By Melinda Holley, Megan O’Shaughnessy and Vision
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
internal thought * *
~~~~~~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~~~~~~Present Day – Banks of the Kodiak River
Jim Ellison narrowed his eyes as the bright sunlight glinted off the river. His partner, Blair Sandburg, stood next to him, one hand shading his eyes. A few steps to one side, Capt. Simon Banks aggressively chewed on the end of his cigar.
"A stolen car went off the road a couple of hours ago," the tall captain explained. "It was a freak accident. The driver got out okay; but when the divers went down for the car, they found something else." He lowered his voice. "I’m telling you, Jim. That’s Jack’s car."
Jim silently watched as the water-logged car was lowered to the grass.
"Jim?" Blair quietly asked, noticing the clenching of his partner’s jaw.
The Sentinel ignored him as he walked towards the car.
"What’s up with him?" Blair asked, shooting Simon a questioning look.
"Cop named Jack Pendergrast used to drive a car like that," Simon briefly explained. "He disappeared four years ago." He looked over his shoulder at the sound of a slamming car door. "Great," he hissed. "Just what we need."
Blair followed Simon’s gaze to see an attractive red-haired woman striding towards the recovered car. "Who’s she?" he asked with admiration.
"Sheila Irwin," Simon sighed. "Internal Affairs. She used to be with my unit." He saw Blair’s appreciative stare. "Cool it with the eyes, will you?" He saw Sheila stop to confer with the officers at the scene. "C’mon. Let’s get this over with."
They found Jim crouched at the back of the car. He was running his fingers over the letters on the license plate. Easily visible were the words ‘Jacks Toy.’ Jim glanced up as they approached. "I smell something in the trunk, Simon."
Simon motioned to one of the nearby officers. "Give me that bar." He firmly grasped it and motioned Jim to one side. He expertly popped the trunk, and all three men leaned forward.
"Oh, God," Blair groaned. He clapped one hand over his mouth and walked away.
"Jack?" Simon whispered.
"Jack never wore glasses," Jim firmly denied.
"They belong to Philip Brackley."
Both men turned as Sheila stepped between them. She dispassionately eyed the body in the trunk of the car then glanced at Jim. "What’s the body of the kidnap victim doing in the trunk of your ex-partner’s car?"
"Considering the body hasn’t been officially identified, it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind about that," Jim coldly replied.
Sheila stared at him for a moment then walked away.
"Ex-partner? What kidnap victim?" Blair asked from several steps away.
Simon ignored the questions. "Jim…maybe it’s time you stopped protecting him."
"Protecting who?" Despite himself, Blair moved closer.
"If that’s Philip Brackley’s body, you know IA is going to be all over this," Simon snapped. "And you’d better be damned sure you know where you stand."
"That’s not a problem, sir," Jim formally replied. "I’ve always been sure about this." Without a glance at Blair, he turned and walked away.
"Simon, will you please tell me what’s going on here?" Blair irritably asked.
"Jack Pendergrast was Jim’s former partner, and Philip Brackley was the kidnap victim," Simon sighed. He slowly walked towards the road, followed by Blair. "Philip Brackley’s father was a lumber tycoon. Kidnappers asked for a million bucks in ransom. Pendergrast was supposed to deliver the money, but he never came back. Neither did Philip Brackley. IA concluded that Jack probably not only stole the money, but killed the kidnappers and victim. That didn’t sit too well with Jim. I always tried to keep an open mind about it but…" He glanced over his shoulder at the water-soaked car. "That just got a whole lot harder to do." Simon recalled a day five years ago…
Five Years Earlier – Major Crimes
"ELLISON! MY OFFICE! NOW!" Simon spun around without waiting to see if his newest detective obeyed.
Jim Ellison absently stroked his moustache then settled his Jags ball cap onto his head before walking into Simon’s office. Closing the door behind him, he stood in front of Simon’s desk.
Simon glared at the earring adorning Ellison’s ear, the faded worn shirt, the ball cap, and ragged jeans. That outfit might have worked in Vice, but the man was in Major Crimes now. And, by God, he was going to act like it. "What the hell happened this morning?!"
Jim’s eyes focused on a spot on the wall behind Simon’s desk. "I’m not sure what you’re referring to, sir."
"You don’t?" Simon snarled. "Let me enlighten you. A high-speed car chase through the middle of downtown at the height of rush-hour causing three…count ’em…three traffic accidents. Four cars totaled, including the suspect’s car." He slammed the file down onto his desk and glared at the calm man in front of him. "Does that ring any bells, Detective?"
"The perp was identified. He tried to escape. He was apprehended and taken off the streets," Jim reported. "Sir."
"So it says in your marvelously brief report," Simon snapped. "Do you ever think about what you’re doing? What was the cost of this little game of chase?"
"Actually, sir, I just do my job," Jim replied.
"Do your job," Simon huffed. "You might have been a hotshot loose cannon in Vice. But this is Major Crimes! I don’t care how Vice runs their operations, but things are different here! He stalked to his door and flung it open. "Pendergrast! My office! Now!" Then he spun around to face Jim. "Bottom line, Ellison. I may be new to this department; but if you think I’m a pushover, you can rethink that idea right here and now! You may have been a hotshot in Vice, but you’re not in Vice now. Around here, you’re just part of my dog team! Is that clear, Detective?"
"Hey, Cap. You called?"
Jim eyed the older man standing behind Simon. He recognized the humorous tone in the other man’s voice and inwardly smirked.
"Jack, meet your new partner. Ellison, meet Jack Pendergrast." Simon stalked back to behind his desk.
"Partner, sir? Or baby-sitter?" Jim smoothly asked.
Jack rolled his eyes at Jim’s attitude.
"It’s whatever I say it is," Simon snarled. "As of now, you’re on probation. You screw up one more time, and you’ll wish you were back in Vice."
"Is that all, sir?" Jim formally asked.
"Get to work," Simon snarled.
Jack eyed Jim who preceded him out the door. "Oh, thanks, Cap. Thanks a lot." He quietly closed the door behind him then caught up with Jim.
"Lead on, kimosabe." Jim waved Jack into the bullpen.
"Oh, I can see you’re going to go far in this department, Slick," Jack chuckled.
"Meaning?" Jim coldly asked.
"Meaning…fix the attitude if you want to stay in Major Crimes," Jack advised as he picked up a file from his desk.
"Oh?" Jim moved around Jack and walked backwards towards his desk. "I have an attitude?" He felt someone move behind him even as he felt the accompanying bump.
Jim turned around to see an angry red-haired woman glaring at him. Warm coffee was staining her pristine blouse.
"Great! I just bought this!" she angrily snapped.
"So send me the cleaning bill, Irwin," Jim airily replied.
"Cleaning bill, my ass. You should buy me a new blouse." Sheila Irwin slapped her coffee mug on a desk as she stomped away.
"Why don’t you try some cold water?" Jim smirked. He turned around and added in a lower voice, "On more than your blouse."
Jack sighed. "Look, we’re all trying to give you a chance here. You think you’ve got all the answers, don’t you, Slick? But in this job, that will get you killed."
"I can handle myself," Jim firmly answered.
"I bet you can." Jack nodded. "But there’s always room for improvement…if you’re willing to learn. It’s your choice."
"Thanks for the chat, Dear Abby," Jim snapped.
Jack smiled, although the smile didn’t reach his eyes. "Oh. And by the way…" He eyed Jim closely. "You ride with me, you make some changes. Get yourself some decent clothes. You’re not working the bottom rung of Vice now." He turned to head for the elevator then turned back around. "And lose the earring, will you? I wouldn’t want the bad guys to get the wrong impression, if you know what I mean." He gently smacked Jim on both cheeks. "You want to make the grade here, Slick? Be here tomorrow morning. Ready to learn without the attitude."
Present Day – Forensics Garage
To no one’s surprise, Sheila Irwin met them as they entered Forensics to examine Jack’s car.
"Hello, Sheila," Simon calmly greeted.
