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Finkelman's Folly
Finkelman's Folly
by Kelly W.

Beta read by: Mary Shukes Brown and Gina Jones
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
Rated PG
internal thought in * *

~~~~~ Prologue ~~~~~

Cascade First National Bank

Simon Banks shifted uncomfortably, his eyes fixed on the face of the bank loan officer. The man, with his beady eyes and pointed nose, looked like a weasel. He was definitely nervous, his eyes darting up to Simon's face, then back to the paperwork on his desk.

"Er, I'll be right back, Mr. Banks," he said, picking up the pile of papers and tucking them into a folder.

"That's Captain Banks," Simon growled. He closed his eyes and remembered that his loan depended on the good will of this man. He stretched his mouth into a smile. "That's quite all right, Mr. Thompson," he amended, trying to sound jovial. "Just…hurry back." He glanced at his watch, knowing that he was late for his meeting with the commissioner.

Drumming his fingers on the desk, he looked around the bank. Being that it was the downtown branch, it was fairly busy for early morning, with several tellers waiting on customers. Thompson was consulting with an attractive woman in a glassed-in office. Simon wondered why he couldn't have gotten her as his loan officer…she certainly would be easier to look at than the man he had ended up seeing.

Simon sighed. Surely this was a no-brainer--he was a successful police captain, with a healthy salary and no large debts. Well, there were the payments on the fishing cabin, but they hardly counted. Yes, alimony to Joan took up a portion of his salary, but with Daryl going to college next year, that bill would soon be reduced. Yes, there would be college expenses, but Daryl had earned a partial scholarship.

He looked around the bank again, noticing two young men walking into the lobby. He frowned, realizing that they were overdressed for such a warm day.

His eyes moved to Thompson as he exited the office, nodding at the woman. He walked back towards Simon, crossing in front of the row of tellers. The bank officer slipped into his chair with a nervous smile. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Captain Banks. I wanted the branch manager to go over this."

"Of course," Simon said, trying not to sound impatient. "So, do I get the mortgage?"

Thompson fiddled with his pen, looking everywhere but at the tall man sitting in front of him. He swallowed hard and licked his thin lips. "Well, that depends."

"On what?"

"Er…your co-signer," Thompson said, wincing.

Simon scowled. "Mr. Thompson, I have been a city employee for the past fifteen years. What do you mean a co-signer? I mean, you've seen my portfolio. Are you telling me that a captain's salary isn't enough?"

Thompson wouldn't meet his eyes. "Well, with your outstanding debts and child support, we feel that you might have a…hard time," his hands went up in the air, making imaginary quotation marks around the words, "making the mortgage payments."

Simon's eyebrows went up as he looked down at the man sitting in front of him. "Outstanding debts?" he said slowly, his voice full of disbelief.

The bank officer nodded. "Outstanding debts," he repeated nervously. At Simon's glare, he cleared his throat. "Uh, if you get a co-signer to agree to indemnify the bank in the event that you were to…default…" Simon scowl grew deeper as the quotation marks were drawn in the air again. "...we would reconsider." Thompson straightened, looking indignant. "I mean, you must understand the bank's position on this. We can't be responsible for your debts. But we still want your business, and we will endeavor to do anything possible…"

With a sigh, Simon tuned out the little man, turning away from him and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Surely they couldn't…but they could, couldn't they? Maybe it was time to visit another bank. This office was convenient, being so close to police headquarters, but obviously they weren't very flexible. His eyes roamed over the crowded lobby as he considered his options. He stopped, narrowing his eyes as he saw that both the young men he had noticed earlier were talking to tellers. Tellers who were wide-eyed with terror and shaking. The first young woman seemed to be nervous as she handed something to the man in front of her; the second was repeating something over and over, her hands shaking badly. The blond man in front of her was shifting nervously from side to side, his gaze darting around at the other customers. Simon knew he was watching a robbery in progress.

Why couldn't a trip to the bank be just another day?

Turning to Thompson, Simon kept his voice low. It wouldn't do to panic the nervous little man. "Do you have a silent alarm here at your desk?"

Thompson looked confused. "What?"

Cursing under his breath, Simon repeated "A silent alarm. Do you have one here?"

"Yes." The bank officer's eyes were wide; he bit his mustache and looked like he thought the police captain in front of him was going to attack.

"Use it," Simon advised. "Your bank is being robbed."

Looking like he was going to choke, Thompson reached under his desk. Simon ignored him, fixing his attention on the two young men. The man in the baseball cap was all packed up, waiting for his cohort. Even from across the room, Simon could tell that the young teller was crying, her whole body shaking now. The nervous second robber was getting impatient; finally, he pulled the gun out of his pocket, brandishing it for the young woman.

"Oh my God!" the teller screamed. "He's got a gun! He's got a gun!" she repeated her words hysterically.

Simon stayed in his seat, his eyes darting around the lobby. His heart sank as he noticed the elderly bank guard looking up from his newspaper. If only…but the bank guard jumped to his feet, pulling out his own weapon. Simon watched tensely as the robber with the cap grabbed an older woman and held his gun to her neck, using her as a shield.

"Put it down, now!" the first man shouted, "Now!"

Beside him, Thompson hissed, "Do something!"

Simon stayed in position. "I can't," he answered, knowing that if he stood up now, the young robbers would overreact and people would die. "It's too dangerous."

Across the room, the first robber stared at the bank guard. "I said, put it down." His voice was low and deadly. The bank guard looked at the woman being used as a shield and placed his gun on the floor.

"Kick it over here."

The guard followed orders, kicking the gun towards the younger man.

"Please do something," Thompson begged, clearly expecting Simon to jump up and do the impossible.

"Will you just stay calm?" Simon hissed, wishing the man would keep his voice down. If he could get the men out of the bank, everything would work out. "Try not to tell them I’m a cop."

The first robber started moving towards the bank doors. He stopped as he saw the red light flashing at the guard's station. "Let's get out of here, man!" he called to his companion, still by the teller's counter. Pushing his human shield away, he ran out the front door. The second robber was about to follow when everyone in the bank heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt. Simon tensed as the tires were followed by gunshots.

The blond robber still inside the bank flinched, then raised his gun and pointed at the ceiling. He fired two shots, then turned it on the crowd. "Everybody get down on the floor!" he shouted. "Let's go! DO it!"

There were screams and cries from the crowd as everyone fell to the floor, most covering their heads with their hands. The woman who had been used as a shield was crying. Simon joined the crowd, lowering himself to the floor, watching for an opportunity.

"Nobody move!" the young man shouted. He surveyed the crowd, making sure he was in control. Moving swiftly, he picked his way through the crowd to the door. If he went out, everyone inside would be safe. Simon watched, feeling guardedly optimistic. He had confidence in the Cascade PD to do the right thing once the man wasn't an immediate danger to civilians. He frowned as he noticed the guard moving. The older man's creeping fingers were reaching toward his ankle.

"No, no, no," Simon muttered, tensing again. "Don't do it."

He watched with dismay as the blond robber noticed as well, and pointed his gun at the guard. "I said nobody move!" His finger tensed on the trigger.

"No!" Simon shouted. He had to move now. Crossing the floor in two quick steps, he pivoted and swept one long leg under the young man, knocking him to the floor. The robber's gun went off, but it didn't hit the guard. Simon hit the floor hard beside the young man, his breath leaving him at the impact. He watched as the robber grabbed the gun and scrambled to his feet, running out of the bank without a backwards glance.

As Simon inhaled, trying to get air back into his lungs, an impersonal voice came through a police bullhorn. <Put your gun down. You're surrounded. Face down on the sidewalk.>

Simon thought he recognized the voice. Knowing the situation outside was under control, the captain pushed himself to his feet. He now had air, but…something…didn't…feel right. He looked down, seeing something red, wet and sticky seeping through his shirt. "Oh, shit." He placed one hand on the wound. Too much blood….it was bad. "This...is really... not my day," he gasped.

The first two uniformed officers into the bank came in just in time to see Major Crime's captain fall backwards, unconscious, clutching his side.


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


Cascade Hospital

"Jim!" Blair Sandburg stood in front of his partner, one hand resting on his friend's arm, trying to catch his attention. "Jim!"

Jim Ellison blinked, and turned his attention back to Blair. "He's in ICU."

Blair followed his partner's gaze to the medical charts on the wall behind the nursing station. His normal eyesight couldn't even identify the names of the patients, but with his sentinel sight, Jim could read the entire chart. "So he's okay?"

Narrowing his eyes, Jim squinted at the chart, trying to decipher the doctor's handwriting. "He'll have to spend a few days in the hospital to make sure they took care of all the infection. Looks like the bullet just nicked his liver, but missed everything else," Jim translated. Blair took it all in, wide-eyed. The tall man smiled with sudden relief. "He's going to be fine."

Blair grinned. "Great. I knew Simon was just too ornery to let anything as small as a bullet take him down. So…when can we see him?"

"ICU, Chief," Ellison reminded him. "Immediate family only."

"Don't you want to see him though? Just to check?" Blair asked encouragingly. He rocked back on his heels and looked up at his friend with pleading eyes.

Not that the detective needed to be pushed too hard. Jim sighed. "Well, yeah."

"Daryl wouldn't mind. Simon would want us there. So, what's stopping us?"

With a shrug, Jim led the way through bustling corridors toward the ICU. Several nurses and an intern gave them sidelong glances, but no one questioned their right to be there. Jim's hand was actually on the handle, when a voice stopped him.

"Exactly what do you think you're doing?" The two men turned to see a stout woman in a starched white lab coat glaring at them. Grey hair escaped a braid to curl in tendrils around her face. Her nametag identified her as 'Lily Jansen, RPN'. "No one is allowed in ICU but immediate family and medical personnel."

"We're Simon's….uh, brothers," Jim replied.

Blair rolled his eyes at the very bad lie. "Half-brothers," he amended, trying to salvage the situation, "Same father, different mothers." Blair smiled at the woman, blue eyes sparkling. "We have to be at work in fifteen minutes, so we won't stay long. We'll just go in and check on him."

"Immediate family," the nurse repeated, pointing to a sign reading 'Authorized personnel only.' "You don't look like Captain Banks, and I don't have any brothers listed on my visitors' sheet. Do I have to call the police?"

"Ma'am, we are the police," Jim said, recovering. He pulled his badge out and flashed it in her direction. "I'm Detective Jim Ellison; this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. Simon is our captain." He smiled too; his obfuscation abilities might not be as good as Sandburg's, but he could turn on the charm too. "We'll just be a minute."

"No, Detective, you won't," Nurse Jansen said firmly. "I don't care if you're the police, I wouldn't care if you were the president. Immediate family means immediate family. Your friend will be in a regular room in a couple hours. Visiting hours are from eight to ten. You can come back then." She motioned to two interns standing over near the desk. "Will you escort these gentlemen to the nearest exit?"

"That won't be necessary," Jim said stiffly. Pulling Blair after him, they turned their backs on the nurse and walked away.

Blair grabbed his sleeve as they walked down the corridor. "We're not giving up that easily, are we?" he whispered.

"We're sort of out of options, Sandburg," Jim growled.

"No, man," Blair disagreed. "I've done this before. Come on, I have a plan."

Ten minutes later, two men dressed in slightly soiled white lab coats left the laundry and walked down the ICU hallway. Lily Jansen, RPN, had her back turned, bent over some forms at the desk. The taller man held open the door of room 09 as the shorter one slipped under his arm.

Inside, Simon lay on the bed, looking pale. He murmured something as they approached him, his head moving restlessly from side to side. Jim couldn't quite make it out, but he caught Daryl's name and something about money.

"Simon?" Blair asked softly, staring down at the man. He turned to Jim. "He's really looking out of it."

Jim nodded in agreement, reaching out to touch his captain's shoulder, reassuring himself he was alive. "Hey, Simon. We came to check on you."

Behind them, the door opened.

Simon's eyes opened slightly, but passed over them, focusing on the figure in the open doorway. "Daryl?" he asked, his speech slurred. "That you?"

"Daryl will be here soon," Nurse Jensen said soothingly. "You'll see him in just a minute." She turned to the two men standing sheepishly near the bed. In the same tone, but with her eyes snapping fire, she told them "If you're not out of here in five minutes, I will have you arrested…And I don't care who you are!"

