by: Chrys

Beta Read by: Carla and Hephaistos
Written for PetFly by: David L. Newman
Rated PG-13

internal thought in *   *

~~~~~~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~~~~~~

Blair Sandburg took a deep breath as the green truck ("What happened to the red one?" he’d asked as Jim picked him up. "It was a loaner," the sentinel replied with a shrug.) turned from the brightly lit street to pass into the shadow of the police garage. *I’m really doing this,* he thought in some surprise as the truck came to a smooth stop just past a small array of gasoline pumps. *Wait until Naomi finds out,* he added with a small smile.

Hopping out of the truck, he walked around it to join Jim at the front, trailing the cop toward the doorway into the building itself. "Trust me," he said, his voice persuasive.

The other man glanced over at him. "It’s still not working. Let’s just go over it again."


The sentinel nodded. "Yeah."

Blair sighed. "What’s the problem now?"

"You got to drop that ‘thin blue line’ routine, okay?"

Blair stopped briefly in shock. He held up his hands in protest as he began walking again. "Oh, no, no, no, no. That’s some of my best stuff, man."

"I’m telling you, drop it."

The grad student shook his head, loose curls floating around his face. He met the larger man’s eyes unflinchingly. "Look, I may be a rookie in your little Dirty Harry world here but I’m telling you, man. When it comes to thesis speak, I am a pro."

"In anthropology." Jim shrugged. "The trick is to convince the captain that you’re studying police science."

"I will dress up in an evening gown like J. Edgar Hoover if you thought it would help. I want this partnership…" His voice trailed off as Jim stopped and looked at him, the detective’s voice hard.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there, Chief."

Blair sighed again. "Yeah, I know. I’m never to refer to us as partners."

"That’s right."

"I’m strictly the observer, and partner means a specific thing in the cop world."

Jim nodded. "Right. This sentinel stuff stays between us. I don’t want anybody finding out what’s going on with me."

"Okay, fine!" Blair looked away from the other man, his face set.

"All right?" The Sentinel paused, then continued in a slightly softer voice. "We talked about it, Chief."

Blair turned to look at him. "Yeah. I know. I just forgot."

Jim started to say something, then stopped, looking around warily.

"What’s up, man?"

Sniffing slightly, Jim shook his head. "I thought I smelled blood."

Blair grinned. "Oh, ho-ho! Man, you are good! I sliced myself cutting a bagel this morning."


"Man." Blair shook his head in disbelief, his mind already playing with the implications. "That is great!" He frowned. "Hmmm. Wonder why you didn’t smell it on the drive over here."

Jim shrugged. Blair looked down at his hand and laughed as he spotted a tiny red spot on the small cut. "Must have torn the scab getting out of the truck," he mused.

Jim snorted. "Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with sharp objects?"

The two men continued toward the doors, barely noticing the passage of a uniformed police officer heading deeper into the garage. If Blair had turned to look behind him at the sound of a trunk clicking open, he would have seen only two cops pulling something from a police car. Even sentinel vision would have missed the body curled deep in the trunk, hidden under a blanket.

Jim leaned against the wall of Simon’s office, chewing on a toothpick as he watched Blair try to convince the police captain to buy this whole thing. The grad student was good, he had to admit. He was calm, the wild man under control. But Jim could tell that Simon wasn’t buying it. The big captain was studying Blair, skeptical disbelief plain to be seen in his face.

Blair spoke again. "The central hypothesis to my dissertation is how the quality of evidence gathering at a crime scene can affect the capture of a perpetrator and ultimately the outcome of the trial."

Simon shook his head slightly. "And you’re requesting full access credentials to observe Detective Ellison on the job?"

The grad student nodded, flicking a glance over at Jim. Jim returned it blandly. "Yeah. He is the best on the force, isn’t he?"

Jim winced as Simon looked over at him too. "Did you tell him that?"

Pulling the toothpick from his mouth, Jim shook his head, silently replying to his captain’s question.

Simon returned his attention to Blair. "Look, Mr. …Sandburg, is it? You don’t seem like the law enforcement type. What got you interested in this field?"

Jim knew what was coming; he just knew it. Even after telling Sandburg specifically… he groaned quietly and turned away from the disaster as the anthropologist replied. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. Nothing he could say would help here.

"Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the thin blue line."

Simon nodded, his voice even as he repeated Blair’s words. "The thin blue line."

Blair gestured as he began to explain. "It’s that slender thread that separates the lawful and the criminal elements of our society. It’s a concept that dates back-"

Simon held up a hand to stop the flow of words. "I’m familiar with the concept. Could you excuse us a moment? I’d like to talk to Detective Ellison alone."

Blair’s face fell slightly. "Yeah. Sure. No problem. I’ll be right out here, man. Thanks. Great." He turned and headed into the bullpen.

Simon shut the door behind the grad student, shaking his head, and turned to face Jim. *His expression is not encouraging,* Jim thought. *Time for Plan B.*

"Jim, when you first told me about this guy I was expecting an academic, not some neo-hippie flower child with time on his hands now that the Dead have broken up. Frankly, I’m having a hard time buying that you want him on your tail."

Jim nodded, shrugging. "Yeah, I hear you, Simon." He shook his head. "This is a family thing."

The bigger man frowned. "Family?"

Smiling ruefully, Jim was grateful that his captain didn’t know him well enough that this wouldn’t have a chance of working. "Yeah. Blair’s my cousin’s kid. They’ve been supporting him through college for the last seven years. They figured if he finally got his doctorate he’d go out and get a job."

Simon sat down behind his desk, looking up at Jim. "And all this talk about you only working alone?"

"Look, even my dad called and begged me on this one. As far as I’m concerned he’s just another ride-along. Anything happens to him, it’s my responsibility. I take the heat."

Simon studied him for a moment, taking a sip of coffee. Then he shrugged. "All right. Have him go over to Personnel and start the paper work. If he can pass the security clearance, I’ll sign off on him."

Jim smiled. "Terrific. I appreciate it."

Both men turned as a knock sounded on the door right before it pushed open to admit Simon’s secretary, Rhonda. She leaned her hand against the door as she smiled at her boss. "Excuse me, Captain. Daryl’s here."

Simon grinned widely. "Oh, great. Send him in. Thanks, Rhonda." She turned and left, leaving the door open behind her.

Jim shook his head. "I haven’t seen Daryl in years. How old is he now?"

"An impossible fourteen. He’s been having a pretty rough time ever since Joan and I broke up. You know, plus the usual teenage B.S." He frowned slightly, then shrugged as he pulled a pistol from his desk and checked it before holstering it. "I figure this fishing trip, we might be able to work some things out." He stood as an unsmiling teenager entered the office. "Hey, there’s my boy!" He chuckled as he wrapped his arms around his son.

Daryl returned the hug briefly, then pulled his arms away, looking up at his father. "Mom wants me home for Sunday dinner."

Simon’s smile disappeared. "Yeah. Okay." He turned and gestured to Jim. "Daryl, you remember Detective Ellison."

Daryl nodded to Jim. "What’s up?"

Jim nodded back and smiled. "I hear you guys are going to have a hell of a weekend."

The boy scowled. "Yeah, the weekend of the dopiest party of the year."

Simon’s voice was tight as he responded. "Hey, all right, Daryl, we’ve had this trip planned for quite a while."

His son shook his head. "No, you’ve been planning so you don’t have to go guilt-trippin’ about the divorce and so Mom will get me off her back for the weekend."

"That’s enough." Simon’s face softened as he looked at his son apologetically. "I was hoping to get out of here by noon, but I got a call this morning about a lunch meeting at the mayor’s office."

"You mean I got to hang here?"

"Don’t worry about it." Simon grinned happily, and Jim could see the anticipation in his eyes. "I got you a copy of ‘Assault Force II’. That ought to keep you busy."

Daryl looked down at the box his father handed him, then up again. "I already beat that game, Dad."

Jim winced at his captain’s expression. Keeping his mouth shut, he moved toward the door. The other man’s disappointment was clear as Simon spoke again.

"Yeah, well, this time, try it without the cheat mode, okay? I shouldn’t be too long."

Reaching the door, Jim looked back as Daryl sat behind his father’s desk. "I’ll see you, Daryl." The teen glanced up briefly and nodded. His father sighed almost inaudibly as he joined Jim at the door.

Shaking his head, Simon paused in the doorway as he turned to look at his son again. "You be good."

Blair paced anxiously in the hallway outside the Major Crimes area, waiting for Jim to come out. He’d have waited in the room, but the other cops had kept looking over at him curiously, and he just felt uncomfortable hanging out in there. Maybe once he and Jim had been working together for a while, it wouldn’t bother him so much. *If they got to work together.* His face tightened at the thought, then relaxed. It would work out. It had to.

The door opened and he looked up to see the captain turning away from him and heading toward the elevators. Jim was walking toward him, smiling slightly. Blair gestured a question at him, and Jim’s smile widened as he shook his head.

"You should have done what I told you to, Chief. But it’s okay. C’mon, we need to get your paperwork started."

Blair grinned. "I knew the thin blue line thing would do it."

Jim looked at him and laughed. "Yeah, right, Chief." He walked past Blair, headed further down the hallway. Blair turned to follow.

"You’re telling me that my thin blue line rap didn’t put this thing right over?"

The sentinel growled softly. "I’m telling you that if you had listened to me, I wouldn’t have had to shovel the captain more bull than even you could dish out."

Blair shook his head as they walked. "Wait a minute, you didn’t give him that ‘cousin’ story, did you?"

Jim nodded as he came to a halt. "It was a last resort."

Blair glanced at the door, noting that it was the personnel office, before returning his gaze to Jim’s face. "And he bought it?"

"Yeah, for now. But from now on when I tell you to do something, you do it; when I tell you to say something, you say it, the way I tell you to say it, okay? Are we clear?"

The student nodded. "Yes, we’re clear."

Jim put his hand on the doorknob. "Very good."

