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Sweet Science
Sweet Science
by Treassa

Beta read by Gina Jones and Dotty
Written for PetFly by: Laurence Frank
Rated PG -13

~~~~~ ACT l ~~~~~


The boxing arena sat on the edge of the business district. Streetlights surrounded the building and kept the dark night away. Its brick exterior was roughened with age but was still standing strong. The cheering of the crowd inside spilled out into the night. The sign outside read: Tonight, Sweet Roy Williams vs. Eddie Ruelas. A Fight to Remember.

The air inside the arena was hazy with dim lighting and cigarette smoke. The sounds of shoes squeaking along the floor filled the air. The cheers of the crowd reverberated against the walls.

The sound of leather hitting flesh had the crowd’s attention enthralled. The boxers themselves ignored everything, but their opponent, each jab and feint meant to distract and weaken the other. Sweat dripped down their muscular bodies and peppered the canvas with each move.

Sweet Roy's next punch dropped Ruelas to the mat. Gasping to catch his breath, Ruelas listened as the referee began the countdown, "One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight…." Ruelas forced himself up and nodded at the referee that he could continue.

The battle between the contenders continued in its fury. Their arms ached from the continuous battering. Then the bell, signaling the end of round four, broke the mounting tension. The two went back to their corners, preparing their minds for the next round.

Sweet Roy sat down on his stool, and his manager wet him down with a water-soaked sponge. "You got him just where you want him. Let’s bring in the left hook now." The bell for round five rang, and a woman in a skimpy bikini paraded around the ring with a card signifying the round. The crowd roared even louder as the fight once again started. Roy’s manager pushed Roy back into the center of the ring. "Let’s ring him. Let’s ring him."

In the crowd, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg watched the action. Blair leaned over to Jim. "He’s holding back his left hook."

Jim looked over at his partner in surprise. "I never thought you’d know a left hook from a leftover."

Blair shook his head and smiled. "I’m a huge pugilism fan. Besides, I know Roy from way back. How do you think I got the tickets?"

A flurry of hard punches from the ring drew the pair’s attention back. Sweet Roy was landing various punches against Ruelas’ stomach, and Roy followed it with a left hook to Ruelas’ chin. He fell to the canvas, knocked out. The referee counted to ten and held Roy’s arm up in victory.

The spectators went wild. Roy’s manager, Rock, guided him from the ring and shoved aside fans as they headed to the locker room. He placed the tired boxer onto a bench and began removing Roy’s gloves and unwinding the bandages beneath. "You really took it to him, man. You were beautiful!"

Roy breathed in a deep breath to steady himself. "Yeah, Rock. It was kind of quick though. I just hope that the fans got their money’s worth." Roy hated to disappoint his fans; they had stood by him in the lean times.

"Don’t worry about it. The fans come to see Sweet Roy, and you always deliver," Rock replied with a grin.

~~~~~~~~

Blair guided Jim back to the locker room through a crowd of reporters. "You’ll really like Roy, Jim. He’s such a great guy." Blair flashed his backstage pass at the security guard on duty. He felt Jim moving to his back, and the press of people against him disappeared as Jim took on the brunt of it.

The guard opened the door, and Blair caught a glimpse of Roy. He tried as hard as he could to contain his excitement, but he found himself bouncing up and down. It had been so long since he had seen Roy. "Hey, I hear there is someone here claiming to be the best fighter in the neighborhood."

Roy looked up, trying to find the familiar voice. "Blair! What’s up, man? How have you been doing?" Roy rose from his seat and wrapped his arms around his old friend.

Blair returned the embrace. "I’ve been great. It’s so good to see you. I can see everything is going well for you though."

Roy released Blair. "Things have been going great for me. I have a lot to be thankful for."

"Yeah, I do too. Thanks for the seats. We were right on top of the action. That left hook, man. It’s still as great as ever," Blair replied, his body bouncing again.

Blair’s exuberance made Roy smile. He definitely remembered this ball of energy. "No problem at all hooking my old friend up. I was just doing my thing."

Blair smiled and pointed his thumb back at Jim. "Well, your thing won me twenty bucks off this fool. Sweet Roy Williams, Jim Ellison."

Roy held out his hand to the taller man. "Nice to meet you, Jim."

Jim shook hands with the boxer. "Nice to meet you too, Roy. Good fight."

Roy grinned and shook his head. "I can’t believe you bet against me."

"I figured you could take him. I just couldn’t see it in the early rounds like that." Jim took a hold of Blair’s shoulder and pulled him back. "So, how did you two meet anyway?"

Roy winked at Blair. "Would you believe a street fight?"

Jim’s raised his eyebrows in surprise. "A street fight?" Jim watched as Blair’s head bowed. "I have to hear this."

Roy eagerly started. "I was in Lindhurst to buy a car. And you know how Lindhurst is. Gang of white guys came up on me! They figured I was out of place, so they’d beat me up a little bit. They were doing just that until this guy showed up," Roy motioned towards Blair.

Blair peeked under his hair at Jim. He wondered if Jim would believe Roy. "It wasn’t really like that. All I was trying to do was talk everyone down, you know?"

Roy had always hated Blair’s modesty. He should be proud of who he was. "Yeah, yeah. Say what you will, Blair." Roy placed his hand on Jim’s shoulder and leaned closer. "This is how it went down."

~~~ FLASHBACK ~~~

Blair was on his way to the store when a commotion drew his attention. The sound of flesh hitting flesh assaulted his ears. Moving towards the sound, he found four white guys surrounding a figure on the ground. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that it was a black male, and that the white guys were beating on him.

"Hey guys," Blair called out. The odds were definitely not with the black youth. "What do you guys things you’re doing?" Blair asked as he approached the group.

One guy stepped in front of Blair. "This is none of your business." He looked the new arrival up and down and knew the boy didn’t belong in this neighborhood anymore than the other did. "I suggest you make yourself scarce."

Blair looked at the four guys, who were a lot bigger than him, and then at the young man still prostrate on the ground. He knew he had to do something. "Come on. Haven’t you done enough to that guy? I’m sure you have better things to do with your time."

Blair felt the guy’s eyes rake him over and became aware of the picture he presented. He was wearing torn jeans, a white tee shirt, and a flannel shirt. He felt the wind blowing through his long curly hair, which hung to just past his shoulders, and revealing the earrings in his left earlobe. The other guys were losing interest in the prone figure before them and moving towards him. Blair had enough time to mutter, "Oh, shit" before the guy talking to him took a swing.

Blair looked around frantically for a way out. He saw a loose brick on the sidewalk and dived for it throwing it at his aggressor. It missed, and Blair closed his eyes waiting for the expected punch. He felt the contact, and his head was knocked backwards. He saw stars and heard a bell, but it wasn’t until he gathered his wits together that he realized the bell was an alarm.

Blair was being held down by two of the guys, and his stomach was in agony. They were, teaching him a lesson about interfering, and Blair saw that the other two guys were still laying into the black youth. Through the haze of pain, he felt the guys slow their punches and finally stop. They were cursing, and he realized it was due to approaching sirens. He watched the white guys get up and run away. Blair looked over at the black youth and saw that he was covered in cuts and bruises, and Blair knew he looked the same. He then saw the pile of glass on the ground from the shop window he'd smashed, setting off the alarm.

~~~ END FLASHBACK ~~~

"When that brick went through the furniture store window." Roy stared at Blair a moment until Blair looked up. "It saved our lives that day."

Blair laughed. "It did create quite a diversion. It set the alarm off and got the cops there. And if I remember correctly, both of us ended up getting our asses kicked waiting for them."

Jim whistled. He was amazed at Blair’s ingenuity. "You guys had a busy day. Did you get hauled in?"

Blair replied, "Actually, no. The storeowner was pretty cool. We talked to him, and he didn’t press charges. He did charge me 400 dollars for the window."

Roy was glad that Blair had been there that day. They had formed a close connection during a time they both needed it. Roy was caring for his little brother and needed the outlet. Blair was a young student at Rainier and needed the companionship. Roy headed to his locker and called over his shoulder, "Which reminds me of something."

Jim leaned towards Blair. "A brick through the window, Chief?"

Blair held his hands up. "It wasn’t like I planned to do it. I missed my target."

Jim ruffled his buddy’s hair. "It was still pretty creative. Only you can get yourself into these messes."

Roy opened his locker and pulled out his roll of cash. He peeled off two bills. When the window had been broken, Blair had paid the bill, so Roy would have enough money to put food in the house. Bringing the money back to Blair, he stuffed the two hundred dollars into Blair’s hand. "Here you are, brother."

Blair stared down into his fist at the money and was surprised. "What's this, man?"

Roy explained, "This is my half of the store window. I really appreciate you being there when I needed you." Roy was distracted when Rock called to him.

"Hey, Roy, get a move on. We have a party to get to." Rock was putting on his coat and leaving the locker room through the back door.

Roy motioned his acknowledgement. "Okay, okay, okay." Roy turned to Jim and Blair. "Look, we have a party going on tonight at the Twilight Club. Why don't you stop by? I'll leave your name at the door. Just tell them who you are, and they'll let you in."

Blair hugged Roy goodbye. "We'll be there. It’s good seeing you again,"

Roy released Blair and turned to Jim. "Good to meet you, too, Jim."