~~~~~~~~

Major Crimes

The elevator doors opened, revealing Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg as they exited the elevator. Blair's hands were weaving through the air; Jim was trying to keep a straight face as they headed for the doors of Major Crimes.

"Just don't say anything, Chief," Jim warned.

"It wasn't my fault!" Blair protested immediately. "I don't know what you're complaining about; we saw him, didn't we?" He frowned as Jim shook his head.

Joel and Rafe joined the two men as they reached the bullpen door. "Hey guys," Joel greeted them, as Rafe held the door open. "How's Simon?"

Jim sighed. "Still totally out of it. They've got him all doped up. We didn't see him for very long."

Blair nodded eagerly. "Yeah, they're only letting immediate family in, so we had to sneak in to actually see him."

Poking his partner in the ribs, Jim shook his head warningly. "We didn't really sneak in. We just didn't tell anybody we were there."

Blair chuckled. "Oh, we *so* snuck in." He added with relish, "and that's why we almost got arrested."

Joel's eyebrows went up. "Arrested?"

"Nah," Jim denied.

"Yeah," Blair said at the same time.

Rafe shook his head. "Hospital security's a joke. But I bet if our new fearless leader was in charge that would be fixed too."

"What?" Jim asked, not sure he had heard correctly. Major Crimes was one of the most self-sufficient departments in the PD. As far as he was concerned, they were perfectly capable of handling Simon's time away by themselves.

Joel shrugged. "Since Simon's out of commission for at least three weeks, they assigned us a substitute." He pointed with his chin towards Simon's office. The blinds that were usually lowered were open wide; inside, a slender woman with wavy dark hair was rearranging the leaves of a large potted plant on a filing cabinet. She smiled as she moved around the room attending to the plants and cut flower arrangements surrounding her. The men watched for a moment in silence. Jim frowned.

"She's already laid on all kinds of new rules and regulations," Rafe mourned.

"Yeah, get this," Joel announced. "Starting this afternoon, all detectives must wear a tie and jacket on duty."

Rafe, who was rarely seen out of a tie and jacket, scowled. "Yeah. And if you don't, you get sent home to change. H is threatening to call in sick until the captain is back."

"Right," Jim drawled, staring at the woman. He turned to Joel. "Why weren't you assigned as substitute? You're a captain, and you know this department."

Joel shrugged again, helplessly. "Bureaucracy? Bad timing? I have no idea, Jim. Maybe it has something to do with just getting my transfer approved to Major Crimes." The woman looked out her window at the four men standing talking in the middle of the bullpen. She frowned. "Time to get back to work," Joel said, moving away from the group. "Be careful, Jim." He and Rafe sat at their desks and pulled out some paperwork.

Jim headed over to his desk and sat. Blair followed, raising his eyebrows as he watched his friend open a drawer and pull out a small ball. "I wonder if she's going to be giving out spankings?" The detective put his feet up on the desk and started bouncing the ball against the wall.

Blair looked from the recalcitrant detective to the office, where the substitute captain was standing, studying Jim. He followed her gaze back to his partner and chuckled as he recognized the attitude. "Ooh, yeah. This is going to be fun." He wondered if he should duck now.

"Look, she's just a sub, right?" Jim pulled out a baseball cap and put it firmly on his head.

Blair, who'd been a substitute enough times to identify the warning signs of someone with no intention of recognizing authority, nodded. "Yeah. So, what do you want to do? Start throwing spitballs and paper airplanes at her?"

Jim nodded thoughtfully. "Not a bad idea." He tossed the ball against the wall a couple more times, obviously plotting. The phone rang and he picked it up. "Ellison." He listened for a moment, his eyes going to Simon's office, where the new captain sat, also on the phone. "We'll be right in, Captain." Hanging up, he stood. "Come on Chief, let's go."

Blair made a face. "Here we go." He trailed after Jim, wondering if the new captain knew what she was letting herself in for.

Jim rapped once on the door. "Come in," a voice called out immediately. Jim opened the door and led his partner in. They stood just inside the doorway.

"You wanted to see me?" Jim asked. Blair rolled his eyes at the challenge implicit in the detectives' tone. "Uh…uh...a-choo!" An explosive sneeze burst out of the detective. Blair flinched and stepped away.

One of the new captain's perfectly curved eyebrows went up. "God bless you."

Jim wiped at his nose. "Excuse me." He sniffed, the heavy scent of flowers filling his over-taxed lungs. "I think it's the flowers."

"He's allergic," Blair added quickly.

The woman looked at him, then back at Ellison. Her eyes were guarded as she responded. "I'm sorry. I just thought I'd brighten the place up a bit. I'm Captain Finkelman."

Feeling ridiculous, since the woman obviously knew who they were, Jim nevertheless introduced himself. "I'm Jim Ellison." He gestured toward his partner. "This is Blair Sandburg."

"Hey, how you doing?" Blair asked his usual buoyancy repressed.

Finkelman inclined her head graciously. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Sandburg. I've heard a lot of good things about you."

Blair brightened. "Really? Thanks!"

Finkelman nodded, then turned to Jim, ignoring the observer as if he wasn't even present. "I'm pulling his ride-along authorization," she said briskly. "Effective immediately."

"What?" Blair protested, his panicked gaze going from the new captain to Jim. "You can't!"

Jim chuckled. "Relax, Chief. It's not gonna happen."

Ignoring the attitude, Finkelman breezed back to her desk, picking up a folder on the way. "As you know, Captain Taggart has recently transferred back to the detective squad. He'll need someone to reacquaint him with proper procedure."

"That's terrific. He can ride along with the both of us."

"Yeah!" Blair chimed in. He glanced over, worrying slightly at the challenge in his friend's voice. Surely they needed to be diplomatic rather than confrontational? After all, Simon would be able to reverse anything this woman did, wouldn't he?

Finkelman's voice became cold. "Mr. Sandburg…wait outside, please."

Blair glanced at Jim again for reassurance, not taking any from the set jaw and stony glare. "No, no, no…you don't understand," he said, earnestly willing the woman to get it. "See, Jim and I have this partnership and I haven't even finished my thesis yet."

"Mr. Sandburg," the new captain said, her voice overly patient, "Normally, a ride-along authorization is good for 90 days. Yours has been renewed five times. If you haven't accomplished your goal by now, I seriously doubt that you are going to. Please, wait outside."

Blair hesitated, torn between trying to convince the woman without explaining Jim's special needs, and the desire to prevent incurring further wrath. Jim's hand dropped to his shoulder and he turned the smaller man toward the door. "It's okay, Chief. I'll handle it. I'll catch up with you later on." His hand still on his guide's shoulder, he gave him a gentle push out the door.

Jim closed the door before turning back to the new captain. His voice became as cold as hers. "You talk to Captain Banks and any detective in the department here. Sandburg is an asset. Besides, he's got the full cooperation of the division here."

"And he's had it for the past two years," Finkelman observed coolly. "Right now, I need you to ride with Taggart."

"And if I say no?"

"I'll have no problem suspending you."

"I'm sure you won't."

"You're correct."

They glared at each other in silence for several seconds, an unspoken challenge building.

"Is that it?" Jim finally grated out, common sense overruling his desire to send the woman threatening his friend to the bottom of Cascade harbor.

"That's it," Finkelman replied, turning her attention to the paperwork on her desk, effectively dismissing the detective.

"It's been a pleasure," Jim answered, his tone reflecting that it was anything but. He barely restrained himself from slamming the door behind him.


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


Cascade Hospital

Simon Banks was barely conscious, tossing and turning in the rough cotton sheets that always smelled of antiseptic. Amy Williams shook her head as she prepared the IV line for the injection. Hopefully, this dose would give the man a chance to relax and sleep.

She looked down at the restless man who barely fit on a standard hospital bed. He was a damn attractive man; it was unfortunate that they hadn't met under different circumstances. Obviously a family man, if the devotion his son had shown sitting by his bedside was any indication. She had had to chase the boy out; he would have spent the night if his mother had allowed it.

"No, no…not now. Go away. All right, come back later," the tall man muttered.

"Mr. Banks? Simon?" Amy called gently, placing one hand on his shoulder, hoping that the touch might help calm her patient.

"Go away. Go away."

Amy bit her lip. If Simon didn't calm down, he might injure himself further. "Mr. Banks…"

Simon's eyes opened slightly and he blinked fuzzily at Amy. "I…Joan? Joan, what are you doing here?" His voice hardened. "What do you want now?"