"Hey, wait a minute, man. Time out."

Jim looked over at him curiously. "Problem?"

Blair grimaced. "Yeah, that, uh, sixteen-ounce cafe latte I had is kinda banging at my bladder."

Jim half-smiled at Blair’s hand gestures. "All right. Right down here." He turned to walk toward the restroom.

Blair laughed. "Uh, I think you can trust me to handle this mission on my own, Jim."

"You sure?" The sentinel’s voice was deadpan, his eyes dancing. Blair’s own sparkled in reply.

"Yeah. Thanks for the offer."

Jim shook his head. "It’s a tough one."

Blair laughed and headed for the restroom. Behind him, Jim shook his head, then walked rapidly down the hall to the Major Crimes doorway. Neither of them noticed the two uniforms entering the control room just past Major Crimes. Not even the sentinel heard the quiet gunshots, stifled by silencers, which killed the communications operators.

Jim sighed to himself as he studied the file laid open on the desk in front of him. Looking at his watch, he shook his head. He wasn’t even sure why he’d come back to his desk rather than waiting in the hall for Sandburg. The few minutes the kid would be busy weren’t going to be enough to get any work done, that was for sure.

Flipping the file closed, he glanced up just as Carolyn walked past. Smiling to himself, he stood and intercepted her.

"I tried calling you. Where you been?"

She shrugged. "Stuck in a deposition all morning."

"Ah." Jim grimaced in commiseration, then smiled again. "So where’s my lunch?"

Carolyn pouted at him. "You don’t have to be so damn smug about it."

Jim laughed. "I just knew your sister wouldn’t go through with the wedding."

"Right." Carolyn sighed. "Now on top of canceling her shower tomorrow, I have to buy you lunch?"

Shrugging, Jim grinned at her. "It wasn’t my idea to bet on it."

She smiled reluctantly. "My afternoon is packed, but if you can be ready in five minutes, I know a great new Indian place."

Shaking his head, Jim wished he could say yes. Maybe after he’d worked with Sandburg a little longer. But for now… "No, no. That’s too spicy."

Carolyn tilted her head to look up at him. "I seem to recall from our married days that you loved Tandoori."

"No, I still do, but…" Jim grinned evilly, "this afternoon I just kind of feel like…"

She shook her head. "We’re not going to Wonderburger."

"My choice. That was the deal."

Carolyn sighed and turned to go. "Meet me downstairs."

As she headed toward the door, Joel entered and smiled at her. After a brief exchange, he walked toward Jim, his smile widening. "Hey, Jim, did you hear about Alton and Morrison? They were just convicted for the ferryboat bombing. Life sentences for both."

The detective shook his head, his face grim. "That’s only two of them."

The bomb squad captain shrugged. "Yeah, but the way Garrett Kincaid disappeared maybe the Sunrise Patriots are gone for good."

"Yeah," Jim replied, his voice bitter as he drawled the word. "And maybe the sun won’t rise."

Joel looked at him seriously. "Lighten up on yourself, Jim. You got two of them put away for life."

"We nailed foot soldiers, Joel. Garrett Kincaid is still out there."

"You’re not responsible for every lunatic on the loose."

Jim laughed, his voice devoid of amusement. "Says who?" He glanced away, then back at Joel. "Look, I gotta run. I’ll see you later."

Joel nodded as Jim walked away. The sentinel left the room, walking down the hall toward Blair, who was leaning against the wall near the personnel room door. As he passed the control room, he heard a low voice say "Okay, let’s do this." Idly, he wondered what was going down.

Blair pushed off from the wall as he spotted Jim coming toward him. "Something wrong?" he asked, not liking the set expression on Jim’s face. The other man shook his head.

"Not really. Just thinking about a case."

"Um, okay." Blair turned as Jim pushed open the door and followed him inside. A dark-haired woman in a black dress looked up from behind the counter. Automatically, Blair smiled at her, thinking to himself that she’d be pretty if she took her hair out of that tight braid. She gave a slight smile in return, then looked at Jim. Once the detective explained what they were there for, she reached under the counter and pulled out a stack of forms, handing them to Blair.

"You’re required to read the manual, fill out the application materials, and sign the consent form."

Blair grinned at her. "Great, great. When I’m done with all this, I should qualify for a license to kill, huh?" His smile faded as he met her unamused look.

Jim looked at his watch. "We’ve got a couple of hours here, Chief. So I’m going to be leaving you in Vera’s capable hands. All right?"

The grad student nodded, his eyes focused on the top form. "Uh-huh."

The other man took a step to leave, then turned back. "Vera, is that White Shoulders that you’re wearing?"

Blair looked up at the question, keeping his face straight as the clerk smiled and blushed slightly. He’d been right about her looks, he decided, as her eyes sparkled. She could definitely hold her own in the right circumstances. She answered Jim shyly, "It’s not too much, is it?"

Jim shook his head. "No, not at all. It’s just that whenever I smell White Shoulders, it reminds me of my grandmother."

Blair groaned inwardly as he heard Jim’s statement. Vera’s face tightened as she replied.

"Your grandmother?"

Nodding, Jim smiled at her. "Right."

"Don’t you have someplace to go, Detective?"

Blair tried valiantly to suppress his laughter at the sentinel’s startled expression. Clueless, he thought. The man is clueless. He probably doesn’t get out much. Jim took a step backward, then looked at Blair as he replied.

"Right. Um, good luck."

Blair grinned as the door swung closed behind the other man, then looked at Vera as she spoke again, her voice still cold.

"Now, Mr. Sandburg, the department requests all incoming personnel to submit to a drug test. I hope that’s not a problem for you."

Blair widened his eyes. "Oh, come on! Do I look like that would be a problem?" He laughed nervously. "Don’t answer that."

Vera just looked at him. "We need a urine sample."

Blair groaned. "Now, that actually might be a problem you see, ’cause, um… I just went."

The man in the passenger seat of the white semi smiled to himself as the driver pulled to a halt facing the Cascade PD garage entrance. The smile faded before it hit his eyes. Reaching for a handset, he keyed it on as a green truck left the garage, his gaze idly watching the vehicle recede into the distance. His voice was soft, deliberately so, as he set events into motion.

"All right. This is Kincaid. We are standby."

Replacing the handset, he waited, the voices of his men coming across the radio as they acted according to his plans. The smile returned, his mind’s eye picturing the interior of the control room: the messages directing the cops already in the field to a tangled accident site, the look on his people’s faces as they cleared the building, opening the way for freedom.

"Well, that takes care of the Gestapo in the field. Now for the ones in the building." The words crackled over the radio, and he poised himself as the voice continued, slightly doubled as the radio picked up the announcement inside the PD. "Attention, all field units at central. Attention, all field units at central. This is an emergency mobilization. Repeat: this is an emergency mobilization. An airliner has crashed into the Wiseman Water Reclamation Plant just south of the airport. All field personnel in the building report to Sergeant Howard at the crash site immediately."

The police garage boiled with activity, and he glanced over at the driver, silently telling him to be ready. When the stream of police cars leaving came to a halt, he nodded once. The semi shifted smoothly into motion, and as it entered the building, Garrett Kincaid’s smile became briefly real.

It faded, leaving his face calm, determined as another signal came over the radio. The lockdown had started, and behind him the barred gates were pulling slowly closed as the Sunrise Patriots emerged from the back of the semi. A few uniformed cops remained in the garage, and Kincaid shook his head as he stepped out of the truck. *Too bad for them.* But they had chosen their path, and he felt no remorse as he shot them. His men fanned out through the garage, their weapons held in readiness. Looking around, Kincaid nodded as he caught the all-clear signal.

"Gentlemen. Let’s move out."

They infiltrated the PD, the men moving rapidly down hallways and into rooms, claiming the building as their own. Sweeping each floor, they herded their hostages before them, heading for their ultimate goal — the Major Crimes Department.

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

"Man, anything happens to me, and you’re smoked. My father’s the…"

Joel stared down the hallway in dismay as he caught Daryl’s outraged voice. The teen struggled in the grip of one of the intruders, Rhonda at his side. The bomb squad captain relaxed minutely as Rhonda cut Daryl off with a plea for cooperation. The secretary knew the drill, he thought. She’d keep Simon’s kid as safe as she could.

The two were pushed through the door into Major Crimes and Joel seized the momentary opportunity he saw. The gunmen holding him were distracted, paying more attention to their companions down the hall than to him or the uniforms with him. Taking one down, he ran for the stairway door, cursing his size as he moved too slowly. A gunshot reverberated through the hall as he fell, pain shooting through his thigh.

The gunmen cursed him, then told the other cops to get him up. Joel shook his head at the mute apology in one of the young man’s eyes as he was pulled roughly to his feet. Staring at the gunmen, Joel stood as straight as he could.

Their leader snarled at him. "If you weren’t a captain, you’d be dead right now. Let’s go."

They pulled Joel down the hall, directing the uniforms to deposit him on the floor by Brown’s desk. He panted for a moment, the relief of being still greater for a moment than the anger he felt at what was happening. Finally the pain receded, and he smiled reassuringly at Daryl, who was on the floor next to him. The kid’s face was almost white, he thought, and laughed to himself. He’d have to remember to tell Simon that. When they got out of there.

Pain shot through his leg again, and he glanced down at Vera. The clerk looked up at him with an apologetic shrug, but kept pressure on his wound. He nodded, laying his head back against the desk. Then Vera was pulled away, and he felt his own face pale as he heard an all too familiar voice.

Blair groaned to himself as he looked at the specimen cup he held. They didn’t need much, Vera had told him, her voice still chilly. But he wasn’t sure he had any. Maybe if he ran the water…? About to turn on a faucet, his head shot up as he heard an unmistakable sound. Setting the cup down on the edge of the sink, he went to the restroom door and cracked it open. His eyes widening, he closed the door silently. Looking around, he thought fast.

