By Melinda Holley

Beta Read by: Danae and Yvonne
Written for PetFly by: Joseph Johnson & Tom Fudge
Rated PG
internal thought in * *

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

Highway to Cascade International Airport (5:20 pm)

Steven Ellison looked around the interior of the 1969 Ford Truck with barely concealed amusement. "Thanks for taking me to the airport, Jim."

Jim Ellison easily shrugged. "No problem." He waited for Steven’s curiosity to get the best of him.

"Okay, what happened to the Expedition?" Steven finally asked, less than a minute later.

"Had a small accident," Jim admitted with a smile. He fondly patted the steering wheel. "Got this baby for a song."

"I bet," Steven muttered. He again looked around the truck interior. "You’re making some sort of statement, right? Some sort of anti-establishment thing?"

Jim shrugged although he tossed his brother a grin.

"Speaking of anti-establishment how’s Sandburg?" Steven chuckled.

Jim laughed in response. "Burning the candles at both ends and the middle…as usual. But he’s okay."

"Seriously, I do appreciate you getting me to the airport," Steven replied. "What a time for the battery to drop dead."

"Yeah, those new cars…" Jim shook his head in sympathy. "Just can’t trust ‘em."

"Everybody’s entitled to one clunker of a battery," Steven protested with a laugh. "And by the time I could have gotten a company car to take me to the airport, I’d have missed the flight." He eyed his brother, still uncertain how Jim would react to certain statements. "I really hate that I’m going to be gone for a month. I’m starting to enjoy our ‘planned at the last minute’ dinners."

"Yeah, me, too," Jim admitted with a smile. He recalled the difficulty they’d had in trying to schedule specific days and times to have dinner only to have one or the other call to reschedule due to a sudden conflict. Finally, they’d decided to go with the spur of the minute plan.

Steven stared out the window then took a deep breath. "You talked to Dad lately?" He winced, almost feeling the temperature in the truck drop by at least twenty degrees.

"Why would I have talked to him?" Jim snapped.

"Hey, easy, Jim." Steven automatically held up his hands in defense. "I just asked a question."

Jim took a deep breath and slowly exhaled it. "No, I haven’t talked to him." He glanced at his younger brother, realizing how unsettled Steven was becoming. "I take it you have."

"I’m not choosing him over you," Steven defensively replied. "To be honest, I like you better. But…" Irritated at having to carefully choose his words, he shook his head. "Look, we’ve gotten a bit closer, haven’t we?" He waited for Jim’s slow nod. "And I admit…I realized I’ve missed a lot when we weren’t talking or even acknowledging that the other existed."

"Yeah…same here," Jim softly interrupted.

Steven relaxed. "I’d see Dad every so often at business luncheons or dinners. He still keeps his hand in." He shrugged. "I started having dinner with him about once a month. I guess I wanted to know why he did it when he set us against each other." He took another deep breath. "And I guess I’m wondering if I could have with him what I’m developing with you."

"Did you ask him?" Jim glanced at his brother.

Steven shook his head. "We haven’t gotten much past the ‘how has business been’ stage." He glanced out the window again. "Maybe I won’t ask. It doesn’t seem so important to me anymore. So much of that is water under the bridge, you know?"

*Maybe for you.* Jim glanced in the rear view mirror as he maneuvered across the highway towards the airport exit. "He say anything about me?"

Steven glanced at his brother then stared out the front windshield. "Last time we had dinner he asked if I’d seen you since the mess at the track. I guess he’d seen both our names in the paper when all that was going on. I told him I had. He didn’t say anything else…just nodded."

The two brothers exchanged wary glances then Jim shrugged. "Go for it, if you want. But I don’t have anything to say to him." As he turned the truck towards the parking structure, he glanced at his brother’s face. "It won’t get between us if you mend fences with him."

Steven nodded but wondered who his brother thought he was kidding. "Jim, we were kids when he played us against each other," Steven pointed out. "We’re adults now. We’ll see it if he tries it again." He smiled in relief when Jim’s cell phone began ringing.

"Ellison," Jim snapped. He frowned then glanced at Steven. "Understood. I’m on my way." As he put the cell phone back in his jacket pocket, he got in the lane to head towards the terminal. "Sorry, but I’ve got to get to work."

"No problem." Steven nodded. "Just let me out in front. We wouldn’t have much time to kill anyway before I’d have to go through security." He reached for his small suitcase sitting on the floor next to his feet.

Jim glanced at the small case and shook his head. "And I thought I traveled light," he laughed.

"I’m staying at the corporate apartment in Tokyo," Steven chuckled. "And they have stores in Japan, you know." He opened the truck door as the vehicle came to a stop.

"You’re flying high, Stevie," Jim teased as his brother got out of the truck.

Steven laughed in response. "Thanks again for the ride, Jimmy." He sat his suitcase on the curb and leaned back inside the truck. "You be careful, okay? We’ll have a couple of dinners to catch up on when I get back, and I don’t want to have them in a hospital room. Understand?"

"Got it." Jim grinned. "Travel safe." He idled long enough to make sure Steven entered the terminal without trouble. As he pulled away, he reached for his cell phone and dialed. "Sandburg? Yeah, I just dropped him at the airport. I got a call from Simon. A body’s been found at the football practice field at Rainier. Meet me downstairs. I should be there in about twenty minutes. Yeah. I know, buddy."

Irritably, Jim tossed the cell phone on the seat beside him. Thoughts of hoping Blair didn’t know the deceased mixed with questions about why his father would have asked Steven about him. Finally deciding he’d find out soon enough about the first and telling himself that he didn’t care about the second, he reached out and turned on the radio.

One of the local stations had changed format. Much to Sandburg’s disgust, it had become a "golden oldies" station. Jim liked it because they played a lot of Santana. What he got now was Genesis.

//Well, the key to my survival was never much in doubt. The question was how I could keep sane trying to find a way out.//


Football Practice Field – Rainier University (6:08 pm)

"Gosh, they sure got here quick." Blair Sandburg eyed the waiting reporters with a wary eye. Because of the setting sun, some of the technical crews were setting up spotlights.

Jim grunted as he parked the truck to one side.

As soon as they made their way towards the yellow barrier, the reporters began shouting questions. One man held up a camera and took their picture, his flash catching them by surprise.

"Not now, thank you," Jim snapped as he blinked to clear his vision.

"You okay?" Blair gently squeezed Jim’s arm.

"Yeah." Jim glanced over his shoulder, but the photographer had disappeared into the crowd. "Idiot." Turning, he ducked under the yellow tape.

"This shouldn’t be happening at a school," Blair muttered as he followed Jim across the practice field. He shivered in the crisp damp air.

"Shouldn’t happen anywhere, Chief," Jim replied. "But it does and that’s why we’re…" He stopped and slowly turned in a circle. His eyes narrowed as he sniffed the air.

"Jim? What is it?" Blair asked, stepping closer to his partner.

Jim shook his head. "Thought I smelled something." He sniffed again. "Never mind. It’s gone." He used his hand to nudge his partner forward. Glancing back towards the crowd of reporters, he saw a couple of cameras flashing as university officials arrived. Sighing, he followed Blair towards the group of people standing in the middle of the field.

"Captain." Jim nodded at Simon Banks, who stood to one side talking with the coroner, Dan Wolfe. "Do we have an ID yet?"

Simon shook his head. "Technically a Joe Doe. We found a wallet next to the body…empty except for a picture. The students who found him thought he taught here."

"He does…did. He’s Robert McCain," Blair quietly spoke. "He’s…was professor in the Psychology Dept."

Jim shot the younger man a quick, sympathetic glance then knelt next to the body.

"Did you know him well?" Simon asked.

Blair shook his head. "We’re in different departments, you know. He’d asked me about my work with the police department a few times. He was doing some research about serial killers and asked if I’d help with some questions about police procedure."

"Did he have a private practice?" Simon questioned.

Blair slowly shook his head. "I don’t think so. But I know he volunteered for the university hotline. You know, for kids that are stressed and stuff."

"Any witnesses to the assault?" Jim studied the dead man, noticing the grimace on the face of the corpse. The man hadn’t died easily.

"Nobody saw or heard anything," Simon answered. "The students who found him were taking a short cut."

"The victim was strangled with something like a piano wire," Dan added, slowly wiping the dirt from his hands. "But the stab wound is postmortem." He waved his hand, motioning his people to bring the gurney.

Jim shook his head as he got to his feet. "Something’s wrong. Why empty the wallet instead of taking the whole thing?"

"Maybe it’s part of some sort of ritual," Blair doubtfully suggested.

"More likely, the picture was deliberately left here," Jim mused.

"It’s got to mean something," Simon growled. "Do you know if McCain had a son?" He handed the picture, encased in an evidence bag, to Blair. Grumbling under his breath, he turned to meet the approaching university officials.

"I don’t know if he had a son or not," Blair admitted. "But this is an old picture of somebody…years old maybe."

Jim looked at the picture, then reached out to bring it closer. "This isn’t McCain’s son, Chief. It’s me."

"You?" Blair stared at the snapshot once again. "Jim…this is freaky, man."

Jim turned away as Dan’s people started their work. He glanced up at the sky to see a plane heading west. *Travel safe, little brother.*

Simon walked back to them after a few minutes. He glared at Blair. "Your university associates want this handled expeditiously."

"Hey, they’re not my associates." Blair held up both hands in front of him. "They occupy a far more rarefied atmosphere." He looked past Simon at the university officials who were speaking with the reporters. "And they have actual offices," he muttered under his breath before looking at the picture once again.

"That picture isn’t McCain’s son, if he has one," Jim quietly spoke. "It’s a picture of me when I was a child."

Simon glanced down at the dead man who was being carefully put into a black body bag. "How, not to mention why, did he get a picture of you as a child?"

"I don’t know, sir." Jim shrugged.

"You know, this doesn’t even look like a real picture," Blair commented. "More like something that was maybe downloaded from a computer onto some sort of good quality photo-type paper."

"Still doesn’t answer the question," Simon grunted, taking the evidence bag from Blair’s hand. "Check out the man’s office, Jim."


