Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
Internal thought in * *
~~~~~ ACT I ~~~~~
Blair Sandburg drove through the rain-slicked streets of Cascade, the pelting rain beat down on his car. The Volvo’s windshield wipers whooshed as they struggled to keep up with the onslaught and he turned on the radio to fill the silence of the night.
<It’s five minutes past the witching hour. It’s spooky time.>
"You’re not kidding, buddy," mumbled Blair under his breath. "We’re definitely beating the competition for the title of ‘It’s a dark and stormy night.’" Blair squinted his eyes to see past the rain to the street beyond.
The steering wheel suddenly jerked under his hands, and he could hear the motor sputtering. He turned a corner to get on a side street before the engine died. He tried several times to start it again, but the engine failed to fire up. "What the hell is wrong this time? I’m going to kill my mechanic if something wasn’t fixed right."
<So, what do you think about being alone in the dark?>
Blair looked around at the empty streets and swallowed being alone really sucked. Headlights speared into his rearview mirror, and Blair blinked his watering eyes. He was ready to get out of the Volvo when three young men exited the car and he changed his mind, there was just too many times his trusting nature got him into trouble.
<Aliens from another planet come to beam you up to the mother ship? A tall hooded guy with a sickle? A face in a darkened window?>
"No, man. It’s three guys in the middle of nowhere. I would take aliens any day." Blair watched the men approach his car.
<That’s what scares me, man. But tonight, what I’m really interested in hearing about is what scares the hell out of you. On line 17, I’ve got…>
Blair jumped when something hit the top of his trunk. *Getting on the line is a good idea.* Blair picked up his cell phone and punched speed-dial two for the Cascade Police Dispatch. "This is Blair Sandburg. I think there’s a 604 in progress."
Blair nearly dropped his cell phone when a young Asian face appeared in his window. Trouble was here, and he would have to deal with it until help could get to him. He knew the dispatcher would call Jim.
"Need some help?" The young man shouted through the window while knocking on it.
Blair raised his phone. "I don’t need any help. I already have some on the way." Blair knocked his elbow against his lock to trigger it. There was no way he wanted company in the car with him.
"Come on and get out of the car. I said I would help you," continued the young man. He tried to pull the drivers-side door open.
"I’m fine, man," Blair yelled from his seat. He hoped the patrol assigned to the area were on its way. Blair jumped when a fist hit the window beside his face.
"Get out of the car, man. I’m not telling you again." The youth’s face was scrunched up in anger.
Blair jerked away from his door and franticly twisted his key in the ignition. These guys were not giving up. The pounding rhythm on his car was pushing his adrenaline up further and further.
"I ain’t playing anymore," the leader of the gang called out. "Let’s go. Get him out of the car! Get out of the car!" He pulled back from the car.
Blair’s engine finally caught, and he cheered silently. Those cheers died when the muzzle of a gun was aimed at his window. He stomped down on his accelerator, and the car shot forward.
Blair steered the Volvo down the street, and he cringed when the retort of a handgun split the air. His back window shattered inward, and he was pelted by shards of glass. Blair screamed into the air, hoping dispatch was still on the line, "Shots fired at Lincoln and First! I need help here!"
Blair was concentrating on guiding his car when he felt the back end spin out of control. The smell of rubber burned his sinuses. A large wooden fence loomed in his vision, and he brought his hands up to protect his face when he impacted.
Blair groggily raised his head from his steering wheel and took stock of his body. He felt a line of wetness trailing down his left check. His torso felt bruised from its meeting with the steering wheel and a sharp pain shot through his right knee. Approaching shouts galvanized him into action. He pushed his door open and stepped out ignoring the pain.
Blair looked behind him towards the street and saw the men were chasing after him. Another flying bullet sent him behind the fence and against an abandoned building. He edged around the broken wood of a door and sought sanctuary in the building
"Hey, yo! Forget about him. We got the car," the gang leader called to his cronies.
Blair heard the voice and winced as he slowed down. He would be safe for now. He just had to wait for the cavalry to arrive. Blair limped deeper into the building. The walls were covered with graffiti and only moonlight from broken windows illuminated the hallway.
A wave of dizziness swept over Blair and he stumbled against a mound on the floor upsetting his careful balance and sending him to the floor. He raised himself to his hands and knees and looked back. A tan trench coat shifted and the man wearing it turned onto his back. Blair gasped and scrambled backward to staunch the blood he could see bubbling from a gut wound. "Oh, God. Oh, my God. Hang in there. Help is on the way."
A man standing in the shadows watched the longhaired young man leaning over the bleeding man. He looked down at his hands and saw that they were covered in blood like the young man’s. The knife he held there shone dully, and he quickly stuffed it into his pocket. He couldn’t do anything else.
Jim savagely turned his wheel as he neared the last place Blair had been after he had called for help. Three units and Simon were on their way as well. Jim just didn’t understand how Blair always seemed to get himself into trouble.
Jim heard sirens drawing nearer and frantic voices filled his ears.
<Let’s go, guys! Come on, we need to get out of here!>
"You won’t get far, punks," Jim whispered under his breath. "Mess with my guide and you mess with me." Jim felt his truck start to tilt as he rounded the corner and fought the wheel to stay upright.
Jim parked his truck behind Blair’s Volvo and another vehicle. Police cars pulled up behind him, and he jumped from the truck with his weapon drawn. "Cascade Police. Stop right where you are!"
Blair kept a steady pressure on the wounded man’s abdomen. The blood had stopped flowing, and his eyes had gone glassy in the first stages of death. Blair didn’t notice this as he was staring off into nowhere, waiting for Jim to come and get him. A hand came down onto his shoulder.
Jim felt the shoulder underneath his hand jump. Blair was leaning over a dead man. Jim kneeled beside his partner. "Hey, Chief. I think you can let go now."
Blair blinked against dry eyes and looked over at Jim. "He’s bleeding pretty bad, Jim. Are the paramedics with you?"
Jim could see Blair’s eyes were unfocused. Between that and the gash on his forehead, Jim figured Blair once again had a concussion. Jim pulled Blair away from the body. "Come on, buddy. Let’s leave this guy to the professionals and get you checked out."
Blair followed the gentle hands that guided him up. Standing up, another wave of vertigo swept through him. He staggered but felt the sturdy hands of his friend catch him. "I’m all right, Jim. I just have to find my balance."
Jim guided Blair back through the building and outside to where the paramedics had pulled up. He handed Blair off to one of the medics while he pulled the other one aside. "There’s a dead body upstairs. Sandburg was trying to stop the bleeding of a stomach wound, but it looked like it was too late."
"Thanks, Detective Ellison. We’ll take care of your partner then take care of the victim."
"Thanks." Jim headed back to his partner. "What’s the verdict so far, Ken?"
Ken, the paramedic, looked up from where he was bandaging Blair’s knee. "He has a slight concussion, a bruised torso, and his knee is sprained. Overall, he will need bed rest, but I’ll release him into your care. You know what to look for."
Simon pulled up in front of the row of abandoned buildings. The streets were alive with lights and police personnel. Seeing his men at work, he made the circuits among them and gathered information. He finished and went to where Jim was sitting with Blair at Jim’s truck.
Simon saw a flash of white on Blair’s forehead and as he drew nearer, noticed that it was a bandage. He winced at the bruising already spreading from underneath it. "Jim," he called. "What’s going on here?"
Jim straightened up when Simon approached. "Captain. It looks like several members of a gang tried to steal Blair’s car. When Blair fled, he came across a wounded man who was dying. I got here and apprehended the gang members and found Blair still trying to help the man."
Blair vaguely heard voices and drifted while they spoke. The last statement brought him slightly back. "He wouldn’t stop bleeding for the longest time."
Simon looked from Blair to Jim. "Why don’t you take Sandburg home, and I will make sure that any evidence gets passed along to you. It looks like the gang didn’t know the man was in the building and there was no blood on them. They only had guns and no knives."
Jim looked back at Blair and saw he was ready to drop. His eyelids were drooping, and he looked half asleep. "I’ll do that Captain."