Jim shook Roy’s hand. "Thanks, Roy. Good fight."

Roy laughed and pointed at Jim. "From now on, don't forget. Always bet on me."

Jim chuckled. "All right, man. I won’t forget."

Blair and Jim waved goodbye to Roy and headed back out into the throng of reporters. Jim placed his hand at Blair’s back and guided him through. "He seems like a great guy, Chief."

"He is, Jim. I spent a lot of time with him when I first started college. He helped me adjust to real life after having lived the nomadic life with Naomi. He was the big brother I never had." Blair stepped outside and headed to the truck. "Would you mind if we stopped at the party?"

"Not at all. We don’t have to be at the station until late morning." Jim unlocked the truck, and the two men headed to the party.

~~~~~~~~

The Twilight Club was lit by strings of white lights. A string quartet played in a quiet back corner, where the strains of melody floated over the gathering.

The soft lighting kept the atmosphere private and intimate. Roy used this to his advantage and gathered his family to him. Rock, his brother Jamie, and Jamie’s fiancée, Sharita, had joined him.

Roy stopped a woman carrying a tray of drinks. "Excuse me, ma'am." Roy took the glasses and passed them around. The last glasses went to Jamie and Sharita, "Here you go, little brother. Here you go, sweetie." Roy raised his glass. "Here's to that big left hook."

Rock felt full of energy at the win. He was glad that Roy had finally pulled things together. They had sweated the tough spots out and were finally champs. "We are on our way. Nothing can stop us now. This is what we sweat for, man."

Rock clinked glasses with Jamie. "Come on. Drink up." Draining his glass, Rock dumped the group and went in search of more action.

Roy was interrupted from his family victory party by one of his sponsors putting an arm around his shoulder. "Champ, I have some important people for you to meet." Roy pasted a smile on his face and left with him.

Jamie watched Sharita. Her eyes were glued to Roy. He was pissed. Roy would rather spend time with these people than his own family. He was also angry that Sharita was so obsessed with his brother. He was trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

Sharita felt Jamie's eyes on her. Tired of Jamie’s attitude lately she asked, "What? What's wrong?" Jamie didn't answer her and stalked off.

Roy made the circuit around the club, talking with his fans and other sponsors. The doors to the club opened and admitted Blair and Jim. Roy excused himself and approached them. "Blair, glad you guys could make it."

"Wouldn't miss it. What's good here, man? I’ve heard great things about this place."

Roy pointed. "The bar is over there, the buffet is in the back, and there are also plenty of gorgeous women to enjoy."

Blair laughed and cased the room, taking in the wide array of goodies. "Oh, I will."

Roy heard his name being called from across the room. "I have to go now. If I don't get back with you tonight, don't let it be two damn years before I see you again."

Blair raised his arm. "It won't. I promise. Just take care of yourself."

Roy hugged Blair. "All right. Take it easy." Roy released Blair and walked away.

Blair was ready to party and turned to Jim, rubbing his hands together. "Where do we start?"

Jim and Blair stared at each other and answered together, "Buffet." Blair nodded his head in agreement, and the two friends traveled deeper into the club.

Roy was talking to one of his fans when he noticed his main promoter talking with a group of people. He excused himself from his companion, "Let me say hi to my promoter." Nearing the man, Roy called out, "Mr. Collins, how are you?"

Collins put his arm around Roy’s shoulder and pulled him close. "Roy, you were spectacular."

Roy cringed at Collins’ touch but smiled anyway. "Thank you."

Collins continued, "My dear fellow, I've seen every one of your fights, and I had no idea your left was so, uh...impressive."

Roy pulled away from the enclosing arm, giving himself some distance. "Yeah. It can be quite dangerous at times."

Collins saw only dollar signs when looking at his boxer. "You could be the greatest ever."

Roy glanced around the room to find another distraction. There had always been something funny about Collins; he just couldn’t place it. He had to live with him though since his money had gotten Roy where he was. "Well, I think that was Muhammad Ali, but thanks for the compliment anyway. And thanks for setting this place up for tonight’s party."

Collins smiled at Roy. "My dear chap, the pleasure is all mine."

Roy started backing away. "Take care of yourself. It was nice meeting you all."

Collins watched Roy leave. How dare that boy just go? Didn’t he know where his bread was buttered? That boy had a lot to be thanking him for. He had gotten him this far, and Roy had just dismissed him like he was nothing. Collins smiled and turned back to his companions. "I’m sorry about that. It seems that a boxer’s job is never done."

~~~~~~~~

After Jamie had left her, Sharita went to sit at the bar. He had been acting strangely for a while now, and Sharita was worried that Jamie was pulling away from her. She loved him so much, but she didn’t know what to do.

Jamie was tired of not knowing what was going on. Every time he turned around, Sharita and Roy were together. He found Sharita at the bar and crowded in next to her. He demanded, "Is it true? I want to know."

Jamie’s angry voice cut into Sharita’s thoughts. "Is what true, Jamie? What is going on with you?"

Jamie couldn’t believe her. She and Roy had been having too many meetings together for her not to know. "You know what I’m talking about, so don’t pretend you don’t. I can’t believe that you would do this to me."

Sharita knew Jamie had a problem trusting people. "Jamie…."

Blair was heading for the buffet when he saw a familiar face. It was older than the last time he saw it, but it was definitely Jamie Williams. "Hey, Jamie. It's Blair Sandburg, remember me?"

Jamie looked up at the disturbance and saw a short man with long hair. He couldn’t put a name to the face. "Hi."

Sharita was glad of the interruption. "I'm Sharita Bailey."

Blair smiled at the young woman. "Hi, Sharita."

Sharita smiled back at Blair. "Nice to meet you, Blair." Sharita glanced at Jamie and saw that he was still upset. "Um..."

Blair looked back and forth between the couple. He felt an underlying tension. "I'm sorry, but did I interrupt something?"

Sharita kept her eyes on Jamie. "No, um... Jamie, we'll talk later, okay?" Sharita turned back to Blair. "Nice meeting you." Sharita stood from her seat and fled the area. She was doing her best to hold back tears of frustration.

Blair noticed how quickly Sharita had retreated and wondered what he had interrupted. "Nice meeting you, too. Take care," Blair called after her as she disappeared around a corner.

Blair focused on Jamie. "Hey, man, what's up? How have you been?"

Jamie looked the man up and down. He vaguely remembered the face. It wasn’t until he peered into Blair’s blue eyes that he recognized him. "Yeah. I remember you, man. You're that rich white dude that came around, slumming with my brother back in the day, right?"

Blair laughed. "Well, you got the white part right, yeah." Resentment was on Jamie’s face. "You're serious. What's up with the attitude?"

Jamie dismissed Blair’s question and put down his drink, walking away. "Enjoy the party."

~~~~~~~~

Jim loaded a plate with goodies from the buffet, including carrots, cheese, and strawberries. A rapid heartbeat caught his attention. Roy was motioning a very upset Sharita to come to him. She was shaking her head, refusing. Jim watched the two until Jamie joined them.

Jamie observed the little by play between his brother and his fiancée. Feeling his anger shoot through the roof, Jamie grabbed Sharita’s arm and started pulling her towards the club door. "Come on. Let's go."

Roy was surprised when his little brother dragged Sharita away. He really needed to talk to Sharita so they could plan Jamie’s surprise. He started after them and bumped into a new arrival at the party. It was Billy Atlas, his opponent’s manager.

Atlas looked up at Roy. "Lookee here. 'Sweet' Roy Williams!" Atlas laughed deeply, "Boy, you sure whupped up on my fighter tonight."

Roy swore under his breath. He did not need this confrontation. "Yeah. Tell Ruelas it was nothing personal. I hope everything's all right."

Atlas tapped his cane on the floor. "I will." Looking over the man who could make him rich, he added, "You and I ought to have us a little talk."

Roy sucked in a deep breath to contain his anger. "I already have a handler, Mr. Atlas."

Atlas puffed his chest up and tapped it with his ivory-headed cane. "Mr. Atlas knows people that Rock doesn't."

Roy moved closer to his antagonist, threatening, "Two years ago, when I signed with Rock instead of you, you put word out I was a nothing punk and fixed it where I couldn't get fights. Why should I trust you with my career now?"

Atlas lowered his cane. "I was wrong, Roy. Give me a shot. I can make you millions"

Roy stared Atlas in the eyes. "I'd rather starve." Roy turned away under the watchful eye of the rest of the party guests.

Atlas gestured grandly with his cane, "Sweet, I'd be careful what bridges I burn. I mean, you don't want to mess with that bright future."

Roy pivoted and advanced toward Atlas, a look of rage on his face. "That supposed to be a threat? You think I'm some kind of chump that you can just throw your weight around on?" Roy was held back by two security guards and fought against it.

Atlas smiled, feeling safe. "Roy, Roy, Roy, we’re only talking here." Atlas chuckled at his win. Roy was walking away from him. He couldn’t touch old Atlas. "Yeah, yeah. Just talking"

~~~~~~~~

The day after the fight, Jim was working at his desk, waiting for Blair to come in to help him. He glanced up when Blair walked in the door shadow boxing. Jim grinned at his partner’s antics. He was glad to see Blair so relaxed. They had been through some tense situations lately. Jim stood up. "Whoa there, Chief. What’s going on?"