Sheila nodded at Simon then stared at Jim. "Glad you could make it," she said with a raise of her eyebrows. "The Medical Examiner has confirmed the body in the trunk of Jack’s car is Philip Brackley. So I guess he’s been officially identified, wouldn’t you agree, Detective Ellison?"
"I think we can keep this on a civil level, don’t you?" Simon hopefully interjected.
Sheila and Jim stared at each other. "Brackley was shot twice in the head with this." She raised her hand to show them a gun secured in an evidence bag. "It was found wedged under the spare tire."
"Just because Brackley was shot with Jack’s gun…" Jim angrily began.
"It’s not Jack’s gun." Sheila half-smiled.
"Then whose gun is it?" Simon demanded. *And how did it get in the trunk of Jack’s car?’* he silently wondered.
"I ran the serial number," Sheila replied. "It’s registered to Jim Ellison."
"That’s not my gun," Jim firmly denied.
"That’s got to be a mistake," Simon said at the same time.
Blair silently watched the byplay, his eyes widening as the level of tension rose. Sheila Irwin’s face mirrored her silent delight in the situation.
"No mistake," Sheila crisply answered. "If I were you, Detective Ellison, my next call would be to my attorney." She brushed past them and headed for the elevator.
Simon sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Ellison…"
"I bought that gun for Jack as a birthday present," Jim explained. "He’d had his eye on it for some time. Two days later, Jack disappeared. I never changed the registration. But I did report it missing."
"So you’re in the clear." Blair grinned.
"Sandburg, just because he reported it missing doesn’t mean a damn thing," Simon growled. "IA’s conclusion will be he could have used it to commit the crime then reported the weapon missing."
"That’s circumstantial," Blair protested.
"Wake up, Chief. Most murder convictions are based on circumstantial evidence," Jim pointed out.
"We’ll have to reopen the case," Simon sighed. "Reinvestigate all the old leads. And maybe this time we can both keep an open mind about what really happened." He saw the frown on Jim’s face and hurried to add, "Wherever Jack is, protecting him is only going to hurt you."
"Jack Pendergrast is as innocent as I am," Jim firmly argued.
"From where I’m standing, he’s the most likely suspect." Simon shook his head at the stubborn look on Jim’s face. "I never should have hooked you two up together. You never wanted to see Jack Pendergrast the way he is."
"And just how was Jack Pendergrast?" Jim angrily demanded, his fists clenching. "I really don’t care how other people saw him. Jack taught me a lot. He’s a great man."
Blair uneasily edged forward. He wasn’t sure what he could do if tempers flared further, but knew he couldn’t stand by and watch them come to blows.
"I’m sure he did teach you a lot, Jim," Simon admitted. "But the reason you’re a good cop is because of what you’ve got here." He tapped his chest. "And in here." He tapped the side of his head. "Jack had the same thing. But he also had a gambling problem. And you never wanted to admit to that problem. Jack had a ton of bad debts. He’d look the other way if a hood slipped him money."
"That was never proven!" Jim angrily shouted.
"Nobody has to prove it!" Simon shot back. "Look at the way he dressed. Look how much money he poured into that damned car. And I’ll lay you even odds that Jack’s sitting somewhere on a beach with a blonde on either arm and a million bucks tucked away." He glared into Jim’s eyes. "And here you are…holding the bag."
"You. Are. Wrong." The words left Jim’s mouth as cold as ice.
"If you’re going to remain on this case, you’ll have to maintain your objectivity," Simon ordered.
"Objectivity, sir? Like you have?" Jim snorted. "Seems like everyone has Jack tried and convicted."
The two men glared at each other for a few seconds before Jim turned and walked away.
Blair anxiously glanced at Simon. "Why did Jim call Jack ‘a great man’?"
Simon wearily waved for him to follow Jim. "He was very instrumental in turning Jim from a hothead Vice officer into a good detective. Go after him, Sandburg."
Without a word, Blair ran after Jim.
He caught up to Jim in the garage. "Hey! Jim! C’mon, wait a minute!"
"Move it, Chief, if you’re riding with me," Jim called over his shoulder. "We’re gonna find out what happened to Jack."
Blair quickly slid into the truck and slammed the door behind him. Snapping the seatbelt around him, he uneasily eyed his partner.
"Don’t give me that look," Jim growled as he started the truck’s engine.
"Look?" Blair licked his lips.
"That concerned puppy-dog look of yours," Jim answered. Despite himself, he slightly smiled. "It all started with the Brackley case. It was twisted from the beginning. Even the kid’s old man thought it was a hoax…."
~~~~~~~~~~ Act II ~~~~~~~~~~Four Years Earlier – Brackley Lumber Mill
Warren Brackley’s office was decorated in oak and marble, reflecting the wealth and power of its owner. Jim uneasily sat in his chair facing the wide desk while Jack comfortably lounged in the chair next to him.
"A million dollars," Warren Brackley snorted. "I could almost admire the audacity. Philip will make a good businessman someday." He tossed the ransom note onto the desk with a dismissive gesture. "That is, if he ever grows up." A stocky man with silver-grey hair, he leaned back in his leather chair with a sneer.
"Forgive me for being presumptuous, sir," Jim spoke up. "But it appears you’re taking this rather lightly."
"Listen to him, Warren." Monique Warren’s hands fluttered in front of her attractive face. A young attractive blonde, Monique was obvious Warren’s trophy wife. The jewelry on her hands twinkled as she nervously twisted her fingers.
"Monique!" Warren snapped, then he looked at the two detectives. "My wife means well. But she didn’t consult with me before she called you." He looked past them as another man entered the room.
"I checked all of Philip’s usual hangouts, Mr. Brackley. Nobody’s seen him," the man reported.
"This is Art Landis," Warren explained. "He’s been with the company for years and has known Philip for most of his life." The timber magnate coldly smiled. "He’s gotten Philip out of some rough spots, too."
Landis shrugged. "The kid likes dives. Says it grounds him to the realities of life." He rolled his eyes. "Whatever the hell that means." Jim eyed Landis’ muscular body and immediately tagged him as hired muscle.
"Gentlemen, I appreciate your time, but my son will come home on his own once he sees this…foolishness will accomplish nothing," Brackley dismissively said.
"I’m afraid we can’t do that, Mr. Brackley." Jack smiled in apology. "I understand your position. Kids today…" He shrugged. "Unfortunately, a kidnapping report has been made; and we have to take it seriously."
"And since kidnapping is a Federal crime, most likely a copy of that report has gone to the FBI," Jim coolly added.
"Warren." Monique put a hand on his arm. "What if it isn’t a hoax?"
"Don’t be absurd." Brackley shook his wife’s hand from his arm. "Very well, gentlemen. I understand your position. Do what you need to do. Cooperate with the FBI if you must. I’d prefer, however, this matter be kept under local control if possible. I want Philip to understand the consequences of his actions. I think being arrested for faking a kidnapping would serve as a valuable lesson."
Present Day – Brackley Lumber Mill
The mill itself hadn’t changed all that much, Jim reflected as they were escorted to Monique Brackley’s office. He recalled that when Warren Brackley died, his widow had assumed control of the company. It had become more environmentally friendly. This had been reflected in the renovation of the office building located at the north end of the mill’s property. It looked more like a former residence converted for office use. Inside, the décor was elegant and subdued.
Monique Brackley received them in an office marked ‘President and CEO.’ Sitting behind her late husband’s massive oak desk, she waved them to chairs facing the desk. Art Landis stood to her left and slightly behind her. Jim felt a strong rush of déjà vu, recalling how Warren Brackley had received Jack and him four years earlier.
"Detective Ellison." Monique barely inclined her head. "I see you have a new partner."
"Blair Sandburg," Blair spoke up as he eased down onto the surprisingly uncomfortable chair. "I’m a consultant to the department." He ignored Jim’s eyes that momentarily flickered in his direction.
"I assume you’ve been informed we’ve recovered Philip’s body," Jim began.