*Years of being small paid off,* he thought grimly, wedged into the bathroom stall, his feet propped up off the floor. The image of Joel Taggart, bleeding heavily from an obvious gunshot wound, floated before him. What was going on here?

He shook his head. He knew what was going on here. He’d traveled enough to know a takeover when he saw it. He just hadn’t expected it in the Cascade PD, that was all. Lay low, Blair, he thought. Lay low.

The restroom door creaked open and he held his breath. Most people… Yes! He grinned victoriously as the door swung again and the man searching the restroom left. People never thought of opening the door and looking in the stall. Never. They just looked for feet.

Then his grin faded. What did he do now?

Garrett Kincaid stalked into the control room and looked around. Disregarding the bodies in the corner, he focused on the two men standing at attention. They nodded at him triumphantly.

"Commander," one said. Kincaid nodded in return.

"Mr. Southern." He turned to the other one. "McBride."


"Is our building secure?"

The lanky man nodded. "Every entrance sealed and guarded. Elevators disabled, sir."

"What about the cops in the field?"

"All units diverted."

Southern spoke up. "Jammer’s operating. We got their communications completely shut down."

Kincaid smiled slowly. "Looks like we’ve got the whole city at our feet." Turning to go, he stopped in the doorway. "Keep an eye on things, gentlemen." Closing the door on his men’s acknowledgement, he strolled down the hallway to Major Crimes. Entering, he looked around, nodding approval at the number of hostages. That ought to make things easier.

One of the Patriots was fastening hands together with duct tape. As he watched, the man pulled a dark haired woman away from Joel Taggart and pushed her into a corner. He shook his head as he spotted the blood on the captain’s leg. Looked like he’d tried to put up a fight.

"Good work, gentlemen," he said, his expression showing his approval as he met his men’s eyes. "For once we can say that justice will prevail."

The police captain scowled. "Score one for the psychopaths."

Kincaid tilted his head and walked over to stand in front of the man. "Captain Taggart, I can see that that bullet hole in your leg hasn’t taught you any manners." Lifting his foot, he placed it deliberately on the wound and pushed down, stopping only when he heard the captain groan in pain.

A blond woman stood up. "He needs a doctor."

He snarled at her even as one of his own pushed her to the floor. "Shut up!" The young boy sitting next to Taggart jumped up, yelling the woman’s name. Kincaid reached for him, spinning him around. Pulling the ID badge from the boy’s neck, he smiled as he looked at it, then looked at the boy. He could hear the gasp of denial from Taggart.

"Where’s your daddy, boy?"

"Getting ready to kick your ass."

Simon Banks’ son was full of defiance as he spat out his answer. Kincaid admired that. But still… He pulled his gun and held it in front of Daryl’s face, enjoying the fear in the boy’s eyes.

Jim changed lanes as Carolyn pulled out her cell phone. "Checking my voice-mail," she explained in reply to his questioning glance. He shrugged and turned a corner. After a moment she looked over at him, her brow furrowed slightly. "That’s odd. I’m not getting anything."

He frowned. "Your voice-mail must be down."

His ex-wife shook her head. "Maybe. Let me see if I can get through to Dan." She dialed, listening for a moment. "It’s not going through."

"Sure your phone’s charged?"

She glared at him. "Yes, Jimmy. I am."

He shrugged, keeping the smile hidden. Carolyn was so easy to tease. She dialed again.

"Anything?" he asked.

She snapped the phone closed, shaking her head. "It’s not just my voice-mail, the whole phone system’s shut down."

Jim flicked a glance over at her. "The backup network should have kicked right in. Try 911."

He could hear the tone before she looked over at him. "Disconnected."

"Something’s wrong here." Swinging the truck around, tires squealing, he ignored the horn blasts and angry shouts as he cut off traffic. "Hang on," he said, belatedly.

Carolyn laughed as the truck raced down the street. "You never change, do you, Jimmy?"

"Nope," he agreed absently as they pulled up to the station’s garage entrance. Pulling the truck to a stop, he stared at the bars in the way. "Why is the gate closed? What the hell is going on here?"

Peering past the gate, his vision expanded unexpectedly and he cursed as he saw the glint of a rifle barrel aimed at them. Grabbing for Carolyn, he pulled her down onto the seat. Bullets zinged through the air, impacting on the metal, and he winced at the thought of the damage to the newly repaired truck even as he threw it into gear and backed away from the gate. Once they were out of the direct line of fire, he grabbed for the radio.

"David 152 to all patrol units. We have a field emergency. Central is under siege. Unknown number of suspects with assault weapons. Any unit respond code 3." He waited for a reply, but got only fuzzy static. Looking over at Carolyn, he could feel his jaw muscle leaping. "They’ve jammed all the channels."

Pushing the door open, he slid off the seat and crouched next to the truck’s front tire, staring up at the building. Hoping it would work, he concentrated on listening. Maybe he could figure out what was going on in there.

Random bits of conversation hit him, and he was unaware of his growl as he heard Kincaid’s name. He should have known. Pushing harder, further, he was caught unaware by blazing pain as a car horn blared near him. Flinching, he covered his ears and waited for the pain to pass.

Carolyn slid over to the driver’s side and crouched beside him. "Jim, are you okay?"

He smiled at her reassuringly. "Yeah, yeah, I’m fine." Returning his attention to the building, he took a deep breath and listened again. A key phrase caught his attention.

"Has he given his demands?"

The reply came from another man. "I don’t think Kincaid’s talked to the outside yet."

The two Sunrise Patriots lapsed into silence and a familiar voice came. "You talk to them like that, they’ll kill you, Daryl. These men are animals." *Rhonda was terrified,* he thought. *And rightly so. But she was keeping a cool head — if only she could keep Daryl from blowing his.*

"If we can just get one of their guns…" Jim shook his head as his boss’s son spoke. The kid was just like his old man.

"Forget it, Daryl. We’ll do what they say." He nodded in agreement with Rhonda, relaxing slightly at the teen’s grudging agreement. Pulling his hearing back, he looked around as a car pulled up behind them. Speaking of the kid’s old man….

The police captain’s face was puzzled as he walked over to join Jim and Carolyn. "Jim, what the hell’s going on? I couldn’t raise anybody on the radio."

"Get down. You’ll get your head blown off." He pulled Simon down to crouch with them. His voice was grim as he continued. "It’s Garrett Kincaid and his men. They’ve sealed the building and shut down communication. Our cars can’t even talk to each other."

Simon’s face blanched and he pulled away from Jim to head into the building. "My god! Daryl’s in there!" Jim grabbed him again, forcing him back into the shadow of the truck. Struggling to hold him, he hissed his name. "Simon! Simon, he’s okay."

The father’s face was desperate. "How do you know?"

Thinking fast, Jim came up with the possible. "I saw him at the window. He’s in the squad room with the other hostages."

Terrible fear was in Simon’s voice. "By now they’ve got to know that he’s my kid."

"Simon! Settle down. He is scared, but he’s unharmed and he needs you now. Hang in there."

The sentinel relaxed slightly as Simon began to think like a cop again. "You know, in these hostage situations, if you survive the first assault, you stand a pretty good chance."

Loosening his grip, Jim nodded. "Yeah."

Concerned eyes met his, and he looked away. Simon’s voice was low. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah." Jim swallowed, shaking his head. "Sandburg’s in there, too."

The police captain winced. "Picked a hell of a day to get the guy his credentials."


Simon pulled his cell phone out. Punching in a long memorized number, he spoke rapidly. "This is Captain Simon Banks. Get me the mayor. Yes, right now!"

After a brief conversation, he flipped the phone closed. Glancing over at the police station, he looked back to Jim and Carolyn. "The mayor’s got the fire department doing a full evacuation within a two-block radius. He’s also going to try to get word to the governor."

Blair breathed deeply, regularly, trying to calm his racing heart. *This is *so* not good,* he thought desperately. *Okay. Okay. I can do this. I just have to lay low and not draw attention to myself. Taking over a police station has to be pretty stupid, right? No way they are going to get away with it. The police’ll be here any minute now. I just have to stay hidden until then.*

Freezing as he heard the door open, he held his breath. Footsteps sounded as somebody entered the room. A tiny movement betrayed him and he gasped as his foot slipped. The sound of rushing water filled the room as the toilet he was crouched over flushed. He thought rapidly as he heard a gun bolt slide.

The stall door moved slightly and Blair kicked out violently, hitting the metal with all the force he could muster. Breathing heavily, he stood in the stall doorway, his eyes fixed on the man on the floor. His breathing slowed as he realized the man was unconscious. Tip-toeing around him, he slipped out of the bathroom. He’d have to find another place to hide.

"I called you as soon as he showed up."

Garrett Kincaid smiled as he looked at the monitor showing the view outside the police garage. Glancing up, he nodded at Southern. "Good job," he said absently, returning his attention to the screen.

"Thank you, sir."

"Poor guy’s got to be worried sick about that boy of his." Kincaid looked a little bit closer. "That ain’t Ellison with him, is it?"

"Yes, sir," Southern replied.

"Hmmm. McBride, give me that phone."

Dialing, he heard one ring, then a strained voice. "Banks here."

"Captain Banks." He drawled the words, drawing the moment out. "Garrett Kincaid here."

"All right, you listen to me, Kincaid–"

His voice sharpened. "No, you listen. Now, you’ve lost six people already. Casualties of war. Unavoidable." Looking at the monitor, he watched as the men looking up at the building flinched. "Your man Taggart is wounded and losing blood fast. And that boy of yours, god love him, he needs to learn to have a little respect for his elders."

Banks voice was tight as he replied. "I swear to you, Kincaid, if you do anything to hurt him–"

Enjoying the sensation of power, Kincaid cut the other man off. "Shut up. In twenty-eight minutes, a helicopter’s going to land on the roof of your city jail. My two men, Morrison and Alton, are P.O.W.’s there. You will release them. In thirty-three minutes, that chopper’s scheduled to touch down on the roof of this building. If my men are not on that chopper you’re going to have a hell of a lot more people to bury, Captain."

"You have got to release some hostages."