Blair dropped his hands. "I don't know, man. That fight last night must have touched something primal in me. I had this dream last night that I was a boxer."

Jim laughed, "You? Involved in the sweet science?" Jim playfully punched his partner on the arm. "I have a hard time picturing that. I mean, the flowing silk robes and goofy shorts I can see, but I thought you were a lover, not a fighter."

Blair grinned back. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. It was fun for a little while though, you know? I would be following a great tradition though. The Maori staged hand-to-hand fights to purify themselves for sexual encounters."

Jim reached for his phone when it began ringing. "Got a particular female in mind, Chief?"

Blair shook his head no. "No, not at all, but it's always good to be prepared."

Jim picked up his phone. "Yeah, Ellison. Uh-huh. Where? All right. Be down in ten minutes." Jim hung up. "Let's go, Chief." Blair removed his coat from the coat rack, which caused it to start tilting. "Watch out for that left hook here," Jim said grabbing the coat rack before it could fall over

~~~~~~~~

Rafe met Jim and Blair in the city’s industrial park. When they parked the truck, he led them carefully into a culvert, steadily stepping down the hill. One officer had already slipped and fallen. "A homeless guy found the body in the culvert this morning. We haven't been able to ID him yet."

Jim moved around Rafe and looked into the drainpipe. The familiar body there made him turn around to check where Blair was. He was right behind him. Blair was always a great asset in his investigations, but this one would be different. Jim grabbed Blair’s arm before he could look into the pipe. "Don’t look, Chief. You don’t want to see this."

Blair searched Jim’s eyes. Seeing Jim’s concern, a sick feeling entered his stomach. He had to look, but he couldn't say why. As Rafe moved up the hill, calling for a gurney to be brought down, Blair jerked his arm from Jim’s hold and moved around him to look into the pipe. He barely was able to contain his urge to vomit. It was Roy lying there, face down.


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


Blair was barely aware of Jim guiding him back to the truck while the coroner loaded Roy into his wagon. He didn’t even get a chance to reconnect with Roy. Thinking about the family left behind, he said, "We need to tell Jamie, Jim. He's going to be devastated."

"We'll get there, Blair. How are you handling this?" Jim blocked Blair from any outside view. Blair was a strong individual normally, but this was a private moment.

Blair sank down into the truck's passenger seat. "I don't know, Jim. I don't want to even think about this. It seems like so many people have been lost. Janet, a couple of my professors, and you lost Incacha. It feels like there’s no hope. "

Jim put his hand on Blair's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "I know it feels that way, Blair. I can understand it. Let's go talk to Jamie. Keeping him together is the important thing. After that, we can go home."

~~~~~~~~

Arriving at Jamie's house, he answered the door in his workout clothes. "We need to talk Jamie," Jim said as they were let in.

Blair looked around the living room. The white walls were tastefully decorated with framed paintings. Family photographs were scattered on tables and on the walls. It was a simple design, and he could picture Jamie here. Even as a child, Jamie had never liked clutter. That was one of the reasons Blair and Roy had gotten along, they both loved collecting things.

Jamie showed his guests into his living room and sat down on the couch. They had serious looks on their faces. Jamie had a sinking feeling that Roy had gotten himself into trouble after their talk last night. Roy’s temper had a way of getting the best of him, and Jamie just hoped that he wouldn’t have to face murder charges. "What is there to talk about?"

Jim let Blair take the lead. Blair had a history with the brothers and might come across better. Blair was always better at breaking news of this caliber.

"I’m afraid I have bad news, Jamie," Blair said, while sitting down on the arm of the couch. "We were called out earlier today on a case. It’s Roy. Someone killed him."

Jamie blinked. "Killed him? I don’t understand what you mean. He isn’t dead."

Blair quietly spoke. "Roy was murdered, Jamie, but I promise that we're going to find out who did this."

Jim stepped closer to Jamie. "I'm sorry to have to ask you questions at a time like this, but we're going to need your help if we're going to find your brother's killer. Is there anyone you can think of that your brother squared off with outside of the ring lately?"

Jamie couldn't believe the news. Roy was dead. His big brother was dead. He had told Roy about working for Rock last night, and Roy had been pissed at what he had been doing. Now, Roy was gone. Jamie swallowed heavily and looked up at the police detective. "They all wanted a piece of him, man -- damn bloodsuckers -- every last one of them."

Jim questioned, "Anybody in particular?"

Jamie stood up and started pacing. "Yeah, Billy Atlas. You saw him at the party last night. My brother wouldn't play his game. He's the only one I can think of. My brother was an easygoing guy. Everyone liked him."

"That's a good start. If you think of anything else," Jim handed Jamie his card, "Call me."

Blair followed Jim to the door. Turning around, "If there's anything you need, you know..."

Jamie cut into the offer, "Look, the only thing I need is my brother, man, and he ain't ever coming back." The two men left, and Jamie climbed the stairs to his bedroom to get dressed.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair returned to Major Crimes, Jim knocked on Simon's door, and Simon called out, "Come in."

At Simon's invitation, Jim entered the office with Blair coming in behind him. Jim shut the door. "Captain?"

Simon stood and greeted his men, "Yeah." He then offered his condolences, "Blair, I heard about your friend. I'm sorry. If there's anything I can do to help..."

Blair worked up a weak smile. "Thanks but getting the killer is all that I need."

Simon straightened up, "Right. What do we have so far, Jim?"

Jim played with the file in his hands. "We've established Williams was killed somewhere and placed in that culvert where we found him. He died from a single blunt-force trauma to the head. Skull tissue scrapings revealed a fragment of ivory."

Simon responded, "Any conclusions?"

Blair’s head shot up at the question. "It means Billy Atlas. I mean, everybody knows that he has an ivory-handled cane. We saw it ourselves."

Jim glanced at Blair, "It's somewhat circumstantial though, Captain. Atlas and Roy got into it at the party. Atlas wanted to get his hooks into Roy..."

Blair interrupted Jim, his voice shaking a little, "Roy said, ‘over my dead body...’ And guess what?"

Simon addressed Blair, "Slow down, Sandburg. We need to go about this the right way. Any other leads?"

Blair interrupted Simon, "What do you mean ‘slow down’? Why don't we pick this guy up?"

Simon turned again to Blair and suppressed his anger. He knew Blair had lost an old friend. "We are going to talk to him, okay? We just need to cover all of out bases. Now I seem to remember Roy had some run-ins with the law."

Jim broke in before Blair could, "That's correct, sir, mostly juvenile offenses -- street fights -- that sort of thing. Nothing serious."

Blair replied, "That was a long time ago. That shouldn't even be an issue."

Simon and Jim exchanged looks. Simon directed his next statement to Jim; "Perhaps his past is catching up."

Blair couldn't believe they were still on the subject. "Or perhaps you both are blaming the victim here."

Jim kept his sigh to himself. "We're just trying to cover all the angles here, Chief."

Blair cut Jim off, "Well, those angles suck, Jim."

Simon stood up from his chair. "Sandburg, would you wait outside, please?"

Blair glared at his two friends. He couldn't believe the day he was having. He threw up his hands and stalked from the office.

Simon walked around his desk and stood in front of Jim. "What's wrong with the kid? I've never seen him so cranked up. I know he just lost his friend but..."

Jim sighed, "I'm sorry, Captain. I'll talk to him and tell him to keep his calm." Jim moved towards the office door.

Simon sighed. "If you can't, I may pull his credentials on this one." Simon knew Blair could help with then case, but he was going to self-explode if he couldn't contain his emotions.