Monique sighed. "My husband was more ill than he let on. He died almost three months to the day after Philip disappeared. I wish he’d known that Philip was already gone. Perhaps it would have made things easier for him."
"I know this has all been very difficult for you, Mrs. Brackley," Jim continued. "But now that we’ve found Philip’s body, we can start putting the pieces together."
"What about your old partner, Pendergrast?" Landis demanded. "Where is he?"
"Detective Pendergrast’s location is unknown," Jim calmly replied.
"That’s because he killed Philip and took off with the money," Landis pointed out.
"Is that what you think?" Jim coldly eyed the man. He heard Blair uncomfortably stirring in the chair next to him.
"We didn’t do anything to him," Landis angrily retorted. "Now you come here, pouring salt into a fresh wound. For what? To make yourself feel better? To continue covering for a crooked cop?"
"Mrs. Brackley, we came here to ask for your help," Blair quickly interceded. He kept his voice calm, hoping it would lessen the rage he felt flowing from his partner.
"Mrs. Brackley told you everything she knew four years ago," Landis roughly answered.
"I can speak for myself, Art," Monique interrupted. She coldly stared at Jim. "You people haven’t changed, have you, Detective? Still bulldozing over anything that gets in the way of your objective…including people’s feelings. I loved my husband very much. I lost him right after Philip disappeared. Now I spend most of my time behind this desk carrying out the plans he conceived. You people did nothing to help my family four years ago. You have one hell of a nerve coming now asking for my help."
"Mrs. Brackley…" Blair began.
"I’m not interested!" Monique glanced at Blair to include him in the conversation. "You know the way out. I have funeral arrangements to make."
Recognizing the firm dismissal, Jim and Blair got to their feet. As Blair reached for the door, there was a brief knock and the door swung open. Blair quickly stepped back as an older man stepped into the room.
"Oh…my apologies," the man spoke. Impeccably dressed in an expensive gray suit, he looked every inch someone used to dealing with power and money.
"No problem," Blair replied as he moved past the man to leave.
The older man smiled at Jim. "Hello."
Jim frowned, but nodded. As the door closed behind them, he thoughtfully stared at the door’s nameplate.
"Who was that guy?" Blair quietly asked.
"I’m not sure." Jim shook his head.
They didn’t speak again until they were in the truck and driving off the mill’s property.
"So what now?" Blair asked.
"I want to go through Jack’s stuff," Jim decided. "Maybe we’ll find something I overlooked before."
Blair nodded. After a moment, he frowned. "Jack’s stuff? If he’s been missing for four years, who would still have his stuff?"
"Emily Carson," Jim grunted. "I hope to hell she still has it." He reached for his cell phone.
"Who’s Emily Carson?" Blair asked. He wasn’t surprised when Jim ignored him to speak into his cell phone.
"I need a phone number for Emily Carson," Jim requested. "You might also check Emily Ryan or Jeff Ryan. Yeah. I’ll hold."
Four Years Earlier – Emily Carson’s Apartment Building
Emily Carson watched as Jack’s car stopped in front of her apartment building. She smiled to herself as Jim’s truck stopped right behind Jack’s. Crossing her arms across her chest, she took a deep breath.
Jack slammed the door of his car, smiling at Emily. "Bring ’em on in, Slick." He appreciatively eyed her cut-off shorts and t-shirt ensemble.
"You got it." Jim nodded. He pleasantly waved at Emily as he walked to the sidewalk.
"Hi, baby," Jack happily greeted.
"Wait a minute on that, Jim," Emily called out.
"Oh, come on, honey." Jack ingratiatingly smiled. "We’ve been talking about this for the last two months."
"No, Jack, you’ve been talking about it for the last two months," Emily pointed out. "I never said you could move in here."
Jim sighed under his breath. He turned and busied himself checking the straps that held Jack’s boxes secure in the back of his truck.
"Then why is all my stuff sitting in front of your apartment?" Jack demanded.
"Because you don’t listen, that’s why," Emily retorted. "All you hear is the sound of your own voice. And this time, you’re not getting your way."
"Don’t do this, Emily" Jack quietly replied.
"I’m sorry, Jack," Emily apologized. "But it isn’t working."
Jack ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I know I’m an old dog. But I can change, honey. I really can."
Emily half-smiled. "Jack, I don’t want you to change."
"Then what do you want?" Jack demanded.
"I want to get on with my life," Emily quietly answered.
Jack stared at her for a few seconds, then his face tightened. "Okay. You do that." Without a word to Jim, the older man got in his car and angrily drove away.
Jim sighed and walked to where Emily stood, shading her eyes to watch Jack’s car disappear around the corner. "It’s okay, Em. It’ll work out."
Emily lowered her hand and smiled at Jim. "I don’t love him, Jim." She reached out to play with the buttons on his shirt.
"Emily, he’s my partner," Jim pointed out. But he didn’t remove her fingers.
"And you’re my friend," Emily replied.
Present Day – Emily’s Home
Jim jerked in surprise. He realized they were sitting in front of Emily’s house. He reached out and turned the ignition off.
"Jim?" Blair looked at him first in concern, then in relief when he realized Jim was hearing him. "Did it work out between Emily and Jack?"
"No," Jim curtly answered. "It didn’t." Without further explanation, he got out of the truck and approached the non-descript dwelling.
Silently the two men, stood at the front door waiting for someone to answer the doorbell. In a few seconds, the door opened. Emily stood there, holding a small boy.
"Hi, Emily." Jim slowly smiled.
"Jim." Emily smiled in return. "You look good."
"So do you," Jim replied.
Blair looked from Jim to Emily as the silence dragged on. Then he reached out to tap the small boy’s fingers. "Hi there. I’m Blair Sandburg."
Emily flushed. "I’m sorry. It’s a pleasure to meet you." She smiled at the small boy who was waving his fingers in Blair’s direction. "This is Peter."
"Hey, Peter," Jim greeted. Then he looked at Emily. "Is this a bad time?"
Emily shrugged. "My husband called right after you did. He should be home any minute. I never told him much about Jack other than we were involved before I met him. I’m not sure he even knows I still have Jack’s stuff in the storage building. It’s all in the right-hand back corner. The code to unlock the gate is 7972. Building 22." She took a key from her jeans pocket and handed it to Jim. She briefly squeezed his fingers. "I hope you find what you’re looking for this time, Jim."
Jim briefly grinned. "Looks like you did." When Emily smiled in return, he stepped back. "Thanks, Emily."
Blair nodded in good-bye, waving once more at Peter. He glanced over his shoulder as he waited for Jim to unlock the truck to see Emily staring at them through the half-closed front door.
The storage facility was like hundreds of others in Cascade. Long identical rows of metal buildings of various sizes, each with a padlock on the door, packed onto a two-acre piece of property. Jim punched in the code to open the gate then slowly drove, looking for Building 22. Spotting it, he pulled the truck to a stop a few storage buildings away.
As they approached Building 22, Blair finally spoke, "Okay, so what’s the story with you and Emily?"
"No story, Chief," Jim replied. "She was Jack’s girlfriend."
Blair grinned behind Jim’s back. "I’m not blind, you know. I saw the way you two were looking at each other."
Jim didn’t reply as he opened the storage building and made his way to the back right-hand corner. Sighing to himself, Blair followed.
It looked like Emily’s husband used the storage building to store various heavy tools. Jim eyed the wood-working tools with passing interest, then dodged the boat motor dangling from the ceiling. A large tool-bench sat to one side of the motor. "Looks like Emily’s husband is rebuilding it," Jim commented with approval.
"Could be Emily’s rebuilding it," Blair teased.He grinned when Jim grunted and rolled his eyes. "Unless she’s changed, she’d have trouble changing the batteries in a smoke detector."
They easily found the boxes marked "Jack’s stuff" and began opening them.
"Look at this." Jim suddenly frowned. "Jack’s datebook. The last entry was March 19th."
"And?" Blair prompted.
"That’s when Jack disappeared." Jim flipped through the pages. "Hmm…Dent. 9:30 am."