Jim looked past the scene in front of him and focused in on the building. "Let me know if an I.D. comes in on the body. I know Blair would like to know who he was." While speaking, Jim saw a shadow move in a second floor apartment. A figure was shadowed against a curtain further into the room.
Blair pulled himself out of his funk as Jim’s gaze focused on the building he had found the guy in. The guide put his hand on Jim’s arm before he could over extend his senses. "Do you see something, Jim?"
Jim felt the warm hand through his jacket and turned to his boss and his friend. "I saw something in one of the second-floor apartment units."
Simon led the way into the apartment building with his gun out and pointed ahead. There was no way the person who killed the man would have a chance to do so again. Jim followed him a step behind with Sandburg clinging to the sentinel’s back. The kid was still a little unsteady, but he had insisted on backing his partner up.
The police captain eased open the apartment door where Jim had seen the movement. Jim shouldered him aside, and Simon found himself steadying Blair as he lost his support.
Jim stepped toward the bead curtain where he had seen the movement. There was nothing there. He turned to Simon. "I saw somebody go into this store room."
Simon stepped through the curtain and approached a door on the back wall. "Maybe they went through this service door." Simon tried the door but found it locked. Taking out his walkie-talkie to be on the safe side he asked, "This is Banks. I need to know if any civilians have left the building."
"No, sir, no one has left the building, and you are the only ones who have gone in."
Simon turned back to Jim after the confirmation. "It’s late, Jim. Your best friend nearly got killed. Stress can play tricks on the mind."
Jim stood ramrod straight and glared at his superior officer. "I am not stressed, sir. I saw someone here."
Simon put his hands on his hips and looked to Sandburg for support. The anthropologist just shrugged. "All right. What did this someone look like?"
Jim sighed. "I didn’t really see a face. It was a slim figure that could only be a woman." Jim shivered as a cold wind caressed his body. "Is it cold in here?"
Blair let himself become aware of the temperature of the room. "It feels warm enough to me, Jim. Are you feeling okay?"
Simon put his hand on Jim’s shoulder. "Listen, Jim. Why don’t you take yourself and your partner home? Sandburg could do with some rest, and it looks like you do as well. Heck, half the squad is down with the flu. You could be coming down with it, too."
Jim stated firmly, "I’m not sick. I’m doing just fine."
Simon could have sworn he heard a pout in his best detective’s voice. "Will you just take a day off tomorrow? All I’ll need is your report on my desk by the end of the day. Use the day to take care of your partner." Simon pulled a cigar from his cigar box and stuck it in his mouth. He left the pair and headed out of the room.
Blair glanced back at Jim after watching Simon leave. There was a glassy look in the sentinel’s eyes, and his nostrils were flaring. Blair took a sniff of the air. "What is it? What do you smell, Jim?"
Jim found his gaze locked on the storage room again. A figure was molding itself from the weak light filtering in. A scent from the direction had invaded his nose. "Sweet, like honey. It’s over here at the curtains. It smells old, like it’s been here for a while." Jim reached out towards the shadow. "Don’t you see her?"
Blair squinted his eyes towards the curtain but couldn’t make anything out. He did feel a cool breeze against his face. It felt good against the cut and bruise on his forehead. "I don’t see anything, Jim. I wonder why only you can see it?"
Jim watched as the figure faded back into darkness. "I don’t know, Chief, but it’s gone." He turned to his ailing partner and took his arm. "Let’s get you home and rested up. We have a lot of work ahead of us on this case."
Blair let his friend lead him out and home. If Blair knew his partner, he would be up and out in the morning, despite Simon’s suggestion of staying home. Blair would have to be ready as well. There was no way he was letting Jim handle this alone.
When Simon walked into the bullpen later that morning, he groaned. It seemed that Jim had been stubborn and come in against orders. "I thought I told you to take the morning off, Detective?"
Jim raised his stuffed up head from his computer and glared at his boss. "I’m just having an allergy attack. I’m good enough to work."
Simon stopped by Rhonda’s desk and pulled a bottle from a box by the desk. "Yeah, right. Whenever you decide to stop being stubborn, health services sent a case of cough medicine over." Simon threw the bottle at Jim.
Jim caught the bottle and looked at its label. "Captain, if you recall, the last time I took this…"
"I know damn well what happened the last time you took this. You won’t have to worry about it this time because you will be at home. So, I suggest you clear out of here and make use of your sick days." Simon looked up when Joel Taggart entered the bullpen. "Now, if you’ll excuse us working stiffs…" He motioned Taggart to follow him to his office for a meeting.
Blair peeked around the corner to make sure Simon had left. He had heard his voice a few minutes before, and he didn’t want to get caught. He limped his way to Jim’s desk and saw what Jim was holding. "I hope you have no intention of drinking that poison?"
Jim looked up. Blair was standing in front of his desk. "I thought I told you to stay home, Sandburg. You were told to keep the weight off your knee."
Blair hopped around the desk and slumped down in his seat there. Knowing Jim would be mad, but doing it anyway, he propped his leg up on the corner of the desk. "There. My leg is up, and I am resting." Blair dug into his pocket and threw a packet onto Jim’s desk. "Now, get rid of that stuff and try this instead."
Jim eyed the packet warily. He tossed the bottle into his trashcan. "I wasn’t going to use it anyway." He picked up what Blair brought in. "What’s this? Something the Hakowi Indians swear by?"
Blair smiled. "Genjaka actually. You should give this stuff a try. I head to search high and low for the ingredients."
The sentinel brought the medical aid to his nose and took a sniff, "Whoo!"
Blair batted Jim’s hand down. "You don’t snort it. Stick it underneath your tongue and let it dissolve."
Jim carefully placed a small piece under his tongue. A bitter taste spread through his mouth. Speaking around the aftertaste, he muttered, "Feel like a million bucks."
Jim’s face puckered up, and Blair could sympathize. The same medicine had been forced on him when younger, and it had worked wonderfully. "I know it tastes bad but give it a chance. It’ll work, I promise."
Jim took a drink of his coffee to wash down the remnants of the plants. The taste was still there, but it had diminished. "Thanks, Chief. And if this works, I’ll thank you later."
"Now that I got you to deal with this allergy attack, we have to deal with what happened last night. You can’t ignore what you saw last night, man."
Jim leaned back in his chair. "Come on. I’m sure there is a logical explanation
Simon was probably right about last night. I was coming down with a nasty bug, and it fried my senses."
Blair lowered his leg from the desk and leaned closer to Jim. "And if there isn’t?"
Jim stood up from his chair and loomed over Blair. "I have had about as much as I can handle with this sentinel stuff. I’m on shaky ground here a little bit you follow me? What am I supposed to do? Encounter a ghost every time I work a homicide?"
Blair had found himself slowly backing up from Jim’s tirade. His back was beginning to hurt from the pressure from the back of the chair. Their discussion was becoming too similar to those spoken after his drowning. "You can’t just shut the door after it’s opened, Jim."
Jim backed off, but this was the last conversation he wanted to have. "Where are you going with this?"
"The experience you had last night, its all classic textbook; the intense cold, the sweet smell, the shimmering light. If there are actually ghosts, you may have seen one." Blair took a deep breath but was interrupted by Simon, who had come back with Joel.
"A ghost, Sandburg? Now I think you’re getting sick." Simon had a wide grin on his face. He shook his head and noticed that Jim was displaying the same motion. "Some scientist you are, Blair. Do you believe everything?"
Joel noticed the forlorn expression on Blair’s face and came to his defense. "I don’t know guys. Blair’s pretty open-minded but there is validation on what he says." All eyes fell on him, but it was only the pleading eyes of one well-befriended doctorate student that moved him. He smiled at him. "After all, isn’t it Blair who believed in us enough to write his dissertation? I’d think you would have to be diverse enough to tackle our society."
Blair beamed at his friend. He turned to Jim. "I’m also open enough to acknowledge certain traits that no one else believes in."