The leader of the Sunrise Patriots shook his head. Well, he’d planned on that demand. But he kind of thought the good captain might regret making it. Nodding to McBride to give the signal, he answered.

"Sending one out right now."

Simon’s eyes flew to the side of the building in front of him as he heard the crash of glass breaking amid the roar of gunfire. Angrily, he spoke into the phone. "Kincaid, I want those people kept safe up there."

Standing at his side, Jim cocked his head and whispered, "Oh, no." Simon ignored him, his attention focused on the struggling figures he could see just inside the broken window. He swallowed hard as he recognized his son, pulling helplessly against the grip of two of Kincaid’s men. The terrorists grabbed Daryl by his legs and pushed his body out through the window frame, letting him dangle headfirst toward the pavement stories below.

"Oh, my god," he said, moving toward his son, dimly aware of Jim and Carolyn at his side. The three stood in the middle of the street, looking upward at the screaming teen.

He could hear Daryl’s voice echoing off the neighboring buildings as his son cried out his fear, cried out his pleas for Simon’s help.

"Please don’t drop me. Daddy! Daddy, help me! Oh, please. Please! Daddy! Don’t drop me. Don’t kill me. Don’t let me die. Daddy, help me, please! Daddy, help me! Daddy!"

Sick at heart, Simon knew he would hear those screams forever, no matter what happened here. Numbly, he spoke into the phone still clenched in his fist. "Kincaid, you still there?"

"I’m right here, Captain Banks."

Warm amusement filled the terrorist’s voice and a rush of hatred filled Simon. Choking it back, he forced an answer. "I’ll be talking with the governor in a minute."

"Good," Kincaid said and Simon could hear the smug satisfaction. "Now, I don’t want any police, SWAT, National Guard, Salvation Army. I don’t want anybody showing up. Cause if they do, I’ll have to start killing more sworn agents of the United States of Tyranny. Am I making myself clear? And I’ll tell you something, Captain– I’ve got a whole roomful to choose from."

"I understand."

The phone went dead in his hand, and he lowered it to his side as he watched Daryl being pulled slowly back into the safety of the building. He closed his eyes as the last of his son’s screams faded from the air. Opening them again, he met Jim’s concerned expression with a shrug. "He made a good point."

Jim nodded, his face grim. "Yeah. He did."

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

Simon rolled his eyes in exasperation, looking across the street at the besieged PD. "You cannot just have them roll in. People’s lives are at stake. My son is in there!"

"I understand, Captain, and I feel for you. But I must be concerned with the lives of everyone else in Cascade. I have no choice but to call up the National Guard."

He frowned at the governor’s answer. He just wasn’t getting through to her. Sighing to himself, he tried again. "Begging your pardon, ma’am, but Kincaid and his men are stone killers with a reputation for carrying out their threats. If the Guard rolls in, we could have a bloodbath on our hands."

Her reply was dry. "If six of your people are really dead, I’d say we already do."

"What about the prisoners Kincaid is demanding?"

She responded quickly, her voice determined. "They stay right where they are. Captain Lomax in Tacoma is sending in a force to intercept the terrorist helicopter at the Cascade Jail."

Simon shook his head. "If Kincaid doesn’t get what he wants, I guarantee he’ll react."

"Since you’re the only one who has contact with Kincaid, we’re counting on you to control the situation until the Guard gets there. We’ve gotten the local TV stations to sit on the story. The minute people realize the police department’s been rendered impotent, the whole city could panic. What is the current status of your force?"

"I wish to hell I knew." He scrubbed a hand across his face. "We’ll do our best, Governor." Hanging up, he looked at Jim and Carolyn. "She wants us to keep things as calm as we can until the Guard arrives."

Jim shook his head. "In less than twenty-five minutes, Kincaid will realize that his men aren’t going to be making their flight to freedom and then the Guard arrives. Either event is enough to send that psycho off on a killing spree."

Carolyn moved to stand in the doorway of the small news store they were sheltering in and peered across the street. "What options do we have?"

"Well, I can get in the building and take my chances."

She turned back to look at the two men. "With his men crawling all over the place?"

Simon frowned. "Carolyn’s right, Jim. They got that place sealed up tight."

The detective’s face was filled with frustration. "There’s got to be something we can do. This is…" Simon looked at Jim sharply as he paused. His voice a shade lighter, he spoke again, his words directed to the store’s owner. "Tom, you have a fax machine, right?"

The Amerindian shrugged. "Who doesn’t?"

A smile flashed across Jim’s face. "Carolyn, have Public Works fax over a map of the sewer system in a four-block radius of the station."

A suited fireman nudged the door open, looking at the four apologetically. "Sorry, folks. Got a gas leak in the area. We need everybody to clear out."

Jim flipped his badge open. "Police business."

The fireman nodded, then looked at Tom. "Let’s go."

The store owner was already pulling his jacket on. "Lock up before you leave. The fax is in the office in the back." He grinned. "Gas leak, huh? Good story." As he followed the fireman out, Carolyn was already on the phone to Public Works.

Once again grateful for his small stature, Blair wedged himself behind the snack machine. Not familiar with the building’s layout, he’d seized upon the first hiding spot he could find. Hopefully the people taking over the PD would be too busy to think of getting a snack, right?

Laying his head against the wall behind him, he wondered if now would be a good time to start praying. Couldn’t hurt, right? Sacrifice. Yeah, gods liked sacrifices. He’d try that.

"God… god, please… Please, I promise, if you get me out of this, I will stop lying. I’ll stop lying to Denise, and Jill, and, um…oh, yeah, and Ann, and Ann too, right."

His mouth snapped shut as he heard the door squeak as someone pushed it open. Oh, no, this was not good. But maybe they would just get their food and leave. He’d just stay there. *Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up and go away!* he chanted to himself.

Footsteps crossed the room and came to a halt in front of the machine Blair was hiding behind. He heard the clink of coins and a lever being pushed, then an exasperated voice filled the room.

"Exact change? I’ve got some change."

Blair cringed as he heard a trigger being pulled. Three loud cracks filled the air, and he couldn’t stand it any more. "No! Don’t shoot!" Pushing hard against the machine in his panic, he scrambled out from behind it, casting a brief glance over his shoulder as he fled from the room. The man was lying on the floor, the snack machine resting on his chest. Even as he ran, Blair hoped the guy was okay.

Jim shrugged into his Kevlar vest and began wedging his fingers beneath the manhole cover. Simon’s voice echoed from his open car trunk. "I got to clean this damn trunk out one of these days. I know they’re in here somewhere… Ah. Here we go." Pulling out a couple of flashlights, he handed them to Carolyn. "Hold these."

Jim glanced up at his boss. "Give me a hand with this."

"All right."

Simon hunkered down beside him, and carefully they wiggled the cover free and lifted it to the side. "Watch your fingers," Jim said as they set it down.

"Yeah." Simon looked up at Jim. "I should have took Daryl with me. I should have left him with his mother. Instead, I left him in the middle of this mess."

Jim took a breath to respond, then almost gagged as the stench coming from the sewer filled his lungs. Carolyn’s voice pulled him back from the edge.

"Simon. Those are our friends in there. They’ll watch out for him."

Nodding at Carolyn, Simon answered. "Yeah, as best they can." Looking back at Jim, he shook his head. "How do you think your buddy Sandburg’s doing?"

"It’s hard to say. I don’t know him all that well."

Simon frowned slightly. "Isn’t he your cousin’s kid?"

Jim met Carolyn’s puzzled gaze, holding her eyes as he answered the captain. "Yeah. We just didn’t see that side of the family that much, you know." He relaxed as he caught her minute nod. He’d have to tell her something, he knew, but at least she wouldn’t blow the whistle on him.

Simon took a deep breath, looking down at the open manhole. Lifting his eyes to Jim, he shrugged. "Come on." Swinging onto the ladder, he started down. Jim moved to follow him.

"Oh man, that stinks."

Simon looked up at him. "You all right?"

Choking down the cough he could feel coming, he nodded. "Yeah, I’ll be fine."


He flashed a smile at Carolyn’s worried face. "I know. Be careful." She smiled back, her eyes still worried.

"Let’s go." Simon’s head disappeared under the street and Jim swung onto the ladder above him. As they reached the bottom, Jim could not suppress his coughing.

"I don’t know if I can handle this, Simon."

The other man’s face was puzzled. "Don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit?"

"Just give me a minute to acclimate, will you?"

"Fine." Simon shrugged and unfolded the faxed map. "Looks like we want to head down this way. That should take us to this opening right here in the garage. Come on."

Breathing shallowly, Jim followed his captain down the sewer pipe. *We’re coming,* he said silently. *Hang on.*

Joel looked up as one of Kincaid’s goons walked into Major Crimes and saluted. Listening to their conversation sent a small smile across his face.

"Fifth floor’s good, sir."

Kincaid nodded. "What’s the condition on Van Dyke?"

"Still trying to bring him around. That machine hit him pretty hard."

Kincaid’s expression was grim. "I want that intruder found, Nolan. Immediately, all right? Now, move it."

The Sunrise Patriot nodded. "Yes, sir."

Joel turned his head to look at Daryl as Nolan walked out of the room. The kid was leaning against him, still shaking.

"You hanging in there okay?"

Daryl looked up at him, his face still pale. "Man, why didn’t my dad do anything?"

Joel shook his head. "I’m sure he’s doing whatever he can do."

"Yeah, but he just stood down there looking up at me."

"Wishing he could trade places."

Daryl’s voice was sullen. "But he didn’t do jack."

"Don’t sell your dad short." Joel put all the assurance into his statement that he could. "I guarantee you’re the only thing he’s thinking of."

Without realizing it, his voice rose over the background noise. Kincaid scowled over at them. "Hey, shut up over there." As Joel settled himself against the desk again, he could feel small movements next to him. He smiled again as he realized what they were. Daryl was trying to get loose, was he? Well, it would give the kid something to think about.