Having met the woman, Amy was both offended and flattered. Flattered, because Joan Banks was a very attractive woman, offended because the woman, who obviously still cared for her ex, had made no bones about her active dislike of his chosen profession and the reasons behind their divorce. She reined her thoughts in and focused once again on her patient. "Mr. Banks, its just me, Amy. Your nurse. Your ex-wife left hours ago."

Simon shut his eyes. "Where's Daryl? You said you were going to bring Daryl?"

"She brought your son to see you," Amy said soothingly. "Relax. I'll be back to check on you soon." Removing her hand, Amy was startled when her patient reached out and grabbed it. "No. Joan…Joan, I'm sorry. We should have tried harder…"

Amy felt a pang at the obvious pain in his voice. "You'll get better, Mr. Banks. Sleep now." She left the room, looking back to see the big man grab the call button.

She didn't see him hit it, turning on the two-way microphone.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, nurses' station

Doctor Burt Phelps grabbed his colleague…or was that cohort?…and pulled her behind the empty station. Jill Chaney let him, but the expression on her face showed, without a doubt, that she did not appreciate the manhandling.

"Look," she said, pulling away from him. "The bottom line is that if we don't do something, our careers are over. We could even go to jail!"

Phelps growled in frustration. "Well, maybe if we gave her more money…"

Chaney shook her head. "No. It's too late. She's committed now and the review board meets tomorrow."

"But she's a doctor too. She'll only be implicating herself." He kicked at the desk in frustration. "There has to be another solution."

Chaney sighed. "We've been through this, Burt."

There was an edge to Phelps' voice as he glared at his partner in crime. "So you want to compound things by killing her, too?"

"There's no other way out."

The calm, matter of fact tone chilled the other doctor. He winced. "Well, how are we going to do that? I mean, this is crazy…"

"What was that?" Chaney asked, her calm vanishing.

"What?" Phelps asked, looking around. He spotted the blinking red light on the room monitoring system at the same time as Chaney.

"Shhh." she said, moving towards the panel. Reaching out, she put her finger on the name beside the blinking light. Banks. Chaney moved her finger to the button and turned off the mike. Both doctors turned toward the door to room 09, just on the other side of the desk.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, Simon's room

Through the fog surrounding him, Simon heard voices. Was it that nice nurse, Amy? She was very attractive looked sort of like Joan had been before they started fighting. The voices got louder, took on an edge. Simon turned, wishing they would go away. 'Go to jail.' penetrated his drug-induced sleep, and he tried to wake up.

He only heard snatches of the conversation, but what he heard chilled him. '…more money…kill her?….committed now…review board…compound this…she's a doctor too…killing her…crazy"

Two people, planning a murder. That came through, loud and clear. Simon knew he had to do something. He reached for the phone, knocking the receiver off the stand. He fumbled for a moment, his fingers feeling like they belonged to someone else, and managed to dial a number before catching the receiver and dragging it toward his face.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade streets

"Look guys, you know this wasn't my idea," Joel repeated, looking over at the two men in the cab with him. It was a tight fit for three adult men, two of them larger than average, jammed in the front seat of a '69 pickup. Blair thought it was a good thing that it was automatic. He would not want to be stuck sharing the middle with a gearshift, too.

"We know, Joel," Jim said patiently from behind the wheel.

"The last thing I want to do is replace Blair."

"We know, Joel," Blair reassured him.

"It's just not my style, okay?"

"We know, Joel," Jim and Blair said together.

Joel looked out the window. "Glad you guys are taking this thing so well." Jim and Blair exchanged looks, not sure if Jim's new partner was being serious or sarcastic. Ellison's cell phone rang before they could pursue that train of thought.

"Ellison." There was no answer. Jim listened; he could hear breathing, so someone was there.

"Hello?" he asked again. There was no reply, although the heartbeat on the other end got a little louder and faster. "Hello?" On the other end, the connection was terminated. Jim shut the phone. He looked over at Sandburg and Joel.

"That was weird."

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, Simon's Room

Simon ran out of energy before he pulled the receiver into place. His hand, still clutching the phone tightly, fell to rest on his chest. He shifted uneasily when Jim's voice came over the line, but didn't wake up. Nor did he wake when Doctor Chaney walked in.

Chaney walked over to the bed, immediately spotting the phone resting on the patient's chest. With a muttered exclamation, she gently tried to ease the receiver from the man's grasp. She jumped back when the patient tightened his grip, the other hand coming around to wave her away.

"No!" The man frowned, his closed eyelids fluttering. "No, I…have to make a call. Have…tell Jim…tell…"

Chaney licked her lips as the man fell silent. "Tell Jim what?" she prompted.

"Going to be a murder," the man answered clearly.

"He doesn't know about it yet?" Chaney asked, desperately hoping.

In the bed, the patient shook his head. "Hmmm…call my office," he mumbled. Chaney's heart leapt to her throat at his next words. "Cascade PD."

She hid it behind her hard-won exterior of cool professionalism. "Okay, I'll do that, Mr. Banks. Let me have the phone, Mr. Banks. That's right," she soothed as Simon's grip relaxed and she retrieved the phone, hanging it up.

"Thank you. Thank…" Simon sighed.

"That's right." Chaney said, studying the man laying in front of her, her eyes narrowed.

"Thank you…" Simon trailed off, finally falling into a restful slumber. He didn't hear Amy returning to the room, but Chaney spun around at the sound of the door closing.

"Ah, Amy…" she acknowledged, quickly grabbing the chart from the end of the bed. "I thought Mrs. Leavitt was in this room."

Amy looked at the doctor suspiciously. "'Til this morning. They moved her to seven west."

Chaney laughed easily. "Oh, boy. They never let us lowly doctors know anything." She hung the chart back on the bed and moved to the door, leaving Amy staring after her. Outside, Phelps was waiting. It was her turn to grab his arm, pulling him down the corridor.

"Well?"

"We have a big problem," Chaney said grimly.

~~~~~~~~

Major Crimes

Jim walked into Major Crimes, wearing the requisite coat and tie. He scowled at the commiserating glances from the uniforms and his fellow detectives. Making his way to his desk, he opened the top drawer and pulled out a baseball cap. He pulled it firmly on his head, immediately feeling better. With a sigh, he started on the paperwork left over from the day before.

Deliberately, he didn't raise his gaze when Finkelman paused on her trip through the bullpen at his desk. "Hmmm…" she said, looking him over from head to toe. "Step in the right direction, Detective. But lose the hat."

Jim stood up and pulled the hat off, tossing it onto his desk. "Captain, could I have a private word with you?"

Finkelman frowned. "If it's about Blair Sandburg, the answer is still no." When Jim simply clenched his jaw and made no move toward her office, she nodded dismissively and walked away.

Watching her go, Ellison pulled off the tie -- a clip on -- and dropped it in the trashcan. He picked up the discarded cap and pulled it back on. "Riight," he drawled. Angry and frustrated, he watched the new captain sit down at her desk. When she picked up the phone, he tuned in. Not satisfied with pulling Sandburg's pass, she was probably getting him demoted. Forewarned was forearmed, right? He tuned into the phone call. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline at her first words.

<I'm not some cheap trick. You want something out of me, you show me some respect.> The voice on the other end was muffled, even with his hearing, the mechanical sound of the phone and the way Finkelman was pressing the receiver against her ear made it impossible to make out the words. <Tonight? When?> She paused, waiting. <Five thousand, cash. Right.>

Jim settled back as she hung up the phone. This called for an investigation…

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital

Amy moved a couple of clipboards and files, obviously looking for something.

"What's the matter, hon?" Lily Jansen asked.

"I can't find one of my charts," Amy replied, ducking to look under the counter.

Lily shrugged. "Maybe you forgot to put it back?"

"Not a chance." Amy sighed as she found the file on the counter where the nurses left messages, personal papers, and paperwork waiting for signatures. "What's it doing over here?"

"This place has been a zoo tonight," Lily said sympathetically. "Someone may have moved it."

"Yeah," Amy agreed. Tucking the chart under her arm, she returned to the cart. Pulling off the bags marked 'Banks,' she moved into Simon's room. Temporarily hooking the chart to the foot of the bed, she exchanged the new IV bags for the almost empty ones on the stand beside his bed. She smiled down at the sleeping man, glad that his rest was finally peaceful.

She closed the door behind her after picking up the chart. As Amy moved out to the nurses' station, she flipped through it to note the time of the exchange. Something caught her eye, further up the page and she frowned, looking at it more closely. Her breath caught in her throat as she deciphered the cramped writing.

"Oh my God!" Whirling, she opened the door, her fears realized as she saw the man on the bed convulsing. Amy grabbed the IV tubing, disconnecting it from the bag before retrieving the call button.

"I need a doctor in 7009 stat!" she shouted, trying to hold Simon in place at the same time. She dropped the button and moved to comfort the man on the bed. "Damn it! Don't you dare die on me!"

A medical team responded within minutes, and briskly moved in unison, stabilizing the patient. Amy went into automatic, following orders while still worrying about the strange writing on Banks' chart. It was only minutes, but it felt like hours before the doctor in charge leaned back with a sigh of relief.

"Looks like we got him stabilized."

"Thank God," Amy said under her breath. With a glare, she turned to the doctor. "What were you thinking when you wrote that order? It's a good thing I took a closer look at the chart."

The doctor…Amy recognized him as one of the newer interns…looked confused. "I'm sorry? I don't know what you're talking about."

Amy handed him the chart, her finger stabbing his signature at the bottom of the chart. "That combination of drugs would've killed him if I hadn't caught it."

The young doctor frowned. "That's not my writing." He looked up at Amy. "I didn't write this order."

"Then who did?" Amy demanded angrily.

The young doctor shook his head. "I don't know," he said slowly. "But, look at the time at the top of the chart. I was in 2114 on a code blue when this was written. Maybe somebody picked it up by mistake?"

"But you're on duty," Amy responded, worry creeping into her. "Who else would have been looking at patients?" Amy asked. They looked at each other for a moment silently. The doctor's pager rang, and Amy sighed, knowing he had another emergency. "I'll check it out."

~~~~~~~~

Streets of Cascade

It was darker than usual in this part of Cascade. The warehouse district was often ill lit, but this block was practically black. With the streetlights broken or painted over, the only light came from bulbs mounted on the corners of the building currently under close observation by Ellison and Sandburg.