Robert McCain’s Office – Rainier University (6:30 pm)

"Now, this, Sandburg, is what an office should look like." Jim eyed the McCain’s small office with approval.

Blair snorted. "Neatness and rigid organization are highly overrated."

"At least he could find things without moving everything in the room," Jim teased.

Blair made ‘shooing’ motions as he sat behind McCain’s desk. "Want to bet he’s just as anal about his files?" he muttered, turning on the desktop computer.

Jim chose not to respond. Instead, he began a careful search of the small filing cabinet.

After a moment, Blair looked up. "Jim, he has you cross-indexed with a serial killer." When Jim looked up in surprise, he continued, "The Country Club Strangler."

Jim turned back to the filing cabinet, then removed a thick file labeled ‘Country Club Strangler’.

Blair turned back to the computer monitor. "He killed seven men in the early 70’s during a three-year killing spree. All were middle-aged, wealthy businessmen. All were strangled then stabbed after death." He took a deep breath. "Oh, man, their empty wallets were found next to their bodies."

Jim sat in a chair across from the desk and read from the file. "Wayne Hollow. He claimed he was innocent from the time he was arrested. But there were no murders after he was arrested."

"Was he convicted?" Blair asked.

"He killed himself while awaiting trial." Jim slowly closed the file. "He hung himself in his cell."

"So everybody figured he was guilty since the murders stopped," Blair mused. He moved the computer mouse and clicked open more files. "He’s got data on each of the victims plus copies of the police reports and newspaper stories. William Franklin. Adam Reynolds. Timothy Kingman. Charles Taylor. Emmanuel Rothstein. Nicholas Damron. Karl Heydash."

Jim’s eyes narrowed. "Who?"

Blair clicked open the file marked ‘Heydash.’ "Umm…Karl Heydash."

Jim closed his eyes. Suddenly the air around him was cold…ice cold. Hearing his heart thumping, he saw trees around him in the twilight. Running…he was running. Looking…he was looking for something. He had to hurry…he couldn’t be late. Dad hates it when we’re late. He’ll blame Stevie…my fault we’re late. Ball…where’s the ball? Bud? Bud…something’s wrong…why is he laying there? Blood…there’s blood. Ohgodohgod…nononono…HE KILLED BUD!


Jim’s eyes snapped open as Blair roughly shook him. "Wha…" He looked at Blair who was kneeling on the floor in front of him. Blair’s hands were tightly squeezing his upper arms. He cleared his throat and looked around in confusion. "Did I zone?"

"No, you didn’t zone!" Blair took a deep breath. "God, you scared me, Jim! I don’t think you were breathing!"

Jim let the file in his hand slide to the floor. He used both hands to gently pat either side of Blair’s waist. "I’m okay, Sandburg. But if I didn’t zone, what happened?"

"Hell if I know." Blair released Jim’s arms. "You just seemed to…" He waved both hands in obvious agitation. "…to go somewhere else." He saw Jim was as unnerved as he was. "I thought I was gonna have to slug you or something." He moved back as Jim leaned forward to pick up the file. "Jim, McCain’s file says you found Karl Heydash’s body."

Jim stared at the file then slowly looked at Blair. "I didn’t remember…not until you said his name," he whispered. He got to his feet and helped Blair stand. "He told me to call him Bud." He rubbed his forehead.

Blair went to the computer and busily typed. "I’m gonna send these files to my laptop. I can download them at home after we take care of you."

"I’m fine!" Jim snapped.

"Jim, c’mon, man, we can’t do much else now, right?" Blair watched as the files were transmitted.

"Right," Jim wearily leaned against the desk.

Blair turned off the computer. Walking around the desk, he gently took the file from Jim’s hand and put it into his backpack. "Come on, let’s get you home, okay?"

Outside, Jim silently handed Blair the keys. "Until we…you figure out what happened, you better drive."

Blair got his partner into the truck then got behind the wheel. Glancing at Jim, who sat slumped against the door, Blair reached out and turned on the radio. He never thought he’d be happy to hear Santana, but it would calm Jim’s nerves. Instead, he got Genesis.

//They say time is a healer and my wounds are not the same.//


The Loft – 7:17 pm

"Damn it, Sandburg! Why don’t I remember any of this?"

Blair glanced at Jim, who was pacing by the couch. He’d barely gotten the front door closed and locked before his friend exploded. Cautiously, he stood by the couch.
"My guess is that you repressed the whole incident."

"Your guess?!"

Blair locked eyes with Jim. "Yes, Jim! My guess until we investigate further. How old were you, anyway?"

"Ten," Jim mumbled. He sat on the couch and buried his face in his hands. "I was ten."

"A ten year old kid…finding a body like that…especially somebody you really cared for…" Blair began.

Jim looked up in astonishment. "How did you know that?"

Blair shrugged, sitting on the couch next to his partner. "The way you reacted. I don’t think you would have repressed the memory if Heydash had been a stranger."

"No, he wasn’t a stranger," Jim admitted. "He…I guess he was sort of a father figure…a mentor, maybe." He got to his feet and walked to stare out the clear glass of the balcony doors. "He was a neighbor. A businessman like my father."

Blair licked his lips. "You know…there could be more that you’re not remembering."

"I found his body, Sandburg. That’s all," Jim crisply answered. "The story was in the newspaper. McCain must have found it. End of story."


Jim turned around and coldly stared at Blair. "End of story."

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

Simon’s Office – 9:22 am

"You’re kidding!" Simon looked across his desk, fully expecting to see Sandburg grinning with a ‘gotcha’ expression on his face.

"I’m afraid not, sir," Jim admitted.

"How could you forget something like that?" Simon frowned.

"I was ten years old, sir. It was a long time ago." Jim’s spine stiffened.

"Not forget, Simon." Blair waved his hands. "Repressed. Like any other trauma." He glanced at Jim. "Last night, hearing Karl Heydash’s name…just brought it all back at once." He threw Simon a warning look.

"So now we have a copycat?" Simon mused.

"I don’t think so," Jim slowly replied. He knew Simon wasn’t going to like it. "When I found Bud…Karl Heydash’s body, there was this…scent. Faint but distinct. I smelled it again last night near McCain’s body."

"And smell is closely linked to memory," Blair excitedly interrupted. "Jim, if you’re right, you smelled something as a kid beyond what a normal person could smell. That means you had your sentinel abilities as a kid!"

"With all due respect, Sandburg, that’s in the past," Simon scowled. "I’m more concerned with the present. Right now, we have a killer running around. And a series of murders that were never solved!" He leaned forward. "Any ideas why McCain had your picture?"

Jim shrugged. "Theory only, sir. He was probably going to contact me to see if I remembered anything about finding the…Karl Heydash’s body. McCain seemed to be coming to the conclusion that Wayne Hollow might have been innocent. We stopped at all the local newspaper offices and confirmed that McCain had been trying to track down the original reporters who covered the story."

Simon grunted. "That means McCain may have found something the killer didn’t want found." He reached for his phone. "I’ll have all the old files brought up on the Country Club Stranglings."


The Morgue – 9:47 am

"Man, this place gives me the creeps," Blair muttered.

"You should see it at Halloween," Jim replied. "Dan’s got a wicked sense of humor." He enjoyed seeing Blair’s blue eyes widen in astonishment. Nudging open the partially closed door, he found Dan at his desk, dictating notes into a tape recorder.

"Gunshot wound number one to left anterior wall is 1.3 centimeters diameter. Absence of tattooing indicates weapon was fired from at least…" He looked up and turned off the recorder.

"Sorry to interrupt," Jim apologized.

Dan waved his hand. "No problem. None of my patients are going anywhere." He briefly smiled at Blair’s pained expression. "What’s up?"

"Did you finish McCain’s autopsy?" Jim asked.

Dan nodded and leaned back in his chair. Stretching his arms over his head, he smiled when he heard joints popping. "A couple of hours ago. You should have the paperwork before the end of the day."

"Anything special about the stab wound?" Jim inquired. He saw Blair curiously look through the open door behind Dan’s desk.

Dan exchanged a quick grin with Jim when Blair realized he was looking into the morgue itself and quickly turned away. "Just like I thought. Postmortem wound, straight to the heart. The angle was left to right, indicating the killer is most likely left-handed."

Jim frowned. "You still have McCain’s clothing?"

Dan nodded. He reached behind him on the credenza and handed Jim a wrapped package. "I was getting ready to send them up to Forensics. There were blood residue and skin fragments all over them. Unfortunately, all were from the victim." He grinned as his pager buzzed. "Do me a favor and take them up to Forensics for me, okay?"

"Sure, Dan." Jim nodded. "C’mon, Chief." They left as Dan reached for his phone to return a call.

Closing the door behind him, Blair watched as Jim opened the package. "You think there’s something that…" He frowned when Jim winced. "Jim?"

Jim vaguely heard Blair’s voice as he felt the air around him go cold again. Desperately trying to hear his friend’s voice, he closed his eyes…Ball…where’s the ball? It’s gotta be here somewhere…oww!…Bud? Bud! BUD!!!!


Jim’s eyes snapped open to see Blair literally in his face. He dazedly wondered when Blair had grown several inches as he stepped back from Blair’s grasp.

"Jim, you talk to me right now!" Blair demanded, following Jim.

"I’m…I’m here." Jim shook his head. "It’s that damn scent!" He looked down, expecting to see the bag with McCain’s clothes in his hand. "Where’s…"

"Over there." Blair pointed to the other side of the hallway. "I grabbed it out of your hands and tossed it." He walked over and grabbed the bag. "And you’re not getting it back, either."

"Whatever that scent is, it’s playing havoc with my senses," Jim grumbled.

Blair’s blue eyes narrowed. "Maybe."

"What do you mean ‘maybe’?" Jim angrily demanded.

"I mean, you don’t go into a zone-out," Blair calmly explained. "Let me think on this, okay?"

"Can you get that up to Forensics?" Jim asked. "I’ll call and let them know you’re on your way with it and to put a rush on it."