Jim stood still for a moment, breathing carefully, while Simon studied the map of the sewer system. Finally, the other man looked up at him and shook his head. "There should be a bend to the left right here. Damn! We’re running out of time, Jim."

"Yeah." The sentinel took a slightly deeper breath, then frowned. "I smell gasoline. Where’s the nearest gas station to here?"

His captain shrugged. "There aren’t any gas…" He stopped and smiled fiercely. "The pumps in the garage."

Both men looked upward, Jim’s smile echoing Simon’s as they spotted the manhole just above them. Climbing up the ladder, Simon lifted the cover and slid it to one side. Pulling himself up, he froze as his head cleared the opening. "We’re going to have to move fast, Jim. The security cam is looking our way."

Quickly climbing the rest of the way, the captain moved rapidly across the garage, stopping as he got out of camera range. Jim swung up after him, pushing the manhole cover back. Looking up, he froze as he heard a hard voice.

"Copy that. I’m on my way."

Cursing inwardly as he heard the terrorist, he scanned the garage for Simon. The captain was about to open the door to the main building. Reaching for his gun, he called out to the other man.

"Simon! The door!"

Ducking aside, Simon did a tuck and roll as the door burst open and a gunman came through it, bullets flying even as he entered the garage. Jim aimed and fired in reply, but fell back as he felt a hammer blow to his chest. As he lay still for a moment, fighting to catch his breath, he heard two more shots fired.

"Any sign of the bogey?"

Southern looked over at McBride. To the side of the two men, monitors flashed, showing various images from security cameras scattered throughout the building. Neither man was paying much attention to them, confident that the PD was firmly in their grasp, the "bogey" McBride referred to notwithstanding. He shook his head. "No, but he took Van Dyke out with a vending machine."

McBride laughed. "A what?"

"A vending machine, and Garrett’s pissed."

"What was Van Dyke doing at a vending machine?"

Southern shrugged. "I don’t know."

McBride leaned back in his chair. "Van Dyke — the boy’s an idiot."

"Yeah," Southern agreed. Idly he glanced over at the monitors, then swore. "That’s Ellison!" Snatching for the radio, he keyed in a code. "Jennings, there’s an intruder in the garage– your level."

A hard voice came in reply, "Copy that. I’m on my way."

The two men in the control room watched as their companion burst through the door into the garage, bullets speeding toward the cop. Ellison returned fire, then fell back, hit with a direct shot to the torso. Exchanging glances of triumph, they winced as a second later the video went dead.

Their leader’s voice crackled through the radio. "McBride, those better be our guns I hear."

"Yes, sir. That was our ol’ buddy Ellison trying to be a hero. Jennings took him out but we lost our video in a fire fight."

Satisfaction filled Kincaid’s voice as he answered. "That’s all right. Good work, Jennings."

"Thank you, sir," the reply came.

Simon fired rapidly at the Sunrise Patriot, taking him by surprise. Once he was down, he fired again, knocking out the security camera. Hopefully, the terrorists would think a stray bullet had hit it. Heading over to the downed man, he checked his pulse, then snagged the assault rifle. Kincaid’s voice came over the radio, praising the man. Thinking fast, Simon altered his voice and answered, hoping the radio static would explain any discrepancy.

"Thank you, sir." Clicking the radio off, he glared at it in disgust. Across the garage, Jim struggled to his feet, wincing as he moved. Simon headed toward him.

"Jim! Looked like a good catch."

"Yeah," Jim said. "Right to the vest. Give me that thing." Reaching out, he pulled the rifle from Simon’s grasp. Simon released it easily, knowing the ex-Ranger had much more experience with the big weapon. Still, he missed the comfort of its power.

The two cops moved into the lower level of the PD, knowing that they didn’t have much time. Sooner or later, Kincaid would act. As they made their way toward the elevators, a huge boom sounded.

"What the hell was that?" Simon knew the answer as soon as he asked.

Jim’s voice was flat. "Kincaid just found out he’s not getting what he wants."

Exchanging glances, they moved faster. The stakes had just gone up.

Garrett Kincaid stood in the Major Crimes bullpen, looking idly out the window, ignoring the muffled sobs from the hostages huddled on the floor. He looked up as Nolan approached, carrying the phone.

"Commander, I’ve got Walters on the ground-to-air. We have a problem."

Frowning, he picked up the hand piece. "Talk to me, Walters."

The pilot’s voice crackled, the sound of rotor blades in the background. "I’m circling the jail, Commander. No sign of Alton, Morrison or anyone."

"I can’t believe they’re messing with me on this. What more do they need to see?" He shrugged. "Nolan?"


"Use the tow."

The young man nodded. "Yes, sir."

The helicopter pilot spoke again. "Kincaid, I got company. There’s a police chopper coming up on my rear."

"Take defensive action, Walters."

"Direct hit, sir," Walters exulted. "Direct hit. They’re down."

Kincaid smiled slowly. "Excellent." Replacing the hand piece, he looked up at Captain Taggart’s voice. The black cop was looking right at him, his eyes horrified.

"Kincaid… You’re insane."

He shrugged as he answered, his voice calm. "Relative to what, Captain?" As the cop just shook his head, he turned to watch Nolan’s preparations. Just then, the man turned to look at him.

"We’re ready to launch, sir."

"Do it."

A shriek filled the room as the missile launcher went off, and fire arced across the street to the building facing the PD. Watching in satisfaction, Kincaid smiled as the building exploded and crumpled into itself. He nodded and spoke softly.

"Well, let’s see if that didn’t bring them around."

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

Blair slipped around a corner, breathing a sigh of relief that the hallway ahead was empty. Taking a few steps, he stopped, wondering where to go now. He’d gone up several floors, but he still didn’t feel safe. They had to be looking for him by now — he’d taken out two of their men.

Swallowing hard as the sickening sound of the vending machine hitting the second man ran through his head, he leaned back against a door and closed his eyes. "It’s okay," he muttered to himself. "Just do your kundalini breathing."

His eyes snapped open as footsteps echoed down the hallway from the stairwell he’d come up just moments earlier. Turning away from the sound, he ran down the hallway, trying to keep his steps as silent as possible. Trying a door, he sighed with relief as it opened. Ducking into the office, he closed the door behind him, snapping the lock closed. Looking around the office, he realized he was trapped.

"Maybe they won’t look in here?" He shook his head. "Not with my luck." Moving around the office, he stopped as he looked out the window. A window washer’s platform hung just below the plate glass. He shuddered at the thought that crossed his mind and looked desperately around the room. There had to be another way.

But there wasn’t. No closets, no big cabinets. The desk had an open front, so he couldn’t even hide under it in the foot well. It was his only chance. Steeling himself to the idea, he picked up a chair and threw it at the window, flinching as it bounced backward at him. "Figures," he muttered. "Shatter-proof glass." An object on the desk caught his eye and he grabbed it, smiling as he felt the heavy weight of the marble ball. Tossing it at the window, he hissed in exultation as it splintered from the impact.

Swallowing hard, he moved to the opening, swallowing again as he looked out and down. Taking a deep breath, he clambered onto the sill, pushing the glass pieces aside carefully and fitting his fingertips into the metal edging. "I don’t believe this. I don’t believe this!" Looking down at the platform, he took another deep breath. "Okay, just picture yourself there."

Forcing his fingers to relax their grip, he dropped heavily, a cry of pain torn from his lips as his arms curled around the platform’s bars, the impact wrenching his shoulders violently upward. But he’d made it. Looking upward, he swore as he saw a silhouette on the roof, a gun clearly aimed at him. He cringed away as he heard the first shot.

"No… no!" he yelped, huddled in the corner. The man on the roof lifted the gun’s muzzle and looked down at him, then backed away. Breathing a sigh of relief, Blair twisted slightly and gulped as he spotted a hole in his jacket. Lifting his eyes to the roof again, he moaned as he saw the gun muzzle fall downward again. A shot rang out and he flinched, then cried out as the platform fell abruptly, a broken cable zinging away.

As the platform came to a rest after its fall, Blair stood carefully, trying to see a way off what he now realized was a death trap. *This is so not good,* he thought, staring at the two men in the window in now front of him, the guns they’d used to break the glass aimed directly at him. Seeing no other options, he raised his hands slowly, wincing as his shoulders protested.

One man lowered his gun and grabbed Blair, pulling him roughly through the window. He went easily, knowing he had no choice. They dragged him down the hallway to the stairs, not saying a word. As he was pushed roughly down the stairs and into the Major Crimes bullpen, he thought rapidly. Maybe he still had a shot at getting out of this alive.

Jim followed Simon down the hallway toward the elevators, the two men checking each room as they passed it on the off chance that Kincaid had stationed more than one man on the garage level. Reaching the elevators, they found one open. Ducking inside it, Simon quickly backed out, his face grim.

"They’ve killed the elevators," the captain said.

Jim shrugged. "Then we’re taking the stairs. Come on." Moving rapidly to the stairway door, Jim turned the knob, not surprised when it had no effect. Moving his hand to rest flat on the door’s surface, he swore under his breath at the residual heat he felt.

"I’ve got the key," Simon said, reaching into his pocket.

Jim shook his head. "No, no. Uh-uh. It’s been welded shut. It’s still warm. Come on." Heading back to the garage, he smiled wryly as he heard Simon calling after him in puzzlement. He’d wondered if the other man would be able to feel the heat in the metal, or if this was another bit of evidence of his sentinel abilities. Beginning to dismantle a motorcycle to get the parts he’d need, he idly made a note to tell Sandburg. It was exactly the kind of thing the kid would love.

Simon joined Jim a moment later, his mouth opening to speak when the phone rang. Pulling it out, he flipped it open. Jim looked up briefly, returning his attention to his task when he recognized the governor’s voice.

"No," Simon said, pacing in a circle. "Kincaid hasn’t called back. My guess is that he’s done talking."

The governor’s reply was resigned. "If he does contact you, inform him I’m releasing Alton and Morrison."

Simon exhaled in protest. "Governor, we could have a chance at stopping this on our end."