"What the hell is she doing in a meat packing plant?" Jim asked. It was not the type of place he had pictured Finkelman sneaking off to with five thousand dollars.

Beside him, Sandburg sighed. "Jim, I know you don't like Finkelman, but, I mean…" Blair's expressive hands waved through the air, "her being a dirty cop? Come on. It doesn't make any sense."

"I know what I heard, Chief."

"Well, maybe she just likes to buy wholesale." Blair looked sideways at his partner, unsurprised that there wasn't even a hint of a grin on the grim visage. "Jim…"

"Shhh…." He cut off his friend, cocking his head to the side in an unmistakable pose of listening.

~~~~~~~~

Inside the plant

Sarah Finkelman walked toward the two young men seated in the dingy office. She sighed as Joe, the older brother, leered at her. "You look nice," he said, his eyes sliding over her body from head to toe. She should have worn a longer skirt. Or better yet, pants. Baggy pants.

"Thanks. You have the cash?" Brisk. Businesslike. "Let's keep it on a professional level, boys," she muttered to herself.

"It's behind the bar," Rick, the younger brother, volunteered. He watched as she turned away from him to look at the bar.

"It's not going to do me much good back there," Finkelman said dryly. There was no way she was going to go over there and bend down to retrieve the money in front of these juvenile delinquents.

"She's something, huh, Rick?" Joe asked proudly.

Rick smirked as he walked behind the bar, pulling an envelope out from behind it. Finkelman leafed through the money, counting rapidly.

"You're cute," Joe said, his eyes on her legs.

"Hmmm…" she just barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes at the obviousness in the young man's tone.

Joe wasn't discouraged. "And you got backbone. A real nice backbone…"

Finkelman sighed. "Focus. Business."

~~~~~~~~

In the truck

Jim narrowed his eyes, looking through the grimy window. He was able to make out Finkelman accepting an envelope and rifling through the contents. "They just gave her an envelope," he told Blair. "There's got to be several thousand dollars in cash inside."

Blair looked surprised, and squinted, looking toward the tiny figures in the small square of light, wishing he had the same powerful vision as his friend.

They ducked down as Finkelman left the warehouse, even though there was no danger of her spotting them. No one came with her. She hopped into her car and drove off without a backwards look. With the lights off, Jim started the truck and followed far behind her as she drove through the dark streets. When she pulled onto a main road, he put on the lights and drove slowly, keeping well behind her.

The two men exchanged glances as the captain pulled into one of the local low-rent motels only a few miles from the warehouse district. Jim pulled the truck to a halt on the street in front of the parking lot. They watched Finkelman pull her car up to room 240 and get out. The door swung open as she reached for the handle; she entered without hesitating.

"Oh, man," Blair breathed. "She is up to something. What's she doing?"

"Beats me," his partner replied, motioning for quiet.

That didn't stop Blair. He shifted impatiently, waiting a few minutes before tugging on Jim's sleeve again. "What's going on?"

Shaking off the grip, Jim translated. "Three guys are in there. Finkelman just waltzed right in and handed someone the money. Five thousand dollars…" Blair prodded him when he stopped. "She introduced herself as Trudy Marshall, said she works for Joe Brock."

"The guy back at the warehouse?"

"Yeah. The spokesman's not buying it. Says he doesn't work with women."

"What a crock!" Blair said in amazement. "This is the '90's, man."

Jim spared him an amused glance. "That's what Finkelman said."

"So, you have any idea what she's buying?" Blair asked.

Shaking his head, Jim motioned for quiet. "She's telling him he has to deal with her, Brock won't play. This guy is trying to strong-arm her, and she's coming back too strong." Blair watched as his face tightened at whatever was happening inside the motel room. "Arthur Sabin?" Jim blurted out, already reaching for the door handle.

"Arthur Sabin?" Blair repeated. "Who's that?"

Jim was already in motion. "Tell you later, Chief. She's in trouble. Stay put." Blair's mouth dropped open in indignant protest, but his partner wasn't listening. Blair tracked him as he moved across the parking lot to the door Finkelman had disappeared through.

~~~~~~~~

Taking a deep breath, Ellison approached the motel room, hoping that he wasn't doing something stupid. His instincts told him that Finkelman, while a major pain in the ass, wasn't dirty. On the other side of the door, he heard her gasp. His jaw tightened as he listened to the conversation.

"Is this really worth killing me over?" her voice stayed brash, but Jim could hear a hint of fear creeping in.

Sabin's answer, in contrast, was coldly amused. "Well… Yeah."

Reaching the door, Jim knocked insistently. If the goons on the other side hadn't opened it by the count of five, he was going to kick it down. There was a scuffling movement from inside, then Sabin demanded "Who's that?" to Finkelman.

Sounding breathless, Finkelman replied "I don't know!" Jim listened to the sound of guns being pulled and safeties unlocked. "I don't know!" the captain repeated, fright creeping into her tone.

The door swung open just before Jim reached zero in his unspoken countdown. He moved past the two rent-a-thugs towards the captain, feeling his undercover façade slip over him. "Trudy, are you all right?" he asked Finkelman, willing her to play along. Behind him, one of the thugs placed a meaty hand on his back and pushed him further into the room. Wanting to shove back, Jim instead went with the flow, knowing that he had quite a bit of convincing ahead of him.

"And who might you be?" Sabin was fairly young, shorter than Blair, with dirty blond hair and an attitude that screamed 'mafia wannabe.' Jim was not impressed.

"Brock. Joe Brock," he said easily.

"You always send a woman to do your dirty work?" Sabin asked with a scowl.

"I thought she could handle it."

"You were wrong."

Jim looked over at Finkelman, raising his eyebrows. She nodded slightly, then her shoulders slumped in a submissive posture. Sabin smirked.

"Get the stuff," Sabin said to the taller thug. "Joe?"

Jim turned, mildly inquisitive.

"Just checking." Sabin looked satisfied. He obviously hadn't been in the crime business for very long. His henchman returned, handing a canister to Ellison. Jim looked it over for identifying marks, but saw nothing. He was just as much in the dark about what he was 'buying' as he had been in the parking lot. "That's just a sample," Sabin remarked, his eyes lingering on the canister.

"When do we get the rest?" Jim asked, reaching out for it. Cold metal touched his palm, it didn't weigh much, so whatever was in it wasn't heavy.

"Tomorrow. I'll tell you when and where." Sabin motioned toward the door with his chin. "Now, get the hell out of here."

Yep, a lot to learn. Carrying the canister, Jim left the room, taking it on faith that Finkelman would fall into step behind him. She did. Without exchanging a word, they went to her car. Jim got in the driver's side. Finkelman didn't utter a protest as she tossed her keys at him. They drove away in silence, leaving Sabin and his two guys behind them in the motel doorway, watching.

Jim drove around the block and pulled into the back parking lot of a strip mall. Finkelman jumped out of the car just as Blair drove up to park beside them.

"Son of a bitch!" Finkelman shouted, slamming the door behind her. She turned to Jim, her eyes glittering with barely suppressed rage. "Damn you!"

Jim met her head on, unflinching. "What the hell was going on there, Finkelman?"

"You could have blown my whole set up!" she raged, ignoring his question.

"Seems like I also could have just saved your life."

Finkelman paused. "My hero," she announced sarcastically.

"It appeared to me that you were in over your head. In what, I still don't know!" Jim shouted, frustration getting the better of him. "Now, what the hell is in that cylinder?"

"Don't change the subject, Detective." Finkelman said unfairly. "You barged in on an undercover operation without authorization, and you bring HIM along to enjoy the show!" She punctuated her disdain by poking Blair in the shoulder with one long fingernail.

Blair, who had been watching the argument with his head bobbing from side to side, as if he was enjoying a tennis match, jumped. "Hey!" he protested. "Wait a minute, lady. Look, I don't know what your deal is here, but give it a rest!"

Jim put a restraining hand on his chest. "Let me handle this, Chief."

Blair realized that he was shaking with sudden anger. "No. No, I'm okay. I'm all right. You know what?" he asked, turning from his partner to Finkelman, rage getting the better of him, "This is his personal car. It's his personal time. We're friends. If he invites me along, guess what, lady? I'm going!"

"You…are not…a cop!" Finkelman said through clenched teeth.

That set Jim off again. "What kind of cop goes into an undercover sting operation without a backup contingency?" he shouted, "Would you answer me that?" Finkelman crossed her arms, looking above his head. Jim shook his finger in her face. "Not only is it stupid, it's in violation of department policy! I squawk to the brass about this, and you're going to be out!"

"Yeah? Well, I tell them that you're bringing your civilian friend into cases without authorization, and you'll be joining me!" They stood staring at each other, both shaking with rage. A patrol car drove past, catching the attention of all three. Glaring daggers at each other, Finkelman and Ellison froze.

"Um…" Blair said diffidently, looking from one angry face to the other, "I think we all need to calm down. Why don't we take this somewhere quieter? We can talk and figure out what's going on."


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


Major Crimes break room

Blair had ridden to the station with Finkelman, ostensibly to protect her, in actuality because Jim didn't trust her. Finkelman had greeted the arrangement with the contempt that Blair, in all honesty, thought it deserved.

The cold silence had lasted until they reached the break room, where Blair served some of the horrible liquid that passed for coffee after midnight. After sitting for several minutes in sullen silence, Finkelman sighed. "I met Joe and his brother by accident. I was waiting for a friend and I heard them talking about smuggling Freon gas."

Jim's eyebrows shot up, but Blair beat him to it. "Freon gas?" he repeated. "What do you mean? Like, the stuff that goes into refrigerators?"

Finkelman nodded. "Yeah, that is what's in the canister." She took another sip and stared into the dark liquid. "They still manufacture it offshore, but it's now illegal to sell in this country. The profit margin is actually higher than drugs." She shook her head, disbelief still ringing in her voice. "The Brocks own a meat-packing plant; their equipment is over thirty years old. A total retrofit for a new ammonia-based system would bankrupt them." She glanced over at her rapt audience and sighed. "Anyway…Joe was giving me the eye, so I let him pick me up. He's not too bright," she added wryly. "Anyway, I convinced him I could act as a go-between with their Freon connection. Keep their company's hands clean…" She trailed off, staring absently into space.

"So, you'd do the deal for them, and have the means to nail Sabin for selling contraband," Jim said thoughtfully. He nodded. "It could work."

"So, who's Sabin?" Blair asked, still unclear on why Jim had picked up on the name.

Finkelman shrugged. "He's the local distributor for the Montecruz cartel. They run two-thirds of the drugs out of Mexico. I nail him, and we can start to break the Montecruz operation."

"So, why is a drug smuggler running Freon?"

"Why not?" Jim answered his partner. "It makes a profit, and it's probably just as easy to get as drugs."

"Easier," Finkelman put in. That drew Jim's attention back to her.

"But why would you go in without backup, huh?" he demanded. "Why put yourself at that kind of risk?"

Finkelman sighed. "I met Joe the day before I was told I would be substituting for Captain Banks. Would you believe bad timing?" Jim crossed his arms and stared at her wordlessly. She shrugged. "It was worth a try." Putting down the coffee mug, she stared at her hands. "Because I wanted to prove that I'm worthy of being more than just a substitute captain." She paused, rubbing a hand over weary eyes. "Maybe that sounds…drastic, but…" She looked up at the two men regarding her. Her voice took on an edge. "You try being a woman who has to take charge of a totally macho-ed out department for a couple weeks. I needed to come in and take charge; not come in and immediately ask for help."

Jim remained motionless. Blair got to his feet. "Well, that explains a lot to me," he said with a sympathetic smile. "Come into a new social structure, trying to gain control. It's an uphill battle. You don't gain that control right away, odds are, you probably are never going to."

Looking relieved, Finkelman appealed to him. "So, you understand separating you two was nothing personal? It's just awfully dangerous for a civilian who's untrained…"

Blair backed up a couple steps. "I think I've proven myself," he said, his voice flat.

Jim stood up, his arm resting against Sandburg's, making it clear that they were a team. "I'll help you collar Sabin," he said, his voice deceptively mild. His eyes narrowed. "But Sandburg continues to ride along. He may be a civilian, but he's a damn fine detective, and he is my partner."

Finkelman opened her mouth, closed it again, and looked steadily at the two men. They stared back, united. "All right," she finally conceded.

"Good." Blair smiled with satisfaction, slapping Jim on the back. The detective rolled his eyes, but let the shorter man get away with it. Moving over to the table, Blair picked up the mugs and moved to put them into the sink.

Finkelman reached the door before turning back, a puzzled expression on her face. "Uh, by the way, how did you know about Brock and that I was calling myself Trudy?"

Jim froze, shooting a nervous glance over at Blair. "Oh. Well, I…"

"Listening device," Blair supplied smoothly. "Latest technology. It's brand new." He laughed, somewhat unconvincingly. "One of the benefits of being at the university…"

"Oh." Finkelman left while sentinel and guide exchanged an eloquent glance.