"What are you going to do?" Blair eyed his partner with concern.

"I’m gonna go through those old case files on the Country Club Strangler," Jim sighed. "See if I can make sense of ‘em. That’s gonna take most of the day, so why don’t I take you home so you can get your car and go to the university. You’re probably behind in stuff, huh?"

Blair shrugged. "Story of my life, man." They waited in silence for the elevator. When the doors opened, Blair nudged the sentinel’s arm. "Just promise me you’ll call if you go out, okay? Until we get a handle on this, I really worry about you being out there by yourself."

Jim started to argue, then saw the stubborn look in Blair’s eyes. "Fine. Whatever."


The Loft (5:11 pm)

Blair opened the door to the loft, thankful he’d gotten inside the building just as the storm broke. Outside, it was now raining the proverbial cats and dogs. The dismal autumn day’s weather had turned worse, drenching the city with cold rain.

As he hung up his jacket, he saw the flickering fire in the fireplace and Jim standing by the balcony doors. As he walked closer, he saw Jim was idly tossing a football between his hands. The flashes of lightning illuminated the somber expression on the older man’s face.

"Jim?" Blair waited until the other man turned around. "Want me to go long?" He grinned and mimicked catching a football. His smile faded when Jim turned back to look out at the cascading rain. "What’s wrong?" he softly asked.

"Nothing’s wrong," Jim denied. "Why?"

Quickly deciding to stay with the humorous approach, Blair joked, "I just feel like I’m interrupting a romantic interlude here between you and your football."

"Don’t quit your day job, Shecky," Jim grunted.

Blair rolled his eyes. *So much for humor.* He walked closer and put his hands on his hips. "I called just before I left the university. Rhonda said you’d left about an hour ago complaining of a headache."

"You try reading all those old files for hours, Sandburg. You’d have a headache, too," Jim complained, rolling the football between his hands. "I can handle it." He walked past Blair to sit on the couch

"Yeah, you can handle it," Blair nodded. "But friends help each other, right?" He sat on the coffee table in front of Jim, ignoring the scowl on the sentinel’s face.

"I’ve been trying to figure this out," Jim admitted. "It’s like some cruel joke, and I’m the punch line. I’m a cop…working on a case that involved me when I was a kid…and I can’t remember one damn thing!" He resisted the urge to angrily throw the football at the wall.

"Jim, you were a kid," Blair patiently explained. "You were part of something horrible. And that trauma shut down your senses. Sorta like what happened when you came back from Peru."

Jim sighed. "I just keep going around in circles…trying to remember."

Blair hesitated then took a deep breath. "I think you are remembering." When Jim shot him a disbelieving look, he continued. "Look, every time you smell that scent, you…it’s like you’re reliving something! I think that scent is the trigger. You barely caught the scent at the crime scene. But it was enough to trigger your memory when you heard Heydash’s name. The memory is there. You repressed it, but it’s still there. It’s called a sense memory. You just need to focus on that smell and see where it leads you."

"It leads me into some sort of…"

"Only because it’s caught us by surprise so far," Blair briskly interrupted. "Now we know what we’re doing. We’re in control." He ignored Jim’s snort. "Come on. It’s just like we did when you needed to remember that phone call from Jack, remember?"

Jim frowned, but slowly nodded.

"Okay," Blair smiled. "Lean back. Close your eyes. Relax." He relaxed himself as Jim obeyed. "Now…all the memories are there. Remember the last time you and Heydash talked. Remember…and tell me…"


"Look, Jimmy, right here. Put some action on it."

Jimmy Ellison easily caught the football and smiled. "I hope I can throw this well on Sunday."

"You will." Bud Heydash grinned at the young boy. "Remind your dad to save me a spot in the bleachers."

"I don’t think he’s going to be there." Jimmy stared down at the football he was idly turning in his hands.

"It’s the championship." Bud frowned. "He’ll be there."

"He’s got an important business meeting." The young boy squinted as he stared at the setting sun.

Bud put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. "Things happen, Jimmy. I’m sure it couldn’t be helped."

"Do you ever think about what it’d be like if things were different?" Jimmy curiously asked. Catching himself from drifting into a nice fantasy of Bud being his father, he quickly continued. "I mean…if you hadn’t wrecked your knee? If you’d played pro ball?"

Bud shrugged. "I used to think about it a lot. But not so much anymore." He reached out to tousle Jimmy’s hair. "Got other things to think about now." He smiled at the boy’s sudden grin. "Anyway, there was no guarantee I’d have been good enough to make the pros."

"Think I could be that good?" Jimmy shyly asked.

Bud put a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. "You can be anything you want to be. But you’ve got to stop holding back. It’s as though you’re afraid to trust yourself."

Puzzled, the boy looked up at the man he admired most in the world. Then he turned his head, hearing the slam of a door from a house three blocks. <Stevie! Your jacket!> <I’m gonna find Jimmy!> Sighing, Jimmy looked down at the football. "Stevie’s coming."

"How do you know that?" Bud chuckled.

Jimmy shrugged. "I just do." He hesitantly looked up, surprised to see the humor on Bud’s face.

"And I suppose you know what you’re having for dinner, right?" the older man teased.

Jimmy smiled and sniffed the autumn air. "Smells like…roast beef."

Bud threw back his head and laughed. "You better get going then. You wouldn’t want to be late for that." He touched the boy’s shoulder. "And Jimmy? Remember what I told you. Learn to trust your instincts."

"I will, Bud," Jimmy earnestly promised. "See you on Sunday."

"Ok, Chief. I’ll be there," Bud promised in return.

End Flashback

Blair was startled when Jim suddenly opened his eyes and sat upright. "Jim! You okay?"

Jim shivered, feeling cold despite the warmth of the room. "Yeah."

"Jim, you were saying that Bud…"

"I didn’t remember anything about the murder, Sandburg," Jim curtly interrupted, getting to his feet.

"That’s because we didn’t get that far," Blair pointed out. He watched as Jim began pacing, tossing the football between his hands. "But you remember Bud Heydash, don’t you?"

Jim nodded, his jaw clenching. "Enough, Sandburg."


Jim spun around, throwing the football at Blair, who caught it just before it hit his chest. "I said, enough!" Taking a deep breath, he headed for the stairs. "I’m heading for bed. Maybe I can shake this headache. I’ll see you tomorrow."

Recognizing the dismissal, Blair gently put the football on the coffee table. Glancing upstairs, he figured he’d better grab a sandwich before Jim turned in for the night. This would be one night the older man wouldn’t tolerate any noise.


The Loft – 10:22 pm

Drifting halfway between sleep and wakening, Jim turned over. Barely opening his eyes, he saw the time on the digital clock by his bed then closed his eyes. He was vaguely aware of Blair downstairs in the living room. Whatever he was doing, he was being silent about it. Normally that would have worried him, but now his thoughts were elsewhere…stuck at a point in time he desperately never wanted to remember….


"Jimmy! Dinner!"

Jimmy smiled at his little brother. "Yeah, I know. I’m coming." He tossed the football to his younger brother. "Is Dad eating with us tonight?"

Stevie shrugged. "He’s talking to Mom on the phone."

The two boys stopped at the intersection half a block from their house. Jimmy looked at his house and through the window into his father’s study.

<Grace! That’s not my problem! I can’t pay you alimony if I don’t work. This conference is not optional, and I have to attend. All I need is for you to take care of the boys for two weeks.>

"Jimmy, what are you looking at?" Stevie stood on his tiptoes.

"Nothing." Jimmy carefully looked both ways, then nudged his brother across the street. "Hey, who do you think would win in a fight? Spiderman or The Hulk?"

"No contest!" Stevie laughed. "Spidey would kick Hulk’s butt!"

"No way!" Jimmy teased. "The Hulk would tie him up in his own web!"

"That’s what you think!" Laughing, Stevie threw the football at his older brother and ran towards the house.

Laughing just as hard, Jimmy followed.

End Flashback

Jim’s blue eyes flew open as he tried to control his breathing. Shivering, he burrowed under the blankets and closed his eyes.

Downstairs, curled on the couch, Blair worriedly stared up at his partner’s bedroom and bit his lower lip.


Simon’s Office – 8:31 am

"Well, this just makes things so much easier," Simon snarled.

Jim nodded as he studied the front page of The Cascade Tribune. The lurid headlines read "Country Club Strangler Returns." Just under the headlines were pictures of Jim both as a boy and as a man. "So much for buying time," he sighed.

"When I get my hands on whoever leaked this…" Simon glared at the ringing telephone on his desk. "Banks!" he answered. Looking up at Jim, he continued. "Yeah, he’s here." Covering the mouthpiece, he held the receiver out. "For you."

Puzzled, Jim took the receiver. "Ellison."

"I saw you in the paper, Jimmy," a man’s voice murmured.

"Who is this?" Jim frowned. He looked at Simon and mouthed ‘trace it.’

"You mean you don’t know? Take a trip to the Cascade Dump and don’t forget to check the pockets." There was a chuckle before the call was terminated.

Jim turned to Simon who had barely reached his office door. "He’s gone. We need to get to the dump." He stared into Simon’s dark eyes. "I think we’ve got another body, sir."

Simon angrily muttered under his breath as he walked back to get his coat.

Jim quickly walked to the coat rack behind his desk. "Let’s go, Chief," he told Blair who was sitting behind his desk. "Looks like we may have another one."

As the younger man scrambled to his feet, stuffing a thick book into his backpack and reaching for his jacket, Jim suddenly blinked. *Bud called me ‘Chief.’ I’ve called Sandburg that almost from the beginning.*

"Jim?" Blair quietly asked a hand on his arm.

"Yeah, fine, let’s go." Shaking thoughts from his head, Jim turned away.


Cascade Dump – 9:57 am

Dan Wolfe got to his feet and absently brushed his gloved hands on his jeans. "The rain last night destroyed a lot of the evidence, but it’s the Strangler’s MO."

Jim frowned as he studied the wallet taken from the dead man’s jacket. "This time he left an ID. Brian Smith, born 1941. That would make him…what…57?" He looked through different cards. "Apparently, he’s an investment banker."