Now Blair frowned. "Dent? Dentist?"
Jim shrugged. "I don’t remember Jack mentioning a dentist appointment. He avoided doctors, dentists, and hospitals whenever possible."
"Jim, when Jack disappeared, didn’t you go over this then?" Blair asked. He saw the anger in Jim’s eyes as the other man quickly stood. "I mean…you did get to see it, didn’t you?"
"IA had Jack tried and convicted," Jim nearly snarled. "Jack’s only relative was his brother, and they hadn’t spoken for years. Emily stepped forward to claim Jack’s stuff."
"But you were…" Blair waved his hands.
"I was Jack’s partner, and IA barred me from the investigation," Jim angrily interrupted. "Besides, I was pretty pissed and taking on anybody who said a word against Jack. I wasn’t spending a lot of time at the station during those days." He took a deep breath to gain control over his temper. "Afterwards…I didn’t know what stuff Emily had. And Simon kept me focused on current cases. What little I could do…" He put the date book in his pocket. "I dropped the ball, Chief. I let Jack down."
"Aw, Jim…" Blair was interrupted when the door was suddenly opened.
Whirling around, both men saw a gloved hand throw a bottle into the storage room then slam the door shut. Jim spotted the lit fuse in the neck of the bottle, threw Blair to the floor, covering him with his own body. Wincing as the explosion rocked the small building, Jim still managed to hear the sound of the door being jammed.
"Come on, Chief!" Jim yelled as he pulled Blair to his feet. "We gotta go!" He threw his weight against the door, hoping it wasn’t jammed too well. "Dammit!"
"Great!" Blair eyed the rapidly spreading fire. "Now what?"
Jim glanced up at the boat motor. "Break it down! Get on the other side and push!" he ordered.
They shoved, watching as the heavy boat motor cracked the door.
"Again!" Jim ordered. He ran forward to grab the boat motor.
Blair ran forward then jumped back as several burning boxes fell in his path. Blair instinctively pushed the falling boxes away.
"Sandburg! You okay?" Jim yelled as he pulled the boat motor back from the door.
"Yeah…yeah…okay!" Blair shouted. He shook both hands then grabbed his side of the motor.
The two men put all their strength into shoving the boat motor towards the damaged door. This time, the door collapsed.
Jim grabbed Blair’s arm and pulled towards the open door. Both men dodged the licking flames as they made their way outside. Coughing to clear their lungs, they leaned against the hood of the truck. Jim reached for his cell phone and called the fire department.
Blair sat on the bumper of the truck and stared at the blisters on his right hand. His left hand was reddened but didn’t seem to have been burned.
"Let me see." Jim gently took Blair’s right hand and studied it. "That’s gonna need a doctor, Chief." He helped the young anthropologist to his feet. "Come on, I gotta move the truck."
~~~~~~~~~~ Act III ~~~~~~~~~~Present Day – Cascade General Hospital
"You’re lucky, Mr. Sandburg." The intern smiled as he bandaged Blair’s right hand. "You could have been badly burned."
"Yeah." Blair recalled the burning boxes falling towards him. "Tell me about it." He sat on the side of the bed, his feet dangling. He glanced at Jim who was leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest.
The young man smiled. "I’ll be right back with your paperwork and prescriptions."
"Uh…I’d prefer natural healing remedies," Blair spoke up.
"You need a minor painkiller and an antibiotic cream." The intern frowned. "I’ll give you the prescriptions. It’s your choice if you use them, of course. But I highly recommend you do so." He nodded in Jim’s direction as he left.
"Can’t hurt to use the cream," Jim quietly pointed out.
"Maybe." Blair shrugged. "You’re okay, though. Right, Jim?"
"Look, Sandburg, maybe you’d better back out of this one," Jim sighed.
"Excuse me?" Blair stared at his partner in surprise. "Where’s this coming from?"
"It’s coming from the fact that somebody tried to kill us," Jim continued. He shot Blair a level look. "I’ve already lost one partner to whoever’s behind this. I don’t feel like losing another."
Blair’s reply was halted when the intern returned with a clipboard of paperwork and prescriptions. As quickly as possible, Blair signed the paperwork and shoved the prescriptions into his jacket pocket. Thanking the intern, he followed a solemn sentinel into the parking lot.
They had just left the building when Ellison’s cell phone rang. Blair saw Jim’s jaw begin clenching. Blair pretended to occupy himself by reading the prescriptions then shook his head and shoved the papers back into his pocket. In reality, he eavesdropped on his partner’s phone conversation. Not that he heard much. Two grunts from Ellison, and the conversation was over. Something about Jim’s stance cautioned the younger man into carefully approaching his partner. "Jim?" he finally spoke.
Jim glanced over his shoulder. "Ready to go?" he asked.
Blair nodded. "Who was calling?"
"Simon," Jim calmly answered. "IA wants to formally question me in two hours."
Present Day – IA Interrogation Room
Jim sat quietly watching as Sheila Irwin shuffled her papers. His Police Attorney, Geoffrey Robbins, sat just as quietly next to him. A three-member panel of high-ranking officers sat along one wall. Simon, as Jim’s supervisor, was sitting in a chair in the opposite corner. He was allowed to be present but not speak unless asked a specific question.
Sheila finally rose to her feet. "So, it’s your contention, Detective Ellison, that you gave this gun to Detective Pendergrast as a birthday present." She held up an evidence bag that contained the gun found in Jack’s car.
"It’s not my ‘contention.’ It’s the truth," Jim replied.
"How nice," Sheila coldly smiled. "A birthday present from one partner to the other. The problem is nobody remembers seeing you give it to him or hearing him talk about it."
"I treated Jack to dinner for his birthday and gave it to him then," Jim answered. "I suppose neither of us felt it was worth announcing to the department in a memorandum."
Simon inwardly winced. *For God’s sake, Ellison. Cut the attitude.*
"And the fire which destroyed the storage facility?" Sheila referred to her notes. "I suppose you have no idea who was behind it?"
"All I know is my partner and I were lucky to escape a building torched by a Molotov cocktail," Jim irritably replied. "We’re getting close to solving this case, and someone wanted to stop us before we did just that!"
"Must be very dangerous being your partner, Detective Ellison," Sheila smirked. "Seems they’re the ones who wind up hurt…or missing."
"Are you suggesting that Detective Ellison was responsible for the destruction of that storage facility?" Robbins spoke up. "A fire that injured the man with him? Or are you suggesting Mr. Sandburg is part of your conspiracy theory?"
Jim stiffened at the mention of Blair’s name and glared at Sheila.
"We have no reason to believe Mr. Sandburg is guilty of anything," Sheila calmly replied. The unspoken ‘at this time’ hung in the air. "All other possibilities, however, are being considered." She fixed her eyes on Jim’s face. "My guess? The fire was to destroy incriminating evidence linking you to the missing money in Philip Brackley’s death. And there’s only one man who might be able to convince me otherwise. Where’s Jack Pendergrast, Detective Ellison?"
"I have no idea," Jim tightly answered.
"Why are you protecting a dirty cop?" Sheila demanded.
"That’s enough!" Jim shouted as he stood.
"Sit down, Detective!" Sheila shouted in return.
"Ellison!" Robbins also stood and grabbed Jim’s arm. "You’re letting her push your buttons. Now sit down," he hissed.
Belatedly remembering Sandburg’s warning to hold his temper, Jim sat back down.
Robbins also sat. "Are you suggesting that Detective Ellison, as a part of your pet conspiracy theory, allowed incriminating evidence to remain in someone else’s possession for four years? You can’t stretch a theory that far."
"By Detective Ellison’s own admission, he had no idea Detective Pendergrast’s notebook even existed," Sheila reminded them. She eyed Jim. "And why wasn’t Detective Pendergrast carrying his notebook?"
"I have no idea." Jim replied. "Jack didn’t take many notes. He said as the junior partner that was my responsibility."