"Yes, sir. Understood." Jim exited the office, and he couldn't see Blair anywhere. He stretched his hearing out and couldn't find the familiar heartbeat. Blair had left.

~~~~~~~~

Jim spent a very restless night in the loft waiting for Blair to return home. When eight in the morning rolled around, he gave up waiting and headed into the station. He had to prepare for his interview with Billy Atlas.

Jim examined the autopsy results on Williams when he got to his desk. He looked up when he heard someone clear their throat.

"Hey, Jim. I brought you some coffee." Blair held out the steaming cup waiting for his friend to accept the offering. He felt bad about storming off the night before, but he needed some space.

Jim took the cup from Blair’s hand. "Thanks. I needed this." Jim sipped the brew. "I really want to help with this, Chief. If Atlas did this, I need you ready to help me nail him."

"I’ll try and keep my cool. I’m just having a hard time believing that this is happening. Just be patient with me."

Before Jim could reply, the desk sergeant escorted in Atlas. Jim stood up and greeted the promoter. "I appreciate you coming down here, Mr. Atlas." Jim heard Blair muttering about medieval punishments for murderers under his breath and ignored it as best he could. It wouldn’t be helpful if he broke up laughing over the out-dated methods.

Atlas puffed up his chest. "So let's not waste any time, all right? Things got a little testy between me and Sweet, but I had no reason to kill him. I wanted to make money off the boy. I mean, a lot of money." Atlas chuckled, "Besides, I have an alibi for Tuesday night, and I do mean all night.

Jim leaned forward in his chair. "You seem defensive Atlas, but are you sure it's Tuesday night you need an alibi for? How do you know the time he died?"

Atlas sank back in his chair. "Hell, no, but I figure if a star athlete gets beat to death and thrown in the aqueduct, it's not going to happen in the light of day, now is it?" Atlas pointed to the phone, "Why don't you just give my girlfriend a call? Kamiko Watanabe. She's in the phone book, and she can vouch for me."

Jim changed his mode of questioning, "I noticed you're not using your cane."

Atlas shrugged, "I lost it at the party. I have plenty more."

Blair had tried to stay quiet but just couldn’t. "That's a strange coincidence, huh? Could afford to lose one then, huh?"

Jim cut in, " I suggest that you make an effort to find it. I'm sure it would be in your best interest to have it available to be submitted for tests."

Atlas smiled smugly, "With absolute assuredness, my brother, but I think you ought to be looking at someone a little closer to home."

Jim asked, "Such as...?"

Atlas leaned forward in his chair. "Such as the brother, Jamie."

Blair jumped up. "Jamie, my ass! What are you talking about? I mean, after their parents died, Roy practically raised him, gave him a job. He gave him a life!"

Atlas scrutinized the longhaired young man. "And Jamie resented the hell out of him. He was tired of living in his older brother's shadow. And then, of course, there's the lovely Sharita."

Jim remembered the interchange between Roy and Sharita at the party. "Meaning what?"

Atlas smiled. He had the detective in the palm of his hand. "Meaning...the way I hear it, the Williams brothers shared a lot more than their name -- know what I mean?"

Blair was majorly pissed. Not only was Atlas blaming Jamie, he was trying to pin something on Sharita. She seemed like such a sweet girl. Blair jumped from his seat and shouted, "Oh, come on!" Not being able to take anymore, Blair practically ran from the room.

Jim rose from his seat. "Excuse me." Jim moved from the bullpen into the hallway and raced after Blair.

Atlas stood and called after the retreating pair, "Yeah, sure, man. Take your time. I got all day!"

Jim ignored Atlas and continued towards his partner. Blair had reached the elevators and the door had just opened. "Chief..."

"There is no way anything was going on between Roy and Sharita, Jim. Roy wouldn't do that to Jamie. That was his brother! There was no way..."

Jim put his hands on Blair's shoulders and guided him backward into the elevator. "I don't know about that. I caught a little eye play between them at the party the other night."

Blair sobbed out, "I'm telling you, Jim. He would never do that to his brother, ever! Trust me on this. Please?"

The elevator doors closed and Jim turned, freezing the elevator with the flick of a switch. He wanted to trust Blair and the memory of his friend, but he also had a case to run. "I know how you feel about Roy, but you’ve got to remain objective here."

Blair faced Jim with tears in his eyes. "I'm trying to, Jim. I'm trying. It's just that I'm so... " Blair hit the elevator wall with his fist to release some of his pain. "I'm just so damn mad, you know? I mean, he got in all those fights and no one has believed in him. Things were starting to happen for him and then this."

"I know you believe in him and Jamie too. I want to as well, but you have to keep your emotions in check. You let your anger run away with you, and you’ll have no business being on the case. Do you hear what I'm saying? We have to do this by the book. That's the only thing that will help Jamie."

Jim meant what he was saying. Bowing to his friend's wishes for the moment, Blair raised his hands in the air, and nodded stiffly. Jim unlocked the elevator doors and they went back to Jim's desk and Atlas.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair had discussed their options after Atlas had left, and they decided they would go to the boxing gym. Jim dialed down his sense of smell as soon as he entered the building; the reek of old sweat was strong. The rhythmic pounding of fists on canvas created a white noise that hid anything below it. Rock, Roy’s manager, was hanging on the ropes around a boxing ring. He was calling directions to two boxers who were sparring.

"Follow it in. Follow it in. Don't go flat on that. Just stay up. Stay up on your toes, now. He's going to get you. Stay on your toes. Come on, jab! Jab! Come on, Tiger! Get it right. Come on. Get off of there; get off of there." A whistle blew, and the boxers stopped. Rock called the boxers in to take a break

Jim and Blair went over to Rock. "Hey, Rock. I'm Detective Ellison. This is Blair Sandburg. We were at Roy's last fight." Blair was aware of two men following Rock at a discreet distance. He wondered why the manager would have muscle guarding him.

Rock replied, "Yeah, I remember you guys. I already gave a statement. What do you need me for?"

Jim replied, "We're actually looking for Jamie Williams. Is he around?"

Rock took a deep breath. "Yeah, over there." Rock pointed out Jamie's position.

Jim followed Rock's motion and saw that Jamie was one of the people sparring. He went over and spoke to Jamie, "Can I have a word with you?"

Jamie took off his practice gloves. "Right here is cool, but make it quick 'cause I told Rock I'd help him work out this guy."

Blair moved closer to Jamie. "Uh... Jamie, I don't really know how to go about this, so, here it goes." To prove to Jim that he was holding his emotions at bay, Blair asked, "How close were Roy and Sharita?"

Jamie was floored. The last thing he wanted was to be reminded that Roy had been involved with Sharita. The one positive thing out of Roy’s death was that Sharita was now all his. "Roy was the man, all right. Whatever he wanted, he got...including my woman and there was nothing me or anybody else could do about it."

Jim quickly responded to the statement. "Are you saying they were involved?

Jamie ground out, "You want me to draw you a picture?"

Blair tried to keep the peace. "You know that for a fact? They were seeing each other?"

Jamie replied, "Are you kidding me? I saw the way they acted around each other. The looks, the whispers... I'm not stupid. You guy done? I have things I have to do."

Jim stepped in front of Jamie as he tried to leave. "Just one more thing. Could I look at your car?"

Jamie stopped. "Like I have a choice."

Jamie led the two men out into the back alley to his car. He then went back inside. Jim checked out the front and worked his way to the back. "I don't get it, Jim," Blair said as he watched Jim work. "What are we looking for?"

Jim responded, "Well, think about it. Roy's body was moved after he was killed, right? Cain and Abel ring a bell?" Jim asked as he headed towards the trunk. "Roy was seeing Sharita behind Jamie's back. We have to disprove that motive."

Blair shook his head, "I don't care what Jamie says. I don't buy it. Roy would never stab him in the back. He loved him."

"The important thing here is that Jamie believes he was doing it. That's enough, " Jim replied opening the trunk. Looking in, Jim caught a copper scent with his nose. Investigating further, Jim found a red flake and removed it with his knife.

Blair looked closer at the flake. "What have you found?"

Jim took a deep breath through his nose. "It smells like blood."

Blair looked back at the closed door of the club. He didn't want to believe Jamie had anything to with this.

~~~~~~~~

Later that night while Jim was at the station going over some cases, Blair decided to go home and meditate. He had a lot of things going on in his brain. He lit his vanilla scented candles and placed them on the floor in a semicircle. Drumbeats circulated the air around him through the CD player. Blair cleared his mind. Images of Roy and Jamie floated in his memory.

~~ Flashback ~~

"Come on, Blair. If we don't hurry up, Jamie will eat our whole dinner."

"Isn't he your little brother, Roy? How could he eat that much," Blair laughed as they jogged to Roy's apartment.

"He may be my little brother Blair, but he desperately wants to be my 'big' brother! He's going to eat me out of house and home."

"Man we better get there then, man. Since it's Mrs. Hyatt cooking, I definitely don't want to give it up to your brother. I’ve had a taste of her cookies, I don’t want to miss a meal."

The two friends arrived at Roy's apartment and slammed the door. Two startled faces turned to them, Mrs. Hyatt and Jamie. "You're home, Roy!" Jamie shouted. The fourteen-year-old boy ran and embraced his big brother. "Mrs. Hyatt wouldn't let me eat until you got here." Jamie looked around Roy's body. "Who's this?"

Roy turned to Blair. "This, Mrs. Hyatt. Jamie. This is Blair Sandburg. He's that guy who helped me out when I went car shopping. Blair, this is Mrs. Hyatt and my brother, Jamie."

Blair stepped forward and offered his hand. Mrs. Hyatt shook his hand then left the boys to eat. Jamie wasn't talking much. Blair thought Jamie wasn't comfortable with his presence. Roy had told him the boy was shy, and now Blair could believe that.

~~ End Flashback ~~

Blair was jerked from his memories when the loft door clicked shut. He realized that the only light in the loft was from his candles. Night was stealing into the loft through the balcony doors. Jim was home, so he turned off the stereo with the remote.

Jim hung up his coat. "Hey there." He moved to the couch and sat down just above Blair, who was sitting on the floor. "I've been trying to get a hold of you all afternoon."

Blair leaned his head back. "Yeah, well...I turned my phone off. I needed to clear my head, you know?"

Jim looked down into the blue eyes of his friend. "We got the preliminary tests back from the blood we found in the back of Jamie's car."

Blair was afraid to ask. He waited for Jim to continue.

Jim quietly spoke, "It was Roy's."

Blair stood up quickly and nearly knocked over a candle. "Damn it. I got to get out of here, Jim. I have to think"

Jim watched Blair walk into the dining area, "Hey, why don't we grab a bite to eat, huh? My treat." Jim wanted to give Blair room to talk.

Blair shook his head and stalked to the door. "I appreciate that, Jim, but, I have to be alone, you know? Will you get the candles for me?" Blair didn't wait for an answer. He left the loft, closed the door, and trusted Jim to take care of everything.

Jim watched his friend leave the loft and hoped he could pull it together. He decided that he would stay awake until Blair returned. Maybe then, Blair would be able to talk about it.