Jim and Simon looked at each other and shrugged. "Got us there Sandburg," answered Simon for the both of them. "Now, take your partner and go home!"~~~~~ ACT II ~~~~~Blair stared at the dining room table in front of him. He mentally counted the items there, hoping that he had enough equipment. He heard Jim’s feet treading down the stairs and looked up to see his roommate dressed in a thick dark blue terrycloth robe. He joined Blair at the table and Blair asked, "How’s the cold?"
Jim breathed deeply through his nose and smiled. "Don’t get too excited, but I think it’s actually helping. I’m feeling a lot better, thank you."
Blair grinned back widely. "Niktabi root. Works every time."
Jim gestured to the array of equipment on the table. "What’s all this? Are we expecting an invasion?" Jim groaned inwardly when he saw Blair’s professor face appear.
"Well," began Blair, excited that Jim wanted to know. "We’ve got a night vision scope, infrared film, and an E.M.F. detector. It measures an increase in electromagnetic activity…"
"Whoa, Chief. Slow down. What do you expect to find?"
Blair sat down at the table and pulled a notebook in front of him. "Answers. If there’s something going on down at that apartment, I want to document it."
Jim went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. "I was dead tired last night. What if I imagined this whole thing?"
Blair pushed his glasses up onto his nose and held Jim’s gaze. "How do you explain that glowing light?
Jim shrugged and took a drink. "They set up a lot of lights at a crime scene. It could have been a reflection from any of them."
Blair shook his head. "I disagree. You were focused on what was going on and were certain it was a woman in the room."
"You’re entitled to…" Jim started before the ringing of the loft phone interrupted him. Picking up the receiver, he listened to what he was told. He answered and quickly glanced at Blair. "You’re kidding me? We’ll be right there." Jim hung up the phone and headed upstairs to his room. He called over the railing. "Get ready to go, Sandburg. I just got word that something is happening at that apartment."
Blair stared after Jim for a moment before his words caught up to him. He jumped from his seat and rushed as fast as his leg would let him into his bedroom to change clothes. It was cold out there.
Jim drove the dark streets of Cascade and repressed the smile that teased his lips. His partner was a mass of vibration. His legs were bouncing, and he was peering out the passenger door window.
Jim pulled up in front of the abandoned apartment building and faced Blair. "There were reports of noises coming from the building. You ready to go?"
Blair held up his camera and answered, "I’m ready whenever you are." Blair exited the truck and looked through the hole his car had made the other night. He swallowed against a dry throat, but he continued onwards. He wanted to put this mystery to bed.
The two men entered the central doorway. The dark hall was like a hole where the end couldn’t be seen. The air was chilled by the weather. They moved deeper into the abyss.
Blair’s ears were strained to hear any noises. As he neared the spot where he had found the injured man, he shivered. He so did not want to come back here. He looked at the back of his sentinel and knew he would do it for Jim. Their relationship had already been strained by recent events.
At the end of the hallway, Blair stopped. The noises had been intermittent, and it sounded suspiciously like a chain rattling. Jim hadn’t mentioned that earlier. An odor reached Blair’s nose. He could see Jim frowning and his nose twitching from the scent. It was cigar smoke. Putting the noises and the smell together, Blair got the point rather quickly. "You can come out now, guys. I know you’re in there," Blair called out. He felt his blood boiling at the joke the detectives in the bullpen were pulling on him. This was serious, and they thought it was a joke. He watched as Rafe, Brown, and one of the new detectives, Dill, entered the hall.
"How did you know it was us, Sandburg?" Rafe asked. He was trying to suppress his laughter, but it was breaking through anyway. "There is no way that you could have known." He looked at Jim. "Unless the big guy here told you."
Blair glared at his friends. He refrained from looking at Jim. He would know that he was on Blair’s bad side now. "I don’t know, Rafe. It could be the fact that rattling chains is the oldest trick in the book. Combine that with the annoying scent of your cigars, and how could I miss?" Blair crossed his arms across his chest.
Brown looked at the chain length in his hand and back to Blair. "Someone needs to make Hairboy into a detective." Brown had always been amazed at the ideas that Blair had come up with, but he was surprised how fast Blair had seen through the joke.
Blair was pissed. How could these guys think so little of him that they would pull this on him? The crack about making him into a detective had hurt too. What did they think he had been doing for the last four years? Twiddling his thumbs. Here he thought he had made an active contribution to the team effort. Blair stalked from the building and heard the footsteps of the others following him. Stepping back outside, Blair headed to the truck all he wanted to do was go home.
Brown called after the retreating anthropologist, "You guys want us to stick around? You might need some protection from mean and angry ghosts."
Blair twirled around and spit out, "I got something you can stick, H." Blair pulled open the passenger door of the truck and slid onto the seat. He slouched in his seat and ignored the detectives.
Dills looked confused at what had happened. Blair had always seemed like an easy-going guy. "Maybe it wasn’t as funny as we thought," he said to no one in particular, then asked Jim, "You don’t really believe in this hocus-pocus stuff, do you?"
Jim couldn’t believe they even had to ask. He would let Blair believe what he wanted, but he had other things in mind. "What I believe is irrelevant. I’m working a homicide here, and you guys are all over my murder scene."
Brown answered, "Sorry, Jim." He motioned to the obviously upset team mascot. "Let Blair know we were just joking with him." The three men returned to their car and left.
Jim headed back to the truck and felt in his pocket for his keys. Opening his door to talk to Blair, "Do you have my keys?" A noise from the building caught his attention. He turned and saw that the shadowy figure had returned. Thinking it was someone else he dialed up his hearing. He heard no heart beat, but his eyes were still seeing an outline. "Forget the keys. Grab your camera. It looks like something *is* going on in there."
Blair snorted. "Sure, Jim. Why don’t you just call the Ghostbusters? I’m tired of the jokes."
Jim couldn’t take his eyes off the window but continued to motion for Blair to join him. "I’m serious, Sandburg. The figure is back." Giving up on Blair, Jim ran towards the building.
Blair saw the focus of Jim’s senses and knew Jim was seeing something. Moving at a slower pace due to his knee and the fear it was another joke, Blair followed his friend.
Jim returned to the storage room and looked at the curtain. "I saw her right here."
Blair looked around the empty room. "You don’t have to humor me, Jim. If there’s no one here, you don’t have to put on an act. I don’t really care one way or the other now." Blair knew he was pouting, but he couldn’t help it. He hated feeling used.
Jim heard Blair’s voice on the periphery of his hearing, but the surrounding environs held most of his attention. A cold breeze permeated his body, and he shivered at the contact. "Do you feel that?"
Blair concentrated around him. "Feel what?"
Jim shivered again. "There’s a cold that I feel in my bones." Wanting Blair to get some satisfaction from this trip. "Get the camera rolling."
Blair watched as Jim cased the room. His nostrils were flaring and his eyes were darting around the room. His body had shifted into that smooth slide that he got when he was stalking something. *Jim really did see something.* Blair raised his camera, pushed record and followed the sentinel as he canvassed the room.
Jim paced the room trying to ferret out the source of the disturbance. His circuit brought him in front of a mirror over a fireplace. Dust clung to the surface and smudges of dirt blocked a lot of the reflective surface. A woman’s face and shoulders began to come into being in front of him. "Good Lord. I knew I wasn’t seeing things."
Blair was amazed at the conviction in the voice. Jim had been fighting this the whole time, coming up with excuses on what this could have been. The look of awe on the detective’s face belied any doubt he could have felt. "All right, Jim. Just tell me what you’re seeing."
Jim reached towards the mirror. "There’s a woman in the mirror. She’s looking back at me, and I can see her lips moving."
"Do you know what she’s saying?" Blair asked.
Jim never heard what Blair said. Once his hand touched the glass he was pulled into the past as the glass shattered around him. Jim saw the dark and dank hallway outside the apartment. Blair was leaning over the body of the dead man and frantically holding onto the bleeding wound. Jim looked behind them and saw a bum holding a knife. He was around the corner from Blair but was making no moves toward Jim’s partner.
Jim was pulled from the vision by the warm pressure of Blair’s hand. "She’s gone. She showed me someone who was at the scene with you the other day." Jim looked up at his friend. "We need to find him. He was holding a bloody knife."