Simon mentally recalled the many times he’d called Pendergrast down for not carrying a notebook or even keeping detailed records. *Dammit, Jack. Even if you walked in here right now to clear Jim, I’d probably knock you back to wherever you’ve been hiding for four years.*
"On the evening of March 19th, Warren Brackley received a call from someone identifying himself as one of his son’s kidnappers. During that call, he was told to be at a phone booth downtown at Sixth and Howard at 10pm with the money. They would call for instructions." Sheila looked up from her notes. "Is that correct?"
"That’s my recollection," Jim nodded.
Sheila half-smiled. "At least we agree on something. Jack Pendergrast was with Mr. Brackley at the time the call came in and agreed to deliver the money himself or with you. But, according to Monique Brackley, you were impossible to locate that night. Detective Pendergrast instructed the Brackleys to have you contact him by radio in his car if they should hear from you. Phone company records also show he tried to contact you from the phone booth at Sixth and Howard. The same records also show he managed to get through. You spoke for 22 seconds."
"My answering machine wasn’t working properly," Jim interrupted. "Perhaps he left a message, but I never got it."
Sheila sighed. "Never got it?"
Jim coldly stared at her. "Right."
Sheila cocked her head to one side. "Or perhaps you did. Then the two of you waited for the kidnappers. You killed them and Philip Brackley. Detective Pendergrast left Cascade, but you stayed behind, choosing to put your share of the money into real estate."
Surprised, Simon frowned.
Jim leaned forward in equal surprise. "What are you talking about?"
"Just over a month after Detective Pendergrast and the million-dollar ransom money disappeared, you purchased the residence you were renting." Sheila tucked her clipboard under one arm. "Is that correct?"
"I purchased the loft…" Jim began.
"What are you inferring?" Robbins demanded, his eyes narrowed.
"We all know what cops make, especially when they’re still somewhat new on the force," Sheila calmly pointed out. "Certainly not enough for the down payment you made for your residence."
"I got back pay from my time in the Army," Jim answered. "I used that."
Sheila smirked. "I checked your military records, Detective Ellison. You did receive back pay at approximately the same time as Detective Pendergrast disappeared. However, it was nowhere near the amount you used for the down payment on your residence."
After almost a minute’s silence, Jim calmly leaned back in his chair. "Are we done here?"
"For the moment," Sheila admitted. "But if you want to salvage your career, Detective Ellision, I suggest you start giving us something other than attitude."
Present Day – Simon’s Office
Simon watched as Jim and Blair entered the bullpen. After the meeting with IA, Simon had immediately returned to his office. Jim had paused to speak with his attorney, then Sandburg had button-holed his partner for an explanation of what had occurred in the meeting.
Sighing, Simon opened the door. Catching Jim’s eyes, he motioned for them to join him.
"You wanted to see us, sir?" Jim asked, closing the door behind him.
Simon wearily sat behind his desk. "Call just came through. I’ve been ordered to pull you off the Brackley case and chain your butt to a desk until the Board convenes again with their final recommendation." He eyed Jim closely. "Apparently Sheila made quite an impact on them regarding how you paid for the loft."
"Jim, what’s the big deal?" Blair waved his arms. "Tell them where the money came from. It’ll be one less thing she can hit you with."
Jim sighed. He walked across the office to stare out the window. "I can’t. There’s no record of it."
"What?!" Blair exclaimed.
"Sandburg!" Simon barked. Then he looked at Jim. "Ellison!" he barked. When Jim looked over his shoulder, Simon irritably tapped a forefinger on this desk. "Is there something I need to know here?"
Jim rubbed the back of his neck. "The money was…Look, I was in Covert Ops. And when you’re on a Special Ops mission, there’s an increase in pay."
"Hazard duty pay," Simon mused.
"Problem is, if that money’s accounted for…" Jim continued.
"Then the mission is compromised," Simon continued.
"Wait a minute!" Blair interrupted. "I mean…c’mon, Jim! Man, this was…how many years ago? It’s not gonna make a difference now, is it?" When Jim and Simon continued to stare at each other, he lowered his voice. "Is it?"
"The military will deny everything…even that I was assigned to such a mission," Jim carefully explained. "All the records have been sealed and most likely destroyed for all I know."
"There’s no way to prove where the money came from," Simon concluded. He wearily rubbed his face with both hands.
Blair put both hands on his hips. "Well, that sucks! How’s Jim supposed to prove his innocence if he’s off the case?"
"Sandburg’s right, Simon," Jim quickly agreed. "I’ve got to keep going on this."
"And if I’m going to be able to clear you at all, we need to do this by the book!" Simon snapped. He glared at Jim. "Are you sure about Jack?"
"We’ve been through this," Jim groaned.
"If you were still on the case, what would your next move be?" Simon pondered after a moment’s silence.
"I’d get a closer look at Jack’s car. Forensics hasn’t yet had a chance to really go over it," Jim decided. "But in order to do that, I’d need to gain access to the forensics garage."
"And the only way to do that is with this card." Simon pulled a slim credit-card shaped card from his inner jacket pocket. He tapped it on the desk. "And there’s no way I can give you this card." He dropped it on the desk and stood, glancing at his wristwatch. "Look at that. It’s time for dinner. I imagine just about everyone’s out right now. So I’m going out for dinner, gentlemen. I’ll be back in about a half-hour."
Blair barely waited until Simon closed the door behind him before snatching the card from the desk. "Yes!" he chortled.
Present Day – Forensics Garage
Jim carefully swiped the card and relaxed when the door swung open. "Thank you, Simon," he muttered. He led Blair across the deserted garage towards Jack’s car.
Blair waited quietly as Jim began examining the car. He edged forward, eagerly watching as the Sentinel ran his hands and eyes over the driver’s side door.
Jim suddenly straightened and walked to the other side of the car.
"What?" Blair eagerly asked. "Jim, what’ve you got, man?"
Jim stared at the interior of the car, seeing the glint of a bullet embedded in the inside of the driver’s side door. "Jack’s dead," he tonelessly answered. "No question about it."
Bothered by the tone in Jim’s voice, Blair frowned. "Come on, Jim. I know you’re good. But isn’t that a stretch?"
Jim came back to the driver’s side of the door. "Give me your hand." He took Blair’s outstretched hand and ran it over the car door. "What do you feel?"
Blair frowned in concentration. "Ummm…the car?" He glanced over his shoulder at Jim who stood immediately behind him.
Jim released Blair and leaned forward, running his hands over the metal. "I feel little bumps here and little bumps here," he explained. "Right here in the middle, it’s smooth. Indentations that came from a shotgun blast." He straightened. "The shot blew out that window, catching Jack dead center." He briefly closed his eyes at the image that came into his mind.
"Oh, man…" Blair sighed. "Jim, I’m sorry."
Jim abruptly pulled away. "If Jack’s dead, they have to admit he’s not guilty of killing Philip Brackley and stealing the ransom money. Now we just have to find Jack’s body."
Present Day – Serena Chang’s Office
"What can I do for you, Jim?" Serena asked, watching as the two men approached. Like most everyone at the station, she knew Ellison was hell-bent on proving the innocence of his former partner. She’d also heard rumors of an IA hearing focused on Jim himself, but wisely kept that information to herself.
"I need your help, Serena," Jim quietly admitted. "You know where they found Jack’s car?"
Serena nodded. She walked to one wall, lined with maps of Cascade and the surrounding area. After a moment, she pointed to a spot on one of the maps. "Here on the Kodiak River, right?"
"Right." Jim eagerly agreed. "Now…isn’t it possible that if a body was in the driver’s seat…say a 195-pound man…"
"Say about the height and weight of Jack Pendergrast," Serena suggested with a half-smile.
Jim hesitated then nodded. "Isn’t it possible that the river’s currents could pull him from the car and take him downstream?"
Serena’s eyes narrowed. "It’s…possible," she admitted.
"So how far could we expect that body to travel downstream?" Jim asked.