~~~~~~~~

Finkelman's office

Finkelman was on the phone as Jim and Blair entered Simon's redecorated office. Immediately, Jim had to put a finger under his nose to try to stop the sneeze threatening to come out at the heavy scent of cut flowers. Blair placed a hand on his back, willing him to suppress it.

Their temporary captain nodded towards the chairs, but her attention was focused on her phone conversation. Both men listened avidly. "Right, yeah. Good, Joe, I'll be there." She paused and rolled her eyes. "I'm wearing clothes," she stated dryly. She listened for a moment, then shook her head. "Well, I am offended. Dinner? Maybe. Yeah, okay, I'll see you in a bit." Hanging up the receiver, she smiled at her spectators.

"I take it that was Joe?" Jim said, raising his eyebrows.

"Yes. I’m going to Brock's office to wait for Sabin's call." She grabbed her coat, pulling it on. "I'll be in touch as soon as I have instructions for the buy."

"Captain…" Jim started, intending to talk the woman into some safety measures. He was interrupted by Joel's sudden appearance. The older man looked as worried as Jim had ever seen him. He knocked on the doorjamb, but didn't wait for an invitation from Finkelman.

"I just got a call from the hospital. Simon is missing."

"Missing?" Jim asked, incredulous. "How does a hospital patient with a gunshot wound go missing?"

Joel's dark eyes were filled with worry. "I don't know. They moved him last night and lost his paperwork. Now they can't find him."

Jim stood up. "Let's go, Chief."

Finkelman's operation was forgotten in the rush to find their friend.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital

Amy had known that someone would show up after she notified the police of their missing patient, but she didn't expect the mismatched trio. One tall military-looking guy, one well-dressed black man, and a longhaired short kid. She recognized the look in their eyes as they showed their badges. Family and friends then, rather than just coworkers.

Amy told them everything she could remember.

"Things are just a little bit odd around here, huh?" Detective Ellison asked. His voice roughened as he demanded, "How do you lose a six foot four, two hundred and twenty-five pound man?"

The young nurse looked around her station, trying to see it through a stranger's eyes and sighed. They were a bit unorganized right now, but… "It's the new managed care system. Everything is computerized. Sometimes people just...slip through the cracks." She swallowed. Sometimes it happened, but never before on her watch. Where was Simon Banks?

"Well, when was the last time you actually saw Captain Banks?" the one with the hair--Blair--asked.

"Last night around midnight, before I went off shift. He was resting comfortably after…" she paled, suddenly wondering if the two events were connected.

"He was fine." Lily said firmly.

"After what?" Ellison asked, jumping in. His suspicious gaze went from Amy to Lily and back again.

"There was a mix-up in his medication," Amy explained slowly, "But we caught it in time. He was okay when I left!"

The detective didn't look impressed. "Who is responsible for this, um…mix-up?"

Amy looked down at the floor. "I don't know," she whispered.

"What *do* you know?" Blair asked angrily.

Amy met his eyes, her own tearing up. She wanted them to know that she was just as worried as they were. "Look, I am so sorry."

Lily put a protective arm around her. "Security has been alerted. Your captain will turn up eventually." Amy knew that wasn't the way to deal with these men, but she had a lump in her throat and couldn't say anything.

"Well, that's very comforting," Ellison drawled sarcastically. "Thank you very much." Dismissively, he turned away from them, facing the older detective. "Look, Taggart, why don't you and Sandburg scour the lower floors? I'll check around up here."

"Okay." Amy caught a significant, though unspoken, exchange between Ellison and the youngest man, before Blair put one hand on Taggart's arm and steered him towards the elevator.