Jim grimaced at the motorcycle as he listened to the woman’s answer. He was always glad he’d never been promoted, grateful for the lack of back scratching ability he exhibited. He pitied Simon, having to listen to the governor make a complete turnaround in her position to the one the police captain had tried to get her to have in the first place.

"’Could’ isn’t good enough. The potential for loss of life has become unacceptable. If we hadn’t evacuated the area, do you realize how many casualties we’d be dealing with? My god, I never imagined we’d be facing such firepower."

Simon looked over at Jim and rolled his eyes. With difficulty, the detective bit back a laugh. The other man wouldn’t appreciate it, he knew.

Simon’s voice was patient. "With your permission, I’d like to continue our efforts here."

"Do what you can, Captain. And good luck."

Simon flipped the phone closed and shook his head as he looked at Jim. "Now she wants to give in to his demands." He sighed. "Maybe if Kincaid gets what he wants, he’ll walk away, and this whole nightmare will be over."

Jim glanced up at him. "Do you believe that?"

"No, not really." The big man reached for the roll of duct tape that was just out of Jim’s reach and handed it to him. "Got it."

Focused on what he was doing, Jim grunted his thanks. A few minutes later, he exhaled softly. "That should do it." Standing up, he pulled the motorcycle upright, gesturing to Simon to help him push it to the staircase door. Nodding approval of his plan, the captain joined in willingly. Placing it just where he wanted it, Jim looked at Simon inquiringly.

"Did you get the battery?"

"Yeah." Simon looked around. "Let’s use the elevator for cover."

Nodding agreement, Jim began to unroll wiring down the hallway. Breathing a sigh of relief when he realized they had enough, he and Simon ducked into the open elevator. Grinning at his boss, Jim put his finger on the switch. "I think old Officer Jackson will be needing himself a new ride."

Simon’s laugh echoed softly before the blast.

Garrett Kincaid’s mouth twisted as he looked at his newest prisoner. The man offended him. Bright eyes full of intelligence stared back at him. Resting a hand on his gun, Kincaid leaned forward a little. "Are you the mole that took out two of my men?" He pulled the gun and held it to his hostage’s face. "In this militia, that’s a capital offense."

The man’s eyes flickered down to look at the gun, then returned to Kincaid’s face. "Hey, man, you don’t want to do that, believe me. I’m worth more to you as a live hostage than a dead body."

Almost growling, Kincaid ran the gun along his prisoner’s cheek. "What makes you think that your sorry ass is worth anything to anybody?"

"Banks sent me in."

Kincaid laughed disbelievingly. "You’re a cop?"

The man nodded. "Yeah. Lieutenant Sandburg, Narcotics. I’ve been teamed with Ellison."

"He’s telling the truth, Kincaid!"

The irritating voice of Captain Taggart filled the air, and Kincaid’s eyes narrowed. Turning swiftly, he aimed at the cop, lifting the gun just a hair as he squeezed the trigger so that the bullet hit the desk instead of plowing through flesh. "Shut up!" Turning back toward Sandburg, he stopped as Nolan came into the room, carrying the portable phone.

"Commander! Commander…" Nolan said, a smile on his face. "It’s Walters."

Picking up the phone, Kincaid let his eyes drift back to Sandburg as he spoke. "Go, Walters."

"They just brought out our P.O.W.’s. I’m dropping down to retrieve them, sir."

A slow smile spread across Kincaid’s face. "Good work, Walters. Sometimes all it takes is just a little persuasion." Hanging up the phone and gesturing Nolan out of the room, he wrapped a hand in Sandburg’s collar, pushing the smaller man back against a desk and leaning forward, close to him. "Looks like the execution’s off." Running his eyes over the Vice cop’s face, he let the smile widen. "I guess I could use a man like you."

Just then an explosion sounded, rocking through the room. Releasing Sandburg, Kincaid grabbed his radio. "McBride!"

The confused voice of his man came through. "I don’t know, sir. It must have been the lobby. Smoke alarm’s going crazy."

Kincaid clicked the radio off, his eyes falling on a Patriot standing nearby. "Hoskins? Get down there and kill who’s ever in my building."

The other man nodded, pulling his rifle into an easy carrying position as he headed for the door. "Yes, sir."

Jim and Simon started up the stairs, Jim taking point due to the superior firepower he had. Several flights up, Jim cocked his head, his nose wrinkling as he sniffed the air. Pushing Simon back against the wall, he waited just within the door. As it was pushed open, he grabbed the man entering the stairwell and pushed him against the railing, his gun aimed at the man’s temple.

"Keep your mouth shut," he growled as Simon pulled the terrorist’s weapon away. Handcuffing him to the railing, they discarded his radio on the floor. Checking his position to make sure he couldn’t reach it, Jim paused as Simon spoke.

"How the hell did you know he was back there?"

Jim pointed to his nose. "Couldn’t you smell him? It’s too much Skin Bracer."

Simon just shook his head. "Come on."

As they started toward the door, Jim’s head tilted upward and he closed his eyes briefly. "We’ve got to move, Simon. Their chopper’s coming in."

Simon looked up. "I still don’t hear anything."

"It’s there," Jim said grimly as he heard the chopper begin to circle over the building. "Perfect timing." Both men startled slightly as the radio crackled, Kincaid’s voice coming through.

"Everyone report to the squad room immediately. Repeat, everyone report to the squad room immediately."

Jim glanced over at the Sunrise Patriot. "I guess you’ll be missing the meeting."

"Come on," Simon said gruffly, going to the door. Jim put a hand over his as Simon reached for the doorknob.

"What is it this time? English Leather?"

"Shh," Jim said absently, his attention on the footsteps he could hear echoing down the hallway. Relaxing slightly as they faded away, he nodded to Simon. "Clear." Pushing the door open slowly, they entered the hallway. Bent low to clear the windows, they made their way to the Control Room.

Sparing a pained glance at the bodies piled carelessly in the corner, Simon moved to the computer, rapidly typing in a command for all field units to return to the PD. Jim watched for a moment, then turned his attention to the rooms nearby. Hissing as he heard Kincaid speak, he touched Simon’s shoulder.

"They’re planning to evacuate."

Simon’s brow wrinkled. "You can hear in there?"

Jim shushed his captain, listening closely as Kincaid’s voice lowered. His eyes widened and he glanced at Simon as he heard the terrorist leader’s plans.

"Simon!" he hissed. "Let’s move out."

This was bad.

Blair’s head rose as he heard a tiny rip. Glancing over at Captain Taggart and the kid, his eyes widened as he saw the duct tape holding their hands coming apart. Jerking his gaze away, he looked at the madman holding them captive. Kincaid was smiling, and a shiver ran through Blair as the man looked over at him.

"This is it." Kincaid had turned his attention back to the massed group of his followers, who were hanging on his words. "We will evacuate as planned. Mr. Natural, here, is coming with me. He’s my protection."

Blair shivered again as the hot eyes fell once more upon him. A smile filled those eyes as Kincaid turned again to his men. "This is victory, gentlemen. Now, we will rendezvous at Camp Liberty as planned. All right? Congratulations, guys. I’m proud of all of you. Now move out. Southern, McBride… you two stay here."

Southern looked surprised as he stopped in the doorway, then returned to his leader’s side. "Why?"

Kincaid’s voice lowered slightly. "Nolan will pick you up downstairs as planned. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to execute these hostages."

"Captain, we never talked about killing the hostages," Southern protested, and Blair flinched as he heard Kincaid’s answer.

"This is war. There are no prisoners. There are no witnesses. You know that."

Southern and McBride nodded unhappily as Kincaid turned and grabbed Blair’s arm. Stumbling as he was pulled through the door, Blair regained his feet as Kincaid continued to pull him toward the door. "Why am I getting singled out?" he asked, twisting to look back at the room full of people doomed to gunfire.

Kincaid laughed. "Don’t worry about it, Serpico. You’re one of the lucky ones. You’re coming with me."

Somehow, Blair didn’t think he was lucky. The way Kincaid looked at him… maybe he’d rather face a bullet.

Crawling down the hallway toward Major Crimes, Jim focused on the sounds he could hear from the room. Most of the hostages were silent, only the occasional gasping sob still escaping. A harsh voice rang out and Jim’s jaw clenched at the terrorist’s words.

"I want all you people to move to the center of the room! Face the back! Let’s do it now. Move! Move! Move!"

A second voice chimed in. "Move it! You and you, help him up."

Jim crawled faster as Joel’s voice, taut with pain, gasped out a comment. "You know, Kincaid’s leaving you here to fry."

The Sunrise Patriot’s reply was immediate. "Come on, now! Face the window, people. I don’t want to see no faces."

The click of guns being cocked filled the air as Jim gave Simon the countdown. On three, the two men burst through the door into Major Crimes, startling the men inside. One of the terrorists turned to face them, gun at the ready.

"Drop your weapons!" Jim ordered.

The man shook his head as the other turned to face Jim and Simon. "I don’t think so!"

Joel Taggart suddenly made his move, knocking the gun out of the hand of the second terrorist and swiftly knocking him unconscious. Jim’s quick smile faded as Daryl leaped upon the remaining Patriot.

"I got him, Dad," the teen yelled out.

"Daryl, no!" Simon leaped forward as his son was swung to the ground, a large fist catching the gunman in the jaw and knocking him down even as he aimed a blow at Daryl. Joel grabbed the gun from the downed man, holding him in place as the rescued hostages began to laugh in relief.

Waiting long enough to see Simon hug his son and hand him over to Rhonda’s care, Jim called out as he headed up to the roof. "All right, I’m upstairs."

Blair panicked as he saw the helicopter settle lazily on the roof, its rotor blades continuing to turn as men poured out of it to await their leader’s arrival. Pulling against Kincaid’s grip, he tried desperately to get away. Kincaid just pulled him further along the roof.

"No! You don’t understand."

The terrorist dragged him closer to the chopper. "Shut up, kid."

"I’m not really a cop! I was lying!"

"Shut up!" Kincaid snarled.

"I’m an anthropologist," Blair cried out.

Kincaid laughed. "Yeah, and I’m the president."

"I was lying!"

"Get him in there!"

Twisting and writhing, Blair felt another pair of hands grasp his arms, pulling him into the chopper. Pushed into a seat, he gasped for breath as the helicopter doors were slammed shut. Closing his eyes as the aircraft lifted from the roof, he opened them quickly at the sickening sensation. Suddenly, the swinging got even worse.