"And we found this in his inside jacket pocket." Dan held out a bagged newspaper clipping.

Simon frowned and read, "Country Club Strangler Returns." He looked at Jim. "That was in this morning’s paper."

"But I thought he was killed last night," Blair said, from behind Jim.

"He was," Dan confidently nodded.

"The killer returned after he saw the morning paper." Jim decided.

"That doesn’t make sense. Why would the killer risk capture just to leave a note?" Simon frowned.

"He’s making it personal, Simon," Jim explained. "This has to do with that body I found as a kid." Jim irritably pulled off the latex gloves. "This nut’s trying to mess with my head." He turned and stomped away.

Simon and Blair exchanged a quick, concerned look before Blair trotted after his friend.

"Jim, what about the scent?" Blair quickly asked. "Can you smell anything?"

"This is a dump, Sandburg," Jim grumbled. "I can smell everything." He stopped and cautiously inhaled. "Yeah, it’s here. Faint. Probably a lot of it was washed away in the rain." He irritably ran a hand over his jaw. "At least it’s not turning me into a freak this time."

"What? Where did that come from?" Blair hissed. "You’re not a freak, man!" Jim’s shrug only irritated him further. "Look, we need to go back to where this started. And that’s your old neighborhood. Maybe your dad can remember something."

"Oh, no." Jim shook his head. "Absolutely not!"

"Look, this isn’t just about this case anymore!" Blair grabbed Jim’s arm. "It’s also about you and whatever baggage you’re dragging around that’s messing with your senses. You’ve got to deal with it before it hurts you any more than it’s already done."

"I’m all warm and tingly, Chief," Jim sarcastically answered.

"Oh, that’s a real mature response," Blair muttered.

"I’ll deal with, understand?" Angered, Jim pulled his arm away from Blair’s grasp. "I will deal with it."

Blair swallowed his response as he followed Jim back to the truck. Unfortunately, they had to walk through a crowd of reporters.

"Detective Ellison! Is this the work of the Country Club Strangler?" Don Haas shouted.

"I have no comment." Jim began to work his way through the crowd.

A bearded man with a tape recorder and microphone got in Jim’s way. "You were the one who found the Strangler’s last victim. Your testimony was sealed because you were a minor. What did you tell the police? Did Wayne Hollow commit suicide because of you?"

Furious, Jim whirled and shoved the reporter backwards. "Get the hell out of my face!" he shouted.

"Jim! Hey! Easy!" Blair dove through the crowd and latched onto Jim’s arm.

Seconds later, the police forced the reporters back; and Simon stood between them.

"I’m Captain Banks!" He glared at the reporters. "This is an on-going investigation! If you have any questions, you will address them to me."

"Come on, man," Blair whispered as he pulled on Jim’s arm. "Come on, let’s go."

They walked away, leaving Simon to deal with the reporters’ shouted questions.

"Jim, you’ve got…" Blair began.

"Don’t start on me right now, okay?" Jim angrily interrupted. "Why don’t you catch a ride back with Simon?" He walked to the driver’s side of the truck.

"You can’t keep running, Jim." Blair caught the truck door as it swung open. "Okay, if you don’t want me around, fine, but…"

"It’s not that." Jim took a deep breath and sat behind the wheel of the truck. "It’s not you. This is all…"

"Messin’ with you," Blair half-smiled. "It’s starting to catch up with you, man, but you…"

"I’m going to see my father!" Jim snapped. "Are you satisfied?"

Blair studied his friend closely. "Yes." He released the door and stepped back.

Jim took another deep breath and slowly released it. *Calm down…calm down…you have to calm down.* Resting his hands on the steering wheel of the truck, he glanced at Blair. "Sorry."

Blair shrugged. "It’s okay."

Jim shook his head. "Yeah…well…" He shrugged again. As Blair stepped back from the truck, Jim reached in his pocket for the keys. "Hey, Sandburg."

Blair hesitated, then stepped forward as Jim started the truck’s engine.

Jim glanced out the open window at his partner. "Bud used to call me ‘Chief’ a lot of the time. It made me feel…good." Before Blair could answer, he put the truck in gear and drove away.

Blair grinned at the retreating truck, hoping Jim was listening. "Makes me feel good, too, Jim."

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

William Ellison’s House – 10:30 am

//Well, the key to my survival was never much in doubt. The question was how I could keep sane trying to find a way out. Things were never easy for me. Peace of mind was hard to find. And I needed a place where I could hide.//

Jim snorted. *Tell me about it, Phil.* Annoyed, he silenced the radio. He was getting sick of that song.

As he stopped the truck in front of his father’s house, he admitted it still looked the same. Perfect. Imposing. Impressive. Just the sort of house that gave the impression it housed the successful all-American family.

Jim snorted and remembered…


Jimmy Ellison forced himself to eat breakfast. His stomach was fluttering wildly in anticipation of the championship game that afternoon. But he knew his father would be angry if he didn’t eat the proper breakfast. He glanced to where his father sat reading the financial pages of the local newspaper and calculated if he could slip part of his bacon onto his brother’s plate. He decided not to even try when he saw Stevie’s smirk.

Sally, their housekeeper, appeared from the kitchen with more coffee for his father. "It looks like it’s going to be perfect weather for the game, Jimmy."

"Just make sure you come home with a trophy, right, kiddo?" William Ellison glanced at his elder son.

"I’m going to try," Jimmy promised.

"Just remember, winning isn’t everything," Sally gently spoke.

"It’s how you play the game." Both Jimmy and Stevie recited with giggles.

"Correction." William folded his newspaper and pointed his forefinger at his sons. "Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing. Don’t ever forget that."

End Flashback

Shaking his head, Jim pushed the memories aside and got out of the truck. As he walked to the door, he saw his father’s neighbor stare at the truck then at Jim before turning to go back inside his house.

*You’re making some sort of statement, right? Some sort of anti-establishment thing?*

*Shut up, Steven,* Jim silently told his absent brother as he knocked on the front door.

//What would I do if we passed on the street? Would I keep running away? Soon I’d have to face the facts. We’d have to sit down and talk it over. And that would mean going back.//

The door opened a few seconds later, and both men stared at each other in surprise.

//He sat me down to talk to me. He looked me straight in the eyes. And said…//

"Jimmy." William Ellison’s face broken into a hesitant smile. "It’s been a while."

"Yeah, Dad," Jim admitted. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, of course." William opened the door and stepped aside. "You look good."

*He looks old.* Jim looked around. "You, too. Place looks the same."

William half-smiled. "Come on upstairs." He led the way from the foyer up a half-dozen steps to the living room.

"How’s Sally?" Jim asked.

William genuinely smiled. "Older, like the rest of us." He stared at his son. "She’ll be sorry she missed you. She’s out shopping."

Jim resisted the urge to squirm. "Well, tell her ‘hello’ for me, okay?"

William nodded. "Sit down, Jimmy."

"This isn’t a social call, Dad. I’m working on a case," Jim explained.

William frowned. "The stranglings? I read about them in the paper."

"I thought you only read the financial pages," Jim said before he could stop himself.

"You think it’s the same person?" William asked after a moment. "After all these years?"

"We’re not sure," Jim admitted. He forced his stiff shoulder muscles to relax. "I…um…I could use your help."

"Of course." William nodded. "Whatever I can do."

"I need any old pictures or clippings you might have from that time period," Jim explained. "I know you…Sally kept scrapbooks and stuff."

William nodded. "Everything that old is packed away upstairs. Your scrapbooks are in your room."

Following his father upstairs, Jim fought to keep his breathing even. *Wonder if this is why Steven’s gotten back with the old man? Old man! I never thought my father would be an old man. Grey hair…slower step…slight shortness of breath after climbing the stairs…* He stopped at the door to his old room before following William inside.

As his father opened the closet door and began moving boxes around, Jim swore he saw a glimpse of his younger self sitting at the small desk doing homework, lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling, listening to…

"What exactly are you looking for?" William asked from inside the closet. As he turned around, he had a large box in his hands.

"Here, Dad, I’ll get that." Jim automatically took the box and sat it on the bed. "So many things in this case happened a long time ago. I thought that maybe some of this stuff would jog my memory." He opened the box and began putting items on the bed.

William smiled and picked up a photo of Jim and Steven in the back yard with model airplanes in their hands. "Look at this. Remember? Steven and his air force." He chuckled. "He’d spend all day building these things and then you boys would take them outside and have dog fights." He shook his head. "We had some good times, didn’t we?"

"Did we?" Jim coolly asked, not even glancing at the picture in his father’s hands.

William sighed. "Come on, Jimmy. I admit was a preoccupied with work. But I had a job to do and did the best I could."

Jim stared down at a photo in his hands. It was 1973…the day of the championship football game. Both teams were lined up, facing the camera with a mixture of smiles, pride, and determination. And he remembered….


Jimmy Ellison rode his bicycle slowly enough that his little brother could keep up on his smaller bike. He listened to Stevie’s chatter with half an ear as he thought about the up-coming game.

The park was just ahead, and most of the players and parents were already there. Suddenly two boys blocked their way.

"Watch where you’re going, rich boy," the taller of the boys sneered. "You don’t own the park."

Stevie confidently leaned forward. "Jimmy’s gonna kick your butt, Aaron."

"You can’t buy this trophy, punk." Aaron shoved Stevie’s bike back a few inches. "You’ve got to earn it."

Jimmy quickly kicked the bike’s kickstand down and started to get off his bike.

"Okay, players! Gather ’round!" One of the parents shouted. "Time for the official photograph!"

"Take my bike over there, Stevie," Jim ordered. He saw the troubled expression on his little brother’s face and patted his shoulder. "It’s okay."

"Kick his butt good, Jimmy," Stevie ordered.

Jimmy nodded with a quick grin then ran to join his teammates.

"Everybody get closer," the photographer urged. "Now, let’s get the proud parents in as well. Stand next to your sons, people! That’s it…big smile!"

Jimmy couldn’t smile…feeling the empty space behind him.