Serena leaned against the wall and tucked her hands into her lab coat. "That would depends on several factors," she explained. "Current. What’s on the riverbed. Rocks. Sunken logs. Could be a lot of things under the surface that could snag a body." She shrugged. "In any case, it would be unusual for it to travel more than a few miles."
"Okay, so we’re looking for bodies found within that range," Blair jumped in.
Serena smiled. "Let’s see what we’ve got."
They followed Serena to her desk where she activated a program on her computer. "Looks like there were five unidentified bodies found in that section of the river over the last four years. Two of them were women. One was a young boy, probably a runaway. The others were men. One is his late 60’s or early 70’s, and the other a young man in his 20’s." She looked up at Jim. "That’s it. Sorry."
"Wait a minute." Jim snapped his fingers. "Serena, remember the summer flooding four years ago? All the rains? The rivers were backed up and overflowing. Isn’t it possible under those circumstances and conditions that a body would be taken further downstream or something?"
"Possibly," Serena slowly admitted. She changed the parameters of the search. "Okay. Here’s one. A man in his 40’s was found in a tributary almost nine miles downstream."
Blair looked over Serena’s shoulder as Jim’s finger touched the monitor screen.
"Apparent cause of death was severe trauma to the face," Jim read aloud. "That would be consistent with a shotgun blast."
"Sure would," Serena nodded. She began scrolling down the screen.
"Wait!" Jim suddenly ordered. "Back up a couple of lines." He read the words on the screen then straightened up. "It’s Jack."
Present Day – Simon’s Office
Simon looked surprised to see both Jim and Blair sitting in his office waiting for him. The phone call he’d received while out to dinner hadn’t helped his digestion. Without a word, he pocketed the card lying on the corner of his desk.
"We found Jack’s body," Jim bluntly reported. Waiting for Simon to recover from the shock and sit behind his desk, he continued, "It was washed down the river. Found three and a half years ago but never identified. He’s buried in a potter’s field over at Fountain View Cemetery." The bitterness in his words caused Simon to heavily sigh.
"If the body was never identified…" Simon began.
"The little toe on the left foot was missing, sir," Jim interrupted.
Simon shook his head. "He was always so vain about that damn toe. He used to wear socks all the time. Even used to shower in them. Remember, Jim?"
Jim nodded. "In order to confirm it, we’re going to need a court order to exhume the body."
"I can’t get that for you right now." Simon shook his head.
"What!?" Jim exploded. "Why not?"
Simon glanced at Blair. "Would you give us a few moments, Sandburg?"
"I’d prefer he stay," Jim quickly said. "Sandburg’s been with me all along on this, sir."
Blair glanced from Jim to Simon. "Well, if anybody’s asking me…" He saw Simon’s glare and inwardly winced. "I’d prefer to stay."
"Look, Jim, IA has turned your case over to the District Attorney." Simon leaned back in his chair. "He’s recommending a full investigation with a grand jury hearing. As of right now, you’re suspended from duty."
"Simon…" Jim groaned.
"This is absurd, Simon!" Blair angrily interrupted. "We know where Jack’s buried! We know when and how he died!"
"I know that, Sandburg!" Simon snapped. "But it’s going to take time to prove it!" He looked at Jim. "I’m sorry, Jim. There was nothing I could do."
Jim nodded. "Very good, sir."
"I need your gun and shield, Jim," Simon quietly ordered.
Jim heard Blair muttering under his breath as he handed the requested items to Simon, who locked them in his desk.
"Come on," Simon grunted. "I’ve had enough of this place for a while. Let’s get something to eat."
"I thought you’d already had dinner," Blair grumbled.
"You two haven’t," Simon retorted.
~~~~~~~~~~ Act IV ~~~~~~~~~~Present Day – Mama Roselli’s Restaurant
Simon sipped his coffee and watched Blair attack his plate of ravioli. Jim had cut off two pieces of his lasagna and shoved them around on his plate.
"Come on, Jim. You’ve got to eat," Simon urged with a sigh. "I’m sorry I doubted Jack. But once we exhume the body and it’s identified as Jack, they’re going to have to change their tune." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "But if we hope to get out of this with your career intact, you’re going to have to be able to prove where you were the night this went down." He waited, exchanging confused looks with Blair. "Anytime you feel like jumping in with an explanation…"
Jim stared at his plate in silence.
"Jim, come on, man," Blair leaned towards his partner. "It’s not like you to sit home with the answering machine on and not pick up. What’s going on here?"
Simon leaned back in his chair with a look of understanding. "Who are you protecting?"
Jim sighed and dropped his fork. "Emily. Emily Carson."
"Emily?" Blair frowned.
"Jack’s old lady?" Simon questioned.
Jim put his elbows on the table and rubbed his forehead with his hands. Lowering his voice, he explained. "She was pretty torn up about what was going on with Jack. She’d tried to break it off a couple of times, but he just couldn’t let her go. She wound up crying on my shoulder a couple of times. That night…she just got to me and…I…I guess I wasn’t thinking."
"You and Jack’s old lady?" Simon was stunned.
"I knew it. I knew it," Blair muttered as he sipped his water.
"Simon, Emily was pretty much of a wild child then. But she’s got a family now. And her husband doesn’t know much about her past and Jack. And I want to keep it that way," Jim firmly stated.
Simon shook his head. "That ends now."
"It’s my call, Simon," Jim argued.
"What about Jack’s call?" Blair interrupted. "Didn’t you hear any part of the message? Anything at all?"
"I heard some muffled voices coming from the machine downstairs," Jim admitted. "But…I wasn’t paying enough attention to hear who it was." He leaned back in his chair and stared at his plate. "After a while, I went to get something to drink and saw the flashing light on the answering machine. It was one of those new digital ones that doesn’t have a tape. I tried to retrieve the messages and accidentally erased them. I screwed it up. " He pushed his plate aside. "Like I screwed up helping Jack."
Blair rested a hand on Jim’s arm for a moment.
Jim half-smiled at Blair’s action. "The next morning we heard about Jack. We were both so damn guilty we…anyway, Emily left; and I didn’t see her again until the other day."
"And you’ve been carrying this for four years?" Simon shook his head. "Hell, Jim, things happen. There was no way you could have known how important that phone call was."
"Yeah," Jim disgustedly echoed. "Things happen. This time, a missed phone call cost Jack his life. How do I deal with that, Simon?"
Present Day – The Loft
Blair stood in the kitchen sipping from a mug of tea. "You want anything, Jim? You didn’t eat much tonight."
"I’m not hungry." Jim sat slumped on the couch. He rubbed his eyes as Blair gently sat on the couch next to him. "Thanks for hanging with me through this, Chief. I know I’ve been pretty much of a jerk about this…about Emily and Jack."
"Hey, not a problem, man," Blair gently replied. "We’ve figured this out so far. We’ll figure out the rest."
"Something keeps bugging me about this," Jim muttered. "Why did they kill Jack? Even if Philip Brackley was already dead, they could have promised to return him, taken the money, and disappeared. Right?"
"Okay, they didn’t," Blair agreed. He frowned and sat his mug on the nearby table. "Why?" he prompted.
Jim automatically moved a magazine under Blair’s mug. "Jack knew who they were. And they knew it. They’d have to kill him to cover their tracks." He shook his head and leaned back onto the couch. "He was probably trying to tell me when he called."
"Yeah, about that call," Blair eagerly nodded. "I’ve been thinking about that, man." When he saw he had Jim’s attention, he continued. "Four years ago, you were unaware of your heightened senses. But they were there. You see, I believe you can reprocess your old memories. I think you can separate out everything else and just concentrate on the one sense you want activated."
"My hearing?" Jim slowly nodded.
"Precisely. If you can concentrate and focus back to that night with Emily, what sounded muffled then may come back clear as a bell." Blair grinned. "The information is there, Jim. You heard the answering machine. It’s just scrambled up with…uh…other experiences you had that night."
Jim winced. "It’s worth a shot. What do we do?"