"That’s a good start, Jim. Once we get into the station tomorrow, we can see if the guy killed here has been identified yet. We can then do some research into this guy you saw in the mirror."
Jim let Blair steer him from the apartment building. He climbed behind the wheel and drove the two of them home. Blair was right; they could tackle this problem after they got some sleep.
Jim and Blair were working in one of the interview rooms, going over photographs and other papers trying to find a name for the man Jim had seen in the mirror. Simon interrupted them around eleven. "Jim. We got a positive identification on your John Doe in the apartment building. His name is Peter Willis, and he was part owner of the building. He had a partner, Daniel Trent."
"Thanks, sir. I’ll look into it as soon as I finish here," Jim replied sorting through the photos.
"That’s good." Simon turned his attention to his consultant. "I understand you had a run-in with a ghost last night."
Blair scowled at Simon. "Yeah, we did. Lucky for us, those guys didn’t drive her away. Jim saw her face this time, and she was trying to tell him something."
Simon’s eyes widened in surprise. Glancing at Jim the captain said, "He has to be kidding. There is no way you two met a ghost."
Jim sat down on the table and looked Simon in the eye. "It is true, Simon. She appeared again after Brown and the others left."
Simon kept eye contact with Jim but spoke to Blair, "Sandburg, the guys told me you had a video camera."
Blair squared his shoulders. "There was nothing on the film."
"See, Jim," Simon continued. "I rest my case."
Jim responded, "Captain, I didn’t ask for this. I don’t like it any more than you do, but someone in that apartment is making contact with me. I don’t know what else to say to make you believe me." Jim stood up and started fiddling with the pictures lying on the table. "I have a drawing of a man that the ghost showed me was there when Blair found the victim. I’m trying to see if we have any pictures of him on record."
Simon glanced between the two men. He filled his lungs with air and blew it out slowly. "You know, if I heard this from any other detective, I would request for his immediate transfer along with his little buddies."
Simon stared at Blair then went back to Jim. "All right, Jim. I have stood behind you on the sentinel stuff. But as far as ghosts go, you ask me…" Simon paused. He didn’t want to alienate his friend so he cut his statement off. "Put the picture you have on the street. See if the guy is even real."
Blair watched Simon leave. He couldn’t believe the police captain was letting them run with their lead. "I can’t believe we told Simon all of that. Does this mean we’re going back to the apartment tonight?"
Jim began searching the pictures again. "After we talk to Daniel Trent, we’ll go back." He put the photos down and grabbed his coat. "Let’s get this over with so I can put this chapter of my life back in storage."
Blair watched the man leave. He grabbed his coat and followed. He was hoping Jim would leave this part of his abilities open, but he had a feeling the sentinel would fight him along the way.
Blair and Jim met Daniel Trent in his office. Blair soaked up the heat of the room while Jim conducted the interview. He needed to warm up now before spending a chilly night at the apartment.
He listened as Jim questioned Trent. "Mr. Trent, could you explain your relationship with Peter Willis?"
Daniel Trent had stood up as the detectives came into his office. He now picked up his briefcase; he was ready to leave for the day. "We go back about twenty years. We made a bunch of money and then lost a bunch of money. But hell, he was a great guy. It was probably his stubbornness that got him killed."
Jim stepped forward and leaned in towards the business partner. "How do you figure that?"
"Every week, like clockwork, he’d leave the office at seven on the nose and walk through two or three of our buildings. I understood it was only the good ones though. Why he chose to walk through that particular building, filled with druggies and homeless, I can’t understand. But he just had to do his own thing. He even did this after the threats started coming in."
"Threats?" Jim asked.
"Yes." Trent pulled some documents from his desk and handed them to the detective’s partner. "I pulled these from my records thinking the police would want them."
Blair started to read the first letter. "Dear sir. This letter is to inform you of the grave danger presented by your planned demolition of 335 First Street. It is imperative that you do not destroy this building. There will be dire consequences if you proceed." Blair looked up.
"The rest are pretty much the same. They rant and rave that the building shouldn’t be destroyed, and we would regret it if it happens."
"Any idea of who sent them?" asked Jim.
Trent replied, "The city was paying us a lot of money to tear down the building. We just figured it was someone who didn’t get the contract and was trying to spook us. Maybe we were wrong."
Jim held his hand up for Trent to quit speaking when his cell phone rang. "Ellison."
"Jim, it’s Joel. I’ve been wearing out shoe leather showing that composite of yours around town, and we think we found your guy."
Jim looked at Blair. "Where are you at, Joel?"
"A homeless shelter called The Outreach Center. The director says the guy you’re looking for is a part-time resident. The picture belongs to a man named Robert Dunlop."
"Good job. I’ll meet you there in twenty minutes." Jim hung up the phone and turned back to Trent. "I appreciate all your help. I’ll get back to you when we have more information." Jim directed Blair to leave the office in front of him, and the duo headed to the truck and then the shelter.
At the homeless shelter, the director greeted them at the door and guided them to a quiet corner in the main room. A battered suitcase sat on a table. "We haven’t seen Robert for a few days. He left his stuff with me for safekeeping. He seemed real paranoid about it, so I made sure it was locked up."
Jim opened the suitcase and searched through the items. Some dainty women’s clothes, two thin books, and some small personal items were what he found. They were very strange things for a homeless man to be carrying around. Jim carefully sniffed the contents. They smelled of age and of a sweet perfume. Blair’s voice broke into his concentration. "Boy, he has a weird taste in style. Where do you think he got these?"
Jim fingered the fabric of a scarf. "The woman I saw in the mirror was dressed in similar clothes. The clothes have the scent on them that I smelled in the apartment." Jim questioned the director, Charlie. "What can you tell us about this Dunlop?"
Charlie shook his head. "He’s very typical of what we get in here. Fifty years ago, he would have been institutionalized."
Jim asked, "Mental problems?"
"Yeah, he’s schizophrenic. Trouble is, he refuses to take his medicine."
Blair reached out and stroked the scarf himself. "Did he ever say why?"
Charlie answered, "Claims its so he can be closer to the spirit world. We can’t force him to comply though."
"Has he ever given you any problems, Charlie? Caused any disruptions?" Jim asked. This was turning out to be a productive interview.
"Actually, no. He keeps mostly to himself." Charlie pointed to one of the slim books in the suitcase. "He spends a lot of time writing in that book."
Blair took the book from the case and flipped through the pages. "It looks like the same handwriting on the letters that Trent showed us."
Jim took the book and looked through it himself. "Has he ever mentioned any family or friends?"
Charlie answered, "Not that I know of. The only person he ever talked about was someone named Molly. He goes and visits her almost every night. These are her things. He said that he was taking care of them. It’s strange, though. All her stuff is really old."
Jim and Blair had the same idea. They watched as Charlie pulled several photos from a cigar box tucked in at the bottom of the case. He handed them to Jim to look at.
Charlie motioned to the pictures. "That’s Molly. See, Robert was always saying that she was trapped. He wanted to help her get home."
Jim examined the pictures. "Can I have a minute to wrap things up here with my partner?"
Charlie nodded his head. "Sure." He walked away.
Jim gave Blair the pictures and pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. He opened it up and showed it to Blair. "I had the police sketch artist do a rendering of the woman I saw. This is the same woman that was in the mirror."
Blair looked at both pictures and saw that they were the same. "I guess the only thing left to do is head over to the apartment and see if you can make contact with Molly."~~~~~ ACT III ~~~~~The empty apartment glowed a gentle yellow from lanterns placed around the room. Blair looked the configuration over, and it reminded him of the time he had spent with Corinne awhile back. He hoped this outing would generate the same attraction to the spirits as that one had.
Blair had set up his equipment on a table Jim had helped him haul up. There was a spectrum monitor, a tape recorder going, and a camcorder set up in the corner on a tripod. He was prepared to get physical evidence of a ghost. He was interrupted when Jim spoke up.
Jim motioned at the equipment around the room. "Maybe you should do a study on the psychology of ghosts. You have enough stuff here to make a good go of it."