"What was that, Walters?" Kincaid barked, leaning forward to talk to the pilot. The man looked over his shoulder, smiling reassuringly.

"Down draft!"

After a few minutes flight, the man looked back a second time. "Something’s wrong. We’re pulling to the right."

Kincaid leaned over to look out of the chopper. Blair heard a hiss of exasperation. Glancing at Kincaid, he shivered at the look on the man’s face.

"Looks like we got ourselves a stowaway, boys. Ellison’s attached himself to the bird." Kincaid shook his head. "How many lives does that guy have anyway? Lose him, Walters."

"Hang on!" the pilot warned, beginning to dip and turn the helicopter as he flew over the bay. Leaning over to look past Kincaid’s shoulder, Blair breathed a sigh of relief at seeing Jim still firmly attached to the chopper. Kincaid pushed him back impatiently, pulling a gun out.

"Well, I guess he just doesn’t want to let go." Popping the door open, he leaned out, aiming the gun at Jim. Horrified, Blair watched as Jim reached upward, trying to pull the gun from Kincaid’s hand. Unable to reach it, the detective swung helplessly in midair. In a split second, Blair made a decision. Bracing his legs, he jerked his body to the side, his shoulder impacting heavily with Kincaid’s back.

The terrorist screamed as he fell through the door, his voice choked off as Jim grabbed him with one arm. Blair watched as Kincaid wrapped his arms tightly around Jim’s leg. Ripping his eyes away, Blair looked frantically around the inside of the chopper, stifling a small gasp as he spotted a box marked flare guns. Taking a deep breath, he nudged it open with his foot.

He heard Jim’s voice, calling to the pilot. "Take us back!"

"No!" Kincaid screamed. "You’ll have to kill me first!"

Blair could hear the grim smile in Jim’s reply. "Have it your way!" Leaning to look, he smiled as he saw the sentinel begin to shake his leg, making the terrorist slip lower. His smile widened as Kincaid changed his tune.

"Walters! Get this thing back now!"

The pilot shook his head, maintaining a steady course away from Cascade. "He’s nuts if he thinks I’m flying into this dragnet."

Blair leaned down, then made his move. Almost leaping into the front seat, he pushed the copilot down, using his body weight to keep the man immobile. Holding the large-barreled flare gun aimed directly at Walters’ head, he snarled the words.

"And if you don’t, we’re all going to die. You hear me? We’re all gonna die."

The other man glanced at him without concern. "Yeah, kill me and we all go down, buddy."

"I don’t think so, punk." Blair glared at him. "I flew Apaches in Desert Storm. Now turn it around! Now!"

Holding his breath for a moment, he nodded slightly as Walters looked at him consideringly, then swore and swung the chopper’s nose around. Keeping the flare gun steady, he made himself keep breathing. Wouldn’t do to pass out now.

Simon reluctantly passed his son over to Rhonda, meeting Daryl’s eyes with a reassuring smile. "I’ll be back soon, son," he said. "But I have to go now."

Daryl nodded. "I know, Daddy. Be careful."

Waves of pride filling him, Simon couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat. Nodding, he turned and moved quickly for the door. Racing down the stairs, he pushed the image of his boy’s face from his mind, needing to focus only on the task ahead. Promising himself he’d spend more time with Daryl, he reached the garage and slipped soundlessly inside, plastering himself to a column.

The massed terrorists were climbing into the back of an unfamiliar white truck. Simon looked up sharply as he heard the first wail of sirens coming toward the PD. He’d have to delay the Patriots. Somehow.

One of the few men left outside the truck lifted a radio and spoke into it. His voice echoed through the garage. "McBride, you copy? Southern, do you read? All right, that’s it! We’re out of here!" Climbing into the truck, he pulled the door shut and started the engine.

Simon looked around frantically, holstering the pistol he held. It wouldn’t do any good against the semi. His eyes lit as they fell upon a marked car, the keys obvious on the dash. Pulling the door open, he slid the key into the ignition and started the car, making a mental note to speak to the uniform about leaving his keys out. Then again, maybe not, he decided as he pushed the gearshift into reverse and hit the gas.

Tires squealing as he backed up, he grinned ferally as the back of the car hit the side of the truck, pushing it off its trajectory and making it crash into a concrete column. As men poured out of the crippled truck, a sea of police cars moved into the garage, corralling them with ease.

Pulling his weapon as he got out of the car, he joined the press of angry policemen surrounding the outnumbered terrorists. "All right, down!" he barked out. "On the ground! On the ground or die, your choice! Down, down!" With satisfaction, he watched the Patriots surrender, then turned to a lieutenant. "Get them out of there!"

The other cop nodded as the distant sound of helicopter blades hit Simon’s ears. "I’ll be damned," he breathed. "He did it." Shaking his head at the younger man’s questioning look, he headed for the stairs, gesturing for a squadron of cops to accompany him. He wanted to be there when Ellison brought Kincaid down. He grinned again. Oh, yes, he wanted to be there.

Reaching the roof just before the helicopter touched down, he watched stony-faced as Kincaid scrambled to keep his footing, only to be dragged off his feet when several cops grabbed him. They dragged him past Simon, and the captain narrowed his eyes when Kincaid’s gaze met his. The terrorist’s mouth worked, then he spoke, spitting the words at Simon.

"This isn’t over, Captain! Not by a long shot."

Reaching out, Simon wrapped his hands in Kincaid’s shirt, pulling the smaller man up close to him. "It is for you!" His body burning from the hatred he felt for this man, it took him a minute to convince his fingers to release their grip. Finally, they uncurled and he shoved Kincaid back to his captors, his voice ringing with disgust. "Get him out of here!"

He watched them drag Kincaid to the doorway, then turned his attention to his detective. Ellison had managed to detach himself from the helicopter just before it landed, but was still working on removing the second cuff. Moving over to him, Simon nodded in respect as he met the blue eyes. "Hairy ride?"

Jim laughed. "You don’t know the half of it." Pulling the cuff off his wrist, he rubbed at the irritated skin. "Wasn’t sure these things would hold." He grinned at Simon. "Guess I’m glad Major Crimes gets the best issue."

Simon harrumphed, opening his mouth to respond when Carolyn flew past him, wrapping her arms tightly around Jim. Closing his mouth, he watched as the detective raised his arms to hug her back. "Hey," Jim said quietly.

Carolyn released her grip to look up at Jim. "I thought I told you to be careful, you bum."

Jim just shook his head. "I was careful. Wasn’t I, Simon?"

Simon rolled his eyes at the other man’s plea for support. "Extremely careful."

"Help me with this, won’t you?" Jim’s voice was light, even as Carolyn swatted him. Not willing to get involved in it, Simon looked away as Sandburg was dragged past the small group. The kid’s voice was raised in protest.

"I’m not with these guys! I’m Detective Ellison’s partner…. um, colleague."

Simon nodded at the SWAT members. "It’s okay, guys. He’s on our team!" He stifled a laugh as Sandburg stopped still and stared at him, eyes wide.

"Did you say I was on your team?"

"Strictly as an observer," Simon growled as the other cops left. He watched in amazement as the younger man actually bounced.

"Right, right," Sandburg agreed hastily. "As an observer. Strictly. Of course."

Turning back to Jim and Carolyn, Simon raised his voice slightly. "Come here, Jim." As he pulled Jim to the side of the roof, he heard Sandburg asking Carolyn to help him get the duct tape off his wrists. Imagining the woman’s face made him smile briefly before he looked at Jim, the smile gone.

"Okay, what’s going on here, Jim?"

The detective’s head tilted. "What do you mean?"

"You were awesome today. I’ve never seen anything like it. You were hearing things I couldn’t hear; smelling things I couldn’t smell. I mean, level with me, will you?" He made his tone as undemanding as he could, knowing that with Ellison, he’d get farther with a request than with an order.

The other man ran a hand over his face, then looked at him with a single nod. "All right. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had these sensory things going on. Things I couldn’t control. It turns out I’ve got what can only be described as hyperactive senses."

Simon’s brow furrowed. "What? You mean like a Superman thing?"

"No, no, no, it’s all perfectly natural, Simon."

There was a faint hint of distress in Jim’s voice. Wondering what had caused it, Simon nodded slowly. "Yeah, and your friend, Sandburg?"

Jim shook his head slowly. "He’s really an anthropologist. He’s made a study of people like me in pre-civilized cultures."

Arching an eyebrow, Simon repeated Jim’s words. "Pre-civilized cultures."

Jim nodded. "He wants to observe me so he can help me figure out a way to deal with this."

Simon decided abruptly not to deal with this at the moment. "Too much information right now, all right?"

"I can imagine." Jim’s voice was wry.

"So I’ll tell you what. In a couple of days when we get this mess cleaned up and things return for what passes for normal around here, I want both of your butts in my office and you tell me exactly what’s going down. All right?"

"Yes, sir."

The police captain smiled suddenly. "And now I think I’m going to go give a hug to my son." Turning, he headed for the stairs, Jim’s voice trailing after him.

"I think that’s a good idea."

Simon smiled as he reached the stairs. He knew it was.

"I think that’s a good idea." Jim smiled as he watched Simon’s back recede toward the stairs. The man had been more accepting than Jim had thought, the Superman crack notwithstanding. He looked up as Sandburg walked over and stood beside him, looking after Simon also.

After the captain disappeared, the smaller man looked up at Jim, his eyes questioning. "You told him, didn’t you?"

"Yeah," Jim replied. "I had to."

Blair made a small noise in his throat, then glanced over at the empty doorway before looking back at Jim. "What happened? Did he, like, freak or what?"

"No." Jim turned to face Sandburg. "I actually think it’s all going to turn out to be just fine."

"Great, great." Blair’s face was curious. "There’s just one more thing I got to ask you."

"What’s that?"

"This wasn’t, like, a typical day for you, was it?"

Looking down at the anxious face, Jim felt a laugh building. Reaching up with both hands, he patted the other man’s cheeks lightly and walked off, the laugh rumbling out of him as he heard the footsteps following him. Blair’s voice filled the air as he walked, and Jim just kept laughing.

"Well, is it? Come on!"