She sank down into one of the desk chairs and put her face in her hands, one question running through her mind. Where was Simon Banks?

~~~~~~~~

Meat-Packing Plant

Finkelman knew that, without backup, she should have telephoned Joe and called off the operation. She'd committed though, and if she pulled out now, she might never get another chance. Knowing that Ellison and Sandburg were occupied with finding Banks, she did what she did best--carried on by herself.

Joe and Rick were pleased to see her. She had timed it so that she wouldn't have to make much small talk before Sabin's call. The more she saw of the Brock brothers, the more she wondered how they had managed to keep their business running this long. She was working on ignoring Joe's leering looks when the phone rang. She picked it up.

"Joe Brock's office."

The arrogant voice on the other end was the one she expected. "Yeah, hello Trudy," Sabin said.

Finkelman got down to business. "When and where?" she asked briskly. No point in wasting time with his attitude.

Sabin evidently felt the same way. "There's a car ferry leaving for Bear Island at noon. You tell Brock to bring the cash and meet me inside at the snack bar on the top deck. Then we'll do our thing. I'll get off the boat before it leaves the dock. Now, the truck is a rental, he'll transfer the Freon to another one, then turn it in on the other side. You make the arrangements for that. Everything nice and clean. Okay?" Sabin paused, and his voice grew cold. "But Brock delivers the stuff personally or there's no deal. You got it?"

Grateful that Joe didn't have a speaker phone, Finkelman snapped, "Yeah, I got it." She slammed the phone down into the cradle then looked up to see the brothers staring at her.

"Is everything okay?" Joe asked cautiously.

"Yeah. You got the rest of the cash?" She watched as Rick crossed the room and pulled a briefcase out from under the bar. Opening it to show stacks of bills, he proudly presented it to her.

She took it from his hands with a brisk nod. "I'll have the stuff this afternoon."

"That's my girl!" Joe observed, patting her possessively on the back. Finkelman moved before the hand roamed to where she might have to hurt him. She left the plant wondering again how they had lasted so long.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital

Jim Ellison roamed the corridors of Cascade Hospital, reaching out with his senses. Touch and taste were out. He had ruled out scent; everything that didn't smell of illness and death smelled like harsh chemicals and cleaning solvents. Even the distinctive scent of Simon's cigars would have dissipated after two days in this atmosphere. He couldn't do much with sight, since there wasn't anything but the corridors to see. That left hearing.

He opened his hearing up cautiously, knowing that the sounds would be numerous and varied. He was right. Intercoms, beeping machine monitors, water dripping, forced oxygen running through tubes, a baby crying. Jim concentrated, trying to focus and find one particular voice.

"Daryl…Daryl…we gotta talk son…" The mumbled words were barely discernable, but Jim picked up on them. He followed the voice to a door marked Exit 7. Pushing the door open, Jim discovered a set of stairs. Simon's voice was coming from somewhere beneath him, so he started downward; two flights down, Simon's voice was louder. Jim ignored the "Authorized Personnel Only" sign on the landing and stepped through the doorway.

The hallway was empty; there were no other signs of life around. Jim cocked his head and tuned into his friend's voice. Simon was sounding slightly more coherent, but also angrier. "Damnit Joan, give me a break. We're going down to Peru…some fishing…what could go wrong?"

Jim knew what could go wrong. Simon sounded okay, but what was he doing on an unmarked floor? His pace became faster as he realized he passed an operating room and realized that he had entered the surgery wing through a back entrance.

Skidding to a halt in front of a large window, Jim's mouth dropped open as he took in the sight of several figures in medical scrubs prepping a man for surgery. Jim couldn't see the face, but he zoomed in on the medical bracelet on the man's wrist--BANKS, SIMON J.; Dr Jeffers, 11/20/59, 01/05/98.

"All right," one of the doctors said, picking up a sharp-bladed knife, "Yeah, I see it."

Desperately, Jim pulled on the door handle, only to find it locked. He pulled out his badge, holding it up to the window and rapping on the glass with his fist.

"Let me see your graph…" Most of the medical personnel ignored him, but one young woman looked up. Her eyes widening, she crossed the room and opened the door and stepped outside.

Jim, without taking his eyes off Simon and the sharp knife, spoke. "I'm Detective James Ellison with the Cascade Police Department. I think you have the wrong patient on that table in there."

The young doctor, whose nametag read 'Dr. Quint.' shook her head. "That's impossible."

Jim tried to push past her. "This man just had major surgery for a gunshot wound!"

"I think you've made a mistake," Dr Quint said firmly. "This is an emergency surgery. The patient has a malignant brain tumor." When Jim looked at her, she nodded. "I did the pathology myself."

"A malignant brain tumor?" Ellison sputtered, "That's impossible! This man is a captain in the Cascade PD. He's in the hospital for a gunshot wound on his left side. I tell you, you've got the wrong patient on that table!" Jim reached for the door again, and Quint stopped him. "If you don't believe me, check his side!"

The young doctor hesitated. "Wait here," she said finally and went back in the room. Inside, she grabbed Simon's wrist and looked at the data imprinted on it. Jim could see the color drain from her face as she read it.

"What are you doing?" one of the other doctors demanded as Quint frantically pulled back the sheets covering Simon, revealing bandages over the gunshot wound.

"Is there a problem?" one of the nurses asked. They all looked down at the bandages and someone gasped. "What the hell…?"

Quint looked at Jim through the glass, the sheets falling to the floor. Jim sighed with relief as the other doctor put down the knife and people started stripping off their sterile gear.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, Room 09

Simon felt like he was wrapped in a fog. He blinked, seeing faces hovering over him. "Who…What…?" He yawned and struggled to keep his eyes open. The faces backed up a bit, but stayed within range, fuzzy.

"Jim?"

Ellison's voice was soothing. "You're okay, Simon."

"What happened?"

"You're in the hospital. You were shot."

Simon blinked. Hospital? Hadn't he been at the bank? He hesitated and tried to stretch; a sudden pain caught his side and he sucked in a surprised breath. Oh, yeah. Shot. Bank robbers. "How long?" he forced out of his dry throat.

"Three days," a young woman said, approaching the bed.

"Three days?" Simon repeated, turning to look at the woman. "That's…oh…I remember you. Amy, right?" He tried to smile. She was even prettier than he had thought; he blushed as he remembered he had thought she was Joan.

Amy patted his hand and injected something into his IV. "This will help you rest, Mr. Banks."

"Simon."

She smiled and nodded. "Okay, Simon."

Jim broke into their moment. "They'll be here to pick you up in a couple hours, Simon."

Whipping his head around, and promising himself not to do that again soon, Simon looked at Ellison. "Pick me up? Why?"

"Well, we're moving you to a different hospital." That was Blair. Simon smiled at him too, happy to see that he was visiting with Jim.

Yawning as a pleasant sense of lethargy took over his body he asked "What's wrong with this hospital?"

Jim's voice sounded cautious. "You'll get better treatment there, sir. Why don't you just try to relax?"

Relax? If he got any more relaxed, he was going to fall asleep. "Yeah, good idea..." his voice trailed off, and he pulled himself back with an effort. Wasn't there something he wanted to tell Ellison? Something important… Oh. Murder. "Jim? Jim…I have to tell you what I heard. There was this…this woman. She…" His voice was drowned out by a ringing phone.

Amy reached out and picked it up. "Hello? This is Simon Bank's room." She listened for a minute, then held out the phone to Jim. "Detective Ellison, it's for you."

Jim took the phone. "Thank you."

"Ellison." He turned his back away from the eyes watching him. "I can't use my cell phone, I’m in the hospital here. I was just about to call you…" His eyes found Blair's. "All right, all right. We'll meet you over there." He hung up, looking over at Joel. "That was Finkelman. We've got to go. Will you stay with him, Joel?"

"Of course." Joel frowned with concern. "Do you really think something's going on here besides incompetence?"

Jim snorted. "First, they give him the wrong medication, then they almost give him a lobotomy. This is a little too much of a coincidence, even for a bad hospital. And this is supposed to be one of the good ones." Joel's frown increased, and they both looked down at the quiet captain. "I'll send some uniforms to back you up."

"Thanks."

Joel and Amy watched the two other men leave the room, then they turned back to the now-sleeping Simon. "He's really doing okay?" Joel asked anxiously. "He's a good man, you know."

Amy smiled. "I can tell. He has good friends. Really, he's going to be fine."

~~~~~~~~

Brock's Meat Packing Plant

Joe Brock sat at the desk, staring at his brother. "We can't do it any other way."

Rick nodded. "I know. It would cost us at least three hundred and fifty grand to retrofit. We do this, live with it a couple years, and we sell. Let the next guy worry about it." He leaned back in his chair and crowed. "You're a genius, man!"

They grinned at each other. The phone rang, and Rick picked it up. "Rick Brock. What?" Confusion crossed his face as he listened to the person on the other end. "Well, he's right here. I'll put him on." He hesitated, listening intently. "Uh, okay…"

"Give me the phone!" Joe demanded.

Rick held him off, a scowl coming over his normally vacant features. "No problemo. He'll be there." Rick turned his back as Joe tried to get the phone again. "Relax, man," he said impatiently, "I said he'd be there." Dropping the phone, Rick turned to his brother. "That was Arthur Sabin," he said slowly. "He said it was nice meeting you last night."

Joe froze, knowing quite well where he'd been the previous evening and it hadn't involved Sabin. "What? That's nuts!"

Rick nodded in agreement. "He also said to remind Trudy that he wouldn't deliver the Freon unless you were there in person. He wanted to make sure you got that message."

His face filled with fury, Joe ground out "Where the hell are they?"

"Noon ferry to Bear Island," Rick told him smugly.

"I think Trudy has some questions to answer. Let's go."

The brothers grabbed their coats and raced out the door.


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


Bear Island Ferry

Cars moved up and down the ramp, directed by ferry workers. Bustling groups of happy couples and excited families walked along the dock. Jim and Blair were directed into a parking slot in Jim's truck. Jumping out of it, they walked over to Finkelman, right where she said she'd meet them. A large briefcase was in her hand. Blair eyed it with some trepidation.

"It's a good thing I got through to you," Finkelman said angrily. "Sabin's expecting me to bring Joe Brock."

"Uh, why does he want to do this on a ferry?" Blair asked, looking around at the happy travelers. Not exactly a place he'd expect nefarious business deals to be going down.

Finkelman made a face. "Because he's planning on taking the cash and getting off the ferry before it leaves. If this was going down the way he planned it, we'd be transferring the Freon to another truck, then turning in the rental on the other side."

"Smart." Blair looked at his partner sideways. He almost sounded like he admired the crook.

Finkelman smiled wolfishly. "Except he doesn't expect to be wearing cuffs."

"Come on, let's do it." Jim said impatiently, moving rapidly toward the ferry, Blair and Finkelman trailing in his wake. They didn't see the Brock brothers behind them, in Joe's car, waiting to board the ferry.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital


Amy frowned at Simon as she adjusted his IV pole and checked the fluid level. "Okay, you'll be all set in just a minute."

Simon looked petulant. "I said I don't want it."

Across the room, Joel opened the curtains, letting in bright sunlight. Simon squinted. Taking advantage of his distraction, Amy started to inject something into the IV line.

"What is that?" Simon asked suspiciously.

"It's just something to calm you down for the ride in the ambulance," Amy soothed.

Grabbing the tubing, Simon pulled at it. ""No! I don't want to be calm!" Exhausted from his failed effort, he fell back on the bed.

"Don't touch that!" Amy scolded. "I'm here to help you, you know. Pulling out an IV is not a good idea."

"Simon," Joel started, "We have to get you out of here."

"Why?" Simon asked Joel. He turned to Amy. "Why?" When they exchanged looks but didn't answer, he sighed. "Will one of you please tell me what is going on?"

Joel looked uncomfortable. "We think somebody's trying to kill you." Instead of laughing at him, Simon looked pleased.

"I knew it! It's them. They think I can identify them."

Joel leaned forward. "Who?" he asked intently; "Who are they?"

Simon shrugged. "I don't know, Joel. I'm just starting to remember … I overheard a conversation." He frowned in concentration. "Two people. They were…planning to murder someone in the hospital. A doctor."

"Are you sure?" Joel flushed at Simon's glare. "I mean, you have been pretty doped up, man."

"You just said someone was trying to kill me," Simon pointed out.

"Yeah," Joel agreed. "But it could be anybody with a grudge. You've made a lot of collars Simon. Made a lot of enemies."

Simon shook his head. "No, it has to be them. It was a man and a woman. It sounded like they were doctors, too. The person they were going to kill was going to turn them in for something."

All three fell silent as the door swung open and two orderlies wheeled in a long gurney.

"Hey!" Simon protested. "What's going on?" He grabbed Joel's sleeve. "Look, Joel. I am not leaving this hospital until I find out who those people are and what exactly is going on."

Joel's brow creased in worry. "Come on, man."

"I'll be fine," Simon assured his friend. "There's another life at stake here. I've got the whole police department looking after me, but I’m the only one who can save whoever this is."

Joel looked unconvinced.

~~~~~~~~

Bear Island Ferry

Sabin jumped out of the truck, motioning to his three bodyguards. He pointed at two of them. "You guys stay here with the truck. Al," he nodded at the third man, "you're with me." The other two men nodded and crossed their arms against their chests.

Sabin and Al went looking for their new customers.

~~~~~~~~

"Sabin should be here by now," Finkelman said, checking her watch. Beside her, Blair shifted uneasily. Jim stiffened.

"Looks like we've got company." He pointed to the Brocks, visible through the ferry's large windows, moving out on the deck.

"Who are they?" Blair asked, as Finkelman sighed, rubbing her forehead with one hand.

"The Brock brothers. Joe and Rick," she said with disgust.

"What the hell are they doing here?" Blair demanded, his voice rising with alarm.

Jim shrugged. "Dunno. Stall them as long as you can. I'll go make the buy and collar Sabin." He held his hand out for the briefcase, but Finkelman wrapped her arms around it protectively.

"No! Sabin's mine. Besides, the Brocks'll want to make sure I still have the money. I'll hold onto it until you make contact with Sabin and find out where the Freon is." She motioned to Blair. "Come on."

Blair sent one eloquent glance in Jim's direction before wordlessly following Finkelman down the room to the door at the other end. Jim kept one ear open in their direction as he walked the other way looking for Sabin.