Blair laughed out loud. "Sure, Jim. I’ll have enough trouble presenting my dissertation on sentinels. Could you imagine my department if I started throwing ectoplasm at them? How are you doing with Dunlop’s diary?"
Jim threw the book he had been reading on the table in front of Blair. It barely missed Blair’s open laptop, and Blair gave him a scowl and shifted his laptop closer to his body. "Whatever mental problems this guy had, you can’t say he wasn’t organized. He has a lot of details in his book. He has more details of Molly’s murder than the police file."
Blair picked up an old stained folder from the table. "There isn’t a lot in this file I dug up from the storage room. It says she was shot in front of the fireplace below the mirror you’re seeing her in. This has been so weird, you know?"
"I know. The case hasn’t been solved since it happened back in 1953. According to Dunlop’s diary though, he claims that the murderer was a man with stained fingers. He caught the man burying a gun in the park when he was a child."
"Stained fingers?" Blair asked. "What could that mean."
Jim stood in front of the living room’s window. ‘I have no idea what it means. Says the guy threatened to kill him if he told."
Blair glanced through the file. "He was a witness? Why isn’t it in the report?"
Jim faced Blair. "He was eight years old at the time." Jim thought back to when he had seen Bud’s murder and the police discounting him on his father’s word and his age at the time. He knew how Dunlop must have felt if he tried to tell and if no one believed him.
"Dunlop is totally obsessed with her. He talks in the diary about being true to her spirit, protecting her home."
Blair rested his head on his hand. "Protecting her home? The only thing I can say is that maybe by preventing the building from being demolished, he is keeping her soul from being set adrift. Most ghost stories have that element where a haunt is usually tied to a certain place, especially if they were killed there."
Jim leaned against the wall behind him. "But that doesn’t explain why he’s carrying her stuff around."
Blair stood up and approached his friend. What he said would have just as much effect on the sentinel as calling him a throwback to primitive man when they first met. "Maybe it’s his focus. It’s keeping his mind as firmly into reality as it can be. The one thing that my studies led me to was references that a sign of mental instability is heightened senses."
Jim stared at Blair. Did he really think that he was crazy? That was why he was seeing the ghosts? "I don’t know, Blair. You’re the source of my craziness. Bouncing around in both mind and body. I’d be crazy if I thought I could keep up with you." Jim smirked at his friend. "Besides, last I heard, I believe shamans could also see spirits."
Blair laughed out loud. "I guess it would. Well, let’s both plead the fifth and get busy here." Blair leaned forward and plugged some information into his laptop. He thought about what Jim had said though. If he was a shaman, why didn’t he see the ghost? He must have felt it that first day when he got that chill, but why couldn’t he sense her now? He was pulled back into the real world by Jim’s voice.
"What is all this stuff you brought anyway?"
Blair began pointing, "Just some stuff I got from the psych lab. This measures the heartbeat, this respiration, this body temperature."
Jim peered at the large thermometer that Blair was pointing to. "Body temperature, huh? External or internal?" The confused expression on Blair’s face caused Jim to laugh out loud. "Oh, Chief. What am I going to do with you."
Night had fallen over the apartment building and Blair was listening to music through his headphones. Jim had slipped into a doze about half an hour before. Blair had no heart to wake him, so he continued to work on his laptop as he jammed to some tunes.
Jim had his senses lightly trained on his surroundings. A shiver went through him and he jerked from his sleep. He saw a shadow walking away from him and going towards the mirror. He called to Blair but got no response. He reached out and touched the mirror and was lost in the shattering of glass once again.
Jim found himself looking into the apartment that was bright from the mid day sun. The décor hearkened back to the 1950’s. He could see Molly standing by the sink in the kitchen, and she was humming to herself. She poured herself a glass of wine and brought it into the living room. She looked out the living room window and a bright smile lit her face. Jim had to smile with her.
Jim followed her with his eyes as she left the window and stood in front of the mirror, toasting herself, "Mrs. Sam Bromly."
Jim reeled back when a gunshot rang out. The mirror cracked in front of him, and Molly’s hand went to her stomach and held it tight. The wineglass fell from her hand and shattered against the wood floor. The red of the wine clashed with the bright blood that oozed around her hand on her abdomen. Molly met Jim’s eyes before they closed one final time. Jim watched in horror as her hand dropped away from the brutal wound, and her body hit the floor, dead. The scene before him blanked out, and he was lost in the darkness.
Blair was doing the finishing touches on his paper that was due and felt the need to check on Jim. He looked up and found Jim was in front of the mirror staring into the surface. He threw his headphones off and raced over to his sentinel. "Jim!" he shouted.
Jim was swimming in an inky sea. He distantly heard his name being called and fought to reach it. He woke up from his zone with a gasp and felt Blair’s hand on his face. He focused on the blue eyes worriedly scanning his face. "I saw Molly’s murder."
Blair stepped back. "Did you see who killed her?"
Jim turned back to the mirror and looked into its depths. "It was all played out right in front of me just the way it was with Dunlop."
"Man, it must have been one hell of a ride. You were breathing like you had run a three minute mile." Blair briskly rubbed his arms, feeling cold all of a sudden. "What did you see?"
"She was toasting herself with a glass of wine. A shot rang out and the mirror broke from the impact. She fell down and everything went black." Jim rubbed his forehead with his hand. "It was pretty intense. She did mention a name though. She toasted herself as Mrs. Sam Bromly."
"Her last name was Charles. Maybe this guy was her fiancé. I don’t remember that name being in her case file. I wonder what it means." Blair returned to his seat and looked at his computer screen. "Let me make some notes, and we can look into this."
Jim faced the mirror again and touched the glass with his fingertips. He got no reaction from it and didn’t know if he was disappointed or not. "Why are you still here, Molly," Jim whispered under his breath.
Daylight found Jim and Blair going through Molly’s case files yet again. Blair had organized notes based on Dunlop’s diary, and they both were getting frustrated. Jim wanted to give Molly her final peace, and Blair just wanted to see that his best friend made it through this intact.
Blair looked over at Jim and could see the tension radiating from his face. Putting the papers he was searching through down, he went over and sat down on the couch next to his friend. "You know, there’s a theory that when someone’s murdered and the reason for their death is unknown to them, their spirit remains in the place of their death. They’re unable to pass into the next world and are stuck in a sort of limbo."
Jim’s eyes lit up with hope. "What you’re saying is that if we can show her why she died, she’ll be set free into her, what, afterlife?"
Blair pushed his hair back. "Yeah, I guess. It’s just a theory."
Jim leaned forward and began straightening up the papers in front of him, readying them to be put back in their folder. "We need to get busy, then."
Blair put his hand on top of Jim’s. Blair had never felt this ineffectual before, and he didn’t want to let Jim down. "Jim, you’re talking about solving a murder that happened 45 years ago. It wasn’t even in the police computer database. We had to go to the vault to pull the file. What about evidence? The only witness we have is the ramblings of a mentally ill man who was a child at the time."
Jim turned to face Blair. "I know it’s far-fetched, Chief, but you didn’t see her eyes. If there is a next life, she deserves to find that peace." Jim loosened his grip on the yellowing papers that were crinkling under the stress. Staring down at all they had on the murder, an overwhelming wave of futility rushed through him. He threw the papers down. "This won’t get us anywhere. We need to go back to the apartment."
Jim’s cell phone rang and both men jumped at the intrusion of the noise. Jim answered the phone and was quiet while he listened. "All right, just try and calm him down. We’re on our way." Jim hung up the phone and spoke to Blair, "Dunlop’s down at the homeless shelter ranting and raving. He’s waving a knife around wanting his suitcase back."
"Shit," Blair said. He stood up and went to the coat rack. He put his coat on and threw Jim’s to him. He grabbed the suitcase from the dining room chair it sat on. "I guess we better go take care of this before attempting to contact Molly again."
Jim caught his coat and sighed with relief. Blair was going to help with this. "Let’s go."