"Great. Great. You know the drill, Jim." Blair jumped to his feet and began pulling the shades. While the nearby street lights reflected little light into the loft’s living room, Blair wanted no distractions. "Lean back. Close your eyes. Take slow cleansing breaths. That’s it…slowly…deeply." He perched on the table in front of Jim and lowered his voice even further. "Concentrate. Nothing exists except for that night with Emily."
In Jim’s mind, he saw Jack laughing in the bullpen…Jack and Emily arguing…Emily and he climbing the steps to Jim’s bedroom…
Blair saw Jim start to tense and leaned forward. He gently placed his hand on Jim’s knee. "Come on…come on…it’s okay. I know it’s hard but it’s safe to remember. Deep breaths. Soothing breaths. Nice and easy, Jim. It’s safe to remember."
In Jim’s mind, he heard Jack’s sardonic nickname ‘Slick’ and winced.
"Don’t give up," Blair quietly urged. "Block out everything except for that night. That’s the only time that exists."
Four Years Earlier – Jim’s Loft
Jim and Emily lay curled around each other in bed, dozing. Neither heard the phone downstairs begin to ring. After two rings, the answering machine activated.
‘Speak. It’s your dime.’
‘Nice way of answering your phone, Slick. Listen. Big stuff going on down here. I’m in a phone booth on the corner of Sixth and Howard and got a million bucks ransom in my back pocket. The kidnappers should be calling any minute. Now if you get this message in the next five minutes, get your ass down here and back me up. Oh, yeah…one more thing. I saw Sanford Dent this morning. As soon as we get this kid back, you and I got some real detective work to do, partner.’
Present Day – The Loft
Suddenly Jim sat up. "It was Jack."
"You’re kidding?" Blair’s eyes widened. "I mean…cool. What did he say?"
"He was at the phone booth at Sixth and Howard," Jim recalled. "Waiting for the kidnappers to call. He mentioned Sanford Dent."
"Who?" Blair frowned.
"The guy who came into Monique Brackley’s office when we were leaving." Jim shook his head. "His hair’s gone completely grey. That’s why I didn’t recognize him. He was the Brackleys’ lawyer. That’s who Jack saw that day."
"Dent! Not dentist!" Blair grinned. "He must have found something out. And whatever that was got him killed."
Frustrated, Jim glanced at the clock. "No way we’ll get anything from him if we knock on his door at midnight," he grumbled. "First thing in the morning, Chief. We’ll find out what Jack got from Dent four years ago."
Present Day – Sanford Dent’s Residence
Sanford Dent lived in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Given how much money he was pulling down as an attorney for the Brackley’s, both men were surprised the man didn’t live in a more expensive neighborhood. Dent’s neighborhood was located on the outskirts of Cascade on one of the hills overlooking the city. But the man could have afforded better housing.
As they walked up the path from the driveway to the house, Blair glanced at his partner. "Are you going to tell Simon what you remembered?"
"What. Not how." The answer was clipped and firm.
"Well, that should be interesting," Blair murmured. He innocently smiled at the taller man who glared at him as he rang the doorbell.
Blair smiled at the middle-aged woman who opened the door at the Dent residence.
"Good morning, ma’am," Jim greeted. "I’m Detective Ellison of the Cascade PD. Could we speak with Mr. Dent?"
"I’m sorry. He’s not here. I’m Louisa Dent, his niece and housekeeper. Could I help you?" The woman smiled.
"Do you know when he’ll be back?" Jim asked. "This is very important."
"He didn’t say," Louisa answered. "But you just missed him. He hasn’t been gone over five minutes. But you probably can find him either at the mill or his office in the Chadwick Building."
"Thank you for your assistance." Jim nodded.
"I just remembered!" Louisa called out. "Uncle San mentioned he planned to meet Mrs. Brackley later today."
Jim and Blair exchanged glances. "Thanks again." Jim smiled.
As they walked back to Jim’s truck, Blair stuffed his hands into his pockets. "We can call his office and see where he’s headed."
Jim stopped at the end of the driveway and knelt beside some brown liquid. Touching his fingers to the liquid, he brought it up to his nose. "Brake fluid," he identified. He jumped up and headed for the truck. "Come on!"
Blair was barely in the seat and had the door closed before Jim was gunning the truck’s engine. Eyes wide and trying to control his breathing, Blair fumbled with the seatbelt, finally getting it snapped by the time Jim stopped the truck at the intersection. "One way towards the mill and the other towards downtown," Blair groaned.
Jim focused his eyesight to see a trail of fluid to the left. "This way," he grunted.
A few minutes later, they glimpsed Dent’s car barely missing a school bus.
"He’s lost it," Jim muttered. Managing to flip his cell phone in Blair’s direction, he ordered, "Call it in. We’re going to need an ambulance. He’s not going to be able to hold it on these curves."
Blair managed to call in the emergency while trying to hold on as Jim’s truck rocked back and forth. They saw Dent’s car disappear around one curve. Then they saw a plume of smoke.
Quickly braking, Jim’s truck skidded to a halt close to the site where Dent’s car plunged over the side of the road. Both men climbed out of the truck and headed towards the crash site. Suddenly, Jim pulled Blair to a halt
"Jim, what are you doing?" Blair demanded.
"No heartbeat, Chief," Jim explained. "He didn’t make it."
Blair grimaced as the EMTs carried the covered stretcher up the incline towards the road. He glanced back to where Jim was removing file folders from the trunk of Dent’s car. He slowly walked towards his partner. He was surprised when Jim glanced up at him and smiled.
"I think we’ve got the missing link," Jim advised. Balancing the open file folder in one hand, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. "Banks!" he heard after two rings.
"Simon, I found some documents in Dent’s briefcase," Jim began.
Blair winced as he heard Simon’s bellow.
"What?! What the hell are you doing, Ellison? Do you have any idea how much trouble you could be in right now?" Simon demanded.
"Listen to me, Captain," Jim urged. "I know who killed Jack. And we have the proof."
"What proof?" Simon asked in a calmer voice.
"I’m looking at a copy of Warren Brackley’s will," Jim explained. "Actually, there were two of them. One was drawn up right after he married Monique, which left everything to his son and almost nothing to her. The newer one was drawn up a few days after Philip disappeared. It leaves everything to Monique with one provision. Philip had to remain missing for seven years for Monique to have full control of the assets."
"Money," Simon groaned. He laid his glasses on the desk and rubbed his eyes. "The oldest motive in the world."
"Jack had no idea he was walking into a trap," Jim surmised. "He must have found out about the wills from Dent. Maybe he asked too many questions. He got directions from the kidnappers and went to the meet. There had to have been two of them. One had Jack’s attention while the other approached the car and shot him. Philip Brackley was either already dead or they killed him right after they did Jack. They put Philip in Jack’s car and rolled it into the river." He glanced over his shoulder as the ambulance started moving away. "I’m going to have a talk with Monique Brackley."
"Dammit, Jim, you listen to me!" Simon bellowed. "Now is not the time for this! This is going to be done right! We owe that to Jack!"
"It’ll be done right, sir," Jim coldly promised. "They’re not walking away from what they did to Jack. We can set it up so they’ll confess."
~~~~~~~~~~ Act V ~~~~~~~~~~Present Day – Brackley Lumber Mill
"I assume you have a reason for this continual harassment, Detective?" Monique Brackley demanded.
"Just a few questions, Mrs. Brackley," Jim calmly answered. "I assume you’re as eager as anyone else to find out who murdered Philip. By the way, I have some bad news for you. Sanford Dent was killed this morning."
Monique’s blue eyes lowered. "How terrible. I must call Louisa and offer my support."
"You don’t seem surprised," Jim offered.
"Is that an accusation?" Monique snapped.
"Four years ago, my partner found out your husband had made a new will," Jim casually explained. "In the revised will, he left you everything if, and only if, Philip remained missing for seven years or was dead. Sanford Dent warned you Jack Pendergrast had found out about the will. So you had no choice but to kill him as well."
"You are delusional, Detective," Monique slowly shook her head with a slight smile. "You have no idea what my husband’s motives were for changing his will."