Jim turned on the TV and found an old gangster movie playing. Despite everything happening, he laughed. Larry the ape came to mind instantly. Blair’s determination to fill the ape’s mind with the television violence and the resulting mess in the loft brought back old memories. . Blair would get a kick out of it that Jim still remembered. It was much later when Jim was pulled from sleep by the ringing of the phone.

Jim answered the ringing tone in a sleep filled voice, "Yeah?"

"Hey, Jim. It's me, Blair."

Jim woke completely at Blair’s voice. "Chief, it's 2:00 in the morning. What's going on?"

"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, but, uh...I hate to do this; you mind coming to pick me up?

Jim got to his feet and started putting his shoes on. "Where are you?"

~~~~~~~~

Blair looked up from the phone and observed the two men hovering over him. "Well, actually I'm being detained at the Federal Building."

"What the hell happened?"

Blair was tired. He just wanted to go home and go to sleep. "They said something about counterfeit bills."


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


The rising sun found Jim, Blair, Simon and Federal Agent O'Hara in Simon's office. O'Hara was explaining Blair’s arrest. "We didn't realize he was one of yours, Captain."

Simon chewed on the end of his unlit cigar, "Didn't think you boys would go through this much trouble over a $100 bill. Is something going on?"

O'Hara handed the bill to Simon to examine. "Yeah. When it come to one of these."

Jim had seen the bill when he had arrived to pick up Blair from the federal building. "It's a fair printing job. A pro might be able to spot the imperfections, but your average John Public wouldn't."

O'Hara continued, "Most counterfeit currency's made on rice paper, but that one's made on 100% cotton rag."

Simon looked up from the bill. "I thought only the US government could get that."

O'Hara responded, "Yeah, well, so did we. What we're looking at here are average counterfeit bills printed on real paper."

Blair spoke up, "Where does the US get their supply of cotton rag from?"

O'Hara took the bill back. "Only one place in the world -- Strand Paper Corporation in Michigan."

Simon moved to sit behind his desk and pick up his phone. "Perhaps we should give Strand a call, see if we can get an employee list."

O'Hara stepped forward. "Counterfeiting is federal jurisdiction, Captain."

Simon looked up at the agent. "Is that how you want to play this, O'Hara? I thought this could be a joint investigation."

O'Hara regretted having to make this decision, but his superiors wanted to keep it internal. "I'm sorry, but we prefer to work alone. Now, Mr. Sandburg, can you remember where you got this bill?"

Blair realized that he would have to cover their tracks. There was no way the FBI was going to take this away from him. He had to help Jamie, and that would mean staying involved. "Yeah, Chinatown," Blair paused. It could have been that new mall in the marina. I was shopping the other day. I travel about town, so I guess it could have been anywhere."

O'Hara handed Blair his card. "If you think of anything else, would you give us a call?"

Blair crossed his fingers behind his back. He could see that Jim was looking at him strangely. "Absolutely."

O'Hara walked to the door and opened it, "All right then. Good day, gentlemen."

Jim followed O'Hara to the door and locked it behind him. "All right." Facing Blair, he said, "Nice bit of footwork, there, Chief."

Simon was puzzled. "Footwork? Did I missing something?"

Jim looked Blair in the eyes. "Yeah, Sandburg got that bill from Sweet Roy. It seems that Roy owed Blair back from a past escapade, and it has landed our little trouble magnet into trouble."

Simon crossed his arms across his chest and focused on Blair. "So Sandburg, you were finding trouble long before you started working with us. That’s nice news to know."

Blair swallowed. "It was nothing, Simon."

Before Blair could get himself into more trouble, Jim pulled him towards the door. "Come on, Sandburg. We need to go talk to Jamie again."

~~~~~~~~

Jamie saw Sandburg and the cop enter the club for the second time. "What?" He asked, exasperated. He was getting tired of this. Couldn't they see he wanted to be left alone?

Blair approached first. "One of the bills that Roy gave me in the locker room after the fight was counterfeit."

Jamie could feel his heart pounding in his chest. They knew! "So what you telling me for?"

Jim moved forward. "Well, since the blood we found in your trunk is a perfect match for your brother's, the DA's close to pinning a murder rap on you."

Sweat beaded on Jamie’s upper lip and forehead. "Hold on, man. What about Atlas? I mean, everybody knows he had it in for my brother." Jamie had to do something.

Jim pointed his finger at Jamie. "Atlas has an alibi. You're lacking one of those at this point."

Blair continued, "The evidence of counterfeiting brings up a new line of investigation which Jim used to buy you a little time with the DA. Why don't you return the favor and just tell us what you know." Blair really wanted to give Jamie a chance. Jamie's next statement blew that out of the water.

"I don't know nothing," Jamie insisted, starting to walk away. He turned around suddenly. "I don't know why you keep beating this dead horse."

Jim could hear Jamie's heartbeat going a mile a minute. "Jamie, can you think of any reason why Roy might have gotten involved in counterfeiting? Was he unhappy with the way his career was progressing? Did he need extra cash or anything?"

Jamie said with intensity, "No! He worked too hard to get where he was. No way he'd mess around with fake money."

Jim heard the heartbeat slow a little. He was telling the truth. Jamie himself had to know something, though. "You sure about that?"

Jamie lowered his head in misery. "I'm not sure about anything anymore." Jamie left the room.

Jim let Jamie walk off. "Let's just have a word with Rock and Mr. Collins." On their way to the office, Jim and Blair found their way blocked by the same two men that were in the club the other day.

"Is Rock in?" Blair asked. "We need to see him.

Muscle-bound guy number one responded, "Just who is 'we'? Rock is a very busy man."

Jim took out his badge and held it up. "Cascade PD actually. We need to talk to Rock." Muscle-bound man number two opened the door for them. Jim and Blair walked in to the room and saw Rock and Collins talking to a boxer.

"Come on, Tiger," said Rock. "What are you sweating the fine print for? It's just a standard contract. You get to keep half of everything you earn after expenses, for life. You in or you out?' Rock saw Jim and Blair enter. To the boxer he said, "Go grab a coke. Think about it."

Jim put his arm on Blair's shoulders, indicating he should stay back. "Do you mind if we talk alone?"

Rock pointed to himself and then Collins. "We got no secrets. Ask away."

"Before Roy died," Jim began. He passed a counterfeit $100 bill. We think it might be connected to his murder."

Rock looked over at Collins then back to Jim, "Give me a break. Roy was straight as an arrow. There is no way he would do something like that."

Jim responded, "Well, maybe you could keep your eyes open. We think the bill might have passed through here."

Blair jumped in as well, hoping to stir the waters a little. "They aren’t very hard to spot. They're not very good."

Rock responded quickly, "Okay, if one turns up, I'll let you know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got a fighter to sign." Rock dismissed the partners and went to the door. He opened it and called out, "Hey, Tiger, get in here!"

Before leaving, Jim said, "Thank you." He didn't miss the eye contact between manager and sponsor.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair stopped at a hot dog vendor to get lunch after leaving the club. Blair said, "I don't get it, man. Jamie used to be such a great guy. What do you make of it?"

Jim took a bite of his hot dog. "Well, when I mentioned the funny money, I heard his pulse rate do a tap dance."

Blair defended Jamie yet again. "He was just working out, Jim. Of course his pulse would be racing."

Jim sighed. Blair was only kidding himself. "Or lying."

Blair looked down his meal and found he was not hungry. "You know what I don't get? What was the blood in Jamie's car? They used to be sparring partners, Jamie and Roy. I mean, couldn't the blood have been on a towel or some of the boxing clothes?"

Jim replied, "It's possible, but the evidence is piling up and incriminating him either way, Blair."

Blair looked at Jim. He was still unwilling to believe bad of Jamie, "I thought part of being a cop was keeping an open mind."

Jim looked at Blair. "My mind is open, Chief. I just hope yours is."

Blair returned Jim's stare, challenging him, "To what, Jim?"

Jim retorted with the answer that Blair didn't want to hear, "To the possibility that Jamie is the killer." Before Blair could respond, Jim's cell phone rang. Jim answered it, "Ellison."

"Jim, it's Simon. I just got a report of an explosion behind the alley at Rock's gym. It could be nothing, but you ought to check it out."

Jim looked up at Blair and indicated with his head they would be returning to the truck. "All right, we're heading over there." Jim hung up and spoke to Blair, "Let's go. We're headed back to the gym."

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair returned to the gym and found it blocked off by fire trucks and police cars. Flashing their ID's, they headed to the back alley, where the fire had been. Rock, Jamie, and another boxer were on the other side of the street watching. Jim looked back before entering the building and saw the three men. Rock left, heading back inside the gym. Jim guided Blair inside the building.

Jim started coughing as soon as he entered the building, "Oh, man." Jim circled around the room looking for clues. He followed a scent and saw a pile of ash residue. The smell was familiar. "What have we here?"