Jim flashed his badge at the officer guarding the door of the homeless shelter. He entered the building and was greeted by chaos. Several disheveled residents were cowering against the wall. Their unwashed bodies burned Jim’s nose, and he had to turn his dial way down. Dunlop was backed against the wall, and he had the director, Charlie, in a headlock with a knife to his throat. The steady murmuring of both residents and cops on the scene itched at Jim’s ears.
"Back off," Jim stated pushing his way through the gathering. "Uniforms, get these people out of the way before someone gets hurt." Jim made his way to Dunlop with Blair right behind him. "Let him go, Dunlop. Charlie is your friend, and you don’t want to hurt him."
"He’s not my friend," Dunlop hollered, pulling Charlie even tighter against him. "He stole my stuff."
Jim pulled Blair up next to him and pointed out the suitcase Blair held in his hands. "He didn’t steal your case, Dunlop. He let us keep it for you. He didn’t want it to get lost or stolen."
Dunlop looked the big blue-eyed man over. "Who are you?"
"My name is James Ellison. I work with the police," Jim answered.
"Give me my case. That’s all I want. It’s mine."
"I know it is. Just let Charlie go first, and then you can have the case." Jim nudged Blair and pointed to the floor.
Blair didn’t know what Jim planned to do, but he followed directions. As soon as the case hit the floor, he found himself with his arms full of Charlie and heard Jim yelling for the cops to secure the scene. Blair gently handed Charlie off to one of his staff and chased after Jim. He found him in front of the locked bathroom door.
"Dunlop," called Jim through the door. "We just want to talk to you." Jim rammed the door when no response came. The door crashed open onto an empty room. The window was open, allowing a breeze to float in. "He went out the window. If I’m not mistaken, he’s going to head to the same place we are."
Blair watched Jim walk away with a confidence in his step. Blair was amazed at how Jim was so focused on helping Molly. He didn’t think he would ever understand his friend. He shrugged his shoulders and headed out after his partner. The sooner they solved this, the sooner they could close the case.~~~~~ ACT IV ~~~~~Jim pulled up in front of the apartment building and parked the truck. He opened his door and got out, seeing Blair mirror the action. "I don’t think so, Chief. You stay in the truck. I don’t know what Dunlop is going to do, and I don’t want to have to worry about you. Besides, I know what he’s experiencing, so I think I should talk to him alone."
Blair watched as Jim walked away. *He’s right,* Blair thought to himself. *What do I know about this? I’m the shaman of this group, and I have no idea what is going on.* Blair felt like a failure. Here he was supposed to be the spiritual end of the partnership, and Jim was the one who had the visions. He might as well give up on ever becoming an equal partner in the deal. It would always be one sided. Jim would experience it all, and Blair would just sit on the sidelines. At least he could comfort himself that he was a good guide.
Jim stalked up the stairs and found that the apartment door was open. He could hear Dunlop in the living room talking to Molly.
"Molly, where are you? I need to talk to you, it’s important. Please. I have a problem. I can’t…" Dunlop saw the policeman from the shelter come up behind him. He turned, pulling his knife and spoke to him, "You don’t understand. I’m all she has."
Jim approached the man and put a hand on the shaking shoulder. "I do understand. She wouldn’t want you to do this, though. I know you want to protect her, but this isn’t the way to do it. I can see her, too. Let me help you help her. We can do it together."
Dunlop searched the eyes of the man in front of him and saw the truth there. He wanted to trust him, but it was hard. He had been fighting alone for so long. Letting himself go, he slumped forward. An arm came around him, and he sank into the embrace. He felt the knife taken from his fingers and he didn’t regret its absence as he usually did. He could lay down his burden for a while.
Jim held the sole witness to Molly’s murder in his arms. He glanced in the mirror. Molly was there. She captured his gaze and pulled him back into the past.
Peter Willis walked the halls of the abandoned building. He wished he knew what was so important that letters threatened him if he tore it down. He was preparing to leave when his partner Daniel intercepted him. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Daniel was enraged. Willis would ruin him if he went over those budget reports. "You son of a bitch?" He tried to take Willis’ briefcase but he would not give it up. He drew his knife and had plunged it into the abdomen in front of him before he could even think. "See what you made me do?"
Neither man saw the homeless man take possession of the contested briefcase. After stabbing Willis, Trent dropped the knife and looked for the case. He didn’t see it and ran when he heard the squeal of tires outside the building.
Dunlop watched as Molly showed the police officer what had happened that day. He had taken the briefcase to see if he could find anything that would help him save the building. He was sorry that someone died, but he had other concerns to worry about. Molly had to be saved. He had hidden the papers in the fireplace in Molly’s apartment; they would be safe there.
The policeman was caught up in Molly’s vision and had forgotten all about him. Molly focused on him and gave him his message.
"Robert, I need you to help Detective Ellison. He’ll be able to put me to rest with your help. I am so tired, Robert."
Dunlop smiled sadly at the exhaustion in his friend’s voice. He wanted to help Molly rest. "What can I do?"
"You must lead both the detective and the killer here. The officer will capture him, and we will have more time to help me. Can you do this?"
Dunlop looked at the incapacitated policeman and nodded his head. "I’ll get them here, so we can help you." He came back to Molly. "You can count on me."
Jim swam up out of his zone. Blair’s voice was leading him back to awareness. He scoured the room with his eyes and saw that they were alone. "Where’s Dunlop?"
Blair slumped. He was feeling useless. "I came in here and you were alone. You were zoned out on something."
"I was. Dunlop didn’t kill Willis. His partner, Daniel Trent, killed him. We need to go back to the station to research this." Jim didn’t wait for an answer and moved from the room.
Blair ran to keep up. Jim was like a bloodhound. He would be focused on the case as usual, and Blair would just have to scramble to keep up, per normal.
Blair looked over Jim’s shoulder as he checked Trent’s movements on the day of the murder. "Are you sure it was Trent’s voice you heard in the vision? He was out of town at the time of the murders. We checked the airlines…"
Jim cut in, "What about rental cars? Portland’s not far. He could have driven up, done the murder, and driven back down."
Blair paced around the desk. "But what would be his motive?"
Jim scowled. "The age old one most likely. Willis had held something over Trent’s head, and he retaliated. I don’t know, but I for one want to find out."
"Then why would Molly show you Dunlop in the mirror? What purpose would that serve?" Blair was puzzled. He just didn’t understand.
"Well, Darwin, maybe she figured that if I found him, he would lead us to the truth about what happened to her as well as what happened to Willis." Jim stopped speaking when Simon stepped out of his office.
"Gentlemen!" exclaimed Simon. "I understand that you lost your suspect?"
"He’s not a suspect anymore, Captain." Jim shuffled through his papers
Simon and Blair exchanged looks. "Just tell me it’s not your ghost…" Simon was interrupted when Joel approached carrying some printouts.
"Excuse me, Simon. Jim asked me to pull up some information about a guy named Sam Bromly." Joel held the papers out but Blair grabbed them first.
"You actually found him, Joel? That’s awesome!" Blair was in awe. He had been helping Joel overcome his computer phobia, and it looked like Joel was holding his own finally.
Joel beamed. "Yeah, if your guy is 80 years old."
Jim took the papers from Blair to read. "She could have been with an older man."
Simon looked at Jim with horror. "Damn, it is your ghost, isn’t it? Don’t embarrass me on this, Jim."
Joel cut in. "You know, I used to have an aunt who believed in ghosts. She would put garlic over the door just to ward the vampires away. Maybe you should consider using garlic, Jim." Joel laughed and walked away. The day Ellison believed in ghosts was the day the Earth flipped its axis.
Simon glared at Jim. "I don’t care what you two do in your own time, but I want you to button up this murder case right now before they take you away for observation."
Jim stacked the printouts in front of him and stood up. In reverse of what happened the night before, he put his coat on and threw Blair his. They headed for the truck and the address given for Sam Bromly. Jim took Simon’s advice. He would close the case.
Outside the studio apartment of Sam Bromly, Jim knocked on the door. A middle-aged woman in a white dress and pink sweater opened the door.
"May I help you?" she asked.
Jim pulled out his badge. "I’m Detective Ellison. This is my associate Blair Sandburg. We’re here to see Mr. Bromly."