End Flashback


Jim slowly looked at his father, then handed him the picture. "What’s missing in this picture?"


Simon’s Office – 10:42 am

"I tried to diffuse it as much as possible, but this has gotten out of hand, Sandburg! Jim just can’t go around shoving reporters without provocation!" Simon snapped as he stalked into his office.

Aware of several sympathetic looks from the detectives in the bullpen, Blair carefully closed the door of Simon’s office behind him. "It wasn’t much of a shove," he pointed out. "And it wasn’t totally without provocation. That jerk asked Jim if he was responsible for Wayne Hollow committing suicide."

Simon sat down behind his desk with a sigh. "As much as I can sympathize, we could be looking at a lawsuit." He glared at Blair who stood nervously on the other side of the desk. "And you have to admit this entire case has gotten Jim completely off his game." He looked down at the files on his desk. "Considering his past involvement in this case and with this turning into a media circus, it’s gotten too personal for him. I may have to pull him off it."

"Simon, you can’t do that!" Blair objected.

Simon raised his eyebrows and stared coldly at the young observer.

"Well, okay, you can," Blair quickly admitted. "But…Simon, you can’t!" When Simon grunted, he continued. "It’s personal for the killer, too, Simon. He’s the one who’s shoving all this at Jim. And serial killers, you know they never do anything impulsively. Every action has a reason." He took a deep breath. "Like it or not, Jim’s a part of the case. The killer won’t let him stay out of it."

Simon sighed. "I know. That’s why I haven’t pulled him yet." He pointed at Blair. "But he can’t go around assaulting reporters." He turned around to pour a cup of coffee. "Too bad it wasn’t Haas. Man gets on my last nerve on a good day!"

Blair tried not to smile. "Any idea who the reporter was?"

Simon shook his head. "He didn’t look familiar. Maybe a free-lancer." He looked up as someone knocked on the door. "What?!"

Detective Henri Brown apologetically smiled. "Sorry to interrupt, but there’s a call for Sandburg on line 3."

"Sandburg!" Simon barked. "You know how I feel about personal calls!"

Blair held his hands up in defense.

"It’s a Monica Leonard," Henri briskly explained. "She says she was Robert McCain’s student assistant."

"Yes!" Blair hissed. "Simon, this could be important."

Simon motioned towards his phone and nodded in dismissal to Henri.

Blair picked up Simon’s phone and activated the speaker. "Monica? This is Blair Sandburg. Thanks for calling me back. I’m with Captain Simon Banks of Major Crimes."

"Ms. Leonard, I understand you were Robert McCain’s assistant," Simon gently spoke. "And you’ve been out of town?"

"Um…yes." The girl’s voice was soft and mournful. "I’d gone home for a long weekend for my parents’ anniversary."

"Cool. Which anniversary?" Blair made ‘shooing’ motions at Simon who was frowning at him.

"Twenty-five." Monica’s voice brightened. "Can you believe two people being together that long?"

"It’s very commendable," Simon admitted. "Is there anything you can tell us about Dr. McCain’s project on serial killers?"

"Well, not too awfully much," Monica answered. "I don’t know exactly where he was going with the project as a whole. But he’d become very interested in the Country Club Stranglings. He’d devoted a lot of time to it." There was a rustling noise. "But something really weird happened."

"What was that?" Simon frowned.

"Well, he’d done a video interview with this guy…an old man who was really ill," Monica explained. "I mean, he was terminal, you know? So Dr. McCain videotaped it rather than rely on notes or an audio recording. He seemed to think it was really important to have a visual record."

"Who was the man?" Simon reached for his pen.

"Foster. Mick Foster," Monica recalled. "I wasn’t there for the interview. Dr. McCain did it on his own."

"So what’s the weird thing?" Blair gently asked.

"Well, Dr. McCain wanted copies of the tape," Monica explained. "He went to the Theater Arts Department to get it copied, but their dubbing equipment was down for repair. I’ve got a friend who owns a video store so Dr. McCain left the tape there. My friend was going to copy the tape and then drop it off at my mailbox where I live. They were there when I got back this morning."

Simon frowned at the pause. "And?" he urged.

"Three of them, just like Dr. McCain wanted." Monica’s voice shook. "But when I put them in the VCR, they were blank. I thought, you know, my VCR had gone on the fritz. So I tried a friend’s VCR. Same thing. So I took it to the Theater Arts Department to try their VCRs. I tried two of them and all of the tapes are blank. One of the guys here says they’ve been degaussed."

"What?" Simon looked at Blair.

"Electronically erased," Blair admitted with a wince.

"And there was this envelope stuck between two of the tapes," Monica added. "I thought it was just a mix-up until the guys at the Theater Arts told me about Dr. McCain. They recognized the name on the envelope."

"Who’s name, Monica?" Blair demanded, bouncing on his toes.

"It says Jimmy Ellison."

"Where are you now, Ms. Leonard?" Simon quickly asked.

"Ummm…the Theater Arts Department. There are a lot of people here," Monica hesitantly answered.

"Detective Ellison will be there shortly," Simon promised. "Until then, please stay there."

"Okay," Monica promised in soft voice.

Simon disconnected the call and got to his feet. "Sandburg, get Ellison on the phone. The two of you get over there and get those tapes and envelope." He threw open the office door. "Brown! I need you to check out a video store!"


William Ellison’s House – 10:47 am

William studied the picture with a frown. He gently traced the face of his son who stared at the camera with an expression of determination that seemed out of place on such a young face.

*He’ll never get it.* With a frown, Jim returned his attention to emptying the boxes. He saw several scrapbooks marked ‘Jimmy’ and opened one. Flipping past school pictures, he saw the newspaper account of Bud’s death. And he remembered….


"Okay, guys, this is the last play." Jimmy Ellison seriously looked at his teammates. "We gotta stop ’em." When the other boys nodded, he put his hand out. "One. Two. Three! VIKINGS!"

They broke from their huddle and ran to the line of scrimmage. Seconds later, the opposing team faced them. Jimmy knelt across the line from Aaron.

"It ain’t over yet, rich boy," Aaron promised.

"You shouldn’t ‘ve pushed my little brother," Jimmy muttered.

Aaron sneered as his quarterback called the play. "Bears! Red 57! Set! Set! Hike!"

The players rushed at each other. The quarterback faked to his left then spun around to throw the ball to Aaron who began running down the field. Several of the defensive players tired to catch Aaron but missed.

Jimmy caught a glimpse of Aaron’s smirk as he changed direction. Determination flashed across his small face as his legs pumped. With one eye on Aaron and the other on the rapidly approaching goal line, Jimmy lowered his head and ran faster. Ten yards from the goal line, he tackled Aaron, bringing him down.

Yells of delight from the Vikings’ sideline mixed with moans from the Bears’ sideline. Jimmy’s teammates ran up to them and began hugging each other.

"Yeah!" Jimmy pumped both fists into the air. "All right! Yeah!" Looking past his teammates, he saw Stevie on the sideline also jumping up and down, screaming his head off. He turned, looking at the bleachers, but didn’t see Bud. He felt his smile faltering even as his teammates pulled him towards center field.

The winning team had their team photo taken then they shook hands with the losing players. Jimmy and Aaron glared at each other as they barely touched fingers. Then the game ball was presented to Jimmy.

Jimmy’s eyes widened as he thought about how proud his father would be. Not only was he bringing home the championship and trophy, but the game ball was his as well.

After receiving the congratulations of his teammates, Jimmy walked to where Stevie waited with both bikes. His little brother’s eyes were wide with pride. "Wow! The game ball! Can I sign it too, Jimmy? Huh? Please?"

"Sure, guess so." Jimmy turned to watch the people leaving the field. "I wonder where Bud is? He promised to come."

Stevie shrugged, taking the ball from his brother’s hands. "He works like Dad. Probably something came up. HEY!"

Jimmy spun around to see that Aaron had taken the game ball from his brother. "Give it back, Aaron. It doesn’t belong to you."

"Make me, rich boy," Aaron sneered. He backed away, flipping the ball between his hands. "You want it!" He kicked the ball into the nearby trees. "Go get it."

"Kick his butt, Jimmy!" Stevie demanded, pointing at Aaron.

Jimmy hesitated, remembering the punishment he’d received from his father the last time he’d gotten into a fight.

Aaron backed away to join his friends, all of them laughing. As Jimmy stood there, Aaron sneered and led his friends away.

"Jimmy!" Stevie complained.

"Never mind, Stevie," Jimmy replied. "He’s not worth it." Staring into the trees and then at the waning sunlight, he sighed. "Wait here with the bikes. I’ll get the ball." He took a few steps then turned back around. "Remember, stay here unless Aaron and his buddies come back. If they do, you ride home real fast. Got it?"

"I’m not afraid of ’em!" Stevie crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I won’t run."

"You do as I say," Jimmy sternly ordered. "I can lose ’em in the woods. That’ll make ’em look like real idiots."

Stevie snickered. "Yeah! Like idiots!" He nodded in agreement. "Okay, Jimmy. But hurry. We don’t wanna be late for dinner."

Jimmy turned and ran into the nearby woods. Even though Aaron hadn’t been able to kick the ball very far, he’d heard the ball hit a few trees and bounce further than it could have been kicked. Accurately running between the trees, his eyes automatically compensated for the fading sunlight. He smiled when he saw the ball lying at the base of a tree a few yards away. As he grabbed the ball, he heard something deeper in the trees. Standing, he looked in the direction of the noise.

Eyes widening, he saw a man lying in the shelter of a tall tree. Blood covered his chest. Even as Jimmy recognized Bud, he saw the man standing next to Bud’s body back away. Noticing the large red birthmark on the man’s neck, Jimmy gasped as the man faded into the darkness.

End of Flashback

"I don’t think the rest of this stuff will be of any help."

Jim blinked in surprise then looked at his father. "Right. Yeah." He looked back at the scrapbook and remembered…


Everything blurred after that. He vaguely remembered running back to Stevie and then running home, leaving their bikes at the park. But he remembered talking to the two police officers.