Jim walked over to a shelf and felt the residue. "It's paper. This feels like money." Jim put a sample of the residue into an evidence bag. He would drop it off with forensics and have Serena do a full work-up.

~~~~~~~~

While the police were investigating the building across the alleyway, Rock entered his office in the gym. He sat down at his desk, and Jamie stepped out of the shadows. Rock jumped at the surprise. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Jamie moved closer to Rock. "Cops say I'm going down for Roy's murder."

Rock backpedaled, "They're just messing with your head, man. Don’t believe what they tell you."

Jamie didn’t let Rock get far. "Who killed him, Rock? Who killed my brother?" He took a step closer until he was almost touching Rock. "Was it you?"

Rock held up his hands to keep Jamie at bay, "Don't be stupid. You know I wouldn’t do that. I loved Roy. He was going to make me a lot of money."

Jamie ignored Rock’s statement. "'Cause he found out what was going on." Jamie grabbed Rock’s collar. "Is that why you did it?"

Rock tried to pry away Jamie’s hands. "Get your hands off me."

Jamie shook Rock. "So you killed him, right? Huh? You better tell me. I want to know what happened!" Jamie shouted in Rock’s face. Jamie froze when a gun barrel was stuck into his stomach.

Rock watched Jamie back off. He had to salvage the situation. "Now, look, kid. You've got to keep it together. Go up to my place in the mountains." Rock dug in his desk drawer and gave him a set of keys. "Take your girl. Get off and then get drunk. It's been a tough week. What do you say, huh? Let’s leave this office on friendly terms?"

Jamie backed from the office, still aware of the gun that was displayed. "Not till I find out the truth. My brother deserves to have his murderer found." Jamie left the office, leaving Rock frantically dialing the phone.

~~~~~~~~

Jim, Blair, and Simon were in the break room talking about the case. It had been a rough day. Jim poured himself a cup of coffee. "Forensics confirmed the ash was 100% cotton rag. It's my guess that someone was trying to burn counterfeit money."

Simon took a sip of his coffee. "Why would anybody burn counterfeit money?"

Moving back to the bullpen, Blair responded, "Well, bad counterfeit, sir. That's the information we had just given Rock Oldman before the fire started. I’d say that’s a good indication he’s involved."

Simon asked, "Anything else prove Oldman is tied into this?"

Jim replied, "We traced ownership of the burned building to a shelter company he owned. The building appeared to be abandoned. In actuality, it was fortified for extra security."

Simon really wished he could smoke his cigar. Things were getting complicated on this case. "So why does a successful sports manager suddenly turn to dealing with counterfeit money?"

Jim motioned him to his desk where the files were. "We did a little checking. It turns out Oldman owes the IRS half a million dollars in taxes."

Blair continued the thread. He had helped with the research after all. "He's probably financing tax payments in counterfeit money."

Jim picked up again, "There's another thing, sir. There were five-gallon cans in the burned building that contained this highly flammable chemical called oxalic acid. It's used in printing -- as in money."

Simon dug out his cigar. The case was becoming clearer. "Bring the bozo in."

~~~~~~~~

The next morning, Jim and Blair parked in front of the boxing club. Blair still couldn’t believe what was happening; why Roy had to die. "Roy was just about to hit it big. Rock killing him would be like killing the golden goose."

Jim shrugged. He didn’t know how the motives were working in this case. "Unless he felt Roy was going to leave him."

"But you said when Atlas tried to get him to jump ship he wasn't interested," stated Blair.

Jim replied, "Maybe not in signing with Atlas, but maybe there was somebody else." Jim and Blair entered the gym doors.

Blair said, "Well...I don't know about that. I mean, loyalty was really important to Roy, and Rock was with him through the thin years. I don’t believe he would do that." The pair entered the main room and found it empty. Blair’s voice cut the silence, "Where is everybody?"

Jim held up his hand when he heard a rapid heartbeat and ragged breathing. "Sshhh." He saw Rock's office door open and Jamie come out. Jim saw the recognition in the young man’s eyes before he ran off.

Jim started after Jamie and called out his name.

Jamie saw the two men and knew they were there to arrest him. He just knew it. With what he found in the office, they wouldn’t give up until he admitted guilt. He couldn’t allow that. He had to find Roy’s killer. Jamie exited out the back door and found a pallet to put underneath the knob on the other side. He felt the door move a bit, but it held. He headed out to find a place to hole up. He needed supplies. He would call Sharita. She would bring him some things.

Jim tried opening the door, but it was jammed shut, "He's got something wedged on the other end of it."

Blair didn’t understand what happened. "Why is he running from us? Doesn’t he know we only want to help him?"

Jim sniffed the air. "There might be a reason back there." Jim pointed to Rock’s office. "I smell blood." Jim led the way to the office and opened the door. Rock was lying on his desk. He was dead.
 

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


Back at Major Crimes that evening, Jim, Blair, and Simon met again. "Rock Oldman was killed by a .38 fired from about five feet away," Jim said. "Jamie Williams owns a .38 Smith & Wesson he bought two years ago."

Blair interrupted. "So? What does that mean? Even I know that a .38 caliber handgun is the most common handgun in the world."

Simon ignored Blair’s outburst. "What do we have for motive? Why would he go after Oldman?"

Jim tapped the files. "Revenge. He figured Rock killed Roy."

Blair was pissed. Couldn’t these two make up their minds? "Oh, revenge, huh? First you got Jamie killing Roy in a crime of passion, right?"

Jim mentally cringed. Blair was on a roll now. "It's a theory, Blair. But…"

Blair interrupted and began pacing, "Now, you got Jamie killing Rock for killing Roy. Well, guess what, man? You don't get to have it both ways, Jim."

Jim held up his hands to stop Blair’s pacing. "Calm down, Chief. This kid barely gives you the time of day. Why are you so determined to defend him?"

Blair stilled and looked into Jim’s eyes. "He's got an attitude, yes. However, since when does an attitude make someone a killer? And you talk about me not taking this personal."

Simon cut in, "It’s the evidence, Blair. In both cases, Jamie Williams had motive and opportunity. Plus, in the case of Roy, we have the blood evidence. Jim, I want this kid off the street before any more bodies show up." Simon watched as Blair started moving rapidly back and forth in front of his desk again.

Jim was watching Blair as well. "We got a surveillance team at his house. We're also checking out friends and known hangouts."

Blair stopped pacing and shouted out, "Jamie Williams didn't kill anybody! I mean, what about this Billy Atlas? Where the hell is his cane? When the hell are you guys going to listen to me?"

Simon ignored Blair and spoke to Jim. "Let me know when you get a line on Williams."

Taking a side look at a seething Blair, Jim replied, "Yes, sir."

Blair pulled his hands back through his hair and restated his plea, "Why the hell won’t anybody listen to me?" Blair looked at his friend and was only met by silence. Giving up on even getting a response, Blair knew that he would be on his own. He had to get Jamie out of this. He had to do it for Roy. When Jim went to leave the room, Blair followed.

Simon didn’t let Blair get very far, "Sandburg! You stay." Jim left, and Simon addressed Blair, "Shut the door. We need to talk." Blair complied and came to stand quietly in front of his desk.

"What the hell is going on with you, Blair? I understand Roy was your friend, but you've been around long enough to know that police work is objective, not personal. You have to pull yourself together."

Blair held his breath for a moment to help calm his boiling emotions. "Simon, I work my ass off for you, and I think I have helped you put together a pretty good string of heavy convictions here. And if you ask me, I think I've conducted myself the same, if not better, than any rookie out there. I’ve already helped on this case too. Who do you think found the information on Oldman?"

Simon took a breath of his own. "Is that what's going on here? Nobody denies your contribution, Blair. You’ve given us all the help we’ve asked for and more."

Blair choked out, "Then how come the only thing I hear is ‘Hey, Sandburg, get out of the way. Hey, Sandburg, you're not a cop.’ It’s beginning to sound like an old record."

Simon stood up and walked around his desk to Blair. "Because you aren't a cop, but that doesn't take away from your contribution, Blair."

Blair looked up into Simon’s brown eyes, "Then why the hell don't you ever say it?" Blair felt his eyes water. He didn’t like how this was affecting him so deeply. His mother’s idea of ‘detaching with love’ was starting to sound inviting

Simon stuttered out, "Because I run a police department here, not some damn encounter group." This was not the conversation he wanted to have. He cared about Blair; he just didn’t want to appear too softhearted.

Blair sighed and walked towards the door. "Good answer, sir. It’s great to feel validated." Blair felt dead inside. His friends didn’t believe in him, and now, Simon resented his presence here. Blair only wanted to fit in and bring a piece of himself to the table. Blair’s hand was on the doorknob when Simon spoke up.

"Sandburg. Look, I don't know what demons you have dancing in your head, but let's clear up my end." Simon put his hands on Blair’s shoulders and forced Blair to look him in the eye. "If for any reason I have given you the impression that I do not appreciate and value the contribution that you give to this department...I apologize."

Blair saw the honesty in Simon’s eyes. He was telling the truth. "You mean that?"

Simon said back, "Yeah, Blair, I do."

A smile slowly dawned on Blair’s lips. "Thank you. That means a lot to me."

Simon removed his hands. "We okay?"

Blair opened the door to the office. "Yeah. Yeah, we're good."

Simon went back to his desk to sit down. "All right. Go on and get out of here." Simon watched through his office window as Blair joined Jim at his desk.

Jim was hanging up his phone when Blair joined him. "That was Rafe. Sharita was on her way to a bank about ten minutes ago where she got 300 bucks out of an ATM machine. Now she's headed towards the marina."

Blair followed Jim out to the hallway. "You figure she's going to meet Jamie?"

Jim replied, "I’m counting on it. Let's find out."