The woman glanced at her watch. "Do you have an appointment?"
"No, I don’t. If it’s all right, I just have a few questions to ask."
The woman looked back at her ward then forward again. "Well, if they’re about anything other than his current work, he might not be able to answer them. He’s been ill."
Jim stepped forward. "I’m sorry to hear that. I promise I won’t take up too much of his time."
The woman stepped away. "I’ll see what I can do."
While the woman was talking to an old man in a wheelchair, Jim heard Blair’s heartbeat begin to race. ""What’s wrong, Sandburg?"
"Do you know who this guy is?" Blair asked in an astonished voice. "I can’t believe I didn’t equate the name. He didn’t get well known until about twenty years or so ago. In the 50’s and 60’s though, his sculptures and mirrors were all over Cascade. With your background, I’m surprised you never heard of him."
Jim peered at a white canvas in front of him. It was displayed in front of several paintings. "I was never really interested in modern art. Maybe you are, but this just looks like a big white square to me."
Blair snickered. "It is a bit white square, Jim. It’s a blank canvas."
Jim felt himself blush. He was saved from any further embarrassment went the woman came back.
"This way please."
Jim followed the aide. "You said he was ill. Can you tell me what’s wrong with him?"
"It’s Alzheimer’s. As far as his memory goes, sometimes its there and sometimes it isn’t." Walking up to a wheelchair she said quietly to the elderly man, "Sam, this is Detective Ellison and Mr. Sandburg." When he didn’t acknowledge her, she apologized to her guests. "I’m sorry. He was here a minute ago."
Jim removed Molly’s picture from his pocket and moved to face Bromly. The wizened face was framed by short white hair. A white beard covered his chin and joined with a mustache. The blank stare in his eye unnerved him. "Mr. Bromly, do you know this lady?" He showed the picture to the old artist.
Hazy hazel eyes moved to the picture. They lit up when the face was recognized. "My Venus."
Blair touched the back of the photo. "This is Molly. Do you remember her?"
The nurse held out her hand when her charge didn’t answer. "Could I see it, please?"
Jim removed the picture from frail hands and held it out to the nurse. "Has he ever mentioned her? Molly Charles?"
The woman searched the picture and her mind. "On occasion he has. He always calls her his angel. Said she could light up a room with her smile. He never said anything more than that. It always seemed like her memory evoked a certain sadness in him, so I never pressed."
Jim examined Bromly’s face. The face was slack, but tears seeped down his cheeks. His eyes were hazy again and appeared lost in time. Jim decided this would be a dead end and said his good-byes
It was nearing six o’clock; they had eaten dinner, and were now starting on their own projects. Jim was watching a game on television while Blair was digging around in his room. Jim heard an exclamation of joy right before Blair was waving a huge book in front of his nose.
"I knew those modern art classes I took would eventually pay off! Take a look at this." Blair handed his preoccupied loft-mate the book.
"The Art of Cascade. What’s so important about this?"
"Blair placed his hands on his hips. He was wearing a broad smile. "Why don’t you just take a look at page 52. Is that our Venus or what?"
Jim examined the picture of a woman sculpted in stone. "It looks like Molly."
Blair tapped the page. "In the flesh, man. Well, almost." He chuckled. "The real interesting thing about it is that it’s in the park right across the street from Molly’s building. Except, I don’t remember seeing a statue there."
Before Jim could respond, his cell phone rang. He nodded his head several times and agreed to several things before he hung up. "It was Dunlop. He wants to meet us in half an hour to turn himself in."
"Turn himself in," Blair asked. "Why would he do that if he were innocent?"
"I don’t know, Sandburg. I guess we’ll find out."
Jim and Blair parked their truck in front of the apartment building twenty minutes later. Blair exited the truck and looked over at the park. "You know, the statue should be over here in the park."
Jim followed Blair’s gaze. "We have some time before we have to meet Dunlop. Let’s take a look."
The two walked to the park and the only thing left of the statue was the stone base with a bronze plague mounted on it. Blair read it, "March 15, 1953. That date sounds familiar." Blair thought for a moment. "Hey, I think that was two days after Molly was found murdered."
Jim traced his fingers over the words. "I would definitely say that there was a connection. I can’t believe how Molly has suffered. First, her life was snuffed and then the statue that was made in her likeness disappears. It’s as if she never existed."
Jim met his eyes but was distracted by motion near the building. "Hey, Dunlop just got here. Let’s go."
Dunlop checked the area around Molly’s building before coming in. He had called the man who killed his partner earlier and also the police officer. They were both supposed to meet him here at 8 o’clock. It looked like they hadn’t arrived yet so he entered the building hoping to talk to Molly again. He froze when an object was thrust into his back.~~~~~ ACT V ~~~~~Trent held his gun against the bum’s back, he would pay for interfering with his plans. "Don’t move." Trent pushed the man into the building ahead of him. "You’re going to give me those papers you stole."
Dunlop grunted against the force propelling him. He tripped against the doorframe and almost fell. He was saved by a gust of wind that seemed to buoy him up then give him a boost backwards. He twisted his body and brought his hands up to take the gun from the killer. He struggled for the gun but its sharp retort and a burning agony that raced through his shoulder stilled his momentum.
Trent shoved the unkempt man against the hallway wall. The sharp smell of blood entered his nose, but he ignored it. "Where are those papers? You have three seconds to tell me!"
Jim raced forward when he heard a gunshot. Entering the building, the smell of spent powder was strong. Seeing Trent forcing Dunlop against the far wall, he pulled his gun and aimed. "Let him go, Trent."
Trent froze at hearing the detective he had talked to earlier. Hoping to salvage some of this night, he called out, "Detective! I’m glad you’re here…"
Jim cut the speech off. If he hadn’t seen proof, sans Molly, the man’s heartbeat would have given him away. It was beating a mile a minute and the stench of nervous sweat permeated the air. "Save it. We know you killed your partner. Now, move away from him."
Trent pulled the man he was trying to get answers from in front of him. He held him by the throat and used him as a shield. There was no way the cop was going to bring him in. "No." He pointed the gun down the hall and opened fire on his pursuers.
Jim knocked Blair back and out of the way of any stray bullets. He crouched to the ground, aimed, and fired. He watched as Trent shoved Dunlop to the ground and fled into Molly’s apartment. The momentary lull in noise was a boon on his hearing. Motioning to Dunlop, he ordered Blair, "Get on the horn and call for an ambulance and backup."
Jim didn’t wait for confirmation and chased after Trent. He turned the corner into the apartment and found his quarry trying to leave by the storage room door. "Give up, Trent. There’s nowhere for you to go."
Trent was scared. He was going to be caught. A wave of panic surged through him. He turned and raised to gun to fire on the cop when something wrapped around his wrist. His eyes rolled sideways to see what was happening. Beads from the storage room curtain were dragging his arm backward. Reflexes still working, his finger squeezed off another round. The bullet that entered his chest took his life away without giving him the chance to know exactly what hit him.
Jim approached the body on the ground and checked for a pulse; there was none. The beads swayed in a non-existent wind. Jim was glad someone was looking out for him. He remembered Dunlop and went to check on him and Blair.
Blair held his hands over the wound in Dunlop’s shoulder. This reminded him of the first time of being in the building, also holding someone’s life-blood in. Dunlop could be treated though. Jim exited the apartment and came towards him. "You okay, Jim?"
Jim squatted down next to Blair and Dunlop. "Yeah. How is he doing?"
Blair smiled down at his charge. "We’re doing good. Ambulance is on its way."
Jim looked back toward the apartment. "Well, Trent won’t need one."
Dunlop watched the two men over him. He felt a sudden need to go to Molly’s mirror. He shook the young man’s hands off of him and shakily stood up. He was unaware of the helping hands on him that followed him as he entered the apartment and approached the mirror. "Molly? Molly? You’re safe now. He’s gone. No one is going to take you away now."
Jim and Blair watched as Dunlop leaned into the fireplace and reached his hand into the maw. The sound of paper moments later had them interested. Dunlop pulled out a sheath of papers. He sat down with them in his lap
Jim sat down next to Dunlop and helped put pressure onto his wound. "It’s going to be all right now. We have an ambulance on the way."
