowledged. He got out of the car and approached the bus. He spoke quietly to the bus driver, surreptitiously showing him his badge. The driver nervously nodded.

As Jim got on the bus, he saw a heavy-set dark-haired man removing the original briefcase from the overhead bin. As Jim slowly walked down the aisle, the man opened the briefcase and glanced inside. After closing the briefcase, he reached for his cell phone.

Jim began patting his pockets as though looking for something. He extended his hearing in the direction of the cell phone. "Simon, backup needed now," he whispered.

"It's here," the man quietly spoke into the phone.

Gruenditch nodded. "Call me when you get to Tacoma. I'll take care of our final problem."

"She's just a kid…" the man began.

"Who can identify us," Gruenditch snarled. "You got a problem?" He glared at the unresponsive child next to him. She had been securely tied and gagged.

"No," the man sighed. He closed the cell phone and relaxed back into the seat.

Suddenly Jim reached out and dragged him out of the seat. "Where is she?" he demanded, ignoring the cries from the other passengers.

"Who?" the man nervously demanded.

"Gwen Angeloni." Jim threw the man to the floor as uniformed officers boarded the bus. As he cuffed the man, he yelled in his ear. "Where is she? Where's Gwen?"

The man looked over his shoulder. "I want my lawyer."

The officers pulled the man to his feet and dragged him off the bus. As they frisked him, Simon walked up.

"Well, well, well," Simon coldly smiled. "John Knowles. Long time, no see."

"You know this guy?" Jim curiously asked.

"I said I want my lawyer!" Knowles shouted.

"Oh, you'll see your lawyer," Simon assured him. "Still working for Gruenditch?"

Knowles glared at him.

"Get him outta here," Simon growled. He turned to Jim. "He works for Tom Gruenditch. I arrested him just after I made detective. Didn't realize he was out of jail."

"Gruenditch? The loan shark?" Jim asked. "How did he get involved in this?"

Simon shrugged. "Maybe Spring could tell us."

"Don't even start that." Jim shook his head. "Guys like him…they prey on people. He had poor Trish Angeloni believing every word that came out of his mouth and you saw how that ended up." He grabbed Simon's arm. "He was talking with someone on his cell phone. I think they're gonna kill Gwen."

"You hear me on this, Jim," Simon hissed. "If there's even one single chance to find that child…" He shook his head. "Some of what he said was true."

"Yeah, I know," Jim sighed. He reached for his cell phone and dialed. "Naomi? It's Jim. Where's Charlie?"

"I don't know," Naomi admitted. "I was trying to meditate in Blair's room. When I couldn’t settle down, I came out and found both of them were gone. But Charlie's cell phone number is 555-2415."

"Okay, thanks." Jim pushed the disconnect button. "Great. Charlie and Sandburg are out on the prowl." He began dialing. "They better be in Charlie's car."


Wednesday 1:19 pm – Cascade Docks

"Charlie, we've been driving around in circles," Blair complained. "I'm getting dizzy here."

Charlie heard his cell phone ringing from inside the glove compartment and lunged for it. "That's mine."

Blair glared at him and answered the phone. "Hello."

"Sandburg, where the hell are you and Spring?" Jim demanded.

"We're at the Sixth Street Pier," Blair answered. "Charlie got another hit. How'd the money drop go?"

"It didn't," Jim curtly answered. "Stay there. I'll be right there." He glanced at Simon as he disconnected the call.

"Get going," Simon agreed. "Find that kid."

Minutes later, Jim drove up in the unmarked car. He parked it and jogged to where Blair and Charlie were parked. Blair and Charlie got out of the car to meet him.

"Okay, Charlie, what do you have?" Jim demanded.

"Seriously?" Charlie stared into Jim's eyes.

"Yeah. Seriously," Jim agreed.

"She's in this area. No question about it," Charlie firmly advised. "I keep getting a name. Rob M."

"And we don't know who Rob M is." Blair irritably threw Charlie an angry look.

"Hang on," Jim raised his hands. "If it's along the docks, maybe a marina?" He glanced at Blair.

"Roberts Marina." Both men said in unison.

"Yes!" Charlie danced in excitement.

Jim grabbed the keys from Charlie's fingers. "I'll drive."


Wednesday 1:25 pm – Roberts Marina

Jim brought the car to a halt in the parking lot of the marina. As they got out of the car, all three men looked at the rows and rows of boats anchored in the marina.