~~~~~~~~

Sharita was terrified. She didn’t know what to do. Roy was dead, and Jamie was pulling away from her. She loved Jamie, and she wanted to help him. He had been rejecting her, but she could prove her love now. Jamie had called up needing money, and she had removed some from her account. She was going to meet him at an apartment building downtown. She went inside, up a flight of stairs, and called out, "Jamie. Jamie?"

Jamie watched Sharita approach his hiding place. He stepped out when she came even with him; "I'm right here." Jamie wasn’t expecting it when Sharita hugged him hard. He gently pushed her away, "You got the money?"

Sharita pulled herself together and replied, "Yeah. I got it right here." Sharita dug into her jeans and removed a wad of cash. "I hope that's enough."

Jamie wished that their lives had gone differently. He loved her so much; "It's going to have to be."

Sharita questioned Jamie about his plans. "Where are you going to go?"

Jamie replied, "Rock gave me the keys to his place in the mountains but after that, I don't know." Jamie looked down. He was going to Miss Sharita.

Sharita tried to meet Jamie’s eyes. "Look, if you run, it's like saying that you did it. Why don't you just turn yourself in?" Sharita wanted Jamie to be around a long time. Running would just take him out of her life.

Jamie’s head shot up, steel in his eyes. "Don't you understand? The cops found Roy's blood in the back of my car. They think I did it. I'm going straight to jail if I turn myself in."

Sharita grasped at straws, "What about Roy's friend? Blair, wasn’t it? Why don't you at least call him?"

Jamie snorted. "Oh, please, he doesn't give a damn about me. He’s with them cops. Nobody gives a damn about me."

Sharita looked up with tears trailing down her cheeks. "I do, Jamie."

Jamie sneered. "Oh, yeah? That's why you did me the way you did, huh? With my own brother."

Sharita grabbed the front of Jamie’s jacket. "Oh, no, Jamie. Not that again. How many times do I have to tell you? There was nothing between us. Nothing!" Sharita said emphatically.

Jamie shouted back, "I heard you two on the phone, okay? I saw you two sneaking off together. What was up with that? You can’t tell me there wasn’t anything going on."

Sharita responded just as loudly, starting to cry, "Damn it, Jamie. Roy wanted to buy you a trip for your birthday. He wanted to surprise you, and he asked me to help."

Jamie felt tears seeping down his cheeks. "You’re lying. You better tell me that you’re lying."

Sharita stood back from Jamie, "I'm not. Roy loved you. I love you. How could you think we would do anything to hurt you? Don’t you know us?"

Jamie pulled Sharita into his arms fiercely. "I'm sorry, baby. I'm sorry, I...I just didn't know, that's all. I just didn't know, okay?"

~~~~~~~~

Jim entered the building Sharita had disappeared into and motioned Blair to stay back. He wanted his friend away from danger. Jamie was in a desperate situation and could hurt Blair if given a chance. "Stay right behind and be quiet," he whispered to Blair

Blair stayed behind Jim, but he was constantly looking about. Jamie was in here somewhere, and he wanted to be ready if he got a chance. Jamie needed all the help he could get, but he didn’t have a lot of people willing to give it to him.

Jim listened to find Jamie and Sharita before he motioned Blair forward. He wanted them to be able to come to a resolution before Jamie had to be brought in. Jim entered the hallway and called out to Jamie,

"Jamie. We'd like you to come to the precinct and answer some questions."

Jamie pushed Sharita behind him and pulled his gun. "I ain't going nowhere with you, man."

Sharita tried to pull Jamie back. "Jamie, no! Don’t do this."

Jim made sure he was positioned in front of Blair. He didn’t want Blair hurt. He was surprised when Blair let him. "Just put the gun down, please."

Jamie called back, never lowering the gun. "No way. I'm not going to jail. You understand?"

Sharita kept trying to stop Jamie, "Jamie. Forget this. Stop! We can work this out."

Jim replied, "Listen to Sharita, Jamie. Nobody's taking you to jail. Now just put the gun down."

Jamie had a gun. Blair could understand the anger and distrust, but he couldn’t believe Jamie would do this. He had to help. There was no way he would let Roy’s little brother get hurt. "We can't help you if you don't let us."

Jamie raised the gun towards Blair. "Just keep away from me. Just keep away."

Jim tried repositioning his body in front of Blair. "Put the gun down. This place is surrounded by cops, and there's no way for you to get out of here."

Jamie could barely keep the gun steady in his shaking hand. "Look, I'm warning you." Jamie swallowed against the lump in his throat, "Don’t come near me because I swear to God I'm going to waste you."

Blair removed himself from Jim’s protection and took a step towards Jamie. "Listen to me. Trust us, man. If you're innocent, we can help you, all right? But if you try to go out with that gun, they're going to shoot you, Jamie."

Jamie kept the gun on Blair. "I don't believe you, man."

Blair continued forward. "You have to trust me, all right? I'll go out with you. If I go out with you, they'll have to shoot me, too. Roy wouldn’t want you to do this."

The situation was too volatile, and Jim didn’t want to risk Blair. " Sandburg, get back here!"

Jamie replied, "You better listen to him, man. Just get away, man! Get back!"

Jim held his arms up and wished Blair would get back. "Settle down. Nothing’s going to happen."

Blair moved back to stand next to Jim. "All right, Jamie. I moved back." He felt Jim pull him backwards, and he found himself once again shielded by his sentinel.

Sharita cried out, "Jamie, please! Stop it! He’s right. Roy wouldn’t want you to do this."

Jamie pushed past his tormentors and ran down the stairs. He hit the front door and heard Blair calling after him, "Jamie, no! Come back."

Sharita cry joined Blair’s, "Jamie!"

Jim didn’t bother to call out; Jamie had dug his own hole. Jim concentrated on keeping Blair and Sharita from following. The gunshots heard from outside stilled the two people he had to protect. Jim led them down the steps at a slow pace, so they wouldn’t become a casualty of police fire.

Sharita knelt next to a wounded Jamie. "Oh, my god. Jamie!" She pulled him up to her. "Oh, god."

Blair stood guard over the pair as Jim called out, "Let's get an ambulance here. Come on. Move it!"


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


Jamie was hospitalized and treated for his gunshot wound. The next day Jim and Blair went to question him. They walked into the sterile room and found Sharita feeding him. Leaving the three men to talk, she left the room.

Blair addressed Jamie, "How are you feeling?" Jamie didn't answer him but looked away instead. Blair continued, "Look Jamie, you better start talking, man. Otherwise, you're going to get charged with something you didn't do and then we're not gonna be able to help."

Jamie turned and glared at Blair. "I don't need your help, man. Just like Roy didn’t need your help."

Jim saw a look of hurt cross Blair’s face. "You have two people who are willing to give it. Sandburg was ready to put his life on the line for you. You want to get charged with your brother's death and maybe Rock's, that's fine. Who are you trying to protect here anyway?"

Jamie decided that he had nothing else to lose. It wouldn’t hurt anybody now. "Look, Rock was using me as his bagman to help deliver his fake money. You know, at first, I didn't know what it was. I figured all those bundles were, you know, payoffs. One day, I took a real good look inside, and I knew what it was."

Jim prompted, "You say something to Rock?"

Jamie answered, "Yeah. I told him it wasn't right using me.

Jim replied, "But you went along with it, and he cut you in."

Jamie was tired and in pain. "Look, man, I needed the money, all right? I was so tired of Roy always having to give it to me. I knew it was wrong. It just kept eating me up inside. So later on, at the party, I told Roy what was going on."

Blair jumped in, "Roy didn't know about it?"

Jamie stated, "No."

Jim kept questioning Jamie, "Where did Roy get the bills that he gave to Sandburg?"

Jamie smiled to himself at the memory. "My brother loved to have cash on him, man. He always made Rock give him straight cash. When I told Roy that night, he got right up into Rock’s face. He was real upset. Next thing you know, Roy was dead." Jamie was frowning by the end of his statement.

Jim could tell that Jamie missed his brother. "Why didn't you go to the police?"

Jamie responded, "Look, Rock said he'd make sure I'd go to jail for helping him pass that money. Then he said he'd go after Sharita. Rock killed him, man. I know it was. I wasn’t going to let Rock hurt my family. There was no way!"

Jim prompted again; "Do you know who killed Rock?"

Jamie looked past Jim and into the hallway. "I don't know. I was looking through his office for money. However, I swear to you, man, it wasn't me. I found him dead when I got there."

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair left the hospital and went back to the truck. "I don’t know where to look next, Jim. I want to clear Jamie, but don’t know how."

"It’ll be okay, Sandburg. We’ll have to see who Rock was dealing with and follow it from there." Jim wished he could make things better for his partner, but it would take a lot of work. "Wait, wasn’t there someone with Rock when we talked to him the other day?"

"Yeah. Jeffrey Collins I believe. Rock wasn’t really concerned about speaking in front of him about anything." Blair had a gut feeling that they were moving in the right direction. "Thanks, Jim. We’ll get this guy…."

"Hold on a minute, Chief. We haven’t gotten him yet. Let’s tell Simon what we need to look for and then get something to eat. We need our strength to track this down." Jim called Simon on his cell phone and had him start pulling strings to get documents into Collins’ past.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair met Simon back at Major Crimes after lunch. Simon was working on the Collins documents. They knocked and entered his office. Simon glanced up at his men, "This Marshall County marriage registry goes way back. Why am I looking at this, Jim?"

Jim folded his arms across his chest. "Well, I remembered something when I was a kid, sir. My father ran in certain circles and I called him up. I found out in the '70s, Rock Oldman's partner, Jeffrey Collins, made his fortune in the lumber industry. Now, he parlayed those contacts he made there into a high-profile marriage. Read on."

Simon read aloud, "Elizabeth Fowler... Fowler? Why does that name sound familiar?"

Blair answered that question, "Bill Fowler, the pulp mill billionaire."

Jim continued, "Right. Old man Fowler was chairman and CEO of Strand Paper in Michigan." Jim smiled. "Ring a bell now?"

Simon returned the smile. "The same company which manufactures 100% rag paper for the US government."

Jim answered, "Exactly. It's my guess Collins is our counterfeiter, and this is where he's getting his paper from."

Simon looked up with a puzzled expression on his face. "Wait a minute, didn't you say Collins made a fortune?"

Blair smiled. "Yeah, he did, but he lost it all in the '80s on junk bonds. He didn’t know when to stop."

Simon asked, "Any idea where he might be printing the stuff?"

Jim took a sip from his coffee cup. "Well, we checked around some of his business interests and one of them caught my eye." Jim flipped through papers while taking another sip of his coffee. "It's a greeting card company in the Westlake district."

Simon looked up at his best team. "So your theory is Collins had Roy killed to keep him from blowing the whistle on the counterfeiting ring?"

Blair answered, "Well, more likely, he ordered it done. I can’t see him getting his fingers dirty."

Jim continued, "Right. Collins was probably afraid Oldman would roll over, so he had him killed. Roy’s death just shook too many things up. It wasn’t safe anymore."

Simon stood up and picked up his phone. "We'd better catch Collins before he destroys the rest of the evidence and skips on us."

Jim and Blair headed to the door to leave. Jim turned around. "All right, sir. We’ll be back in no time."

Simon dialed a number into his phone and began contacting his other detectives. They would go to Collins’ house and keep watch.