"I hope you've learned something in your last two years with Ellison," he overheard Finkelman say to his partner. Jim smiled, knowing that Blair had learned a lot more than Finkelman could suspect.

~~~~~~~~

"You have a plan, right?" Blair demanded.

"Yeah," Finkelman said promptly. "We improvise."

Blair sounded disgusted. "Oh, that's just great."

They turned the corner to see the Brock brothers standing in front of them, facing the other direction. "Where are we meeting him?" Rick asked unaware of their new company.

Finkelman sighed and walked up to Joe. He turned when she tapped his shoulder, his face clouding with anger. "What the hell are you trying to pull, Trudy?" He grabbed the briefcase from her hands and shoved it at Rick. He raised his hand as well as his voice, glaring at the woman standing in front of him. "Well?"

"Hey, hey, hey, take it easy," Blair said, jumping to stand beside her and making calming motions. Joe turned the glare on him.

"And you would be…?"

"Arthur Sabin," Finkelman inserted smoothly, before Blair could even open his mouth.

Blair shot her a wild glance, then composed his face into what he imagined a drug dealer might look like. "Yeah, that's right," he said, trying to sound tough. "It's about time you two showed up. I was getting ready to tell your girl here to go fish." He carefully didn't look at Finkelman. "Now, come on." He led the way down the hallway.

~~~~~~~~

Jim stood surveying the crowd inside the ferry, looking for Sabin, hoping that he hadn't had second thoughts and bolted. He was startled by a knock on the glass window behind him. Whirling around, he saw Sabin and one of his thugs staring at him. Sabin motioned for him to stay where he was. Jim crossed his arms and waited as the drug dealer and his man walked into the room.

"Glad you could make it, Brock," Sabin said mockingly. "Where's your little girlfriend?"

Jim shrugged. "Where's the Freon?"

Sabin imitated his technique. "Where's the money?"

Jim's eyes narrowed. "It's downstairs. Don't worry."

"No games," Sabin warned. "Go get it. You've got five."

Jim raised his eyebrows. "Well, I would really like to see the Freon first."

Impasse. Both men stopped and took stock of each other.

"You know, you're a very interesting man to figure out," Sabin said slowly. "First you send a woman to do your business, and then, all of the sudden you get this huge set of…uh…" He swallowed his words, interpreting the promised mayhem in Jim's deceptively mild gaze.

"If you want to get off the boat before it sails, you don't have much time," Jim pointed out. "Now, do you want to argue, or do you want to get paid?"

"I don't argue," Sabin said flatly. "You give me a sec?"

"Yeah, sure." Jim turned to look out the window, ignoring the other man. Sabin walked over to his bodyguard and started talking softly. Jim tilted his head and listened.

<Listen to me, Al. I want you to go look for Trudy,> Sabin instructed in a harsh whisper. <I bet she's got the cash, okay?> Al nodded and moved off. Sabin looked over to Jim and spoke loudly. "Hey, tough guy. Let's go."

"Okay," Jim said easily. He followed Sabin as he headed in the opposite direction from where he'd sent his thug.

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, Simon's Room

"Now, the woman said the doctor was set to testify at some sort of board..."

Amy, sitting beside the bed keeping an eye on her patient, sat up straighter. "Medical Review Board," she said. "It meets today." She frowned as Simon moved suddenly and caught his breath at a stab of pain. "Please, let me give you something."

Simon shook his head. "No, no. I want to be alert to figure this out."

Joel rubbed one hand across his chin. "Look, Simon," he said, worry in his eyes. "They've already made two unsuccessful attempts to kill you. What makes you think they haven't committed the other murder yet?"

"Then it would be too obvious. If the doctor is set to testify, they'd want to make it look like an accident, right before the review."

"Or a suicide?"

Simon looked thoughtful. "Yeah. Whoever the intended victim is, he or she is implicated somehow, so the killers want to make it seem like the person got cold feet. Why don't you talk to the hospital administrator. See if you can get names for everybody that's supposed to be at this Review Board."

Amy looked doubtful, but Joel agreed.

~~~~~~~~

Bear Island Ferry, upper deck

"So just what the hell is going on here?" Joe Brock asked his face red with fury.

"Just relax," Blair said soothingly. "He'll be here."

Rick was tilting his head to one side, looking Blair over from the woolen cap on his head to the worn hiking boots on his feet. "Joe, you know…This guy…he sure sounds a lot different in person."

Joe nodded. "There's something fishy about this whole setup."

Finkelman sighed. Blair admired the weary resignation that seemed to come off her in waves. "Look, what will I do with a truckload of Freon?"

"Not a thing," Joe agreed easily. His eyes narrowed. "But fifty grand? You could do a whole lot with that." He looked at his brother. "I think its gone bad. Let's get the hell out of here."

Rick looked at Blair one more time. "Yeah," he agreed, turning to follow his brother. Blair exchanged a glance with his temporary captain, and she moved to follow them. Blair trailed after her.

"Joe, Rick…wait…"

Neither of them saw Al come on deck after them.

~~~~~~~~

Bear Island Ferry, lower deck

"So, you satisfied?" Sabin asked, watching as one of his boys pulled the door shut on the truck. He crossed his arms across his chest and raised both eyebrows expectantly.

"I'm satisfied." Ellison pulled out his cell phone. "Just hold on and I'll get you your money."

Sabin nodded, pulling out his own phone as it rang. After one suspicious glance at the taller man, he moved to the opposite side of the truck to take the call. He missed Jim's phone beeping, although one of the hired thugs noticed. "Yeah." He paused, obviously listening. "Okay, keep an eye on her. I'll be right there." Sabin rounded the truck, looking less than happy.

Jim waved his own phone vaguely. "The call didn't go through. I'm gonna have to try again."

"There's no more time," Sabin said grimly, nodding to his man, who immediately pulled out a gun.

Jim's mouth dropped open. "What's going on here?"

"Oh, the boat's leaving," Sabin said with a scowl. "I'll have to get the money from your girl myself, but don't you worry about anything. Tommy here is going to keep you company." He saluted the detective mockingly as he vanished into the nearby stairway. "Nice doing business with you."

Turning to Tommy, Jim smiled ingratiatingly. "I still have to make that call."

"Forget about it." Tommy loomed convincingly, poking his gun menacing into the side of his seemingly unarmed victim. Jim tensed, a breath of sound warning him that he had a chance at turning the tables…

The ferry's whistle blew; Tommy started in surprise. Jim put all his weight behind one powerful punch, which laid the thug out neatly. Ellison grunted in satisfaction as Tommy lay unmoving on the deck. He pulled out his handcuffs, watching the ferry parking doors close.

~~~~~~~~

Bear Island Ferry, Parking level

The elevator came to a stop, discharging its tension-filled passengers. Blair got off first, followed closely by Finkelman and the Brocks. Joe looked towards the closed doors and swore.

"Look Joe," Finkelman said apologetically, "It's too late to get your car off the boat."

"What about him?" Joe demanded, pointing to Blair, "How's he getting off?"

Blair raised his head and tried to look arrogant. "There's still time for me to walk off."

Joe snorted. "Okay, so where's the damn Freon?"

Blair opened his mouth, desperately trying to think of a plausible lie. "Saved by the bell," he muttered under his breath as his cell rang. He pulled it out and flipped it open. "Hello?"

Jim's voice came over the line. "I'm on the lower car deck, just outside Section B."

Relief washed over the anthropologist, and he tightened his grip on the phone. "You've got some explaining to do, pal," he tried to make his voice menacing. He couldn't help looking sideways at Joe to judge how well he was succeeding. "You want to work for Arthur Sabin, you've got to stop screwing around."

Jim's voice was relaxed, almost amused. Blair could have strangled him. "Now listen to me, Bogie. Are you doing okay up there?"

"Fine," Blair said, wishing that Jim was beside him. "We'll be right there."

"The real Arthur Sabin is up there looking for Finkelman somewhere, so be careful."

Blair rolled his eyes. "All right, fine." He hung up, fixing his best imitation-Ellison glare on the Brocks. "This way." Everyone followed him toward the stairway. No one noticed as Al got off the elevator, opened his cell phone and dialed.


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


Cascade Hospital

"Captain Banks!" Amy fretted as she put one hand on her patient's shoulder. "You really shouldn't be getting out of bed."

Simon chuckled. "Yeah, so why are you helping me?"

Amy grabbed his elbow and supported him as he moved from the bed to a wheelchair. "Because you're trying to save a life, and I admire that." Two red spots highlighted her cheekbones as she looked deliberately at Simon.

A slow smile filled Simon's face as he looked at the pretty nurse. "Guess I must be feeling better." Amy smiled back and reached to adjust his robe. "Do you think..." Simon started to ask, when the door opened and Joel walked in. The captain turned to glare at his friend.

"Uh ... am I interrupting anything?" Joel asked, looking from one to the other.

"Get out of here!" Simon said, in a fair imitation of his usual growl. When Joel reached for the doorknob behind him, he raised one hand. "No, it's all right. What did you find out?"

"The hospital administrator was very helpful. She was unable to give me the agenda for the meeting, but she did cut loose with a couple names."

"So, let's hear them."

Joel pulled a paper from his pocket. "Two surgeons; Julie Chaney and Burt Phelps. There's also a pathologist named Dr. Laura Quint. The first two, Chaney and Phelps are partners. I called their office but they've been in surgery all afternoon."

Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Simon nodded. "A man and a woman. What about the other name? What was it...Quint?"

Joel nodded. "Laura Quint. I called down to the lab, but the voice mail was on."

"That's strange," Amy interjected, concern on her face. "Someone should be answering the phone there at this time of day."

"Let's go down to the lab, then." Simon said, his voice determined. With Joel at the handles of the wheelchair, the two police officers followed Amy through the maze of corridors, changing elevators once, to the Pathology Lab. It looked deserted.

Amy held the door as Joel pushed Simon's chair through. "Anybody home?" Simon called.

"Doesn't look like it," Joel commented.

"Where's Quint's office?"

Amy pointed. "Down at the end of the hall." She took over the control of the wheelchair as Joel led them cautiously down the corridor toward the office.

"Dr. Quint?" Simon called, knocking on the door. "Dr. Quint?" At the touch of his hand, the door swung slowly open, revealing a woman lying on the floor. All three professionals took in the rolled up sleeve, the bleeding puncture mark on the woman's arm, and the syringe on the floor next to her.

Amy was the first to spring into action. She ran to the woman's side. "Go dial zero!" she shouted over her shoulder, "Tell them we need a crash cart, stat!"