"When I looked, I saw the man with the knife," Jimmy insisted. He felt the firm pressure of his father’s hands on his shoulders.

"The one with the mark on his neck?" The dark-haired officer wrote in his notebook. "By the edge of the woods?"

"Yes, sir," Jimmy firmly nodded.

"Son, that’s over 75 yards away," the second officer gently pointed out. "And it was twilight."

Confused, Jimmy nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Officers, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to take him home now," William suggested.

"I’m not lying!" Jimmy turned until he could stare up at his father. "You believe me, don’t you, Dad? I wouldn’t lie!"

"Calm down, Jimmy," William quietly answered. "It’s going to be okay." He squeezed his son’s shoulders, not wanting the boy to see his worry. "I’m just going to talk to the detectives for a minute." When Jimmy nodded, he walked back to the officers. "I’m sorry, guys. I want to apologize for my son’s imagination."

"It’s okay, Mr. Ellison," the dark-haired officer smiled. "It’s understandable. From what we’ve heard so far, Mr. Heydash was very important to these kids. Especially your son. This is got to be hard on him, and he just wants to help." The man shrugged. "But it’s obvious he couldn’t have seen what he says he saw."

William nodded, more than a little embarrassed.

"The best thing to do is reassure him that he didn’t do anything wrong," the officer continued. "And maybe get him some sort of counseling."

William nodded again. "Thank you for your understanding."

Jimmy took one look at his father’s face and stayed silent as they walked the three blocks home. It didn’t look like his father knew whether to yell at him or shake him.

William’s jaw twitched with almost every step. By the time they reached the house, he still hadn’t said a word. Instead, he opened the door and silently pointed up the stairs.

"I didn’t lie," Jimmy sadly whispered.

"Jimmy, I’ve warned you about your fantasies, haven’t I?" William asked, not hearing his son’s words.

"It wasn’t a fantasy," Jimmy denied. "Sometimes I can see and hear things."

William wearily shook his head. "No, you can’t, Jimmy. No one can. This isn’t a game!"

Stopping in front of Jimmy’s bedroom door, William put a hand on his son’s shoulder. "This is serious. A man is dead. Do you understand?" He gently shook his son. "Your nonsense could keep them from finding out who did it!"

"But, Dad…" Jimmy stared into his father’s blue eyes, trying to find the words to explain…to convince.

"No ‘buts’!" William firmly interrupted. "You’ve got to stop pretending like this or people are going to think you’re some sort of a freak! Is that what you want?" He ignored the tears appearing in the corner of his son’s eyes. "You are so stubborn, Jimmy! How can I get this through your head? Do you want people to think there’s something wrong with you?"

"No, sir," Jimmy whispered, lowering his eyes.

William nodded, releasing his son. "Get ready for bed, Jimmy. No more pretending."

End of Flashback

Jim dropped the scrapbook, hearing his father shut the closet door. He rubbed both eyes and sighed.

"Jimmy? What’s wrong?" William asked with concern.

"I told the truth," Jim mumbled.

"What?" William put a hand on his son’s arm. "What truth?"

Jim lowered his hands and picked up the scrapbooks. "Let’s take these downstairs."

William frowned but silently followed.

In the living room, Jim spread out the scrapbooks on the table. He reopened the one with the newspaper account of Bud’s death. On the opposite page was the picture of the two football teams that had played for the championship earlier that day. "Dad, do you remember any of these boys and their parents?"

William peered at the picture and frowned.

"I think this guy was named Aaron," Jim pointed.

"God, Jimmy, I wouldn’t know," William sighed. "I mean, I didn’t get involved with any of these parents. I didn’t go to that many games."

Jim nodded. "Yeah, I know. But think, Dad. Anything you can come up with might help. What happened then is connected with this case. And the murderer knows more about both than I do!"

William stared at the photograph. "It’s been 25 years," he mused with a shake of his head. "The boys…they’re not familiar. But the parents…" He suddenly tapped the photo, pointing at one man. "He called several times and actually came to my office once."

"Who is it?" Jim demanded.

William closed his eyes, thinking hard. "Foster. Mick Foster." He opened his eyes and eagerly smiled at his son. "I’m positive. He said his name with such conviction." He looked back at the photo. "He was always complaining about the football league. Something about his dissatisfaction with the league and how the teams were equipped. He didn’t feel his son’s team was as well equipped." He nodded again. "He seemed to have a real chip on his shoulder. He wanted to start another league and was looking for supporters. I told him no. I had no problems how the league was run. But the man just wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. When he showed up at my office, I had security escort him out and told him I’d report him for harassment if he contacted me again."

"Foster." Jim stared at one boy in the photo. "Aaron Foster. He must have been Mick Foster’s son."

"Probably," William agreed. He hesitated, then continued. "Jimmy? Upstairs…you said you had told the truth. What did you mean?"

Jim slowly put the scrapbook on the nearby coffee table. "I remember now…about finding Bud’s body. I’d repressed it until this all started." He turned to look at his father. "I remember seeing the killer, Dad. I was telling the truth that night." He felt the anger rising and breathed deep. "But all I ever got from you was that there was something wrong with me. I had ‘fantasies.’ I made stuff up. Until I finally…shoved everything I was deep down inside of me." He got to his feet and remembered the words Blair had told him more than once. "Dad, what I have is a gift. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, and somebody helps me with it. But it’s a gift and who I am. I can help people with it."

"I know, Jimmy," William quietly admitted as he also got to his feet.

"No, Dad, you don’t understand," Jim protested.

"Yes, I do." William faced his son and stared into his eyes. "I knew you were telling the truth that night."

"What?" Jim half-whispered.

William sighed. "I was trying to protect you. I didn’t think people would understand. I’m your father, and I didn’t understand. How could I expect someone else to do so?" He ran a hand through his graying hair. "They would think you were different, and that would hurt you. I didn’t want anything or anyone to hurt you. You’re my son, Jimmy. I had to protect you." He looked away from Jim’s angry, accusing eyes. "I wish I could have done it better." He walked out of the room. "I need something to drink," he muttered.

What Jim might have said was lost when his cell phone rang. Turning away, he pulled it out and barked, "Ellison!"

"Hey, Jim!" Blair spoke. "You’re still at your dad’s, right?" Not waiting for an answer, he rapidly continued. "Henri’s dropping me off. We need to talk to Dr. McCain’s assistant. She’s back in town. Henri says he’ll have me there in fifteen minutes."

"Okay, see you then," Jim closed the cell phone. He sat on the couch and idly reached for another scrapbook. He was surprised to see pictures of himself as a child, including his report cards. The back of the scrapbook was filled with newspaper and magazine articles about him as a man, including his wedding announcement. *God, Sandburg would have a field day with this stuff!*

"I’m sorry, Jimmy, I didn’t ask. Would you like something to drink?" William gazed down at his son, not sure how Jim would react.

Jim looked up to see William standing next to the couch with a glass of water in his hands. "Uh…no, thanks." He closed the scrapbook. "That was work. My partner’s coming by. I’ll need to go."

William gently put the glass on the table. "Ironic, isn’t it? Now you and Stevie are the ones with business to take care of."

Jim grunted and got to his feet.

"Jimmy…that picture," William hesitated. "The one with the boys and their parents. I’m sorry I…I should have been there."

"Yeah," Jim nodded.

William frowned, searching for the right words. "I was a single parent before anyone else. A single father. It was all so different than anything I’d known. The man went out to earn a living and the woman raised the kids. That’s what I was taught. That’s what I knew."

Jim nodded. "Some men did more."

"Like Bud?" William’s eyes flickered with pain and anger. "I’m sorry about that, too."

Jim remembered Steven’s words and half-shrugged. "Water under the bridge, I suppose."

"I’m trying to get past this," William hesitantly spoke. "I’m not the man I was. And I made a lot of mistakes. With both you and Steven. I was so concerned…" He stuffed his fists in his pants pockets. "Half the time I was sure Child Services would show up to make sure you boys were properly cared for. When I arrived home the night Bud died and saw the police car in front of the house, I was positive someone had…" He shrugged. "What I knew I had going for me was that I was a ‘good provider’…even if it did take me away from home." He looked away from his son’s eyes.

Jim didn’t know what to say. Too many years stood between them. Too much stood between them. At least for now.

Both men were startled when the doorbell rang.

"That’s probably my partner." Jim frowned, looking at his watch. He followed his father down to the front door.

"Hi, I’m Blair Sandburg. Is Jim here?"

Jim rolled his eyes at his partner’s expression. *God, we’re not kids with you wanting to know if I can come out and play!* He moved past his father. "Right here, Chief." He missed the surprised look on his father’s face.

*Hardly looks like the sort of person who could help Jimmy.* Then William realized the time had long since passed when he could protect his son from the outside world. Or that his son would accept that protection. "It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Sandburg," William sadly smiled. "I’m William Ellison."

"Great to meet you." Blair stuck out his hand. "And I’m Blair."

"I gotta go, Dad." Jim hesitated on the front step, then tapped Blair on the arm, jerking his head towards the truck.

"Be careful, Jimmy," William half-smiled. "I’ll tell Sally ‘hello’ for you."

Jim nodded. "You…you take care of yourself, too." Before his father could say anything else, he turned and walked towards the truck.

With a half-apologetic smile, Blair raised a hand in silent farewell and followed his partner.

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

Simon’s Office – 4:20 pm

"Serena says there’s no hope of getting anything off any of the tapes," Jim admitted as he settled into a chair across from Simon’s desk. "Even with all that sophisticated equipment, it’s gone forever."

"Brown’s report is pretty sketchy, but Dan figures the video store owner’s been dead a couple of days," Simon grunted as he read.

"Nothing on the note left with the tapes," Blair sighed. "No fingerprints. Letters were cut from magazines and stuff, so there’s no handwriting."

"All it said was ‘hell of a game, ain’t it, Jimmy?’ I gotta figure it’s either Mick or Aaron Foster." Jim rubbed both eyes.

"Mick Foster would be about your dad’s age," Blair frowned. "I can’t see him being physically able to kill either McCain or Smith." He looked at Simon. "Anything from Forensics on the knife Henri found?"