~~~~~~~~

Jim and Blair were heading out of the parking garage when Blair asked, "Are we going to Collins’ card company in Westlake?"

Jim replied, "Yeah. We got a unit standing by at his house."

Rafe, on the radio, interrupted them, "Delta 4, do you read?"

Jim picked up his mic. "Ellison, go ahead."

Rafe responded, "Yeah, Jim, its Rafe. Suspects were leaving the premises when we arrived. We're tailing them west on Capilano."

Jim thought quickly about the roads in that area. "They must be heading for Highway 6. They make you?"

Rafe replied, "Not yet."

"All right. Stay with them. Order a roadblock at the junction of I-6 and Welsh. We'll close in from this end. Ellison out."

~~~~~~~~

When Collins and his men met the roadblock, they were pissed. Collins ordered them to turn around and saw the unmarked police car that had been trailing him. Everywhere Collins turned, he was being boxed in. Collins ordered his men from the car to cover them. Machine gun fire echoed through the streets as Collins men traded shots with Cascade PD officers. Collins saw an abandoned rig sitting near him and ordered his men to secure it. "Get in," he shouted to his men.

One of his men got into the cab, and Collins stopped the other one, "We need speed. Lose the trailer." Once the objective was completed, the truck took off under a hail of bullets.

Rafe got on the radio and contacted Jim, "Jim, it's Rafe. Do you read?"

Jim and Blair were near the roadblock when Jim answered on his mic, "Go ahead."

Rafe continued, "Suspects penetrated the roadblock. They headed north on I-6 in a blue diesel tractor."

Jim watched as a semi-truck cab headed down the road from the opposite direction. He identified Collins as one of the passengers by narrowing in his eyesight. "All right. I got them. Get all available units to block off the exits of I-6."

Rafe said into his mic, "Yeah. Copy that."

Jim jerked the wheel of the Ford pickup and did a wide U-turn. He could hear Blair cursing under his breath at his driving. The cursing ended when Blair called out, "Whoa!"

Jim was on the tail of the truck when he was spotted by one of the men. "It's that cop," he heard one of the henchman call out to Collins.

What happened next would stick in Jim’s memory for a long time. He was sure Blair would relive it as well. One of Collins men was hanging out of the truck and fired a machine gun at them. The bullets peppered the front of the truck. Jim returned fire as best as he could, but he was trying to drive at the same time.

Jim and the hired gunman stopped firing their guns at nearly the same time; Jim from a lack of bullets and the thug due to the gun jamming. Jim's feelings of glee changed to desperation when he saw the gunman disappear and return with a shotgun.

Blair screamed out when he saw what was happening. "Oh shit, what is that?"

Jim swerved again and pushed Blair down. "Get down! Look out! Son of a bitch. What's next, a bazooka?" Jim pulled up to the side of the semi and struck them with the side of truck. Jim lost some distance and ended up behind the tractor again. Jim looked over at Blair and saw his knuckles were white from the strain of holding on. "You all right?"

Blair replied in a tight voice, "I'm fine, I'm fine. Just keep us on the road." That statement was punctuated when a blast hit the hood, causing it to fly up. In a direct refusal to keep them on the road, the truck veered off to the side. Blair shouted again, "Get back on the road!"

Jim responded, yelling as well, "Good god! Hang on!" Jim was even with the truck when his radiator began blowing steam. They hit the side of the cab then the two trucks split off onto different roads. The semi-truck cab continued straight, and Jim’s truck went up an inclined road, stalling out at the edge of a cliff.

Blair looked out his window and saw air. His window was facing the cliff edge, and he didn’t like the look of it. He started hyperventilating; heights weren’t his cup of tea. He leaned into the door to get it open. He failed. "My door's jammed, Jim."

Jim could hear the panic in Blair’s voice. He didn’t have any better news when he tried his door. "Yeah. Mine, too." Jim tried to restart the truck, but it only sputtered. "Come on," he whispered to the truck.

Blair looked out the back window and saw the semi coming towards them on the road. Touching Jim’s shoulder, Blair asked, "Where's he going?"

Jim looked up and saw the truck on a collision course. He didn’t answer but bent down to the task of restarting the truck. He looked up ten seconds later and saw the semi looming closer. "They're making a run at us." Jim leaned down and whispered to the truck, "Come on, sweetheart. This is no time for this."

Blair couldn’t take his eyes off his coming doom, "Look, Jim, anytime we get out of here, that'll be all right with me."

Jim replied, "I'm trying, Chief. Come on, sweetheart."

Watching the semi barrel even closer, Blair cried out again, "Come on, Jim. Get out of here!" Blair’s plea was answered as the truck turned over.

Jim hit the gas and felt the truck jump forward. The pick-up ran along the cliff edge before he swerved off back to more sturdy land.

Blair looked behind him and saw the fast moving semi fail to brake and go off the cliff.

Jim stopped the truck, and the two men exited it. They went to stand by the cliff and saw the smashed wreck of the truck below. There was no way anyone could have survived from the pile of wreckage

~~~~~~~~

The next morning, Jim convened with Simon in his office to submit his final report.

Jim started, "We found out who the inside man at Strand Paper was. Turned out to be a night foreman."

Simon sat on the edge of his desk. "Something's still bothering me, though. What happened with those ivory fragments found in Roy's skull?"

Jim answered, "They came from Atlas' cane, which turned up at Collins' place. He had his men kill Roy with it. He intended to frame Atlas, but never had the opportunity." Jim paused and looked out at his desk where Blair was waiting for him. "Any word on Jamie?"

Simon followed Jim’s line of sight and saw Blair as well. "I put in a personal plea with the Feds. It must have worked. They're willing to live with probation for his role in the counterfeit ring."

Jim smiled. "Sandburg will appreciate that. It's a good break for the kid. I hope he uses it. Catch up with you later." Jim left Simon’s office and joined Blair at his desk. "Things will be all right for Jamie, Blair. Simon bargained for probation."

Blair smiled and bounced on his toes. "See, you guys should have listened to me. I was right."

Jim guided Blair out of the bullpen and towards the elevator. "That's not entirely true, Chief."

Blair looked up at Jim with confusion. "What are you talking about? He wasn't guilty."

Jim bopped Blair on the head. "What about the counterfeiting?"

Blair moved slightly away from Jim and smiled. "All right. Fine, so, we were both wrong."

Jim replied, "So, where does that leave us?" He wanted to make sure he and Blair were okay. They had a long talk the night before, but both had fallen asleep before they could finish.

Blair punched the down button on the elevator panel. "That leaves us with you buying me dinner."

Jim cocked his head at his partner. "Oh, really. How do you figure?"

Stepping into elevator, Blair replied, "What do you mean, how do I figure? You said you'd buy me dinner."

It was Jim’s turn to be confused, "No, I didn't."

Blair poked Jim in the ribs. "What's the matter with your memory? Yeah, you did. Last night before your old bones fell asleep."

Jim caught on to Blair’s ploy but didn’t mind treating Blair to dinner. He had to play the game though. He smiled. "No, I didn't."

Blair smiled himself. It was great to be able to finally relax. Blair threw a fake punch at Jim and said, "This one's for Roy."


The End

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