~~~~~~~~

Cascade Hospital, Nurse's station

"They're coming," Joel said lowly, nodding down towards a closed office door. Simon nodded grimly.

"What time can we meet?" a male voice asked as the door opened. Two doctors came into view: Chaney and Phelps.

"Twenty minutes," Chaney snapped out.

"That will be good," Phelps started to answer. He stopped in surprise when Simon rolled around the corner in his wheelchair; Joel right behind him.

"Excuse me, Dr. Chaney, Dr. Phelps," Simon said pleasantly. He fished his badge from the seat beside him and held it up. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the two surgeons. "You're both under arrest for attempted murder."

Phelps stood still, his mouth opening and closing, but Chaney dropped her papers and ran. Joel stepped around the nurses' station and caught her easily. "Going somewhere?" he asked his voice mild.

Dropping his briefcase, Phelps turned to run the other direction. Simon rolled the chair in front of the slight man, stopping him dead in his tracks.

"Don't even think about it."

~~~~~~~~

Bear Island Ferry, parking deck

Blair took a deep breath and headed toward one of two trucks parked in Lot B. He hoped that he had the right one, Jim would kill him if he was wrong. Hell, the Brocks would kill him if he was wrong, and Sabin was still lurking around somewhere, so he was probably in line for that as well... A noise caught his attention, and he looked under the truck they were headed for, recognizing Jim's feet and hands rolling a body under the car on the other side.

He took a deep breath. Show time!

"Yeah, yeah, here's the truck," Blair said, speaking out of one side of his mouth like Bogie. "It's right over here," he repeated loudly, trying to cover any suspicious noises. He almost sighed in relief as Jim walked around the truck, meeting them at the back.

"Sorry, boss," Jim said his voice submissive, "I tried to get through on the cell phone, but I couldn't. You told me to stand by the truck."

"It's all right," Blair said graciously. Jim's mouth twitched with amusement.

"Can we just get on with this, please?" Joe Brock asked impatiently.

"Yeah, relax." Blair said, glaring at him. He ignored Jim's warning look; now that Jim was here, this was almost enjoyable. He gestured to the truck. "Let's open this up for Mr. Impatient."

Obediently, Jim opened the back of the truck, revealing hundreds of canisters, all full of Freon.

Joe rubbed his hands together, exchanging a greedy look with his brother. "All right, now we're talking!" There was an awkward pause, and both Jim and Finkelman stared at Blair.

"Good," he said belatedly, "Now let's talk some money. Let's see it." He took the briefcase Joe handed him, and immediately passed it on to Jim. "Help me out." As Jim held it steady, Blair opened the case. He looked from the piles of money to Jim, and recognized the tense listening look on his partner's face. Jim caught his eyes and nodded to the side. Quickly, Blair snapped the briefcase shut and took it back. He turned to face the Brocks, unsurprised as Jim ducked around to the side of the truck.

Two men--the real Arthur Sabin and one of his lackeys, Blair presumed--were approaching the truck, guns drawn. Jim had gotten out of sight just in time.

"Freeze right there!" Sabin said, his gun pointed at Finkelman, his voice deadly. "What's going on? Who are these guys?" he demanded. She ignored him. The Brocks did not.

"Who are you?" Joe asked his hands in the air as ordered.

"Arthur Sabin," Sabin replied.

Rick dropped his hands and gestured toward Blair. "We thought he was Sabin," he said, confusion crossing his features.

"You thought what?" Sabin asked. He turned to glare at Blair, inspecting him from head to toe. He did not look impressed. Blair shrugged nervously.

"Drop the gun, Sabin," Jim said, coming around the truck, his gun out.

Sabin smirked. "Brock, you slay me."

Joe looked confused. "I don't even know you."

"Shut up!"

Joe subsided, muttering "This is nuts."

"I'm Detective James Ellison with the Cascade PD," Jim announced, his gun aimed steadily at Sabin.

"Ah, geez," Rick moaned.

"Put the gun down. Let's go!" Jim ordered, ignoring the Brocks.

"Detective, huh?" Sabin asked. He nodded towards Finkelman. "She one, too?"

"Captain, actually," Finkelman said coolly, covering the Brocks with her gun.

"Ah, geez!" Rick moaned again.

"Put the gun down!" Jim ordered, his voice implacable. Sabin started to lower his gun, motioning for his companion to do the same. As the second man bent, Sabin lurched into him, knocking him into Jim, who momentarily lost his balance, though he kept hold of his gun. Taking advantage of the distraction, Sabin took off running.

Jim shook his head, then looked at Finkelman. "Your call, Captain."

She smiled. "Go get him, Detective. Sandburg and I are fine."

With a nod, Jim handed his gun to Blair and took off after their big fish.

~~~~~~~~

Upper Deck

Sabin ran at full speed, his legs churning as he pushed through the crowd, sending men, women and even children stumbling in his haste. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a uniformed crewmember, and made his way to the man's side. Grabbing him, he demanded "How do I get off this boat?"

"Down the back stairs," the crewmember answered, trying to pull away. "The gangway may still be open below. Jerk!" he called after Sabin, straightening the collar of his uniform.

Sabin took off, running toward the back stairs, pushing his way through the thickening crowd. "Hey, out of my way! Excuse me. Hey! Excuse me, excuse me."

Nearby, taking a faster route, Jim raised his eyebrows. *Sabin, polite? Who would have thought.*

Reaching the back stairs, Sabin turned to go down them. Jim turned the corner just in time to catch sight of him. He ducked behind a wall as Sabin pulled out his gun and fired.

Hastily, Jim turned down his hearing as the crowd erupted into screams. "Get down! Police!" he shouted, motioning for people to run. He pulled out his backup piece, but the press of the crowd was too great.

Sabin, however, seemed to have no such concerns as he fired again. Jim peeked out from behind the wall and noted the number of tourists still on the deck; either hiding behind inadequate cover or completely exposed and panicking. Sabin fired again, and Jim growled. There had to be some way to take him down without harming anyone else.

Jim's eyes roamed the deck, looking for a way to get behind Sabin, a way to get the people into safety; a way...his eyes flickered over, then came back to, a fire hose set into the wall. Sandburg had used a fire hose against crooks with good results before...

Tucking his gun into the back of his pants, Jim ran over to the hose, rapidly unrolling it. "This better work for me, too, Chief," he muttered under his breath.

"Out of my way!" he heard Sabin shout, firing another bullet over the heads of the crowd.

Enough was enough. Jim turned on the water and jumped around the corner. "Get down!" he shouted to crowd of people still trapped on deck. Fighting to control the high-pressure flow of water, he aimed the nozzle at Sabin. He crowed as the water hit the man, pushing him back against the rail of the ferry, where he stumbled and twisted, going over the rail and into the water. With a smirk of appreciation, Jim turned off the water and dropped the hose. "Thanks, Chief."

He ran over to the railing, peering over to see Sabin treading water below, sputtering, and chuckled. "Well, he's going nowhere fast."

~~~~~~~~

Major Crimes

Fireworks. Sparklers flared on the top of the small tray of cupcakes Dolly the donut girl carried across the crowded bullpen. "Welcome back, Captain," she said with a sweet smile.

The entire bullpen burst into cheers and applause as Simon grinned. "Thank you." Leaning down, he tried to blow out the sparklers. They kept on sparking. "Woo-hoo."

As the crowd got their desserts and dispersed, Simon led Jim and Blair to his office. Rafe and H stopped them just in front of the doorway. "Good to have you back, sir," Rafe said, pushing a box of cigars into Simon's hand.

Simon accepted it, looking pleased. "Thank you very much."

"We really missed you, sir," H said, looking furtively towards Simon's open door. Movement from that direction caused the two detectives to exchange a quick glance and scuttle away.

Blair and Jim moved away from the doorway as a box emerged. Behind the box was their temporary captain. "Oh, hello," she said, turning sideways to smile at the three men.

Jim and Blair nodded. "Simon Banks, Sarah Finkelman," Blair said, introducing them.

Simon handed his cupcake to Blair so he could offer his hand to Finkelman. "Oh, hello. Thanks for minding the store while I was away." He smiled. "I hear you were busy?"

Finkelman exchanged glances with Jim and Blair and nodded. "You could say that. I just got off the phone with headquarters. Since Sabin's been in custody, his dealers have been scrambling for product. Narcotics busted several of them." She shrugged. "They got careless."

Simon nodded. "Well, congratulations."

Finkelman glowed with pleasure. "Well, thank you." She looked over to his companions. "It wouldn't have happened without Ellison..." At Blair's raised eyebrows, she grinned and added "...and Sandburg. They're quite a team."

Looking over at them appreciatively, Simon laughed. "Don't I know it."

"Any word on your new command?" Blair asked, breaking in.

"They're giving me my own substation," Finkelman reported proudly. "I start next week."

"That's great!"

As they exchanged a few pleasantries about the new location and knowledge of that area of town, Joel approached carrying a large flowering plant. He held it up, wagging his eyebrows at Simon. "Oh, Simon," he sang out, "These came from Amy at the hospital for you." Grinning from ear to ear, he thrust the plant at the Captain.

Jim sneezed.

"Oh, so it is the flowers," Finkelman observed. "All this time, I thought it was me."

Jim sniffed and looked from Finkelman to Banks. "No, just captains in general." He walked away, a slight smirk pulling at his mouth.

Simon frowned, looking down at Blair. Finkelman chuckled.

"Uh, these are nice," the younger man said, nervously fingering the flowers. "So, Simon...are you and Amy seeing each other?"

"That's Captain Banks, Sandburg, and that's none of your business!" Simon blustered, looking after Jim and missing Joel's quick nod and wink to the anthropologist. Blair laughed and followed his partner, eating the cupcake.

Joel changed his laugh into a cough as Simon turned to look at him, then smiled at Finkelman. He took the box from her hands. "Let me carry that to your car, Captain," he offered. They moved away.

Simon stood at the doorway of his office, the new plant tucked in the crook one arm, the box of cigars in the opposite hand, and no cupcake. As he surveyed the bullpen, he shook his head and wondered what he had just missed. With a self-depreciating grin, he shook his head, turned and entered his office. It didn't matter, he was back.


The End

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