Simon nodded, finding another manila folder. "Interesting little piece. The handle is made from the bark of a tree found only in Spain." He glanced at Jim. "I’m assuming it’s the same scent you’ve been picking up at the crime scenes."

Jim wearily nodded. "I still have a reaction to it, but not as severe." He glared warningly at his partner, who refused to look at him.

Simon watched the byplay but kept quiet. "We got one fingerprint on the knife. Brown ran it through every database we have before getting a match from the military. Turns out it belongs to a Scott Jeffries." He opened another folder. "Scott Jeffries went AWOL from the Army about 30 years ago." He glanced at the two men across from him. "While he was stationed in Spain, there were three unsolved murders while he was there."

"The same MO?" Jim’s blue eyes narrowed.

Simon nodded. "Carbon copies. Jeffries was a prime suspect. But he went AWOL with his five year old son before he could be arrested." He flipped through the folder. "According to his military records, Jeffries grew up on a farm in Minnesota with his father. When he was twelve, the bank repossessed the farm. His old man was so upset, he ended up hanging himself."

Blair slowly nodded. "That’s why he goes after businessmen. I mean, they represent the people responsible for the loss of his home and his father’s death."

*Businessmen. Like Bud…Dad?*

"That’s what the military shrinks figured," Simon agreed. "The killings didn’t even start until after Jeffries got turned down for a promotion."

"Any record of him after he went AWOL?" Jim asked.

Simon slapped the folders shut. "None. Probably changed his identity."

"What about Mick Foster?" Jim frowned. "Why would McCain want to talk to him about Bud…Heydash’s death?"

"Maybe he was interviewing everybody he could," Blair suggested.

Jim shook his head. "His assistant felt McCain put a lot of importance on that interview. Even to the point of making a lot of copies of the interview tape." He leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. "So, we’re figuring Jeffries changed his identity and moved here. Then something triggers another killing spree."

"So why did he stop?" Blair asked.

Simon shrugged. "Why do any of them stop? It happens."

"I think it was Wayne Hollow," Jim mused. "When he was accused and arrested, he became the perfect fall guy. Then when he committed suicide, Jeffries was off the hook."

"And laughing at the authorities the whole time," Simon growled. "Probably went somewhere else and killed again. Henri’s going to check on that as soon as he finishes the check on Mick Foster." He looked up at the knock on his door. "Come in."

Rhonda smiled as she entered. "The Army finally faxed that picture you were waiting on." She put the paper on Simon’s desk and left.

"Now we have a face for Mr. Jeffries," Simon nodded.

Jim and Blair got to their feet and leaned over the desk. Seconds later, Jim straightened up. "Simon, I remember this guy. He changed his name to Mick Foster."

"What?" Blair looked at Jim in surprise.

Jim slowly nodded. "I remember his kid, Aaron. We…we played against each other in a championship football game when we were kids. Sorta like a peewee league."

"Find him!" Simon ordered.


Aaron Foster’s Residence – 5:47 pm

"Aaron Foster! Cascade PD! Open up!" Simon followed up his yell of warning with several knocks on the door. Looking back at the Kevlar-clad officers, he nodded. "Break it down!"

Two SWAT officers broke down the flimsy door. Simon glanced around but saw none of the neighbors even remotely interested. *Probably see too much of this for it to be a surprise.* He saw Blair, safely behind a police car, anxiously looking towards the house.

As the door went down, Jim followed the SWAT officers, silently directing them. Weapon extended, Jim carefully helped search the house although his hearing had already told him no one was inside. Shouts of "clear" echoed throughout the small house as rooms were searched. As soon as he reached the hallway, however, his sense of smell started warning him.

Jim carefully opened a door to a small, filthy bedroom. "We’ve got a body!" he yelled. He stepped into the hallway, gagging from the odor. "Mick Foster."

Simon glanced past him, hand over his mouth. "You sure?"

Jim nodded, heading towards the front of the house. "I recognize that birthmark on his neck" He walked back to the front room to see Blair kneeling by a leaning bookcase. "Sandburg, what…"

"Jim, look at this!" Blair held up a crumpled photograph. "Isn’t this the photographer who got in your face at the dump?" He reached for a notebook with papers hanging half outside the binder.

"Yeah," Jim nodded. "The older man is Mick Foster. This must be Aaron." He frowned. "He’s changed from when he was a kid."

*And you didn’t?* Blair silently glanced up, then returned to his reading.

Simon joined them, trying to keep from gagging. "Doesn’t look like he died from natural causes." He saw the picture in Jim’s hand. "That’s the reporter from the dump!"

Jim nodded. "Since our dead body is Mick Foster, aka Scott Jeffries, this must be Aaron. Our killer," he grimly added. "Including his own father."

"According to this, Aaron was a regular down at Social Services," Blair read from the notebook. "He was in and out of the system as an abused child, diagnosed as a violent abuser himself." He looked up. "This is textbook, man. Behavior is a combination of genetics and environment. His grandfather hangs himself. His father is a serial killer." He handed the file to Simon. "Kid never had a chance." He ignored Jim’s snort.

"Yet, he sure took care of his old man." Simon flipped through the notebook. "Wonder what set him off?"

"Probably McCain," Jim surmised. "He was asking questions. Maybe Mick Foster said something he shouldn’t have."

"But why kill his father? After all this time?" Blair asked.

Simon closed the notebook. "Think about it. Your old man is an abusing son-of-a-bitch and a serial killer. He’s pulled it the con job over on people in positions of authority. Now somebody comes along threatening to reveal all. And maybe your old man gave something away. He’s more of a liability now than a threat."

"Why taunt Jim?" Blair puzzled.

"I found Bu…the last body," Jim guessed with a sigh. "Now I’m tracking the new strangler. Besides, Aaron and I had problems as kids."

The silence was broken by the ringing of the telephone next to the armchair in the living room.

"Speak of the devil," Jim grunted. He walked across the room towards the phone.

"Are you sure?" Simon half-joked.

"As sure as I know Sandburg’s algae shakes reek to high heaven," Jim dryly replied. He picked up the receiver. "Hello, Aaron."

"How did you know it was me, rich boy?"

Jim nodded at Simon who stepped onto the porch to arrange for a trace on the call. "Not that hard. Just followed all the road signs you left. We’re supposed to be here. You’re supposed to call. So what’s next?"

"You’ll have to wait and see," Aaron snarled.

"Yeah, well, that’s nice, Aaron, but why don’t we meet and talk about it?" Jim suggested.

"Talk?" Aaron snickered. "What shall we talk about, Jimmy? Want to talk about your Army medals? How about your wedding to the beautiful Carolyn Plummer? You know, it’s too bad that didn’t work out. She looks quite lovely. And a commendation from our esteemed mayor! My, my…you’ve just about had it all, haven’t you?"

Jim ignored Blair’s questioning, concerned look and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. Holding the receiver of the telephone between his shoulder and jaw, he dialed the cell phone. "You like pictures, huh?"

Aaron sighed. "I just hate getting a call when I’m talking. But I hate missing calls even more. Hang on, bigger name on the other line."

Jim heard a click and quickly put his cell phone to his ear.

"Hi, Jimmy. Long time no hear from," Aaron snickered.

"You son of a bitch," Jim angrily seethed. "If you hurt my father, I swear to God, I’ll kill you with my bare hands." He threw the receiver to the telephone to the floor and started walking towards the front door.

"You don’t threaten me!" Aaron screamed. "You’re in no position to do anything, rich boy, but suffer!"

"This is between us!" Jim shouted. He was aware of Simon’s startled look. "You leave my father out of this!"

"You know where I’ll be," Aaron quietly said before disconnecting the call.

Jim angrily snapped the cell phone shut. "The bastard’s at my dad’s house!" He was barely aware of Simon yelling orders as he ran towards his truck.

Blair barely managed to get inside before Jim had the truck in gear. Dirt spun from the rear tires as he floored the accelerator.

"Jim!" Blair scrambled for the seatbelt. "Take it easy! You can’t help your dad if you wrap us around a telephone pole!"

"My dad knew about my senses as a kid," Jim seethed. "He’s the reason I repressed them all those years ago!"

Blair looked at his partner in confusion, not understanding what that had to do with their mad rush to the elder Ellison’s house.

"There’s no way in hell Foster’s gonna hurt my dad before we settle things between us!" Jim raged. He viciously turned the steering wheel to the left, taking the corner on two wheels.

"Ow!" Blair grabbed the back of his head that had smacked the passenger window. Looking out the back of the truck, he could barely see Simon’s car trying to catch up.

Jim threw his partner a quick look of apology.

"Hey! Keep your eyes on the road, okay!" Blair shouted. He closed his eyes, trying to calm himself.

Four blocks from his father’s house, Jim cut the revolving lights and siren. Gradually slowing, he stopped in front of the imposing white house. Behind him, Simon’s car came to a screeching halt.

Jim quickly got out of the truck, unholstering his weapon. "Stay here, Sandburg," he ordered.

"Jim, he could be aiming a gun at you right now!" Blair warned, getting out of the truck. "Listen! What do you hear?"

"Sandburg! Stay here!" Simon ordered as he joined them.

Jim looked at Blair with sad eyes. "I can’t make it focus, Chief, and I don’t have time to try." Nodding at Simon, he trotted up the walkway.

Blair ran a hand through his curly hair and walked to the driver’s side of the truck. In the distance, he could see the approaching police cars.

Slowly Jim turned the doorknob, sighing when it easily opened. The two men flanked each other as they silently climbed the steps. Once on the main floor, Simon pointed upstairs. Jim nodded covered him as Simon carefully started up the stairs to the second floor.

Then Jim turned around and began searching the main floor. He desperately tried to force his hearing but each time he did, he felt a stabbing pain in his temples. When he reached the pantry, he heard a soft noise coming from the pantry. Weapon pointed, he quickly opened the door, only to hear a frightened shriek from the cowering woman.

"Please! Don’t hurt me!"