"He was stealing money, you know. I read the documents." Dunlop shivered against the cold that was invading his body.
Seeing Dunlop shivering in front of him, Jim took off his jacket and put it around the stricken figure. "It was probably city development money."
Dunlop was lost in his mind. "His partner found out. That’s why he killed him."
Hoping to get some answers while Dunlop was free floating, Blair knelt down next to Dunlop. "There was another murder here. It was a long time ago."
Dunlop remembered that. He was so scared. "Long time…She died. He killed her and told me not to tell. He said he would come back for me if I did."
"You must have been scared, Robert." Blair put his hand on Dunlop’s leg. "Was it the man with the stained fingers?"
"I was scared," came a little voice. "I was just a kid. I didn’t know what to do."
Jim picked up the questioning. "You followed this man into the park. You saw him bury a gun? Where in the park were you?"
Dunlop looked up at his saviors. Even the hope in their eyes didn’t take the fear away. "I promised never to tell. I can’t tell…" Dunlop closed his eyes and just wished that the cold and the pain would go away.
Molly hovered over the scene. She appeared in the mirror and caught the detective’s eyes. She brought him back into the past. She would remind him what was going on. She showed him the statue being erected across the street. He would find his answers there.
Once units had arrived at the scene and secured it, Blair followed Jim from the building and back to the park. "Where are we going, Jim. Trent has been taken care of."
"But Molly hasn’t," Jim stated working his way to the empty statue base. "Molly showed me the statue in my vision. I think whatever happened here is tied up in the statue."
Jim pulled out his pocketknife and tapped the handle around the stone base. "I think what we have here is a 45 year old crime of passion. We have young boy threatened by a killer with stained fingers. We have Molly who was in love with an artist." Jim heard the echo he was waiting for and dug into the mortar.
Digging through the crumbling stone, he hooked the trigger guard of a gun. "We have a man who knows he can hide the evidence of his deed in an object that is supposed to last forever." He held the gun up for Blair to see. ". 38 caliber. That was the weapon that killed Molly. I think we need to get our suspect and witness together and confirm it."
It took three days to pull his plan together, but Jim got the necessary parties together at Molly’s apartment, Blair was with him as always. Simon was there as a witness. Dunlop had been sprung from the hospital to face the tormentor who had shadowed him for so long. Joel was on the way with the last member, Sam Bromly.
Bromly’s nurse was with Joel, and she was the one who would help verify his information. "I’m glad you could all be here." Turning to the nurse, "I spoke to several psychiatrists who told me that certain Alzheimer’s patients, given specific stimuli, could recall events from their past."
The nurse nodded her head. The detective had done his research. "Nobody knows exactly why, but sometimes when reminded of a major event from the past, the memory rises to the surface. You can find them speaking about things that happened five years ago as if it had happened just now. Like that picture you showed him a few days ago."
"Because of this, I want to see if I can bring up some more memories for Mr. Bromly." Jim motioned Dunlop to join him. "Now, Robert. I want you to look at this man. Look at him real good. You tell me if this was the man you saw in the park who threatened you when you were a little boy."
Dunlop peered at the old man sitting in a wheel chair in front of him. "I don’t know."
Blair put his hand on Dunlop’s good shoulder. "Look at his hands. Do they look familiar?"
Dunlop recognized the hands, but his old fear welled up inside of him. "It could be him. It was so long ago, though."
Jim took the old gun that Simon offered him and put it in Bromly’s palsied hands. "I want you to think back to that day. I want you to remember exactly what he said. You tell me exactly what he said."
Dunlop stared down the muzzle of the gun. He felt Molly’s spirit in the air around him and gathered his courage. "’You tell anyone about me, and I’ll come back here and bury you, too.’" Dunlop panted for breath; this was so hard.
Jim watched for a reaction and only heard a slight increase in Bromly’s heartbeat. "Say it again, Robert."
Dunlop felt strength flowing into him. "’You tell anyone about me, and I’ll come back here and bury you, too.’"
Jim leaned closer in to Dunlop. "Now say it like he did."
Dunlop tightened his voice. "’Tell anyone about me and…"
A shaky voice took the diatribe. "I’ll come back here and bury you, too." Bromly finally opened his eyes and looked around. The beige walls closed him in and a large mirror over a fireplace drew his attention. With a small voice he said, "This is Molly’s place."
Jim knelt down next to the ailing artist. "You remember this place?"
Bromly smiled. "Yes, I was always so happy here."
Dunlop moved back away from the man who took Molly’s light away. "Why did you do it?"
Bromly was lost in time. "The art world isn’t kind to beginners. I have only one patron, my wife. If she finds out about our affair, she’ll cut me off without a cent. I told Molly I would get a divorce, but…"
Jim broke in, "But you didn’t have the guts to tell her you changed your mind."
Bromly focused on the man in front of him. "She was planning to come to the dedication of my Venus. I knew I couldn’t keep her away."
Blair spoke up. To have all this come to pass was a shame. This frail old man had built his fame on the death of someone who loved him. "So you had to kill her?"
Bromly had tears running down his face. "I never loved again after her. Never had anyone I could give myself to."
Simon watched the breakdown of a legend. "All right, I guess we are done here. A full confession in front of witnesses. Let’s get him downtown, Joel."
Blair blocked Joel. "What are you going to do that for? The man’s 85 years old with Alzheimer’s."
Simon pulled Blair aside. "Sandburg, please."
Blair turned to Jim for help. "Just look at him. He’s already in jail! A body and mind that’s dying around him."
Jim pulled Blair to his side. "It’s not our call, Chief. The courts will decide what will need to be done, but I don’t believe they will be too harsh with their judgment."
Simon regretted having to do this himself but procedures were procedures. "The DA will make the final decision. You can take him away, Joel."
As soon as Bromly was taken away, Dunlop let his body relax. He looked around the room and didn’t feel Molly anymore. He smiled for what seemed the first time in his life. "She’s free. Molly isn’t here anymore." Dunlop allowed the officer that brought him take him away again.
Simon watched the homeless man depart then back at his men. "Do you want to tell me what that was about?"
Blair found himself smiling in spite of everything. "I don’t know, Simon. I believe this would fall under your category of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ The whole ghost thing and all that only Jim and Dunlop could see."
Simon shook his head and sighed. "Okay, let’s get this straight. There are no ghosts. There is a logical explanation for all of this. One, Dunlop has mental problems. Two, Jim, you had a cold. This involved messed up senses and chills. Sandburg then slips you some Indian root." Simon glared at Blair. "By the way, I had it analyzed, and it contains minute traces if a substance that mirrors the molecular properties of peyote."
Before Simon could continue, Jim glared at Blair as well. "Peyote?"
Simon smiled. It was nice seeing Sandburg in the hot seat. "Exactly. Peyote."
Jim shook his head. "That would explain some things."
Simon grabbed a cigar from his coat and stuck it in his mouth. "Now that we have all this nonsense about ghosts settled, I’m leaving boys." Simon left the building to the team he trusted most but never wanted to be.
"So, is she really gone? Molly?" Blair asked when he was alone with Jim.
Jim looked around the apartment. "Yeah, I think she is gone." Jim quieted when he felt a shadowy presence pass through him. He shivered from the intensity. He was drawn to the mirror where Molly awaited him. "You came back."
Molly smiled. "Just to thank you for helping both me and Robert."
Jim placed his hand on the mirror, which was mimicked by Molly. He felt the warmth of flesh touching his and the mirror shattered around him one more time. He was face to face with Molly. She gave him a gentle kiss then walked away.
Jim touched his cheek where it was kissed. He would remember Molly.
Blair touched Jim’s shoulders and held back the tears in his eyes. He had seen Molly this time. She had smiled at him and waved goodbye before leaving. He would remember this moment. Knowing the Molly could have some peace in the afterlife and that Jim had connected with a piece of himself.THE ENDPlease remember to send feedback to our authors. Feedback can be sent to: [email protected]Next week’s episode: The Real Deal by Terri Thomas