"Then why don’t you tell me?" Jim urged.
Monique’s fingernails tapped on the top of the desk. "Warren was a prudent man. He knew he was dying. And he was so angry with Philip. He thought Philip was playing some kind of cruel prank. Warren just wanted to make sure everything would be taken care of if he died."
"And you took care of it very well, didn’t you? It’s unfortunate you’re going to have to lose it all." Jim half-turned as he reached into his pocket. Catching Blair’s eyes, his own blue eyes flickered to the door, hoping his young partner would understand. *Somebody’s listening at the door, Chief.*
Blair watched as Jim pulled out a key ring with two keys from his pocket. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall next to the closed door.
"Dent’s keys to his safety deposit box," Jim identified. "They were in his briefcase. And in that safety deposit box, there was a letter." He coldly smiled, seeing Monique’s eyes riveted on the keys dangling from his fingers. "Actually more of an insurance policy. I guess he suspected you’d try to kill him. He had an appointment with you this afternoon…probably to warn you against trying to kill him."
"This is preposterous!" Monique nervously licked her lips.
"Is it?" Jim quietly drawled as he pocketed the keys.
"Detective, I’m sure we can negotiate some sort of deal," Monique offered.
"For the murder of a cop?" Jim scoffed. "We hang people in this state for that. In fact, I’d pull the trap door release myself."
"You don’t know everything!" Monique yelled. "I couldn’t have lifted a body into the trunk of a car myself! It was Art! He shot them both! God! Warren was a sick old man. Arthur…we were lovers. Both of us came from nothing. Warren would have changed his will back in Philip’s favor. Neither of us would have anything!"
Suddenly the door flew open. Jim spun around to see Art Landis standing in the doorway, holding a gun on them.
"You bitch!" Landis snarled. "The kidnapping was her idea, Ellison. The kid was in her way, and she wanted him out of the way forever. Wouldn’t surprise me if she helped her old man into the grave, too."
"And Dent?" Jim asked.
"Bought off four years ago with stock options." Landis shrugged. "But he started to get nervous when Philip’s body was found. Then you came around asking questions." He glared at Monique. "Just like you got nervous." He raised the gun.
Monique shrieked as she dropped to the floor behind her desk.
Standing behind the door, Blair threw his weight against the door, slamming it into Landis’ face.
Landis yelped in pain as he dropped the gun to the floor. Holding his bleeding nose, he staggered back then began running.
Jim quickly kicked Landis’ gun into a corner. Tossing his handcuffs to Blair, he pointed to Monique. "Cuff her and watch her."
Blair quickly ran to where Monique cowered behind her desk. He quickly snapped the handcuffs around her left wrist then snapped the other end of the handcuffs around the heavy solid leg of the desk. He lovingly patted the desk. "You’re not gonna lift that." Then he ran after his partner.
"Come back here and take these off me!" Monique screamed.
As Jim ran after Landis, he pulled the microphone from beneath his shirt. "Simon! Blair has Monique Brackley cuffed in her office. I’m heading after Landis. He’s probably not armed, but take caution in approaching him."
Jim easily spotted Landis running along the shoreline. Various logging boats were tied along the wharves. In the distance was a parking lot with several cars. Jim could see Landis glancing at the boats as he ran past them, obviously considering them as possibilities for his escape.
*You got possibilities, Slick. You just gotta learn when and where to use that attitude of yours.*
Jim put his head down and ran faster.
Panicked, Landis looked behind him. He stumbled and nearly fell.
Simon cursed as they barged their way into the offices of the Brackley lumber mill. They’d been forced to wait off the grounds of the mill in order to avoid tipping off the people who had killed Jack. Now that delay could prove costly.
Snapping orders to the officers with him, Simon blinked as Blair ran past him in the hallway leading to Monique Brackley’s office. "Where’s Ellison!" he demanded.
"Monique’s cuffed in her office, and Jim’s after Landis!" Blair blurted.
"I know that!" Simon bellowed. "Where?" He cursed again when Blair shouted "outside" over his shoulder and disappeared down the steps. Simon motioned at the officers with him. "You and you. Arrest Mrs. Brackley. You and you. After me." He started down the stairs and yelled, "Sandburg!"
Jim didn’t need sentinel abilities to hear Landis’ panting. The man stumbled again as he desperately tried to outrun his pursuer.
Jim flung himself forward, tackling Landis from behind. As the two men rolled in the muddy dirt, Jim slammed his fist against Landis’ jaw.
*You got potential, Slick. You also got a temper. But don’t knock it. Learn to use it right, and you’ve got one hell of a weapon.*
Landis weakly tried to defend himself, but Jim easily slammed his fist against the side of Landis’ head.
From a distance, Blair saw Jim sitting astride Landis. Once, twice, Jim’s fist fell against Landis’ head.
*As soon as we get this kid back, you and I got some real detective work to do, partner.*
Blair saw Jim’s fist raise a third time and screamed, "JIM!"
Jim hesitated as Blair’s voice cut through the red fog blurring his vision. Snarling, he got to his feet and pulled Landis up as well. "You’re under arrest for the murders of Jack Pendergrast, Philip Brackley, and Sanford Dent."
Landis nearly fell to his knees as Jim shoved him towards Blair and Simon.
"You have the right to remain silent…"
*Not bad, Slick. You got potential.*
Present Day – Cascade Memorial Gardens
Jim sat on a stone bench overlooking the funeral below. Shrubbery and low-hanging branches almost obscured him from the gaze of those below. Police officers in their dress uniforms stood at attention as they laid to rest one of their own.
He’d been surprised when Blair had appeared dressed in a dark blue suit and tie. The younger man had merely smiled and asked how else was he supposed to pay his respects?
He’d also been surprised, but gratified, to see every member of Major Crimes also paying their final respects. He bitterly hoped this would finally put all the questions about Jack’s honesty to rest.
Dressed in faded jeans and a clean shirt, Jim watched dry-eyed as the priest made the sign of the Cross.
"Jesus said I am the resurrection and the light. He who believeth in me, even if he dies…"
Jim glanced up as someone quietly sat next to him. He smiled at Emily’s equally casual outfit.
"Why aren’t you down there?" she quietly asked.
Jim shrugged. "Jack would have hated all that, you know?"
Emily nodded. "Probably." Then she chuckled. "He’d have preferred a nice wake at O’Hanlons."
Jim smiled despite himself. "I let him down, Emily. He lay in an unmarked grave for four years." He glanced at his feet. "Jack deserved better than that."
"Now he has it," Emily quietly assured him. "And now it’s time to let him go." She eyed the people below them. "You ever wonder what would have happened if things had worked out differently? If we hadn’t been together that night? If Jack hadn’t been killed?"
Jim frowned as he watched Sheila Irwin approach Blair.
Behind his sunglasses, Blair cautiously eyed her.
"I’ve been trying to get in touch with Jim," Sheila quietly spoke. "I want to apologize."
Blair neutrally nodded. "I’ll give him the message."
Sheila hesitated than walked away.
Jim slowly turned to Emily and half-smiled. "Yeah, Emily. I think about it now and again."
Emily smiled in return. She reached out to take Jim’s hand as the honor guard detail formed.
The police officers snapped to attention.
Simon stepped forward and gently touched Jack’s coffin. *Sorry for doubting you, Jack. Rest easy, my friend.* Simon stepped back and stood at attention.
Blair glanced over his sunglasses to where he knew Jim was sitting. After a moment, he returned his gaze to the honor guard.
Blair slowly stepped forward and placed Jim’s ball cap on top of Jack’s coffin before stepping back.
The young anthropologist flinched at the gunfire. A nearby flock of birds took wing, briefly silhouetted against the clear blue sky.
As a lone bugler began playing ‘Taps.’ Jim gently squeezed Emily’s fingers.The EndPlease remember to send feedback to our authors. Feedback can be sent to: [email protected]Next week’s episode: Reunion by Lyn Townsend