"God, Sally." Jim lowered his weapon and reached for the woman. "Sally, it’s me. Jim…Jimmy. It’s okay now." When he gently touched the woman, she looked up, tears filling her dark eyes.

"Oh, Jimmy…Jimmy…"

Jim drew her to her feet and into his arms. "Simon! Down here!" Rubbing the woman’s back, he murmured, "Did he hurt you? Are you okay?"

"He didn’t see me," Sally sobbed. "I heard a crash…something falling. This man was fighting with your father. He hit him then…started going through all the rooms. I managed to stay away from him, but I couldn’t get past him to the door. So I hid."

"You did the right thing," Jim soothed her. "Sally, this is Captain Banks. He’s going to help you out."

"Jimmy…your father…" Sally begged.

"It’s okay, Sally." Jim gently patted her cheeks. "I promise."

"Upstairs is clear," Simon quietly said as he led Sally towards the front door to meet the incoming officers.

Blair passed the sobbing woman, eyeing her with concern, then followed Simon back up the stairs. They found Jim in his father’s office staring at papers on the desk. "I don’t believe it’s all about that game," he muttered, disgust on his face.

"What are you talking about, man?" Blair asked with a frown.

Jim silently pointed at the desk.

"Too late. 14-13." Simon growled. "What the hell is going on?"

"It’s the score of the football game," Jim recalled.

"What game?" Simon demanded.

Jim absently patted Blair’s shoulder, noticing the concern on the younger man’s face. "A game we played at Manleo field when we were ten. Bud…" He took a deep breath. "Bud’s body was found in the woods next to the field right after the game."

"Where you saw Mick Foster," Simon slowly nodded.

"I gotta go, Simon." Jim turned towards the door.

"I’ll have backup coming." Simon reached for his cell phone.

"No!" Jim argued.

"I’m not sending you in without backup!" Simon snapped.

"I’m going with him," Blair pointed out. He wasn’t surprised when he was ignored.

"Simon…just give me some time before you send in the troops," Jim pleaded. "He wants me. If we send in half the department, he’s gonna kill my old man."

"A few minutes, Jim," Simon quietly agreed. "That’s all I can give you."

Jim curtly nodded and ran from the room, Blair trotting after him.

"You should stay here, Chief," Jim yelled as he sprinted for his truck.

"You know better than that!" Blair yelled back, climbing into the front seat.

Jim grimly nodded. "Yeah, I should," he muttered.


Woods Behind Menleo Field – 6:22 pm

William Ellison stumbled over a half-buried tree root, but managed to stay on his feet.

"Don’t even think about trying anything!" Aaron Foster warned. He jabbed William in the back with the edge of his knife. "It won’t mean a thing to me to kill you, old man."

"What is it you’re wanting?" William asked, even as he stumbled again.

"Just a reunion visit with a childhood chum," Aaron snorted.

William stopped and glanced over his shoulder. "You won’t get away with this."

Aaron sneered. "You know, Jimmy had that same arrogant tone of voice even as a kid. A real chip off the old block." He shoved William forward. "Old man, I’ve gotten away with more than anybody will ever know about."

"Jimmy knows about you, Aaron." William allowed himself a smile when he heard Aaron’s hiss of anger. "And you won’t get away from him."

Aaron reached down for a thick broken tree branch about two feet long. "Maybe I don’t want to get away from him, old man." He swung the branch, bringing it hard against the side of William’s head.

With a groan, the elder Ellison fell to the ground, unconscious.

Breathing hard, Aaron stood over William. He fondled the knife in his hand, toying with the sharp blade. "I really ought to give Jimmy a surprise." Laughing softly, he shoved the knife into the sheathe hanging from his belt.

He leaned down and dragged William to the foot of a nearby tree. Then, standing over the body, he reached into his pocket. "Have it your way…have it your way…" he softly sang.


Manleo Field – 6:32 pm

The sun was fading in the western sky as Jim braked to a stop at the field. A quick look around the field showed it to be empty. Jim began running towards the woods.

"Maybe you’re wrong," Blair warned as he tried to keep up.

"I’m not!" Jim argued. "This is where he wants me!" He put on a burst of speed as he reached the tree line. Memories of finding Bud’s body flashed through his mind. Looking over his shoulder, he yelled, "Sandburg! Wait here for Simon!"

Not waiting for an answer, Jim ran deeper into the woods. Relying on a memory that he now implicitly trusted, he quickly found the tree where Bud’s body had rested. He stumbled to a stop, seeing a crumpled body lying under the tree.

"Dad?" Jim whispered, seeing the red stain on his father’s chest. "God, no…" Crouching next to the body, he reached out to his father. "Dad? Dad!"

William’s eyes slowly opened, and he looked around in confusion.

"Oh, God." Jim closed his eyes in relief. "Thank you, God." His sense of smell detected the ketchup he’d mistaken for blood. *Damn bastard!*

"Jimmy?" William tried to sit up. He looked even more confused when he stared down at the ketchup on his shirt.

Jim carefully helped his father to a sitting position. "Take it easy." Angered at the small flecks of blood in his father’s hair. He could easily see where his father had been struck.

William’s blue eyes widened as the memories came back. "He’s crazy, Jimmy. He wants to…"

Suddenly hearing another heartbeat, Jim stood and whirled around, weapon drawn to see Aaron standing a few feet away, knife pointed at him.

"You had everything, rich boy!" Aaron yelled. "I had nothing! NOTHING!" He waved the knife from right to left. "Even the game. My old man beat me up because we lost to a bunch of rich boys."

"That was a long time ago, Aaron," Jim softly spoke. "Come on. Give me the knife."

Aaron’s dark eyes glittered. "Sure." Flipping the knife, he threw it at Jim and ran away.

"Jimmy!" William shouted in horror.

Jim easily ducked to one knee, feeling the knife slice the air next to him. He rose to run after Aaron.

"Jimmy, no!" William got to his feet. "Let him go! Let the others take care of him!"

Jim threw his father a sad look. "This is what I do, Dad. This is how my…gift helps others." He saw Blair running towards them. "Help him, Chief!"

Blair looked from William to where Jim had been standing, then shook his head. He trotted to where William stood, looking after his son. "Are you okay, Mr. Ellison?"

William sighed and leaned against the tree. "I’ll be fine."

Blair repressed a smile. *Like father like son, hmmm?* He slipped an arm around the older man’s waist. "Come on. Let’s get out of here. It’s getting dark."

William snorted. "And neither of us can see as well as Jimmy, right?" He smiled at Blair’s expression. "You know about his…gift, don’t you?" When Blair didn’t answer, he patted the younger man’s shoulder. "Jimmy said someone helps him with it. You’re his partner. It’s not such a lucky guess."

Blair uneasily eyed the older man for a few seconds, then grinned. "Come on. If we don’t hurry, we’re gonna miss Jim thumping ol’ Aaron."


Simon and backup arrived just as Aaron then Jim ran from the tree line.

Aaron saw them and changed direction.

Much as he had twenty-five years earlier, Jim easily followed. With one eye on the parking area at the far end of the field and one eye on Aaron, Jim put on a burst of speed and tackled the escaping murderer.

"Game’s over, Aaron," Jim grunted as he brought Aaron’s hands behind his back and cuffed him. He roughly brought the other man to his feet.

"Ellison!" Simon barked. When Jim looked at him, he reached for Aaron. Shoving him towards two waiting officers, he asked, "You okay? What about your father?"

"I’m fine," Jim nodded. He looked past Simon to see his father, arm around Blair’s shoulder and Blair’s arm around William’s waist, walking out of the trees. "Dad should get checked out, but I think he’s okay."

Simon nodded as Jim walked towards his father and friend.

Blair smiled at Jim as he released William and went to join Simon.

"Jimmy, thank God you’re okay." William hesitated, then reached out to touch his son’s arm. After a moment, both men hugged.

"Glad you’re okay, too, Dad," Jim murmured. For a brief second, he relaxed in the embrace. Then he pulled away. "Come on, let’s get you checked out, okay?"

"I’m fine," William assured him. "I don’t need to go to the hospital."

"Humor me, Dad, okay?" Jim chuckled. "I really don’t want to have to explain a later hospital stay to Steven."

"Steven, hmmm?" William’s blue eyes twinkled. He leaned against his son who put an arm around his waist as they walked towards Jim’s truck.

Behind them, Blair and Simon followed. Eyes twinkling, Blair put his arm over Simon’s shoulder. "Isn’t that beautiful?"

"What are you doing?" Simon grumbled. He shook Blair’s arm off his shoulder. "Get off me!"

"Come on, Simon," Blair cajoled. "How about a little brotherly love?"

"Do I look like your brother?" Simon snapped.

"Well, maybe from a different mother," Blair admitted.

"Don’t you start with me, Sandburg," Simon warned, pointing a finger in the younger man’s face. "Ellison may put up with your New-Age nonsense, but I’m not about to do so!"

"Aww, Simon…c’mon," Blair chuckled, putting his arm over Simon’s shoulder once again.


~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~

Cascade International Airport – Four Weeks Later

A weary Steven Ellison was more than grateful for the warning telephone call. He silently promised himself to do something nice for Blair. *At the very least, I can reimburse him for the cost of the call. Calling me aboard that flight couldn’t have been cheap!*

Overnight bag slung over one shoulder, he walked along the connecting hallway from the plane to the terminal. Inside the terminal, he joined the other passengers as they walked towards the main terminal where their friends and loved ones waited.

Forcing back a smile, Steven knew if he hadn’t been warned, he would have probably dropped to the floor with a heart attack or thought that something had happened to Sally.

//They say time is a healer. And my wounds are not the same. We’d have to sit right down and talk it over.//

Steven stopped outside the secured area and smiled at the two men waiting for him. "Hi, Jim. Hi, Dad." He saw Jim’s head tilt to one side and hoped his voice projected the correct amount of surprise.

"Hello, Steven." William’s voice was somewhat hesitant. "Would you like to join us for dinner?"

The End

Please remember to send feedback to our authors. Feedback can be sent to: [email protected]

Next week’s episode: Love Kills by Gemini