~~~~~~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~~~~~~

"No, it isn’t."

Blair looked up from where he sat, curled up on the chair behind Jim Ellison’s desk. The sentinel stood in front of the desk, his face serious now.

"Isn’t what?" Blair asked tiredly. The adrenaline rush was over, and all he wanted to do was go home. But he was stuck at the station until all the paperwork and reports were in. Maybe Jim’s appearance meant it was quitting time? He uncurled his legs, stretching his back as he did.

Jim sat down heavily in the opposite chair, his face looking as tired as Blair felt. "Isn’t a typical day." He studied Blair for a moment, until Blair felt like squirming under the steady gaze. "You did good today, you know."

Blair’s mouth twisted. "Did I? Tell me, how is the guy I hit with the vending machine?"

"Still in surgery," Jim admitted. "Doesn’t look good."

"What happens if he dies?" Blair whispered to himself, looking down, forgetting for a moment that Jim would hear. His head jerked up at the quiet reply.

"Nothing. Everything you did was in self defense."

Blair snorted. "Thanks, man. That’s good to know. But it wasn’t what I meant."

"I know." Jim was quiet for a long minute. "I’ll understand if you want to call this off, Sandburg."

"I’ve thought about it." Blair was looking down again and missed the flash of panic that flitted across Jim’s face. The mask was back when he looked up again. He shook his head slowly, holding Jim’s eyes with his own. "It’s not what I expected, you know?"

Jim’s head moved in a slow nod. "I know. I’ll tell Simon to cancel the request for your pass."



Blair leaned back, running his hands through his hair, then looked at Jim again. "I pushed Kincaid out of the helicopter."


"Wanta know why?"

Jim’s slight frown indicated that he didn’t know where this was going. "Sure, Sandburg."

"All I could think right then was that he was going to shoot you. He was going to shoot my sentinel, and I couldn’t let that happen." Blair shook his head. "If you hadn’t caught him, I’d have killed him."

"Blair…" Jim started and the grad student raised a hand to cut him off.

"I’d have killed him, Jim. I’m glad I didn’t. But I wouldn’t change doing it. The man at the vending machine, Van Dyke, he’d have killed me without caring why. I’m sure he’s killed other people. So if he dies, I’ll be sad. I’ll feel guilty, I’m sure. But you know what? I’m not willing to let that change me."

He leaned forward, his eyes serious as they met Jim’s. "I want to work with you. I want to help you, and I want to learn about you. That hasn’t changed."

Jim nodded. "I’m glad to hear it, Chief." He stood, looking down at Blair. "Ready to go home?"

Blair scrambled to his feet, feeling that a weight had been lifted from him. Telling Jim how he felt had made it real to him, and he smiled at the other man without a hint of shadow. "Oh, yeah! Ready if you are."

~The End ~

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Next week’s episode: Killers by Debra Baschal