Charlie pressed a hand to his mouth. His dark eyes flickered from row to row.

"Charlie!" Jim pressed. "We're running out of time. Whatever you've got, we need it now."

Charlie waved a hand in his direction. "I'm thinking!" He wandered towards the ramp leading down to the docks.

"Come on, Charlie," Blair softly pleaded.

"Two and one," Charlie mumbled. "Two and one. That's what I'm getting."

"Slip 21!" Jim shouted.

As they ran down the ramp, Jim focused his sight to read the slip numbers. "This way," he urged as he turned to the right.

Slip 21 was empty but had the name of Top Dog on the marker.

Charlie slapped his hands together. "T-DOG. Again with the mutt."

"Where is it?" Blair demanded.

Jim looked out into the open water. Focusing on the boat he saw heading away from shore, he saw the name "Top Dog". He pointed, "Out there." Turning to Charlie, he fixed his eyes on the man. "Be sure, Charlie. Is she there?"

Charlie looked at the rapidly receding boat. His eyes slightly unfocused. "Yes. She's tied up and scared. Really scared."

Blair held his breath as Jim made a decision.

Jim saw a nearby man preparing his boat. Running towards him, he pulled out his badge. "Police emergency, sir. We need to use your boat."

The man quickly got out of the boat. "The Mary Sue's all fueled up."

"Thanks." Blair grinned as he jumped into the boat with his partner. "Oh man, this is nice."

"You know how to work this thing?" Jim demanded. When Blair nodded and moved towards the controls, he looked at Charlie. "Get the rope."

Charlie unlooped the docking rope from the pier. As he started to get into the boat, Blair gunned the engine.

"Hey! You forgot me!" Charlie yelled. He watched in disgust as Blair aimed the Mary Sue towards the Top Dog. "They left me!" He turned to the boat's owner and waved his arms. "They forgot me!"

"Give it everything she's got!" Jim yelled in Blair's ear.

Blair opened the throttle, bracing himself as they bounced along the bay. He grinned as they started overtaking the Top Dog. "What happens when we get there?"

"Get alongside!" Jim yelled. "I'll jump in!"

"Are you crazy?" Blair shouted.

"Just do it!" Jim ordered, with a hand on Blair's shoulder.

Gruenditch stared at Gwen who lay on the deck. She hadn't spoken or moved on her own since Greta had been shot. He shrugged. It would be easy to toss her over the side once they reached the ocean.

He was startled when a boat pulled alongside them.

"Cascade PD!" Jim shouted. "Cut your engines!"

"Gun it!" Gruenditch ordered the pilot.

Blair grunted when the Top Dog began pulling away. "No, you don't," he muttered. He easily matched the Top Dog's speed.

Gruenditch pulled a gun and fired, causing both men to duck.

Blair twisted the wheel, causing the Mary Sue to almost hit the side of the Top Dog.

The pilot of the Top Dog, jerked his wheel in response. Gruenditch staggered to the side, trying to keep his balance. He lost the grip on his gun, seeing it slide across the deck.

Jim moved to the edge of the Mary Sue as Blair got them closer. Taking a deep breath, he leaped over the small expanse of water and onto the Top Dog.

Seeing his partner safely on board the Top Dog, Blair gunned the engine of the Mary Sue once more. Pulling partially ahead of the Top Dog, he began herding the speeding boat away from the ocean. The other pilot tried to outrace Blair, but the Top Dog couldn't match the Mary Sue for speed.

Jim staggered as he landed on the deck of the Top Dog. Seeing Gruenditch lunge for his gun, Jim tackled him.

The loan shark elbowed Jim in the ribs, trying to wiggle free.

Jim grunted but held onto him. Thinking about the anguish Gruenditch had caused Gwen's parents and the terror the little girl must have felt, Jim slammed the gangster's head onto the deck.

Gruenditch grunted and struggled harder.

"Damn it," Jim swore. He slammed Gruenditch's head harder onto the deck two more times before feeling the gangster slump beneath him. Panting, he checked the man's vital signs. *Probable concussion but he'll live.* Resigning himself to another visit from IA, Jim got to his feet. Drawing his gun, he shouted at the pilot. "Cut the engine! Now!"

Reluctantly, the pilot cut the engine. Jim braced himself as the boat slowed. When it came to a halt, he motioned for the pilot to join him. "Sit," he ordered. He handcuffed the pilot and forced him to sit next to where Gruenditch lay. He looked up as Blair circled the boat. "Radio for an ambulance to be waiting!" he yelled.

"Okay!" Blair cut the Mary Sue's engines and reached for the radio.

Using a length of rope, Jim tied Gruenditch's hands together. Then he walked over to where Gwen still lay on the deck. Gently, he cut the ropes binding her and sat her on one of the cushioned seats. "It's okay, honey," he soothed, before heading towards the controls.

"Ambulance and backup will meet us!" Blair shouted across the water.

Jim nodded and reached for the ignition.

"No more."

The quiet childlike voice froze Jim. Slowly he turned to see Gwen pointing a gun at him. *Damn. I forgot Gruenditch's gun.* He raised his hands. "It's okay, honey. I'm a police officer. I'm here to take you back to your parents."

"No more." Gwen's voice shook as much as her hands.

Blair watched in horror as Jim slowly walked towards the girl.

"Honey, listen to me," Jim calmly spoke. "The bad guys are all tied up. See? All we've got to do is take you back to shore. A doctor will make sure you're okay, and you can see your parents." He cautiously took a few steps towards her. "Wouldn't you like that? To see your mom and dad?"

Gwen caught her breath. She blinked a couple of times then slowly nodded.

"Okay, sweetheart," Jim murmured as he took the gun from her fingers. "It's all over now." He wrapped one arm around her shaking body. "Want to help me drive the boat?" When Gwen sniffled into his shirt, he pulled her closer. "Come one. Let's go home. Okay?"

~~~~~ EPILOGUE ~~~~~

Wednesday 3:59 pm – Cascade General Hospital

Gwen lay sleeping in the bed in a private room. Her parents sat on either side, each holding one of their child's hands. Trish kept wiping the tears from her eyes, and Fred couldn’t keep from patting his daughter's shoulder.

Simon gently closed the door, nodding at the two men waiting for him in the hall. "Gwen's statement was pretty straight-forward. Poor kid saw one of her kidnappers shot in the head. Told us where to find her."

Blair nodded towards the closed hospital room door. "They look like maybe they're a family again."

"Takes more than a child to hold a marriage together, Sandburg." Jim heard Blair's murmur of disappointment. "But maybe it'll work," he relented. He glanced at Simon. "You're keeping a guard on her door?"

Simon nodded. "Until we're sure none of Gruenditch's people are a threat. The Angeloni's have consented to the protection."

"We'll stay until the guard arrives," Jim promised.

Simon curtly nodded then walked towards the elevators. He frowned when one of the door opened and Charlie and Naomi stepped out of the elevator car. Naomi was holding Charlie's arm. Simon looked back down the hall to silently warn Jim and Blair. He was surprised to see a quick scowl flash across Blair's face. Deciding he really didn't want to know what was going on, Simon chose to silently nod at the new arrivals and left.

Jim watched as they approached. "I guess I owe you an apology," he told Charlie.

"Aw, forget it." Charlie shrugged. "You were right. This time. I guess there's a little snake oil salesman in me after all."

"We saw what you can do," Blair pointed out. "You do have a gift. You just can't mess around with it."

"I know," Charlie admitted. He sneaked a peek at Naomi's smiling face. "I get you, kid."

Jim stood and held out his hand. "The important thing is Gwen's going to be fine."

"Yeah." Charlie took Jim's hand then pulled him into a full hug. "Yeah."

"Isn't that sweet?" Naomi smiled as she put an arm around Blair's shoulders.

Embarrassed, Jim awkwardly patted Charlie on the back. "Okay. Okay."

"You're a real special guy, Ellison," Charlie muttered. He pulled back with a twinkle in his eyes. As Jim's eyes narrowed, the psychic turned to Naomi. "How about a quiet dinner? I have a lot to make up to you."

Naomi tilted her head to one side. "I'd like that, Charlie. I really would." She kissed Blair's cheek. "Don't wait up, sweetie."

Blair watched in concern as they walked away. "Don't wait up?" he muttered. Raising his voice, he shouted, "Hey, Charlie! She's my mom!"

"And you're a lucky kid," Charlie yelled over his shoulder.

Blair whirled around, hearing Jim's low-pitched chuckle. "Jim!"

Jim raised his hands in surrender and sat back down. "Don't get me involved. She's your mother."

Blair leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. "Oh, man," he moaned. "Oh, man."


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